Interpreting Artifacts

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 11068

One man's trash is another man's treasure. How do you know if that item at the white elephant sale is actually the golden goose? Learn how to interpret historical evidence like a real archaeologist!


History, Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Suppose you found an interesting artifact at a garage sale. It could be something really special. Maybe it's worth a million dollars. Or maybe it's worth less than the three dollars you paid for it. You could be the next Antiques Roadshow star!

This will require the skill of an archaeologist to unlock the secrets of your purchase. Luckily, you have chosen just the lesson to help you analyze the item and find the details you need to figure out what you really have in your hands!

  • How can you analyze this item to try and figure out when and where it is from, and what it may have been used for?

Historians, and particularly the specialized historians known as archaeologists, have developed techniques to understand the exact geographic locations, time periods, and uses for such items.

Let's start by developing a strategy. Read through the tip-sheet, A Guide to Interpreting Historical Evidence, from BBC Hands on History.


Compose a step-by-step procedure for analyzing and interpreting an artifact. Record your procedure in your notebook.

Share your thoughts and discuss with a parent or teacher.

Continue on to the Got It? section to analyze something around your house!

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