The Ancient Near East was one of five
locations in the world where civilization first emerged about five thousand
years ago. (China, India, Mesoamerica and Egypt were the other areas.) Most of these
early civilizations are termed "riverine" because they were based on river locations, and in
the Near East,
early societies arose along the Tigris and
Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia. This particular region featured a succession of
kingdoms/empires that rose, developed and then fell over time, and the area is generally considered by scholars to
have lacked long-term socio-cultural stability. In
the long run, the Near East proved especially important to the development of Western
civilization because it was there that the basic religious forms
of the Western world evolved.
West has always had a rather
peculiar view of its Near Eastern origins. Most history texts begin
a first chapter devoted to the history of the Ancient Near East
and Egypt, return to the region in a chapter devoted to the emergence
of Islam in the seventh century and then, in a much later chapter, deal with
British imperialism (and the construction of the Suez Canal), maybe
adding a few words on the creation of the "mandate" system by the
of Nations to supervise imperial control after World War I. These
"standard" textbooks then tend to return
to the area in chapter 26 for a discussion of the post-1945
conflict. It is strange to credit the area as being the origin of
civilization, especially in regard to the Western religious experience, but
little attention to what actually happened in the region for long sweeps of
and, it is even stranger that many people today, especially in the
States and Europe, do not even view Islam, the dominant religion of the
East, as being part of the Western experience.
One of my former students has made available some photos of Babylon.
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
Western Asia and the Civilization of Mesopotamia
- Steven Kreis, Egyptian
- Egypt and Mesopotamia Compared, International History Project
- History of Egypt and then Egyptian Religion
- History of Mesopotamia
- Ancient History Encyclopedia: Mesopotamia
- The Land between the Rivers by Charles Kimball
- Sumerian Society was a basic outline of Sumerian culture, including the social structure, religion, political structure in simple, easy-to-read terms. Similarly, see The Sumerians.
- Ancient Nubians Made Antibiotic Beer by Jess McNally
- The History of Ancient Sumeria including its cities, kings and religions has a lot of information grouped by subject.
- Sumerian Clay Tablets includes clickable images of clay cuneiform tablets that you can enlarge for cloer viewing.
- How Were Early Civilizations Affected by Geographic Features
- The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project ("a comprehensive dictionary of the various dialects of Akkadian, the earliest known Semitic language")
- For extra credit please suggest to your instructor a
relevant website for this unit of the course.
Send the title of the site, the url and a
brief explanation why you find the information interesting and applicable to
the material being studied in this unit.