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Museum of Idaho and INL joining forces for Archaeology Day

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — A blast from the past will be hitting Idaho Falls when the Museum of Idaho joins up with the Idaho National Laboratory for Archaeology Day this Saturday.

The event commemorates Idaho Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month and will offer fun learning activities for the whole family. The event runs from 1 to 5 p.m. and will be held on the museum’s front lawn, weather permitting.

If held outside, the activities will be free to the public, and if held indoors, they will be included in the museum’s usual fee.

“This is the first year we’ve done something for Preservation Month,” Chloe Doucette, the museum’s Director of Education, told “We’re excited to do it this year.”

The event is being staged with help from INL archaeologists. The scientists will work in concert with the museum’s educators to spark interest in archaeology in both kids and adults.

For Archaeology Day, this partnership will spawn activities for the entire family. The kids can busy themselves learning cool information about how scientists use the layers of the Earth itself to date artifacts, a process known as “stratigraphy.”

Kids can also learn about the process of excavation by excavating chocolate chips from cookies.

Doucette said kids can also learn about rock writing, the process of painting or carving on stone to convey a message.

“It’s something that a lot of people have familiarity with around here,” Doucette said. “It’s such an important piece of ancient native culture. And we’ll let people have some fun creating their own version of what they’d want to communicate with some rock writing. It will be an exercise in understanding messages of the past.”

Meanwhile, INL archaeologists will be on hand to identify and date objects adults at the event have found poking around in the dirt. Think “Antiques Roadshow” by way of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“They’re bringing somebody who has a specialty in identifying bones and somebody who’s specifically good at identifying lithics, or stone tools and other stone that you might find,” said Doucette.

“If you’re like me, then you’ve been digging around in your back yard before and found a rock that looks interestingly smooth and it seems like it’s not natural or has some human influence to it,” she adds. “You might want to know what it is. This is your opportunity to bring in your prized possessions and ask somebody if they have any archaeological significance.”

The aim of Archaeology Day is multifold. First, Doucette and company want to show that archaeology is a viable profession for east Idaho residents to pursue.

“There are people who work at the site who get to be archaeologists,” she said. “It’s a really important part of what we do here.”

Another aim of the event is to promote the proper preservation of historical artifacts.

“Our curator would say there is story and significance and power in these objects,” Doucette said. “And when you’re able to come face-to-face with something that has real history to it, and also that real science of archaeology, it’s a powerful moment.”

Doucette said she hopes Archaeology Day activities excite, invigorate and motivate the public to explore their world, be it their own backyard or centers for learning like museums.

And if some false illusions about the field are dispelled along the way, that will be the cherry on top of this archaeological sundae.

“What a lot of people know about archaeology is Indiana Jones,” said Doucette. “While it is incredibly exciting and interesting and full of science, they’re not all Indiana Jones. Really, they’re doing the work of preservation. So even though Indiana Jones is awesome, they’re doing something a little bit different than him.”

You won’t need a bullwhip or a fedora to join in on Archaeology Day. Just a love for learning and maybe an empty stomach for those chocolate chip cookies.

You can click here to learn more about Archaeology Day or you and drop by the Museum of Idaho website for more information.