unit 1 – our beginnings (-550bce)

this section covers everything from prehistory (planetary and human) until the rise of the achaemenid (first persian) empire.

  1. why is it unlikely that life began simultaneously in different places? trace a likely path from basic chemical and biochemical processes to complex life, outlining specific significant points and historical periods.
  2. why is agriculture generally accepted as a precursor to large-scale settled society? give an example of an exception to this rule, explaining its circumstances, and compare it with a more typical society shifting from nomadic life to settlement with the development of farming.
  3. trace the history of domestic use of horses in a specific region and its impact on history.
  4. what is the historical trajectory resulting in urbanization? explain this with specific examples and discuss its impacts on the surrounding area (for example in early mesoamerica, mesopotamia or egypt).
  5. take an early writing system (egypt, china, mesopotamia, mesoamerica) and discuss its development and the impact in both directions between fully-developed writing and surrounding culture, collective identity and relations with neighboring groups.
  6. what do deathcare rituals tell us about a culture? take any civilization during the bronze or iron ages and discuss its death rituals and their impact on society in general.
  7. what was the impact of chariot warfare? give specific examples and discuss its historical development in detail.
  8. discuss specific examples of bidirectional cultural entanglement between nubia and egypt during the napatan period and the twenty-fifth dynasty.
  9. what was the impact of a single leader during the bronze or iron ages? (examples include but are certainly not limited to thutmose iii, esarhaddon, hamilcar i, cyrus ii, sargon, shalmaneser iii and assurbanipal.) what was their contribution to history outside the lands they controlled and what is their legacy? how much of this is hype?
  10. why was fire instrumental in the development of modern human society and culture?
  11. select a pre-iron-age civilization and discuss the impact of local weather conditions on its development in terms of location, agricultural development, warfare and culture.
  12. discuss the different path taken by chinese and mesopotamian languages? why did one lead to phonetic alphabets while the other remained symbolic?
  13. discuss the shift from homo erectus to homo sapiens using specific location, culture and technology markers.
  14. what does jiahu culture tell us about prehistoric life? how can we draw these conclusions? what is the impact of this knowledge on our general understanding of other pre-literate cultures?
  15. what was the impact of specific writing technology (papyrus, parchment, clay, paper, etc) on the development of a society’s culture?
  16. discuss the extinction of a specific species and its impact on early society (for example the mammoth in europe or horse in the americas).
  17. discuss the significance of oracle bones in the development of written language and plot the trajectory from its inception to modern day.
  18. what led to the fall of the shang dynasty and rise of the zhou?
  19. what was the significance of the composition of the rigveda to the development of society?
  20. why was the code of hammurabi a landmark historic event? what was its impact on other societies and the position of leaders in the centuries that followed? is this impact still visible today?
  21. trace the development of an early writing system (chinese, egyptian, mesopotamian, mesoamerican) and plot its impact on the general history of language.
  22. select an early culture (harappan, maya, minoan, longshan, mycenaean, olmec, etc) and discuss its rise, peak and fall using specific historic events and markers and how its timeline reflects its surrounding area.
  23. what do the life and death of specific egyptian leaders tell us about society at the time (for example, tutankhamun’s early death, hatshepsut ruling as a male leader, the leadership style of khufu or the conquests of ramses ii or thutmose iii)?
  24. what does the independent development of writing in mesoamerica tell us about the history of written language? give specific examples.
  25. what was the impact of the development of alphabetic writing on literacy?
  26. discuss the rise of confucian thought in china and its impact on other cultures.
  27. * compare the historic impact of the buddha with the narrative of his life.
  28. discuss the significance of rome during any specific period.
  29. what is the importance of the spring and autumn period? what is its impact on later history including today?
  30. plot the trajectory of assyrian conquests and their impact on history.
  31. compare the reality of female leadership in nubia and egypt using specific examples (shepenupet ii, hatshepsut, etc).
  32. discuss the historical significance of the epic of gilgamesh.
  33. what is the lasting importance of sumer?
  34. what is the historical reality of the story of the jewish exodus? how does this compare with popular culture views of it through history to today?
  35. compare the spread and adoption of a language from the ancient world with the adoption of english as dominant in the west today.
  36. who were the akkadians? what is their significance to the development and adoption of written language?
  37. discuss the relationship between early settled society and the development of decorative pottery using specific examples.
  38. compare the historical reality of the first jewish temple with its biblical stories.
  39. compare leadership styles in ancient china with those in another early civilization (egypt, mesopotamia, nubia, mesoamerica, india).
  40. * compare the reality of gender equality in the ancient world with today in a specific geographic area.
  41. what is the significance of the rise of agriculture to the development of cities and/or artistic culture in early civilizations?
  42. discuss the significance of the book of the dead to the development of culture within egypt and elsewhere in the region.
  43. discuss the historical and cultural significance of the upanishads.
  44. explore the timeline and lasting impact of the vedic period.
  45. what was the impact of the lack of domesticated animals in mesoamerica on agriculture, warfare or daily life?

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