Teaching Students About Sumerians

The Sumerians were one of the first civilizations in human history, and their contributions to modern society are numerous. As educators, it is our responsibility to enlighten our students about this fascinating and influential civilization. In this article, we will discuss some key aspects to consider when teaching students about the Sumerians.

1. Historical Context

Begin by providing your students with an overview of human history leading up to the Sumerian civilization. The benefits of understanding the Sumerians’ place in history are twofold: first, this context will allow students to appreciate the innovative nature of the Sumerian people; second, it will demonstrate the significance of their technological advancements and contributions to subsequent civilizations.

2. Geography and Environmental Impact

The Sumerian civilization was centered in ancient Mesopotamia, which encompassed what is now modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Iran and Turkey. Discuss the importance of the location between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in supporting agriculture and trade. Emphasize how environmental factors such as fertile soil facilitated the growth of this early civilization.

3. Innovations in Writing: The Cuneiform Script

One of the most significant contributions from the Sumerians is their invention of cuneiform writing, one of the world’s earliest forms of writing. This system featured wedge-shaped impressions made on clay tablets with a reed stylus. Teach your students about how cuneiform led to advancements in literacy, record-keeping, and communication throughout ancient Mesopotamia.

4. Agriculture and Irrigation Techniques

Another vital aspect of Sumerian society was their skill in agriculture and irrigation techniques. They utilized canals to control floods from rivers, which allowed them to cultivate crops such as barley and wheat effectively. Show your students how these innovations supported population growth, which in turn led to the development of urban centers and a more complex society.

5. Governing Systems and Law Codes

The Sumerians created one of the earliest known law codes, known as the Code of Ur-Nammu, named after the Sumerian king who implemented it. Teach your students about the basics of Sumerian governing structures and laws, as well as how this legal code has influenced modern-day law systems.

6. Religion and Mythology

Sumerian religion and mythology played a significant role in their society. They believed in a pantheon of gods and goddesses who controlled various aspects of daily life and nature. Introduce your students to famous Sumerian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and discuss the cultural impact of these stories on later civilizations.

7. Art, Architecture, and Science

Finally, expose your students to examples of Sumerian art, architecture, and science achievements. Discuss their skills in pottery and sculpture, their impressive architectural feats like ziggurats, and their contributions to astronomy, mathematics, medicine, among others.

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