Goals & Guidelines


Assignment Goal: to engage in greater depth a single pre-1550 culture, according to the student’s choice and interest; to learn to evaluate the past on its own terms.


Skills Learning Goal: to learn how to analyze a primary source (artifact) from the historical past; to develop research skills; to reinforce the idea and practice of writing as a process; develop skills in information management and organization; learn how to develop a thesis.


Guidelines:  Imagine you are a curator at the Smithsonian.   You want to acquire your artifact for the Museum, but need to secure funding from a major donor.  The potential donor(s) knows nothing about your artifact, nothing about the time period or the civilization that produced your artifact, and has no clue as to the significance of the artifact and why it is important for the museum to acquire.  In your paper, make a case as to why the Museum should acquire this artifact and why the donor(s) should fund the acquisition.


Incorporating your notes from your observation log and research, and using your corrected outline and thesis as a springboard, make your case in an 8-10 pp. paper.


Your paper should include:

  • A description of your artifact and basic historical context (when, where, what is it)
  • Research on the economic, social, religious, political life of the civilization that created your artifact.
  • An analysis of your artifact in light of your research on the civilization and specificity of your artifact, in which you demonstrate the ways in which your artifact is a window in on its civilization and establish what the artifact can reasonably tell us about the past.

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Do not ask “what if” questions, i.e. “What if the bear were another animal?”

  • Do not ask overly general questions, i.e. “What are some influences on the creation of the Tang’un myth?”
  • Try not to ask questions that would require an expert or a lot of research to be undertaken to respond to your questions, i.e. “The advent of the Bronze Age and the increase in metal tools helped early Korean society develop. How did the development of technology help the development of societies on the Korean peninsula?
  • Think about the point of the readings and the lectures, what are the week’s themes? Then take a point or points that you found interesting and develop your questions from there, using the assigned text
  • Be specific, point to passages or a quote if need be to formulate your questions
  • Think about the purpose of your questions and your audience


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