Cultural Anthropology Study Using the Fundamentals of Geography and GPS

By:  Scott Royer
Harrison High School
West Lafayette, IN 47906

Estimated Time:
Two to Three Days-One in the field and one in the classroom

Grade Levels(s):
High School-Anthropology Course (Unit on Culture)

1. Introduce students to the concept of GPS, how it works and use it in the field
2. Give students a chance to culturally examine our burial practices using modern technology
3. Develop a description of our culture based off of information derived from using GPS in addition to conventional observation

Religion and ritual are two aspects of cultural anthropology. How people care for their dead can tell a lot about their culture. One of our earliest sign of a belief in the supernatural is evident from burial sites of Neanderthals in Western Europe. In the U.S., one can see regional differences in how people are buried. Variance can be determined by beliefs, economic standing and time period when one was buried.

A small cemetery provides an opportunity to analyze our past and near present local culture. Looking at the patterns of a graveyard as a whole will allow us to analyze its origins. A detailed study will give us insight into ourselves and how we remember and the importance of a deceased person.

Using GPS, a follow-up analysis of a created map will provide a different perspective on how the cemetery was organized. By looking at various data from above, we will be able to make additional observations, analysis and conclusions regarding our culture that might not be possible from the ground.

Upon completion of this activity, students will be able to:

Materials Required: Procedures: Assessment:
Each group will turn in one written product. It can be in outline form or written out. It should include: Geography Standards Addressed:
Standard 1: The World in Spatial Terms
Students will use GPS to acquire and process information about people, places and environments.
- WG.1.3 Use locational technology (remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems [GPS] and Geographic Information Systems [GIS]) in order to establish spatial relationships.
Standard 4:  Human Systems
Students will identify and analyze the human activities that shape the Earth’s surface, specifically rural and urban land use and cultural patterns.
- WG.4.3 Hypothesize about the impact of push/pull factors on human migration in selected regions and about the changes in these factors over time. (Economics; Civics and Government; History, Individuals, Society, and Culture)
- WG.4.8 Map the distribution patterns of the world’s major religions, and identify architectural features associated with each. (History; Individuals, Society, and Culture)
- WG.4.19 Demonstrate that change on Earth is constant, in both the physical and the cultural realm, and that the movement of populations, goods and ideas creates ever-altering spatial patterns. (Economic; Civics and Government; History; Individuals, Society, and Culture)

Places and Regions - The physical and human characteristics of places
Human Systems -
- The patterns and networks of economic interdependence on the earths surface
- The process, patterns, and functions of human settlement
Environment and Society - How human actions modify the physical environment
Uses of Geography - How to apply geography to interpret the past

Extensions and Adaptations:
· Give data/maps to the county for their records if none is available
· Research records from the county and see if data obtained by GIS matches the county records
· Analyze and cross compare data with other student groups
· Explore restoration techniques-guest speaker from local organization
· Bound class results and give to school library to be used for future reference
· Plot any symbols and research their meanings
· Essay questions on future test referring to this study


Ember, Carol R. and Melvin. Anthropology. Prentice Hall. New Jersey, 1999. 6/13/02


Group _________________

Did students successfully plot and map out the graveyard using the GPS?                                                            20 ______
Did students come up with a hypothesis explaining the origins?                                                                              10 ______
Did students come up with a hypothesis explaining the terrain as it relates to the location of the grave yard?   10 ______
Did students explain how time is related to the types of stones?                                                                              10 ______
Did students differentiate between stones and discuss how and why they varied?                                                10 ______
Did all students use the GPS unit?                                                                                                                                  5 ______
Did students make good use of time?                                                                                                                            5 ______
Did students make a brief presentation of hypotheses to class?                                                                              10 ______

Total:                                                                                                                                                                                80 ______