How To: Make Terra Cotta Armor!

Check out the previous post The Clothes Make the Warrior to learn how to decipher the armor on the Terra Cotta Warriors now on display at HMNS. Then, try your hand at making your own!

Materials:
Large paper grocery sack
Scissors
Cardboard
Hole-punch
Brads
Tape
Paint (optional)

Procedure:
armor1. Cut 150 squares out of cardboard.  The squares should be 1.75 x 1.75 inches a piece.  You may cut one and use it as a template to trace the rest. 
2. Cut the paper bag into a tunic shape that can be slipped over the head.  You may have to experiment and find out what works best depending on the size of the child.
3. Cut out two rectangular pieces (you can use the left over pieces from making the tunic) and tape them to the shoulders.  These will be the guards. 
4. If you wish to paint your armor, you should do this prior to assembly.  I do not recommend painting the bag, but you can paint the square pieces.
5. Use the hole-punch to punch a hole in the top-middle of each square.
6. Starting at the top of your tunic, attach the squares one at a time by placing a brad through the pre-punched hole and then poking it through the bag.  Make sure to put the squares close together.
7. Continue this process until you have the front and back completely covered.  You may have to trim some of the squares to make them fit properly.
8. Next move onto the guards.  These are the rectangular pieces attached to the shoulders of the tunic.  Attach the squares to the guards in the same manner.  You may need a sharp object to start the holes in this area.  This should be done by an adult.
9. Slip the armor on your favorite child and have them stand sentinel!

Kneeling Archer_resized

Background:
Armor was made of small plates of leather, covered in lacquer to stiffen them.  On the top and bottom of each plate are double close-set-holes.  These plates were attached by knots of leather or thong.  Depending on the size of plates, a suit of armor could have up to 250 plates.  The smaller the size of the plates, the higher the rank of soldier.  The armor of higher ranking soldiers had more decorative straps and ribbons in a geometric pattern.  The armor opened up on the right side allowing it to be slid over the head.

Heavy infantry and low ranking soldier’s armor covered the front of the torso from shoulder to waist, curving in the front.  In the back, armor went from the shoulders to the lower back.  Attached at the shoulders were shoulder and upper guards.  To allow for movement, plates at the waist and shoulder guards were loosely sewn.  This armor would be made from larger leather plates and would have no straps or ribbons for decoration.

The Clothes Make the Warrior

kneeling archer close up cropped
An archer with a top knot haircut

It is said you can tell a lot about a person by the clothes they wear.  Clothing speaks to us, albeit quietly, but if you know how to “listen” you can glean loads of information.  Recently, I toured our Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit with an expert on clothing styles. She told me about all of the Warriors and what these different styles “tell” us.

She first drew my attention to the different hairstyles of the warriors.  Three distinct styles can be seen; the top knot, the coil, and the flat braid.  In the Emperor’s army, your hairstyle would depend on your rank. The warrior would wear a top-knot, which is much like a bun; the higher the knot was worn on the head, the greater the number of kills made by that warrior. An officer’s hair would be braided flat.  Can you tell the warriors from the officers?


Chariot Driver_close up
Chariot driver with cap and chin strap

The headdress also speaks volumes about a soldier.  It tells you what military branch the individual belongs to and their status.  Warriors in the infantry wore a kerchief cap over their top-knot hairstyle.  A cavalryman wore a close-fitted cap with a chinstrap made from leather.  The charioteer wore a headdress made from metal and silk with a pointy top. A general might sport an elaborate headdress in the form of a double-tailed bird.  The pheasant-tailed cap of the general speaks of his bravery and skill on the battlefield.  Can you identify the different kinds of warriors by what they wear on their head?

Armored General_close up
A Terra Cotta general

When considering the clothing of a warrior, you just must also check out his shoes – the longer the toe on the shoe, the higher the status of the individual.  Most shoes were made with animal hide, stitched with flax thread.  Straw was used as padding.  How many different types of shoes can you identify in the exhibit?

No well-dressed warrior would be seen without his armor, right?  Well, not exactly.  Whether you wore armor or not depended on your job.  Armor was made from plates of leather, shellacked with lacquer to give them strength.  The size of the plate indicated your importance; the smaller the plate, the higher your rank.

I hope you come by to check out the Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit before the opportunity passes you by and if you do, I hope the warriors “speak” to you in their own amazing way!

Make sure to come back next week and check out an activity on how to make your own armor!

See the Eighth Wonder of the World in Style

aerial-view-terra-cotta-warriorsAlthough different lists vary slightly, there are seven wonders of the ancient world. The Great Pyramids at Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Discovered in 1974, the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xi’an have been dubbed the Eighth – and with good reason. They’re absolutely stunning to behold in person. 

All of the soldiers that make up this new Wonder are located between 6,000 and 8,000 thousand miles away from Houston (the statue of Zeus at Olympia is the closest, at approximately 6,260 miles away), and are fairly inaccessible if you want to see something fantastic by the end of the week.

However, the Houston Museum of Natural Science has brought the Eighth Wonder of the World to your own backyard. Come see the largest group of Terra Cotta artifacts to ever leave China in our exhibit, the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, on display until October 18, 2009.

dsc_0394And, this Thursday night, we offer an exclusive VIP event. View the exhibit at your own pace, question our very own Dirk Van Tuerenhout and enjoy cultural performances such as dragon dancers. Dine on Chinese appetizers and enjoy a cash bar as you peruse the Eigth Wonder of the World in style.

Terra Cotta VIP Event – Thursday, August 13, 2009
6 pm – 9 pm Don’t miss out – get your tickets now!

Book List: Warfare and Soldiers

HMNS is currently hosting three special exhibitions, two of which are Genghis Khan and Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, so the topic for this month’s booklist is soldiers and warfare.

Jean Fritz, author of Traitor: The Case of Benedict Arnold, has written numerous books about American history and explains her work: “My approach is that of a reporter, trying for a scoop, looking for clues, connecting facts, digging under the surface.”  Because of this, her books bring history alive as she helps students understand the personalities and motivations of the individuals who shaped our country.

The first few sentences of Traitor are a powerful and telling introduction to Arnold’s life:  “When Benedict Arnold was a teenager, some people in his hometown of Norwich, Connecticut, predicted that he’d grow up to be a success.  Others said, No.  Benedict Arnold would turn out badly.  As it happened, everyone was right.” 

fort mifflin gun crew
Creative Commons License photo credit: pwbaker

 

Fritz introduces you to an Arnold you probably did not know—a druggist and a sea captain who loved shoes but was obsessed with his honor.  The Revolutionary War provided a unique stage for Arnold, and he became a general–but made many enemies along the way. 

In Philadelphia, Arnold met fashionable but spoiled Peggy Shippen, whose father was sympathetic to the British.  They were married, but the happy day was clouded by Arnold’s upcoming court martial and increasing financial problems.  Arnold began to think that if he “could not win the war for the Americans, he might at least bring the war to an end,” and become a hero.  With this thinking, becoming a traitor was not difficult. According to Fritz, Arnold apparently never understood the enormity of his actions. 

civil war reenactment-american museum 2005
Creative Commons License photo credit: daz smith

Paul Fleischman, author of Bull Run, won a Newbery Medal, as did his author father, Sid Fleischman.  After growing up in California, Paul lived in New England, and his love of history grew.  “I thought about teaching history as a career, but decided to bring it into my books instead.”   Bull Run is a collection of short monologues - so, in addition to being read by individuals, this book is suitable for classes to read aloud.  The book has 16 characters, both men and women—one only 11 years old– in sets of 8 from the North and 8 from the South.  The characters describe their lives and experiences leading up to and including the Battle of Bull Run, the Civil War’s first major battle.  Because of the number of individuals involved, you experience  the battle and its aftermath from many perspectives as the characters learn that war is not a game.

Newbery Medal winner Avi is one of the most popular authors for children and young adults.  The Award-winning book, The Fighting Ground, is a fictional account of a day in the life of 13-year-old Jonathan during the Revolutionary War.  Jonathan’s older brother and cousin are soldiers, and his father had been wounded near Philadelphia. More than anything, Jonathan wants to be a soldier, too.  When the bell at the town tavern began to ring, Jonathan tricks his mother into letting him investigate what is happening, and as he leaves home, his day-long adventure begins. Jonathan comes to realize that being a soldier is not glamorous, and when he is captured by the Hessians, his journey towards manhood continues as he is exposed to the horrors of war.

Author notes:

Many of the titles of Jean Fritz’s books about American history end with a question mark. Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?, and And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?  Perhaps her best-known book is her memoir, Homesick, that tells the story of her childhood growing up in China in the 1920’s and China Homecoming, the story of her return to China years later.

Paul Fleischman’s Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voiceswon the Newbery Medal, but don’t miss Seedfolks and WhirligigSeedfolks illustrates the power of one person to change a community, and Whirligig is the story of teenage Brent who drives drunk and kills innocent Lea.  Lea’s mother asks Brent to put a whirligig that looks like Lea in Washington, California, Florida and Maine, and his journey to fulfill this request leads to his own inner journey.

Books by Avi that should not be missed are The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing But the Truth and Wolf Rider.  Readers will be fascinated by Charlotte’s adventures on her transatlantic voyage in 1832, including being accused of murdering the ship’s captain.  In Nothing But the Truth, high school freshman Phillip Malloy’s humming of “The Star Spangled Banner” sets in motion a series of events which leads to the question, “What really IS the truth?”  Wolf Rider has the best opening sentence I have ever read.  After reading that sentence, you cannot put the book down.