Course Description and Goals
Cairo, Egypt with the pyramids at Giza visible on the horizon at center.
In this course we will study two "dead" civilizations-ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia--but ones well-known to us from the buildings, cities, objects and writing they have left behind. These two unique cultures built magnificent pyramids, produced works of art and wrote poetry that many students may know from films, television, magazines, newspapers or courses taken before college. The course has three principal aims:
2. A major emphasis will be on the unique histories of the two civilizations, although they developed almost simultaneously. The Mesopotamians (present-day Iraq) "invented" the idea of a city and built the city, Uruk, five thousand years ago; it was a foc al point of markets, trade and religious activities. In contrast, the Egyptians did not live in cities, although large numbers of crafts people and religious experts lived in large towns that functioned primarily for the production of burial goods and pyr amid complexes. The historically contingent nature of these civilizations raises important questions that we will examine throughout the semester. We also will examine the legacy they have left in our own western cultural traditions.
3. Near the end of the course, we will discuss the importance of prehistoric monuments to national heritage and ask the questions: Who needs the past? How is knowledge of the past structured? Do we have a responsibility to preserve it?
By the end of the semester, I expect students to have a deep appreciation for the accomplishments of people in the past and some sense of their own place in the larger scheme of world history.
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