- Discover that archaeology and the study of artifacts give us information and an understanding of ancient lifestyles and cultures.
- Develop the skills necessary to interpret artifacts and learn from them.
- Learn how to assimilate written information, oral traditions, and archaeological evidence.
- Appreciate the arts, culture, and technology of ancient China.
- Correlate ancient Chinese history with that of the Western world.
- Discover the importance of the horse in Chinese history.
Learning from Artifacts
Objects left by past cultures and civilizations can tell
us many things about the people who used them and how they lived. Information
on conditions of life, geography, climate, natural resources, technology,
occupations, social customs, values, associated plants and animals,
and family structure can all be gained by "reading" or interpreting artifacts.
It is archaeologists' job to find and interpret objects
from past cultures. They then use the artifacts to make hypotheses about
early people and their lifestyles. A hypothesis is an "educated guess"
or explanation based on knowledge and previous experience. The hypothesis
is then tested and proved right or wrong through time and new discoveries.
The interpretations that accompanied some of the artifacts in the
Kentucky Horse Park's Imperial China: The Art of the Horse in Chinese
History exhibit will illustrate this process of scientific research.
- Sharpen Your Research Skills (suggested as a pre-viewing activity)
Choose several old objects (antiques) and discuss them with the
class (use photographs if necessary). Suggestions: lighting fixtures, cooking
utensils, clothing, tools, containers, small pieces of furniture, toys,
educational materials. Describe each object: color, texture, size, shape,
material. Ask these questions: Who would have used it? How or under
what circumstances would it have been used? What is it made of? Is it
decorative or useful, or both? What does it tell us about the person
or people who made it? What geography, climate, natural resources, technology,
ways of making a living, or social customs does the object suggest? Is
the object still in use? Why or why not?
- Interpret Your Culture (suggested as a pre-viewing activity)
Have each student bring in an object from his or her own room.
It should be something unique to that person; suggestions might
include a book, statue, picture, item of clothing or jewelry, memento, small
piece of furniture, etc. The objects will be handled, so caution the
students not to bring in anything very valuable or fragile. Also, ask
the students not to tell anyone else in the class about their objects.
Number each object and display it on a table or shelf.
Divide the students into teams. Assign or allow each team to choose
objects (not including their own). On index cards, have the students
identify each object and write a detailed description of it (size, color,
material, age, use, etc.). Lastly, ask the students to make hypotheses
about the owner and his or her lifestyle. Have them list such things
as gender, age, nationality, hobbies, interests, travel, experience,
talent, and goals. They will need to "defend" or give reasons for their
hypotheses and interpretations. Each team presents its "findings"
and hypotheses to the class. At the end of the presentation, ask the
owner of the object to comment on the accuracy of the report.
Have a discussion on the belief in afterlife by ancient civilizations.
The artifacts found in burial chambers have given us a wealth of information
about early people and their cultures. The emperors of China filled
their tombs with everything they believed they would need in the afterlife.
Ask the students to make a list of things they would take with them
if they were moving to the wilderness where there were no stores and
no other people. Compare the lists and discuss what the objects tell
us about our culture and lifestyle. Are the objects necessary for survival,
are they for comfort, or are they materialistic? How will future societies
learn about our present culture? How are we preserving information about
our culture? Discuss landfills, libraries, museums, electronic information,
etc. Who is deciding what to preserve? How long will it remain preserved?
Are our values changing? What about our environment?
- Design Your Tomb
Because tombs were designed for the comfort and safety of the deceased
in the afterlife, the objects they contain tell us a great deal about
life in ancient times. Have students list the objects they would have
placed in their tombs to ensure their comfort and safety in the afterlife.
Compile a master list of objects for the class. Arrange them in order
of popularity. What does the list tell us about our present lifestyle?
Were any of these same objects in the emperor's tomb? Why or why not?
Kentucky Horse Park
International Museum of the Horse
The Millennium's First Great