• Allison Diehl

Archaeology for Kids (Review)

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

Author: Richard Panchyk

Publisher: Chicago Review Press, 2001

Pages: 160

Retail: $18.99, paperback

Summary: An overview of archaeology for children with suggested activities and projects. Includes an overview of archaeology, a chronology of human evolution and cultural time periods, and a series of case studies focused on well-known sites around the world.

This book is so popular that it has remained in print for nearly 20 years. Not surprisingly, some of the information about archaeological research is out of date. If this were the only problem with Archaeology for Kids, I would be able to recommend it with some caveats. Unfortunately, there is a bigger problem, a deal-killer that would require a major overhaul of the book to make it acceptable to me.

First, let me say what I like about this book. It is 160 pages long (146 numbered pages), and it covers a lot of territory from the evolution of the human species to historical archaeology. It has a bright, full-color cover, and the interior is printed only in black and dark orange, giving photographs a somewhat vintage look. The suggested activities are easy to find, and they include thought exercises, experiments, crafts, and even a little bit of math.

The book begins with an overview of archaeology (somewhat dated and skewed toward academic research), and proceeds to describe major stages in human and cultural evolution across the globe. Numerous well-known and exciting archaeological sites are profiled. A helpful glossary and an index are included. The author of this book, Richard Patchyk, is a prolific writer of books about history, and his familiarity with Archaeology 101 is apparent. Much of the material covered in Archaeology for Kids brings back memories of my first college level courses on the subject.

Now for the bad news. The organization of this book, mostly along chronological lines, divides all cultures into "civilized" and "uncivilized." All of the case studies, the chronologies, and much of the language used throughout this book rests on the idea that all human cultures lie on a single developmental path along which they advance or fall back. This kind of value-laden terminology isn't just a relic of the past. Professional and ethical archaeologists no longer view human history within this type of framework. Why? It is an idea that has been used implicitly to justify notions of cultural and racial superiority.

If you decide to use this book despite my warning (it is the only book of its kind in print about archaeology for children), please consider the following guidance:

  • This is not a text book. It should not be used as a reference or standard for archaeology or archaeological methods.

  • The archaeological research process outlined in Chapter 1 is idealized and is missing a critical important step: Publication. One of the biggest mistakes that archaeologists make is not sharing the results of their work with other researchers.

  • The end goal of archaeological research is not always excavation. Research goals can often be met through mapping, surface observation and analysis.

  • Cultural Resource Management (legally-mandated work) has overtaken academic archaeology (out of universities and museums) in the frequency of new discoveries in the US.

  • Most archaeological work uses the metric system, not feet and inches.

  • Only trained archaeologists or those working under the supervision of professionals should undertake excavation because improper methods and recording can lead to the irreversible loss of important information

It is my hope that Chicago Review Press decides to revise and republish Archaeology for Kids in consultation with subject matter experts with current and extensive experience. I would like to see lesser known sites included in the case studies and less bias toward Western Civilization. In the meantime, many of the activities in this book are well suited to use in a classroom or as part of a homeschool curriculum.

This title is available at the I Dig Books Store or at Bookshop.org

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