Teaching strategies for the western humanities

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A key feature in this Instructor’s Manual is the section in each chapter called Teaching Strategies and Suggestions. We are motivated to offer these teaching suggestions by two interrelated classroom ideals: First, we believe that university and college students should have a working knowledge of the basic vocabulary, major milestones, and general history of the Western arts and humanities; and, second, we believe that students should use that information to help them think critically—the goal of education at every level. These educational principles reinforce the message of our textbook, The Western Humanities, since it is based on these same ideals.

Presented with the challenge of offering advice to instructors who adopt our textbook, and ruminating on the knowledge we have gained through years of university teaching, we recommend the following five general teaching strategies and seven specific lecture suggestions. Although not an exhaustive list, these strategies and suggestions represent basic approaches to teaching and are flexible enough to be adaptable to many different settings. For this reason we have organized the Teaching Strategies and Suggestions sections around these basic approaches, suggesting their use in various combinations depending on each chapter’s demands. Instructors, of course, may develop their own teaching strategies and suggestions, since not all pedagogical methods will work in the same way for each person.


1. Standard Lecture. The Standard Lecture teaching strategy is the oldest and most frequently used teaching tool in the world. It involves a single instructor, with or without teaching aids, who gives a lecture that conveys a large quantity of information to note-taking students. When well done, the Standard Lecture method can be extremely effective; when done poorly, it is a deadening experience. We believe that the Standard Lecture strategy is best when done with the following teaching aids: a well-thought-out outline made available to students before the lecture (projected on a screen, written on a blackboard, or distributed in a handout); adequate time for students to ask questions or request clarification about the lecture; a summary at the lecture’s end to drive home the vital points; and the instructor’s vigor in varying voice level, using appropriate gestures, writing on the blackboard or using an overhead projector, and moving about the classroom.

We envision that the Standard Lecture strategy will be the one used most frequently by instructors who adopt The Western Humanities. It is ideal for topics that lend themselves to a direct approach—specifically historical issues, such as the rise of Rome or the causes of the Crusades. The Standard Lecture approach is also flexible enough to add new instructional ingredients, and our suggestions for the next two strategies are variations of this basic method.

2. Slide Lecture. A variation on the Standard Lecture approach, the Slide Lecture strategy is centered on the presentation of slides of art and architecture with running commentary by the instructor. This particular model is the preferred method for introducing the visual arts of a specific historical era, such as the Hellenic style of ancient Greece. Instructors will want eventually to amass their own art slide collections. In the meantime the slides in the auxiliary materials accompanying The Western Humanities provide the beginning of a collection, since slides of key artistic works are included for each chapter. With these slides, instructors can illustrate the leading characteristics of each artistic style, and when juxtaposed with slides from another period, can demonstrate differences between styles. For maximum educational benefit, instructors should provide students with slide lists, giving the name of each artist or architect and the full title and date of each work of art or building under review. The slide lists serve both as reminders of the art viewed and as writing areas for students to record lecture notes.

3. Music Lecture. Another variation on the Standard Lecture approach, the Music Lecture strategy is excellent for illustrating musical styles as well as significant monuments of Western music. A set of key CDs, with helpful notes, is provided to instructors in the auxiliary materials accompanying The Western Humanities. With these materials, instructors can play CDs in class and provide students with handouts that set forth the composer and title of each selection along with general instructions for listening.

4. Discussion. The Discussion strategy is just what its name implies, a class conducted by the discussion method. This strategy works best when the class is limited to twenty-five or fewer students so that there can be maximum interaction between the discussion leader and the students. If the class is too large, the discussion fails to engage most of the students, and they end up being bored or hostile. In those instances when the classroom size is favorable, we recommend that discussion questions be based on the Teaching Objectives section of the Instructor’s Manual. Even in larger classes, ten or fifteen minutes of discussion can provide variety and be illuminating to students. Particularly helpful in such settings is the use of open-ended questions that cause students to think for themselves. For example, when teaching Greek civilization, the instructor might ask, “Which is the more beautiful style of art: the Hellenic or the Hellenistic?” Because there is no “correct” answer, this question allows many students to express their opinions. While encouraging a democracy of opinions, a good discussion leader will ask students to back up their points of view with sound reasoning based on specific works of art.

5. Film. The Film strategy is a teaching technique in which the instructor presents a film on a certain topic. For the Film strategy to work best, films must be used as teaching aids and not simply be treated as ends in themselves. At a minimum, this means that the instructor should “frame” each film by giving it an introduction that explains what it is about and a conclusion that places its message into the context of the course being taught. The Film strategy is especially good for dealing with the arts and architecture and for presenting sweeping surveys of a historical period. Only high-quality and well-made films should be shown; otherwise, this technique is counterproductive of sound educational goals because it leads students to ridicule what they view and to judge a poorly made film to be a waste of learning time.


1. The Diffusion Model. If the classroom topic involves the interaction of two societies or cultures, then the Diffusion model is probably the best way to organize that part of the lecture. Such an organization involves an identification of the cultural ideas, values, and techniques that pass from one society to another and an elaboration of the ways in which the things borrowed are assimilated into the receiving culture. This is a highly valuable lecture-organizing technique for instructors to master, since nearly every chapter of The Western Humanities touches on cultural interaction in some way, particularly regarding the enduring influence of Greece and Rome on later phases of Western culture.

2. The Pattern of Change. The Pattern of Change organizing device is a convenient way to deal with the many different types of change that recur in Eastern culture, such as moving from relatively simple to more complex ideas, from an original to an imitative artistic style, from a pure to an eclectic artistic style, or from unadorned to richly ornamented architectural works. A good lecture topic that would lend itself to the Pattern of Change model is the shift in the Middle Ages from the Romanesque to the Gothic style, a shift that retained many ingredients of the plain Romanesque style while laying the foundation for a soaring Gothic style that went through several complex and elaborate phases.

3. The Spirit of the Age. “The Spirit of the Age” is a phrase borrowed from the thought of the German thinker G. F. W. Hegel, who believed that every historic period had a distinct spirit—zeitgeist—that was expressed unconsciously in its achievements, both cultural and material. Although controversial, Hegel’s theory is a useful way to help students understand the traits that distinguish one age from

another. Instructors interested in adopting this approach to their lectures may consult the introductory paragraphs and each chapter legacy of The Western Humanities, for these sections are often compatible with Hegel’s point of view.

4. Case Study. The Case Study method is an excellent tool for drawing lessons from history. In this approach, the instructor focuses on a well-defined historic incident or set of events that permit comparisons with later developments. For example, a lecture on the collapse of the Roman republic or the Roman Empire would provide the instructor with a Case Study that touches on contemporary issues; students could be asked to assess parallels between Rome and the United States in the areas of involvement in world affairs, the rise of popular spectacles, and the upsurge in urban violence.

5. Comparison/Contrast. The Comparison/Contrast model is a teaching tool that is part of many lecture models, such as the Diffusion or the Patterns of Change models, but it can also stand on its own. Highly flexible, the Comparison/Contrast method can be used in situations where there are strong similarities and differences, as in art (Impressionism and Post-Impressionism), in culture (fifth-century b.c. Athens and fifteenth-century Florence), and in politics (seventeenth-century England and France).

6. Historical Overview. The Historical Overview is a method of surveying a vast sweep of history, usually illustrated with a time line that can be projected on a screen. Instructors who adopt The Western Humanities have been provided with twenty-six time lines that list decisive dates of historical events along with significant cultural achievements. Though limited in its use, the Historical Overview can be quite effective at the beginning of a course or at any major point in the course when a new phase of history is introduced, such as in a survey course when the instructor moves from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.

7. Reflections/Connections. The Reflections/Connections approach is based on the notion that a civilization’s creative works are closely linked to its political, social, and economic institutions. This means that the arts and humanities are not produced in a vacuum, but rather mirror the dominant values of a society. This Reflections/Connections model can be used throughout the book. For example, this model can be used to treat the Late Middle Ages, when the rise of capitalism and its secular spirit was reflected in Chaucer’s descriptions of middle-class pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales.




Teaching Strategies and Suggestions

The instructor can approach the topic of prehistory and early culture through the Historical Overview model and use the Comparison/Contrast model to explain the differences between culture and civilization. An important point to emphasize is that human creativity is a basic human activity that predates the rise of civilization.

Using the Historical Overview, the instructor can easily survey Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations in separate lectures. Having explained the major phases of these earliest Western civilizations, the instructor can then shift to the Comparison/Contrast model and lay out their similarities and differences. The instructor can also use the Patterns of Change model to explain the evolution of each of these civilizations from its earliest beginning to its height of power. Another model the instructor can use is the Reflections/Connections model. For example, a lecture on the Sumerian civilization and The Epic of Gilgamesh would show how the two are connected and also demonstrate that the themes of the epic are common to most human concerns.

Lecture Outline

I. Prehistory and Early Cultures

A. Definitions of culture and civilization

B. The time frame

1. Origins of human life and culture

a) Old Stone Age and New Stone Age

(1) Artistic developments

(2) Other achievements

b) The Neolithic period

(1) Artistic developments

(2) Other achievements

2. Rise of civilizations

II. The Civilizations of the Tigris and Euphrates River Valley: Mesopotamia

A. The Sumerian, Akkadian, and Babylonian kingdoms

1. Historical overview of the three kingdoms

2. Economic, social, and political developments

B. The Cradle of Civilization

1. Writing

2. Religion

3. Literature

a) Epics, tales, and legends

b) The Epic of Gilgamesh

c) The Exaltation of Inanna

4. Law

a) The Code of Hammurabi

b) Judicial system

5. Art and architecture

a) Carvings

b) The ziggurat
III. The Civilization of the Nile River Valley: Egypt

A. Prehistory to 3000 B.C.

1. Characteristics

2. Upper and Lower Egypt

3. Neolithic developments

B. Continuity and change over three

thousand years, 3100–525 B.C.

1. Survey of Egypt’s dynasties

2. Common threads in politics,

economics, and society

C. A quest for eternal cultural values

1. Religion

a) The theocratic state

b) The pharaoh’s defining role

c) The abortive Amarna revolution

d) The promise of immortality

2. Writing and literature

a) Hieroglyphics

b) Literary genres of the Old

Kingdom, the First Intermediate

Period, and the Middle Kingdom

c) The rich heritage of the New Kingdom

(1) Hymn to Aten

(2) Love lyrics, model letters, wisdom literature, and fairy tales

3. Architecture

a) The pyramid

(1) The earliest version

(2) The true pyramid

b) The funerary temple

c) Menageries and gardens

4. Sculpture, painting, and minor arts

a) Purpose of art in Egyptian culture

b) Colossal sculpture: the Sphinx

c) Sculptures in the round

d) Portrait sculptures

e) The break in tradition: Amarna

f) The artistic canon

g) Tomb sculpture
IV. Heirs to the Mesopotamian and Egyptian empires, after 1000 B.C.

A. The Hittites

B. The Assyrians

C. The Medes and the Persians

1. Persian art

2. The religion of Zoroaster

V. The Legacy of Near Eastern Civilization
Non-Western Events

5000–3000 B.C.

In Africa, beginning of

Sahara, as a result of

overworking the soil and

overgrazing; in the

Sahara Desert, more than

30,000 rock engravings

and paintings, half of

which are in the region

known as Tassili; varied

styles, scale, and subject

matter, such as human

beings, alone and in

groups with other human

beings or animals, figures

of elephants, rhinoceroses,

hippopotamuses, buffalo,

camels, horses, sheep, and

domestic cattle along with

weapons carried by human

beings, such as axes,

throwing sticks, bows,

javelins, and swords; dating

of figures is controversial,

starting perhaps about

5500 B.C. and continuing

until about 100 B.C.; in

about 4000 B.C., pastoral

life with pottery, polished

stone axes, grindstones,

and arrowheads, as well

as domestication of cattle,

sheep, and goats

In Andean culture, Lithic

period, 10,000 to 3000 B.C.;

village culture;

domestication of maize,

potatoes, chilies, gourds,

beans, and cotton, and the

first works of art in

America, two gourds

decorated with masks;

domestication of llama and

alpaca; longest continuous

textile record in the world,

starting with fibers in

Guitarrero cave, 10,000 B.C.

In Australia, rock paintings

In southwest Asia, first use of

bronze hard enough to hold an

edge, 3600 B.C.

In Caribbean, settlement of

islands by colonists from

the Yucatán

In China, multicolored

ceramics, made in Russia,

reach China

In Japan, Jomon culture,

about 2500 B.C.–about 300

B.C.; handmade pottery

with rope pattern designs;

circular and rectangular

huts, with the floor in a pit

In Mesoamerica, thriving

village culture and

domestication of maize and

cotton; trade with

southwestern North America

In Native North America,

maritime Archaic Indian

settlements in northern

Labrador; use of harpoons,

large boats, and burial mounds

3000–2000 B.C.

In Afghanistan, large cities of

Mundigak and Shahr-i-

Sokhta on the Hilmand

River, about 2500 B.C.;

influence reached the

Arabian peninsula; less

complex than the Indus

River cultures

In Andean culture, Pre-

Ceramic period, 3000–1800

B.C.; at Huaca Prieta, on

Peru’s coast, fishnets,

textiles, and cotton scraps

with polychrome patterns

and zigzag edges;

monumental architecture

and sculpture, and jaguar,

snake, and bird imagery;

Kotosh, a ceremonial site

built of stone and earth,

including the Crossed

Hands temple, about 2450

B.C.; metallurgy begins

about 3000 B.C.

In China, the potter’s wheel

in about 3000 B.C.; silk

weaving by about 2700 B.C.;

meeting houses in

villages; Banshan (painted)

pottery around 2500 B.C.;

zenith of Lungshan (black)

pottery, 2500–2000 B.C.;

Lungshan villages, built on

hills and surrounded by

walls of rammed earth;

yang and yin philosophy

of nature is begun by the

legendary ruler Fu Hsi, in

about 2800 B.C.; the

principles of herbal medicine

and acupuncture,

originated by the

legendary ruler, Shen

Nung, in about 2700 B.C.;

Nei Ching, the most ancient

medical text, by the ruler

Huang Ti in 2595 B.C.;

civilization begins with the

Xia (about 2200–1766 B.C.);

tithe system with annual

distribution of fields; first

bamboo musical pipe;

equinoxes and solstices

determined; the making of

bronze, before 2000 B.C.;

architecture, moving

slowly from simple to

ore complex forms,

usually made of wood and

based on the pavilion

In China and India, start of

regular astronomical


In Europe, in Norway, rock

carvings depict skiing

In India, Indus River

Civilization, about 2600–

1900 B.C.; development of

urban grain-growing

culture on the Indus River;

Harappa and Mohenjo-

daro are two main cities;

cities are laid out on a grid,

with dwelling units made

uniform according to

social class of inhabitants,

built of baked bricks but

with ample use of wood;

caravan resting places at

street crossings, grain silos,

public baths, drainage

canals, and sewerage

systems; economy based

on agriculture, on the

growing of cotton and flax;

trade over a vast area;

proto-Dravidian script that

remains untranslated

In Turkemenistan, the large

cities of Namazzatepe and

other centers on the

Tedzent River, about 2500

B.C.; less complex than the

Indus River cultures

In Southeast Asia, the making

of bronze, by 2500 B.C.

2000–1500 B.C.

In Andean culture, Pre-

Ceramic period, 3000–1800

B.C.; Initial period, 1800–

800 B.C.; two basic

architectural styles emerge,

U-shaped pyramids on the

coast and sunken circular

courts in the highlands; the

U-shaped style at Huaca la

Florida, Rimac Valley,

about 2000 B.C.; the sunken

circular format at Moxeke;

Sechín Alto, the largest

ceremonial center in the

Americas, from about 1700

to 500 B.C.; the beginning

of state formation in South

America, 1700 B.C.

In China, Xia (about 2200–

1766 B.C.), Shang (about

1766–1122 B.C.), and Chou

(about 1122–771 B.C. in the

West and about 1122–481

B.C. in the East) dynasties;

the Shang is the first dynasty

for which archeological

evidence exists;

writing system,

practice of divination,

walled cities, bronze

technology, and use of

horse-drawn chariots; first

city, around 1900 B.C. at

Erlitou on the Yellow River;


pottery, bronze tools,

weapons, and vessels; in

North China, use of hangtu,

or rammed earth technique

for building; first of seven

periods for Chinese


In Europe, in England, the

building of Stonehenge

In India, Indus River

Civilization, about 2600–

1900 B.C.; ended by

ecological change and

migrations; Aryan

Migration, about 1750–1000

B.C.; migration into

northwest India of

nomadic tribes from

Iranian plateau; beginning

of Indo-European

language; four basic

elements known: earth,

air, fire, and water

In Mesoamerica, Formative

period, 2000–200 B.C.;

earliest village settlements

were at Las Charcas in

Guatemala and El

Arbolillo and Zacatenco in

Mexico, about 2000 B.C.;

domestication of chilies,

tomatoes, cacao, beans,

squashes, and tobacco;

pottery with geometric

designs; “pretty lady” type

figurines from the village

of Tlatilco, Mexico; rise of

Olmec culture, the “jaguar

people,” in about 1500

B.C.; the Olmecs,

originating along the

rivers of the tropical Gulf

Coast, are the “mother

culture” from which the

theocratic cultures of the

Classic period derived;

beginning of Mayan

culture, before 1500 B.C.

In Native North America,

cultivation of gourds,

sunflowers, and marsh elder;

first mound complex, Poverty

Point, Louisiana, after

1300 B.C.; red jasper beads;

from Maine to Labrador,

trade in burial goods,

especially ramah chert,

a translucent stone; in

Great Lakes region,


In Pacific Islands,

colonization by Lapita

people, about 1600 B.C.

1500–1000 B.C.

In Africa, Ethiopia becomes

an independent power; the

arrival of Libyan horsemen

disrupts pastoral life, as

represented in the Saharan

rock paintings and

engravings, 1200 B.C.;

horses and war chariots

allow Libyans to cross the

Sahara, as represented in

the art though the artists

themselves don’t appear to

be horse-owning

In Andean culture, use of

terraces dates from about

1200 B.C.

In China, Shang (about 1766–

1122 B.C.) and Chou (about

1122–771 B.C. in the West

and about 1122–481 B.C. in

the East) dynasties; under

the Chou dynasty, a

hierarchical political and

social system; power held

by aristocratic families as

lords of their domains;

Chinese “feudalism”

depended on ancestral

cults; Shang and Chou

dynasties create long-lasting

building and structural

prototypes; first Chinese

dictionary; silk fabrics;

elaborate bronze

sculptures; Shang capitals

successively at Erlitou,

Zhengzhou, and Anyang;

urban planning at Anyang,

including chessboard

pattern layout and royal

tombs; slavery and human

sacrifice practiced; cowrie

shells for currency; jade for

trade; Fu Hao’s Shaft

Tomb; ivory objects with

turquoise inlays; introduction

of soybeans from Manchuria,

about1200 B.C.

In India, Aryan Migration,

about 1750–1000 B.C.; the

beginning of the Upanishad

tradition, literary works

speculating about the

world system; the first oral

versions of the Rig Veda,

“songs of spiritual

knowledge,” composed in

Sanskrit and eventually

numbering ten books and

1,028 hymns; introduction

of ironworking, before 1000 B.C.

In Native North America,

in Lovelock Cave, Nevada,

duck decoys, dating to

1500 B.C.; in Great Lakes

region, trade with Gulf of


Learning Objectives

To learn:

1. The difference between culture and civilization

2. The great age of the earth and the relatively recent nature of human development

3. The distinction between prehistory and history

4. The stages of early human development

5. The earliest forms of artistic expression

6. How agriculture brought about the Neolithic period and the significance of this cultural period

7. How the discovery of metalworking led to the Bronze Age, which in turn produced the first civilizations in the West

8. The leading characteristics and major historical periods of the three civilizations that arose in Mesopotamia and of the Egyptian civilization that began in the Nile river valley

9. The interaction between geography and cultural development in Mesopotamia and the Nile valley

10. How Mesopotamia’s and Egypt’s cultural developments were each an outgrowth of specific political, economic, and social settings

11. Contrasts between Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations

12. The defining role played by religion in Mesopotamia’s and Egypt’s civilizations

13. Historic “firsts” achieved in Mesopotamia or Egypt or both that became legacies for later Western developments: writing, music, musical instruments, musical forms (such as hymns), astronomy, medicine, engineering principles rooted in mathematics, technological advances (i.e. pottery- and glass-making, the extraction and working of metals, woodworking, and textile weaving), a law code, religious ideas, mathematical and geometrical knowledge, the 365-day, 12-month calendar, town life, town planning, standard weights and measures, literary genres, the column with capitals, the pyramid, post-and-lintel construction, zoos and botanical gardens, sculpture in the round, portrait sculptures, relief sculptures, sculptural and painting techniques, and an aesthetic canon for artists

Suggestions for Films, VIDEOS, AND CD-ROMS

Ancient Egypt. Films for the Humanities, 47 min., color.

Ancient Egyptians—On CD-ROM. Cambridge Educational Productions. Films for the Humanities.

Before the Alphabet. Films for the Humanities, 26 min., color.

Dr. Leakey and the Dawn of Man. Films, Inc., 27 min., color.

Egypt: Journey to the Global Civilization. Films for the Humanities, 59 min., color.

Egypt—The Sands of Time. Films for the Humanities, 41 min., color.

Iraq: Cradle of Civilization. Films for the Humanities, 29 min., color.

Mesopotamia: I Have Conquered the River. Films for the Humanities, 59 min., color.

The Mysteries of the Great Period. Wolper Productions, 50 min., color.

The Mysterious Origins of Man. PBS.org, 3 hrs. on 3 videos, color.

Persia: The Sudden Empire. Time-Life, 30 min., color.

Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria: The Wolves. Films for the Humanities, 26 min., color.

The Western Tradition. Annenberg/CPB Collection, PBS.org, 13hrs. on 7 videos, color.
suggestions for further reading
Barzun, J. From Dawn to Decadence, 1500 to the Present: Five-Hundred Years of Western Cultural Life. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

Duby, G., and Perrot, M., general editors. A History of Women in the West. 5 vols. Vol. I: From Ancient Goddesses to Christian Saints, edited by P. S. Pantel, and translated by A. Goldhammer. Vol. II: Silences of the Middle Ages, edited by C. Klapisch-Zuber. Vol. III: Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes, edited by N. Z. Davis and A. Farge. Vol. IV: Emerging Feminism from Revolution to World War, edited by G. Fraisse and M. Perrot. Vol. V: Toward a Cultural Identity in the Twentieth Century, edited by F. Thebaud. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994. An Italian publication in origin, with two general editors from France, and volume editors from various countries; each volume is a series of essays by leading feminist scholars; the standard work for the history of women and gender.

Lerner, G. The Creation of Feminist Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993. Volume 2 of Lerner’s history of women; organized thematically on topics such as “self-authorization” and “authorization through creativity,” Lerner explores the various ways that recorded history has shaped the consciousness of Western women, from the Middle Ages to 1870.

Morehead, P. D. The New International Dictionary of Music. Harmondsworth, England: Meridian, a division of Penguin, 1992. Handy, authoritative information on a wide range of musical topics, including composers, musical instruments, and musical styles and terms.

Nuttgens, P. Simon and Schuster’s Pocket Guide to Architecture. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. A useful guide to styles of architecture, mainly in the West.

Pannekoek, A. A History of Astronomy. New York: Dover, 1989. First published in Dutch in 1951, this work is still especially good on the astronomy of the ancient world and of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century.

Rosenstiel, L. Schirmer History of Music. New York: Schirmer, 1982. The finest guide for those who can read music; comprehensive.

Salzberg, H. W. From Caveman to Chemist: Circumstances and Achievements. Washington, D.C.: American Chemical Society, 1991. A useful history of chemistry, which incidentally touches on technology, from the earliest times to the twentieth century.

Barber, E. W. Women’s Work. The First 20,000 Years. Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times. New York: Norton, 1994. An innovative work that reconstructs the history of a largely perishable commodity—cloth—and the women and societies that made it; covers prehistory to the Industrial Revolution.

Bilsborough, A. Human Evolution. London: Blackie Academic & Professional, 1992. A well-written introduction to the study of human development up to the beginning of civilization; a unique feature of this work is the focus on hominids with respect to contrasts between and within groupings.

Chauvet, J.-M., et al. Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave: The Oldest Known Paintings in the World. New York: Abrams, 1996. Striking photographs of the earliest known paintings, accompanied by an informative but not interpretive text.

Ehrenberg, M. Women in Prehistory. London: British Museum, 1989. An excellent study that summarizes the latest research on the earliest women.

Gamble, C. Timewalkers: The Prehistory of Global Colonization. Stroud, England: Alan Sutton, 1993. An innovative work of cultural archeology that deals with the often-overlooked question of the near-global distribution of the human race at the dawn of history.

Landau, M. Narratives of Human Evolution. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Drawing on literary theory but operating in the discipline of paleoanthropology, this controversial study proposes that modern theories of human evolution are akin to good folk tales or heroic myths.

Leakey, R. E. The Origin of Humankind. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Written by the son of one of the most famous families working today in anthropology, whose findings regarding the origins of humans have generated many debates.

Wenke, R. J. Patterns in Prehistory: Humankind’s First Three Million Years. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 4th edition. An in-depth survey, up-to-date about the archaeological debates. Focuses on the evolution of culture, agriculture, and early civilizations.

Black, J., and Green, A. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia. An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992. An invaluable handbook for things Mesopotamian; many helpful illustrations, provided by T. Rickards, and photographs.

Collon, D. Ancient Near Eastern Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. A survey of the art of pre-Islamic Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, and the Arabian peninsula; handsomely illustrated with works from the British Museum.

Kramer, S. N. History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man’s Recorded History. 3rd rev. ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. A collection of Sumerian texts, translated by the century’s greatest Sumerian scholar; first published in 1956.

Lerner, G. The Creation of Patriarchy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. A theoretical work that challenges the traditional history of the various cultures of the ancient Near East; while denying that matriarchy ever existed, Lerner maintains that women’s relatively independent status and role in early Mesopotamia was forever altered by the establishment of patriarchy, a collective act by men with enduring consequences for women.

Mieroop, M. van de. The Ancient Mesopotamian City. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997. Argues that the urban character of Mesopotamian civilization shaped the arts, economy, literature, religion, and social and political structures.

Reade, J. Mesopotamia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. A brief history of Mesopotamia to about 1500 B.C., told mainly with art and artifacts from the British Museum collection.

Saggs, H. W. F. Civilization Before Greece and Rome. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. A thoughtful overview of ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian civilizations.

Wiesehöfer, J. Ancient Persia: From 550 B.C. to 650 A.D. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001. Important new survey based on an original reading of written, archaeological, and numismatic primary documents.

Davis, W. The Canonical Tradition in Ancient Egyptian Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. A well-reasoned defense of the essential role played by the idea of an artistic canon in Egyptian art.

Grimal, N. A History of Ancient Egypt. Translated by I. Shaw. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. A comprehensive cultural history of ancient Egypt by a leading French Egyptologist; published in France in 1988.

Hornung, Eric. Akhenaten and the Religion of Light. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. Concise, readable study of this revolutionary religious movement.

James, T. G. H. Ancient Egypt: The Land and Its Legacy. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988. A popular history of Egypt focusing on social, literary, and artistic matters; profusely illustrated.

Robins, G. Women in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993. A careful study of the position of women in ancient Egypt, based on surviving texts, inscriptions, and representations on funerary and votive monuments.

Schafer, H. Principles of Egyptian Art. Edited and with an epilogue by E. Brunner-Traut; translated and edited with an introduction by J. Baines; foreword by E. H. Gombrich. Oxford: Humanities Press, 1986. A classic of Egyptology, this work sets forth the widely accepted thesis that Egyptian art is based on mental images held by the artists, rather than on the appearance of physical objects; thus, an unbridgeable gulf exists between the Egyptian and the Greek artistic method; the German edition dates from 1919.

Shaw, I., ed. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Comprehensive, well-illustrated overview by leaders in the field.

Smith, W. S. The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 1981. The most comprehensive guide to Egyptian art and architecture; many illustrations and drawings.

Stead, M. Egyptian Life. London: British Museum, 1989. A short survey of everyday life in ancient Egypt; richly illustrated with objects from the superb collection of the British Museum.

Key cultural terms
culture stele

civilization post-and-lintel construction

Paleolithic ziggurat

Neolithic hieroglyphs

pictogram theocracy

ideogram genre

phonogram hymn

cuneiform monotheism

polytheism pantheism

anthropomorphism canon

portico regalia

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