All Winter 2021 courses will take place on Zoom. Readings will be available online and by in-person retrieval.
"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots."
The Bronze Age (ca. 3500-1000 BC) is that formative period when the first urban civilizations flourished. It spans half the time of recorded history. This course examines the "Dawn of Civilization." Emphasis will be on Mesopotamia, but the course also includes pharaonic Egypt, the Hittites, early Hebrews, Minoans, Mycenaean Greeks, and early Indus civilization. We will encounter legendary figures such as Gilgamesh and Hammurabi; Ramses II and Akhenaton; Moses and Solomon; and the kings Minos, Agamemnon, and Odysseus.
What forces came together to cause cities to arise from our prehistoric past? What distinct and enduring cultural styles emerged in the art, architecture, and literature of these civilizations? What were each civilization’s creation myths, beliefs, and world views? Where, in these disparate civilizations, can we locate the origins of writing, accounting, law, medicine, math, and astronomy? What can we learn from the emergence of political hierarchies and different types of religions? How did early economies develop inter-regional trade and new technologies; and what was their environmental impact? Why did initially dynamic civilizations often stagnate for centuries, even millennia? What insights can we glean about today’s civilizations from the achievements and vulnerabilities of Bronze Age civilizations? Readings will include both ancient texts and contemporary studies.