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When most North Carolinians think of “history,” they think only of the last 500 years. Not only is this perception inaccurate, but also it has two pernicious effects: (1) it obscures public understanding of the very long (ca. 12,000 year) and very rich history of Indian people in this area, and (2) in doing so it robs Indian people of their own sense of heritage and, ultimately, of their respect and self-esteem.

The causes of this misperception are many, but a lack of knowledge about the pre-Columbian past is not among them. Over the last 50 years, archaeologists working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and other academic institutions have learned much about the cultural history of this continent and its indigenous peoples. The challenge now is to bring this knowledge more into public view, to make the public aware of the richness and antiquity of Indian heritage, and especially to place this knowledge in the hands of Indian people, who can use it to re-claim an important place in history that has traditionally been denied them.

The Research Laboratories of Archaeology has developed a compendium of 4th- through 8th-grade lesson plans on archaeology and Indian History called Intrigue of the Past: North Carolina’s First Peoples. This project was funded by grants from the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, the North Carolina Archaeological Society, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the Arts and Sciences Foundation at UNC-CH. These lesson plans also are available in hardcopy and online.

The RLA also loans activity kits with replica artifacts to North Carolina teachers. History from Things kits encourage students to construct their own interpretations of North Carolina’s past based on archaeological evidence, inquiry activities, and simulations. The program was funded in part by a grant from the Alcoa Foundation.

For more information about the History from Things program, please contact: