Discover the past through evidence from a mid-20th century archaeological site at Davis Bottom, a multiracial, urban, working-class neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky!
In this investigation, students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about a Kentucky shotgun house and the people who lived in it. Examine historic photographs, primary documents, artifacts, and maps of a Shotgun House shelter. Students meet Kenny Demus and the Laffoon sisters – Cissy and Mary – who grew up in rented shotgun houses, by reading their biographies. Then they “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, study the contents of a privy, and infer how Lexington’s urban geography influenced the neighborhood and its future. Explore the history of Lexington’s working class, the meaning of neighborhood, and the definition of family. Engage students in a debate on a current civic dilemma involving archaeology and preservation, and the stereotypes we hold about the working poor.  Includes texts about neighborhood history, using primary documents, investigating and interpreting privy deposits, and seeking justice for those displaced by urban development. 



“This unit was something the kids loved. They learned a lot that we were able to tie into our tested content later in the year (like using tables, data, pictures to collect evidence). With fifth graders, they need to be interested in the content to apply themselves to learning the content” – Kentucky Teacher

Instructions for the Teacher:
The teacher’s document is 84 pages, consisting of background information and four sections corresponding with the student archaeology notebook. It includes a brief history of the shotgun house and a timeline activity for the Davis Bottom shotgun house. Quadrant maps of the shotgun house site are provided for students to study how the house was used by people who lived there.

Student Archaeology Notebook:
The student notebook is 43 pages of informational texts and data collection sheets about the Davis Bottom shotgun house. Mr. Kenny Demus and the Laffoon sisters - Cissy and Mary, residents of Davis Bottom, guide students through the investigation. Through geography, archaeology, oral histories, and historic photographs and documents students learn how a site is interpreted, why it is important today, and how to preserve sites for future generations to enjoy.


When you buy Investigating a Shotgun 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 Shotgun 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