Search for the Lost Cave People
To examine primary source documents to draw inferences about 17th century American colonists.
- copy of "Material Possesions" student handouts
Materials Possesions (PDF or
Godbertson Household Inventory (PDF or
Scientists in the program make conclusions about the Zoque by analyzing
artifacts found at the sites. Students can draw inferences about
seventeenth-century American colonists by examining a primary source document
that describes the possessions of one household.
Divide students into small
groups and distribute copies of the "Material Posessions" and
"Godbertson Household Inventory" student handouts.
Tell students they
will analyze a probate inventory from 1633 and draw conclusions about the
people who owned the possessions. Explain that probate inventories list the
contents of houses and properties of deceased individuals for tax purposes.
Have groups examine the list and make interpretations about the people, their
lives, and the period in which they lived.
Conclude by having groups compare
their findings and discuss why they think an interpretation is valid.
This probate inventory lists the belongings of Sarah and Godbert Godbertson.
This husband and wife lived on the Plimoth Plantation and died when an epidemic
of "infectious fever" (probably smallpox) killed more than 20 of the colonists
in 1633. Sarah came from England and Godbert, Sarah's third husband, originated
from Holland. The Godbertsons were farmers and members of the Separatist
Church. They had several children who were adults and probably not living with
their parents and whose possessions are not included in the inventory. The
Godbertsons' belongings were of average worth among the colonists.
Because the document is written in seventeenth-century English, students may
find some of the words and spelling unfamiliar. Many similar items are grouped
together, such as cooking utensils or clothing. Students can use these
groupings to help them identify unfamiliar items. Students might also find it
helpful to cut individual items from the list and then group items into
categories. Students might also compare the relative value of items and infer
which items were considered to be of value to the people.
Students' interpretations will vary. From the list, students might make the
the clothing such as a gowne, petticoate and stockings suggests that
one individual was female; breeches suggests one individual was
the number of coats and cloakes and the fact that the inventory was
taken in New England during October suggest a cold climate
the writing table suggests that the person(s) knew how to read and write
the bible, communion, and commandments suggest that the person(s)
practiced Christian religion
the animals and corn suggest that the people were farmers
the worth of the animals and land suggests that these items were
considered most valuable
Encourage students to do further research to expand their interpretations of
the list and to determine the identity of any "unknown" items. The Plimoth
Plantation Web site has You can find primary and secondary sources, a bibliography, and
related Web links at the Plimoth Plantation Web site.