help in a reflection in history class ••• Instructions ••• 1- in 500-750 words, answer the pertinent question and explore the relevant topic. Defend any a

help in a reflection in history class ••• Instructions •••

1- in 500-750 words, answer the pertinent question and explore the relevant topic. Defend any arguments you make using the source at hand.
2- Be certain to let me know within the introduction the argument you intend to follow.
3- Then, give evidence for your belief, analysis and interpretation of that evidence, and your conclusions.

•••Paper layout•••

1- paper must be cited throughout.

2- You should do this in Chicago Style (author, title of source, publication date, and page number if you can find one) or by footnote[1].

•••The Assignment•••

Read Mathisen’s account of Akhenaton (pp. 102-3) along the with the various views in The West in Question 2 (Section 3).
Was Akhenaton a reformer and what does his reign show about Egyptian kingship?

Text Book:

Ralph Mathisen, Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations: From Prehistory to 640 CE, Oxford University Press 9
Chapter Two: The Bronze Age in the Ancient Near East and Egypt
The discovery of agriculture, followed by the use of bronze technology and writing, gave
stimulus to the West Asian and African societies that grasped the concepts at an early date. Various
cultures in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean would become the first western
civilizations to embark on sophisticated political and economic strategies, many of which were in direct
consequence to the availability of the natural resources of the region. Throughout the third and second
millennia BCE these civilizations and the peoples who moved into the region interacted in war and peace,
resulting from time to time in political shifts, cultural decline and the rise of new power centers.
How do we understand the rise of complex and historic societies in the Near East and Europe?
To what extent did the natural environment pay a role in the shaping of these societies? This chapter
begins by focusing on the role of traditional scholarship in explaining the rise of historic civilization in
the ancient Near East, as well as the implications of writing. Section Two will look at the dialogue
between the environment and the various peoples who interacted in the Mesopotamian watershed in the
Bronze Age. Section Three will turn to the rise of Egypt and the Hittites, the superpowers of the second
millennium BCE.
Section One: Deciphering the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
Traditionally, a study of western civilization begins with an examination of the ancient Near East.
Scholarship has in general been western in origin and for a long time bent on equating the ancient Near
East with events in the Old Testament. Questions independent of Biblical interest, such as the nature of
environmental impact on the societies of the ancient Near East, were incidental to the investigations,
unless they touched on a religious issue.
[Picture 2.1: Map of ancient Near East, ca 1400 BCE,]

The importance of archaeological discovery to the Bible student consists in the fact that we can at
last study the history of the Chosen People in the same way as we do that of any other people. (W.
Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, 1936, pp.4-5)
Biblical archaeology rested on two fundamental a priori assumptions: that the Bible was
historical, and that archaeology provided an external, objective source of realia. These in turn were
dependent on a belief in the Bible as the Word of God and on a nineteenth-century understanding of
science as an endeavor that was immutable and unaffected by the presuppositions of the scholar.
Archaeology was properly one of the humanities, and as such it was the hand- maiden of history… The
Bible was the historical document of Palestine; therefore, it was the source of the agenda for biblical
archaeology. This agenda was historical, biblical, and, in its ultimate extent, apologetical.
The avowed aim of biblical archaeology… was the grounding of the Bible in the realm of realia.
Albright specifically wished to make biblical studies a science through the twin tools of linguistic analysis
and archaeology. Archaeology was to establish objective criteria for judging the historical validity of the
biblical record. General cultural evolution was of no interest to the theoreticians of biblical archaeology.
In essence, only a small segment of cultural evolution was of interest: the evolution of Spiritual Man…
Biblical archaeology understood cultural change to be the result of historical and ideological
(even divine) factors. Hence it developed, in the ceramic methodology of Albright, a field methodology
geared to elucidate questions of chronology and political history… (Thomas W. Davis, Shifting Sands :
The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology. Oxford University Press,, 2004. p 154-5)
The Question: Based on the map and sources above, what was the original intent of archaeological
and historical study of the ancient Near East?
Albright’s view is typical of the philological approach taken through much of the period before the midtwentieth century. Archaeological evidence had to be biblically relevant. Thus there was early interest in
issues like the impact of the Great Flood, the origins of Abraham, and the interactions of Iron Age
empires on the emerging kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The great early expeditions to the Near East
searched for texts and physical evidence to prove the existence of Biblical events and places. Western
civilization was traced through the literature of the Old Testament. However, the region was studied as
the precursor to the Classical period of Greek and Hebrew literature, disconnected from the true lineage
of western civilization after the time of the Old Testament. Mesopotamia and Egypt may have held the
“cradle of civilization”, but declined too rapidly for enlightened ideals to take hold. This is a
progressivist view of history – that human events have moved forward in a positive direction and away
from a primitive beginning.
Bahrani and others have questioned the approaches taken by the earliest researchers in
Mesopotamia and Egypt, suggesting that the Biblical and progressivist concerns of European and
American archaeologists, who saw true civilization as a western invention, overrode any real interest in
the region’s history:
In this way a distinction came to be made between the region before and after the advent of Islam
that implied the death of one civilisation and its replacement and eradication by another. Within this
disciplinary organisation the term that came to be the acceptable name for Iraq in the Pre-Islamic period
was “Mesopotamia.” This revival of a name applied to the region in the European Classical tradition
came to underscore the Babylonian/Assyrian position within the Western historical narrative of
civilisation as the remoter, malformed, or partially formed, roots of European culture which has its telos
in the flowering of Western culture and, ultimately, the autonomous modern Western man. Thus the term
Mesopotamia refers to an atemporal rather than a geographical entity, which is, in the words of the
renowned Mesopotamian scholar, A. Leo Oppenheim (1964), a “Dead Civilisation.” This civilisation had
to be entirely dissociated, by name, from the local inhabitants and contemporary culture in order to
facilitate the portrayal of the history of human civilisation as a single evolutionary process with its
natural and ideal outcome in the modern West.
… according to this still commonly held view, the ‘torch of civilisation’ was passed from
Mesopotamia to Europe via the two ‘Eastern ethnicities’ that are acceptable to the west: Greeks and
Jews. Paradoxically, in the two main sources of the Western cultural narrative, Classical texts and the
Bible, the Assyrians and Babylonians and their successors, the Persians, are the hostile other, presenting
a constant threat to the political freedom of democracy and the worship of the true God. The earliest
archaeological expeditions to Mesopotamia were unambiguous in defining the purposes of their mission.
Since human civilization was thought to originate in Mesopotamia, and this civilization was transferred
from the east to the West, the two justifications for the archaeological expeditions were repeatedly stated
as being the search for the ‘roots’ of Western culture and to locate the places referred to in the Old
This obsessive desire to disassociate the past of the region from its present and to present it
instead as a primitive stage in the evolution of mankind facilitated the concept of ‘Mesopotamia’ as the
rightful domain of the West, both in a historical and a geopolitical sense. A separation and division of
(Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian) cultures and an exclusion of the later history of the region was
successfully articulated through the act of naming…
The image of Mesopotamia, upon which we still depend, was necessary for a march of progress
from East to West, a concept of world cultural development that is explicitly Eurocentric and imperialist.
(Zainab Bahrani, in Lynne Meskell, ed., Roth, Ann M. (Contributor); Silberman, Neil (Contributor).
Archaeology under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle
East London, GBR: Routledge, 1998, pp165-6, 172. )
The Question: Is there a bias in how western scholars have studied the ancient Near East? How does
this compare to the generation of Albright?

Increasingly, archaeologists have questioned the traditional ways of understanding the ancient Near East.
They ask whether more attention should be given to understanding the social relationships in the small
villages of the ancient landscape, the role of women, the impact of environmental change and the
formation of non-western ideas about the nature of man’s place in the universe. They ask whether it is a
question of linking Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilization to the west for legitimization, or whether
Near Eastern archaeology stands as the beginning of an equally valid non-Western civilization that
interacted with the cultures of the Mediterranean world.
However, the problems do not end with defining and contextualizing the ancient Near East.
Reconstructing any history of the region is made difficult by the nature of the evidence. Most west Asian
structures were constructed of perishable mud-brick and plant materials. Few were built of fire-hardened
materials, and have disintegrated into clay. Over the centuries a settlement assumed a hill profile, as layer
built upon layer, compressing the evidence from the older structures underneath. The result is something
like a large wedding cake kept out in the rain and left to melt one layer into the next. The archaeologist’s
dilemma, therefore, is the multitude of layers so compacted on one another that it can at times be close to
impossible to record and date the layers except in relationship to one another.
Another challenge lies in the spottiness of surviving written sources, the clay tablets used for
recording events, government business and commercial transactions. Most were never meant to survive
the millennia between us and antiquity. However, on occasion archived material has survived, either
through abandonment of the site, which allowed the tablets to rest undisturbed, or because the location
had been burned, fire-hardening the tablets and significantly increasing survival. Some years are heavy
with preserved archival material, while entire decades go virtually unrecorded, save for a chance
document find here and there. However, even surviving records pose a dating challenge:
…”Then Uruk was defeated and the kingship was taken to Agade.
In Agade, Sargon, whose father was a gardener, the cupbearer of Ur-Zababa, became king, the king of
Agade, who built Agade; he ruled for 56 years.
Rimuš, son of Sargon, ruled for 9 years.
Maništušu, the older brother of Rimuš, son of Sargon, ruled for 15 years.
Naram-Sin, son of Maništušu, ruled for 56 years.
Šar-kali-šarri, son of Naram-Sin, ruled for 25 years.
Then who was king? Who was not king?
Irgigi was king, Nanum was king, Imi was king, Elulu was king; those four kings ruled 3 years.
Dudu ruled for 21 years.
Šu-Durul, son of Dudu, ruled for 15 years.
Eleven kings ruled for 181 years…” (Sumerian Kings List)
The question: What does this passage suggest about the difficulty of dating Mesopotamian
The excerpt above from the Sumerian King List is a good example of the lack of points of reference
within the accounts to help us date the sequence of events to the present calendar. The further back one
goes, the more dubious the information, until one is in the realm of mythology. The Sumerians only knew
of the earliest rulers by legend if at all, and inscribed rules of decades and even centuries to the older
kings. For that reason, archaeologists and historians have often disagreed on the dates of various
Mesopotamian political benchmarks. While we possess several brief and dubious chronologies of
Mesopotamian rulers, called the Sumerian King List, we can only say that relatively, such and such a king
came before the next king mentioned and after the king mentioned before him.
There were several concurrent experiments in earliest record keeping. For instance, a token based
accounting system was already in use in the fourth millennium. These tokens and an accounting record
would be sealed in a clay envelope that could then be stored in case of dispute. Another early claim
belongs to the small cylinder seals carved with a specific marker identifying the seal’s owner. The seal
could be rolled across clay patches set on items to identify or verify an owner or other authority of the
item thus marked or sealed. However, is this “writing” as we would define it?
We are on firmer ground with cuneiform. Beginning in the later fourth millennium as
pictographic impressions on clay, signifying numbers and commodities, accounting concepts and action
identifiers, cuneiform slowly changed into a more stylized and abstracted set of incised wedge-shaped
(the Greek meaning of cuneiform) symbols.
[Picture 2.2: Evolution of Cuneiform.]
The question: Given the clay medium on which one wrote, what are the challenges that you see in
developing written communication?
With the appearance of a script we suddenly have a people living in complex cities who name
themselves and their Sumer, the “Black-headed People”. Their language is so remote that we have no
living ancestors or relatives; all the same, historians consider them the first historic society because they
could write.
Writing as History
Does the existence of writing make a society “historic”? The answer at first might seem obvious.
Historians accept the presence of writing as the basis for a historical society. Bottero summarizes the
historian’s argument.

…The oldest “cuneiform” documents that can be understood and used on an historical level are
close to the year 3000. Even better, it is these texts that contain something of an unsurpassable limit in
them: the oldest among them are very close in space and time to the invention of cuneiform writing in
Mesopotamia, probably even to the invention of writing itself. Besides, only written documents can give
us an assured knowledge of our past that is precise, detailed and analytical. Prehistorians and
archaeologists as such can only see a hazy and uncertain outline of the past. This is why history begins at
Sumer, as is emphasized by the title of a popular book. In other words, history begins in lower
Mesopotamia in the first part of the third millennium.
And this history is our history!… we are largely formed in all aspects of our culture by the
Mesopotamian civilization which was born in the fourth millennium and was already well developed in
the third. This civilization is perhaps the oldest in the world that deserves this noble title… (Jean Bottéro,
Mesopotamia: Writing, Reasoning and the Gods, tr. Zainab Bahrani and Marc van der Mieroop: Chicago
and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992, p. 28)
The Question: Is the use of writing the beginning of history?
Bottero, a noted scholar of cuneiform, suggests that when a society is capable of recording what
is important to that society in a script that goes beyond simple counting and commodity symbols, we say
the society has become historic. While prehistory was filled with vibrant peoples and complex cultures,
we have no other way to identify them as societies than by distinctive physical remains, like pottery (the
Bell Beaker people), a site (the Uruk culture), or even an activity (Urnfeld people). In his opinion, this is
not enough to be labeled as a “civilization”. However, archaeology takes a different approach to the
question of whether to view writing as the hallmark of “historic”:
These attributes of the archaeological record – its tangibility and its incompleteness – can all too
easily be viewed as drawbacks to the value of archaeology in approaching the past, especially in contrast
to the surviving written record. We should not view them in this way, however. The written textual record
of the Mesopotamian past, represented by thousands of cuneiform texts on clay tablets, suffers from
similar and connected problems of bias, incompleteness and ambiguity. In addition, the written record
hosts a potential bias that rarely distorts the archaeological record, that of deliberate falsification of the
evidence. In his poem ‘Archaeology’ [1976], W. H. Auden characterises history, in contrast to
archaeology, as being made by ‘the criminal in us’.…Indeed, there might be numerous reasons for writing
a text in such a way that it distorts or reshapes reality, as every tax-form filler or politician knows, but
there is no value to be had from distorting the nature of one’s physical environment with an eye to remote
posterity, even if one is able to do so. The archaeological record qua historical source, however patchy
and concrete it may be, is unaffected by its makers’ intentions or desires as to the nature, survivability and
recovery of that record, even if it reveals some of those intentions within their contemporary social
contexts… (Roger Matthews, The Archaeology of Mesopotamia, London, Routledge: 2003, pp. 31-2)
The Question: Which is more accurate, the “history” evoked by the writings or the “history” revealed
by archaeologists?
Matthews and other archaeologists acknowledge the value of the written word, but ask if we are perhaps
relying too much on these sources in understanding the ancient Near East. Matthews suggests that some
written sources have been deliberately falsified to serve a past need, but that archaeological remains are
devoid of human bias. It is left to archaeologists to construct a more accurate history, especially as quite
often the records are completely silent on entire periods, and aspects of life, like the relationship of these
earliest societies to the natural environment. Outside the cities, neither writings nor archaeology has yet
to contribute much, although this picture is changing. In the end, we must acknowledge that Bronze Age
studies require the use of archaeology to fill out the gaps that the writings leave, but that we are indeed in
a period where we can follow the politics of regions and individuals for the first time.
Section Two: The Geopolitics of an Arid World
Mesopotamia, ‘Land Between the Rivers”, is the name the Greeks gave to the entire region
influenced by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. When we refer to Mesopotamia and the ancient Near East
today we acknowledge a large watershed that impacts not only those areas directly watered by the rivers,
but the neighboring hills and plains influenced by the cultures living in the watershed. Egypt, on the
other hand, is the beneficiary of one crucial river. There were also several Bronze Age states in west
Asia. The one factor that connected them was the r…
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