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Big Era Three: Landscape Unit 3.3

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River Valleys and the Development of Complex Societies in Afroeurasia:
4000 - 1500 BCE

Why This Unit?

Our current way of life is rooted in the complex societies, traditionally called civilizations, that originated in Afroeurasia between about 4000 and 1500 BCE. Many of the integral features of our own world developed in these societies during this period. We have inherited from the builders of those societies many fundamental ideas and inventions, including urban living, the state, social class hierarchies, writing, institutionalized religion, mathematics, astronomy, and wheeled transport.

This unit focuses on the earliest civilizations that arose in the valleys of the Tigris-Euphrates River (Mesopotamia, today Iraq), the Nile River (Egypt), and the Indus River (today Pakistan and northwestern India) during the fourth and third millennia BCE. The unit also considers more briefly the early civilization of the Yellow River valley in China, which emerged later than the other three. This unit alerts students to the characteristics these complex societies had in common, to some of the differences among them, and to major changes they underwent down to about 1500 BCE.

Unit Objectives

Upon completing this unit, students will be able to:

1. Describe major characteristics of the complex societies (civilizations) that emerged in Afroeurasia during this period.

2. Compare the life ways of the earliest city-dwellers during the period of about 3500-2500 BCE with those of neolithic farmers.

3. Describe the changes that occurred in early complex societies in human relationships to the environment, to other humans, and to ideas.

4. Assess the advantages and disadvantages of life in complex societies compared to earlier Neolithic societies.

5. Analyze primary source documents and assess their reliability as historical evidence..

Time and Materials

Time:
This teaching unit is versatile. Both lessons can stand on their own, each taking one or two 45 minute class periods. Time taken will vary, depending on how much of the lesson is used.

Materials:

Table of Contents

Why This Unit?

2

Unit Objectives

2

Time and Materials

2

Author

2

The Historical Context

3

This Unit in the Big Era Timeline

4

Introductory Activities

5

Lesson One: What Does it Take to Be a "Civilization"?

6

Lesson Two: What Can We Tell from What They Said Themselves?

13

This Unit and the Three Essential Questions

24

This Unit and the Seven Key Themes

24

This Unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking

24

Resources

25

Correlations to National and State Standards and to Textbooks

27

Conceptual Link to Other Teaching Units

28

Complete Teaching Unit in PDF Format

 

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