This unit covers Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and ancient Israel, including the rise of monotheism.
Early Civilizations and Cultures unit contains 13 learning experiences.
Learning Experiences (Lessons) in Early Civilizations and Cultures Each learning experience takes about 45 minutes to teach in the device-enabled classroom.
Mesopotamia: Geography and Environment
Students use maps and readings to become acquainted with the geography of Mesopotamia and the factors that made it a fruitful home for early civilization. Then they explore the climate, topography, and flood patterns of the region. Finally, they connect Mesopotamia‚Äôs water issues to modern history and create a poster or brochure.
The Development of Mesopotamian Civilization
Students explore the great civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia: Sumer, Akkad, the Assyrian Empire, and the Babylonian Empire. In Scenes 2 and 3, a video and several websites provide information from which, in Scene 4, small groups will prepare a report on the civilizations.
The Development of Language and Law
Students learn about the foundational contributions of Mesopotamia and nearby Phoenicia to Western law and language. They read, interpret, and discuss parts of Hammurabi‚Äôs code. Then, they follow developments in writing from pictograms to cuneiform to the alphabet.
Ancient Egypt: Geography and Environment
Students learn about the effect of geography on ancient Egyptian civilization. The main attention is given to the Nile River, whose flooding made the soil fertile and compensated for the absence of rain and the confining influence of the desert. Students learn how a climatic event at approximately 6000 B.C.E. shrank the arable portion of the region and forced humans to settle close to the Nile. Finally, they read an ancient ‚ÄúHymn to the Nile‚Äù and collaborate to write verses of their own about the Nile.
Nile Valley Civilization
Students examine an interactive map overview of ancient Egyptian civilizations. Then, they watch a video about farming the Nile. They explore Egyptian social structure and economy. Next, they explore the Egyptian hieroglyphic writing system. Digging deeper into Egyptian farming and economics, they learn how Egypt‚Äôs social classes made use of a proto-banking system based on grain surplus. Finally, they learn about the Rosetta Stone, whose discovery in 1799 enabled modern people to decipher hieroglyphics.
Students delve into history of ancient Egypt‚Äôs Old Kingdom, when the growing nation became a truly great civilization. They begin by encountering the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. They proceed to examine the pyramids, which the pharaohs built as tombs and to honor the gods. Finally, students analyze the entire social structure of the kingdom.
Students explore the Middle and New Kingdoms of the Egyptian Empire. They learn about the basic history of the Middle and New Kingdoms and take a close look at the life and legacy of Hatshepsut. Then they do their own research on other important pharaohs of the era. Finally, they research the last pharaoh of Egypt‚ÄîCleopatra.
Ancient Egyptian Art and Architecture
Students examine art and architecture from various periods of ancient Egyptian history, including the Old and New Kingdoms. The genres include pyramids, tombs, sculpture, painting, and hieroglyphics. Then, students write a short description and critique of a work of ancient Egyptian art.
Civilization of Kush
Students encounter the ancient kingdom of Kush, located south of Egypt in what is now Sudan. Then they watch a video emphasizing the role that iron smelting and production played in Kush‚Äôs success. Finally, they build a timeline showing the intersection between the Kush civilization and ancient Egypt.
The Origins of Monotheism
Students are introduced to the Biblical figure of Abraham, considered the father of monotheism. They read a passage from the Hebrew Bible and learn about the relationship between God and Abraham. Then, they create a concept map of the key features of monotheism. Next, they outline the structure of the Hebrew Bible and illustrate one of the Ten Commandments. Finally, they describe life in ancient Israel based on a Biblical passage about Abraham.
Geography and the Ancient Israelite Religion
Students learn how geography and the exodus from slavery in Egypt affected the ancient Israelite religion. First, they learn that drought is common in this region, and famine led the Hebrews to migrate to Egypt. Then, they learn about Moses, the exodus, and Passover, and how they are central to Judaism. Next, students learn about the Israelites‚Äô entrance into Canaan, the peoples that were already living there, and the settlement of the twelve tribes. Finally, they analyze the relationship between the Israelites‚Äô religious festivals and the agricultural seasons.
The Kingdoms of Ancient Israel
Students learn about the ancient Israelite kingdoms and the Biblical prophets. First, they listen to the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi. Then, they examine the sequence of the three kings of the united kingdom‚ÄîSaul, David, and Solomon‚Äîand the split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Then, they identify the Babylonians as the empire that destroyed the Holy Temple and sent the Jews into exile. Finally, they learn about the Biblical prophets and analyze a prophetic passage.
The Spread and Influence of Judaism
Students learn about the contributions of Judaism to Western civilization. First, they learn about the Second Temple period, and they build a brief timeline of major events during the periods of the two Holy Temples. Then, they learn about the rise of Judaism and they contrast it with the ancient Israelite religion. Finally, they learn about major concepts of Judaism and how Judaism has influenced other cultures and religions, and they evaluate how passages from Judaic sources reflect these concepts.