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Lesson Plans
Stonehenge: Solving Ancient Mysteries
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extension -- Additional Activities


Print out the student organizers for handing out during the class sessions.

Computer Resources:
  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Bookmarked sites:
The following sites should be bookmarked: Materials:
  •  Chart paper
  •  Writing Materials


Introductory Activities:
This activity will provide the context for students to begin learning about archaeology, anthropology, and the tools scientists use to investigate physical evidence.

Activity One:

  • Show the students a picture of Stonehenge. (A good one may be found at EMStonehenge.html.) Ask the students to guess about the subject of the picture. Write down what they know about Stonehenge on the board. If they don't know what the picture depicts, tell them that it is Stonehenge, the setting of the following story.

  • Read the following imaginary scenario to the class:

    You are visiting Stonehenge on a cold winter day in January with your family. Your little sister is complaining about the bitter cold, and your parents decide to go back to the car with her. Stonehenge fascinates you, and you really want to spend some more time exploring. You convince your parents to let you stay. As you walk the perimeter, you find a small group of people huddled around a mound of dirt. There is an air of excitement about them.

    "This grave is only two feet deep. It almost looks like they buried this person really quickly."

    "This soil is frozen solid. It may have just been too hard to dig very deep."

    "The skeleton's head is buried at his feet. I wonder if he was killed in battle?"

    "It could have been some kind of funeral ritual. This area was a battlefield for a lot of invasions. Both the Saxons and the Romans fought the English on this site."

    You listen excitedly and wonder what they are talking about. When you get the courage to ask them, they tell you that they have uncovered a grave with a skeleton in it, and are hoping to solve the mystery surrounding it.

  • Ask the students to brainstorm questions that they might ask to gain information about the mysterious skeleton. Write down their responses. Then, ask the students to brainstorm how they might go about finding out the answers to these questions, and what type of scientists might be used to solve the mystery. Write their ideas down on the board.

  • Tell the students that in this lesson they will be learning about the people who study the past, and the tools and methods they use to piece together physical evidence to gain an understanding of scientific phenomena. Tell them that in order to investigate the mystery of the skeleton, they must first do some background research on Stonehenge, to answer some of the questions they asked in the third step of this activity.

  • Divide the class into five groups to collect information about Stonehenge.

    Each group should collect 10-15 facts that should be written on chart paper. After all the groups have collected their facts, hang each piece of chart paper where it can be seen. Start with a fresh piece of chart paper, and as a class, create categories based on the varied information about Stonehenge that each group has collected.

    Activity Two:

  • Tell the students that now that they've done some research, they're ready to investigate the mysterious skeleton. Remind them of some of the questions they generated about the skeleton in activity one.

  • Break students into small groups and have them visit the following Web site at After the students have read this information, have them reconvene as a class and add more questions to the list they generated in activity one.

    Learning Activities:

    Activity One:

    The purpose of Activity One is for students to investigate varied occupations and research tools. Small groups will share their knowledge with the entire class.

  • Remind the students of the questions you asked in the first introductory lesson: Who studies the past? What methods and tools do they use to study it? Tell them that in this lesson they will be learning about archaeologists and anthropologists, and the tools they use in their investigations.

  • Ask the class to brainstorm ideas about what the following positions entail, and the tools they think these professionals might use:
    • Archaeologist

    • Anthropologist

  • Break the class into small groups and ask each group to investigate one of the above professions. Students may also choose to research subspecialties of the above occupations such as biological anthropology, anthropological physics, Archaeological Chemist, Medieval Archaeologist, Archaeological Physicist, Forensic Archaeologist, Osteoarchaeologist, etc. Tell them that each group will be presenting its findings to the class. Use the Stonehenge Organizer-Career URLs and Questions section for a printable version of this list and questions to help guide the students' research.

    Below are some suggested sites for researching careers in archaeology and anthropology.

  • Each group is responsible for creating a presentation to teach the class about the different occupations they have researched. This presentation may be constructed in two different ways.

    First option: to create a "Scientific Career Day" exhibit. This would consist of a series of booths containing information about the various occupations. The students in the booths would be required to "act" the part of their specific occupation. This might include dressing in typical clothing, preparing demonstrations of the tools, telling stories from their "experiences" in the field, or any other creative enactments. Students should be given time to browse through the different booths and ask questions about the various occupations.

    Second option: create an "Interview the Expert" panel in which students ask questions about the various occupations regarding their specialties.

    For either choice, each group should prepare a document identifying and describing the profession they've researched. This document should also include information about the types of questions this profession sets out to answer, the tools and methods they use to answer these questions, and on any interesting current events, e.g., discoveries, new techniques, new theories, within the field.

    Activity Two:

    The purpose of activity two is to expose students to archaeological excavations, to help them gain an understanding of the tools and processes used by archaeologists and what day-to-day life is like on a dig. Students will also have the chance to contact real archaeologists via email to ask them questions about the digs.

  • Tell the students that they are going to research several real-world excavations to learn more about what it's like to be a scientist studying the past. Break the students into three groups: Have group one research the ongoing Lott House Excavation, group two an ongoing excavation in Pompeii, and group three, a recent (Summer 2000) search for wrecks beneath the Black Sea.

    Lott House lott/index.html

    Pompeii pompeii/index.html

    Black Sea crimea/dispatch2.html

    Ask the students to prepare a presentation on the excavation they are studying, and suggest that they use the following questions as guidelines for their research. See the Stonehenge Organizer-Excavation Questions section for a printable version of the following list of questions.
    • What were the archaeologists' motivations for joining the project? What questions did they have going into the project?
    • Background information on the site/object they are excavating: When was it built? Who built it? What was going on in the world when it was built?
    • What were some of the tools the scientists used to gather data on the object of the excavation?
    • What were some of the techniques the scientists used to gather information?
    • What is a scientist's typical day like on the excavation?
    • What type of information did the scientists include in their field notes?
    • What types of objects did the scientists find? How did they go about understanding what they were used for? What type of clues did they consider?
    • What types of evidence did the scientists look at while excavating?
    • What were some of the challenges the scientists faced during the excavation?
    • What are some of the questions that are still unanswered?

  • Have the students share their projects with the class. After the presentations, you may want to ask the students what the similarities and differences were between the excavations.

  • As a whole class, ask each group to come up with a question or two for the scientists working on their dig, and then send the questions to the scientists, using the contact information on the sites. (Note: This may not be possible for the Black Sea group, as the excavation ended in the summer of 2000. However, they can participate in generating questions for the other groups.)

    Activity Three:

    The purpose of Activity Three is for students to analyze real- world applications of scientific investigation.

  • Remind the students of what they've done so far: they've researched excavations, and have learned about the questions that drive these investigations and the tools used to answer these questions. Tell them that in this activity they'll be reading about the several scientific investigations, and applying what they've learned to suggest how these investigations could proceed.

  • Divide the class into groups of two or three. Each group should be assigned one of the two topics and asked to create the following: (Go to the Stonehenge Organizer-WWII, Egypt Guidelines section for a printable version of this activity.)
    • A summary of the discovery and what has been learned so far.
    • A list of questions that remain unanswered regarding the discoveries.
    • A list of suggestions on how these questions could be investigated. This list should include clues, tools, and methods to answer these questions. If the students have trouble with this list, ask them to think about the types of evidence needed to answer their questions and how this evidence could be uncovered and interpreted.
    • A list of what kinds of people would be necessary to answer the questions.
    • A list of the challenges that might present themselves as these investigations proceeded.

    Topic One: Ancient Egyptian city world/middle_east/newsid_1375000/1375708.stm

    Topic Two: German WWII submarine americas/newsid_1379000/1379210.stm

  • Tell the students that they should use the following three sites as resources to help them identify some of the tools and processes that might be used to help them find answers to their questions.

    Underwater Archaeology

    Tools of Archaeology archeology.html

    Investigating the Past

  • When the students have finished their research, ask them to divide into two groups, based on their topic. Tell them to create a list incorporating all of the questions the groups had regarding the discoveries. Next, ask them to pretend that they are directing the further investigations of these two discoveries. Using their list of questions as a guide, ask each group to write instructions outlining the first three steps they would take to continue the investigations they read about. As a class, have each group share how they would begin their investigations, and why.

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

    The purpose of the Culminating Activity is for students to apply their understandings of how to use scientific evidence.

  • Share the following imaginary email with the students:


    How are you? It seems like just yesterday we were studying in college together and already a year has passed! I unsuccessfully tried to contact you and finally ended up calling your parents, who told me that you had gone on an archaeological dig in England. How exciting! I've always wanted to visit Stonehenge. The newspapers reported finding that skeleton at Stonehenge with its head buried below its feet. Sounds kind of gruesome to me!

    The reason for this email is that by a strange coincidence, I, too, am on an archaeological dig (my first!) in Australia and have uncovered some mysterious bones. I was hoping that as colleagues, I could try to "pick your brain"!

    Here are some of the questions I have:

    What questions should I set out to answer?

    What initial investigative steps would you recommend we begin with?

    What methods and tools do you think would be most helpful in investigating these bones?

    What kind of experts do you think I'll need to call in to help?

    What type of problems do you typically encounter on digs? Feel free to include advice on how to solve them:)

    What does a typical day usually involve on a dig?

    Thanks - I really appreciate this. This is the first dig I've ever been in charge of and I'm kind of nervous.

    Take care - Samina

    To respond, students can choose to:
    • write a response
    • write and stage a skit
    • construct a Web site
    • videotape an interview
    • devise another suitable creative alternative that shows an understanding of the application of the scientific research process.

    Each response must answer the questions asked above. See the Stonehenge Organizer-Final Activity section for a printable version of these questions.


  • Ask the students to visit the following Web site and follow the directions to construct a model of Stonehenge:,1120,1-4200,00.html

  • Ask the students to read and summarize an article from Anthropology in the News at the following Web site:
    Compile a class booklet of all summaries.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students