What Kind of Vessel Are You?

Lesson Plan

Lesson

Students will examine the artistic characteristics of the Inca Large Jug. Then they will use their imaginations to write a creative short story or personal essay describing what kind of vessel they might be and why.

Intended Age Group

Elementary (grades K-5)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts

Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • examine the artistic characteristics of the Inca Large Jug;
  • locate Peru on a map of the world;
  • use their imaginations to determine what kind of vessel they might be; and
  • write a creative short story or personal essay describing the kind of vessel they would be and why.

Lesson

  1. Warm-up: Display or pass out copies of the Inca Large Jug and invite students to look carefully and share what they observe. What do they notice? How would they describe the shape of the jug? What colors appear on the jug? What materials were used to make the jug? What symbols or figures appear on the jug? What adjectives would they use to describe the jug? What purpose or function might the jug have served?
  2. Share with students that the Inca Large Jug was created in Peru between A.D. 1400 and 1532. Have students locate Peru on a world map. Share some quick facts about Peru (e.g., geography, climate, languages, natural resources, government, history) by distributing or displaying information from appropriate websites such as The World Fact Book.
  3. Explain to students that the jug, or aryballo [AIR-ee-BALL-oh], was a vessel used to serve beverages to large crowds of people during ceremonial occasions. Commoners in the Inca Empire 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. They also held feasts for their tributaries, providing copious amounts of chicha, a type of beer made from corn. Very large vessels like this aryballo would have been used during these festive, ceremonial occasions. Serving chicha from an elaborately decorated aryballo like this one emphasized the wealth and generosity of the Inca state. Refer to the About the Art sheet for more information.
  4. Invite the students to share the names of different kinds of vessels and record these on a piece of chart paper or (interactive) whiteboard (e.g., large plastic water bottle, aluminum can, travel mug, coffee cup, pitcher). In what situations might each of these vessels be used?
  5. Ask students to reflect on the following: If you were a vessel, what kind of vessel would you be? Why? What would your purpose be? What would you look like? You might want to provide a couple of introductory sentences from a personal example for inspiration (e.g., “If I were a vessel, I would be a plastic water pitcher because I enjoy serving other people and bringing refreshment to them when they are weary. I’m also hardy and durable.”).
  6. Have students create a short story or personal essay describing the kind of vessel they would be and why. Encourage them to illustrate their stories or essays if they would like.
  7. When students are finished, invite them to share their thoughts and display their work in the classroom.

Materials

  • Lined paper and a pen or pencil for each student
  • Large piece of chart paper and colored markers or (interactive) whiteboard for recording students’ ideas
  • Map of the world, visible to all students in the classroom
  • Internet access to websites with facts about Peru, such as The World Factbook
  • Copies of About the Art sheet on the Inca Large Jug (found at the end of the lesson plan) or student access to this part of Creativity Resource online
  • One color copy of the jug for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen

Standards

CO Standards

  • Language Arts

21st Century Skills

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

About the Art

Large Jug (Aryballo)

Large Jug

A.D. 1400-1532

Inca

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.

Details

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.