50. Rejection or transformation of Near Eastern traditions key to development of Western civilization
Throughout the lectures, make sure to stress the answers to the questions “what?” “where?” “when?” “why?” and “so what?” for each major civilization presented. Students need to have each culture situated in space and time, understand some reasons for the emergence of each one, and (especially) know why each was important for later ages. Include maps on the overhead projector or have students keep their atlases open during the lecture.0
10. Why do we call the ancient societies presented in the chapter civilized? What assumptions are inherent in that term? Can civilization include elements such as human sacrifice and the aggressive behavior of the Assyrians? Ask the class to mention five or six features that they think illustrate the essence of civilization, and put them on the board. Are they all present in the United States today? To what extent is this a complicated term for historians to employ?
20. Compare the geography and environment of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations and how they affected the cultural course of each society. Why did early societies emerge near rivers? Why did Egypt’s relative isolation so affect its ethical, religious, and literary expressions?
30. Provide more information about some of the individual figures mentioned in the chapter, such as Cyrus the Great of Persia, who rose from the lowly position of shepherd to ruler of a vast empire, or discuss the family life of Akhenaton.
40. Discuss some of the influential women of ancient Egypt, including Nefertiti and the Pharaoh Hatshepsut (save Cleopatra for a later class). Explore the relationship between agricultural societies and gender or class hierarchies—why does a settled agricultural existence lend itself to specialization and then to socioeconomic inequalities?
50. Investigate the seafaring expeditions of the Egyptians. How far down the African coast did they venture? In what other directions did they sail? Could they have reached South America, as suggested by Thor Heyerdahl? Do any of the political systems discussed in this chapter resemble those of any modern states? What are the similarities and differences?
60. What characteristics of Near Eastern religion seem to be common to all religions and which are peculiar to the societies in which they emerged? Why do early civilizations so powerfully associate rulership with the divine?
0GROUP LEARNING PROJECTS0
10. After dividing the class into groups, have the students in each group make lists of the advantages and disadvantages of life in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Assyria, and Persia. Then have them decide in which society they would find it most congenial to live and why. Which seems, to them, least agreeable? Do all the groups agree? How much disagreement is there on what constitutes a good society?
20. After dividing the class into groups, assign each group a river-based region from the chapter (i.e., Tigris/Euphrates, Nile, or an imaginary one) and tell them to develop an early agriculture-based civilization. What will they need to consider for farming? What tools will they need? Who will make them, and what kind of labor specialization will they require? Who will lead them, what kinds of rules must be developed, and why? What kind of god(s) will they worship and why? What sort of structures will they build, and what resources will such efforts require? To what extent do geography, environment, and the basic issues of food and shelter drive the development of cultures?
30. Give the class fair warning, during your lectures, that you expect them to pay attention to geography, and call their attention to the maps included in the text and the atlas. Then divide them into groups and distribute blank maps of the region. Ask them to write in place names from the blackboard on one of the maps; include Egypt, Assyria, Phoenicia, Babylonia, and any other places you want them to know.
00analyzing primary sources
Refer to the Primary Sources boxed feature, located at the end of Chapter 1 in the textbook, to answer the following questions.
I0. Classroom Discussion Suggestions0
A0. In what terms do these Mesopotamian excerpts personify salt and fire and why? With what different characteristics and powers is each associated?
B0. What do these texts tell us about the relationship that Mesopotamian people felt with the natural world around them?
C0. To what extent are myths, prayers, poems, and other forms of literature useful historical sources? What are the challenges of drawing on them to learn about the past?
II0. Cooperative Learning Activities0
A0. Have the students work in pairs or small groups to identify the natural elements of their local world that affect their lives. Ask them to share and compare their selections with the team next to them. Then, as a large group, come back and discuss/compare the selections. To what extent are there similarities and differences? What could one learn about our society through these lists?
B0. Ask the students to write a short poem or appeal based on the world around them – in other words, to bring a mythopoeic eye to their own context. What does this exercise help one understand about the Mesopotamian world-view?