Materials:  Lesson 4 (fossil dig), calipers


Slide 1.  Title Page


Explain to your audience that when an archeologist (human artifacts) or a paleontologist (fossils) finds bones they need to analyze the objects they find.  The interpretation of that data can lead to either correct or incorrect conclusions.  Just finding human bones does not mean skeletons were just walking around.  Once bones are discovered you then need to interpolate and determine if there is any significance to the deposit.   If you find weapons and armor it might mean that they were a warrior nation.


Slide 2.  Finding Bones


Tell your audience that you are going to an expedition in Greece.  Make sure they know that Greece is located in the southeast portion of Europe. They have heard rumors of a lost civilization in an area that was recently excavated.  Bones were found on the surface of an excavated site.  They appear human.  Have your audience look at the picture.  What gives you that clue?  The skulls and the long leg bones that are visible are major clues.


Ask your audience, “What do you do?”  Solicit answers.  First, you need to traverse a larger area, to see if you have an isolated area or whether the area is extensive and might reveal more bones or other information.


Slide 3.  Circular Burial Chambers


As more bones are found, archeologists discover that some bones are more ordered.  In these sites you careful clean around the bones to see if you can unearth a story.  They discover some areas where bones are buried in a sitting position with high vaulted roofs.  They were not mass graves.  The tombs are lined with stone and contain not only pottery but military equipment.  The swords and amour is made of bronze, giving the first clue that this is part of the Bronze Age.  Archeologists felt that these remains may be of the Mycenaeans, a warrior people that lived in southern Greece between 1600 -1100 BC


After digging out an entire cemetery, archeologists concluded that these beehive tombs were the cemeteries of the nobility.  Different types of pottery were found in different tombs, which helped to age date the different leaders.


Slide 4.  Collecting Horizontal and Vertical Data


Archeologists started to dig down into the earth and it was revealed the homes of the Mycenaeans.  In order to understand how they lived, they need to map the different houses and rooms.  There were large homes with large rooms including hallways, patios, areas for gardens, and other signs of a higher class.  They also found living spaces that were smaller and built commune style.  These were thought to be lower class, but still free men.  They also found evidence of slave quarters.  The slaves probably did the heavy labor work.


When doing horizontal and vertical work, the archeologists really need to map the area in 3 dimensions.  Many times younger societies are build on the remains of older societies.  As you dig down, you go down through time.


Archeologists were able to determine that pottery styles changed through time and they would be able to determine the age of the Mycenaean through their pottery.


Slide 5.   Setting up Grids


In archeology and paleontology the use of grids helps record the data.  It gives you a graph-like picture of the area.  As you record the data a pattern may emerge that was not obvious.  Measurement, age, and any other information, help to reveal a story.


Quantifying the data also helps to input the data in a computer, so it can be mathematically analyzed to find patterns.


Slide 6.  Create a Map from Data


As scientists collect data their goal is to put it together so they can interpret the information.  In the case of the Greece dig site, a map of the area identified nobility.  They lived in the temple area and were buried in the circular cemetery area.  The outskirts of the area are where the free men lived and probably worked need or in their home as bakers, potters, or other skilled labor.  They were buried in the open grave area, with no special significance.


Slide 7.  Recreating a Greek Society


Interpreting this data shows a very productive society.  Other dig sites show that the pottery could be found in Central Europe, Britain, and Egypt.


The towns were well fortified, with the larger homes on a hill or toward the middle.  The towns had large monumental gates, including ramps and hidden doors.  They were very concerned about invasions.


This is a picture of a scene from the daily lives of the Mycenaean.


Slide 8.  Data from Fossils


Let’s look at other ways in which math is used to help collect data, especially in paleontology.  Paleontologists don’t just find bones, they need to measure and analyze what they find.  Many times the bones of only a few organisms may survive, so gathering data can help determine patterns so you compare like bones.  Paleontologists also need to look at the rock in which the remains are found, so they can get clues on the environment in which they were deposited.  Paleontological remains are sometimes very difficult to interpret.


Slide 9.  Mammoth Dig Site


These pictures are from the Mammoth Site in South Dakota.  The top two pictures are how the bones are preserved in limestone.  Apparently the mammoths would fall into these “sinkholes” and become preserved.  This is very unusually conditions, but from sites like this we can interpret what the animals looked like.  Then in other areas we find bone,  we can compare and contrast to identify bones. 


Slide 10.  Dinosaur Gravesite


When large dinosaurs died, they were not buried.  Many would have been eaten by other animals.  There bones and teeth would be scattered.  Say a large rainstorm came and washed all the remains.  Eventually they would end into a river bed.  The bones and teeth will finally settle out into the stream bed, and become part of the rock.  This would only represent a small part of many animals. 


So you need to plot where you found the bones and analyze them and determine the probability of what animals it represents.  The remains would not represent an environment of where they lived, but would represent how the remains got there.  That is the science of taphonomy. 


Slide 11.  Sampling Techniques


There are many types of sampling techniques that a person can use.  It can be used in archeology and paleontology, but also many other fields like learning the behavior of people (i.e. how many people listen to a kind of music).  Information from sampling helps to understand just about anything. 


Random Sample just takes a sample anywhere.  It is not very reliable.

Systematic Sample means that you have thought out the goal and you look at the material in a planned fashion. 

Convenience Sample is taking a sample from where it is easy to get to.  You take a sample along a road cut, because it would be impossible to get a sample somewhere else. 




Slide 12.  Collecting Data – Using a Caliper


We are going to collect data from a mini dig site.   When sampling you need to number each piece of data and identify it, by using a code that makes sense.  The codes you are using are the initials of the person who collected and the order recorded.  You will record the length of the bone by using a caliper.  A caliper is an easy and precise way of measuring objects.  Teach the students how to read the caliper.  Notice that there are two ways to use the caliper,  A measures the inside of a surface (like inside of a can) and  B measures objects on the outside.


Make sure students use the right portion.  Go over it several times, it is not as easy to them as you might assume.



Slide 13.  Collecting Data to Make a Conclusion


Students will work in pairs.  One will measure the length and the other records on the provided sheets.


Dinosaur Dig Site:  Data Collection


Researchers:  ____________________________________________


Sector 1

Sector 2






Sector 3

Sector 4









Id number




































































How many animals are represented by these objects?   ________________


Can you guess what the animals were?





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