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Sultan's Lost Treasure

Classroom Activity

To interpret information about a set of artifacts.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Where, When, and Who?" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  • copy of "Artifact Cards" student handout
    Box 1 (PDF or HTML)
    Box 2 (PDF or HTML)
    Box 3 (PDF or HTML)
    Box 4 (PDF or HTML)
  • 4 envelopes
  • Access to print and Internet resources (see resources for suggestions)
  1. Make a copy of the "Artifact Cards" student handouts and cut out the images. Place the four sets into separate envelopes. You may want to have the cards laminated so you can use them again.

  2. Organize students into four groups. Tell each group they have been hired by the Museum of Anthropology to sort through boxes of archeological artifacts and try to infer as much as they can from the evidence they find.

  3. Give each group a copy of the "Where, When, and Who?" student handout and an envelope with a set of artifacts. Have students examine the artifacts and use any prior knowledge and resources to determine:

    • the country represented
    • the time period
    • the person associated with the items
  4. You may want to tell students that the person associated with the items is not actually pictured in any of the items.

  5. Direct students to look at each item individually and then at all the items as a whole before drawing their final conclusions.

  6. Have students write a report describing their archeological find.

Activity Answer

Students may identify some artifacts using only prior knowledge. Once students look at the artifacts in a group, they may be able to go back and identify individual items.

Students should use specific clues within the collection of artifacts to get their research started. For example, all boxes contain images of flags indicating the country of origin.

Other clues should help students begin to unravel more information about the contents of their box. For example, Box 1 (Robert E. Lee) includes much Civil War paraphernalia, a journal entry that mentions Lee's name, and a drawing of Lee's horse, Traveler. Box 2 (Leonardo da Vinci), contains da Vinci's birthdate as well as three of his well-known paintings and sketches. Box 3 (Charles Darwin) holds many clues about Darwin's research in the Galapagos and the resulting paper, The Origin of Species. Box 4 (Sacagewea) contains clues to Lewis and Clark's journey and hints to Sacagewea's baby.

Box 1: Robert E. Lee
Country: United States
Time Period: 1807-1870

  • canteen
  • confederate cap
  • general's three-star epaulette
  • Lee's horse, Traveler
  • canon with canonballs
  • rifle with bayonet
  • diary excerpt from field officer
  • confederate flag

Resources: encyclopedia, American history textbooks, Internet

Box 2: Leonardo da Vinci
Country: Italy
Time Period: 1452-1519

  • his sketch called "Vitruvian Man"
  • outline of Italy
  • Aerial screw invention
  • portrait of Mona Lisa
  • Italian flag
  • document containing birthdate: April 15, 1452
  • Leonardo's signature, as he wrote it backwards
  • his drawing of wing structure

Resources: encyclopedia, art history textbooks, Internet

Box 3: Charles Darwin
Country: England
Time Period: 1809-1882

  • British flag
  • cover of Origin of Species
  • sketch of the HMS Beagle
  • Galapagos iguana
  • Galapagos turtle
  • excerpt from Origin of Species
  • chart showing Galapagos latitude/longitude
  • outline of North and South America

Resources: atlas, encyclopedia, general science textbooks, biology textbooks, Internet

Box 4: Sacagawea
Country: United States
Time Period: 1784-1884

  • Shoshone woman's dress
  • portrait of Lewis and Clark
  • Shoshone papoose
  • buffalo
  • U.S. flag of the period
  • Corps of Discovery journal entry
  • mapped route to Pacific along rivers
  • image of boat used to navigate the Western rivers

Resources: atlas, encyclopedia, American history textbooks

Links and Books


Gould, Richard. Archaeology and the Social History of Ships. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Explains how underwater archeology has become a key branch of the science.


Dahlby, Tracy and Michael Yamashita. "Crossroads of Asia: South China Sea." National Geographic, December 1998, 2-5.
Describes the bustling trade that built the fortunes of cities surrounding the South China Sea.

Web Sites

NOVA Online—Sultan's Lost Treasure
Provides program-related articles, interviews, interactive activities, resources, and more.

Basic Methods of Conserving Underwater Archaeological Material Culture
Gives an overview of basic conservation procedures, then specifically addresses material types including bone, pottery, glass, wood, and metals, and their conservation.

Darwin's The Origin of Species
Allows you to read the text of Charles Darwin's work in full.

Exploring Leonardo
Offers an online tour of the 1997 exhibit at Boston's Museum of Science about the inventions and scientific method of Leonardo da Vinci.

PBS Online - Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
Details the four-year adventure and scientific expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the uncharted West.


The "Where, When, and Who?" activity aligns with the following National Science Education Standards:

Grades 5-8

Science Standard A:
Science as Inquiry

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.

  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.

  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.

Grades 9-12

Science Standard A:
Science as Inquiry

Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry

  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.

Teacher's Guide
Sultan's Lost Treasure

Video is not required for this activity