UNIT 1. Natural History and the Spread of Humankind
1. Stand and Deliver: Why Did Early Hominids Begin to Walk on Two Feet?, Ian Tattersall, Natural History, November 2003
What got humankind started on its unique evolutionary trajectory? The ability to walk upright on two feet— bipedalism is what it’s called—allowed hominids to outshine their prehistoric cousins. As their environment changed, they adapted. Once they had the ability to hunt and taste red meat, the competition was over. Bipedalism was here to stay! So was meat!
2. Redrawing Humanity's Family Tree, John Noble Wilford, The New York Times, August 6, 2002
Two ancient skulls, one from Africa, the other from Georgia (formerly part of the Soviet Union), offer clues regarding human origins. They might change the way paleoanthropologists view such questions such as when humans and primates parted ways, and when our earliest ancestors from Africa left there for greener pastures. Human evolution awaits these and further discoveries that will shed light on Homo sapiens ’ true ancestry.
3. Mapping the, Past, Adam Goodheart, Civilization, March/April 1996
Genetic historians are using DNA analysis to track the migration of human beings. American Indians can be traced to a region of Mongolia, and Polynesians have been tracked to southeast Asia. DNA markers may eventually provide a “map” of the entire human species.
4. First Americans, Karen Wright, Discover, February 1999
Long thought that the first humans in the New World crossed the Bering Strait at the end of the Ice Age, recent archaeological evidence seems to indicate that none of this may be true. Scientists continued to search for clues pertaining to who, how, and when the earliest Americans arrived.
5. Japanese Roots, Jared Diamond, Discover, June 1998
The origins of the Japanese people offer a mystery. Genetically they are similar to other Asians, especially Koreans, but their language is distinctly different. Interpretations of Japanese origins are complicated by myth and long-standing enmities.UNIT 2. The Beginnings of Culture, Agriculture, and Cities
6. Prehistory of Warfare, Steven A. LeBlanc, Archaeology, May/June 2003
According to Steven LeBlanc, humans have been at each others’ throats since the prehistoric era. This predilection for organized violence has been largely ignored by previous archaeologists, even though LeBlanc finds evidence in every corner of the world. Wars in prehistoric times—should we be surprised?
7. Writing Gets a Rewrite, Andrew Lawler, Science, June 29, 2001
The commonly-held belief that writing began in Mesopotamia five thousand years ago is being challenged by researchers today. Evidence gathered in recent years indicates that it may have developed simultaneously in Mesopotamia, Egypt , and the Indus River valley. But the findings, while promising, are not conclusive enough to make a case for that theory. Perhaps future discoveries will shed new light on this important question.
8. Time and the River: Life in Ancient Egypt Was Geared to the Annual Nile Flood, John Baines, Unesco Courier, September 1988
Most early civilizations developed around rivers , their histories inextricably tied to a river’s bounty—none more so than Egypt. The Nile River not only provided Egypt with economic sustenance and political unity, but also shaped Egypt’s mythology and worldview.
9. Poets and Psalmists: Goddesses and Theologians, Samuel Noah Kramer, The Legacy of Sumer: Invited Lectures on the Middle East at the Univ. of Texas, Undena Publications, 1976
Was Sumerian society really male-dominated ? Were women second-class citizens in civic, economic, legal, educational, and theological matters? Not according to recent archaeological discoveries. At least, prior to 2000 B.C.E., we have strong evidence that women of the ruling class enjoyed social and economic equality with men. And, in the heavenly realm, the Goddess Inanna retained her status as “Queen of Heaven.” Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon the Great, presided over the temple in the city of Ur, as high priestess and resident liturgical poet.
10. The Cradle of Cash, Heather Pringle, Discover, October 1998
With the growth of cities and markets there arose a need for a standard way to express the value of varied items. Simple barter became impossible. Silver rings, gold, and ingots provided this necessary medium of exchange in Mesopotamia as early as 2500 B.C.E.UNIT 3. The Early Civilizations to 500 B.C.E.
11. Indus Valley, Inc., Shanti Menon, Discover, December 1998
Starting around 3300 B.C.E., the Indus Valley civilization built some of the earliest planned cities at Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, and they flourished for 700 years. Streets were laid out in a grid, and houses were constructed with standard-sized bricks. Practical and businesslike, the remains of the civilization reflect little warfare or elaborate burials.
12. Five Ways to Conquer a City, Erika Bleibtreu, Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1990
Archaeological excavations and drawings of Assyrian palaces built from 883–627 B.C.E. reveal themes of warfare and conquest. Ladders, fire, siege, battering, and burrowing were all methods of attack against a walled city.
13. Empires in the Dust, Karen Wright, Discover, March 1998
4000 years ago, some Bronze Age cultures—Minoan, Egyptian, Indian, and Accadian—disintegrated. Was political strife and social unrest responsible? Or was it a change in climate, which brought about severe droughts? The jury is still out.
14. Out of Africa: The Superb Artwork of Ancient Nubia, David Roberts, Smithsonian, June 1993
Due to prejudice, undeciphered writing, lack of archaeological exploration, inhospitable climate, and information that came mainly from enemies, the Nubian civilization is largely unknown except through recent displays of art. It was once thought to be an offshoot of Egyptian culture, but this black civilization flourished at the same time as Egypt’s, and once conquered all of Egypt around 730 B.C.E.UNIT 4. The Later Civilizations to 500 C.E.
15. In Classical Athens, a Market Trading in the Currency of Ideas, John Fleischman, Smithsonian, July 1993
The agora was the heart of urban life for Greek city-states. In this public plaza, people met to trade, gossip, argue, and vote. An open space surrounded by civic buildings and religious sites, the agora of Athens was the place where Socrates taught and died.
16. Cleopatra: What Kind of a Woman Was She, Anyway?, Barbara Holland, Smithsonian, February 1997
Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt in the first century B.C.E., has been one of the most fascinating women in history. Characterized in various ways by Afrocentrists, Hollywood movies, George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, and Plutarch, she never had the chance to tell her own story.
17. Lost No More, John Nobel Wilford, The New York Times, April 15, 2003
The Romans owed much to their Etruscan neighbors, but seldom acknowledged it. Recent evidence reveals the extent of these Etruscan contributions, which included the introduction of Greek culture to the Romans.
18. It Happened Only Once in History!, Max I. Dimont, Jews, God, and History, 1994
Historically, Jews have represented less than one percent of the world’s population. Yet, they have managed to make significant contributions to every aspect of the civilizations in which they lived, in spite of suffering from discrimination and persecution . Max Dimont recounts how the Jews responded to the challenges hurled at them thoughout history, and how they not only survived, but prospered.UNIT 5. The Great Religions
19. Ancient Jewel, T. R. (Joe) Sundaram, The World & I, October 1996
Indian civilization is more than 6,000 years old. Its culture produced Hinduism and Buddhism and influenced philosophical thinking. Ideas about cycles of life and acceptance of diversity are only a part of the Indian contribution to the world.
20. What Is the Koran?, Toby Lester, The Atlantic Monthly, January 1999
Orthodox Muslims believe that the Koran has reached us today as the perfect and unchanged word of God. Comparisons with older versions of the Koran indicate changes and attempts to place the Koran in a historical context thus far have raised disturbing questions. Yet, this is necessary for an understanding of the Islamic civilization and all of its permutations.
21. The Dome of The Rock: Jerusalem’s Epicenter, Walid Khalidi, Aramco World, September/October 1996
Jerusalem is as sacred to Muslims as it is to Jews and Christians. The Dome of the Rock, an octagonal sanctuary covering the rock from which Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven, dominates the skyline of the old city. It is a point where humanity is joined to God.
22. 2000 Years of Jesus, Kenneth L. Woodward, Newsweek, March 29, 1999
After two millennia, about one-third of the world’s population claim to be Christian, and the world measures time by the birthday of Jesus. His teachings have influenced art, culture, politics, and ethics in the West. The religion gave women greater protection and the concept of personal salvation gave worth to the individual.
23. Women in Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries, Karen L. King, Frontline, April 6, 1998
What role did women play in the early Christian church? Was it a subordinate one or one that reflected gender equality? Karen King cites ancient sources that reveal women actively participating in early Christianity—as disciples, prophets, preachers, and teachers. The leadership roles of these early Christian women were suppressed for centuries until the rediscovery of original source texts has allowed us to re-enter the first centuries of Christianity.
24. Confucius, Jonathan D. Spence, The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 1993
Despite attacks upon Confucian ideas in this twentieth century, there has been a resurgence of interest in this fifth century B.C.E. teacher during the past two decades. Confucius did not speak about life after death, but his compelling humanity and belief in the importance of culture and learning make him worthy of contemporary study.
25. The Legacy of Abraham, David Van Biema, Time, September 30, 2002
Abraham, the Biblical and Quranic patriarch, is acknowledged as a spiritual father in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While this offers possible point of convergence and even the potential for unity, the reality is that Abraham also divides Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Each faith has used him to buttress their own claims to truth, while, at the same time, disputing the truth claims of the other two religions. Is there still room for interfaith dialogue with Abraham as its focal point?UNIT 6. The World of the Middle Ages, 500–1500
26. The Survival of the Eastern Roman Empire, Stephen Williams and Gerard Friell, History Today, November 1998
In the 5th century C.E., the Roman Empire had become divided into two parts: the western one centered in Rome and the eastern one in Constantinople. Both were subjected to barbarian attacks. The western empire succumbed to those attacks, but the eastern empire lasted for another thousand years.
27. The New Maya, T. Patrick Culbert, Archaeology, September/October 1998
Having dispelled the myth of a model Maya society led by gentle priest-kings, scholars are piecing together a fresh picture of the rise and fall of a complex civilization. As their research continues, more light will be shed upon this Mesoamerican civilization that, in its glory days, rivalled that of ancient Egypt.
28. The End of the Roman Empire, Bryan Ward-Perkins, History Today, June 2005
Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the disruption caused by barbarian wars played a major role in the Roman Empire's demise. This challenges some theories that the empire never ended, but was transformed and revitalized by new forces at work within it.
29. The Ideal of Unity, Russell Chamberlin, History Today, November 2003
With Europe increasingly united and centrally controlled, one wonders if there has ever been a precedent for such an ambitious endeavor as the European Union. In the Middle Ages there was one such attempt as the Holy Roman Emperors attempted to unify the continent. They ultimately failed; this selection tells why.
30. The Arab Roots of European Medicine, David W. Tschanz, Aramco World, May/June 1997
Following the end of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam, Arab physicians benefited from translations of Greek medical works. The Arabs established the first hospitals and pharmacies, and beginning in the ninth century, they contributed their own ideas to the field of medicine. In the tenth century, European physicians were educated by translations from Arabic to Latin.
31. The Explorer Marco Polo, Paul Lunde, Saudi Aramco World, January 2005
Marco Polo’s voyage to the East created great interest in the Western world and encouraged others to follow in his footsteps. The result was a cross-cultural experience that changed the course of history.
32. The Fall of Constantinople, Judith Herrin, History Today, June 2003
In what many regard as one of history’s turning points, the Ottoman Turks captured the Byzantine Empire’s capital city of Constantinople in 1453. The background to this epic struggle and the valiant defense of the city in the face of insurmountable odds are recounted here.
33. Clocks: Revolution in Time, David Landes, History Today, January 1984
The mechanical clock was the key machine of the industrial revolution. This technology from the Middle Ages differentiated Europe from the rest of the world.UNIT 7. 1500: The Era of Global Expansion
34. 1492: The Prequel, Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times Magazine, June 6, 1999
Between 1405 and 1433 Zheng He of China led sailing expeditions to the west that reached the east coast of Africa. He could have sailed around Africa to Europe, but there was little reason to reach that “backward region of the world.” Economic and intellectual complacency within China stopped the explorations. This set a course for the later domination by the West.
35. The Other 1492: Jews and Muslims in Columbus’s Spain, Fouad Ajami, The New Republic, April 6, 1992
Christopher Columbus’s three ships left Spain for their world-changing voyage to the Americas . The day before, the last ships carrying expelled Jews also left Spain under somewhat different conditions. An account of the latter exodus chronicles Spanish antisemitism , which includes the 1481 Inquisition and the 1492 Edict of Expulsion .
36. The Far West’s Challenge to the World, 1500–1700 A.D., William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community, 1991
During the era of global expansion, the Western nations were able to exert their will over those with whom they had contact. Why were they able to do this? William McNeill offers some reasons to account for the West’s growing power to dominate the rest of the world.
37. Columbus and the Labyrinth of History, John Noble Wilford, The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 1991
The assessment of Christopher Columbus and his accomplishments has changed with time and politics. The quincentennial of his 1492 voyage brought controversy, with Columbus seen as a symbol of oppression, but there can be little denial about the historical impact of the voyage.
38. How Many People Were Here Before Columbus?, Lewis Lord, U.S. News & World Report, August 18–25, 1997
With the exception of a city or two in Europe, no one was counting population at the time of Columbus, so there are only guesses about the numbers of Indians in North America. The high estimate is 112.5 million; the low estimate is 8.4 million. The only consensus is that the death rate in the 150 years after Columbus was catastrophic.
39. A Passage to India, Simon Craig, Geographical, July 1997
Vasco da Gama’s voyage around the Cape of Good Hope and on to India was a historical turning-point. While unsuccessful in winning trade concessions, his work paved the way for an eventual Portuguese presence in the East .
40. After Dire Straits, an Agonizing Haul Across the Pacific, Simon Winchester, Smithsonian, April 1991
Following the wake of Christopher Columbus, other European explorers set forth. One of Magellan’s ill-starred ships succeeded in the first circumnavigation of Earth.