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River Valley Civilizations


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  • 1. Get your journals and return to your seats. Read the blurb below: The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the world’s oldest pieces of literature from Ancient Mesopotamia. It describes the life of a legendary king, Gilgamesh around 2700 BC. The main theme of the poem is death and the understanding that death comes to all people.
  • 2. Utnapishtim said to him, to Gilgamesh:… “A secret of the gods let me tell you. There is a plant. Its roots go deep Its [thorn] will prick you hand like a bramble If you get your hands on this plant, you’ll have eternal life” Gilgamesh, on hearing this…bound heavy stones to his feet They dragged him down into the abyss and he saw the plant. He seized the plant, though it cut his hand; He cut the heavy stones from his feet; The sea cast him up onto its shore. Gilgamesh said to Urshanabi the boatman: “Urshanabi, this is the plant…by which man can get life within… Its name is The-Old-Man-Will-Be-Made-Young. I too will eat it, and return to what I was in my youth.”
  • 3. Gilgamesh saw a pool of cool water. He went down into it and bathed in the water. A snake smelled the fragrance of the plant. It came up through the water and carried the plant away. As it turned it threw off its skin That day Gilgamesh sat down weeping. Over his face the tears flowed. He took the hand of Urshanabi the Boatman. “For whom, Urshanabi, do my arms toil? For whom has the blood of my heart dried up? I have not won any good for myself; It’s the snake who has won good fortune.”
  • 4. Now think about what you heard and answer the following questions in your journals 1. Why does Gilgamesh want the plant Utnapishtim tells him about? 2. Why does Gilgamesh weep at the end of the passage? 3. What does a snake do in nature that makes it a good choice as the animal who ate the plant? 4. What is it about the geography of the ancient world that might help you understand why The Epic of Gilgamesh is centered on death?
  • 5. “Land between two rivers”
  • 6.  Between Tigris and Euphrates Rivers  Flood regularly (but unpredictable)  Also known as the Fertile Crescent  rich soil  Sumer (Cradle of Civilization)
  • 7.  Cuneiform  Pictographic  Record keeping  The Epic of Gilgamesh— earliest written literature  Scribes important figures
  • 8. City-States: City with a central government
  • 9.  Polytheistic (many gods)  Control all parts of life & nature  Ziggurats—temples  Priests first rulers in society  Judaism develops
  • 10. Ruling family, high priests, leading gov officials Peasants, Farmers Slaves Lesser Priests, scribes, merchants, & artisans (carpenters, weavers, etc)
  • 11.  Sumerians:  Wheel  bronze (copper and tin)  60 minute hour  Hittites:  Iron work  Horse drawn chariots  Assyria  Fierce Conquests
  • 12.  Sargon  Unifies into empire  Assurbanipal  Assyrian, First libraries  Nebuchadnezzar  Babylonian, rebuilds city, Hanging gardens
  • 13.  First written laws  Criminal Law (Murder, Theft)  Civil Law (divorce, land grants)  Unequal across social classes
  • 14.  Indus River  Ganges River  Himalayan Mountains—natural barrier  Monsoons—seasonal winds, make the seasons predictable  Largest ancient civilization
  • 15.  Cannot translate  Found on seals used by traders
  • 16.  Can’t know for sure BUT based on archeology:  Polytheistic: mother goddess,  some animals seem to be sacred (buffalo & bull)  Group known as Aryans migrate into area  develop beginnings of Hinduism
  • 17.  Aryans: migrate to Indus valley, Caste System develops 1. Brahmins—priests 2. Kshatriyas—Warriors 3. Vaisyas—farmers, merchants, artisans 4. Sudras—little or no Aryan heritage
  • 18.  Well-planned cities (streets, blocks)  Complex plumbing, baths  Evidence of well-organized government  Main occupation: Farmers and Traders  Indus civilization declines mysteriously, replaced by the Aryans
  • 19.  Without translating writing, none are known by name  Of course we can make guesses
  • 20. China Warning: Chinese and English are not perfect translations, many words will be spelled differently (sometimes very) For Example: Zhou and Jo
  • 21. Geography • Huang River (Yellow River)— “river of sorrows” • Yangtze River • Isolated
  • 22. Writing • Oldest exams on Oracle Bones • Calligraphy—uses characters/symbols
  • 23. Major Cities • Xian • Zhengzhou
  • 24. Religion • Ancestor veneration (worship) – rituals of food sacrifices to please spirits – Pray to spirits to ask for help with the gods • Polytheistic & Spiritual •Gods did not listen to man, but would listen to spirits of important men, leads to…
  • 25. Social Class 1. Royal family and warriors 2. Artisans and merchants 3. Peasants, most farmers
  • 26. Important Facts • Mandate of Heaven—divine right to rule, if the kings displeased the gods, another king would take his place • Achievements – Silk-Making – Astronomy—accurate calendars – Bronze – Gunpowder (fireworks)
  • 27. Important Leaders• Early Dynasties: – Shang—Zhou—{Warring States Period, no royal family}—Qin—Han—Sui • Shi Huangdi—unifies China, legalistic, book burnings, distributed lands to peasants, unified money, built Great Wall • Wudi—improved roads and canals, trained scholars, increased economy
  • 28. Egypt
  • 29. Geography • Flows north – Easy transportation • Experiences annual floods – Good irrigation – Easy to control •What is the green? •Where do you think most city-states where?
  • 30. Writing • Hieroglyphics—usually for religious practices • Translated with Rosetta Stone
  • 31. Major Cities Where kings and queens were buried
  • 32. Religion • Polytheistic • Pharaoh considered a god—Theism (government and religion are linked) • Belief in afterlife, optimistic • Egyptian Creation Myth
  • 33. Social Class
  • 34. Important Facts • Women had more freedoms (own biz or property) • Developed 365 day calendar • Advanced medicine • Built pyramids (duh…) Looks pretty good for 3000 years old, IMO.
  • 35. Important Leaders Hatshepsut— first female pharaoh Tutankhamen— child king, tomb considered greatest archeological find Ramses the Great (II)—most powerful pharaoh in New Kingdom, built great monuments (to himself), 90+ children & lots of wives (some sisters or Akhenaten— tried to make religion monotheistic, was unpopular, married to Nefertiti Tut’s grandpop,