Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Archaeology for kids: Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past

Archaeology for kids: Uncovering the Mysteries of Our Past

Richard Panchyk
For ages 12 and up
Chicago Review Press, 2001   ISBN: 978-1556523953

For those of us who have never worked as an archaeologist, archaeology may seem like a pretty simple business. In actual fact it is quite complicated. There are "eight basic steps to archaeology," and if you can understand how they work then you will "discover how archaeology works."

First you have to decide what it is you want to find. In other words you need to have a goal. For example, Howard Carter knew that he wanted to find the tomb of Tutankhamun. Once that goal has been decided upon you need to do your research. You have to gather as much information as you can about your subject. Then you will need to raise money to pay for your project. Archaeological excavations are expensive and you are going to need funding to pay for your equipment, your staff, and everything else. Next you need to select your site. To do this a survey will be necessary. Sometimes a surface survey is enough, but often an aerial survey is required. Once the site is selected, you will do some testing "to pinpoint the best location to excavate." Only after this is done will you begin the full blown excavation. During and after the excavation you will need to do dating and analysis, and finally your finds will need to be preserved.

Now that we know the eight basic steps we can look at some of the most famous archaeological discoveries that have been made. The author begins by telling us about prehistoric sites, sites that were occupied by our apelike ancestors who lived two and a half million years ago, and then he tells us about the sites that were used by the first humans used in 45,000 B.C. He then goes on to explore the worlds of the Ice Age and New Stone Age peoples, looking at their cave dwellings, their tools, their pottery, and the stone tombs that they constructed.

This period was followed by the "First Civilizations" - the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Chinese dynasties, Greece, and Rome. Not to be forgotten are the Aztecs, Inca and Mayan civilizations in the New World.

The author concludes his deeply interesting and very thorough narrative with a section on "Historical Archaeology," in other words archaeology which explores more modern mysteries. For example there are archaeologists who specialize in the America Civil War, or Revolutionary France. Though these periods did not take place that long ago they are still fascinating and have a lot to offer an archaeologist.

What is particularly engaging about this book is that it not only provides young readers with a great deal of information and excellent background material, but it also includes twenty-five activities which are engaging, educational and cleverly crafted to keep the young reader interested in the subject. The activities include dating coins, making footprints, learning how to make fire with flints, making an oil lamp, and making a time capsule.

Carefully researched and very well written, packed with supplemental informational boxes, and full of annotated illustrations and photographs, this is an excellent book to show young people what the world of archaeology is all about.