Honors | The Rise & Fall of Ancient Civilizations (COAS)
E104 | 26032 | Stacie King

COAS E104, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Civilizations
Stacie M. King
Spring 2005

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

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).