Kids Cafe Lecture: Ancient Near Eastern History, Pt 1

This was one of my favorite that I have done because I have been in love with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) history and art since I was an undergraduate in college and took a class on it. I’m currently taking a free online class about it. It is always fun to share something new with the kids and this is a great example. I did this over the summer because I knew the audience would be bigger. Because ANE History covers such a huge time period, about 3000 years, I decided to break it into two sections and talk about five civilizations in total (there were many more but hard to squeeze all that into a 20 minute lecture). The first one was on Sumerians and Babylonians. I had originally planned to get the kids to build Lego ziggurats but no one was really interested, so I let them create what they wanted and I built my own version of a ziggurat.

KC Ancient Near Eastern Art History, Pt 1 – June 12

Mesopotamia Map

  • Mesopotamia
    • From the Greek, meaning “two rivers”, which referred to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; also called the Fertile Crescent
    • Contains modern day Iraq and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey
    • They may have invented the wheel and later used it to invent the chariot and to make pottery, domesticate animals, irrigation etc
    • Using their advanced math, the Mesopotamian astronomers were able to follow the movements of the stars, planets, and the Moon. By studying the phases of the Moon, the Mesopotamians created the first calendar. It had 12 lunar months and was the predecessor for both the Jewish and Greek calendars.
    • The Mesopotamians may have invented the simple machine called the Archimedes Screw. This would have helped to raise water to the heights needed for the plants in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • Sumerians (c. 5000 – 1750 BCE)
    • 1st civilization c. 3300 BCE – “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry and government have been reached” – dictionary.com
    • They had the 1st complex cities, they had central government and organized religion, they developed advanced technologies such as the wheel, sail, and plow; they had a surplus of food and traded with other empires
    • Sumerian Map
  • Ziggurats
    • They built temples, to their 3,000 gods and goddesses, called ziggurats
    • They shaped it like a mountain, almost like a step-pyramid, because they believe their gods lived at the top of mountains
    • The largest ziggurat was in the city of Ur, c. 2100 BCE
    • Today Ur-Nammu Ziggurat
    • Artist Rendering of what it might have looked like - Ur-Nammu Ziggurat in Sumeria
  • Written Language
    • Oldest written language in cuneiform on clay tablets or cylinders– 3600 BCE
      • Cuneiform translates into “wedge-shaped”; they were pictures or pictograms meant to represent the real thing
      • Writing was developed in Egypt, the Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica afterwards
        • 2150-1400 BCE – Sumerian Epic poem Gilgamesh written on clay tablets
        • Cuneiform on clay tablet
        • Hero_lion_Dur-Sharrukin_Louvre_AO19862
  • Sumerian Art
    • Sumerian Votive Art – small sculptures used in religious ceremonies, found in the Sumerian city of Eshunna
    • Votive Statuettes from the Square Temple, Eshunna c. 2700-2600 BCE
    • statuettes-of-two-worshipers
  • The Standard of Ur
    • Possibly decorations for a music box – c. 2600 BCE
    • Peace Side
    • The Stardard of Ur in Peace
    • War Side
    • The Standard of Ur - War side
    • Made out of wood, lapis lazuli, red limestone and shell
  • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, c. 2600 BCE
    • Music was very important to Sumerians, and this one was buried with its musician
    • This one features a bearded bull, created with lapis lazuli and gold leaf and inlaid Gilgamesh-like figures
    • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Close-up Bull-headed lyre
  • Old/1st Babylonian (1795 – 1595 BCE)
    • Things Babylonians are most famous for:
      • They made several advances in medicine. They used logic and recorded medical history to be able to diagnose and treat illnesses with various creams and pills.
      • They had one of the earliest written down code of law – Hammurabi, King of Babylon, c 1754 BCE
      • Basalt Stele with Hammurabi Code c. 1780 BCE
      • Up Close Stele
  • Ne0-Babylonian (612 – 529 BCE)
    • King Nebuchadnezzar II, the one mentioned in the Bible, destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon
    • The city of Babylon, according to the historian Herodotus, “Its outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high.”
    • Plan of the City of Babylon
  • Ishtar Gate
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