The young participants in a program at the Karl Road branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library carefully decorated clay pots using black and silver Sharpies.
Next, they put their pots into paper bags and, following the instructions of archaeologist Jeff White, dropped them to the carpeted floor, causing most to break into many pieces. The pots that didn’t break got a whack from a rubber hammer wielded by White.
The rest of the July 16 presentation was spent reassembling the broken pots. At the conclusion, White asked what the point of the exercise had been.
The correct response was that they were simulating the work of an archaeological curator in a lab, but one youth had a novel answer.
“I know why we did this,” he said. “You’re going to sell them on eBay.”
White turned the lad’s quip into a teachable moment. He explained that the notion of, for example, a farmer turning up an artifact while plowing a field and selling it for a lot of money was nonsense. Nothing that comes up out of the dirt has any value until it’s properly authenticated, he said.
White, who resides in the Northland area, told the youngsters who attended the Puzzle of Pots program that he’s been an archaeologist for 16 years and has worked at digs in 16 states.
“To be perfectly honest, we are glorified trash diggers,” he said.
White also operates Archaeology, Can You Dig It? According to his website, it’s an “outreach program aimed at school-age children and young adults.”
“The primary purpose of this fun, educational program is to raise awareness of the importance of remembering the past and creating a desire to pursue the scientific fields of archaeology and anthropology,” the website says.
“I think that archaeology is really something that people can do a lot,” said Mia Cox, 5, a Puzzle of Pots participant.
Mia was accompanied by her grandmother, Louise Cox, and the two worked to piece together the girl’s pot. Mia then collaborated with Aicha Diallo, 14, in translating words on a scroll in a language made up for the presentation by White.
At the conclusion of the pot-reassembly, with the help of Diallo, Mia read their results to the rest of those in the room: “These pots have not been seen for centuries. Your eyes are the first to gaze upon them.”
“I’m proud of what everybody did,” White said.