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Mesopotamia Geography Essay Prompts

Social Studies: Mesopotamia

  • British Museum – Ancient Mesopotamia – Explore the fascinating ancient cultures of Mesopotamia – Assyria, Babylon, and Sumer.
  • Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids – Learn pretty much everything there is to know about Mesopotamia.
  • Historical Tour:  Mesopotamia – Peruse this excellent, concise overview of Mesopotamia, written in outline format.
  • Ancient Mesopotamia:  This History, Our History – Learn about “the land between rivers,” and view artifacts from this land considered the cradle of civilization.
  • KidsPast: The Rise of Civilizations – Check out this kid-friendly information about the first civilizations.
  • History Link 101 Ancient Mesopotamia – Investigate the best of art, biographies, daily life, maps, pictures, and research on ancient Mesopotamia.
  • Mesopotamia Audio and Video Collections – View one or more of the many audio and video clips about different aspects of this ancient civilization.
  • Mesopotamia – Peruse this concise page devoted to Mesopotamia, complete with a detailed vocabulary list.
  • Mesopotamia – Explore ancient Mesopotamia through this series of links to aspects of this civilization’s history.
  • Odyssey Online: Near East – Choose one of the themes to explore that aspect of the cradle of civilization.
  • Teacher Resource Center:  Ancient Mesopotamia – Click on a topic to learn more about that aspect of ancient Mesopotamia.
  • Sumerian Cylinder Seals – Discover these ancient objects from Mesopotamia.
  • Gilgamesh – Learn about this historic king of Urok and read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was originally written on twelve clay tablets in cuneiform script somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE.
  • The Code of Hammurabi – View an ancient code of laws.  Although this is not the first code of ethics and laws, it is one of the best-preserved ancient legal documents that reflects the social structure of Babylon during Hammurabi’s Rule (circa 1792 – 1750 BCE).
  • You Be the Judge on Hammurabi’s Code – See Hammurabi’s Code and try to solve some of the problems Hammurabi faced.
  • Browse the World:  The Fertile Crescent – See where Mesopotamia is located.
  • Ancient Scripts – Learn more about cuneiform and how this very first written language developed.
  • Write Like a Babylonian – Write your name in cuneiform!
  • Cuneiform Tablets – Create your very own cuneiform tablet by following these directions.
  • World History: Ancient Civilizations – Explore interactive social studies maps, including one of Mesopotamia in 2400 BCE.
  • Women in History:  Ancient Tablets, Ancient Graves – Discover the roles, contributions, and lives of women in Mesopotamia.
  • Religion in Mesopotamia – Learn about the religion of the ancient Mesopotamians, which gave the world its first mythology.
  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon – View one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and learn what made it so magnificent.
  • Eyeconart:  Art of Mesopotamia – Learn about the art of Mesopotamia and see famous works such as the Ishtar Gate.
  • World History: Ancient Civilizations – Check out interactive social studies maps, including maps of Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent.
  • Ancient Mesopotamia – Use this site as an educational resource supplementary to the traditional social studies textbook to learn more about this ancient civilization.

History 403:Ancient

Professor Allison Thomason

Fall 2004

Instructor:Allison Thomason

Office:1214 Peck Hall

Office Hours:MWF ; W , or by appointment

Phone:650-3685 (direct); 650-2414 (History Dept.)



Course Description: In this course we will study the ancient civilization of .We will explore the major historical periods of the region and the important facets of the civilization. Our central task will be to analyze both primary and secondary documents critically in our effort to understand this important pre-Classical civilization.We will also explore the architecture and material culture of the ancient Mesopotamians to inform our understanding of their history.We will approach a number of topics relevant to Mesopotamia, and some would argue, to studying all types of "civilization, including:the problems of periodization, the creation and relevance of written script, the formation of state religion and political ideology, the logistics of ancient trade and economy, the expansion of empires, the importance of women and gender identity, the development of literature and science, and many more topics.For the first 2/3 of the course, we will embark chronologically on our studies as we explore the salient features of each major period in Mesopotamian history.In the final 1/3 of the class, we will explore some cross-chronological topics that hold relevance in most periods in Mesopotamian history.

Course Objectives:I hope that over the course of the semester you will:

1.      Develop an understanding of the discipline of history, including the questions the discipline asks of the past, its methodological approaches, and theoretical assumptions.

2.      Assess how historians approach the past in similar as well as unique ways from practitioners of other disciplines.

3.      Explore the historiography of Mesopotamian studies, including the development of Assyriology and archaeology in the region, and crucial scholarly debates.

4.      Achieve an understanding of an important non-Western civilization.

5.      Be introduced to the representation and activities of a civilization central to the formative phases of Western Civilization.

6.      Develop critical thinking, oral, and written skills in the progress of class discussions, thoughtful written assignments, and a substantial research project.

7.      Cultivate self-awareness and interest in other cultures as you consider how similar events and issues that faced people in the ancient world continue to confront cultures around our contemporary world.

Required Texts:

1.      Van de Mieroop, M.Cuneiform Texts and the Writing of History, Routledge, 1999. (Textbook Rental)

2.      Bahrani, Z.Women of :Gender and Representation in , Routledge 2001. (Textbook Rental)

3.      Secondary articles handed out in class: marked with an “*”.

NOTE:CANE = Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, vols. I-IV, ed. J. :Scribner, 1995.

4.      “Primary Documents in Translation” Reader: marked with an "+" belowwill be available in a big packet handed out at the beginning of class.

Recommended :

In addition to the required readings above, I will place a number of books on reserve in Lovejoy library to help you prepare for exams, papers, and research projects.

Attendance and Participation:

Students are first and foremost expected to arrive on time, attend class alertly, and generally conduct themselves with respect for their fellow students and myself.Also, please turn off all cell phones and pagers.Students are also expected to participate in class discussions. Students should be aware that consistent lateness to class, disrespectful treatment of or behavior towards others, and early departures will seriously affect final grades and can result in involuntary withdrawal from the course.Your Attendance and Participation grade (worth 15% of total points) will be determined by pop quizzes, occasional roll calls, and my impression of your understanding of the readings and your participation in class discussions.

Make-up Exam and Late Paper Policy:

Make-up quizzes and exams will only be given in cases of unforeseen medical or family emergencies.You will need to contact me prior to the exam time if you would like to be excused from an exam.Make-up exams must be taken within one week of the original exam date and the exam time will be scheduled at the discretion of myself (in consultation with you).If you do not show up for a quiz or an exam and I did not excuse you ahead of time, you will receive a zero (0) on the exam.

Late papers are marked down 10 points per day.Late papers will not be accepted after corrected papers are handed back to students (usually no more than a week).

Plagiarism and Use of Internet:

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's writing without giving credit to that individual. Plagiarism can take several forms. It can consist of paraphrase or word-by-word transcription; the uncited source can be a published work, from a web site or discussion group on the internet, or the unpublished work of another student or acquaintance. It is every student's responsibility to know what plagiarism is and to avoid committing it. If you are in doubt, it is better to document a source than not to. The penalty for this offense is quite serious, and can result in failure of an assignment, the course and potential withdrawal from the university.For the Department of History’s information on plagiarism, see www.siue.edu/HISTORY/plagiarism.html.For SIUE’s policies on academic conduct, see the Student Conduct Code: http://www.siue.edu/POLICIES/1i6.html.

Assessment:UndergraduateGraduate Students

Attendance and Participation200200

Geography Quiz5050

Paper #1 (3-5 pp.)100100

Midterm Exam100100

Paper #2 (3-5 pp.)100100

Research Synopsis25Literature Review 100

Research Outline and References25(5-10 sources)

Research Paper (10-15 pp., Turabian Style)250Research Paper (20+ pp.)300

Final Exam150150


Class and Assignment Schedule:

Class topics are subject to change; however, exam and assignment due dates are FIXED and will not change.

Week 1

August 23:Orientation

August 25:What is discipline of history?

:Van de Mieroop, pp. 1-38

*Charpin, "The History of Ancient : an Overview," pp. 807-830 in


Week 2

Aug. 30:Geography and why study it?

:*Postgate, J.N. pp. 1-21 and 173-183 in Early :Society and

Economy at the Dawn of History, :Routledge, 1994.

Sept. 1:Languages and Invention of Writing, Religion in

:*Postgate, J.N., pp. 51-70

*Oppenheim, A.L. "The Care and Feeding of Gods," pp. 183-209 in Ancient

:Portrait of a Dead Civilization, :University Press, 1964.

Week 3

Sept. 6:NO CLASS, Labor Day

Sept. 8: Quiz:Geography of Mesopotamia, and early pottery cultures

Week 4

Sept. 13:Uruk and the temple economy

:*Nissen, H. "Ancient Before the Age of Empires", pp. 791-806 in


Sept. 15:Early Dynastic city-states, and Death

: +Sumerian King List

*Pollock, S., pp. 196-217 in Ancient , :University Press,


Week 5

Sept. 20:Sept. 17:Epic of Gilgamesh: what can it tell us about Mesopotamian society?

:+Epic of Gilgamesh, trans. A. George, Penguin, 2001, excerpts

Sept. 22:Akkadian Period

:*Franke, S. "Kings of :Sargon and Naram Sin," pp. 831-42 in CANE;

Van de Mieroop, pp. 59-76

*Postgate, 1994, pp. 35-41 on Sumerian and Akkadian

Week 6

Sept. 27:Gudea and III

:+Gudea temple building inscriptions, p. 268 in Pritchard, J.B., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, : University Press, 1955.

*"Klein, J., "Shulgi of :King of a Neo-Sumerian Empire", pp. 843-858 in


Sept. 29:Mari

: *Margueron, J."A Portrait in Art of a Mesopotamian City-State", pp. 885-900 in


*Postgate, 1994, pp. 137-154

Paper #1 Due:on differences and similarities between Akkadian/Sumerian cultural systems

Week 7

Oct. 4:Hammurabi of

:*Sasson, J. "King Hammurabi of ,", pp. 901-916 in CANE;

*Pearce, L., "The Scribes and Scholars of Ancient ," pp. 2265-78 in


Oct. 6: Canons and Laws, Hammurabi’s Code

:*Postgate, 1994, pp. 275-291

+Code of Hammurabi pp. 164-178 in Pritchard, 1955.

Week 8

Oct. 11:Kassites and Internationalism, Middle Assyrians

:*Sommerfeld, W. "The Kassites of Ancient ," pp. 917-930 in CANE

Van de Mieroop, pp. 39-59


Week 9

Oct. 18:Historical Narrative, Neo-Assyrians

: +Annals of Tiglath-pileser I from Pritchard, 1955.

Oct. 20:Neo-Assyrians continued

:*Grayson, A.K. "Assyrian Rule of Conquered Territory in Ancient Western

", pp. 959-968 in CANE

+Sennacherib inscriptions, pp. 287-88 in Pritchard, 1955;

+Old Testament

Week 10

Oct. 25:Neo-Babylonians

:+Babylonian Chronicle, pp. 305-6 in Pritchard, 1955;

*Beaulieu, P. "King Nabonidus and the Neo-Babylonian Empire," pp. 969-980 in


Oct. 27:Paper #2 Due:On writing and control of knowledge,

Library Session:Researching —meet in library, 1st floor

Week 11Economic History

Nov. 1:Discussion of Research Paper Topics

Nov. 3:Craftsmen and Merchants (Kanesh), Trade and markets

:Van de Mieroop, pp. 86-98, 107-137

*Veenhof, K."Kanesh:An Assyrian Colony in ", pp. 859-872 in CANE

Week 12Women and Gender

Nov. 8:How to study gender in ancient civilizations

:Bahrani, pp. 1-39

Research Paper topic Due:1-paragraph synopsis

Nov. 10:Nudity and the body:

:Bahrani, pp. 40-95

Week 13Women and Gender, continued

Nov. 15:Women's roles and "place"

:Bahrani, pp. 96-140

Nov. 17:Ishtar

: +Descent of Inanna from Pritchard, 1955.

Bahrani, pp. 140-160

Undergraduate Students:Research Paper Outline and 5 Sources Due

Graduate Students: Literature Review Due

Week 14

NO CLASSES, Thanksgiving Break

Week 15Religion and Myth

Nov. 29:Religion and Cult

:*Wiggerman, F. "Theologies, Priests and Worship in Ancient ," pp.

1857-1870 in CANE;

+Extispicy Texts from Starr, , Queries to the Sun God:Politics and Divination

in Sargonid Assyria, SAA IV, Press, 1990.

Dec. 1:Myths and Pantheons, Creation Epic

:+Enuma Elish, in Pritchard, 1955.

Week 16History of Science and Mathematics, Conclusions

Dec. 6:History of Science, mathematics

:*Powell, M. "Metrology and Mathematics in Ancient ," pp. 1941-58


Dec. 8:Can we write a "Long Durée" history for ? and review for final

:*Postgate, 1994, pp. 292-302

Paper #3:Research paper DUE

Week 17

Thurs, Dec. 15, FINAL EXAM


Paper Assignment #1:

Topic:Based on the articles and primary sources that you have read so far, describe the similarities and differences between the Sumerian and Akkadian cultural systems.Who were the Sumerians and what are the salient features of their civilization?Who were the Akkadians and what did they bring to the Sumerian system?Be sure to discuss the geographic, religious, political, and literary aspects of these two groups that gave rise to Mesopotamian society, and use specific evidence from readings (primary and secondary sources) to support your arguments.

Please pay attention to the following rules:

1.Papers must be 3-5 pages, typed, no more than 12-point font, no more than double-spaced and with no more than 1-inch margins on ALL sides.Staple pages together, do not put papers in plastic covers.

2. Cite your sources in Turabian style and include a Works Cited page.To find out about citation in Turabian style, you may go to the on the first floor of Peck Hall for a handout.

3. All papers are due in class on Friday, Sept. 26.Late papers will be marked down 10 points for each day that they are late.

Criteria for Assessment:

  1. Free from typos, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes
  2. Appropriate citation of reading materials
  3. Demonstration of understanding and critical assessment of reading materials
  4. Organized structure, clarity of argument
  5. Arguments supported with specific facts
  6. Coverage of all questions posed in assignment


Paper Assignment #2:


Topic: Discuss the confluence between power and knowledge (i.e. texts) in . Who controlled the production of knowledge (be sure to discuss both the practical and ideological aspects of this production) and for what purposes was knowledge produced? Give specific examples from Mesopotamian history that you learned about in course readings to support your responses.


Please pay attention to the following rules:

1. Papers must be 3-5 pages, typed, no more than 12-point font, no more than double-spaced and with no more than 1-inch margins on ALL sides. Staple pages together, do not put papers in plastic covers.

2. Cite your sources in Turabian style and include a Works Cited page. To find out about citation in Turabian style, you may go to the on the first floor of Peck Hall for a handout.

3. All papers are due in class on Monday Oct. 27. Late papers will be marked down 10 points for each weekday that they are late.

Criteria for Assessment:

  1. Free from typos, spelling errors, grammatical mistakes
  2. Appropriate citation of reading materials
  3. Demonstration of understanding and critical assessment of reading materials
  4. Organized structure, clarity of argument
  5. Arguments supported with specific facts
  6. Coverage of all questions posed in assignment

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