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READ: The Xianrendong Pottery (Graphic Biography)

A team of archaeologists in China has found pieces of pottery that predate farming. This archeological find challenges the narrative that many historians previously believed: that the development of specialized skills (like pottery) always followed agriculture. Some of the pots have burn marks, indicating that they were likely used for cooking.
The Graphic Biography below uses “Three Close Reads”. If you want to learn more about this strategy, click here.

First read: skimming for gist

This will be your quickest read. It should help you get the general idea of what the graphic biography will be about. Pay attention to the title, headings, images, and layout. Ask yourself: what is this graphic biography going to be about?

Second read: understanding content

For this reading, you should be looking for unfamiliar vocabulary words, the major claim and key supporting details, and analysis and evidence. You should also spend some time looking at the images and the way in which the page is designed.
By the end of the second close read, you should be able to answer the following questions:
  1. What have historians typically believed about the development of pottery in relation to the development of farming?
  2. What is different about the development of pottery in the Xianrendong cave, according to the biography?
  3. According to the biography, what were these pots most likely used for? Are there any other factors that may have contributed to the development of these pots?
  4. How might the development of these pots have shaped aspects of Chinese culture today?
  5. How does the artwork show a connection between China 20,000 years ago and China today?

Third read: evaluating and corroborating

In this read, you should use the graphic biography as evidence to support, extend, or challenge claims made in the course.
At the end of the third read, you should be able to respond to these questions:
  1. How does the evidence presented in this biography support, challenge, or contest what you have learned about the consequences of the shift from foraging to farming?
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to read! Remember to return to these questions once you’ve finished reading.

The Xianrendong Pottery (Graphic Biography)

Writer: Trevor Getz
Artist: Peter Quach
Pieces of pottery that pre-date farming have been discovered in a cave called Xianrendong, challenging a theory that many historians have believed to be universally true.
Download the Graphic Biography PDF here or click on the image above.

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