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Archaeology & Mysteries Activities

These activities could appear under a different heading – simulation, for example – but it’s worth treating then as a section on their own to make a few points.

Example Activities


Mysteries are motivating.

They refresh concentration and engage interest but it’s worth thinking about how you set them up. ‘Today we’re going to investigate a mystery’ is the kind of introduction that may well take all the mystery out of what could have been an exciting activity. How much better is it for pupils to come into the room and find their teacher wielding a spade in the middle of the room as an introduction to the Great Cheese Mystery. The way you start is all about refreshing students’ minds – this isn’t just another 40 minute block in the day, this is going to be 40 minutes you’ll remember for a long time. And this is just as important for 18 year olds as it is for 11 year olds.

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Archaeology is an excellent way into mysteries as I hope the activities here demonstrate. But they’re not just about interest. Activities like Digging up a Mystery introduce pupils to the processes of history and archaeology, how sources trigger questions and hypotheses which then need to be tested against other sources and how conclusions are often more ‘probably’ than ‘certainly’. The simulated discovery has a lot of potential, not just when dealing with the early periods normally associated with archaeology – as any industrial archaeologist will be only too keen to point out.

Archaeology Information

For information about the latest discoveries in all periods it’s worth keeping an eye on the CBA (Council for British Archaeology) website where you can also read past editions of British Archaeology

and Current Archaeology and its twin Current World Archaeology

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Example Activities

What did they find at Sutton Hoo?

A short enquiry in to the famous excavation which can introduce the Anglo-Saxons.

Classroom Archaeology

A simple, simulated excavation to capture pupils’ imagination and stimulate their thinking.

Thomas Becket Mystery

A physical but non-contact introduction to the murder of Thomas Becket (with card sort activity)

Digging Up a Mystery

A motivating and fun way to start a topic – all the way from KS2 to A level

The Great Cheese Mystery

What's it about? That would be telling. Better click here and find out!

Bits & Pieces: Using Clues to Reconstruct the Past

Demonstrate how we use clues to reconstruct the past. A shattering experience for all!

Spotting the BC/AD Forgery

Using a coin as a way in to the conceptually difficult issue of BC and AD. Can your students spot the forgery?

The Riccall Mystery – how do we carry out historical enquiries?

Start with an imaginary excavation, finish by understanding vital ideas about enquiry. A lively and involving introduction to the process of historical enquiry

Do you remember when … we did an enquiry?

This PowerPoint sequence can be used before a new enquiry to remind students of the process.

The Mystery of Tollund Man

The body in the bog becomes the body in the classroom to build students' enquiry and source skills. Activity by Susan Edwards and Nichola Boughey.

What’s Under the Sheet?

Puzzle and intrigue! A mysterious way to help students sum up a topic, exemplified by Galen's work on medicine and by the Norman Conquest.

Discovering Richard III

An exploration of the 2012 finds in Leicester and what they do – and don’t – tell us.

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Example Activities


Other Activity Areas

Using Activities

Types of Activities

Hot Seating

Washing Lines

Timelines & Living Graphs

Role Plays


Decision Making

Physical Maps & Family Trees

Archaeology & Mysteries

Creating Communities

Market Place

Miscellaneous Models

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