Investigating a Shotgun House A Curriculum Guide

Project Archaeology

Investigating a Shotgun House

A Curriculum Guide for Grades 3-5

Discover the past through evidence from a mid-20th century archaeological site at Davis Bottom, a multiracial, urban, working-class neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky! In this investigation, students will use geography, history, and archaeology to learn about a Kentucky shotgun house and the people who lived in it.

Examine historic photographs primary documents, artifacts, and maps of a Shotgun House shelter. Students meet Kenny Demus and the Laffoon sisters - Cissy and Mary - who grew up in rented shotgun houses, by reading their biographies. Then they “uncover” a real archaeological site, classify artifacts, study the contents of a privy, and infer how Lexington’s urban geography influenced the neighborhood and its future.

Explore the history of Lexington’s working class, the meaning of neighborhood, and the definition of family. Engage students in a debate on a current civic dilemma involving archaeology and preservation, and the stereotypes we hold about the working poor.

·         Includes texts about neighborhood history, using primary documents, investigating and interpreting privy deposits, and seeking justice for those displaced by urban development

·         Supports Common Core State Standards

·         Incorporates authentic data for students to analyze

“This unit was something the kids loved. They learned a lot that we were able to tie into our tested content later in the year (like using tables, data, pictures to collect evidence). With 5th graders, they need to be interested in the content to apply themselves to learning the content.” Angela Buis, Jones Park Elementary School, Casey County, Kentucky.


Teacher Instructions

Archaeological Notebook

Lexington City Directories

Unit Images and Analysis Sheets

Kentucky's Urban Shotgun Houses

Historical Documents

About Privies

Lexington City Directories Part II


Project Archaeology

Montana State University

2-128 Wilson Hall

Bozeman, Montana 59717

Voice (406) 994-7582 • FAX (406) 994-3177



Kentucky Archaeological Survey

1020-A Export Street

Lexington, KY 40506-9854

Voice: (859) 257-1944




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