Who lived here before us? What sorts of things did they do throughout their day? How did they use the land and resources around them? Are they like us today in any way? In what ways can we learn from the people who lived here before us?

Investigating the archaeological significance of our cultural landscape is being conducted by an unlikely group. They are usually seen digging in the dirt, eating worms, and napping part way through movies they so desperately wanted to watch. They are children.

The Archaeological Children’s Program here at River Raisin National Battlefield Park is one that the Monroe county started before the National Park Service was ever involved. The park has a state-of-the-art pavilion with heavy wood benches and picnic tables, great for lunch out on the trail. You would never guess that you were sitting above six archaeological sites waiting for eager young hands and minds to excavate.

Pavilion at River Raisin National Battlefield Park with archaeology pits for out Archaeology Children's Program.
Pavilion at River Raisin National Battlefield Park with archaeology pits for out Archaeology Children’s Program.

The six sites are permanent 3 square feet of concrete pits filled with dirt and artifacts and covered with stylish wooden crates for safety. On the day before a dig, the artifacts are buried and recorded to make sure everything is found (how nice it would be to have in any archaeological dig!).

Archaeological principles and methods are introduced to the participating child archaeologists like screening, mapping, how to properly dig so artifacts are preserved, documentation, and photographing artifacts. These steps are important and lead to the crux of archaeology: interpretation.  The interpretation of artifacts truly shows the connection of something found in the ground to what happened long ago. The connection creates a sense of depth both literally and figuratively; depth of the earth beneath our feet, the depth of knowledge it holds, and the historical depth of our cultural landscapes.

There are two more archaeology programs being held at the park for the remainder of the summer. An Archaeology Youth Day Camp is in the works looking to go more in depth on methods, principles, and interpretation of artifacts.

Archaeology is just one of the many ways to show and grow appreciation for our environment, history, and culture. What will you find?