Lesson Plans: Mystery Cemetery

A middle-school project, adaptable for older ages and adults. This lesson is perfect for Halloween! Instead of sitting, students move around a small 3-D cemetery of skeletons and burial goods as they analyze and debate the gender, age, and status of the individuals. Then they identify and correlate attributes to group the burials into logical categories. The analysis reinforces critical-thinking skills and illustrates the difference between observation and inference, and reveals the importance of context. Teachers of history, science, math, and ancient languages have found applications for this lesson in their classrooms.

This cemetery is not intended to expose students to genuine mortuary analysis or excavation strategies (for excavation, see AIA Simulated Dig lesson plans). Teachers must use their own discretion and knowledge of their students in introducing this lesson to their classes, since the excavation and analysis of burials is a culturally sensitive issue.

An overview for Teachers, with general guidelines and day-by-day instructions on how to carry out the project in the classroom

General instructions for students plus two worksheets and an optional page for conclusions

Grading Rubric

Key to Burial Groups
An answer key for the lesson
Teachers may request a copy of the key by emailing education@archaeological.org.

Mystery Cemetery Photographs
Images of the 15 burials

Mystery Cemetery Maps
Two maps of the cemetery are with a color key, as well as black-and-white versions with no key

Dig Deeper

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