In this investigation students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about a basin house and the Ute people who lived in them. Examine historic photographs, artifacts, and maps of the Blue Knife Basin House located in northwestern Colorado. Students meet Clifford Duncan, a Ute tribal member, through reading a biography and oral histories. They then “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, and infer how the geographic area of Colorado shaped the basin house. Explore the use of traditional basin house and wickiup architecture today.

SKU: pa-basinhouse Categories: , ,



“Wickiup and basin house sites can teach us a lot about how people lived in the past. Sites like the Blue Knife Basin House can tell us a lot about the lives of ancient people and how they made a living in a difficult environment. By preserving these sites and the artifacts found there, the story of the people who once lived in these shelters can be told. If artifacts or other evidence disappears, the story disappears along with them.” – Rand Greubel, Archaeologist

“Great curriculum, easy to use. Love the professional development and support!” – Colorado Teacher

Instructions for the Teacher:

The teacher’s document is 30 pages, consisting of background information and four sections corresponding to the student notebook. It includes archaeologists’ interpretations of the Basin House site and details about the artifacts found. Quadrant maps from the archaeological site of the Blue Knife Site’s basin house are provided for students to study and use.

Student Archaeological Notebook:

The student notebook is 31 pages of articles and activities about the Blue Knife Site’s basin house. Mr. Clifford Duncan, a Ute Elder, guides students through the investigation. Through archaeology students discover artifacts left behind and how pollen analysis assists in the interpretation of artifacts and the lifeways of the sites residents.


When you buy Investigating a Basin House you will also receive the essential companion products: Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter and access to online introductory videos.

Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter provides teachers and students with seven fundamental lessons on shelter and archaeology. With this pre-requisite, students are ready for Lesson Eight, an investigation of a shelter from the past, such as the Crow Plains Tipi. Finally, in Lesson Nine of Investigating Shelter students learn the enduring understanding that stewardship of archaeological sites and artifacts is everyone’s responsibility. Taught together, Investigating Shelter and “Investigating a Basin House” is a complete, comprehensive unit that truly allows for a deep understanding of shelter and archaeology. More information

Investigating Shelter videos are a professional development experience for educators in lieu of attending a Project Archaeology workshop. Watch Project Archaeology lessons in action! See a professional development workshop and a teacher guiding a 4th grade class through Investigating Shelter. Instructors model Understanding by Design and archaeological inquiry. Plus, see interviews with teachers and students! The videos are also available on our Teacher Page.

    1. Introduction – Why archaeology matters
    2. Investigating Shelter and Understanding by Design
    3. Lesson Two: By Our Houses You Will Know Us
    4. Lesson Four: Observation, Inference, and Evidence
    5. Lesson Six: Context Game
    6. Lesson Eight: Being an Archaeologist