Today we are going to share a super cool and unique excavation activity that is sure to excite and entertain! Grab you Indiana Jones hat and get ready to dive into your own excavating archeological adventure when we teach you how to make your own ancient pottery dig site. Your excavating adventurers will not only love digging up and discovering the pottery, but they will also enjoy the challenge of trying to put the pottery back together. 
  • Sand
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups
  • Pottery
  • Hammer
  • Towel
  • Sand paper
  • Gloves 
  • Optional - super glue
  • A container in which to pour the excavation. This will need to be big enough to fit all of your broken pieces of pottery. Plastic trays or containers work well.
  • Optional - Small pebbles or other material to sprinkle across your excavation to give it a little character. This is fun if you want to decorate your dig site.  
  • Optional - Popsicle sticks and string. You can use this to create grid squares to simulate a real archeological dig site! You will also want to provide a small notebook and pencil so your excavating adventurer can log what they discover in each square. 
  • Excavation tools. Wooden dowels and other blunt instruments work well. Sharp tools are unsafe and not necessary as the excavations are reasonably brittle and excavate easily. 
  • Safety goggles
  • Small brush


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  1. Visit a thrift store and find a cool decorative vase or piece of pottery. I like to choose smaller pieces. Be aware that you will be breaking this piece of pottery so choose carefully. Avoid glass items as the shards will be too sharp to safely handle. 
  2. Wrap the vase in the towel.
  3. While wearing the safety goggles and gloves, gently tap the pottery with the hammer until it breaks into several fragments. Do your best to keep the pieces reasonably sized. Tiny pieces may get lost and not discovered in the pottery dig site. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BREAK THE POTTERY AND CAN BURY IT WHOLE IF DESIRED
  4. While still wearing the gloves, carefully use the sandpaper to remove any sharp edges.
  5. Put one cup of sand in your mixing bowl.
  6. Add one-third cup Plaster of Paris.
  7. Use the wooden spoon to mix the sand and Plaster of Paris.
  8. Add one-third cup of water and mix. (Scale this recipe up as needed to fill your ancient pottery dig site.)
  9. Keep adding small amounts of water until you reach a pancake like batter consistency. 
  10. Add your pieces of pottery to the container.
  11. Pour a layer of the mixture into the container to cover the pottery pieces.
  12. Gently tap the sides of the container to remove any air bubbles. This will also allow a little mixture under the pottery pieces.  
  13. Optional - While the excavation is wet, sprinkle any pebbles or decorative items across the surface. 
  14. Optional - Once the excavation begins to stiffen, stick the popsicle sticks in the pottery dig site in a way that will create a grid shape. 
  15. Set the ancient pottery dig site in a safe location to dry undisturbed overnight. I like to put the excavation in front of a fan.
  16. Optional - Once dry, run the string between the popsicle sticks to create a grid pattern. 


Now the ancient pottery dig site is ready to be enjoyed. Find an area that is easy to clean up, distribute the safety goggles and excavation tools, and let the excavating begin. Once all the pieces of pottery have been discovered, they can be cleaned up with water. Encourage your junior archeologist to attempt to figure out how the pieces go together. With supervision, they can even attempt to glue the pieces back together and display their pottery. 

I hope you enjoyed this super quick tutorial and enjoyed learning how to make an ancient pottery dig site. These excavations are very easy to make and a lot of fun!
Pro tip: Use this activity to create some excitement around discussions or lessons regarding archeology.
If you love excavating as much as we do, be sure to check out our Excavating Adventures monthly subscription by clicking the link below and get an awesome new excavation delivered each month loaded with rocks, minerals, gemstones, fossils, and more!

Happy Excavating!





Digital Dig
Scientists that study minerals are called mineralogists.