Friday, 17 February 2012

Lesson Sketch: Archaeological Classification

I'm currently in the process of making a series of lessons based on archaeology. Its been really hard going and I'm only marginally happy with the results. I'd really love some feedback about a lesson, which I'll post below. How can it be improved? How can I get across the lesson activities more concisely? Is there any way I could make the lesson activities more intuitive to students?

Lesson Plan – Classification

Background information:
The question of classification of finds is a very important one in the study of Archaeology. Pottery, for example, can be classified in terms of type of vessel, date of manufacture, place of manufacture, and style. For these classifications to be meaningful for analysis they must be reliable and consistent, so that different Archaeologists would classify objects in the same way. One of the simpler ways to do this is to give inequalities in terms of measurable properties of the pieces (e.g. Diameter of base).
  • Pupils define inequalities that distinguish between the different types of pottery.
  • Pupils use these inequalities to see what type of pottery an artefact is.
1 hour
Prior Knowledge:
Cartesian co-ordinates, equation of a straight line
National Curriculum Links:
  • 3.1e Linear, quadratic and other expressions and equations: They solve inequalities in two variables
  • 3.1e Linear, quadratic and other expressions and equations: They use algebraic and graphical methods to solve simultaneous linear equations in two variables.


  • Classification
  • Pottery
  • Inequality
  • Consistency
  • Classification – Resources
Equipment needed:
·         Projector or interactive whiteboard
·         Rulers
20 minutes
  • Give out copies of the examples of different ancient pottery (resource no. 1)
  • Pupils work in pairs assigning one of the four types: Plate, Bowl, Pot, Urn to each piece of pottery.
  • Display the examples of different ancient pottery on the projector. Go through the pieces, recording and discussing any disagreements.
  • Ask the students to imagine that they are archaeologists working on different sites and we would like to compare the finds on each site.
Ø  What problems would arise from disagreements about the different sorts of pottery? How could we solve them? What properties does a plate have?
25-30 minutes
Main Activity:
  • Explain that if we can describe a type of pottery by things we can measure about it, like height, then we could consistently classify objects.
Ø  What properties could we measure with this pottery?
  • Display the heights of known pottery types (resource no. 2) and the rim diameter of known pottery types (resource no. 3)
Ø  Can we say anything in general about the heights/rim diameters of plates/urns? Why is this not enough to define what makes a plate?
  • Display the graph of heights vs. rim diameter (resource no. 4). Explain that we are now looking at both properties at once.
Ø  Is it now possible to draw a line to separate any of the pottery types from the others?
  • Invite a pupil to draw this line on the board. Go through the steps needed to draw this as an inequality. Show how to shade in the unwanted side.
Ø  What are the properties of the objects in the wanted region? Is this reasonable for a plate?
  • Hand out the graphs of heights vs. base diameter and base diameter vs. rim diameter (resources 5 and 6). Explain that we can use these graphs to separate pots and urns from the others, but we may need more than one inequality.
  • Pupils find these inequalities.
Ø  What are the properties of the objects in the wanted region? Is this reasonable for a pot urn? How can we tell if something is a bowl?
10-15 minutes
  • Go through the pottery finds slides (resource no. 7). First show the estimated dimensions of the artefact. Show the artefact once pupils have decided what type of pottery it belongs in.
Ø  What type of pottery is this? How did you work it out?
Differentiation, extension material and further reading:
Ø  How would you change the inequality to describe all the pottery that is not a plate? What happens if an artefact lands exactly on the line?
Ø  How can we deal with disagreements about which line to draw? Does a ‘best line’ exist? Could we define rules to draw this ‘best line’?
Links to other subjects:
  • Plant classification
Other Comments: