Modern water jar from Qena, Egypt

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V14.0216/SPRING 1997

Professor Rita P. Wright
Department of Anthropology
New York University

Egypt and Mesopotamia are the homeland of the world's first and most spectacular early states. Each represents a cultural solution to human life that has influenced the development of western thought and its history. Yet each is distinctive in its own way, having produced different religious systems, art styles, political and economic organization and historical trajectories. Study of these early states reveals not only the common thread in the human condition but also the astonishing variability in human behavior and culture. This course explores the prehistoric to early historic periods in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Egypt. Working with archaeological and textual sources, we will trace the unique and inportant transitions from a life as hunter gatherers to settling down in villages, and the development of cities and states.

The course is organized around a number of topics, some of which follow: Near Eastern and Egyptian Culture Today and Yesterday; Geography, Environment and Human Adaptation; Mesopotamian and Egyptian Writing Syste ms; Mesopotamian Cities and their Hinterlands; Mesopotamian Society, Ritual and World View; Egyptian Towns and their Hinterlands; Egyptian Society, Ritual and World View; Do Civilizations Collapse?; Who Owns the Past?