Hot muggy weather and heavy downpours failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the Archaeology Merit Badge (AMB) team at the Boy Scouts of America’s Summit Bechtel Reserve Jamboree site in southern West Virginia.
Team members included archeologists Dr. Jeanne Moe (BLM-Washington Office and National Project Archaeology Lead); Dr. Teresa Moyer (NPS-Washington); Scott Butler (Brockington & Associates); Dr. Robert King (BLM-Alaska); and Dave Fuerst (NPS-New River Gorge National River).
The AMB provided scouts who attended the 2013 National Jamboree with the opportunity to fulfill 8 of 11 requirements described in the BSA handbook. A total of 240 scouts received partially completed merit badge applications. Three scouts who had already completed some of their requirements were able to complete their remaining requirements at the Jamboree and received a signed merit badge application from one of the merit badge counselors.
The highlight of the training was the scout’s participation in the archeological investigation of a simulated Early Archaic campsite; we used the Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter quadrant map exercise to design and build the “site.”
West Virginia flint knappers, Craig Ferrell and Dr. Dan Farnsworth, made most of the chipped stone artifacts and donated them for the Jamboree. Dave Fuerst and Jeanne Moe constructed a plausible West Virginia archaic age “campsite” for the scouts to learn the principles of archaeological inquiry. Scouts began their investigation by identifying, classifying, analyzing projectile points and flakes left over from stone tool manufacture, and inferring their uses in a “field laboratory” next to the simulated site.
To help them understand the importance of context and site stewardship, scouts placed the cataloged artifacts on the ground at the base of the numbered flags. The scouts observed the “site” and tested their previous inferences when the artifacts were placed in the context of a circular ring of wooden posts, central rock-filled basin, and four clusters of projectile points and flakes. The exercise showed scouts that artifacts can provide more information when they are in their original context.
Following their investigation of this simulated site, scouts learned two ways to make fire with a bow drill and spindle and with steel and flint respectively; and what archeology is and its relationship to anthropology, history, paleontology, and geology. The “Artifact Ethics” lesson from Intrigue of the Past came in hand for teaching the importance of archeological stewardship.
The Archaeology Merit Badge gives us an excellent way to teach archaeology to thousands of scouts nationwide. We hope to continue staffing the Archaeology Merit Badge booth at the national Jamboree every four years and to provide merit badge counselors throughout the nation with high-quality lessons and activities for helping scouts earn their badges.
Please share your experiences with using Project Archaeology education materials with scouts earning their Archaeology Merit Badge. We can use the information to better serve the scouts and their archaeology merit badge counselors.