How to think like an archaeologist: Youth archaeology in Arkansas

Behind the scenes of Hollywood

Cover of Behind the scenes of Hollywood.















I discovered archaeology as an undergrad majoring in journalism. It’s a good thing I wanted to write, because that’s how I spend a lot of my time as an archaeologist. Recently, I co-wrote a short book introducing high school aged students to archaeology. When people think of archaeology they often envision fieldwork (and Indiana Jones), but archaeologists spend most of their time in the lab and writing up the results of their research, rather than excavating.

Behind the scenes of Hollywood is a little different from most of the books you may read about archaeology. The book follows ten high school students from southeast Arkansas who participated in a 3-day workshop. The workshop lead them through a series of activities that demonstrate the archaeological process from the field to report. The book provides the data to let the reader practice being an archaeologist and reach their own conclusions about artifacts and the site. The reader doesn’t get to dig in the dirt or handle the artifacts, but they think like an archaeologist while doing a series of activities such as examining landscape change on maps, analyzing soil, and setting up an excavation unit.

Analyzing the artifacts.

Analyzing the artifacts.

Many archaeologists recognize that archaeology is more than just digging in the dirt or analyzing archaeological collections. In her new book, Strung Out on Archaeology, Laurie Wilkie underscores that archaeology is more than just research methods. Archaeology is a way of thinking about and living in the world. Archaeology helps people imagine deep time, human interactions, and social change. It puts to use all of the things you learn in high school the Pythagorean theorem, how to ask research question, examine data, see culture change, think about human environmental interactions, and write.  At the end of the day, archaeology requires putting your fingers to the keyboard and telling someone what you learned.