Lesson Plans Lesson Plans

What Remains: Learning about Maine Populations through Burial Customs

Brittany Cook, Maine Historical Society, Cumberland County



  • English Language Arts -- Speaking & Listening
  • English Language Arts -- Reading
  • Social Studies -- History
  • Visual & Performing Arts -- Disciplinary Literacy
  • Visual & Performing Arts -- Creation, Performance, and Expression
  • Visual & Performing Arts -- Aesthetics and Criticism
  • Visual & Performing Arts -- Visual & Performing Arts Connections

3-5 days

  • 1500-1774
  • 1775-1850
  • 1851-1920
  • 1921-today
  • Arts
  • Community
  • The People/Peopling of Maine

This lesson plan will give students an overview of how burial sites and gravestone material culture can assist historians and archaeologists in discovering information about people and migration over time. Students will learn how new scholarship can help to dispel harmful archaeological myths, look into the roles of religion and ethnicity in early Maine and New England immigrant and colonial settlements, and discover how to track changes in population and social values from the 1600s to early 1900s based on gravestone iconography and epitaphs.

  • Students will identify headstone iconography relative to culture and time period by examining multiple sources.
  • Students will be able to discuss the importance of memorials to diverse communities.
  • Students will read two poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and use the subject matter to contextualize communal funerary practices over time and the perception thereof to a 19th century American audience.
  • Students will identify objects of material culture by their significance to Maine‚Äôs peoples and economy.
  • Students will examine primary and secondary sources while discerning respectful or incorrect scholarship by archaeologists, ethnologists, and historians over time.

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A resource developed by Maine Historical Society with support from Jane's Trust