Pre-Visit Activities

Artifact Activity


If you would like to prepare your students for the archaeology component of their field trip to Riverside with an activity, we suggest “What Can Artifacts Tell Us?” The goal of the activity is to help students to recognize that “things” can provide us with a great deal of information about people. The activity also allows students to use the same sort of problem-solving skills archaeologists use on the job.


  • 8 “artifacts” from each student
  • a paper bag for each student


Ask each of your students to bring 8 personal items to school that could provide someone with clues as to who they are (these items could relate to hobbies, family, their age, hometown, school, etc.). In short, the items can be anything that might describe who they are. Stress that there should be no names or identification on any of these items.

Option One

On the day of the activity, pass out paper bags and ask students to place their 8 items in a bag. Divide the class into pairs of students and ask each pair of students to exchange paper bags. Ask each student to complete a written description of what is in the bag and to write what they think these items tell them about the person.

Then ask students to exchange their written description of the items to evaluate their partner’s accuracy. Were all of the “artifacts” correctly identified? What did they learn about that person?

As a group, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of trying to describe someone from artifacts.

Option Two

Collect bags of “artifacts” from students and pass them out at random. Ask students to write a description of what is in their bag. Then ask them to make a determination about who the person is. (Students in the class need to know one another fairly well.)

Carry on similar group discussion regarding strengths and weaknesses of using artifacts to describe a person.

Story Activity

The next activity uses an old photograph for the basis of a discussion about life in the past, and demonstrates the value of photos as primary resources. You can find our Story Activity on our website as well.

View our glossary of terms for “The Building Blocks of History” to get prepared for your visit. 

Book Tours