Lesson: Bones, Soils and Preservation Conditions

Author: Annalisa Alvrus

Area: Anthropology

Grade Level: 9-12

Overview: This lesson provides students an opportunity to investigate the effects of different components of soils on bone preservation, information which is useful to the archaeologist and anthropologist, as well as the museum curator. Students will be challenged to design an experiment to resolve a problem regarding the provenience of various collections of bones. Students should have a basic knowledge of chemistry, including knowing the difference between acids and bases. Chemical tests are required, but the students have considerable latitude in how they apply chemical tests to the problem. The experiment, however, requires some standardization in recording the morphology of the bones. After determining how they will address the research question, students set up their experiments, then allow the experiments to run for at least a month. At the end of the experiment, the students again collect data on bone morphology and condition, then report their findings. This lesson takes 4 class periods to complete.


  • 1SC-P4. Create and defend a written plan of action for a scientific investigation.
  • 1SC-P6. Identify and refine a researchable question, conduct the experiment, collect and analyze data, share and discuss findings.
  • 5SC-P1. Predict chemical and physical properties of substances (e.g., color, solubility, chemical reactivity, melting point, boiling point).
  • 1SC-P2. Compare observations of the real world to observations of a constructed model (e.g., an aquarium, a terrarium, a volcano).
  • 3SC-P1. Apply scientific thought processes and procedures to personal and social issues.
  • 1SC-P1. Propose solutions to practical and theoretical problems by synthesizing and evaluating information gained from scientific investigations.
    American Indian Standards
  • Content Standard B: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all Indian students should develop an understanding of: chemical reactions and be able to apply this knowledge to traditional American Indian technologies such as processing of natural materials to make dyes, the detoxification of acorn meal through leaching, the firing of clay to make traditional Indian ceramics.
 Lesson Plan (pdf/doc)
 Handout (pdf/doc)
 Research (pdf/doc)
 Rubric (pdf/doc)
 Standards (pdf/doc)
 Vocabulary (pdf/doc)