• Allison Diehl

Archaeologists Dig For Clues (Review)

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Author and Illustrator: Kate Duke Publisher: HarperCollins, 1997 Interest Ages: 4 - 12

Reading Level: Grades 3-4; Lexie 690L, Guided Reading Level P

Retail: $5.99, paperback

Plot / Summary: A group of children get to participate in a real archaeological dig and visit the laboratory afterwards.

If you search for children's books about archaeology, this title is probably the first one you see. My copy is a Scholastic imprint of the original, and I found it at a used book store about 15 years ago when I was seeking out additional titles in the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science series. Of all the books we had in the series, this one got the least use, perhaps because my children were tired of hearing about my work. (It is also possible that I spent too much time fact-checking it while reading aloud).

Written for a North American audience, the story in Archaeologists Dig For Clues takes place in an unspecified part of eastern United States (east of the Mississippi River). I found the narrative to be interesting and easy to read aloud. This book has additional information about archaeology on the margins of each spread. The information is basic but appropriate for the audience. Some of the tools, methods, and terminology used in the book are regional and a little old-fashioned. After snickering a bit, I decided it would be more productive to write a teaching guide for this book aimed at educators in the American Southwest. You can download it here:

Archaeologists Dig For Clues Additional
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Unfortunately, the illustrations in this book feel a bit dated. It was, after all, created over two decades ago. However, the cast of children shown in the scenes is ethically diverse. The female archaeologist in the story is not an aberration; there are about as many women in archaeology as men.

The book ends with a playfully-worded warning against attempting to dig an archaeological site without expert help. It is important that children understand that archaeology is not a hobby, and that they should not try to dig sites on their own or keep artifacts they find on other people's property. Any field trip to an archaeological site should be led by a professional.

Kate Duke (1956-2014) wrote and illustrated mostly fiction. In writing Archaeologists Dig for Clues, she consulted with scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, The Royal Ontario Museum, the Center for American Archaeology, and the University of Connecticut. Despite a few superficial flaws, the book is well written, generally accurate, and original. Recommended.

This title is available through Bookshop.org

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