A Journey through Time – Home School Archeology

As I hiked, God and I were having a conversation. I asked Him to reveal Himself to these home school students so that they would know He is the Creator of all things. It was not thirty minutes later when I heard a cry, “We found something!”

I am a mom who just happens to homeschool our two daughters. We love exploration and especially love earth sciences. For several months I had been teaching about igneous, metaphoric, and sedimentary rocks and fossils to eight very excited neighborhood home schooled students. We were about to embark on the climactic field trip planned for the end of our class. The children were packed and ready with their homemade field guides and rock hounding equipment. We traveled to a canyon that I know of, and the students were already out bounding through the terrain. Within a few short minutes we had an amazing spotting of fossils.

Hiking quickly to the location of the young scientists, I found them slumped over, examining what looked like a vertebra. Using their nicely-packed brushes they proceeded to gently remove the dirt from the fossils. Soon we knew from the color variations and composition that what we had discovered was worthy of investigation. We quickly contacted the landowner and plotted our next step in what now looks like a whole new adventure.

After planning with the landowner, the students covered up the fossils, and we waited for contact with professionals. In a few days we went back to the site with Mr. Day, a representative from the Texas Archeological Stewardship Network. Uncertain of what he would find, he was nevertheless extremely helpful to us in our discovery. He allowed the students to help him with uncovering the fossils and beginning the process of identification. As they brushed away the soil, more and more of the fossils were revealed. Soon animals like camels, rhinos, and horses were being discussed. Excitement and heart-pounding anticipation flowed as we uncovered a skull. This revelation led to the discovery of a leg and a hoof. There are several significant points to the discovery that day. Finding a skull attached is extremely rare, as is the possibility of identifying an animal by the toe. The findings brought us definite confirmation that we had found an Equus scotti.

In our conversation with the landowner, we learned that his preference was to allow the home school students to do the archaeology digging and preservation work. His permission gave us the ability to dive into archaeology excavation. Mr. Day gave us his instructions and assistance, and we began the process of recovery. We were able to completely remove the horse from its skull, down to the middle vertebra and back, as well as one front leg from scapula to hoof.

The animal we located and preserved is an extinct horse from the Pleistocene flood time. He once roamed the Plains states from North Dakota to Texas. In this area the only other major records of E. scotti findings are from 1939, at a site just over the ridge from our location. At that time the remains of twelve horses were found. Other animals of this period were: mammoths, camels, saber-toothed tigers, rhinos, and three-toed horses. You might have heard this time frame referred to as the Ice Age. Most creationists age this horse at 3500 to 4000 years old, based on a biblical timeline. According to Frank Sherwin at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), these horses roamed when the Grand Canyon was forming. Our finding revealed an articulate horse, lying the way it died, in a layer of volcanic ash, clay, and crystal. Many of the fossil bones were penetrated with gypsum crystals, meaning that they were under water at one time. The location of the animal was high in elevation in the canyon wall; Mr. Sherwin’s assessment on timing was confirmed.

During our preservation work we visited the site many times. We affectionately named it Horse Hill. On one visit we located another horse. To this present day we have located five sites with E. scotti remains. I sent an invitation through our home school network for other interested home school families to join what was now a major project in excavation and preservation. Our “home school archaeology group” includes ten families, with children ranging in age from eight to nineteen years old.

Responsibility for the site and findings is a tall obligation that the children and parents have met with success. In most cases these types of findings and excavations are sent to universities. This experience was given to our home school team, and we have taken the responsibility very seriously. In less than one year our group excavated five sites, documented the fossils and bones from each site, completed preservation on hundreds of bones, completed a composite horse for a four-by-eight-foot display, mapped an archaeology grid for all the sites, researched strata, examined the geology of the site, and compiled a research book and CD with more than 500 documentation pictures and data. The students and parents worked within a self-imposed “archaeology code of ethics” in regard to information, procedures, and documentation. We have had guidance from a creation geologist, the Institute for Creation Research, Mount Blanco Creation Museum, and the Texas Archeological Stewardship Network. The children compiled information and data that tells the story of what we think happened to these horses and the geology surrounding them. They presented the data in a notebook to the landowner and will be sending the information to the Geological Society of America for possible inclusion in their International 2009 Conference. With these educational opportunities the students have learned earth sciences and archaeology in the field, as well as in a class setting through our local home school co-op.

Through the contacts with our creation geologist and Mr. Sherwin from ICR, we have been told that our findings are very rare. Both men stated that we have located approximately one percent of vertebrae paleontology found in clusters. The strata within the fossils represent geological activity from volcanoes and movements of water. The actual dirt is sensitive to magnetic composition. Our archaeology and paleontology experiences have been very rare indeed.

Despite all the excavations over the last year, we still have work to do. We are currently working on bringing out a female or youth E. scotti skull. We continue to document our research and findings. We plan to complete the excavation on another horse in the fall. There is always speculation as to what is out there and the extent of what we will find—maybe a camel or a three-toed horse? The landowner has allowed us to use the many bones, as well as the documentation, for a type of traveling “show-and-tell,” which allows the story of the horses and God’s creation to be told in many ways.

One thing is sure: these experiences have taken us down a road to exploration into history, science, geology, and creation. I do not doubt that God answered my prayer for these students to find “something” that shows them He created it all!