I am an archeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey, a unit of the University of Arkansas System. I teach anthropology and archeology courses, conduct archeological research, and do public outreach. Currently, I am researching a World War II prisoner of war camp and a historic plantation in southeast Arkansas.

Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture – A New Fifth Grade Social Studies Curriculum in Arkansas

Cover of the Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture 5th Grade Social Studies Curriculum.

Public education is an important part of the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s mission. Recently we developed a 5th grade social studies curriculum aligned with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) 5th grade Social Studies Curriculum Framework. The curriculum, Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture: Plant-based Foodways in the Southeastern United States, focuses on plants because, as critical parts of our foodways, plants not only fulfill nutrient needs, they teach us about culture, history, and economics. Biologically, people need food to survive, but what we eat is part of our history and culture. In addition, Arkansas, along with the surrounding mid-South region, is one of only ten world centers of independent crop domestication. Preserved plant remains excavated from dry bluff shelters in the Arkansas Ozarks (and now curated at the University of Arkansas) represent most of the evidence supporting this identification. This curriculum is designed to celebrate this important aspect of Arkansas’s past.

The curriculum consists of five lessons to be taught over the course of one week, plus a bonus lesson. Each lesson is approximately one hour in length. The lessons use the 5E’s Instructional Model (Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration, Evaluation) and focus on a temporal comparison of plant use in the southeastern United States that draws specific examples from Arkansas. The lessons model the processes of archeological inquiry pertaining to plant-based foodways. Students look at archeological evidence, including site maps, artifacts, and seeds, and their relationship to each other (context) to reconstruct and interpret the past. Students use archeology to discover how diets changed when people shifted from hunting, fishing, and gathering wild foods to growing their own food through gardening and agriculture. In a bonus lesson, students explore the effects of European colonization in the Americas by mapping the exchange of plants on a global scale. Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture provides hands-on activities and guided investigation of three archeological sites in Arkansas (Rock House Cave, Toltec Mounds, and Parkin) in which students learn scientific literacy while gaining new knowledge about Native American plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States.

Lesson One: Archeology Is about People. This lesson defines archeology, dispels common misconceptions, and introduces students to the critical thinking and analysis processes that archeologists use to study the past. Students explore chronology, observe objects and infer their use in an archeological context, and use evidence to answer questions about the past. It introduces students to the importance of chronology and context in the study of archeology.

Teacher workshop participants learning about foraging foodways.

Lesson Two: Foraging Foodways. Students participate in the foraging foodways simulation and learn about early foragers. Students explore the basic need for food and learn about foodways and nutritional, cultural, and economic practices related to the production and consumption of food cross-culturally.

Lesson Three: First Gardens. This lesson introduces students to the basics of stratigraphy and students learn how archeologists determine the relative age of artifacts. Here students look at domesticated plant seeds and learn how Native American cultures changed with the development of gardening. For this lesson, it is helpful for teachers to show students examples of the seeds and plants. The ARAS has prepared packets of the sunflower, goosefoot, maypop, and sumpweed seeds highlighted in the lesson and distributed those packets to teachers at the workshops and made them available upon request.

Lesson Four: Changing Gardens and Evolving Fields. Lesson Four introduces students to changes associated with the adoption of corn agriculture, introduced from Middle America, using both archeological and Native American perspectives.

Lesson Five: Stability and Change in Early Colonization. Lesson Five introduces students to the use of primary historical sources. They learn how to study maps and accounts written by early explorers to identify evidence of additional changes in Native American foodways.

Educators learning about wild plants, like fiddlehead ferns, during the teacher’s workshop at Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

Bonus Lesson: Many People, Many Plates. In this bonus lesson, students learn about the Colombian Exchange and map the origin and spread of plants and think about how this historical process shaped their diets.

Printed copies of the curriculum activity book are available to educators by request. It is also available as a free download on the Survey’s webpage: http://archeology.uark.edu/gga/. The Gathering, Gardening, and Agriculture webpage is designed to promote the curriculum and make it easier for teachers to use. All of the teaching materials are available as easy downloadable pdfs so that teachers do not have to photocopy the activities.

In addition, the Survey held two teacher’s workshops. They conducted an hour-long presentation at the Arkansas Gifted and Talented Educators Conference in Little Rock and held a full-day workshop at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI) in Morrilton.

Dr. Horton showing the teacher workshop participants rock art depicting sumpweed on the walls of Rockhouse Cave.

This project was made possible with the generous support of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference’s Public Outreach Grant, the Arkansas Archeological Society’s Bill Jordan Public Outreach Fund, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The curriculum, the website, and the teacher’s workshops underscore the Survey’s mission to study and preserve Arkansas’s past and to share what we learn with the public. Arkansas has significant archeological resources, from the bluff shelters of the Ozark Mountains to Mississippian mound complexes of the Central Mississippi River Valley and historic plantations. Although the ARAS, along with citizen volunteers and local, state, and federal partners, campaigns for archeological education and preservation, our state’s sites and the archeological record face continued threats from development, agricultural land-leveling, and looting. Education is a way to help protect Arkansas’s archeological record. By working with teachers, we help them increase their content knowledge of the important contributions that southeastern Indians and European, African, and early American populations made to the ways in which people use plants today. We also foster a greater sense of the importance of preservation among teachers and their students.

Project Archaeology and Archaeological Education in Arkansas

Because archaeological sites are endangered and finite resources, I spend a lot of my time doing archaeological education encouraging people to care about and protect sites. I teach in a university setting, but I also do youth programs to help teach young people to be stewards of the past. This year, I have spent many of my days of archaeology co-writing a 5th grade (age 10-11) social studies curriculum about archaeology and plant-based foodways in the southeastern United States. The curriculum, which focuses on sites in Arkansas, will be aligned with common core standards to promote and enhance archeological education in Arkansas’s public schools.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Project Archaeology Leadership Academy course materials.

Like the majority of archaeologists, I didn’t learn how to teach archaeology to the public in college. Fortunately, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This summer, I attended the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in Bozeman, Montana. Project Archaeology is “an educational organization dedicated to teaching scientific and historical inquiry, cultural understanding, and the importance of protecting our nation’s rich cultural resources.” They are a national network of archaeologists, educators, and concerned citizens working to make archaeology education accessible to students and teachers across the country through high-quality educational materials and professional development. Each year, they offer a Leadership Academy to teach educators (and archaeologists) to use Investigating Shelter, an inquiry-based Social Studies and Science curriculum, and empower them with educating their peers on how to implement the curriculum in the classroom.

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Workshop participants visited Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

It was a fun week of learning new ways to teach archaeology, visiting Madison Buffalo Jump State Park and the Museum of the Rockies, and meeting educators and archaeologists from around the country. The 5-day workshop underscored the importance of working with descendants to learn about the past, how archaeology contributes to inquiry-based learning, ways to connect archaeological education to common core standards, and a lot more.

Dr. Emerson Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Dr. Emerson Bull Chief, Crow Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, talking about Native American buffalo stories.

Panorama of the Buffalo Jump.

Panorama of Madison Buffalo Jump State Park.

When I was an undergraduate student, if someone asked me: “What does an archaeologist do?”, it never would have occurred to me that archaeologists teach educators (and other people) to teach about the past. This is changing as archaeologists have come to recognize the importance of working with communities and teaching others to think like archaeologists. But I hadn’t thought about how important it is to teach educators to teach archaeology until Courtney Agenten pointed it out during the workshop. As an archaeologist, I have taught an archaeology camp for 10-15 students, which I wrote about last year. The students learned about the process of archaeology from excavation to lab work and from artifact analysis to report writing. In the process, they developed a love for learning about and preserving the past. But if I teach 10-15 educators to teach archaeology in their science or social studies classes, in one year, those teachers have the potential to teach 250-375 students about the importance of archaeology. That’s a huge impact if you think about how many students could be reached in 10 years!

So now as I sit at my desk in front of my computer, like so many of my days of archaeology, I am inspired by my experience at the Project Archaeology Leadership Academy to teach their fun curricula about shelter and nutrition. I am also motivated to continue to develop high-quality lesson plans focused on archaeological sites in Arkansas that teachers can implement in their classrooms. Thanks to the support of the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, the Arkansas Archeological Society, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the curriculum should be available this fall. Check out the Arkansas Archeological Survey’s website for classroom materials currently available to teachers and keep an eye out for new things to come. arkansasarcheology.org


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.

Have compass, will travel: A cemetery mapping project


Historic cemeteries are important endangered cultural landscapes. I have always enjoyed walking (or bicycling) through them. The grave markers exhibit local craftsmanship and tell stories about the people who once lived in a place. Yet when I became an archeologist, I never imagined them as part of my job. Over the years cemeteries have become almost as important as my trowel to my work as an archeologist.

As a historical archeologist, I first realized the value of cemeteries when I was conducting research on a former African American community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Archeology provided a certain amount of information about the former enslaved laborers who had owned the rocky land. Historic documents and oral history provided another layer of information. Yet it was not until I located the historic cemetery in which these families were buried that I was able to connect the dots between the documents and material culture and give names to these people without history.

Now I am a Research Station Archeologist for the Arkansas Archeological Survey. I teach and conduct research, but a big part of what I do is public outreach and education. Community members call to ask for help documenting their local, often abandoned, cemeteries. People want to know what they can do and where they should start in order to protect and preserve their cemetery.

Today, I am preparing for a cemetery mapping workshop. The first step for preserving a cemetery is documenting it’s existing condition. This can be done with fancy equipment such as total station mapping or GPR. But this is often costly. We will be teaching people to map a cemetery using compasses and tape measures, to photograph and record inscriptions, and to clean headstones carefully.

Archeology is more than just digging. We often use tools other than our trowels. Mapping with a compass and a tape measure is often one of the first things an archeologist learns and it is an invaluable tool for documenting a cemetery.