Treasures of the Sunken City

Student Handout

Tabletop Map

In this activity, you will build and then map a tabletop archeological site. A group of fellow cartographers will need to use your map to recreate your site, so be sure your logbook contains all the needed data. You've only got one chance—there's no going back for a second look!

Part I

Illustration of tape grid
  1. Begin by making a grid on the table-top that is approximately 50 cm x 50 cm (20 in. x 20 in.) in size. Use four pieces of masking tape to create horizontal and vertical axes. Using a ruler or measuring tape, begin at a corner where two pieces of masking tape intersect and mark segments at 5 cm (2 in.) intervals along each axis.

  2. Cut 20 pieces of thread that are 50 cm (20 in.) long. Tape a piece of string securely at each segment mark to create a grid. (Tape both ends of the string down.) Label each string along the horizontal axis with the numbers 1 through 10, and label the strings along the vertical axis with letters A through J.

  3. Gather 5 to 7 objects and place them in random positions on the grid. Just as archeologists commonly find in excavations, be sure that some objects are buried under others or layered on top of other objects.

  4. Use the sample chart to create a logbook to catalog your site's artifacts.

    of object (height,
    width, length)

    Location (coordinate positions)

    Relationship to other objects

    Descriptions and unique characteristics

    Object 1

    Object 2

    Object 3


  5. Next, use the Artifact Mapping Grid, a pencil, and colored pencils to create a coordinate map that shows the location of each object in your site. Be sure to include ways to indicate layered objects and to provide directional information so that others can orient your map.

Part II

Now that you've completed your map, it's time to put it to the test! Remove objects from your site and place them next to the table. Exchange maps and tables with another team. Use the other team's map to recreate the location of each object on their site.


  1. What elements of the other team's map were most useful in helping you recreate their site? Which elements were least useful?

  2. Explain how using both the map and the logbook information provide a complete picture of the site.

  3. Talk with team members that used your map to recreate your site. What did they find useful about your map? What did they have questions about? What would you change about your map based on their observations?