Lesson: The Emergence of Civilization


Introduction and Overview:

Three to five thousand years ago, many groups of people lived in the Mediterranean area of the world and created the first traditions that can be traced to western culture. These cultures and this part of the world have been called the "Cradle of Civilization." Does each group qualify to be a civilization? When do a group of people become a civilization? Who decides what elements constitute a civilization?

Let's examine some of the art and artifacts produced in the ancient Near East to analyze what these sources tell us about these early cultures and the emergence of civilization around the Mediterranean.

Activity 1

You can use careful observation to examine objects and learn about their cultures. Before you start to analyze ancient objects, you can begin with everyday objects in our world. We have developed an activity to introduce you to some tools and observation skills for "reading" an object. Your teacher may bring in some objects to examine in your class or use this online activity.

"The Articulate Object"

Activity 2

Now that you have gathered some ideas and questions to consider in analyzing museum objects, you can explore the ancient Near East through this activity. Your task is to create an exhibition about the emergence of civilization in the ancient Near East. Your exhibition will be made up of 8 sections or topics that correspond to the characteristics that are often associated with the development of civilization in western culture.

We have selected several objects from our Museums' collections for you to research and install in your exhibition. You will find more detailed instructions in the activity.

Select each of the topics below to create your exhibition.

Written Language Organized Government
Agricultural Surplus Organized Religion
Job Specialization Arts and Architecture
Technological Advancement Military Strength

After completing the activity, present your exhibition to your classmates.

  • Did your exhibition represent all of the elements of a civilization?
  • Are all of the elements of equal importance in evaluating the success of a civilization? Defend your position.
  • Which section of your exhibition would you have people visit first? In what order would you structure your exhibition? Why?
  • What additional artifacts or information would have been useful to you in creating your exhibition?

Emergence of Civilization Links:
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© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
For more information please contact odyssey@emory.edu.
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