This is How I Saw It

Lesson Plan


Students will critically examine and discuss the image of the Large Jug and determine its function and uses as well as identify decorative details found. Students will use imagination to visualize they are at a celebratory function where this object was used. This will become a prompt to write a descriptive narrative of their invented experience.

Intended Age Group

Secondary (grades 6-12)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • describe and analyze what they see in the image of the Large Jug;
  • identify symbols and distinctive design elements in the art object; and
  • use imagination and visualization to create a descriptive narrative.


  1. Show students the image of the Large Jug. Ask students to describe what they see and what clues they can find that might reveal the culture and the age of this object. What do they think it might have been used for? Have they ever seen anything like this before? Point out the dimensions of this jug at 30 inches high by 21 ½ inches in diameter. It is quite large.
  2. Share the information from the About the Art sheet. Go over the “Things to Look For” information. Note that the design of the jug, which is somewhat unusual, has a specific function. You might wish to discuss other objects where design is integral to the function. Then in groups or as a whole class, re-examine the object for further clues.
  3. Using the information, invite students to think about the importance of the ceremonial use of jugs like these and what an important role it played in Incan society. Have them close their eyes and visualize themselves at one of these ceremonies. Ask: Who do you see yourself as? Are you a wealthy leader buying chicha for your servants? Are you a craftsman who made the vessel? Are you a peasant receiving the gift from the leaders? Are you the person carrying the vessel and serving its contents to the crowd? What do you see, feel, smell, hear, taste?
  4. Using information gathered about the Large Jug, as well their visualizations from the previous step, have students write a descriptive narrative paragraph describing their imagined experiences at the celebration. If time allows write more than one paragraph. Remind students to use descriptive language that will give the reader a sense of actually being there when the Large Jug was being used.


  • Note taking paper for each student
  • Paper for final writing piece or access to a word processor
  • Variety of pencils, pens, or other writing implements
  • Copies of About the Art sheet on the Large Jug (found at the end of the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • Color copies of the image for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Language Arts

21st Century Skills

  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Large Jug (Aryballo)

Aryballos with insects

A.D. 1400-1532


Who Made It?

We don’t know who crafted this jug, but because of its shape, we know that the artist lived during the time of the Inca Empire. Vessels such as these were made in both large and small sizes. The artist formed the jug out of clay, smoothed the surface, and then decorated it with colored slips that were made up of a mixture of clay, water, and mineral pigments. Finally, the surface of the vessel was burnished or polished before firing.

Ceramics made by craftsmen in the workshops of Cuzco, the Inca capital, were highly prized as tangible evidence of imperial prestige. Local imitations were produced throughout the vast territory conquered by the Inca, which extended from Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south. Numerous ethnic groups and independent political entities were not only conquered but also effectively integrated into a centrally administered political and economic system.

What Inspired It?

Vessels of this shape were used to hold liquids, especially chicha, a kind of beer made from corn. Very large vessels like this one would probably have been used on festive, ceremonial occasions. In the Inca Empire, commoners paid tribute to their local lords, religious authorities, and imperial administrators in the form of labor and military service. These authorities reciprocated with food, clothing, and other necessities. Most importantly, leaders held feasts for their tributaries, providing copious amounts of chicha. Serving this beer from an elaborately decorated jar such as this emphasized the wealth and generosity of the Inca state. Inca vessels of this shape are called aryballos because of their resemblance to similarly shaped ancient Greek ceramics.


Painted Decorations
Painted Decorations

The painted decorations on this vessel are particularly elaborate. Red and black flamingos form lines around the neck. The front of the vessel is divided into three zones: a vertical central panel with a diaper pattern (an all-over diamond-shaped pattern) that is flanked by two horizontally subdivided sections filled with insects and flowers.

The Lug
The Lug

The lug, found on the vessel’s shoulder at the base of the neck, is shaped like a jaguar head with a toothy mouth.

Ingenious Design
Ingenious Design

The handles and lug, along with a strap, were used to transport the jug. The strap was looped through one handle, up over the top of the lug, and then down through the other handle. The person carrying the jug used his back for support and tied the two free ends of the strap around his waist.

Holes at the Rim
Holes at the Rim

There are two small holes under the rim of the vessel that would have been used to secure a lid (now missing).

Pointed Base
Pointed Base

The pointed base was intended to be set in a depression in a dirt floor.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.