The Middle East: Ancient Times and Today


The ancient Near East is alive and well in the Middle East today.  The stories we see and read about in the news today have their genesis in events millennia ago that often are not well understood or have been forgotten.  Spend a morning, an afternoon, or a day experiencing the ancient world of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Palestine, and Syria.

10:00   Egypt: Land of Ma’at, Times of Chaos

Egypt is renowned as “the gift of the river.”  In ancient times, its ecological setting contributed to a certitude about the daily, seasonal, and annual life that was missing in other areas.  The culture that arose in that specific context was uniquely adapted to that world.  In this session we will examine the Egyptian cultural construct in its ideal state and how the Egyptians responded when everything did not go according to plan.

11:30   Mesopotamia: Kings of Unity, Eras of Change

Mesopotamia was a land where kings constantly were challenged to bring order to chaos.  The art, stories, and political achievements of the kings whom we remember today were exemplars in their ability to create the appearance that they were kings of the universe.  These expressions of unity transcended ethnicity and time as only the universe they were aware changed over the centuries.  In this session we will examine the Mesopotamian cultural construct in its ideal state in the time of the Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites, Kassites and Assyrians.

Participants will examine the documents and artifacts of ancient civilizations and employ the skills of historical analysis and interpretation in probing their meaning and importance.  They will learn the timeline, calendar, and cultural characteristics of the civilizations.  Teachers should bring to the class the textbook(s) they use in teaching ancient civilizations. Classroom activities will be included.

2:00     Israel and Palestine: An Ancient Story

The story of Israel and Palestine begins not in 1948 or even in the 20th century but millennia ago. What do we know of the origin of that relationship between Israel and Palestine?  How can the archaeological discoveries of the past 150 years help us to understand what happened and to understand how the past is used today in the current conflict?  In this session we shall examine primary source materials from ancient times and the present to define the very words that have become so much a part of the international arena today.

3:30     Israel, Damascus, and Hamath

The story of Israel and Syria begins in the time before the land was called Syria by the Greeks.  Previously it was known as Aram after the Aramaean people who lived there.  Their relationship with Israel initially was at the individual city-state level, then collectively when they allied in the coalition of the willing, and finally as states who were both rivals and allies.  In this session we shall examine the primary source materials from ancient times to understand the shifting relationships among the people of Israel, Damascus, and Hamath.

At a time when these places are current events and war is always possible, what do you teach now?  What will you teach differently if anything?  Share your lessons and classroom experiences with others who also struggle to make sense of this rapidly changing arena which could explode at any moment.

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