An Archaeological Simulation Game as Grounding for Interpretation

Civilization is sometimes seen as allowing its players an opportunity to experience what it is like to be an historian. Specifically, via game play, players can grapple with the dynamics of history (e.g., change something in history to see how that alters other things). However, this activity differs from that which historians do, which entails collecting and interpreting historical data (e.g., artifacts) to come up with the descriptions of events that are then taught as historical facts (Wineberg, 1991). The Archaeotype archaeological simulation game (Black & McClintock, 1996) is designed to allow sixth-grade students to act as archeologists via the simulation of digging up artifacts (from ancient Greek, Assyrian, and Roman history) and measuring them. They then can look up related artifacts that will enable them to interpret what happened at the simulated archaeological site and to argue for their interpretation. Figure 20.2 shows a screenshot of the simulated archaeological site and Figure 20.3 shows the simulated lab where measures are taken of the artifacts that have been found at the site. The students simulate digging and sifting through sectors in the archaeological dig site (Figure 20.2) where they find artifacts, which are then moved to the simulated lab (Figure 20.3). In the lab, they are examined, measured, and compared to background information about artifact characteristics of candidate ancient civilizations potentially relevant to the site.

In the study, students were given a booklet with raw observations in an unfamiliar area accompanied by brief background readings. They then worked in pairs for four hours to prepare a report describing and interpreting the patterns they saw in the observations, and then providing arguments for their interpretations. Experts in the field made a list of 60 points that the students could make in their reports. Students’ written reports were then evaluated for the presence of these points. As shown in Table 20.2 the Archaeotype students showed significantly better pattern recognition than the control students. The largest difference was in

Screenshot of the Archaeotype Archaeological Simulation Site

Figure 20.2 Screenshot of the Archaeotype Archaeological Simulation Site.

explanation and argumentation where the Archaeotype students did much better than the control students.

These findings point to the efficacy of Archaeotype as a vehicle for grounding ancient history for the students and for providing them with direct experience with how archaeologists devise interpretations of data, which in turn, facilitated their pattern recognition, interpretation, and explanation and argumentation skills.

Screenshots of the Archaeotype Archaeological Simulation Lab

Figure 20.3 Screenshots of the Archaeotype Archaeological Simulation Lab.

Table 20.2 Points by Study Group

Pattern Recognition

Explanation and Argumentation







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