When I was five years old, I knew I wanted to be an archaeologist when I grew up (spoiler alert, this didn't exactly happen). Regardless, I had a passion for digging in the dirt hoping to discover treasures connected to the past. The first time the concept even occurred to me was when I saw a photo in my parent's National Geographic of the Varna Gold. It was beautiful treasure buried in the dirt (and among skeletons!). As a kid, I was enthralled. It was almost magical when a month later, while digging in my childhood backyard, I turned up a golden pocket watch from 1889. I was hooked. Such a wonder as a child to realize that generations of people before us lived on the same land we are living on. They even left traces of their existences in artifacts. Excavation is an adventurous and tactile way to discover history. We can awaken that passion in our children.
Sandpoint is an excellent place to learn about archaeology and excavation. When the Sand Creek Byway was set to pass through the earliest settlement in town, James Baird and Robert Weaver led excavations of the area before construction began. Nearly 600,000 artifacts were recovered between 2005-2008. The BCHS Museum has many great examples of these artifacts on display in the dig room.
Archaeologists dig in the ground to look for things that people left behind or lost long ago. The artifacts people leave behind help us learn about what their lives were like.
Here are some ways to explore the concept of archaeology with your child:
For very small children you can make a sensory bin for them to dig through and discover treasures. Find a tupperware or shoebox and fill it with anything from rice, beans, to sand (depending on your child's age). Hide trinkets in the sensory bin and let your child play with finding and burying them and finding them again.
Older kids can plan an excavation and dig outside in a place that you mutually agree on. Don't worry if you think they won't find anything, you never know. The fun is in the search.
You can hide artifacts (toys/trinkets/treasures) in a sandbox or dig area and have your child unearth them, record their location, make a sketch of them, and keep a log of their findings.
Another idea is to take your children places where they can see real artifacts left behind in plain sight. The old Humbird Mill ruins at the beginning of the Pend d'Oreille Bay Trail, the abandoned logging/farming equipment near Pine Street Woods, the remains of an old boat on Sunnyside... What other evidence of Bonner County past have you stumbled upon that you can share with your children.
You can inspire the sense of excavation and discovery by making hidden treasure rocks:
1 cup of used coffee grounds
1/2 cup of cold coffee
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of salt
Some small objects to hide in the dough (plastic animals or dinosaurs work well)
How To Make It
Have your child stir the together the coffee grounds, cold coffee, flour, and salt until well mixed.
Form the dough into a half ball, put the object inside and cover it with another ball of dough.
Dry overnight until firm. Then let your child chip away at it and crack it back open to discover the treasure. Or gift it to a friend!
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Activities and experiences to engage with history at home. Share your work with us #AtHomeWithBCHS
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