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The following activities will help students to understand how archeologists must work with only a few jumbled, and sometimes irrelevant, artifacts as they attempt to create a scholarly and useful explanation of life in the past. Students will also have an opportunity to study the past industrial experience of their own community and be able to compare that story with the narrative of the Saugus Iron Works and the town of Hammersmith.

Activity 1: Archeology
Divide students into groups of three or four and have each group choose an object (or "artifact") that they think would reveal something interesting about the culture of our time to future archeologists. Suggest to students that they try to choose an object that may not be readily identified by their classmates, although this is not necessary. Encourage students to think of their own ethnic and geographic identities as well as the general traits of the society in which we live. Ask the groups to keep their object secret from the rest of the class for a day or two while they discuss among themselves its general characteristics and use. They should think about what the object and its use, construction, and appearance reveal about society. They should also try to anticipate the kinds of questions the rest of the class might ask about it.

Explain that the point of the activity is to see how much information the rest of the class can derive about our culture from a simple artifact. As each group displays its object, ask the rest of the class to act as archeologists of the future who are not familiar with these artifacts. They are to pose questions to the group, first about the objectís use or purpose, and then about what they think that tells us about the lives and culture of the people who created and used it. After the class has discussed each of the artifacts, have them think about what they learned from trying to figure out the use of the artifacts. Ask if any of the items were as hard to identify as the partially slit piece of iron that helped the archeologist identify the existence of the rolling and slitting mill. The following questions might facilitate the discussion:

1. Why did your group choose its particular object? Would an archeologist of a hundred years from now have learned a lot about us, or would the object have given him or her an erroneous idea about our society?
2. Why is it necessary to have some background knowledge about a group of people when you are trying to use artifacts to learn about their past?
3. Were any of the objects chosen by the groups silly? How would they have confused an archeologist?
4. Taking into consideration all the objects displayed by the class, what conclusions could you draw about our society?

Activity 2: Researching Industries in the Local Community

Most communities have an industrial history of some kind. Have the students research and, if possible, visit sites in their own community to discover what elements of its early growth were alike or different from the development of the Saugus Iron Works and the settlement of Hammersmith. Some questions students might investigate include:

1. What was the first industry in your community?
2. Are there or were there any "heavy industries" in your community or nearby? What happened to them? (A heavy industry is defined as an industry producing or refining basic materials, such as steel or coal, used in manufacturing.)
3. What is a factory town? Are there any factory towns which exist today in your state or region?
4. How have changes in technology influenced the development of industry in your community?
5. Has the disappearance of any local industry caused severe unemployment in your community? How has the community responded?

After students have completed their research, have them discuss the history of the economic base of the town or city. Then ask each student to write a short paper in which they describe an industry they would like to promote--as Winthrop promoted ironmaking for Saugus. They should describe how they would refine their idea, how they might find investors, what working conditions would be like, and how the industry would affect the people in the community. Read two or three of the papers to the class and then hold a general discussion about the impact industry has on the daily lives of those involved.

 

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