Thursday, July 18, 2013

Project Archaeology at the Rosebud Battlefield

Written by: Courtney Agenten, Project Archaeology and 2012 Rosebud Field School Student
After taking part in the Rosebud Battlefield Archaeological Field School during the 2012 season as a volunteer, I knew I had to bring fellow teachers to the site to share my passion for the history of this place and the amazing knowledge to be gained from the archaeological research. That same summer I received training to facilitate Project Archaeology teacher workshops. I had found my inspiration! Rosebud Battlefield offered a unique and exciting opportunity for teachers to investigate archaeology at a current archaeological site and learn how to incorporate the study of archaeology into their classroom. Ten teachers from Montana and Wyoming signed up for a week-long adventure which included two days of instruction in the award-winning curriculum Project Archaeology Investigating Shelter, followed by two days of field survey work under the supervision of professional archaeologist, Chris Merritt.

"The Rosebud Battlefield is a small piece of Montana land compared to the whole state, but it tells a significant story about the people and how they used the land." –Librarian, Montana

"Investigating Shelter really gives history a chance to come alive for kids. They are investigating real evidence and looking at “real” artifacts and sites to discover more about the past and understanding people and their ways of life based on the dwelling in which they live. This will be a powerful tool for helping my students to interpret the past in a way that is engaging and will yield more meaningful learning." - 4th/5th grade Teacher, Wyoming

After two days of instruction the teachers were prepared to apply their knowledge of archaeology to a real archaeological site. We explored three prominent features at the Rosebud Battlefield State Park: a buffalo jump with rock art, the historic Kobold Homestead, and finally the battlefield. We had a surprise visit from world-renowned rock art expert and archaeologist, Dr. James Keyser which was a treat for our prehistoric enthusiasts. Teachers observed, mapped, and classified artifacts from the Kobold family historic dumpsite. Once the information was recorded, teachers debated whether information about the Kobold family could be gleaned from their dumpsite and whether it should be studied, preserved and protected.

My favorite parts were 1) The Buffalo Jump. I love the historical perspective of thousands of years of usage at a site. The rock art was an extra bonus. 2) The second day of field work. The way Chris walked us through the battlefield, explaining the time and where things were happening, put a concrete awareness of the entire battle.- Teacher, Montana
I really enjoyed the visit to the buffalo jump and the surveying at Rosebud Battlefield! I think that there is a lot of power in visiting the place and utilizing the strategies and tools in a real, practical setting.This same practice would be incredibly engaging for students. - Teacher, Wyoming

The next day in the field, Chris gave a tour of the battle site, pointing out warrior and soldier positions based on artifacts recovered in previous field seasons. He weaved the story of the battle into the landscape as we hiked across the battlefield to Crook’s Hill. Once at the top of Crook’s Hill we could observe the entire battlefield and visualize the movements of the military and warriors as they fought. Teachers learned how to conduct a pedestrian survey using metal detectors and record battle features such as rifle pits. Overall, the experience for the teachers was hands-on, engaging, and worthwhile!

"…there was a disagreement here and both perspectives are valid." - History Teacher, Montana

"This course dispels stereotypes." - Teacher, Northern Cheyenne Reservation

Why teach archaeology?

Studying the past gives us a rare chance to examine our place in time and forge links with the human continuum. Everyone can touch the past, but sadly our opportunities are disappearing. The number of sites that have not been disturbed or looted is dwindling at an alarming rate. Rosebud Battlefield is among the sites that have experienced looting and is still subject to damage in the future due to interest in the land for natural gas extraction. Through Project Archaeology and visiting archaeological sites, educators can help the schoolchildren of today know and experience America’s rich cultural heritage as the adults of tomorrow.
Project Archaeology is a national heritage education program dedicated to teaching scientific and historical inquiry, cultural understanding, and the importance of protecting our nation’s archaeological legacy. It is a national network of archaeologists, educators, and concerned citizens working to make archaeology education accessible to students and teachers nationwide through high-quality educational materials and professional development. It was founded by the U.S.Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for educators and their students. The WyomingBLM supported the Rosebud Workshop by generously granting scholarships to teachers. If you would like to learn more about Project Archaeology please visit the website at