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HIST364: Environmental History

Unit 2: Ancient Civilizations and their Environments   About 10,000 years ago, former hunting and gathering human populations developed large-scale agriculture from horticulture and husbandry in an area that archaeologists call “the fertile crescent” or Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which is now south eastern Turkey and Iraq.  Agriculture created food abundance, which allowed leisure time, the predicate of a stratified culture.  Because not every member of an agricultural society needs to be engaged in the active production of food, classes of scholars, priests, and law emerged, which require the invention of writing.  Agriculture begat cities like ancient Babylon, as well as the somewhat later Nile and East Asian societies.  Although each human society is unique, some of these first civilizations have similarities, especially in regards to the commodification of resources and resulting trade, resource depletion, and religion.  In this unit, you will examine the ways in which early (and later) ancient civilizations, having harnessed the potential benefits of agriculture, shaped and were shaped by their environments.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 14.5 hours to complete.
☐    Introduction: 0.75 hour

☐    Subunit 2.1: 4.75 hours

 

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.1: 0.5 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.3: 2 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.4: 0.25 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.5: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 2.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 2.4: 4 hours

 

☐    Sub-subunit 2.4.1: 1.25 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 2.4.2: 2.75 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Describe how resource use and early agriculture changed the environment. - Identify the beginnings of urbanization at the end of prehistory (writing) and the increased impact population density had on local environments. - Differentiate how religion and religious thinking shaped how people interacted with their environments. - Explain the ways organized trade and commerce shaped and were shaped by available resources.

2.1 Communities and Environmental Change   2.1.1 Deforestation   - Reading: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “The Role of Wood in World History” Link: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “The Role of Wood in World History” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
article.  In this essay, historian K.J.W. Oosthoek analyzes how
various civilizations throughout human history have used wood. 
Oosthoek also discusses how deforestation and subsequent climate
change adversely affected various civilizations in the Middle East,
Asia, and parts of Western Europe.  He concludes that modern society
should consider these historical precedents as it harvests wood from
the Amazon basin and various parts of Southeast Asia.  
    
 Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.  
    
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2.1.2 Manipulation of Fire   - Reading: National Humanities Center: Stephen J. Pyne’s “History with Fire in its Eye: an Introduction to Fire in America” Link: National Humanities Center: Stephen J. Pyne’s “History with Fire in Its Eye: An Introduction to Fire in America” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire article (3 webpages total). 
Click on the “continued” hyperlink at the bottom of each webpage to
access subsequent pages for this reading.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 1 hour.  

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2.1.3 Water Control   2.1.3.1 Attitudes towards Water   - Reading: University of Kansas: Donald Worster’s “Attitudes toward Water” Link: University of Kansas: Donald Worster’s “Attitudes toward Water” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
essay.  Noted environmental historian Donald Worster discusses
“instrumentalism” and “the intrinsic tradition” in human thinking
about the environment.  According to him, instrumental thinking uses
the idea of conquest as the correct metaphor to describe human
relationship to natural resources.  Those who think intrinsically
tend to anthropomorphize nature, but it also leads people to see
inherent worth in conservation, informed by scientific study of
ecology and not mere exploitation.  Worster concludes that cultural
change must precede conservation efforts.   

 Studying this essay should take approximately 1 hour.  

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  • Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Reading Quiz for Donald Worster’s ‘Attitudes toward Water’” and “Guided Response to Reading Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Reading Quiz for Donald Worster’s ‘Attitudes toward Water’” (PDF) and “Guided Response to Reading Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above to download the quiz for sub-subunit 2.1.3.1, and answer the questions as explained in the quiz instructions.  After you have answered these questions, please review the “Guided Response to Reading Quiz” for information on how to score your answers.  Note: This quiz was developed for the Saylor Foundation by Kate Sampsell-Willmann.
     
    You should dedicate approximately 30 minutes to completing this assessment.

2.1.3.2 Ancient Irrigation   - Reading: University of California, Davis: Richard Cowen’s “Ancient Irrigation” Link: University of California, Davis: Richard Cowen’s “Ancient Irrigation” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
webpage for information on how ancient civilizations used
irrigation.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
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2.1.4 Overgrazing   - Reading: Encyclopedia of the Earth: C. Michael Hogan’s “Overgrazing” Link: Encyclopedia of the Earth: C. Michael Hogan’s “Overgrazing” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire article and view the
accompanying images.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.5 Environmental Degradation and Societal Collapse   - Reading: Common Dreams: Excerpt from Derrick Jensen’s Endgame Link: Common Dreams: Excerpt from Derrick Jensen’s Endgame (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
excerpt.  In this excerpt, Derrick Jensen discusses the human
philosophies that underlie unsustainability.  

 Reading this excerpt should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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  • Reading: Earth Observatory: Michon Scott’s “Mayan Mysteries” Link: Earth Observatory: Michon Scott’s “Mayan Mysteries” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above and the read article in its entirety.  In this article, Michon Scott discusses how the ancient Mayans interacted with their environment and analyzes the environmental causes of the collapse of the Mayan civilization.

    Studying this article should take approximately 45 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2 Ancient Urbanization and Environmental Change   - Reading: Ancient History Encyclopedia: Joshua J. Mark’s “Urbanization” Link: Ancient History Encyclopedia: Joshua J. Mark’s “Urbanization” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
entry.  This article explores the earliest urbanization and earliest
city in ancient Mesopotamia.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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2.2.1 Sewers   - Reading: sewerhistory.org: Jon Schladweiler’s Tracking Down the Roots of our Sanitary Sewers: “The Early ‘Roots’ Timeline” Link: sewerhistory.org: Jon Schladweiler’s Tracking Down the Roots of our Sanitary Sewers: “The Early ‘Roots’ Timeline” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and review the entire
timeline.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: sewerhistory.org: Harold Farnsworth Gray’s “Sewerage in Ancient and Medieval Times” Link: sewerhistory.org: Harold Farnsworth Gray’s “Sewerage in Ancient and Medieval Times” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down the webpage to the “For Reference” section.  Please click on “PDF version” for this article, and read it in its entirety.  This article was originally published in Sewage Works Journal, Volume 12, No. 5 (Sept. 1940), 939–94.

    Studying this article should take approximately 45 minutes.

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  • Reading: sewerhistory.org: Jon C. Schladweiler’s “Cloacina: Goddess of the Sewers” Link: sewerhistory.org: Jon C. Schladweiler’s “Cloacina Goddess of the Sewers” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down to the bottom of the webpage under the “For Reference” section.  Please click on “PDF version,” and read the linked article.  Schladweiler is a historian associated with the Arizona Water & Pollution Control Association.

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

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2.2.2 Air Pollution   - Reading: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Air Pollution in a Historical Perspective” Link: Environmental History Resources: K.J.W. Oosthoek’s “Air Pollution in a Historical Perspective” (Flash)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, scroll down to the
video titled “Air Pollution in a Historical Perspective,” and watch
the entire video.  

 Viewing this video and pausing to take notes should take
approximately 15 minutes.  

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displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.3 Public Infrastructure   - Reading: Water Encyclopedia: Science and Issues: Larry W. Mays’ “Irrigation Systems, Ancient” Link: Water Encyclopedia: Science and Issues: Larry W. Mays’ “Irrigation Systems, Ancient” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
entry.  It is a brief introduction to the ancient public works,
including canals, dikes, and aqueducts in various early
civilizations.  Some information like irrigation of Egypt and the
Nile may be a review from the previous resource.  

 Reading this material should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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2.2.4 Environmental Causes of Urban Decline   - Reading: Bryn Mawr Classical Review: John McMahon’s “Review of J. Donald Hughes’ Pan’s Travail: Environmental Problems of the Ancient Greeks and Romans” Link: Bryn Mawr Classical Review: John McMahon’s “Review of J. Donald Hughes’ Pan’s Travail: Environmental Problems of the Ancient Greeks and Romans (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire review.  In his book *Pan’s
Travail*, the leading environmental historian J. Donald Hughes
provides an intriguing study of how Classical Mediterranean
civilizations interacted with their environments.  John McMahon’s
review offers a comprehensive summary and insightful comment on
Hughes’ book.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 30 minutes.  

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2.3 Religion   2.3.1 Understanding the Natural World   - Reading: Carnegie Mellon University: Qatar’s version of The Seven Evil Spirits, or Descriptions of “The Seven” Link: Carnegie Mellon University: Qatar’s version of The Seven Evil Spirits, or Descriptions of “The Seven” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the ancient Mesopotamian poem
“Descriptions of ‘The Seven,’” a primary source from the earliest
days of writing.  This is an excerpt from a Babylonian
civilization’s text from around four thousand years ago.  In *The
Seven Evil Spirits*, the Babylonian fear of harsh weather can be
read in the characters of the spirits and the damage each can do. 
In animistic religions, unlike in modern monotheism, women often
play a more central and exalted role.  

 Studying this poem should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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  • Reading: Ancient Texts: Timothy R. (Wolf) Carnahan’s version of Maureen Gallery Kovacs’ The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 1 Link: Ancient Texts: Timothy R. (Wolf) Carnahan’s version of Maureen Gallery Kovacs’ The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 1 (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire text.  This is an excerpt from a text from the ancient Babylonian civilization that existed around four thousand years ago in the Mesopotamian region (literally, “between the rivers”).  Like many pre-polytheistic religions, Mesopotamia was ruled by animism.  The natural world was understood through intercession of gods and spirits.  The translator in the version of The Epic of Gilgamesh above labels the seducer of Ekindu as a “harlot”; nonetheless, she hosts the forces of civilization, brought by domestication and fecund agriculture.  These are often found embodied in an earth mother goddess.

    Studying this text should take approximately 1 hour.

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2.3.2 Responding to the Environment   - Reading: University of Nevada, Las Vegas: “Religion of Egypt” Link: University of Nevada, Las Vegas: “Religion of Egypt” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire
webpage to learn about Egyptian religion and its relationship to the
environment.  

 Studying this material should take approximately 15 minutes.  

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displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.3 Moderating Human Interactions with the Natural World   - Reading: Internet Sacred Texts Archive: M. A. Czaplicka’s Shamanism in Siberia: “Chapter VII: Shamanism” Link: Internet Sacred Texts Archive: M. A. Czaplicka’s Shamanism in Siberia: “Chapter VII: Shamanism” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, read the entire
webpage, and familiarize yourself with the concept of “Shamanism.”  

 Reading this material should take less than 15 minutes.  

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  • Web Media: YouTube: Marguerite E. Garner’s Inner Mongolian Shaman’s Group Possession Ceremony: “Part 1” and “Part 2” Link: YouTube: Marguerite E. Garner’s Inner Mongolian Shaman’s Group Possession Ceremony: “Part 1” (YouTube) and “Part 2” (YouTube)

    Instructions: Please click on the links above, and watch Parts 1 and 2 of the video in its entirety.

    Watching the two videos takes approximately 15 minutes.

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2.4 Trade and Commerce   2.4.1 Shaped By Environmental Conditions   - Web Media: YouTube: University of Texas, Austin: Bruce Albert’s “Ancient Ecology” Link: YouTube: University of Texas, Austin: Bruce Albert’s “Ancient Ecology” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please watch this brief 2-minute YouTube video.  

 Viewing this lecture should take less than 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Norway: Pekka Masonen’s “Trans-Saharan Trade and the West African Discovery of the Mediterranean World” Link: Center for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Norway: Pekka Masonen’s “Trans-Saharan Trade and the West African Discovery of the Mediterranean World” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire essay.  In this paper, the author refutes the notion that Africans were passive, isolated, and had no interest or means to explore the world outside of their homeland by discussing the extensive internal trade inside Africa, especially that between North and West Africans.  In addition to trade, the article also presents a vivid picture of other aspects of the African societies, including the customs, slave trade, etiquette, and the spread of Islam.  Please think about how trade generated the changes in those domains and how changes in those domains shaped and reshaped the trade.

    Studying this essay should take approximately 1 hour.

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2.4.2 The Commodification of Natural Resources   - Reading: Purdue University: Dino Felluga’s Introductory Guide to Critical Theory: “Terms Used by Marxism: Commodity” Link: Purdue University: Dino Felluga’s Introductory Guide to Critical Theory: “Terms Used by Marxism: Commodity” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and scroll down to
locate “commodity” in the glossary.  Read the definition of
commodity.  Feel free to click on related concepts such as
“use-value” and “exchange-value.”  Here, we are talking about
“commodity” and “commodification” in the early civilizations.
 Extensive commodification in Marxist terms took place in the early
modern times (discussed in Unit 4).  

 Studying this material should take less than 15 minutes.  

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2.4.2.1 Early World Trade and Commodities   - Reading: University of Waterloo: Labyrinth, Issue 84: Chris Mundigler’s “The Ancient Spice Trade, Part III: Greece and Rome” Link: University of Waterloo: Labyrinth, Issue 84: Chris Mundigler’s “The Ancient Spice Trade, Part III: Greece and Rome” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link, and then select the
link for the title of the article.  In his article, Chris Mundigler
analyzes the trade on spices and other important commodities in the
ancient Mediterranean civilizations.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 20 minutes.  

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2.4.2.2 Natural Resources as Commodities   - Reading: English Word Information: “Chemical Element: Tin” Link: English Word Information: “Chemical Element: Tin” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the brief
entry.  

 Reading this entry should take less than 15 minutes.  

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  • Reading: Phoenicia.org’s “Phoenician Wine” and “Phoenician Mining” Link: Phoenicia.org’s “Phoenician Wine” (HTML) and “Phoenician Mining” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the links above, and read both entries in their entirety.  Trade became a feature of early civilizations.  While agriculture could sustain them, cultures soon began to trade excess production for items they lacked.  The shipping magnates of the Bronze Age were the Phoenicians.  Although they traded their own goods, the Phoenicians were best known as the sea power that connected trade routes in Europe and the Middle East.

    Studying these resources should take approximately 1 hour.

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  • Reading: Mexconnect: David Conrad’s “The Ancient Maya – A Commercial Empire” Link: Mexconnect: David Conrad’s “The Ancient Maya – A Commercial Empire” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire essay to learn about commercialism in the ancient Mayan civilization and how resources were allocated.

    Reading this essay should take approximately 45 minutes.

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