Discover the past through evidence from an archaeological site in Maryland! In this investigation, students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about an earthfast house and the colonist who lived in it.

Examine illustrations, artifacts, and maps of the colonial earthfast house located at the King’s Reach Site in coastal Maryland. Students meet Mike Smolek, an archaeologist and museum director, as well as histories, oral histories, maps and photographs. Then they “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, and infer how the geographic area of Maryland shaped the earthfast house.

Explore the use of a colonial earthfast house and the cultural correlations today.

  • Includes text by different archaeologists
  • Supports Common Core State Standards
  • Incorporates authentic data for students to analyze

Earthfast houses lasted for only 20 or 30 years before they need major repairs. When King’s Reach began to fall into disrepair the building was probably taken apart so that the materials could be used elsewhere on the plantation. The archaeologist found stains in the soil where the wooden posts that supported the King’s Reach house had once been. They also found thousands of artifacts, which have helped us learn about how people lived in Maryland in the 1600’s.

--Mike Smolek, Archaeologist and Descendant of Maryland Colonists


Because earthfast houses are not built to last, very few traces of their existence remain. In the Chesapeake, there are fewer than six earthfast structures from the 1600’s still standing, and these were rebuilt with brick at some point in their history.”

--Maureen Malloy, Manager of Education and Outreach for the Society for American Archaeology


BONUS! When you buy Investigating a Colonial Earthfast you will also receive the essential companion products: Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter and access to online introductory videos.

  • sm-PRODUCT-IMAGESProject 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 Colonial Earthfast” 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