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pam trunk contents imageThe Prehistoric Archaeology and Mississippi Traveling Trunk shows how archaeologists use artifacts to reconstruct the day-to-day lives of Native Americans, who did not leave written records of their societies. Artifacts—real and reproduction—in the trunk provide examples of things often found in excavations of prehistoric settlements: an atlatl, antler billet, dart, ceramic bowl, clay cooking balls, and stone spear points and arrow points. An archaeologist’s field box shows the tools used to unearth artifacts such as these.

With this trunk students will have an opportunity to:

  • Investigate and handle ancient Mississippi artifacts
  • Use the tools of an archaeologist and conduct their own archaeological dig
  • Examine and compare soil types
  • Consider the ethical implications of archeology

A teacher’s notebook and material list is included in the trunk. This trunk is organized as a five-day unit but teachers are encouraged to organize, revise, and adapt its contents to best fit the needs of their students.

Day One

The unit begins with a lesson that surveys the students’ present knowledge of the field and develops a student-generated definition for archaeology. Students are introduced to the culture and habits of the fictional tribe the Nacirema (which they will later discover is “American” spelled backwards). Elementary students will read about the life and world of a young American Indian girl in Ikwa of the Mound Builder Indians.

Day Two

The second lesson introduces students to several of the artifacts in the trunk. Students in small groups are given objects and instructed to describe them and suggest what they might have been used for. The groups report their conclusions to the rest of the class.

Day Three

tool kitLesson three asks students to put archaeology in context. Students learn the importance of observing and recording the location of artifacts and their relationship to other artifacts during excavation. The contents of the field box are presented and discussed. Several suggestions are offered for carrying out a mock excavation and a mapping project. This lesson also provides an opportune time to engage students in math activities employing the metric system.

Day Four

Lesson four deals specifically with the prehistoric archaeology of Mississippi. The teacher is provided with information concerning everything from the chronology of the area’s human occupation to floral and faunal remains, soil types, and trade and exchange activities. Artifact types are discussed and various items from the trunk, such as potsherds, projectile points, and native seeds, are used to stimulate students’ interest.

Day Five

The final lesson, “Mississippi Archaeology and You,” addresses the need for preserving our state’s prehistoric past. Students gain a heightened appreciation for this by relating protection of the past to the protection of objects important to them. As an extension activity, it is suggested that students consider joining groups such as the Mississippi Archaeological Association or the Archaeological Conservancy, or even recording and reporting an archaeological site to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (for which forms are provided).

Among the wrap-up activities is a Native Foods Feast. Instructions are included for cooking by using an earth oven and clay cooking balls.


Trunk Weight and Dimensions

  • Weight: 37 lbs.
  • Dimensions: 9” (h) x 23” (w) x 30” (l)


To learn more about the Traveling Trunk Lending Policies and Procedures, the content of specific trunks, or to book a trunk, please contact:

Outreach Programs Coordinator
Museum Division, MDAH
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571
Phone: 601-576-6997