Archaeologists are detectives who study how people lived in the past. They figure out what happened, when, how, and why. Using the clues that people left behind, they try to understand how and why human culture has changed through time.


  1. Tell what archaeology is and explain how it differs from anthropology, geology, paleontology, and history.
  2. Describe each of the following steps of the archaeological process: site location, site excavation, artifact identification and examination, interpretation, preservation, and information sharing.
  3. Describe at least two ways in which archaeologists determine the age of sites, structures, or artifacts. Explain what relative dating is.
  4. Do TWO of the following:
    1. Learn about three archaeological sites located outside the United States.
    2. Learn about three archaeological sites located within the United States.
    3. Visit an archaeological site and learn about it.
      For EACH site you research for options a, b, or c, point it out on a map and explain how it was discovered. Describe some of the information about the past that has been found at each site. Explain how the information gained from the study of these sites answers questions that archaeologists are asking and how the information may be important to modern people. Compare the relative ages of the sites you research.
  5. Choose ONE of the sites you picked for requirement 4 and give a short presentation about your findings to a Cub Scout pack, your Scout troop, your school class, or another group.
  6. Do the following:
    1. Explain why it is important to protect archaeological sites.
    2. Explain what people should do if they think they have found an artifact.
    3. Describe the ways in which you can be a protector of the past.
  7. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Make a list of items you would include in a time capsule. Discuss with your merit badge counselor what archaeologists a thousand years from now might learn from the contents of your capsule about you and the culture in which you live.
    2. Make a list of the trash your family throws out during one week. Discuss with your counselor what archaeologists finding that trash a thousand years from now might learn from it about you and your family.
  8. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours helping to excavate an archaeological site.
    2. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, spend at least eight hours in an archaeological laboratory helping to prepare artifacts for analysis, storage, or display.
    3. If you are unable to work in the field or in a laboratory under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist, you may substitute a mock dig. To find out how to make a mock dig, talk with a professional archaeologist, trained avocational archaeologist, museum school instructor, junior high or high school science teacher, adviser from a local archaeology society, or other qualified instructor. Plan what you will bury in your artificial site to show use of your “site” during two time periods.
  9. Under the supervision of a qualified archaeologist or instructor, do ONE of the following:
    1. Help prepare an archaeological exhibit for display in a museum, visitor center, school, or other public area.
    2. Use the methods of experimental archaeology to re-create an item or to practice a skill from the past. Write a brief report explaining the experiment and its results.
  10. Do ONE of the following:
    1. Research American Indians who live or once lived in your area. Find out about traditional lifeways, dwellings, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and methods of food gathering, preparation, and storage. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.
    2. Research settlers or soldiers who were in your area at least 100 years ago. Find out about the houses or forts, ways of life, clothing styles, arts and crafts, and dietary habits of the early settlers, farmers, ranchers, soldiers, or townspeople who once lived in the area where your community now stands. Describe what you would expect to find at an archaeological site for these people.
  11. Identify three career opportunities in archaeology. Pick one and explain how to prepare for such a career. Discuss with your counselor what education and training are required, and tell why this profession might interest you.


Scouting Literature

American Cultures, American Heritage, Archery, Architecture, Art, Astronomy, Basketry, Chemistry, Genealogy, Geology, Indian Lore, Leatherwork, Metalwork, Pioneering, Pottery, Sculpture, Surveying, Textile, and Wood Carving merit badge pamphlets


  • Archaeological Institute of America. Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin. David Brown Book Company (P.O. Box 511, Oakville, CT 06779; toll-free telephone 800-791-9354; Web site
  • Barnes, Trevor. Archaeology. Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
  • Bush, B. Jane. If Rocks Could Talk. Dale Seymour, 2001.
  • Constable, Nick. The World Atlas of Archaeology. Globe Pequot Press, 2000.
  • Deetz, James. In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. Knopf, 1996.
  • Devereux, Paul. Archaeology: The Study of Our Past. Gareth Stevens, 2002.
  • Dubowski, Cathy East, and Mark Dubowski. Ice Mummy: The Discovery of a 5,000-Year-Old Man. Random House, 1998.
  • Fagan, Brian M. Archaeologists: Explorers of the Human Past. Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • The Great Journey: The Peopling of Ancient America. University Press of Florida, 2004.
  • Time Detectives: How Archaeologists Use Technology to Recapture the Past. Simon & Schuster, 1996.
  • Folsom, Franklin, and Mary Elting Folsom. America's Ancient Treasures. University of New Mexico Press, 1993.
  • Giblin, James Cross. Secrets of the Sphinx. Scholastic, 2004.
  • Greenberg, Lorna, and Margot F. Horwitz. Digging Into the Past: Pioneers of Archeology. Scholastic, 2001.
  • Greene, Meg. Buttons, Bones and the Organ Grinder's Monkey: Tales of Historical Archaeology. Shoe String Press, 2001.
  • Hansen, Joyce, and Gary McGowan. Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence: The Story of New York's African Burial Ground. Henry Holt, 1997.
  • Harrison, Peter D. The Lords of Tikal: Rulers of an Ancient Maya City. Thames & Hudson, 2000.
  • Hawass, Zahi. Curse of the Pharaohs: My Adventures With Mummies. National Geographic Society, 2004.
  • James, Simon. Eyewitness: Ancient Rome. DK Publishing, 2004.
  • Laubenstein, Karen J. Archaeology Smart Junior: Discovering History's Buried Treasures. Random House, 1997.
  • Lauber, Patricia. Who Came First? New Clues to Prehistoric Americans. National Geographic Society, 2003.
  • Lerner Geography Department. Sunk! Exploring Underwater Archaeology. Lerner, 1994.
  • Lister, Robert H., and Florence C. Lister. Those Who Came Before: Southwestern Archeology in the National Park System. Western National Parks Association, 1994.
  • Lourie, Peter. Lost World of the Anasazi: Exploring the Mysteries of Chaco Canyon. Boyds Mills Press, 2004.
  • McIntosh, Jane R. Eyewitness: Archeology. DK Publishing, 2000.
  • The Practical Archaeologist: How We Know What We Know About the Past. Facts on File, 1999.
  • Putnam, James. Eyewitness: Pyramid. DK Publishing, 2004.
  • Rathje, William L., and Cullen Murphy. Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage. University of Arizona Press, 2001.
  • Samford, Patricia, and David L. Ribblett. Archaeology for Young Explorers: Uncovering History at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1995.
  • Sharer, Robert J., and Wendy Ashmore. Archaeology: Discovering Our Past. McGraw-Hill, 2002.
  • Smith, K. C. Exploring for Shipwrecks. Scholastic, 2000.
  • Thomas, David Hurst. Archaeology: Down to Earth. Wadsworth, 1998.
  • Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological Guide. Routledge, 1999.
  • Wheatley, Abigail, and Struan Reid. Archaeology. Usborne Books, 2005.
  • Yeager, C. G. Arrowheads and Stone Artifacts: A Practical Guide for the Amateur Archaeologist. Pruett Publishing, 2000.


  • Abler, Wayne. Mounds of the Upper Mississippi Valley. VHS video. Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, 1997.
  • The Archaeological Detective. CD-ROM. Micro-Intel Inc., 1997.
  • Archaeology: Revealing Our History. VHS video. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002.
  • Bullock, Tom, and Andy Burnham. Stone Circles and Stone Rows: Photographic Tours. CD-ROM., 2004.
  • Davis Jr., R. P. Stephen; Patrick C. Livingood; H. Trawick Ward; and Vincas P. Steponaitis, editors. Excavating Occaneechi Town: Archaeology of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Village in North Carolina. CD-ROM and booklet. University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
  • Fox Jr., Richard A. Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle. VHS video. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
  • Scientific American. Exploring Ancient Cities. CD-ROM. W H Freeman, 1994.
  • Sept, Jeanne M. Investigating Olduvai: Archaeology of Human Origins. CD-ROM. Indiana University Press, 1997.