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Uncover history at family archaeology program

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Updated: May 12, 2013 1:20PM



If a student in your family has an interest in archaeology, then they’ll really dig Sunday’s Junior Archaeologists Family Program at the Oriental Institute, a University of Chicago museum and research organization dedicated to the study of ancient Egypt and the Near East.

Families will participate in a dig for artifacts and get a guided tour of the museum’s galleries to learn about the artifacts discovered in this program designed to teach about the work of archaeologists.

The program begins in the museum’s Kipper Family Archaeology Discovery Center, which features a tel, an artificial ancient mound holding buried replicas of artifacts.

“The Kipper Family Archaeology Discovery Center was installed in 2008 but since then the programs have mostly been offered to school groups, especially sixth-graders as part of their ancient studies curriculum,” said Moriah Groom-Garcia, the Youth and Family Programs Director at the Oriental Institute. “Since it’s a lot of fun and the students enjoy it so much, we’ve been expanding the programming to have families share in archaeology learning and discovery. In this program we get parents up there on the tel with their children.”

She explained, “A tel is based on the science of stratigraphy, things depositing in layers over a long period of time. Say a city builds up and over time is destroyed, and later another city is built on top at the same location. Archaeologists often work on tels, finding artifacts from older time periods the deeper they go.”

“Our tel has four levels, like a series of steps, from prehistory on the bottom to the Greco-Roman period on the top. It’s based on archaeology work done at Megiddo, a site in Israel that was a trading center in the ancient world and where artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia and other ancient cultures were found. Families will have about 30 to 40 minutes to dig and discover artifacts, and try to figure out what they are and how they were used.”

“Then there is a guided tour of the galleries where they’ll see some of the objects they found and learn what is known about them.”

The Junior Archaeology Family Program is on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and is suggested for ages 5 through 12 who must be accompanied by an adult. The cost is $9 per person. Advance registration is required, and can be made online at www.oi.uchicago.edu/order/classes.

Groom-Garcia added, “We like to say that every day is family day at the Oriental Institute, so if you can’t make this program we’ll have another on June 16, or come and visit the galleries where there are a number of family resources, or check out the calendar of upcoming programs. Right now we have many bird programs, tying into our current Birds in Ancient Egypt exhibit.”

These programs include: Urban Bird on April 20, in which families will learn about how some birds found in ancient Egypt have adapted to this area and how you can attract them to your backyard; Super Birds on April 28, focusing on birds believed by ancient cultures to have extraordinary powers; and Falcons and Owls in the Ancient World on May 19, which will feature a live falcon from the Sand Ridge Nature Center and a chance to dissect an owl pellet as an archaeologist might study an encased artifact.

These are a sampling of the family programs which are free with museum admission but require an advance online reservation to ensure adequate materials are available for participants.

The Oriental Institute is at 1155 E. 58th St. on the University of Chicago campus. Museum admission is free, but a donation of $10 per adult and $5 per child under age 12 is suggested. For more information go to www.oi.uchicago.edu or call (773) 702-9520.



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