Application and Reflection Questions
Imagine that you lived through a transition from a nomadic to a settled way of life. What in your life would have changed the most? Do you think your standard of living would be better or worse? Why?
What may have motivated the people of the Neolithic towns of Jericho and Çatalhöyük to produce an agricultural surplus? How was this surplus likely used?
The Code of Hammurabi identifies different punishments and expectations for people based on their social position. Why do you think this was the case? Why wouldn’t everyone have faced the same types of punishments and expectations?
Why did the rise of the Akkadian Empire bring an end to the era of independent city-states in Mesopotamia? Why didn’t the city-states simply reassert their independence after the empire collapsed?
Many scholars have explained the capricious actions of the Mesopotamian gods and the generally pessimistic worldview of the people as consequences of a difficult environment. Does this sound convincing? Why or why not? Can you think of an alternate explanation?
Terms like Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, and Intermediate Period were developed in the nineteenth century by scholars seeking to organize Egyptian chronology into distinct ages. Despite some flaws, this naming convention is still used. Do you think it should be? Why or why not? What other type of chronological organization might you suggest? Why?
While Egypt was unified early (about 3150 BCE), Mesopotamia was not unified until the rise of Sargon almost a thousand years later. What do you think accounts for this difference? Why didn’t Egypt emerge as a number of independent city-states and Sumer as an empire early on?
We know there was trade between the Indus valley civilization and that of Mesopotamia. But it remains unclear to what extent the rise of the Indus valley culture can be attributed to connections with Mesopotamia. What elements of Indus valley culture may have been influenced by Mesopotamia? What elements are unique to the cities of the Indus valley?
In what ways do the Indus valley cities resemble those of Mesopotamia? In what ways do they resemble modern cities?
Historians’ inability to read the writing of the Indus valley civilization means that we know less about this culture than we do about Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. What elements of a culture are difficult to understand without the help of written documents? Why is this the case? What kinds of things are impossible to know until the script is deciphered?