Rubbish bin excavation

Animal boneArchaeologists look at rubbish. No really! What archaeologists dig up is mainly what people in the past have thrown away. The rubbish that people create can tell the archaeologist a lot about what people were eating, wearing, making and using. Just think about what your rubbish could say about you!



Your teacher will bring in bags of rubbish (with nothing horrible in, hopefully!) for you to look through. In groups go through one bag to try to work out what it tells you about the person who threw the rubbish away. Try to find out about what they eat and drink. Is there anything that tells you what they were wearing? Is there anything that tells you about the person’s job or their hobbies? Which activity is the majority of the rubbish from, food, clothes or work? Is there anything else the rubbish can tell you? Record what you find here:























Imagine the rubbish you have just looked at is thrown away in a pit in the ground or on a midden. If it is there for a hundred or a thousand years, or even more, what would be left? Think about what happens to things like meat, vegetables, plastic, wood, metal, glass etc… if they are left in the ground. Out of everything in the rubbish bag, write a list of what would survive for archaeologists to find and what wouldn’t here:

Oyster shell

Would survive

Wouldn’t survive











Looking at your list of what would survive, what would you have been able to find out about the person who the rubbish belongs to if the rubbish had been in the ground for a thousand years?

Pottery rim sherd

This is why an archaeologists job is difficult. The remains that are left for them to find are incomplete because some have rotted away.


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