Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay

general article writing


A 4-6 page APA format paper on the Spokane Falls in Spokane Washington. This is for an Anthropology 100 class. Please see assignment instructions below. 


The goal of this assignment is to observe an 'archaeological site' as an anthropologist would. The student will analyze their observations in terms of themes from the subfield of archaeology such as how it helps frame our understanding of how we can learn more about the human past by studying and interpreting material culture.


Motel of the Mysteries is a well-known book among archaeologists (see basic description in Smith, 2009).  This humorous (now sadly out of print) book takes a look at how an archaeologist of the future might look at a late 20th-century roadside motel.  While our artifacts make sense to us, how might they preserve and be interpreted by future archaeologists?  In this Assignment, we will explore this idea.

Smith, S.  (2009).  Motel of the Mysteries.  The Society for Georgia Archaeology.  Retrieved from:

Directions for 4-6 page Assignment: (Spokane Falls on the River in Downtown Spokane Washington)

  1. Choose one room of your home or a specific place in your community (playground, parking lot, restaurant).  Visit and observe the site for 10-15 minutes.  Be objective as you examine the site, remember not to mention what it is in today's terms, but pretend you have do not recognize or have knowledge of the artifacts and site.  Describe the overall scene.
  2. Collect and document artifacts.  Describe the artifacts noting color, shape, weight, texture, quantity, material, and other features you think are important.
  3. Map (photos, hand-drawn and scanned, digitally created map) the site and describe the physical characteristics of the site.
  4. Using your imagination, what are some other purposes the artifacts and site might have?  What conclusions can you draw about the origin of the artifacts, their use, and the purpose of the site?
  5. Using our reading on the archaeological analysis (Park, 2014, p. 85-89), what additional analytical methods would you want to use to help you interpret your artifacts and site?  
  6. Reflect on some of the challenges archaeologists face in piecing together the past.

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