We hope this guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.
We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without furthe permission from AramcoWorld, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classrorom or through home study.
— THE EDITORS
Jump to If You Only Have 15 Minutes...
Jump to McRel Standards
All the activities in this edition of the Classroom Guide—class activities, visual analysis, and 15-minute activities—focus on a single theme: artifacts.
Several articles in this issua focus on artifacts. These articles look at the objects people saved, the paintings they left on cave walls and the coins they made and used. In completing these activities, you will:
- define artifact
- choose objects that represent you and look for patterns among class members’ choices
- “read” artifacts to find out what they reveal
- summarize and draw conclusions about the value of artifacts
What are artifacts?
To begin your exploration, start by asking, “What is an artifact?” Share with your fellow students any ideas you have on the subject. You don’t need to give a dictionary-style definition; if what you associate with the word “artifact” is arrowheads that you saw at a museum, it’s okay to say “arrowheads that I saw in a museum.” Have a student or your teacher write people’s associations with the word artifact on the board. Then look up a definition of artifact, and write it on the board, too. How well does it line up with the associations you listed? Discuss with the person sitting next to you what difference, if any, you see between an artifact and an object. Would you call all your “stuff” artifacts? (You’ll have a chance to examine your stuff shortly.)
What do artifacts reveal?
Artifacts can provide a great deal of information about individuals, groups, societies and specific moments in time. The following activities are divided into four parts. Three focus on artifacts described in articles in this AramcoWorld, and the other is personal. You can complete all of these activities if time permits, but if not, you can do them as a jigsaw activity, with different students completing different activities and reporting to the class about what they learned; or you can complete any of the activities as a stand-alone assignment.
What do artifacts reveal? Part 1: “If I Forget You, Don’t Forget Me.”
This article is taken from an exhibition of photographs of objects with words associated with those photographs. The photographer, Manal AlDowayan, says she aimed to create photos of a generation of men and women “using as my subject matter the objects they collected over their lifetimes.” Think about what might have made this artist decide that the objects that people collected would be a good way to make a photographic history of an entire generation. Hold your thoughts as you consider specific photos.
Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Assign each group one or two of the photos in the article. With your partner or group, talk about the photos—but don’t read the captions yet—using the following questions as a guide: What object did AlDowayan include in the photograph? Why do you think she believed the object was significant? Then read the caption that AlDowayan wrote. What did the object mean to her? Share with the rest of the class what you’ve discussed. As a class, discuss what, if anything, turns these objects into artifacts.
What do artifacts reveal? Part 2: Your Own Stuff
Try it yourself. As homework, choose an object that means a lot to you, one that you would use to represent you in a gallery or museum exhibit. It can be anything—a football, a shirt, a book—whatever you value that you believe reveals something important about you. Take a photograph of it if you have access to a camera. Reread a few of the captions in “If I Forget You, Don’t Forget Me” and use them as models to write your own caption for your own object. In your caption, be sure to explain what the object is, why it’s important to you, and what you believe it reveals about you. In class, display everyone’s photos and captions, and look at each other’s work.
AlDow-ayan was chronicling a generation in Saudi Arabia. Your class, in effect, is chronicling a specific group of people, a sample from a generation, too: Do you see any patterns? Perhaps many of you chose the same type of object or found similar meaning in whatever objects you selected. AlDowayan generalized about the generation she was looking at: they were a generation that built its dreams, and that straddled poverty and wealth. How would you sum up what the members of your class value? What generalizations, if any, can you make about your generation based on the objects you care about? Write an introduction to your class’s exhibit of photos and captions, similar in tone to Bashar Al-Shroogi’s statement on page 26.
What do artifacts reveal? Part 3: “Coins of Two Realms”
Look now at what coins might reveal about the people who minted and used them. (Did anyone in your class choose a coin as the artifact that represents them?) Read “Coins of Two Realms.” Underline or highlight the places where the article answers these questions: In what ways are coins from the past valuable to people today? What historical gaps can they fill? What are some examples of what Byzantine and Persian coins reveal? What do Islamic coins reveal about relations among Arab Muslims and Byzantine Christians at that time? How do the coins challenge common assumptions about Muslim-Christian relations? In sum, what do the coins reveal about economic and cultural change?
Finally, using online sources, read up on the movement now current in the us to replace the portrait of President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with one of any of several notable women. Compare the arguments for that change with arguments Arabs, Byzantines or Persians might have made: What is different? What is similar? Why does what appears on any kind of money matter so much?
What do artifacts reveal? Part 4: “Cave Artists of Sulawesi”
As you have seen, artifacts can reveal a great deal to those who pay close attention to them. Artwork in caves is another type of artifact that can tell us a lot about early human beings and how they developed. Read “Cave Artists of Sulawesi.” As you read, underline or highlight the parts of the article that add to your thinking about what artifacts reveal and what they add to our understanding of the past. When you’re finished, reread these important parts of the article, and write a short summary that answers these questions: What does cave art in Sulawesi reveal about the origins of human creativity? Which previous beliefs about human creativity do the cave artworks challenge?
What do artifacts reveal? Conclusions
Now you’ve looked at four examples of what artifacts reveal. Three of them come from articles in AramcoWorld, and the fourth comes from your own experience. Now, pull your thoughts about artifacts together by completing one of the following activities. Make a diagram that shows what artifacts reveal about individuals, generations, economic relations, cultural change and human evolution. Or write an essay on the subject, with a thesis that states what artifacts reveal, and use evidence to support the thesis drawn from what you’ve studied in these activities. Share your diagrams or essays with other students. Do you share similar understandings of the value of artifacts?
Continuing on the theme of artifacts, return to “If I Forget You, Don’t Forget Me,” and we are going to add another layer to the analysis. The exhibition from which the article is drawn doesn’t just focus on artifacts. It focuses on photographs of artifacts—which sometimes means photographs of photographs! Choose one of the photographs from the exhibit. You’ve already explored what made the object significant. Now look at how Manal AlDowayan chose to photograph the object. Why do you think she took pictures of each object with a photograph? How are the objects and the photos-within-the photos related? What do the two together (photo and object) reveal that looking at the object by itself does not reveal? Why do you think she took the photos in black and white? What effect does their not being in color have on you?
IF YOU ONLY HAVE 15 MINUTES...
“Capital of Baklava” reports that Gaziantep has applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (unesco) Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Read about this at www.unesco.org/culture/ich. Based on what you read, do you believe that Gaziantep’s baklava should be included? Write a letter either in support of, or in opposition to, its inclusion.
“Coins of Two Realms” explains that coins all over the world “often bear simple but fundamental names, images and ideas that say much about [the] government” that issued them. Choose a current-day coin to examine. What images does it have on the obverse (front) and the reverse (back)? What words does it include? If anyone in the class has coins from other countries, answer the same questions about them. What do the words and images on the coin(s) tell you about the government(s) that issued them? How do you reach that conclusion? Does the information you gather from the coin(s) conform to the information that the article says can be gleaned from coins of the past?
is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons,
develops social studies, media literacy, and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.