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University Bulletin
Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

ANTH 009 (GS;IL) Rise of Civilization in the Old World (3) Evolution of Old World complex societies, especially the first great civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and the Indus Valley.

ANTH 009 Rise of Civilization in the Old World (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

ANTH 009 is an introductory anthropology course with several major themes and purposes. Most fundamental are the origins and development of the earliest complex human societies - what we conventionally call civilizations – in the Old World, namely those of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, and China. Course information emphasizes the nature of these societies, analysis and interpretation of their basic institutions, their religions and world views, and their culture histories. Within the context of each segment sociological concepts such as "institution", "household", "stratification", "political economy", "urbanization", and a host of others are used as organizing features. Issues of gender, ethnicity, and class structure are also discussed, and much information is presented in weeks 2 and 3 that is pertinent to an understanding of human biological variation and our cultural attitudes toward it, with obvious implications for issues of race.

The course is much broader, however, in that it attempts to place the emergence of these ancient civilizations into the overall perspective of the larger evolutionary career of the human species in the Old World, including human biological and cultural evolution during the later stages of the Paleolithic, the origins and spread of early agriculture, etc. During the first part of the course there is also a series of introductory lectures designed to inform students about what archaeology is and how prehistoric archaeologists carry out scientific research to reconstruct and explain what happened in the past.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on ideas, concepts, and theories used by anthropological archaeologists to design and interpret their research and to explore not only what happened in the past, but to develop ideas about why things happened as well. Also included are lectures about archaeological finds or issues that have been particularly well publicized and about which students often express considerable curiosity. The main objectives are a) to expose students to a series of historically significant non-modern, non-Western societies and cultures using overtly evolutionary, behavioral, and sociological perspectives; b) to enlighten students concerning the kinds of extant information are available for these societies, how research is designed to acquire new data, and how scholar's interpret these data, and c) to stress the nature of the agrarian human condition out of which modern societies so recently emerged, and under which people in many developing societies still live. Central to the latter are issues of subsistence agriculture and human demography.

Central to ANTH 009 are comparisons among several great Old World civilizations, comparisons with other world civilizations and cultures, and comparisons with modern society. Also inherent in the course are extensive discussions of geographic and ecological variation and human adaptation to both. The very deep time depth exposes students to societies very different from our own, including social and cultural forms that have no direct analogs in the modern world. A final intent is to make students understand basic concepts such as biological and cultural evolution, as well as a host of more restricted ones, such as "institution", "household", “stratification", "political economy", "urbanization", and a host of others that are all used to organize presentations. Issues of gender, ethnicity, and class structure are also discussed. Evaluation will consist of 3-6 museum or web-based writing assignments worth 15-30% of the grade. There will be two mid-term examinations and one final examination worth 70-85% of the grade. Although this is a large course, exams are hand-written and graded, and require a mix of objective and subjective responses. Each exam has an essay component. This course parallels ANTH 008, its New World counterpart. It serves as a useful precursor to ANTH 456 (Cultural Ecology), and also for courses in other departments where broad-based comparisons of ancient civilizations or archaeological methods are of concern, or where (as in CAMS) more specialized courses in Egyptian archaeology, etc., are offered.

General Education: GS
Diversity: IL
Bachelor of Arts: Other Cultures and Social and Behavioral Sciences
Effective: Spring 2006

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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