History-Social Science Framework Adopted by the State Board of Education on July 14, 2016

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History–Social Science Framework

Adopted by the State Board of Education on July 14, 2016



Chapter 10

Grade Six – World History and Geography: Ancient Civilizations

Global Overview: Early Beginnings to 300 CE

  • How did the environment influence human migration, ancient ways of life, and the development of societies?

  • What were the early human ways of life and how did they change over time? (hunting and gathering, agriculture, civilizations, urban societies, states, and empires)

  • How did the major religious and philosophical systems (Judaism, Greek thought, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism) support individuals, rulers, and societies?

  • How did societies interact with each other? How did connections between societies increase over time?

Students in sixth-grade world history and geography classrooms learn about the lives of the earliest humans, the development of tools, the foraging way of life, agriculture, and the emergence of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, ancient Israel, the Indus River valley, China, Mesoamerica, and the Mediterranean basin. Although teachers should keep the focus on ancient events and problems, this course gives students the opportunity to grapple with geography, environmental issues, political systems and power structures, and civic engagement with fundamental ideas about citizenship, freedom, morality, and law, which also exist in the modern world. Students practice history as an interpretative discipline. They read written primary sources and secondary sources, investigate visual primary sources, and learn how to analyze multiple points of view, cite evidence from sources, and make claims based on that evidence in writing and speaking.

Although most of the sixth-grade standards are organized regionally, there are patterns which the teacher uses to connect the regional studies into a world history. These are:


  • The movement of early humans across continents and their adaptations to the geography and climate of new regions.

  • The rise of diverse civilizations, characterized by economies of surplus, centralized states, social hierarchies, cities, networks of trade, art and architecture, and systems of writing.

  • The growth of urban societies and changes in societies (social class divisions, slavery, divisions of labor between men and women).

  • The development of new political institutions (monarchy, empire, democracy) and new ideas (citizenship, freedom, morality, law).

  • The birth and spread of religious and philosophical systems (Judaism, Greek thought, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism) which responded to human needs and supported social norms and power structures.

  • The development and growth of links between societies through trade, diplomacy, migration, conquest, and the diffusion of goods and ideas.

The first section below outlines the development of these themes throughout the world over time. It is divided into three chronological periods: Beginnings to 4000 BCE; 4000-1000 BCE: Kingdoms and Innovations; and 1000 BCE-300 CE: An Age of Empires and Interactions. The second section outlines the development of these themes following the regional structure of the existing 6th-grade standards.

Beginnings to 4000 BCE

Modern humans, Homo Sapiens, are members of the Great Ape family. About 25 million years ago a medium-sized primate group split into apes and monkeys; both groups found an ecological niche in trees. Apes didn’t have tails, relied primarily on their arms for locomotion by swinging in trees (as opposed to monkeys who primarily used four legs for travel). Apes developed a keener sense of vision; monkeys developed a better sense of smell. Subsequently, the ape family branched into two major lines—hominins and what we now usually call apes. The ape strand led to the present day chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas.

Our early ancestors, the hominins, and chimpanzees, our closest non-hominin relative, appeared about 6 million years ago. Both were partially bi-pedal. By 2.5 million years ago, these early hominins had evolved to walking up-right. After passing through the austrapolithecine (southern ape) stage, the hominins eventually gave rise to our genus Homo (our first human-like ancestors), which initially appeared about 2.5 million years ago in Africa. The brains of this new genus were about the same size as chimpanzees but grew steadily through the next million years. There were several species of these early homo lines whose population began to grow, though very gradually, after they began to make use of tools more extensively. Our early human ancestors evolved larger brains in response to the survival needs of hunting and gathering in small bands, employed rudimentary stone tools for skinning animals and weapons (such as spear heads and knives), developed simple clothing and shelter, and used fire opportunistically. Pair-bonding, which allowed for more extensive for child rearing, contributed to survival success.

There are various theories of how these hominins evolved. Most scholars suggest that the continued growth of brain size necessitated larger food intake. About 2 million years ago, a few of our early human ancestors migrated out of their east African homeland to the rest of that continent and subsequently spread throughout the world --to Europe, and as far east as Indonesia and China. The various species of the homo line continued to evolve and eventually became the more modern Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. Using archeological evidence, such as the carbon dating of bones, stone tools and weapons, DNA evidence of matrilineal and patrilineal descent, the examination of food remains and campsites, students can consider, How do we know about these early proto-humans? Why did they succeed in replacing other Hominin lines?

Around 200,000 years ago our direct human ancestors appeared, modern Homo sapiens (the wise man), who were anatomically the same as modern humans. At that time there was nothing particularly special about our species compared to the other homo species. We co-existed with several other homo lines who also possessed similar brain sizes, walked upright, used fire, ate a variety of foods, were skilled gatherers, progressed from scavengers to hunters of large animals, and used comparable tools. However, Homo sapiens were lighter, less muscled, more adaptable, and kept developing larger brains.

About 70,000 years ago Homo sapiens began a major transformation. The species underwent a cognitive revolution which allowed us to acquire sophisticated language, the ability to abstract, imagine, and plan, and to develop the social skills and myth-making capacity required for group cohesion. These talents permitted homo sapiens to develop more sophisticated tools and inventions, learn from one another, and pass technical, cultural, and organizational knowledge from one generation to the next. Homo sapiens also began to act collectively in large groups for foraging, hunting, and defense. These talents allowed our species to learn from experience and adapt more easily to changing conditions. Consequently, modern humans were able to survive the varied and extreme climates found on this planet.

Under one highly regarded explanation, the climate worsened around 160,000 years ago, leaving much of Africa uninhabitable. The numbers of our immediate ancestors declined precipitously and some sought refuge on the southern coast where they learned to exploit the rich shell food beds for food. Unlike territory with scattered resources, territory that featured dense collections of resources required a stationary home base and defense against others. These ancestors evolved a genetically encoded prosocial proclivity, the ability to use sophisticated language and symbols, more advanced conceptual and cognitive capacities, and social lifestyle shifts to encourage sophisticated innovation and cooperation with unrelated individuals. These traits allowed them to better exploit and defend their resource-rich territories against invaders. With their increased brains and ability to cooperate they became even more inventive. Their development of projectile weaponry, especially when coated with poison, was a revolutionary innovation that allowed for safer hunting. (Neanderthals never discovered bows and arrows and many were killed getting too close to large animals in the hunt).

The story of how our now fully human ancestors populated the earth starting around 70,000 years ago is fascinating. Although the narrative is generally understood, some details are known, some are controversial, and some are yet to be discovered. Students can consider the impact of population pressure, the availability of untapped hunting grounds, warfare, or even a sense of adventure as they consider the evidence for the migration and various routes taken. Why did modern humans leave Africa? What happened to all the other Hominids in Africa, or the Neanderthals who had evolved from earlier humans in Europe? How did modern humans travel across the hemispheres? How violent or aggressive were these early humans? In their investigations, students can consider the fact that as the modern humans peopled the world, the other lines became extinct. They can consider how modern humans from Indonesia crossed land bridges and developed the sea-faring technology to settle the continent of Australia more than 40,000 years ago. And students can develop their own explanations for how 14,000 years our species had populated both North and South America and had peopled every continent except Antarctica (although some islands such as New Zealand and Hawaii were not inhabited until much later).

In all these places people survived by foraging, hunting, and fishing, and they lived in bands, that is, communities typically numbering no more than a few dozen men, women, and children. World population of our species began to rise but very gradually. Often, these bands were loosely associated with larger groups, such as tribes who had a common language and belief systems. For example, when the British conquered Australia in the eighteenth century, they found 300,000 to 700,000 hunter-gatherers organized into between 200-600 tribes (further divided into multiple bands) each with its own language, customs, norms, and belief systems.

Around 10,000 years ago, some humans began to domesticate plants and animals and experiment with farming. Others learned to mine for desired metals and precious stones after smelting was discovered. Their activities led to the development of new ways of life: agriculture in settled villages, trade, and pastoral nomadism. Students investigate why these radical changes began to occur after humans had lived exclusively as gatherers and hunters and still managed to adapt successfully to many climates and climatic changes over hundreds of thousands of years. Why did some humans start to plant and harvest crops, live in crowded villages, and later build cities, accept the rule of monarchs, and pay taxes? Why did the pace of historical change in certain parts of the world begin to speed up?

During this period many technological and social discoveries or inventions occurred building on the previous breakthroughs, such as use of fire, cooking, boats, use of tools for hunting, defense, and daily life, and tools to make tools, language, expressions of emotions, the ability to understand what another person was thinking, planning, pair-bonding, cooperation, bands and tribes, clothing, sewing, containers, and art, including pigmentation, music and dance. The new innovations included domestication of animals and farming, smelting of copper, then bronze, then iron, the plough, twisted rope, musical instruments, beer and wine, religion and ancestor worship, more complex boats, and trade allowed for an increasing population and standard of living. Working in small groups, students can explore the impact of these discoveries and innovations by examining one discovery or invention in-depth to develop and present a short oral presentation that both explains the innovation and speculates as to its overall significance.



4000-1000 BCE: Kingdoms and Innovations

At the beginning of the period between 4000 and 1000 BCE, the earliest complex urban societies, or civilizations, rose. By the end of this period, there were many urban societies, and their interaction had accelerated. During those three millennia, numerous technical and intellectual innovations appeared, especially in the dense agricultural societies that arose in the Middle East (notably Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and Persia), the Nile Valley of Africa, Indus Valley Civilization of the northern Indian subcontinent, China, and the lands around the Aegean Sea. By about 2000 BCE, urban societies also began to emerge in the Americas, starting with the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica and Chavín in South America. Many inventions and ideas fundamental to modern life appeared, including the wheel, writing, more complex metallurgy, codes of law, mathematics, and astronomy. While cities grew in some areas, hunter-gatherers and village farmers remained in other areas. Increased trade occurred. Global population rose at a faster rate than it had before 4000 BCE.

Powerful people (warlords) took control of the tribes in larger areas and eventually the strongest warlords formed states or city-states with governments headed by kings or, very occasionally, queens, often claiming authority from gods and passing on power to their own descendants. Supported by political elites (nobles, officials, warriors) and priests, these monarchs imposed taxes on ordinary city dwellers and rural people to pay for bureaucracies, armies, irrigation works, and monumental architecture. Writing systems were first invented to serve governments, religions, and merchants, and later became means of transmitting religious, scientific, and literary ideas. Some of the religions of this era, such as early Hinduism and Judaism, set the stage for later world belief systems.

Migrations continued as farming peoples slowly expanded into tropical Africa and Southeast Asia, North and South America, and the temperate woodlands of Europe. In the steppes of Central Asia, a new way of life and type of society emerged after 4000 BCE. There, communities lived by herding domesticated animals, such as sheep, cattle, or horses. Their economy, called pastoral nomadism, permitted humans to adapt in larger numbers to climates which were too dry for farming. Pastoral nomads lived mainly on the products of their livestock. They grazed herds over vast areas and came regularly in contact with urban societies, often to trade, sometimes to make war. By the end of this period, urban societies ruled by monarchies had greatly expanded their control over agricultural regions, but many people still lived in small village, pastoral nomad, and hunter-gatherer societies.



1000 BCE-300 CE: An Age of Empires and Interchange

During these 1,300 years, many patterns of change established in the previous era continued, but at a faster pace. The number of cities multiplied, and states appeared in new forms that were bigger, more complex, and more efficient at coercing people and extracting taxes from them. A new form of state developed – the empire. Among the largest states of that era were the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires centered in Mesopotamia, the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sasanian Empires in Persia, the Kushan Empire in Central Asia, the Maurya Empire in India, and the kingdom of Kush in the upper Nile River valley. The largest of all were the Roman Empire, which came to embrace the entire Mediterranean Sea region and much of Europe, and the Han Empire in China. At the dawn of the first millennium CE, these two states together ruled a small part of the earth’s land area, but roughly one-half of the world’s population.

A second key development of that era was the establishment of a thicker web of interregional communication and transport, which allowed goods, technologies, and ideas to move long distances. Interlocking networks of roads, such as the Silk Road, and sea lanes in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, connected empires, kingdoms, and regions of the Eastern Hemisphere with one another. Merchants and other travelers created similar interconnections in Mesoamerica and along South America’s Andean mountain spine. Merchants traveled long distances in caravans and ships to connect farming and urban societies that lay along the rims of seas, deserts, and steppes. In this period, the religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity and the philosophies of Confucianism and Greek thought emerged and spread within empires and along trade routes. These religious and philosophical systems changed as they developed, in order to address human needs, support social order, and adapt to different societies. The introduction of money (coins) around the 6th or 5th century BCE facilitated trade. The concept of metal money quickly spread through the ancient world, making its way to Greece, Egypt, Persia, Phoenicia, Carthage, India, China and Rome.

The following section discusses the development of the above themes following the existing sixth-grade standards. Teachers use the guiding questions to focus on course themes and draw comparisons with other regional units.

Early Humankind and the Development of Human Societies


  • How did the environment influence the migrations of early humans? How did early humans adapt to new environments and climate changes?

  • How did people live by the gathering and hunting way of life?

  • Why did some people develop agriculture and pastoral nomadism? What were the effects of these new ways of life?

In the first unit, students learn about the emergence and migrations of early humans, the gathering and hunting way of life, and the emergence of village agriculture and pastoral nomadism. To frame the topic of the emergence and migrations of early humans, the teacher uses these questions: How did the environment influence the migrations of early humans? How did early humans adapt to new environments and climate changes? For millions of years, the genetic ancestors of humans, known as hominins (or hominids), used stone tools and lived on foods found by gathering and hunting. Archeological evidence shows students that our earliest forebears evolved in eastern Africa and that small bands of those ancestors migrated into Eurasia about 1.9 million years ago, driven by population gains and increased competition for food. Around 800,000 years ago, early humans discovered how to control fire, allowing them to cook food, keep away predators, and burn areas of land in order to flush out game.

Homo sapiens, that is, anatomically modern humans, evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago. Modern humans adapted well to new environments, developing increasingly diverse stone and bone tools for collecting and processing food. About 100,000 years ago, our species developed the capacity for language, which accelerated technological change. Spoken language and the evolution of pro-social mental and social structures enabled humans to teach complex skills to each other, cooperate with others, pass down ideas to the next generation, and talk about their world and the cosmos.

After leaving Africa 90,000 to 100,000 years ago, humans may have reached Australia 60,000 or more years ago and Europe 40,000 years ago. In the Middle East and Europe, humans encountered Neanderthals, a related hominid species, who became extinct about 28,000 years ago. Early humans reached the Americas from Eurasia at least 12,000 years ago, possibly earlier. Students use maps to identify the patterns of early human migration and settlement which populated the major regions of the world. Reading climate zone maps and studying climate change during the Pleistocene (glacial and interglacial periods) helps students develop an understanding of the effects of climate on the Earth and on the expansion of human settlements. In California EEI Curriculum Unit 6.1.1, “Paleolithic People: Tools, Tasks and Fire,” students analyze why humans chose certain migration routes, settled in particular locations, developed lifestyles, cultures, and methods to extract, harvest, and consume natural resources to understand how early humans adapted to the natural systems and environmental cycles in different regions, and how these factors influence the settlement of human communities. Students analyze how human migrants might adapt to a colder or hotter climate, growth of human population, competition with another hominid species, floods, or droughts.

Although humans made many adaptations to the conditions of their environments, until about 10,000 years ago, they all lived by the same way of life, hunting and gathering. The teacher introduces the first of the ways of life students will study in this course with this framing question: How did people live by the gathering and hunting way of life? There was a division of labor between women and men, but they contributed equally to supporting the band. Adult men were more likely to travel away from the camp to forage or hunt, while women, who were likely to be pregnant or have small children to care for, collected edible plants and trapped small animals close to home. Because gatherers and hunters need a large area to support themselves, bands were small. Social cooperation was very important, but there were few social differences between people.

To understand the gathering and hunting way of life and appreciate the linguistic and cognitive advantages of Homo sapiens, students analyze primary sources from this long time period before written language. Our knowledge of this era depends on evidence from material remains, especially from bones and stone tools, and, more recently, from research on human DNA and long-term climatic and geological change. Students can analyze cave paintings from Chauvet, Lascaux, and Altamira, with pairs of students first answering a descriptive question, such as: What colors did the artist use? What kinds of animals are shown in the painting? and then making an interpretation about: What was important to hunter-gatherer people? What in the painting supports your interpretation? Why do you think the artist painted this? Student pairs can then share their interpretations, claims, and evidence with the whole class. Students use academic language to articulate their observations and interpretations to another student and the whole class, supporting the development of oral discourse ability. Students investigate the dramatic changes that took place when some humans began to domesticate plants and animals and settle in one place year round, with these questions: Why did some people develop agriculture and pastoral nomadism? What were the effects of these new ways of life? Teachers begin by asking students why a gatherer might start planting seeds. How might a hunter start to tame an animal? Archaeological evidence indicates that in the Middle East, and probably Egypt, foraging bands settled near stands of edible grasses, the genetic ancestors of wheat and other grains. People began deliberately to sow plants that had favorable qualities, for example, varieties that were large, tasty, and easy to cook. In this way, they gradually domesticated those plants. Domesticated plants and animals became increasingly important to human diets regionally and turned people into farmers, that is, producers of food rather than simply collectors of it.

This huge change introduced a new way of life for humans – village agriculture. They could therefore live in larger settlements and accumulate more material goods than when they foraged for a living. Teachers emphasize that agriculture involved not only the act of farming but also a whole new way of life based on food production. Improved production meant that not everyone in a village had to spend all of their time securing the food supply. Food surplus also invited conflict with neighboring tribes eager to expand their own reserves. Another result of village agriculture is the development of tools. Early farmers gradually developed more varied stone tools, such as sickles to cut grain and grinding stones to make flour. They used fire to transform clay into durable pottery. They wove wool, cotton, and linen into textiles. Because the early millennia of agriculture involved more sophisticated stone tools, it is known as the Neolithic, or New Stone Age.

One of the major effects of the village agricultural way of life was an increase in social differences. In early villages adult men and women probably worked together to perform many necessary tasks and treated each other with near equality. Because villages likely included several extended families living closely together, however, leaders inevitably emerged to guide group decisions and settle personal conflicts. Also, as soon as some families accumulated more stored food than did others and appointed guards to protect their wealth, the conditions for social inequality appeared. Teachers may ask students to examine differences in the contents of graves that archaeologists have excavated—some graves having jewelry, shells, or other fine materials and some having none of these things—for evidence about social ranking and inequality in early agricultural communities.

Agriculture developed independently in different areas of the world between 12,000 and 5,000 years ago and gradually spread outward from those areas. Students should compare physical and environmental maps with maps of the first sites of food production to make interpretations.

In some areas of the world, such as the steppes of Central Asia, the climate was unfavorable for farming, but ideal for supporting herds of domesticated animals, such as sheep, cattle, or horses. In these areas, some people created a new way of life based on the products of their livestock. They were nomadic and did not settle in villages. In fact, they were highly mobile, and often came into contact with settled societies, often to trade and sometimes to attack and conquer. By 4000 BCE there were three ways of life followed by humans – gathering and hunting, village agriculture, and pastoral nomadism.

The Early Civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Kush


  • How did civilizations, complex urban societies, develop in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Kush?

  • What environmental factors helped civilizations grow? What impact did civilizations and complex urban societies have on the surrounding environment?

  • How did people’s lives change as states and empires took over these areas (increase in social differences, rule by monarchs, laws)?

  • From 4000 BCE to 500 BCE, how did contact, trade, and other links grow among the urban societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Kush, India, and the eastern Mediterranean?

Between 10,000 and 4,000 BCE, farming spread widely across Africa and Eurasia. In the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates (Fertile Crescent) and Nile rivers, people adapted to the rivers’ flood cycles and the related seasonal cycles of plants and animals. Their adaptations allowed them to produce a surplus of food, which led to other changes in their cultures. Students learn that people who lived near the banks of those rivers began to use irrigation techniques to control water and extend farming, despite an increasingly arid climate. A similar process got under way in the Indus River valley in what is now modern India and modern Pakistan and in the Huang He (Yellow) River valley in northern China some centuries later. To frame the study of the emergence of civilizations, the teacher uses the question: How did civilizations, complex urban societies, develop in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Kush? When communities began to intensify farming with new techniques, they were able to produce surplus food. Early farmers increased the size of their farms and used more resources in order to increase their yield. Focusing on the relationships between resource requirements, agricultural production, and population growth, students learn that the population growth near agricultural areas was a first step in the development of larger settlements and cities. The surpluses they produced led to the rise of more complex social, economic, and political systems in those valleys.

The civilization of Mesopotamia, located in the valley of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (modern Iraq and part of Syria), and Egypt, which stretched along the Nile River, both arose in the fourth millennium BCE. Kush, a civilization in the upper Nile River region south of Egypt emerged in the second millennium BCE. Teachers introduce students to the environmental roots of civilization with this question: What environmental factors helped civilizations grow? What impact did civilizations and complex urban societies have on the surrounding environment? All these societies depended on their river locations to build dense agricultural societies. First students examine maps to identify the environmental factors, such as climate, topography, and flood patterns, that caused these civilizations to rise up along rivers. The teacher might use either of the California EEI Curriculum Units 6.2.1.River Systems and Ancient Peoples, or 6.2.2 Advances in Ancient Civilizations. These lessons emphasize environmental causes and effects and the influence that the rise of civilization along these rivers had on the organization, economies, and belief systems of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Teachers guide students through the development of each of these three civilizations separately, while frequently pointing out connections, similarities, and differences among the civilizations (and also the Harappa civilization along the Indus River and Chinese civilization along the Huang He [Yellow] River). The following section discusses Mesopotamia first, followed by Egypt, and then by Kush.

In the third millennium BCE, Mesopotamia was divided into a number of kingdoms. Beginning in Sumer, the region of southern Mesopotamia, those early kingdoms were dominated by large walled cities, each enclosing a royal palace and a temple dedicated to the local god, along with densely packed housing for the population. Walls were built around many of these cities in response to aggression by neighboring kingdoms and competing warlords seeking to expand their territory through conquest. By around 3,000 BCE, a second cluster of cities arose in northern Mesopotamia and the area of modern-day Syria. Rulers of these cities claimed to possess authority divinely bestowed by their city’s god or goddess. The city-states of Mesopotamia frequently fought one another over resources, but they also formed alliances. At the end of the third millennium, Sargon of Akkad (2270-2215 BCE) managed briefly to forge a unified empire through conquest.

Students also examine the connections between Mesopotamia and other areas with this question: From 4000 BCE to 500 BCE, how did contact, trade, and other links grow among the urban societies of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Kush, India, and the eastern Mediterranean? Trade was extensive, not only among the Mesopotamian kingdoms, but also between Mesopotamia and surrounding regions. The land had rich soil that produced abundant crops, but it had no minerals. Merchants imported a red stone called carnelian from the Indus Valley, a blue stone called lapis lazuli from what is now Afghanistan, and silver from Anatolia (modern Turkey), which were used for jewelry and decorations in temples and palaces. From the Elamites on the Iranian plateau, merchants imported wood, copper, lead, silver, and tin. In some periods, trade and diplomatic exchanges took place between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Teachers introduce students to Mesopotamia’s numerous technological and social innovations, including the wheel, the wooden plow, the seed drill, and improved bronze metallurgy, as well as advances in mathematics, astronomical measurement, and law. Essential for the functioning of the legal system and of the administrative structure of Mesopotamian kingdoms was the cuneiform writing system. The signs were written on clay tablets and could be used to represent phonetically many ancient languages, including Sumerian and Akkadian, the languages of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamians had a complex legal system and written laws, of which Hammurabi’s are the best preserved, though not the earliest.

Next students explore the development of Mesopotamia society with this question: How did people’s lives change as states and empires took over this area? In the Mesopotamian cities and states, a small elite group of political leaders (officials, warriors, “nobles”) and priests held the most wealth and power, while the majority of people remained poor farmers, artisans, or slaves. Supported by the elites, kings established dynasties and built large palaces. Social groups were increasingly divided into a true social hierarchy. Mesopotamia was a patriarchy and men had more power than women. However, priestesses and noblewomen did have some access to power. For example, Sargon placed his daughter in the powerful position of high priestess of the moon god, starting a tradition that continued in the reigns of subsequent kings. Monarchs’ wives sometimes controlled their own estates. In the Mesopotamian cities (and in all civilizations) the increase in social differences was a dramatic change for humans.



Grade Six Classroom Example: Hammurabi’s Code

To build student understanding of how human life changed in these early civilizations, Mrs. Stanton organizes a close reading of excerpts from Hammurabi’s laws. Knowing that the text will be challenging for English Learners, she identifies the key passages in the text, the unfamiliar names, the academic vocabulary, and the literacy challenges that students will face. After putting students in groups of four, Mrs. Stanton distributes excerpted texts containing the first sentence of Hammurabi’s prologue and the first six phrases of the second sentence (for all groups) and sets of six laws (different selections for each group which all show differentiated punishments for different classes of people.) Mrs. Stanton then explains that students will be analyzing this primary source to gather evidence to answer the question: How did people’s lives change under the rule of Hammurabi and the civilization in Mesopotamia? She reminds students of the egalitarian life of the hunter-gatherers and limited hierarchy of villages. The students read their texts silently first and then discuss in their groups: What is this text about? What crimes do the laws punish? For the second reading, Mrs. Stanton guides students through a sentence deconstruction chart of the first sentence, followed by a whole class discussion of Hammurabi’s claims to divine authority as a protector of the people. For the third reading, the students mark up the text and write annotations in the margins. The teacher then models the structure of a social hierarchy pyramid on the board. For the fourth reading, each group analyzes their selection of laws, identifies the social groups, draws a social hierarchy diagram of those groups, and reports to the class orally and in writing. After class discussion, students answer text-dependent questions in a fifth reading. The students then write a summary paragraph about Hammurabi’s Laws, using the words: monarch, prince, rule, Babylon, Marduk, conquered, righteousness, and social hierarchy.


CA HSS Standards: 6.2.4

CA HSS Analysis Skills (6–8): Research, Evidence, and Point of View 3, Historical Interpretation 1

CA CCSS for ELA/Literacy: RI.6.3, RI.6.10, SL.6.1, SL.6.4, L.6.4, RH.6–8.1, RH.6–8.2, RH.6–8.4, WHST.6–8.2, WHST.6–8.9

CA ELD Standards: ELD.PI.6.1, 2, 6, 11; ELD.PII.6.1




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