1997 ACTIVITY PAGE
FLOAT! FLOAT! FLOAT!
Did you ever think that
you could learn
something by throwing dirt
Well, here's your big chance!
For this year's activity
you are going to need several things:
O.K. First of all, pull
those shirt sleeves up (this can get kind of messy)!
Now, put your hand in the
bucket of water and start stirring it around
slowly in a circular motion
with your hand and arm. (Don't splash it)
Next, as you are stirring,
have someone else slowly shake a scoop of
dirt into the water.
Keep on stirring!!
Add another scoop of dirt
and keep on stirring.
Add a third scoop and keep
If you can feel chunks of
soil and dirt at the bottom of the bucket,
gently break them up with
your fingers, try to keep all the soil swirling
in a circle in the bucket.
Now, take your hand out
from the water, what do you see??
Write down on a piece of
paper what you see.
Take the strainer and very
gently scoop off the stuff
that is right on the top
of the water.
Put these things on a piece
of paper towel.
Look at them under the microscope.
What do you see?
Describe it or draw it.
I'll just wait here until
you are done doing that...
Well, hopefully you noticed
that the heavy things in the dirt,
like big rocks, fell to
the bottom of the bucket but that the
lighter things floated to
the top when the soil dissolved.
Under the microscope you
probably saw many types of
twigs and seeds and little
pieces of plants.
a bag of dirt from your backyard,
or garden or from the woods
a scoop for the dirt (a plastic
container will do)
a few 5 liter buckets of water (warm
enough to put your hands in)
a hand sieve or very fine strainer
Congratulations, you just did floatation!!
Basically, this is what
we do in the laboratory or in the field
to see what is in the soil
or to find any little artifacts that we missed.
Some archaeologists figure
out what type of seed or plant is
in the soil using the microscope.
After doing this, they can tell us
what plants were growing
at the time at the site or nearby it.
For instance, if you found
lots of sunflower seeds in your bucket or
under the microscope, then
you would be able to guess that the
soil was from an area that
either had a sunflower planted there or
where birds dropped them
or where somebody dropped a big bag
of them by accident.
Floatation can tell us lots of things!!
Good work, floatation takes
a lot of time and patience but
good archaeological detectives
realize how important it can be!