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        Oregon | Activity 1.2: Beeswax from the Oregon Coast

        Students watch a video about artifacts from a Spanish Galleon shipwreck site found on the Oregon Coast. They learn that there are many methods of researching the origins and substance of artifacts. Students fill in a graphic organizer identifying the substance of the artifact found, its origins, and the research methods used to determine it.

        Lesson Summary

        Students watch a video about artifacts from a Spanish Galleon shipwreck site found on the Oregon Coast. They learn that there are many methods of researching the origins and substance of artifacts. Students fill in a graphic organizer identifying the substance of the artifact found, its origins, and the research methods used to determine it.

        This lesson is part of "Great States: Oregon | Unit 1: Introduction to Oregon." In this introductory unit, students will look at what makes Oregon special. Students will learn about early Oregon history, settlement patterns, and cultural groups who live there. The materials and activities in this unit will give students a more nuanced understanding of how to set about learning about their state.

        Time Allotment

        25 minutes

        Learning Objectives

        Standards:

        4.7: Use primary and secondary sources to create or describe a narrative about events in Oregon history. 

        4.21: Analyze historical accounts related to Oregon to understand cause-and-effect.

        Supplies

        Directions

        1. Tell students they will be watching a video about different research methods used to discover the origins and substance of a block of beeswax found on the Oregon Coast in the 1930s.

        1. Distribute the Examining Artifacts  graphic organizer to students. Instruct students to take notes in the chart as they watch the video as to who/what was consulted during the investigation and what was found.

        1. Play the video, Galleon Shipwreck | History Detectives. [14:47]

        1. Allow five minutes for students to complete the graphic organizer.

        1. As a class, discuss what can be learned about events in Oregon’s history by using primary and secondary sources, like historical accounts, to examine artifacts found in and on its land.

        Answer Key:

        Artifact

        Method of Research

        Findings

        Beeswax

        Library/microfiche research

        -old newspaper reports state that huge chunks of beeswax had been found by early settlers and Native Peoples along the beach

        -a fur trader’s journal (1813) tells that chunks had been dug up from the sand and traded by the Native Peoples

        -the journal also notes that there were no honeybees in Oregon in the early 19th century.

        -newspaper reports indicate that the beeswax was carried on Spanish galleons crossing the Pacific; it indicates that beeswax was an important item for the Spanish empire

        -beeswax was shipped in 20-pound blocks

        -likely for use by Catholic missions in the Americas to make candles and images, which could only be made from beeswax, not wax based in animal fat

        -ships carrying the beeswax often set sail from the Spanish colonies in the Philippines

        Beeswax continued

        Bee expert

        -explained that blocks of beeswax were and still are the simplest way of shipping

        -beeswax can last forever

        -confirmed that honeybees didn’t arrive in Oregon until Europeans brought them in the 1860s

        Beeswax continued

        Chemistry researcher

        GCMS machine

        -broke down the substance to its chemical makeup and compared it with known chemical footprints of two types of beeswax to determine that the chunk is beeswax from the Giant Asian honeybee (as opposed to the European honeybee)

        -could not determine where the wax came from more specifically than southeast Asia

        -could not determine age

        Ceramics

        Shipwreck archeologist

        -comparison to Spanish olive jar siglas

        -book of Spanish siglas that appear on items on different Spanish galleons

        -compared markings on wax with other known markings found on ceramics carried in Spanish galleons

        -determined that the markings were overlapping letters similar to those found on ceramics that were used by merchants to identify their items (sigla)

        -concluded material came from a Spanish Galleon

        Beeswax and Ceramics

        University archeologist

        -list of Spanish galleons lost during 250 years of Spanish empire trade

        -Chinese porcelain

        -French translation of a cargo manifest that includes beeswax (document from French library)

        -compared pieces of Chinese porcelain found on Oregon coast to patterns known on dated Chinese porcelain to find out when the wrecked ships sailed

        -concluded that wrecked ships along Oregon coast were sailing between 1680 and 1700

        -by researching ships that were lost in those 20 years, plus evidence of a cargo manifest showing that beeswax was carried on a Spanish ship, he narrowed down the source of beeswax to one of two Spanish Galleons that wrecked off the Oregon coast

        Discussion:

        By examining artifacts, scientists and historians can learn:

        • Who was in Oregon, when, and why they were there

        • How people used natural resources available

        • About trade and interactions between groups of people (on local and global scales)

        • Introduction of new materials and items

        • Lifestyles of people who used the artifacts

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