Book Review: Adventures in Ancient China

Reading Level

Ages 9-12

Other Books by This Author

• Adventures in Ancient Greece
• Adventures with the Vikings
• Adventures in the Ice Age

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This book certainly takes a novel approach. In this case, it works.

The book is Ancient China: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of China's Past. The authors are Jacqueline Ball and Richard Levey. If you think you know what's coming before you open the book, you're probably wrong.

This is a book about ancient China, yes, but it is more a book about archaeology and how its rigors can explain history and how it relates to today. The authors take an episodic approach, focusing on a handful of key episodes in the long history of China. The story of Shi Huangdi and his terra-cotta army is a familiar one, but the authors bring fresh perspective to that. Other not-so-famous episodes are examined as well, including how oracle bones on turtle shells can help identify a mystery person buried in a tomb. Other subjects include jade suits and mummies.

The authors include an interview with an archaeologist, with questions about how he goes about his profession and the challenges he faces, in the field and in the lab. Also helpful are the ever-present timelines, which link events with their far-ago dates for an easier understanding of time and context.

The overall effect is a series of vignettes that serve to tell a story—of how archaeologists and other scientists work to turn back the curtain on the past.

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