Have you ever needed fake dirt? No? Well, this is something that we needed at the Greeley History Museum. For an upcoming archaeology exhibition, we’re creating an interactive to explain what stratigraphy (the study of the different layers of the earth) is and how scientists use it in their work. So in order to show the different layers of the earth, we need dirt. The catch is that it cannot be real because real dirt is not safe to use around historical artifacts. So we set about creating fake dirt! Here’s our instructions if you ever need it.


-Pencil shavings (collected from pencil sharpeners in the Hazel E. Johnson Archives)
-Paint (We used different shades of brown to mimic our local dirt. If you need to recreate a different color, just choose paint shades that look close to that!)
-Bowls of various sizes
-Popsicle sticks
-Paper plates

1. Select the amount of shavings needed to each shade of brown and put them into the bowls.
2. Slowly add paints to each bowl to create the different shades of brown that you want to see. Mix the paints into the pencil shavings with a dabbing motion with your Popsicle sticks.
3. Continue to add paint to your pencil shavings and mix until you get the desired array of shades.
4. Pour your damp pencil shavings onto the paper plates. Continue to keep your different shades separate. Make sure that the shavings are laid as flat as possible to let them dry quickly.
5. Allow your shavings to dry overnight.
6. Once the shavings have dried, add them all together. The different shades of brown help keep the dirt looking realistic. And now you have fake dirt to use!

Written by Katherine McDaniel, Preparator

Share This