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Social Studies - 4th Grade
Standard 1 Objective 2
1 class periods of 45 minutes each
Students will list three or more types of evidence of prehistoric cultures that encouraged archaeologists to investigate the marshes around the Great Salt Lake. Students will also explain why it is important not to disturb archaeological remains.
The archaeology departments of Utahs universities, the Utah Archaeological Society, and the office of the State Archaeologist joined together in the late 1980s to study the prehistoric sites on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. A number of artifacts and burial sites had been exposed by erosion as the lake rose and receded during the first half of the decade. Numerous sites were identified which contained artifacts from at least two different cultures. Some seemed to be temporary "camps", while others showed signs of permanent dwellings.
Because the rivers entering the lake flow over a long, gradual slope, the sediments deposited in the meanders of the lakeside marshes contain only fine silt. Heavier particles such as rocks and pebbles drop out higher up in the stream near canyons as the water velocity begins to decrease. Rocks used for fire pits, pottery shards, bones, and other artifacts are easily seen on this fine-grained surface. Any pottery pieces that have been soaked in salty water will crumble when handled because the salt crystals, which form inside the shards, loosen the bonds between the layers of clay.
Removal of artifacts from a site can make analysis difficult or incorrect and can destroy the scientific value of the site. This lesson introduces students to the ethics of archaeology as well as to the types of discoveries that lead to more extensive surveys and excavations.
Thacker, Bonita; The Great Salt Lake Story, Utah Museum of Natural History; 1997.
This lesson plan was provided by the Utah Museum of Natural History.