Back from the Future

Language Arts Activity

In this creative writing assignment, students will assume the role of future archaeologists excavating the remains of an ancient twentieth-century classroom (or other site of your choice).



  1. Tell students that one of the most difficult jobs of an archaeologist is to figure out the uses of the artifacts found at the sites of ancient civilizations. Explain that in this activity, the students will become archaeologists from the far future. It will be their jobs to analyze objects or a place to determine what their function "might have been."

  2. Select the objects in the classroom to be "found" and studied by the "archaeologists." You might tag each "artifact" with a number and allow students to pick numbers from a container. You may also wish to have one or more students report on the room itself (its shape; its possible use -- for example, throne room, home, or tomb).

  3. Assign each "archaeologist" to report (orally or in essay form) on a particular artifact. Students should:


David Macaulay's well-illustrated Motel of Mysteries, about a twentieth-century motel mistaken for a burial chamber by forty-first century archaeologists, provides a humorous example of archaeological misinterpretation, and would be an excellent primer for this assignment.

Student essays could take the form of stories or journal entries that could be combined into a "record" of the dig. Classrooms could also share their journals and theories about what twentieth-century United States might have been like with other classes.

As a warm-up or follow-up discussion, you may want to show students pictures of actual artifacts from ancient civilizations and, without revealing the purpose of the artifact, have them exchange ideas about what it could be.

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