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Education

Mesopotamia in the Classroom

Cuneiform tablet made by a sixth grader in my class.
Cuneiform tablet made by a sixth grader in my class.

Sixth graders typically have some background knowledge of Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Maya when we begin studying those civilizations. Right now, we are near the end of the Mesopotamia unit, about which they typically know little coming in. It has been nice to spend three weeks with every day being a brand new topic for my students. I introduced the concept of a civilization and talked about the seven characteristics according to our textbook–social structure, government, stable food supply, religion, the arts, technology, and writing – before we delved into a project that combined these characteristics: making cuneiform tablets.

The most challenging concept for sixth graders to wrap their minds around is the importance of farming, many aspects of which were kept track of on cuneiform tablets. Coming from an urban environment, where most food comes from a store, the stages of food production prior to store arrival are lost and rarely contemplated. We ran a couple scenarios showing the extreme difficulty of hunter/gatherer tribes, and they truly appreciated the hardships and daily struggle for survival of prehistoric peoples. The archaeological discoveries at Jarmo indicating the early stages of a farming culture? No big deal.  If there was one takeaway I hope they grasp from this unit, it would be the importance of farming; but even on year five of teaching, I can’t quite connect the dots for them.

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Education Photos

Archaeological Visit to the Ancient Mound Bakr Awa

I was chatting with my friend Mr. Hashim Hama Abdullah, Director of the Sulaimaniya Museum, about archaeological excavations in Iraqi Kurdistan. By chance, he mentioned the name of the ancient site of Bakr Awa. “There is a German archaeological team there, and they have been excavating the site for a few years,” Hashim said. “How about going there and seeing them while they are working?” I replied. “ This Friday we will go,” Hashim suggested. Bingo, let’s go!

Bakr Awa is a mound southeast of the modern city of Sulaimaniya, near the city of Halabja (which was bombarded by a chemical attack by Saddam’s regime in 1988 CE), within the Sharazor plain, Iraqi Kurdistan. A German archaeological team headed by Professor Peter Miglus (of the University of Heidelberg) has been excavating the site since 2010 in cooperation with the Sulaimaniya Antiquities Directorate and the Sulaimaniya Museum. The site underwent limited excavations by Ephraim Speiser in 1927 CE. During the years 1960-1961 CE, Iraqi archaeologists (of the Directorate General of Antiquities in Baghdad, Iraq) did extensive excavations and field studies on the site. Numerous artifacts, from the Islamic period back to the late Bronze Age, have been recovered within different ancient layers/levels.

General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands for about 40 meters high in the middle of a proximately 600 x 800 meters lower city.
General overview of Bakr Awa. The hill (mound or Tell) is the largest one within the whole southern part of Sharazor Plain. The hill’s citadel stands about 40 meters high in the middle of approximately 600 x 800 meters lower city. Photo © Osama S. M. Amin.
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Education

Eureka! Teaching Ancient History

My name is Nathan Olsen and I am a sixth grade teacher in Madison, Wisconsin. A good portion of my day is spent teaching ancient civilizations to eleven and twelve year olds. We start the school year with Early Hominids, and finish with the European Middle Ages. Millions of years of history condensed into nine months? I call it a buffet of history. We never go in-depth on any one topic; we go in-depth on the skills required to be a historian.

Teaching has come a long way since the time of such classrooms. How are you making your class more engaging? Photo by Matthew Paulson / Flickr.
Teaching has come a long way since these types of classrooms. How are you making your class more engaging? Photo by Matthew Paulson / Flickr.
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Education

Hilda of Whitby – A Ray of Light in the “Dark Ages”

St_Aidan_visits_St_HildaIn this special guest post, Ms. Susan Abernethy of The Freelance History Writer introduces Ancient History et cetera readers to the compelling life and achievements of St. Hilda of Whitby. Renown for her piety and learning, Hilda is one of the most appealing and yet elusive figures from the Early Middle Ages (or Late Antiquity). Thanks to her vigorous activities, Hilda’s religious and political influence ensured that northern England remained Christian, while many, including The Venerable Bede, attested to her reputation for intellectual brilliance. In 2014, we celebrate the 1400th anniversary of her birth.

Whenever I hear the term the “Dark Ages” I cringe a little bit. This term has fallen out of use, but you still hear it occasionally. The more I’ve studied medieval history, the more I see this era of history wasn’t “dark” at all. There are some “rays of light” that appear to us, even with the non-existent to scant documentation we have. One of them is St. Hilda of Whitby (c. 614-680 CE).

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Education

Paint It Black? Understanding Black Figure Pottery

Welcome to our third post on AHEtc! This week we welcome Ancient History Encyclopedia Editor Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt. Karen is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger who loves to tap into her inner history nerd at AHE.  She holds a BA in English, an MA in the History of Art (focusing on Medieval and Islamic Art), and her current obsession is the art and architectural history of Turkey, particularly Istanbul. In the following blog post, she traces the path that she followed to finally really understand how black figure pottery was made by the ancient Greeks. Enjoy!

So how is black figure pottery created, anyway?