Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 7, “Historical Archaeology in Downtown Boise” and “South Carolina Pottery Kiln Excavation”

StrataImage-webEpisode 7 of the new documentary series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, considers what we uncover about a society through the remnants of its existence. In this two-part episode we observe how discarded items become touchstones for past lives—relics that capture times, places, memories, social status, gender roles and cultural attributes. And we ponder how future generations will remember us when they come upon what we in the 21st century have left behind.

In Part 1, “Historical Archaeology in Downtown Boise,” the unexpected discovery of a well associated with one of the earliest homes in Boise, Idaho, leads to an archaeological excavation. The home was built by a leading citizen, Cyrus Jacobs, and later became a Basque boarding house. Today, it is a museum run by the Basque Museum and Cultural Center.

Part 2, “South Carolina Pottery Kiln Excavation,” shows the University of Illinois excavating an industrial pottery kiln that began operation in the early 1800s and which produced the “tupperware” of the time, a commodity without which plantation life in the Edgefield District of South Carolina could not have thrived.

Strata: Portraits of Humanity is a monthly half-hour video series available online and on select cable channels. Strata is a showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world.

Click on the image below to view the program on The Archaeology Channel and scroll down to see the curriculum developed by AntiquityNOW to accompany Episode 7’s videos.

Strata may 2015

Lesson Plans


  • To introduce students to the concept of cultural heritage and its legacy today
  • To demonstrate to students how people developed cultural identity whether as a nation or a discrete society
  • To help students gain an understanding of how a people’s story can be told from the most ordinary of items
  • To appreciate how past lives have contributed to who we are today


  • To grasp the importance of cultural preservation by appreciating what we learn from past endeavor and how it applies today
  • To evaluate and think critically about how societies are built upon the ingenuity of those that preceded them
  • To grasp how the most ordinary life can have impact on those who come after
  • To realize how past lives and the contributions they made don’t die as long as we preserve their memories

Lesson Plan 1

Historical Archaeology in Downtown Boise

Project Idea #1

  • Class discussion: What does the phrase “One person’s trash is another’s treasure” mean? Make a chart using examples given by your classmates of what some would think of as trash and others would think of as treasure. Can you draw any conclusions? How does the idea of recycling affect or alter this concept?

Project Idea #2

  • What possessions do you have that are specific to the region of the country in which you live? What are specific to the country itself? What items could be universal? Make a list of each.
  • It is 3015. You are part of an archaeological team that finds the above items. Write a report from the team describing what they found and how they think that item was used. What resources would they employ to identify the items? Gathering all the items together, how would they describe the way you lived?
  • Learn more about archaeological digs and find examples of reporting sheets here.

Lesson Plan 2

South Carolina Pottery Kiln Excavation

Project Idea #1

  • Class discussion: What was the importance of these large jugs? Why were these so critical to the plantation lifestyle?
  • Find a book that talks about life on a plantation. In particular, see if you can find any journals or autobiographies.
    • Why are these types of written personal accounts scarce?
    • Write a scene with dialog between two people. This could be a slave and a master or mistress, two slaves, two slave owners, the captain of a slave ship and a crew member, etc. Consider how the characters would speak to each other. What kind of stage directions and costume instructions would you give? Click here for information on writing a screenplay.
    • Act out the scene in class.

Project Idea #2

  • Research the life of David Drake. Start here to read about this remarkable man’s life. Make a list of the things that you discover about his life.
  • Class discussion: Why is David Drake considered a man to be remembered?
  • What role does art play in the life of a man like David Drake?
    • Why did he write phrases on these stoneware vessels? Make a list of five phrases. What do they mean to you? What do you suppose they meant to David Drake?
    • Draw some vessels and write your own phrases as if you were a potter who was a slave. What would you want to communicate to people?

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