Opening up the tricky concept of interpretations of the past, this session enables pupils to grasp that history is always having to be rewritten in the light of new evidence. By focusing on practical analysis of oracle bones and drawing conclusions from tomb objects, pupils really get a feel for how an archaeologist and historian work and the skills they deploy.

Why has our understanding of the Shang dynasty changed so much in the last 200 years?

Learning objectives

  • Pupils grasp the seismic change in our knowledge following the breakthrough in deciphering oracle bones and in interpreting unmolested royal burial sites
  • They grasp that history is continuously being rewritten in light of new evidence
  • Pupils are able to make simple deductions about possible way objects might have been used and what they tell us about Shang society.

Step 1

The story of the mystery bones as told through the PowerPoint presentation, emphasising just how recent the discovery was.

Start with a simple slide of an oracle bone. In pairs can pupils find anything on this humble tortoise shell that they think might give historian clues. Spend a few minutes identifying the symbols the pits and the cracks, about which they

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