'Get dirty and dig': MSU leads 8th annual mock excavation

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Mississippi State University’s Cobb Institute of Archeology shared exploration and discovery with children of all ages during a mock excavation on campus Saturday. The excavation was MSU’s eighth annual mock excavation in honor of Mississippi Archeology Month.

The Lois Dowdle Cobb Museum of Archeology was also open for the event. MSU Cobb Institute of Archeology Illustrator Dylan Karges said he loves digging, and he loves sharing that passion with the community’s youth.

“I think this is all about just sharing the spark of finding something new— with no expectations of what might be there— and trying to figure it out,” Karges said. “It’s just fun.”

Karges said the excavation event has gained popularity over the years as an interactive learning activity.

“This is our featured event for community engagement and engaging the youth early on in science,” Karges said. “We’ve made it on the radar as an annual event to come out to enjoy the museum and get dirty and dig.”

During the mock excavation, children participated in a simulated archeological dig set up by the staff of the Cobb Institute. The children learned about the proper tools to use, the proper digging techniques and the items they found during the excavation process.

Karges said he believes the educational component of the mock excavation is important.

“They actually get to dig and experience that process of discovery,” Karges said. “And (they learn) the archeological methods, the tools and how to use the tools, excavate the faux site and they can learn what they’re digging up and how to put it into a context of what’s around it.”

“Rather than just having fun in a sandbox that has artifacts in it,” Karges added.

Although the children who simply wanted to have fun at the dig did have that opportunity, other kids were able to get more out of the experience.

“It’s much like a sandbox, but it’s really created to demonstrate the different principles in archeology,” Karges said. “From the context in functional use areas to that idea of superposition.”

The law of superposition states the lower you dig, the further back in time you go.

Karges said he and the staff created the sites before they buried the items. After the children found the items, they learned about how items on similar levels in the dirt may relate to one another. Children at the site found everything from arrowheads to animal bones to large-scale architectural features. Karges said he thinks hands-on learning is important for youth.

“I think there’s an important outreach component to engaging the kids to allow them to experience things in a more hands-on and intimate way with some appreciation and understanding for what we do as professionals in archeology,” Karges said.

The hands-on learning is also important for college students who study archeology. Karges said only when students go on-site for a true excavation do they know if they favor archeology.

“The dirt doesn’t always fit with personalities,” Karges said with a laugh.

Regardless, certain people do love ‘the dirt.’

“That idea of finding something in the dirt is that spark that triggers the imagination,” Karges said. “And that spark of interest and curiosity is the backbone for archeology.”

“(That spark) can build so much more momentum for life pursuits,” Karges added. “And engaging the youth creates a better tomorrow all the way around.”