The Dangerous and Clever Romans

 Rome

Handout: Word Document | PDF Version

Dear 7X,

It is lovely to be back in your company and to observe your insight, industry and courtesy at close hand. Whatever possessed me to leave you for five whole weeks?

Today we continue our exploration of the wily, brutal and inventive ancient Romans. I suppose we could use those adjectives for the whole human race to some degree, but the history of Rome, more than most, sometimes strikes me as a kind of violent soap opera with several crime stories as subplots. The story is captivating and horrifying at the same time. Perhaps you can identify some modern equivalents? 

We begin our study, after that outlandish and sensational introduction based on the Ben Hur chariot race, with a more serious exploration of the vocabulary you will need in order to speak knowledgeably and accurately about ancient Rome. After briefly encountering these words, with the help of this handout, you will be ready to hear the fascinating summary by the witty and fast-talking John Green, embedded for your edification below. This will permit you to discourse knowledgeably on even more topics at your parents’ dinner table.

Kind regards from Ms Green (no relation)

PS You can open and read the transcript if you watch this video on YouTube. This is not a bad idea, should some of the presenter’s words fly past too quickly even for your quick ears and agile minds.

Embedded Handout:

Visit to our class by our librarian, Mrs McQueen:

A relatively reliable source for biographical research

More on Ancient Egypt…

Dear 7X,
You are a delightful class. Although I am leaving you for five weeks, I look forward to seeing you next term and discovering all your ideas for the Night of Notables upon my return.

Have a wonderful time with Ms Giesbrecht and please treat her like a Pharaoh in my absence! (Well, at least like a very important person.)

Kind regards, Ms Green

 

1 Ancient Egypt – Essential Vocabulary

Below there is also a little Quizlet on ancient Egypt, which will help you to learn many of the words connected with this topic. As an added incentive, you can play the Gravity game, but only after cycling through the digital flashcards at least once.

2 The ancient Egyptians – General Introduction

Photo kindly provided by Mrs McQueen

The ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza without the wheel. In addition, they developed their own system of writing, probably influenced by the Sumerians. The ancient Egyptians often get the credit for domesticating cats, but some believe that this occurred much earlier in Cyprus. It is undeniable, however, that Egyptians loved cats. They also embalmed bodies with great skill and lived successfully in a land that, except for a thin fertile strip near its river, was basically desert.

It was an improbable place for the development of such a major and successful civilization, made possible only by the existence of that river, the Nile, and by the talents of the people. Every year the Nile delivered its fertile silt to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley, its floodwaters sweeping down from the Ethiopian mountains in the south to the plains of the north. Every year the Egyptian peasant farmers used that silt and water to crop their land and grow the food that supported the whole population.

Some of my students think life would have been much easier once farming began. They point out that people would no longer have encountered as much danger from hunting and would have felt more confidence about having food when they needed it.

While these are fair points, farming in ancient Egypt was labour-intensive, to say the least. A peasant farmer was also at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This was no easy life. Hunter-gatherers six or seven thousand years before in a fertile area might well have had more leisure time and fewer people telling them what to do – and no one to tax them as well.

3 Some Introductory Websites and Videos

Find out more about ancient Egypt at these links. This is just a preliminary wander along the Nile River:

Mummy Maker Game at the BBC Website

The importance of the Nile – BBC Website

Questions and answers about the Nile – an easier website

A day in the life of various ancient Egyptians – PBS Website

A fascinating account of archaeological evidence on who actually built the Pyramids – PBS website

A video about an ancient Egyptian’s journey through the underworld:

A video about how the ancient Egyptians made their mummies:

Writing – for Better or Worse

Writing in Ancient Egypt
The ancient Egyptians used writing to administer their complex hierarchical society, to give orders, to tot up taxes, to write the spells that would protect the dead in the afterlife and to describe their lives. Their tombs were covered with the beautiful, pictorial symbols we call hieroglyphics.

Who would have thought that learning langauges no one could speak would one day open up the study of a fascinating ancient civilisation?
Who would have thought that learning languages no one could speak would one day open up the study of a fascinating ancient civilisation?

The knowledge of how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, however,  was lost for more than 1500 years, until Jean-François Champollion figured out how to decipher these beautiful and mysterious symbols. As a boy he used to write his journal in Coptic, the language used by the early Christian Church in Egypt, but long since dead.

A language is considered dead when no living child speaks it as his or her mother tongue. No living child had spoken Coptic for over 1500 years, but it turned out to be the one written language that could provide clues to the sounds of ancient Egyptian speech.

Never suspecting that Coptic might supply the vital link to understanding hieroglyphics, Champollion learned it as a teenager, along with several other dead languages. It was knowledge that he placed on the back-burner of his mind. One day that knowledge would burst into flame. One day it would illuminate the study of ancient Egypt.

TASKS

As you read the links below, look for or think of answers to these questions (and write or type brief notes):

The cartouche of Tutankhamen (Wikimedia Commons)

a Write your name in hieroglyphics and write 3 dot points about the characteristics of this ancient script.

b What is a cartouche? How did this symbol help in the decipherment of hieroglyphics?

c Champollion wrote that “phonic” symbols were the basis of hieroglyphics. What does this mean?

d Write a comment: How can writing be used for positive, life-affirming purposes? Conversely, how can it be employed to hurt, to harm or to oppress other human beings?

1 Discover the basic details of hieroglyphics at these links:

Egyptian Hieroglyphic Alphabet

Link to Ancient Egypt Online

2 Learn how to write your name in hieroglyphics at this link.

3 Read the whole fascinating story behind the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics at this link.

 

Rosetta Stone in BM, our photo
A photo of the Rosetta Stone that I took back in 1987, before it was encased in glass

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there was a young boy called Jean-François who was very quiet and studious. Oddly enough, although he loved books, he was not content with reading only his own language.

He wanted to read languages that he could not understand.

In fact, the languages that almost no one could understand interested him more than anything else. The only people who knew these languages were scholars in universities who had spent their lives in the study of ancient texts and musty scrolls. 

Imagine learning a language that no one can speak, then using it to write your journal – and later, to unlock an ancient mystery. That was the achievement of Jean-François Champollion.


Jean-François learned Persian and Sanskrit, along with many other ancient tongues. He also began work on a dictionary and grammar of the Coptic language and used this language to write his journal.

At the time, he had no idea that this language would allow him to unlock an ancient mystery, a written script that people hadn’t been able to read for more than 1500 years. Through his work, scholars can now read hieroglyphics, the written language of the ancient Egyptians.

 

There is of course a moral to this story. You may think something you’re learning now is just for fun, or perhaps that you are learning it just because your teacher wants to be a slave-driver.

Nevertheless, put your new knowledge on the back-burner of your mind and let it gently simmer. One day, in a decade or two, it might help you to find a job, learn a related skill, develop a product or medicine, write a book or change the world. Even if this knowledge is never employed for a precise and discernible purpose, it will become part of the creative and versatile human being that you already are and will continue to become.


A story within a story:

Euclid was an ancient Greek whose mathematical textbooks were used until the 19th century and whose work is still the basis of related study today. He was teaching a young man geometry when his student, after learning the first theorem, unwisely asked: “What shall I get by learning these things?” Euclid called his slave and said: “Give this young man a few coins, since he must get something from what he learns”.

Perhaps this is what Euclid meant:

When you learn something, you shouldn’t worry what it gives you. Leave that to the “grand Perhaps”, in Robert Browning’s words.  

Kind regards,

Ms Green

 

The Rosetta Stone, encased in glass in the British Museum
With the help of this stone and the ancient tongues he had learned as a child, Jean-Francois Champollion unlocked a 1500-year-old mystery. It is because of him that we know so much about the ancient Egyptians.

The Power of the Written Word

The power of the written word is immense. With our ability to write, we can compose a love poem, pass laws that bring justice to thousands (or deny it), pen moving lyrics for a song, tap out a tweet, write a comment online or correspond with a loved one far away. 

Human talents such as writing can help us to soar above the tiresome details of everyday life, but they can also be employed for destructive purposes. For instance, you could write lies and slander and so use the written word to destroy reputations. If you were a dictator or a tyrant, you could issue orders that might destroy the lives of the people you were oppressing. You could use writing to enslave others. You could even write a death sentence.

All the same, can you imagine how many aspects of human life would be different, how impoverished life would be, without this simple, supreme gift of human expression? 

You see, once you can write down a language, you can preserve ideas beyond your own lifetime and send them across the world.

You can give orders, compile books of quotations, remember speeches and create literature. Your ideas can travel through time and space. They are no longer dependent upon your physical presence.

Writing makes us all time travellers. 

A Ground-Breaking Development

Question for Knowledge Check:

  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the introduction of farming in comparison with the hunter-gathering lifestyle that was gradually replaced.

OR

  • Identify the similarities and differences between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Suggest some possible reasons for the extinction of Neanderthals about 30,000 years ago.

Opposition Words: although • but • despite • in spite of • however • on the contrary • nevertheless • on the other hand • while • whereas • even though

Connecting Words: consequently • therefore • hence • as a result • it follows that • for instance • for example • this suggests that

Useful Verbs: indicate • suggest • provide evidence for • show • demonstrate • conclude • assume • argue • contend • pose a question • raise a question • consider • reflect on • interpret • hypothesise

Link to Reading on Neanderthals

Handout: A Mystery of History + SWOT on Farming

Welcome to History, 7X!

Dear 7X,

I have heard all about you already from at least two of your other teachers, Mr Jäckisch and Mrs Andrews. So I know that you are curious, perceptive, witty and delightful. Do you mind living up to such high praise? No pressure!

As I grow inexorably older (no faster than you are, but sometimes it seems that way), I notice that, even in the 30 years since I gained my teaching qualification, the story of history has changed quite significantly. Historians keep digging (literally and figuratively) and scientists have found entirely new ways to unwrap the enigmas of history.

As a consequence, while I once used to discuss the question of whether the Neanderthals were related to Homo sapiens with my students in an uncertain, speculative way, I can now state, more or less categorically, that some of our genes come from that mysterious group of people who hunted and gathered, just as we did, but did not survive to see the modern world that we have made. You can find more on this topic at this post.

The internet has also changed how I teach, how my students learn and the sheer breadth of material available to us all. For instance, it was only after the internet became available that I discovered how many women artists in the Renaissance were never mentioned in my old history books. Here is an example.

Since I have also changed in the last 30 years, I perceive history differently as well. One reason is that I have taught myself two foreign languages in the past 8 years. When you read history in another language, you discover that English writers have sometimes left out vital details. Every people has its own story and its own way of telling it.

Unravelling the tangled threads of history…

In short, history is a fluid, ongoing mystery, a continuous endeavour to tease out the truth from all the stories, the lies, the propaganda and the partial sources at our disposal. I hope that you will enjoy the process of unravelling the tangled threads of the human story and that you will contribute your own youthful exuberance, wisdom and knowledge to the process.

Kind regards from

Ms Green

Four Periods in History | Introductory Handout

Essential Terms for Describing Time:

• Prehistory

The time before the first writing appeared, in the period between 3500 and 3100 BC. Once people could write records, they could write history. That’s when we say that “history” began, though the human story stretches much further back into the mists of time.

• BP – Before the Present

This is frequently used by scientists who deal with huge numbers of years and want to provide a rounded indication of how long ago something happened. 

• BC – Before Christ

The time before the birth of Christ, an expression used in Christian societies

• BCE – Before the Common Era

The time before the birth of Christ, without Christ’s name being mentioned; employed in non-Christian societies and increasingly in Christian societies when an objective style of describing history is desired; equivalent in meaning to BC

• AD – Anno Domini, Latin for “Year of our Lord”

The years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ, an expression used in Christian societies 

• CE – Common Era

The years that have elapsed since the birth of Christ, without Christ’s name being mentioned; employed in non-Christian societies and increasingly in Christian societies when an objective style of describing history is desired; equivalent in meaning to AD

 

And last of all, a Jumble Kahoot: 

Panorama of Four Periods of the Human Story: Prehistoric, Ancient, Medieval and Modern Periods
Class Mode | Preview Mode | Create an Account

The Mandate of Heaven

Dear 7Y,

Imagine that you could invoke a powerful spiritual being to justify your position, your actions and your power. Every time someone questioned your actions or doubted your motives, you could fall back on your entitlements as the chosen one of this powerful being, who had theoretically ordained you and anointed you as the person in charge. If your underlings believed in the existence of this being, your position would be impregnable.

Or would it?

There’s usually a downside to this kind of religious propaganda, even though it has been employed by many monarchs and emperors in history to underpin their supposedly unassailable authority. If things started to go wrong, if the crops failed or there was a flood or natural disaster, the very argument that you once used to justify your domination might also be used to dispute its validity. Perhaps that divine being is questioning your so-called birthright. Perhaps you don’t deserve that birthright any more.

For centuries, the “Mandate of Heaven” was the basis of the Chinese emperors’ overwhelming power, yet this belief in a divine blessing could be hijacked by opponents as proof of their unworthiness too. For this reason, the dynasties of China could last for centuries and seem invulnerable, only to be challenged, to fall and to be replaced. The concept of the “Mandate of Heaven” could be conveniently used to explain both their lasting power and their fall from grace.

Yet another of those odd little internal contradictions in human history…

Kind regards from Ms Green (no relationship to John and Hank)

♦ John Green’s take on the Mandate of Heaven and on Chinese history in general:

♦ Other links about the Mandate of Heaven

Boundless • Mr Donn’s simpler version

♦ Simple interactive quiz on this topic 

♦ Encounter a Chinese dynasty at Boundless 

  • After reading your text on the ancient dynasties of China, select one that interests you in particular and create a dossier on its origins, rise to power, cultural and technological achievements and legacy.
  • Then construct a little quiz for your fellow students at this link. Use a variety of question types, including multiple choice, chronological order and matching. You will need to create an account in order to do this, using your school email account. If you would prefer, you can make a set of Tiny Cards on your chosen dynasty.

Three Philosophies to Live By

Printing

Compass

Silkworm

Dear 7Y,

The people of ancient China were inventive both physically and mentally. As you already know, they invented paper, gunpowder, the compass and movable printing. They began to spin silk around 6000 years ago.

Today, however, you will be learning about their inventive ideas, their ways of thinking and their philosophies of life.

Buddhism

Confucianism

Taoism

Set out your notes in any way that seems appropriate to you. Here are some options:

  • Create a set of Tiny Cards through Duolingo, titled “Chinese Philosophies of Life” or something similar. You may decide to make one set for each of the philosophies: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
  • Here is my starter set for Taoism to gain an overview of both the philosophy and the card-making concept:
Tiny Cards Set – Taoism
  • Present your work on a double page of your workbook, including headings, drawings and fact boxes.
  • Create a PowerPoint or an Infographic through a site like Piktochart – or use your own software.

Include dot points, sentences, symbols and pictures to make your work visually attractive and engaging and to ensure that you rework and reconstruct what you read.

At the same time, ensure that you include answers to the questions I have typed below each philosophy or philosopher.

Eventually I shall ask you to express your own opinions about each philosophy. That’s why, as you read about each one, I would like you to ask yourselves:

“What do I believe? Is this what I think? How is it similar to or different from my own philosophy of life? Could I adopt this as something to believe in – or not?”

You might even react like this:

“I’ve never thought about that before, but now that I’ve read about it, it makes sense.” 

Ultimately you will be thinking about your own philosophy of life, which might well borrow elements from all three of the philosophies below.

Taoism

Philosophy for Kids
United Religions Initiative – Children 

 BBC 

  • What does the word “Tao” mean?
  • Who is thought to be the founder of this philosophy?
  • What do Taoists believe?
  • Draw a picture of Taoism’s famous symbol. What Taoist ideas does it express and represent?

 

Buddhism 

 Kids’ World – Buddha

 OUP Blog – 10 Facts about Buddhism

  • Use symbols and pictures to tell the story of Siddhartha Gautama and his path to enlightenment.
  • Then present the three universal truths and the four noble truths that he identified during his deep meditation period. Use a symbol or picture to illustrate or represent each one.

Confucianism

 Philosophy Slam

Ancient History Encyclopedia

  • Select 2 quotations from Confucian teachings, write them down and then explain them in your own words.
  • Give an example of how each quotation might apply either to you or to the modern world.
  • List and explain the main ideas in the moral code of Confucius. Use a symbol or simple picture for each one.
  • If you are working online, you can find copyright free symbols and pictures at these three sites:

https://pixabay.com/www.wpclipart.comwww.clipartlord.com

Last Request:

Type out the most fundmental point of your own personal philosophy of life and put it into a comment for others in the class to read. For example, this is mine: 

Kindness towards others is a fundamental principle that my mother taught me. I believe that mercy is more important than justice and forgiveness more healing than retribution. I would prefer to be a victim of injustice than a person who acts unjustly.

Kind regards and happy philosophising,

Ms Green

Yet another tyrant leaves his mark…

Introductory Kahoot:

Class Mode | Preview Mode

Dear 7Y,

Terracotta Soldiers • Intended as guardians for Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb •

It seems that in every age and almost every land, at least since we’ve been living in so-called civilisations and not roaming as hunter-gatherers, some people have developed a desire for power that makes them forget their humanity.

This drive to seize absolute control of others’ lives leads power-hungry people to commit horrific and heartless acts of cruelty. They oppress their own people and usually the peoples that they conquer. The pain such tyrants inflict is never forgotten. 

The famous historian, Sima Qian, said of Qin Shi Huang, the tyrant who united China and in the process terrorised its people:

Qin is a man of scant mercy who has the heart of a wolf.

If the Qin should ever get his way with the world, then the whole world will end up his prisoner.

 

Your task today is to find out about the life and actions of Qin Shi Huang. Which actions of his would you characterise as tyrannical? In other words, which actions were inhumane, oppressive, cruel and merciless? Use the links below or others.

♥ Set out your written or typed notes in a format that allows four subheadings like or similar to those below. You may choose to copy this table into a Word document if you find it useful for corralling your thoughts.

Kind regards, Ms Green

Qin Shi Huang

Examples of Tyrannical Acts

  ♦

  ♦

  ♦

The Confucian Purge

  ♦

  ♦

  ♦

Warring States and Unification

  ♦

  ♦

  ♦

Political and Cultural Achievements

  ♦

  ♦

  ♦

Links:

Asian History.com  BBC Time Magazine Social Studies for Kids

Ancient Rome and the Struggle with Tyranny

Tyranny in General and in Ancient Rome – 7X’s Ideas So Far:

Word – Compatible Mode | Word Document | PDF

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
Edmund Burke

Sometimes, when I’m in the mood for summing up history in one sentence (which no one should ever try to do), I come out with wild, unsubstantiated statements like this: “History is the story of how tyrants constantly try to seize power and of how the rest of us, conversely, dream up ways of stopping them.”

Hmm, I realise that there are a few more nuances to history than that comment suggests, but the issue of tyranny is certainly a recurrent theme. Here is a summary of how 7Y, in first semester, answered some key questions on this topic:

How do tyrants seize power in the first place?

Your answers:

• Tyrants intimidate the weak.

• They eliminate potential threats by silencing vocal people or sending them into exile, through mass imprisonments, by establishing a reign of terror and by controlling the press.

• Since they often make minuscule changes that seem minor at first and that many citizens barely notice or are too afraid to criticise, they gradually modify the rules to their own advantage.

• They promise what they cannot deliver in reality by convincing people that they can solve problems with simple solutions and empty words.

A List of Words for Describing the Characteristics and  Actions of Tyrants

Verbs: intimidate, threaten, instil fear, run fraudulent elections, accuse, force confessions, deport, massacre, brainwash, persecute, torture, banish, exile, assassinate, execute, imprison, oppress, suppress, subjugate, repress, murder, set up labour camps or death camps, abolish the rule of law, monopolise the press, conceal the truth…

Nouns: cruelty, threat, malice, fear, despotism, dictatorship, autocracy, corruption, ambition, military coup, coup d’état (takeover of the state), absolute power 

Adjectives: oppressive, power-hungry, ambitious, callous, heartless, malicious, self-serving, brutal, ruthless, merciless, inhumane, dictatorial, despotic, tyrannical, corrupt

Your Task

  • Choose one of the leaders or emperors below and write a short biography of his life and rule. Use only your own phrasing and avoid wholesale copying and pasting.
  • Then make a judgement: Which of his actions were tyrannical? To what extent would you describe him as a tyrant?
  • What evaluation would you make of him as a leader or ruler?
  • Was he fair and reasonable or cruel and ruthless – or somewhere in between?

Julius Caesar – last Leader of the Roman Republic

PBSBBC Website | History.com | Encyclopedia.com

Augustus – first Emperor

PBS | BBC Website | History.comEncylopedia.com 

Tiberius

PBS | BBC Website | Ancient History Encyclopedia

Caligula

PBS | BBC Website | Encyclopedia.com

Claudius  

PBS | BBC Website | History.comAncient History Encyclopedia

Nero

PBS | BBC Website | Ancient History Encyclopedia

An Infographic

Create your own Infographic about tyranny or slavery by creating an account at Piktochart.

All Roads Lead to Rome

Dear 7Y,

When I think of ancient Rome, my first thoughts tend to be gruesome.

I think of the chariot race from Ben Hur, of Julius Caesar being stabbed twenty-three times in the Senate (according to this source), of the crucifixions of the slave rebels on the Appian Way and of gladiatorial contests during which the crowds displayed a horrifying blood-lust… 

But surely it’s not all blood and gore! Am I just spreading a stereotype with the help of a few old Hollywood movies?

Well, not entirely. Even the relatively restrained BBC Website refers to the Romans as “ingenious but brutal”.

I think you have to remember both of these aspects of the ancient Romans as you learn about them. Could one employ these two adjectives to summarise the history of the human race? What do you think?

Even though the Romans were in many ways warlike and vicious, they imposed an enforced peace upon their massive Empire. This is sometimes referred to as the “Pax Romana”, which is in itself a kind of paradox, an internal contradiction, for despite the Romans’ lust for conquest and their enslavement of many conquered people, many states were able to enjoy relative peace and stability under Roman control.

This means that there were great and less bloody accomplishments as well as the blood sports, corruption, poisonings and cruelty. Indeed, the legacies of ancient Rome are still dotted over their former territories, in the shape of aqueducts, ancient roads, architecture and amphitheatres.

Even the letters I am using to type this post hail from the Latin script, the most widely used form of writing in the world today. Latin may be a dead language, but it evolved into the Romance languages, such as French, Italian and Spanish, and it lives on in countless words and expressions in other languages, including English.

So in many respects, the Romans are still among us. Like the genes of the Neanderthals.

Goodness, history is getting almost spooky.

Regards from Ms Green

On the Road to Rome:

  • Look closely at this map of the ancient Roman Empire. Can you identify the names of ancient lands under the control of the Romans and match them with their modern names?
  • Watch this video animation of how Rome might have looked around the year AD 320.

A Supreme – and Dangerous – Human Gift

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, there was a young boy called Jean-François who was very quiet and studious. Oddly enough, although he loved books, he was not content with reading only his own language.

He wanted to read languages that he could not understand.

In fact, the languages that almost no one could understand interested him more than anything else. The only people who knew these languages were scholars in universities who had spent their lives in the study of ancient texts and musty scrolls. 

Imagine learning a language that no one can speak, then using it to write your journal – and later, to unlock an ancient mystery. That was the achievement of Jean-François Champollion.


Jean-François learned Persian and Sanskrit, along with many other ancient tongues. He also began work on a dictionary and grammar of the Coptic language and used this language to write his journal.

At the time, he had no idea that this language would allow him to unlock an ancient mystery, a written script that people hadn’t been able to read for more than 1500 years. Through his work, scholars can now read hieroglyphics, the written language of the ancient Egyptians.

There is of course a moral to this story. You may think something you’re learning now is just for fun, or perhaps that you are learning it just because your teacher wants to be a slave-driver.

Nevertheless, put your new knowledge on the back-burner of your mind and let it gently simmer. One day, in a decade or two, it might help you to find a job, learn a related skill, develop a product or medicine, write a book or change the world. Even if this knowledge is never employed for a precise and discernible purpose, it will become part of the creative and versatile human being that you already are and will continue to become.


A story within a story:

Euclid was an ancient Greek whose mathematical textbooks were used until the 19th century and whose work is still the basis of related study today. He was teaching a young man geometry when his student, after learning the first theorem, unwisely asked: “What shall I get by learning these things?” Euclid called his slave and said: “Give this young man a few coins, since he must get something from what he learns”.

Perhaps this is what Euclid meant:

When you learn something, you shouldn’t worry what it gives you. Leave that to the “grand Perhaps”, in Robert Browning’s words.  

Kind regards,

Ms Green

 

The Rosetta Stone, encased in glass in the British Museum
With the help of this stone and the ancient tongues he had learned as a child, Jean-Francois Champollion unlocked a 1500-year-old mystery. It is because of him that we know so much about the ancient Egyptians.

The Power of the Written Word

The power of the written word is immense. With our ability to write, we can compose a love poem, pass laws that bring justice to thousands (or deny it), pen moving lyrics for a song, tap out a tweet, write a comment online or correspond with a loved one far away. 

Human talents such as writing can help us to soar above the tiresome details of everyday life, but they can also be employed for destructive purposes. For instance, you could write lies and slander and so use the written word to destroy reputations. If you were a dictator or a tyrant, you could issue orders that might destroy the lives of the people you were oppressing. You could use writing to enslave others. You could even write a death sentence.

All the same, can you imagine how many aspects of human life would be different, how impoverished life would be, without this simple, supreme gift of human expression? 

You see, once you can write down a language, you can preserve ideas beyond your own lifetime and send them across the world.

You can give orders, compile books of quotations, remember speeches and create literature. Your ideas can travel through time and space. They are no longer dependent upon your physical presence.

Writing makes us all time travellers. 

Writing in Ancient Egypt


The ancient Egyptians used writing to administer their complex hierarchical society, to give orders, to tot up taxes, to write the spells that would protect the dead in the afterlife and to describe their lives. Their tombs were covered with the beautiful, pictorial symbols we call hieroglyphics.

Who would have thought that learning langauges no one could speak would one day open up the study of a fascinating ancient civilisation?
Who would have thought that learning languages no one could speak would one day open up the study of a fascinating ancient civilisation?

The knowledge of how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, however,  was lost for more than 1500 years, until Jean-François Champollion figured out how to decipher these beautiful and mysterious symbols. As a boy he used to write his journal in Coptic, the language used by the early Christian Church in Egypt, but long since dead.

A language is considered dead when no living child speaks it as his mother tongue. No living child had spoken Coptic for over 1500 years, but it turned out to be the one written language that could provide clues to the sounds of ancient Egyptian speech.


Never suspecting that Coptic might supply the vital link to understanding hieroglyphics, Champollion learned it as a teenager, along with several other dead languages. It was knowledge that he placed on the back-burner of his mind. One day that knowledge would burst into flame. One day it would illuminate the study of ancient Egypt.

TASKS

As you read the links below, look for or think of answers to these questions (and write or type brief notes):

The cartouche of Tutankhamen (Wikimedia Commons)

a Write your name in hieroglyphics and write 3 dot points about the characteristics of this ancient script.

b What is a cartouche? How did this symbol help in the decipherment of hieroglyphics?

c Champollion wrote that “phonic” symbols were the basis of hieroglyphics. What does this mean?

d Write a comment: How can writing be used for positive, life-affirming purposes? Conversely, how can it be employed to hurt, to harm or to oppress other human beings?


1 Discover the basic details of hieroglyphics at these links:

Egyptian Hieroglyphic Alphabet

http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk/hieroglyphs.html

2 Learn how to write your name in hieroglyphics at this link:

http://www.guardians.net/egypt/hieroglyphs/hiero-translator.htm

3 Read the whole fascinating story behind the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics at this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians/decipherment_01.shtml

Rosetta Stone in BM, our photo
A photo of the Rosetta Stone that I took back in 1987, before it was encased in glass

You begged me for Kahoots… I weakly surrendered.

 

Kahoots have become a craze, like yo-yos and tamagotchis. One of my senior students told me once that Kahoots represented the “pinnacle” of his educational experience. After that, I felt obliged to continue making them. Who am I to keep anyone from reaching any kind of pinnacle?

Regular Kahoot: Ancient Rome: Play alone | Play with others | Create an account

Jumble Kahoot: The Chronology of History: Play alone | Play with others | Create an account

Another Jumble Kahoot: A Jumbled Chronology of History: Play alone | Play with others | Create an account

Regular Kahoot: History is philosophy teaching through examples: Play alone | Play with others | Create an account

Regular Kahoot: Introduction to Ancient Egypt – and Other History Topics: Play alone | Play with others | Create an account

Plus: A Fascinating Overview of Time…

I am contemplating turning this into a Kahoot — when I find the time.

From the Stone Age to Ancient Egypt…

Dear 7Y,

Today you can tackle some revision on the Stone Age and then begin an intellectual journey along the Nile River in order to observe the civilization of the ancient Egyptians. I hope you enjoy the trip.

Kind regards, Ms Green

1 The Natufians

The “Natufians” were hunter-gatherers whose descendants eventually became the first farmers and herders in the Fertile Crescent. Ultimately a great civilisation developed in that region. The people of that civilisation were called the Sumerians and they are generally credited with inventing the wheel (some question this assumption) and developing the first writing (this is widely accepted). These were remarkable achievements for people with hardly any wood, whose best material for a writing surface and for building houses was mud.

First though, a little quiz on the Stone Age and the Natufians, partially based on that film, “Stories from the Stone Age”:

Complete this quiz under a new tab on the full screen

Dagon Museum, Mortars from Natufian Culture, Grinding stones from Neolithic pre-pottery phase
This picture shows some of the grinding implements used by the Natufians.
Hanay [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2 Ancient Egypt – Essential Vocabulary

Below there is also a little Quizlet on ancient Egypt, which will help you to learn many of the words connected with this topic. As an added incentive, you can play the Gravity game, but only after cycling through the digital flashcards at least once.

3 The ancient Egyptians – an Introduction

Photo kindly provided by Mrs McQueen

The ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza without the wheel. In addition, they developed their own system of writing, probably influenced by the Sumerians. The ancient Egyptians often get the credit for domesticating cats, but some believe that this occurred much earlier in Cyprus. It is undeniable, however, that Egyptians loved cats. They also embalmed bodies with great skill and lived successfully in a land that, except for a thin fertile strip near its river, was basically desert.

It was an improbable place for the development of such a major and successful civilization, made possible only by the existence of that river, the Nile, and by the talents of the people. Every year the Nile delivered its fertile silt to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley, its floodwaters sweeping down from the Ethiopian mountains in the south to the plains of the north. Every year the Egyptian peasant farmers used that silt and water to crop their land and grow the food that supported the whole population.

Some of my students think life would have been much easier once farming began. They point out that people would no longer have encountered as much danger from hunting and would have felt more confidence about having food when they needed it.

While these are fair points, farming in ancient Egypt was labour-intensive, to say the least. A peasant farmer was also at the bottom of the social hierarchy. This was no easy life. Hunter-gatherers six or seven thousand years before in a fertile area might well have had more leisure time and fewer people telling them what to do – and no one to tax them as well.

4 Some Introductory Websites and Videos

Find out more about ancient Egypt at these links. This is just a preliminary wander along the Nile River:

Mummy Maker Game at the BBC Website

The importance of the Nile – BBC Website

Questions and answers about the Nile – an easier website

A day in the life of various ancient Egyptians – PBS Website

A fascinating account of archaeological evidence on who actually built the Pyramids – PBS website

A video about an ancient Egyptian’s journey through the underworld:

A video about how the ancient Egyptians made their mummies: