High school history courses tend to brush over “prehistory” in America, that part of history between the arrival of the first humans in the Americas and the arrival of Europeans with quill and paper to record what they saw and what they did. For a few kids this would be the most exciting part of the course; for all kids, my experience is that textbooks tend to short change what we know, and especially how we know it.
A key problem for the non-archaeologist high school history teacher is just where to find information about prehistory.
A few archaeologists are blogging, and bitten by the meme virus of the moment, they gather together the better posts of recent weeks into a “carnival.” Four Stone Hearth is a carnival of archaeology. Four Stone Hearth 7, hosted by Aardvarchaeology, has several posts that can provide good information for history classes.
Students should learn skepticism in history classes, why to doubt fantastic claims and just-so stories, and how to evaluate sources of information and find good ones. Students often brought in stories intended to debunk standard histories, often involving UFOs or supernatural claims. Hot Cup of Joe’s entry, “Forbidden Archaeology? Some So-called Out of Place Artifacts,” explains the problems of OOPAs — out-of-place artifacts — often claimed to show that most archaeologists or other scientists withhold information that would confirm some of the more wacko ideas about history and prehistory. In the explanation he casts righteous doubt on a bizarre book that is wildly popular among conspiracy buffs, Atlantis Rising.
Students might also be interested in a report from Remote Central on objects found under glacial deposits in Minnesota which have some appearances of being knapped stone tools. This story could form a neat exercise in a series of lessons on what we know about history, and how we know it.