Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ancient Near East Civilizations Project

In class, you will be researching your civilization for the next few days. Our plan is to be in the Media Center for the next week or so. Use this checklist to see if you are on target...
  • Your group has assigned each person a set of topics to cover in the slide show.
  • You have notes from each day we were in the Media Center.
  • You have been recording which books or websites you used to gather information.
  • On NoodleTools, you have started creating a bibliography with Mrs. Vaccaro's help.
  • You are thinking about what you'll put on the slides you create for the presentation.
Keep a few things in mind: In order to earn full credit, you need to pass in all your notes, your bibliography, and have your part of the slide show done.

If you would like more information, here are some online resources:

Our school's Media Center website

Marshall Cavendish
World Book Encyclopedia
Sharpe Online Database
World History in Context (higher reading level)

You can also scroll down on this Blog to the following civilizations:

Ancient Near East: The Sumerians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Sumerians

The earliest people to grow into a flourishing civilization in the Fertile Crescent (or anywhere) were the Sumerians. Just northwest of the Persian Gulf, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the Sumerians built a series of city-states that were later incorporated into an empire. Impressively, the Sumerians invented the wheel, irrigation, writing, trade, the sailboat, organized government, and a number system based on 60 (which we still use to measure time).

The Sumerians were a polytheistic society, believing in a few principal gods and thousands of lesser gods and goddesses. The had one well-known creation myth involving a great flood and a hero named Gilgamesh. This story may have been the inspiration for the Noah's Ark chapter of the Bible.

Some great sources for information about the Sumerians:
The British Museum
Wikipedia Entry
LookLex Encyclopedia
National Geographic Article

Ancient Near East: The Akkadians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Akkadians

From the city of Akkad came one of the first and most respected rulers of the ancient world, Sargon. He built the Akkadian Empire around 1900 B.C. by unifying the Sumerian city-states under his control and by building a strong army to control them. 

Some sources of information on Akkad:

History for Kids
Wikipedia Entry
New World Encyclopedia: Akkadian Empire

Ancient Near East: The Assyrians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent: The Assyrians

The Assyrians began their civilization in the ancient city-state of Assur over 3,000 years ago, and came to dominate the area of upper Mesopotamia that includes parts of modern day Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The Assyrians were known by the Egyptians for being a fierce warrior race who knew nothing but bloodshed and destruction. Recent archaeology has shown that unlike the image in the Egyptians' propaganda, the Assyrians were actually an advanced civilization who excelled in the arts and the science of astronomy and mathematics.

The Assyrians were rivals of the Babylonians and the Egyptians, and produced strong kings with names like Shamshi-Adad and Tiglath Pileser I. Like the Babylonians, the Assyrians were powerful for a time, then declined, then returned as the "New" Assyrian Empire later. The modern country of Syria traces its name back to the ancient Assyrians.

Here are a few sources on the Assyrians:
New York Metropolitan Museum of Art
History for Kids: Assyrians Assyria
Wikipedia Entry
All Empires: Assyrians

Ancient Near East: The Babylonians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Babylonians

Based in the ancient city-state of Babylon, the Babylonian empire stretched across the entire region of Mesopotamia and beyond at its height, around the year 1770 B.C. under its most famous ruler, Hammurabi. Hammurabi is most known for being a conqueror and a law-giver.

The Code of Hammurabi set out the concept of a punishment fitting the crime. He had his laws carved into stone and set in the center of the towns he ruled, so that all would know the laws. The thinking behind Hammurabi's laws can be summed up in the phrase, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." This means that if a man injures another by putting out his eye, then that man's eye will be put out as punishment.

The laws were more symbolic since most people in those days were unable to read and write, but Hammurabi created the concept of the rule of law, and the idea of fairness in the justice system.

The interesting thing about the Babylonian Empire was that it existed for a period around 1770 B.C, and declined, but returned again around 600 B.C. as the "New" Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar.

Some useful sources for information about the Babylonians:

LookLex: Babylonia
Babylonian Numbering System
Wikipedia Entry

Ancient Near East: The Persians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Persians

The Persians lived in what is today called Iran. They built the largest land empire of the ancient world, and had a great capital city at Persepolis before its destruction by Alexander the Great. Some people know the Persians as the enemy in the movie 300, but there is so much more. The Persians' most famous leaders were Cyrus the Great, Darius the Great, and Xerxes. At one time, the Persians took over the land of Egypt, and at another challenged the Greeks for domination of the lands east of the Mediterranean.

Sources of information on the Persians:
Wikipedia Entry
History for Kids: Persia
Ancient History Source Book

Ancient Near East: The Israelites

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent: The Israelites (Hebrews)

The Hebrews, also called the Israelites, were unique among ancient civilizations because of their monotheistic religion. Much of the information we have about the earliest history of the Hebrews comes from the Old Testament of the Bible. Modern Jews trace their religion and culture back to this ancient civilization.

Sources of information on the Hebrews/Israelites:
Harvard Semitic Museum
Wikipedia Entry
NYU Library Guide

Ancient Near East: The Phoenicians

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Phoenicians

The Phoenicians were known as the greatest sea traders on the Mediterranean, and left their legacy by creating the alphabet we still use today (with a few changes). From their bases in what is today Lebanon, the Phoenicians traveled the entire length of the Mediterranean, setting up far away colonies in places like Spain and North Africa. Their colony of Carthage actually challenges the powerful Roman Republic for dominance of the region in the third and fourth centuries B.C.

The Phoenicians built much of their wealth on selling a very special purple dye made from the shell of the murex, a snail-like creature. This dye was so valuable that in ancient Rome, only the emperor was allowed to wear all purple, and the noble families of Rome marked their togas with a purple stripe.

Sources for information about the Phoenicians:

Wikipedia Entry (a good starting point)
Ancient History Encyclopedia: Phoenicia
History World: Phoenicians
History for Kids: Phoenicians

Ancient Near East: The Hittites

Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent:  The Hittites

The Hittites were a fierce and mysterious people who lived in the central and eastern part of Anatolia, in the modern country of Turkey. The Hittites created a strong and important empire in the years between 1900 B.C. and 1100 B.C. (3,000 - 4,000 years ago), often battling or trading with the Egyptians, competing with the pharaoh Ramses the Great for domination over Palestine and the area of today's Syria.

The Hittites had their capital city at Hattusa, and were known in the ancient world for their skill in smelting and metal working, particularly using bronze and iron to make weapons.

Some great sources on the Hittites:

Wikipedia Entry
Emory University
The British Museum
Archaeological Site of Hattusa

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Map of the Ancient Near East

In class we started mapping the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, where the ancient civilizations we study were located.
(Click on the pic for a larger version)
Our focus of study for the Mesopotamia unit is really the entire Fertile Crescent: An area that stretches from the Nile Valley of Egypt in the west, northward to Palestine, westward across the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and southward to the Persian Gulf. Surrounded by inhospitable deserts, the Fertile Crescent is an area that has good soil for farming, rivers for water, and is in a strategic location for trade.

Here is a copy of the Ancient Near East map that we are completing in class. Click on it for a larger version.

On the Ancient Map, locate:
Mediterranean Sea
Black Sea
Caspian Sea
Red Sea
Dead Sea
Persian Gulf

Euphrates River
Tigris River
Nile River
Jordan River

The Fertile Crescent

Zagros Mountains
Taurus Mountains
Caucasus Mountains

Syrian Desert
Arabian Desert

Mesopotamia itself comes from the Greek meaning "the Land Between the Rivers" because it is in the area between the southern parts of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. There the Sumerians built the very first true civilization and invented farming, the wheel, writing, and the first organized governments.

For more information about this region, check out a really cool website about Mesopotamia from the British Museum, or this one from the University of Chicago.

Want to see a wicked cheezy "school video" on ancient Mesopotamia? I mean it's interesting and all, but there is a very serious "cheez" factor. Enjoy:

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Living in an Early Farm Town

Tomorrow night's homework involves illustrating a scene from the Neolithic Era.

You will have a better understanding of this time period by reading a passage from A Message of Ancient Days (p. 118-133) and answering four questions about life in one of the earliest Neolithic (Stone Age farming) communities.

In this case, the town is called Çatal Huyuk and it is located in the present day country of Turkey. More directions will be posted on MyHomework tomorrow.

After looking at the readings on the early Neolithic period (Message of Ancient Days pgs. 127-133), the text asks you to answer the following questions:

1. What was life like in a Neolithic farming town?

You would live in a mud-brick house and take care of fields of crops outside of the village. Besides growing food, your family would continue to hunt wild animals and gather plants and berries. There would be different jobs for the different people in the town. The town would have a surplus of grain to trade with other people nearby. The people were polytheistic and they worshiped their gods in small shrines.

2. In the area of industry (making and trading stuff), how did the people of Çatal Huyuk differ from hunter-gatherers? What caused this difference?

Çatal Huyuk had a surplus of food, and so not everyone had to hunt and gather food all the time. People of the town were able to take on new and different jobs: tool makers, farmers, builders, traders, basket weavers, pottery-makers, and jewelers. The reason people could choose these different jobs was that the farmers grew more food than the town needed. The farmers had permanent homes, unlike the hunter-gatherers who had to move from place to place.

The farm towns also had a highly developed culture. Culture includes the art, architecture, religion, language, literature, customs, and traditions of the people. They had a system of government and a written language. 

3. What is obsidian, and how is it formed? What did the people of Çatal Huyuk do with it?

Obsidian is a dark volcanic glass which forms when lava cools quickly. People used obsidian to make fine tools, jewelry, and blades. Tools made from obsidian include razor blades, arrow heads, spear tips, and polished black mirrors. It could also be traded to other towns.

4. Why do you think the houses of Çatal Huyuk had rooftop entries?

There are several reasons why the people of Çatal Huyuk built mud-brick homes with entrances on the roof, and ladders to come in and out. Write your ideas in a comment, and we'll see what people come up with! 

Also in class, we'll be looking at a few key questions about these first human settlements. Before getting to the questions, you should check out a couple of really cool websites:

1. How did humans go from hunting and gathering to farming?
Humans learned to save seeds to plant the following year, and captured and domesticated wild animals to make them tame and more useful (for meat, milk, wool, eggs, feathers).

  -What changes happened in the way humans lived?
Humans settle down in one place instead of wandering around living as hunter–gatherers. This allows them to build settlements and is the beginning of civilization.

-What are some advantages and disadvantages of farming?An advantage of farming is that you can have a surplus and you don’t have to wander around looking for food. A disadvantage of farming is that you might not have a balanced diet. Plus you are more in danger of losing your crops because of bad weather.

2. What (where) are some of the earliest known settlements?
The earliest settlements in the Middle East were in an area known as the Fertile Crescent.

3. What was life like in an early Neolithic town? (daily life, homes, jobs, food, etc.)
Early farming towns were made out of mud bricks, with homes closely clustered together (for protection), and some had doors on the roof. There were no streets. Most houses had two rooms with one for storing food and the other for living. People were able to have specialized jobs (farmers, priests, tool makers, artisans (makers of things), builders, painters, and administrators).

 4. What tools or technology did humans develop at this time?
At the beginning of the Neolithic Era, people developed new tools and technology to help them farm and build cities. People invented new ways to store food, like firing pottery, building underground chambers, and salting meat to preserve it. Farming tools included the plow, rakes, hoes, shovels, and irrigation (moving water to fields).

And, as promised after today's discussion about domesticated animals...

5. What is a surplus? A scarcity? How did farming crops lead to a surplus?
A surplus is an extra supply of something (more than you need). A scarcity of something means you do not have enough. Farming allows people to grow large amounts of crops, and that leads to a surplus 

6. How did trading start? Why is a surplus a necessary part of trade?
Trading started when early villages used their surplus crops to purchase goods they needed from other villages. A surplus is a necessary part of trade because it doesn’t make sense to trade away the food you needed to survive. 

7. What does it mean for a village to have social classes?
Social classes are the levels of importance that the different people of a city have. A person’s social level is usually determined by their job, wealth, and their family’s social level. Social levels in a village signify an advanced civilization.

8. What makes a civilization?
A civilization is a complex society that includes:
  • A stable food supply
  • A specialization of labor (people have different jobs)
  • A system of government
  • Social levels
  • A highly developed culture

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." This was the first line of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech to Congress after the United States was attacked by imperial Japan, and almost 3,000 Americans died.

The attack at Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II on the side of the Allies. Four years later, the German and Japanese were defeated, the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and several million people perished in Europe and Asia.

It is so important for us today to keep in mind the significance of Pearl Harbor:
  • That every day there are men and women in the armed forces who are willing to fight and die for our freedom.
  • That governments based on fascism, repression, militarism, and racism are dangerous to people who love liberty.
  • That it is important to stand up to what is wrong, and fight for what is right.
  • That most of the veterans of Pearl Harbor, and of World War II, have left us and it is so important to remember their experiences.
  • That the sacrifices of previous generations have allowed us to live in freedom and security today.

The following is the entire text of FDR's speech from that day:

To the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that Nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its Government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the Secretary of State of form reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government had deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December seventh, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
The White House, December 8, 1941

For more information about Pearl Harbor, check here.