COAS-E 104 3132 The Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilizations (King) (ANTH)
(S & H) (3 cr.)

About 10,000 years ago, human societies in several areas of the world and on separate continents began to undergo a series of major transformations. In each case, small groups of hunters and gatherers settled into the world’s first farming villages. From these villages arose bigger towns, and eventually large and complex urban civilizations. How and why did these changes take place? What can the similarities and differences in each case tell us about the process of culture change? What do cycles of rise, expansion, and collapse say about the inevitability or likelihood of such changes occurring in human societies? How do we define civilization and the state? What do we learn and what do we miss by focusing on large-scale cultural transformations? We will address these questions through an introductory survey of ancient civilizations in five regions: the Near East, Egypt, and South Asia in the Old World, and Mesoamerica and South America in the New World. We will focus on the Sumerian, Egyptian, Indus, Maya, Aztec, and Inca civilizations. Lectures, readings, and discussions describe and compare these civilizations, and consider the ways in which the environment, technology, trade, warfare, religious beliefs, and other phenomena shaped their growth and decline.

This course will introduce students to the ways in which major issues in archaeology are investigated and debated. Students will be encouraged to consider multiple viewpoints and controversies in order to arrive at their own conclusions. By examining competing points of view, students will learn about the challenges of creating arguments based on archaeological data and will learn how to differentiate between fact and inference. In written assignments, quizzes, and discussion sections, students will be asked to develop their own interpretations and present arguments and data to support them.

There will be two lectures and one discussion section per week. Course grades will be determined by attendance, participation, a combination of writing assignments and quizzes, and two exams (a mid- term and a final).