Ancient Near East
©Damen, 2018

A Guide to Writing in History and Classics


Course Description

The Ancient Near East: Mesopotamia and Egypt
HIST 3110 (14499)

TR 10:30-11:45; FL 119

Mark Damen (mark.damen@usu.edu)
Main 307
Office hours: MWF 10:30-11:30


Purpose. The purpose of this class is to review the course of human development in two of the so-called "cradles of civilizations," Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. We will look with varying degrees of depth into the political, military, social and artistic evolution of these closely situated and associated cultures in an effort to see what patterns and interconnections the evidence affords. Also, insofar as much of this forms the backdrop of those Ancient Israelite texts which have come to be called The Old Testament, we will also address their relevance to our understanding of the inter-cultural milieu that comprised the "trade basin" of the Ancient Near East. All in all, we will be investigating the very furthest horizon of history from which we today have our closest picture of one cultural font where nothing less than Western civilization itself arose. The view that emerges from this highly fragmented picture of a huge expanse of history depends largely on how one reads the evidence, and so we will also address by necessity fundamental questions about historiography and what may be construed from the motley variety of sources we are left with. In other words, this class is about not only what happened but also how we today reconstruct what happened.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Because so much documentation and textual information has been lost or is lacking, the study of Ancient Near Eastern civilization necessitates close examination of the iconographic information which forms the basis of much of our knowledge and appreciation of this corner of antiquity. Without some understanding of what art and archaeology have brought to us concerning the lives and times of the peoples of the Ancient Near East, one cannot claim to have any real grasp of their world. Thus, much class time and a full section on the Final Exam will entail discussion and analysis of the material remains of Mesopotamian and Egyptian culture as opposed to the sort of documentary data with which the majority of historical researchers are most familiar. In other words, traditional students of history may find the approach to studying the past in this class a conceptual challenge. You have been forewarned!


Required Texts: • William H. Stiebing Jr., Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture, 2nd Ed. (Longman, 2018)
• J. B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, Volume 1: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (Princeton, 1965)
• A. George (trans.), The Epic of Gilgamesh (Penguin, 2003)
A Guide to Writing in History and Classics [henceforth, The Writing Guide]
Recommended Text: G. Roux, Ancient Iraq, 3rd edition (Penguin, 1992)

Required Texts. Readings based on your texts (Stiebing; Pritchard; George) are required. Test material and data for written assignments will be drawn in part from them, in part from lectures.

• W.H. Stiebing and S.N. Helft, Ancient Near Eastern History and Culture (2018) is a standard, rather straightforward—and a bit dry, but history students will understand why—account of the evolution of Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt laid out synchronically, for the most part.

• J.B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East, Volume 1: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures (1965) is a collection of original sources translated into English which you will read as they pertain to the class. For instance, when we study Mari (Section 4), you will read the Mari letters that are included in Pritchard.

• A. George, The Epic of Gilgamesh (2003) is a translation of the most complete work of literature surviving from Mesopotamian culture, outside of the biblical tradition. We will read this work in conjunction with our study of the historical and literary heritage of Ancient Near Eastern civilization.

All reading assignments based on these texts should be completed prior to class. Throughout the term, I will give you the opportunity to demonstrate to me that you have been keeping up with the assigned reading by answering questions correctly on Pre-Tests. It could not hurt to start the readings now and get ahead.

Articles on Canvas. There are extra reading assignments listed under the "Articles" heading of each Section of the Course Outline. These are not required but highly recommended for you to read, especially for those of you with an interest in the particular subject covered by the article. They also serve as the basis of Reactions (see Class Projects and Grading). Copies of these readings are available on Canvas (look under "Files" in the lefthand menu). Please note that these works on Canvas may not be included in your annotated bibliographies, research papers or any work outside of Reactions.

Grades. The following are the maximum number of points awarded for the projects that will constitute your final grade:

Summary Paper
  25 pts.
Pre-Tests (28)
  420 pts. (15 pts. each)
Reactions (10)
  500 pts. (50 pts. each)
First Essay
  50 pts.
First Annotated Bibliography/WebSearch
  150 pts.
Midterm Essay
  100 pts.
First Draft of Research Paper
  50 pts.
Individual Project (repeatable)
  up to 250 pts. (variable credit)
Second Annotated Bibliography/WebSearch
  200 pts.
Final Draft of Research Paper
  150 pts.
Final Exam
  300 pts.
Capstone Paper
  250 pts.

The nature of each assignment is discussed below in the section entitled, "Class Projects and Grading." All tests and papers are cumulative; this includes the Final Exam. Missed work will count as zero. No make-ups will be given. Work must be turned in as hard copy on or before its due date to receive full credit; late work will be reduced by 25% in total credit for every day (24-hour period) after the deadline, including weekend days and holidays. All written work must be typed and look professional in order to receive credit. I will not accept any work via email or through any electronic means. Cheating of any sort and to any degree will be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. This includes plagiarism. If you are unfamiliar with the University's definition of plagiarism, please refer to the University's Student Code, along with the comments appended to the end of the section on Style (after #20) in A Guide to Writing in History and Classics. Incompletes will not be given except in strict accordance with University policy. No finals will be given before or after the scheduled time (see Syllabus).

Grading Scale. Final grades will be assigned according to the following scale. Numbers below refer to the total amount of points accumulated from the sum of all graded assignments.

[no A+]
999-980 = B+
899-880 = C+
799-780 = D+
above 1020 = A
979-920 = B
879-820 = C
779-700 = D
1019-1000 = A-
919-900 = B-
819-800 = C-
[no D-]
Below 700 constitutes an F

Study Habits. Because this is a class that requires a good deal of reading and memorization, it is imperative that you keep up with assignments. Cramming leads directly to failure. See me immediately if you are having troubles staying up with the class. I mean this. I am ready and willing to help you, but I can do nothing if you do not come to me first. Use your tuition and tax dollars wisely and see me if you think I can help.

Required Recitations. Twice early in the term (for date, see Syllabus) I will meet with you in class to cover an important matter that pertains to your performance in this course but not its content directly, namely, the style of writing used by professional historians. In my experience even the best-trained and most insightful students benefit from a clear and forthright presentation by their history instructor of the expectations for written work in a particular class, which is what I will do at the recitation. Thus, I REQUIRE ALL STUDENTS TO ATTEND THESE RECITATIONS! I will take attendance at them. If you do not attend them, I will NOT accept from you any written assignments for credit. If you believe that you do not need to be present at these recitations because of your mastery of historical style and you seek to be excused, please come and see me before they are held. There will be no discussion about attendance or excuses accepted after the recitations have taken place.

Revision. Students whose written work requires correction for factual or stylistic errors may at times be offered the opportunity to revise and resubmit their work for additional credit. Revision opportunities will be limited to only certain exercises and will end two weeks before the last day of class. Click here for directions about how to revise work turned in as hard copy.

Returning Graded Materials. In order to ensure fair and equal treatment of all students, I will not as a rule return any materials to anyone until all assignments of the same kind have been graded. Unfortunately, that means there may be a delay in my returning certain materials to you, in particular, Annotated Bibliographies, Projects, Research Papers and other assignments entailing complex grading procedures. If you need to have materials graded and returned to you by a certain date (to assess, for instance, whether or not you need to do other assignments in the class), please turn them at least TWO weeks before the date on which you need to know your grade. That may involve handing in certain materials significantly ahead of the designated deadline. In sum, if your grade on a particular assignment is of that much concern to you, then you must give me the time to assess it properly. To put it another way, please do not ask me for your grade on any material the day after or even the week after you turn it in. Given the number of students and classes I am assigned, I cannot provide grades fairly in that sort of a time framework. Please understand I will work to get assignments graded and back to you as efficiently as possible, but I must also work within the constraints of class size and with an eye to equality and quality for all.

Students with ADA-documented physical, sensory, emotional or medical impairments may be eligible for reasonable accommodations. Veterans may also be eligible for services. All accommodations are coordinated through the Disability Resource Center (DRC) in Room 101 of the University Inn, (435)797-2444 voice, (435)797-0740 TTY, or toll free at 1-800-259-2966. Please contact the DRC as early in the semester as possible. Alternate format materials (Braille, large print or digital) are available with advance notice. .

All of this is subject to change. Students are responsible for incorporating into the materials on this course web site (including the syllabus, course description, project descriptions and course outline) all alterations in scheduling, deadlines and assignments announced in class.



A Guide to Writing in History and Classics