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Incan Artifacts (Clay Pottery Lesson)

Created By: Michael Marassa, Edison Middle School (Champaign, IL)
Grade Level: 7th-8th
Content Area: Social Studies
Database Integration: Students will search TDC database for current and historic images of European architecture.


Illinois Learning Standards Achieved

Standard Achieved

Activity that Meets this Standard

State Goal 17: Understand World Geography and the effects of geography on society, with an emphasis on the United States. During the unit, student will be looking at artifacts from Inca, Aztec, and Maya sites. Students will be comparing and contrasting artifact features, making connections to each's society, and then re-creating an Incan pot with classic Incan features.
26.A.1e: Visual Arts: Identify media and tools and how to use them in a safe and responsible manner when painting, drawing and constructing.

During the unit, student will be looking at artifacts from Inca, Aztec, and Maya sites. Students will be comparing and contrasting artifact features, making connections to each's society, and then re-creating an Incan pot with classic Incan features.
26.B.1d: Visual Arts: Demonstrate knowledge and skills to create visual works of art using manipulation, eye-hand coordination, building and imagination. During the unit, student will be looking at artifacts from Inca, Aztec, and Maya sites. Students will be comparing and contrasting artifact features, making connections to each's society, and then re-creating an Incan pot with classic Incan features.


Materials:


Procedures:

  1. Students will look at examples of different types of pottery and begin to make observations about features. Ask students to note which artifacts look similar and could be categorized together.
  2. Identify for students which artifacts from the examples are from which culture and identify common characteristics:
    • Maya pottery was usually of simple round cylinders and simple plates and bowls. Household pottery, used for cooking and water storage was plain. Ceremonial pottery had painted colorful scenes from Maya mythology or history.
    • Aztec patterns decorated the inside of bowls with geometric designs painted in only two colors. It was made in simple shapes. Sometimes the decoration was cut into the surface rather than painted.
    • Inca pottery, called imperial Cuzco, is one of the culture's best achievements. It had many shapes and elaborate designs. Four or more colors were used to decorate the pottery. Designs had stylized people, animals, birds, and plants. Pots with stirrup spouts held chichi beer used to make offerings at religious ceremonies. Since Incas had no form of writing, pottery is valuable in learning about their ideas and culture.
  3. Look at the two artifacts from the TDC database - Incan Monkey and Incan Ceramic Vessel (fish) - and discuss traits that identify it as Incan. What features are missing (paint) and why is it missing?
  4. Explain to students that they will be re-creating the monkey or fish artifact with a partner. One will form the body and one will form the pot and stirrup spout.
  5. Create a flat surface - science tables make a great work area - and supply each pair of students with clay, water in a beaker (for softening and molding the clay), and toothpicks (for etching designs into the clay). Teacher can use the dental floss to easily cut the clay into workable pieces for groups.
  6. When students are finished, allow clay to dry. Bake in kin or use as air-dried. Paint artifact with up to four different colors. Students can use paintbrushes or toothpicks to paint their artifact. Finish paint with a clear glaze if desired.
  7. Teacher collects artifacts and places them on display for school to view.

Assessment:

Students will be assessed upon participation in activity. Not every student has spatial talent, and as long as a student is exposed to artifact features of each society, and creates an artifact resembling Inca types, a pass grade will be assigned.