Image from Archaeology Illustrated - click to go to site!

Early Humans Unit: Sumerian Achievements - Reflections of Civilization

Assignments to hand in: Notes About Sumerian Achievements Graphic Organizer    Analysis Task (see below)    Writing Prompt (see below)

essential questions, shared learning target & introduction:

Paleolithic hut

Essential Question 2 - Why do people live the way they do?
Essential Question 3 - How and why do humans organize their societies the way they do?
Essential Question 4 - How does technology affect peoples' lives?
Essential Question 8 - Why do civilizations rise and decline?

Shared Learning Target:
What will I be able to do?:
You will describe the significance of various Sumerian achievements, analyze the six characteristics of a civilization as they relate to Sumer, and come to a conclusion as to whether the U.S. is a civilization today.
What idea, topic, or subject is important for you to learn and understand so that I can do this?: You will learn about many Sumerian achievements. You will also learn about the six characteristics of a civilization and how they relate to Sumer and the United States.
What I will do to show that you know this?: You will complete the Sumerian Achievements Graphic Organizer, answer the comprehension questions about the Six Characteristics of a Civilization, and write a brief essay on whether the U.S. is, in fact, a civilization or whether all of the characteristics are necessary.

Introduction:

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


(A brief intro video for some background)

Sumer was a region located on the southern Mesopotamian plains. It was settleed around 3,500 B.C.E. by Mesopotamians who were later known as Sumerians. Sumer extended over 10,000 square miles - an area about the size of the state of Maryland - and consisted of various powerful city-states, such as Lagash, Ur, and Uruk. The Sumerian environment had a number of disadvantages - hot summers, a lack of rainfall, and rivers that flooded unpredictably. Historians believe the Sumerians' struggles with this harsh environment inspired some of their greatest achievements. Many inventions, such as writing, the plow, and the sailboat, were adapted by other civilizations, and some are still in use today. For these reasons, some historians refer to Sumer as the "cradle of civilization."


Step 1: Notes About Sumerian Achievements -  Complete the handout Notes About Sumerian Achievements by looking at the pictures below and reading the corresponding information handouts. (Download the complete Achievement Information Handout here):


The Arch

Sumerian Arch A pointed arch made of stone. This arch was part of a house at Ur and dates to approximately 2160 B.C.E.

Information Handout


City-States/Kings

The Stele of Naram-Sin The Stele of Naram-Sin, a rounded stone slab depicting King Naram-Sin and his soldiers on the battlefield. It was found at Susa in Iran and dates to the second half of the third millennium B.C.E.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Victory Stele of Naram-Sin (Smarthistory)

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Cuneiform/Writing

Circular Cuneiform tablet A circular cuneiform tablet from Lagash in Iraq, dating to approximately 1980 B.C.E.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Written Language in Mesopotamia (Discovery Education)

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Devotional Statues

Devotional statue 2600 B.C.E. A devotional statue dating to 2600 B.C.E. of what scholars believe is a married couple. The gypsum statue was found buried beneath the floor of a shine at Nippur in Iraq and mesures 3.5 inches wide at the bottom. The couple originally had feet, and the figures have eyes made of shell and lapis lazuli set in bitumen, a natural cement-like substance.

Information Handout


Games

Sumerian game board A Sumerian game board and playing pieces made of shell, bone, lapis lazuli, and red limestone. They were found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur and date to the twenty-fifth century B.C.E. The game board measures about 10.5 inches long and 4.5 inches wide.

Information Handout


Irrigation

Irrigated field in Iraq An irrigated field on the banks of the Euphrates River in Iraq. The irrigation canal connects to the river, which can be seen in the background.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Mesopotamia - From Nomads to Farmers (On Irrigation)

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Mathematics

Mesopotamian clay tablet with geometry exercises Two fragments of an ancient Mesopotamian clay tablet containing geometry exercises and questions written in cuneiform.

Information Handout

New York Times Slideshow Explaining Sumerian Mathematics from Artifacts (Converted to PDF)
Article: "Sumerian Origins of Base 60 Mathematics"


Medicine

Mesopotamian skull with three holes in it An ancient Mesopotamian skull with three holes cut in it. Such holes are the result of a surgical procedure performed by ancient Sumerian doctors. This individual is believed to have survived the surgery, since the bone shows signs of healing.

Information Handout


Metalworking

Three gold cups from Ur Three gold cups from Ur, dating to approximately 2450 B.C.E. The cup on the right belonged to Queen Shubad and may once have containted the poison that killed her.

Information Handout


Music

Lyre found at Ur. A reconstruction of a lyre found at Ur. The original lyre was made of wood and decorated with gold and lapis lazuli, and it dates to approximately the first half of the third millenium B.C.E.

Information Handout

Music Track [Listen]


Organized Armies

Stele of Vultures Two groups of soldiers in formation behind their leaders. They are depicted on a fragment of The Stele of Vultures, a rounded stone slab found at Lagash in Iraq dating to the first half of the third millennium B.C.E.

Information Handout


Plow

Cylinder-seal impression of two Gods A cylinder-seal impression of two Gods, one with a left hand in the shape of a scorpion and the other plowing behind a dragon and a lion. The impression was made by a seal found at Tell Asmar in Iraq.

Information Handout


Sailboat

Rendition of Sumerian sailboat An artist's rendition of one type of Sumerian sailboat. The rope indicates where the sails would have hung on the wooden mast. The body of the boat is made of bundled reeds covered with leather.

Information Handout


Wheel

Copper statue of a Sumerian chariot A copper statue of a chariot being pulled by four donkeys. It depicts an early form of the wheel, which Sumerians made by pressing two pieces of wood together. The statue is 2.75 inches tall, dates to about 2700 B.C.E., and was found at Tell Agrab in Iraq.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Modern Marvels - Origin of the Wheel

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Written Laws

King Ur-Nammu statue and tablet A tablet and a copper statue of King Ur-Nammu, found at Nippur in Iraq, dating to approximately 2100 B.C.E.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Turning Points - Hammurabi's Code of Laws

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Ziggurat

Reconstruction of ziggurat at Ur A reconstruction of the ziggurat found at Ur. The original ziggurat was built by King Ur-Nammu in the twenty-first century B.C.E. and was made of mud bricks.

Information Handout

Video Clip: Mesopotamia - From Nomads to Farmers (on Ziggurats)

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player



Step 2: Analyzing the Evidence - Characteristics of a Civilization:

The Standard of Ur The Standard of Ur

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.

Helpful Notes & Graphics (by Mr. Howman):
How does a civilization begin?
What is a civilization? - Notes
What is a civilization - Flowchart?

Analysis of Sumerian Achievements Task (Word Version) (PDF Version)

Part A: 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."

Part B: Based on your interpretation of the multiple sources in this lesson, was Sumerian society hierarchical or egalitarian? Support your claim.


Step 3:  Writing Prompt - Answer the following two-part writing prompt in paragraph form on a lined piece of paper:

Writing Prompt:    
1. Is the U.S. a civilization according to the six characteristics explained in class? 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, which might include priests and temples.