Reflect for about 3-4 minutes in your digital notebook about your first essay. What do you think went well? What was challenging? How can I (Mr. Hall) provide the most useful feedback?
At the end of your reflection I would like you to affirm that your essay represents your original thinking and that you have appropriately credited both others’ phrasing and ideas whenever they were borrowed. If you are not able to affirm this, please write me a very simple email to that effect and I will disregard your essay submission.
To prepare for your trip back to into the past, I want to invite you for a moment twenty decades into the future. Imagine you are an archaeologist from the forty-first century. Walk through the process of understanding the object you have just uncovered:
What possible functions might this object have? What features might provide a clue about which is most plausible?
What possible meanings might the inscriptions on this object signify? How might you identify the most—and least likely—scenarios?
Reflect for a moment on how likely you think your forty-first century successors would be in accurately understanding the full context of this object.
Now we are going to look at some replicas of objects uncovered in 1974, during the late stages of the Cultural Revolution, when a group of farmers were digging a well only to discover a head of clay. The men reacted in horror, believing they had found “a ghost who drank all the water meant for the crops,” according to Yang Jungeng, one of the farmers. They had accidentally discovered what some refer to as the “greatest archaeological find of our time”: the burial complex of Qin Shihuangdi. As you examine these figurines, please consider:
What can you observe about the figure?
If this figure represented all you knew about Qin society, what might you infer?
When trying to make sense of the significance of this figure, what other types of direct evidence might a historian draw upon?
Today, we have started thinking more multi-dimensionally about sources. These help historians with the question you were once asked in Humanities: “How is it we know what we know?”
For much of early Chinese history, the answer is two-fold:
Written sources in a Chinese context are typically texts that have either been passed down from one generation.
China has long-standing literary tradition (as we have already seen in the last unit).
Texts by great thinkers or dynastic histories (like those of Sima Qian or the Ban family) have been the most important sources for historians of early China.
Recently complicated by authentic early texts that have been discovered untouched.
Archaeological sources are debris from the past left gradually over time or suddenly due to specific events (such as a burial or a volcanic eruption) that are dug up and analyzed.
Archaeology is considered cutting edge research for historians of ancient China.
It is shaking up our understanding by exposing dissonance between inherited texts and material objects. For example, the cultural boundary between “civilized” and “barbarian” on the western end of the North China Plain appears much fuzzier than written sources suggest.