Artifact Puzzles History Lesson: Past Civilizations & Archaeology


Students pretend to be archaeologists to determine what artifact they have found and what its use might have been.


  1. Students will demonstrate knowledge of past civilizations.
  2. Students will use skills of inference and reasoning.
  3. Students will write for the purpose of giving others information using ideas supported with details.


White construction paper, crayons/pencils/markers, scissors, ziplock bags or small boxes

Lesson Plan:

  1. Students should have studied about a culture or civilization that may have lived in the past. (I usually do this lesson when learning about Native Americans). They should know something about the daily life activities of these people and what tools or objects they may have used.
  2. Explain a little to the class about archaeology. Be sure to note that many times archaeologists must figure out what an artifact is by where it was found. Also, explain that many times artifacts are found in pieces and must be carefully put together to see the whole object.
  3. Have each student choose a tool or item used by the people you have been studying. Have them keep their ideas a secret as they carefully draw and cut out their object on construction paper (lifesize if possible).
  4. Have students then cut up their artifact into pieces that will need to be put back together like a puzzle. Have them put the pieces in a ziplock bag along with a brief description of where the item was “found” (i.e. near the river, or, near the remains of a house)
  5. Students should exchange artifacts, put the puzzles together, and use clues to identify the object.
  6. Students should then write a short essay, pretending to be the archaeologist who found the artifact. They should state how and where the artifact was found as well as its use or importance to the ancient people. They should also describe the object and state how and why they came to their conclusions.
  7. Later, students can discuss their findings with the artifact’s “creator”!


The kids seem to love this activity! You can even use it to describe tools or items used in the present and imagine what a person from the future might think the object was!
Grade Levels: 3-5
Submitted By: K. Di Cintio

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