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  Welcome To The Education Resource!

November 10-16, 2011

This Week We Feature Washington State Archaeology

Last week, an important Pacific Northwest archaeological discovery was finally verified. Thirty-four years ago, a mastodon bone with an odd projectile embedded in it was discovered in Sequim, Washington. It appeared to Carl Gustafson, a young archaeologist from Washington State University, that the mastodon had survived an attack by hunters that left a spear point protruding from its rib. To Gustafson, this suggested that humans were hunting mammals in North America far earlier than once thought and "that people lived on the Olympic Peninsula at least 4,000 years earlier than previously anticipated." For more than three decades, his theory was discounted and challenged based on an established academic point of view called the Clovis-first position. As reported on October 31, 2011, by The Seattle Times, a team of scientists from Texas A&M recently used modern DNA sequencing and protein analysis to re-evaluate the bone and projectile and confirmed that Gustafson was correct.

Most students are fascinated by huge mammals and other creatures that once roamed the earth. Encourage them to read more about this fascinating discovery, known as the Manis site, as well as the discovery of a mammoth tusk in Moxee and then compare and contrast the findings at the two archaeological sites. Other important archaeological finds in Washington related to this area's early inhabitants and cultures include Kennewick Man and the village of  Tse-whit-zen, a largely intact Klallam Indian village. Challenge students to find out how archaeological discoveries are handled by the government, scientists, property owners, and descendants of the cultures involved, and how these procedures have changed through the years.  

Interesting videos describing two archaeological finds in Washington can be accessed digitally on the University of Washington Special Collections website.

The University of Washington's  Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture features many exhibits,  programs, and outstanding educational materials that can enhance the study of archaeology in the classroom.

  •  The Archaeology of West Point is an interactive online exhibit that (according to the website) "relates the story of a land and its people, and how both changed over time. It's a tale of urban archaeology and the discovery of ancient cultures beneath the city of Seattle, cultures with traditions that endure today."  This exhibit extends the West Point Burke Box and allows students to explore 200 artifacts and test their own hypotheses about prehistoric life in Seattle. 

Burke Boxes are "portable boxes of scientific specimens and cultural artifacts for all ages, designed to supplement the study of various topics in cultural and natural history." Sample box topics related to archaeology and early cultures include What is Archaeology?, Prehistoric Animals: Mastodon, Megalonyx and Smilodon… Oh MY!,  Lewis & Clark at Fort Clatsop,  Peopling of the Americas, and  Native People of Puget Sound. This is the link for more information on how to rent a Burke Box and the full inventory of box themes.

Lectures and programs for students, families, and museum visitors are very popular. Archaeological enthusiasts mark your calendars!  This weekend, on Saturday, November 12, 2011, the Burke is holding its 6th annual Meet the Mammals family day. Participants learn about hundreds of specimens from the museum's mammalogy collections, including mammoth, mastodon, and bison skulls from the end of the last ice age -- just 10,000 years ago. A Burke curator will demonstrate how fossil mammal bones are cleaned and removed from the rocks in which they are found. Meet the Mammals is included with museum admission and is free for Burke Museum members.

Image: Projectile Point, Clovis Culture. Courtesy Washington State Historical Society.


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