Step 1: Notes About Sumerian Achievements - Complete the handout Sumerian Achievements Notes Graphic Organizer [PDF Version] by clicking on each achievement. Look at the pictures and read the corresponding information for each one. (Download the complete Achievement Summaries here):
Step 2: [Performance Task] Characteristics of a Civilization - Analyzing the Evidence
The Standard of Ur (click image for larger version)
The Standard of Ur consists of four panels inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli. The two larger panels, shown here, depict scenes of war and peace. The Standard of Ur consists of four 4,500-year-old decorated panels that archeologists found buried in royal graves located in the Sumerian city-state of Ur in modern-day Iraq. The two main panels are 18.5 inches wide and 8 inches long and are covered with shell and lapis lazuli decorations. The British archeologist Sir Edward Leonard Wooley excavated the Standard in the 1920's. He believed that a man known as the king's standard-bearer carried the Standard's two panels in royal processions. Other archealologists believe that the Standard's panels were part of a sound box on a harp. The Standard continues to attract world-wide attention as one of the richest clues to Sumerian civilization in the third millennium B.C.E.
The decorations on The Standard of Ur illustrate the six characteristics of civilization featured in this activity: government, stable food supply, social levels, specialization of labor, religion, and a culture that includes the arts and sciences. For example, the first side of the Standard, which illustrates war, shows a king being presented with prisoners captured by the king's army. The king's large size and elevated position represents his high social level and leadership in government. The large size of the king also represents the Sumerian's belief that their kings were appointed by the Gods. The soldiers driving chariots and marching reveal that Sumerian cities had strong govewrnments that could defend themselves. The second side of the Standard illustrates peace. It shows farmers bringing the king gifts of animals and crops, both of which are proof of the city's stable food supply. A royal victory banquet is also shown, with a singer and a harpist providing entertainment. These performers reflect the presence of the arts in Sumerian culture. Items connected to various specialized occupations are shown on both sides of the Standard. For example, spears represent professional soldiers and golden cups represent artisans. The Standard of Ur is a magnificent record of Sumerian civilization and achievements.
Video Clip: The Standard of Ur (Smarthistory)
Video: How Civilization Began (Free School)
Directions: Based on your interpretation of the multiple sources in this lesson, support the following claims with evidence.
Claim #1: "Sumerians developed and maintained a system of government."
Claim #2: "Sumerians developed an agricultural system that provided a stable food supply."
Claim #3: "Sumerians practiced a system of specialized labor."
Claim #4: "The Sumerians were a highly developed culture."
Step 3: Writing Prompt - Answer the following two-part writing prompt using evidence from the lesson to back up your responses.
1. Is the U.S. a civilization according to the Six Characteristics of Civilization? Provide examples for each characteristic.
2. Does a civilization, in your opinion, need to have all of the characteristics mentioned? Why or why not?
The Six Characteristics of a Civilizations:
1. A system of government that directs and controls some actions of the members of society.
2. A regular food supply that is not likely to suddenly change.
3. Specialization of labor, in which members of the society perform different jobs.
4. Different social levels, in which some members of the society are given higher status than others.
5. A highly developed culture including art, architecture, music, literature, science, writing and other complex technologies..
6. A religious system or shared values, which might include priests and temples.