Thursday, October 23, 2008

Merit Badge of the Week: Archaeology


Visions range from digging in the endless heat and sand of the desert, to the swashbuckling adventures of Indiana Jones.

Dinosaur bones, ancient sea beds, pottery shards near a riverside, Egypt, giant ants that carry you off into the ground...OK, that was the last Indiana Jones movie.

This is definitely a more popular merit badge, too: 5522 were earned in 2007. (BSA Fact Sheet)

In the Archaeology merit badge, you will learn how archaeology is different from other related fields of study; describe how archaeology is performed; visit an archaeological site; present your findings to a group; explain why preserving the past is important; participate in an archaeology project; research the American Indians or settlers from your area; and discover the career options in archaeology.

Oh, and learn to spell "archaeology".

The latest Archaeology merit badge requirements from the BSA:

1. Tell what archaeology is and explain how it differs from anthropology, geology, paleontology, and history.

2. Describe each of the following steps of the archaeological process: site location, site excavation, artifact identification and examination, interpretation, preservation, and information sharing.

3. Describe at least two ways in which archaeologists determine the age of sites, structures, or artifacts. Explain what relative dating is.

4. Do TWO of the following:
a. Learn about three archaeological sites located outside the United States.
b. Learn about three archaeological sites located within the United States.
c. Visit an archaeological site and learn about it.
For EACH site you research for options a, b, or c, point it out on a map and explain how it was discovered. Describe some of the information about the past that has been found at each site. Explain how the information gained from the study of these sites answers questions that archaeologists are asking and how the information may be important to modern people. Compare the relative ages of the sites you research.

5. Choose ONE of the sites you picked for requirement 4 and give a short presentation about your findings to a Cub Scout pack, your Scout troop, your school class, or another group.

6. Do the following:
a. Explain why it is important to protect archaeological sites.
b. Explain what people should do if they think they have found an artifact.
c. Describe the ways in which you can be a protector of the past.

7. Do ONE of the following:
a. Make a list of items you would include in a time capsule. Discuss with your merit badge counselor what archaeologists a thousand years from now might learn from the contents of your capsule about you and the culture in which you live.
b. Make a list of the trash your family throws out during one week. Discuss with your counselor what archaeologists finding that trash a thousand years from now might learn from it about you and your family.

8. Do ONE of the following:
a. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours helping to excavate an archaeological site.
b. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours in an archaeological laboratory helping to prepare artifacts for analysis, storage, or display.
c. If you are unable to work in the field or in a laboratory under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, you may substitute a mock dig. To find out how to make a mock dig, talk with a professional archaeologist, trained avocational archaeologist, museum school instructor, junior high or high school science teacher, adviser from a local archaeology society, or other qualified instructor. Plan what you will bury in your artificial site to show use of your "site" during two time periods.

9. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist or instructor, do ONE of the following:
a. Help prepare an archaeological exhibit for display in a museum, visitor center, school, or other public area.
b. Use the methods of experimental archaeology to re-create an item or to practice a skill from the past. Write a brief report explaining the experiment and its results.

10. Do ONE of the following:
a. Research American Indians who live or once lived in your area. Find out about traditional lifeways, dwellings, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and methods of food gathering, preparation, and storage. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.
b. Research settlers or soldiers who were in your area at least 100 years ago. Find out about the houses or forts, ways of life, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and dietary habits of the early settlers, farmers, ranchers, soldiers, or townspeople who once lived in the area where your community now stands. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.

11. Identify three career opportunities in archaeology. Pick one and explain how to prepare for such a career. Discuss with your counselor what education and training are required, and tell why this profession might interest you.

Resource List:

1) Always start with Introduction to Merit Badges for the steps to a successful merit badge.
2) Worksheet on Archaeology from This is a great tool to organize your work, projects and thoughts.
3) DIG—the archaeology magazine for kids with a lot of great links.
4) Archaeological parks in the United States—go dig! Sites are listed by state.
5) Historic Jamestown in Virginia: if you travel in the area, visit the ongoing archaeology sites at Virginia’s 400 year old community.
6) Online audio and video research: the Archaeology Channel.
7) Need a project? The National Forest Service has the Passport in Time to offer. Some of these project involve backcountry camping.
8) The National Park Service has an archaeology program, too. There is a section for youth, but the main site has the most to offer.
9) Trash can dig fits right in with requirement 7B.
10) National Geographic brings archaeology news from all over the world.

Related BSA merit badges: American Heritage, Basketry, Genealogy, Indian Lore, and Pottery.

Do you have a resource for the Archaeology merit badge? Please let me know via email or the comments below.

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