Choose one (1) of the following topics:
- Logos (reason) & Myth/Agriculture & Water: Karen Armstrong draws a distinction between reason and myth. Discuss these differences in the context of agriculture and water management during the Neolithic Period and in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. What is logos? How did it lead to the development of agriculture? How did the hydraulic civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt use this logical, pragmatic, and scientific mode of thought to gain control over the water resources and create a rich agricultural economy?
Yet logos can only go so far in helping people cope with and understand their world. What is myth? How did these people use myth to understand and explain the vital role agriculture and water played in their lives? Cite specific examples from some of the myths we discussed in class. Deepen our understanding of logos and myth.
- Kingship: Discuss kingship in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt drawing on such evidence as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Standard of Ur, preamble and epilogue of Hammurabi’s Code, pyramids, statue of QueenHatshepsut, and King Scorpion Macehead. Issues you may want to consider include sources of royal authority, origins and nature of kings, personal qualities of kings, kingly responsibilities, abuse of power, checks on abuses, how kings are depicted in art, and public manifestations of kingship. Deepen our understanding of kingship.
- Material Culture: Humans are driven to create objects. Write an essay on how this need is an example of modern human behavior. Then discuss the usefulness of looking at objects as a way of understanding the people who created them. Use as examples any three objects that we discussed in class. Identify what each object is, where it was from and what culture created it, and what it reveals about the people who made it. Be certain to also include your thoughts about the usefulness and/or limitations of using material culture to analyze a people.
- Hammurabi’s Code & Women’s Rights: What does the Code of Hammurabi reveal about the status of women and the extent of their rights in Babylon? What evidence do you see that women held rights under Hammurabi’s rule? Which laws provide evidence of these rights? Is there also evidence that certain fundamental rights of women were denied? Which laws reveal this discrimination? What values underlay these laws?
You may want to look at such issues as divorce, a woman’s right to testify, her right to be convicted only on the basis of evidence, her right to engage in business, her right to be supported, her control of property as a widow, her role within the household, and her status under her husband’s authority. Use specific examples from the class exercise we did. When you cite a law, include in parentheses the number of the law from the class handout.
- Death: Do you see any ways in which human concepts of death are similar to Karen Armstrong’s view of myth? How is this conceptualization a leap into an unknown realm? Is the way we view death an attempt to work out the meaning of our lives and social structures in this realm? In developing your answer, don’t forget to look back at the lecture on the Paleolithic Period and in addition to the lecture on Myth and Death.
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