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III Archaeological Simulation: Activities

1.       COIN ACTIVITIES:  ACE has many coin activities submitted by participating teachers and posted under "Teacher Supplied Resources" at


For example, students can:

---learn about minting methods and try to design or produce a Greek/Roman   coin.

     "Design a Coin" (Sue Bonvallet, Wellington School, OH) and

     "Making Money Madness" (Lane Brunner, University of Texas)

A helpful website for this activity:  http://www.deadromans.com/coins/default.htm

---make "Coin Tickets" and "Bullas" (Zee Ann Poerio, St. Louise de Marillac, PA)


A simple Bulla – courtesy of Zee Ann Poerio.

For help on Bulla making for your students,

see her instructions and examples  in the TSR section

---make "Coin Rubbings" (Sandra Gilmore, Danville High School, PA)

---complete an assortment of coin-related activities across the curriculum, such as timelines, coin math, and coin geography (designed for middle-school audiences). (Jerry Scoppa, Palmyra-Macedon Middle School, NY)

1.      RESTORATION PROJECT:  Choose an item that you don't mind breaking!  It should be an item that will break into not TOO many pieces and will contain hints about how to reassemble, such as a flowerpot or a yard sale clay vase with a simple pattern or painting.  Put the object into a plastic bag and break it.  Then, either plant all of the pieces in your archaeology simulation box for students to excavate and restore, or, as a separate activity, give the bag to a team of students with the appropriate type of glue for reassembly.  This could also work as a take-home activity.  MAKE SURE THE EDGES ARE NOT TOO SHARP!!!!  Students should number the pieces as they visualize them fitting together, then glue them one by one, starting from the bottom, attempting to incorporate small pieces as they go (instead of gluing just obvious large pieces first!).  Teacher may choose to remove a few of the pieces from the bag to reflect the challenge faced by real-life archaeologists when they reconstruct a find from an incomplete set of pieces

2.      MOSAIC: 

     A.  Students can make a mosaic ONLINE at


B.  Students can make individual mosaics, or you can enlarge the design so that it           spreads onto multiple pieces of backing (e.g. poster board, foam core, etc.).  Then groups of students can be responsible for completing each section of the board. This requires planning among the groups to decide on a color scheme.  The end result of joining the boards together is an exciting surprise!


Backing Board-choose a backing that is strong enough for the mosaic "tiles" you choose.  It could be poster board, foam core, corrugated cardboard, or a thin piece of plywood or paneling if you are using real tile pieces and plaster.

Glue or Plaster appropriate for your materials


---small pieces of color paper (should be thick enough that glue does not seep through too easily).  If a paint store is throwing out paint chip strips, these make wonderful tiles because they are stiff and have many different hues for shading.

---egg shells:  Dye first following the directions on food coloring or Easter egg dye (usually food coloring will have a color chart on the box for mixing primary colors).  Let the shells dry thoroughly, then crush and put into containers.  These work well for a large class project if you ask students to save shells well in advance-they are free and easy to color and glue. 

---white gravel:  Place in a baggie with a few drops of water and food coloring.  Seal then shake until all gravel is uniform in color.  Let dry on newspaper.

---small ceramic tiles or broken pieces (BE CAREFUL!).  These should probably be set into plaster rather than glued.

---assorted types of seeds

---assorted types of beans

---pebbles or shells



--- To see a Mosaic pattern of Medusa that comes from a Roman site at Sousse in Tunisia, go to http://ancientcoinsforeducation.org/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=390

You may want to simplify the pattern by eliminating the circular border and enlarging Medusa's head.

---A Coloring Book of Ancient Greece, produced by Bellerophon Books,

(ISBN 0-88388-000-8) contains simple black line drawings of images from Greek vase paintings which make wonderful authentic designs of gods and goddesses, a chimaera, Nereus, a wild goat, an Amazon, ancient dancers, a centaur, Heracles and several labors, a hoplite, a satyr, a maenad, the sphinx, Bellerophon, etc.

---Students can simplify any object of Greek or Roman culture or, of course, make up an original!

See some other varied and interesting examples of Roman Mosaics at



duck mosaic
Duck mosaic from Ephesus in Turkey– photo courtesy of Stephen Arnold

1.      GREEK OR ROMAN VASE:  This project is a little more difficult and may best be done with the guidance of an art teacher!


---Step-by-step directions with pictures for this project can be found in Archaeology's Dig Magazine, Vol. 2, Number 4, Aug/Sept., 2000.

Helpful websites with Greek vases:



Black line drawings of shapes with thorough descriptions of uses of various shapes.)


Description of vase uses, also linked to the Perseus database of hundreds of images of Greek vases.



You will need: balloons, papier-mâché ingredients (newspaper cut into strips or squares, glue and water), construction paper, cardboard, masking tape, and paint.


1.  Students should look at samples of simple vase shapes to figure out which one they would like to reproduce.  They can also choose between black figure (background is reddish-brown clay color and design is in black) or red figure (background is black and design in reddish-brown and white and black) or coarse ware (all terra-cotta color)

2.  Cover an inflated balloon with several layers of papier-mâché, let dry, then

pop the balloon.

3.      Depending on the vase shape students have chosen, they can cut holes in the top and bottom of this papier-mâché "bulb" and insert a stiff piece of construction paper to form the neck and base of the vase.  Tape it into place with masking tape.

4.      Cut handles, top, base, etc. of the vase (according to pattern) out of cardboard and tape onto the vase.

5.      Paint vase background color, then add border designs, images, etc.  You may want to prepare a stencil for this part of the activity.  A Coloring Book of Ancient Greece, produced by Bellerophon Books (ISBN 0-88388-000-8) would be helpful with this activity also.


 As a connected activity, when teacher Zee Ann Poerio of St Louise de Marillac School in Pittsburgh,  PA,  opened her  school Ancient Coin Museum,   a  “Make a piece of Ancient Pottery” contest was run  by Art teacher, Mrs C. Christen Palombo,  at Bethel Park High School nearby.    Above is  the  marvellous and  well researched  winning piece  by Shannon Quinlisk,  who received an Ancient Roman bronze coin prize donated by ACE.


"Predict an Artifact":  Ask each student to pick a modern-day object that he or she thinks an archaeologist will find fascinating a thousand years from now.  Compose the archaeologist's record of it.  Include a sketch, dimensions, and a detailed written description, including the context in which it was found.  Then conclude with the archaeologist's hypothesis about the artifact's function, decoration, and identity.  What does the archaeologist think it suggests about the lifestyle of the people who used it?   Is it broken and if so, does the archaeologist choose to merely conserve it, restore it, or reconstruct it -- and why?

These journal entries could be collated to create an archaeological record of the early 21st century, and could easily tie in to the creation of a time capsule.

A variation on the above assignment that might inspire students' imaginations more is this:  "If archaeologists excavated your bedroom one thousand years from now, which object would they find most fascinating?"

"Who's Who in the World of Archaeology" The field of archaeology is relatively new, dating back only to the eighteenth century.  Ask students to research an archaeologist of the ancient world and document the finds for which he or she is most famous.  This assignment would make an excellent Power Point presentation, because there are copious images of the most famous dig sites on the Internet!  Some suggestions are:

Heinrich Schliemann
Carl Blegen
Wilhelm Dorpfeld
Sir Arthur Evans
Gertrude Bell

Sophia Schliemann wearing
the "Trojan Treasure"

6.  ROMAN BOARD GAMES:  Make materials needed to follow rules of any of the board games described at



 Roman Board Game found in the Hadrian’s
Wall area and displayed at Chester’s Museum - see



Here is a marvelous set of directions with many samples of student-produced oil

lamps from a fifth-sixth grade class at Minquon School.