Lesson Ideas

Archeology and genetics – a hands-on lesson

Looking for a fun way to teach students about archeology? How about basic genetics? Try our original migration mapping lesson based on genetic and archeological evidence! The full lesson plan, including objectives, materials needed, and time requirement, can be found in this downloadable document:

Step 1. Basic background information

Start off with information about DNA, including the nucleotides it contains and how they pair (Adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T) and cytosine (C) pairs with guanine (G)). Remind them of the term DNA sequence, you can write a various sequence and let the students write the respective second DNA strand (pair the nucleotides).

Next, you can stress that 99.9% of DNA sequences are identical in all humans but the others are unique sections that introduce genetic diversity.

Explain what genomics is and how it can help archeologists. We include several methods – analysis of DNA sequences for mutations; radiocarbon dating; analysis of archeological evidence – tools used by people. By comparing artifacts (tools) with DNA sequences it is possible to see if changes in artifacts were a local development or if they reflected new migrations of peoples. (In the current study, the genetic sequences actually changed when the tool type changed.)

Step 2. Introduction videos

Hook the students with the following video clips from PBS: Faces of America. Briefly discuss the human genome at this point.

Step 3. Reading assignment

Students should read the article “Where did the first people in the Caribbean come from?” in Science Journal for Kids about this research. The scientists used ancient DNA, radiocarbon dating, and archaeological remains to find out where the first people in the Caribbean came from.

Step 4. Hands-on activity

Students should have the worksheet or the online activity for distance learning.

Explain they have to place the DNA sequences and the ceramic tools on the map (to go with the corresponding numbers). In the end, they will be able to answer the question in the title – Where did the first people in the Caribbean come from? – based on the evidence they analyzed.

That’s Not All!

Visit the article’s page for even more resources: related content, foreign language translations, curriculum alignment and others.


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