DFTT: The Tomb

Search the fields and farmlands of Xi'an China for a fabled lost tomb. Beware the warnings of ancient traps meant to keep out grave robbers. Could the rumors be true?!

The history of China is extremely hard to teach. I have roughly 3 weeks to cover about 2,000 years of what is one of the most influential empires of medieval history. It can be tempting to just throw up your hands and say it is impossible. Here's Buddhism, here's the Great Wall, the end. I've never wanted to do that, and I certainly don't want to now. China is just too important. If I'm going to carry my students on this whirlwind tour, I have to hook their interest immediately. If I can get them interested, I can do so much more. The last few years I've opened with this activity that has done that job magically!

Digging for the Truth: The Tomb - Main presentation file. Download and run in PowerPoint for animations.

DFTT: The Tomb Script - A script for you to read as you take students on their adventure.

DFTT: Digital Edition - A Google Slides version of the lab that students can use to record their responses.

In this lab students examine 5-6 artifacts found in Shi Huang-di's tomb. These artifact pictures are mostly (maybe all, I don't remember) from the tomb museum. This is about as real as it can get.

Lesson Plan

Situation: A fabled lost tomb has supposedly be found.

Role: Archaeologist exploring the tomb.

Task: Examine artifacts found at the site and determine what they tell you about China.

Opening: Ask students to write down one thing they already know (or think they know) about China. Discuss as a class.

Wienie/Hook: Intro Video

Set-Up: Provide students with a Copy link for the DFTT: Digital Edition if you are using it. Otherwise, they just need a sheet of paper.


  1. Begin the presentation and script reading.

  2. When you reach a question point in the script, give students a few minutes to record their answers.

  3. Have students pair-share their answers and then ask for a few volunteers to share with the class. Ask probing questions as you do.

  4. Continue with the script until the end.

Closing: Students write a paragraph explaining what they now know about China after their exploration of the tomb. (We learned many things such as they have a writing system, could work with metal, and were quite advanced.) Alternately, you may ask students to respond to a prompt comparing what they now envision of China to another culture you've studied. For me, we study the Mayans just prior to China and kids are amazed at their advancements so I use them as the measuring stick for China. China always wins. Students are blown away by the things they see in the tomb.

Extension: In a later lesson (China Virtual Tour) I show students a 360 picture of inside the tomb complex. If you are not planning to do that lesson, now would be a great time to do this! https://www.360cities.net/image/xian-terracotta-army-2-shaanxi