Yes, digging – what many immediately associate with archaeology – is fun.
But there’s more to it, says Gail Lundeen, a member of the Kansas City Archaeological Society and the Missouri coordinator for Project Archaeology.
“People think of archaeology as only digging, but that's only a small part of it,” Lundeen said Thursday, during a dig at Fort Osage National Historic Landmark in Sibley as part of a week-long workshop hosted by Project Archaeology and Jackson County Parks + Rec.
Besides the digging, Lundeen said, archaeology involves researching the site beforehand, documentation, trying to identify artifacts, then writing a report.
“It's about getting knowledge,” Lundeen said.
Says Patrick Salland, historical interpreter for Parks + Rec, “It's about researching and making sure you can interpret it.”
The annual Project Archaeology workshop takes place in the county – the Lone Jack Battlefield, the Atkins-Johnson Farm and Museum and Lake Jacomo. The idea is to give educators a little archaeology experience as well as ideas to take back to their workplaces.
“It's not all teachers; it's for anybody who works with kids and wants to teach them about archaeology,” Lundeen said. “It can be a nature center person, or someone environmental education.”
The week consisted of two instruction days at the Fort Osage Education Center, a field trip day that included the Truman Home, and two days of small excavation spots. This workshop had just a handful of participants, but Lundeen said other years they've had more than a dozen.
In the grassy area east of the recreated fort, diggers removed the top grass and found, among other things, bits of stone that perhaps were out of place, the top of a glass bottle and a tiny bead.
The area saw Native Americans before the Lewis and Clark expedition, fort residents from more than two centuries ago and residents of the former Sibley before the town moved toward the south.
The tiny bead, they figured initially, possibly came from a re-enactor in prior decades.
Vanessa Holloway and Cecelia Brueggemann both had never done an archaeological dig before this week.
“Super cool,” said Holloway, a teacher at Raytown Success Academy. “I was looking for interactive things I could bring back to the classroom. It's far better learning this way than just inside.”
“The curriculum information they provided was outstanding, and this part of it is bonus. I can take this back to my class, do something similar.”
Brueggemann, a park operations and planning specialist for Missouri State Parks who works in Kansas City, said the workshop is a different way to interpret history.
“This is artifacts, and it gives you a different perspective,” she said. “It's always good to broaden your knowledge. This is a chance to do some hands-on history.”
Noting the various types of people that had walked on the land they dug, Salland said, “We want to learn more about the town of Sibley.”
“It's the thrill of the discovery,” Lundeen said. “It's a very fun pastime.”
“We're just passionate about archaeology, and we want kids to learn the right way to do it.”
Today Parks and Rec hosts Artifact ID and Archaeology Day at Fort Osage, and it's open to the public with regular admission ($8 adults; $4 children and seniors).