S/M Anth 215 - Ancient Civilizations of the Old World
SUNY Geneseo
Spring 2014



SUNY College at Geneseo

Spring Semester 2014

Instructor: Dr. Paul J. Pacheco, Office: Sturges Hall 13D 

Office Hours:  T 10:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M. or by appointment

e-mail address: pacheco@geneseo.edu, Phone: #245-5275


Course Outline


Description and Objectives


        This course presents students with a comprehensive overview of Old World prehistory; from the dawn of humankind through the rise (and fall) of early civilizations.  To accomplish this goal, we will critically examine and interpret knowledge about the human past generated by archaeologists.  We will look in depth at the following topics: an evolutionary perspective on cultural change, the origins of human culture, the origins of modern human cultures, the transition to food producing economies of the Neolithic, and the rise and fall of complex Old World societies.  During the course, students will write a critical review of Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, create a poster on a topic concerning one or more early civilizations, and learn how to think critically about human prehistory.



Learning Outcomes


(1)  Students will demonstrate proficiency in understanding major empirical, analytical, and theoretical approaches to human variation and cultural change including aspects of economic adaptations, social structures, political organizations, and ideological systems through class discussion and through the writing of three objective/ essay exams.


(2)  Students will demonstrate knowledge of human cultural origins through the writing of the objective/ essay exams.


(3)  Students will demonstrate their comprehension of major issues and trends in Old World Prehistory through the writing of a book review of Diamond’s Guns Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.


(4)  Students will demonstrate knowledge of early civilizations and their ability to communicate research findings to a group by developing and presenting posters to the class through display of their work.


Social Science Core


In addition to fulfilling your multi-cultural graduation requirement, this course also fulfills one course in the social science general education requirements. The guidelines for social science core courses stress the development of the following characteristics of a responsible member of society:

(1) an acquaintance with major empirical, analytical, or theoretical approaches to human behavior, institutions or culture;

(2) an acquaintance with social, economic, political, or moral alternatives;

(3) an acquaintance with major problems, issues, institutions, practices or trends in the social world;

(4)  a capacity to express ideas clearly, coherently and grammatically in written form as

one component of the evaluation process. This written work must total at least 1500 words, at least half of which must be prepared outside of class.


Required Reading


Diamond, Jared

1998  Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.  W.W. Norton & Co.  ISBN #0-393-31755-2


All other listed readings will be made available through the mycourses.geneseo.edu webpage as pdf files in a folder under the Course Materials Tab.


Course Requirements


        There will be three exams in this course.    Exams are non-cumulative and will emphasize your conceptual grasp of the course material and your ability to clearly express your understanding in writing.   Exams are 75% essay and 25% multiple choice.  Exam 3 (the final), is scheduled on May 12th from 12:00-3:00 P.M..  Specific instructions concerning the Diamond book review and the poster project are included below.   We will have a poster session and contest on May 12th before taking Exam 3, in which you get to see and vote on your classmate’s posters.  The top five vote getters (includes both partners if partners are used) will get 30, 25, 20, 15, and 10 points extra credit, respectively, added to their final grades!


Reading assignments are meant to reinforce, compliment, and provide fodder for the class lectures, images, and discussions and in no way replace them.  As a rule, there will be no make-up exams except in extenuating and pre-arranged circumstances.   A 5% per day   late penalty, cumulative to 25% per academic week applies to late Diamond book reviews.  Permission is not required to be late, but all late reviews are subject to the penalty for whatever reason they are late.   Posters must be turned in the day of the final.



Grades and Important Dates


            Exam 1                                    100 points       Feb 21nd

            Exam 2                                    100 points       April 2rd

            Exam 3 (Final)                         100 points       May 12th (12:00-3:00 P.M.)

            Poster                                      100 points       May 12th

            Diamond Book Review            100 points       March 28th


Grades will be assigned on a percentage basis out of 500 possible as follows:


A  =   93% +                                        C+ =  79.99 – 77%

A-   =  90 - 92.99%                              C   =  76.99 – 73%

B+ =  89.99 – 87%                              C - =  72.99 – 68%

B   =  86.99 – 83%                               D =    67.99 – 58%

B-  =  82.99 – 80%                               E =     57.99 –0%




SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional or learning disabilities. Students should contact the Director in the Office of Disability Services (Tabitha Buggie-Hunt, 105D Erwin) and their faculty to discuss needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.


Diamond Book Review (due March 29th):                                                         


        Your assignment is to write a book review of Jared Diamond's award winning book "Guns, Germs, and Steel". Specifically you are to assume the role of social science/history book reviewer at a major weekly journal (something like Time). 


            Your editor comes to you with a copy of Guns, Germs, and Steel and says: “I need a book review of this critically acclaimed work on world history.  Another world history author has accused Diamond of being a racist.  This guy is named Patrick Manning.  He makes the accusation in his book Navigating World History published in 2003.”  The specific Manning quote, from pg. 6, is as follows: “Area-studies knowledge remains important for the world historian. Diamond brought to bear a particular strength on New Guinea and Australia, thus improving his argument overall as well as the details for that region.  But his relative lack of knowledge on Africa caused him to underrate substantially the significance of agriculture and domestic animals in East, West, and North Africa, and thereby to add a racial tinge to his analysis.”


Your first task is to evaluate the book and see if you agree that Diamond has constructed a racist explanation for what happened in the past.  More specifically, you should address whether or not Diamond makes any claims, whatsoever, that biological differences between people are responsible for any of the significant historical patterns or trends which have occurred since the end of the last ice age.

Secondly, it appears that Diamond is also taking a lot of flak from the anti-evolution crowd.  Your second task is to evaluate the way Diamond uses evolutionary arguments (i.e. what perspective(s) does he use to explain change?) in this book.  Detail some examples of his evolutionary perspective(s), discuss whether or not they are consistent,  and discuss whether or not you think the evolution rancor is justified (i.e. is an evolutionary perspective essential to Diamond’s argument).  Please note, you are not being asked to comment on Diamond’s minor venture into human evolution in Chapter 1 per se, but rather the broader and specific perspective(s) on evolutionary change that he takes throughout the text.


“Finally, I want you to end your review by explaining why you liked or disliked the book and whether or not you would recommend this book to others?”


Your review is required to be 1500 + 100 words long; no exceptions. Failure to comply with the words count limit results in a 10 point deduction from your essay grade. Use your word processing Tools function to keep track of your word count.  In addition to the hard copy which you turn in to me during class, an electronic version using Microsoft Word (either Vista or XP versions are fine) should be dropped into the designated drop box  under the Course Materials tab on the mycourses webpage by 1:00 P.M. on March 29th. Use either Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome,  or Internet Explorer to drop your paper into the drop box as Safari does not seem to work well on mycourses pages.  Failure to drop your essay in the drop box results in a 10 point deduction from your essay grade. Use your last name as the file name for the electronic version of the paper (i.e. adams.doc or manson.docx).  Electronic files will be used to check for compliance with the word count limit.  Use normal margins and double-spacing.  Please do not use a font size smaller than 10 point.  Your review must be turned in with a cover sheet and must have a bibliography if you use sources other than GGS or Manning.  The cover page and bibliography do not count towards the word limit. The cover page needs to include your name and the title of your review.  Do not put your name anywhere except on the cover sheet.  You may use any formal style of writing and referencing for your review that you choose, except one that uses footnotes or endnotes.  The most important thing to consider is that you remain consistent.  Consult a reference guide or the course instructor if you have questions concerning style or approach.   Try to limit the number of direct quotes you use from Diamond, except to make critical points.  But, at the same time, be sure to indicate the page numbers of the text as you refer to them in your review. Feel free to use a shorthand abbreviation such as (GGS:43) to save space. 


            Your review will be graded on the following criteria: format (did you follow the instructions outlined above?), structure (are your sentences and paragraphs arranged in a logical and coherent manner?), grammar (includes typos and sentence structure), clarity (is your writing clear and comprehensible?), and critical commentary (have you critically and thoughtfully evaluated the issues you have been asked to address?).   Remember, this paper is used to fulfill the Social Science Core writing requirement, so writing counts as much as content.


Poster Project (due May 13th)    


            Your poster topic is your own choice, however, the theme of the poster must come from the course title “Ancient Civilizations of the Old World”; i.e. any theme relevant to what we study in this course with the exception of New World topics of any kind.  New World topics are not permitted even though the Diamond book touches on these issues.   If you have any doubt whether or not your topic is appropriate, please clear your topic through the course instructor.  Likewise, both Sandy and I will be happy to provide you advice and direction during the construction of your poster.  You are also invited to visit my office to see examples of posters from years past.   The poster has a maximum size limit of 36 by 48 inches and should be placed on sturdy, self supporting poster board.  Sturdy poster board, within the permissible size limits, is available from the Anthropology Dept. secretary (Bev Burley) for a price of $5.  You may choose to work with a partner on this project, and if you do, you will both receive the same grade and possible bonuses if you win a place in the contest.  Do not work with someone who you feel is riding your coat-tails.  If you come to class with both of your names on the poster, it represents your mutual consent that you have both contributed to the final product.  I will intervene in any disputes if necessary, but strongly suggest you choose wisely. 


            Your goal for creating the poster is to inform an audience of your peers creatively about the specific aspect of “Ancient Civilizations of the Old World” you have chosen to research.   In other words, this project is first and foremost a RESEARCH project.  Choose a focused subject for the poster which allows you to communicate the essence of the topic both visually and verbally in a relatively small space.   All posters should include a title and a concise abstract, placed somewhere on the front of the poster, that summarizes your poster topic.  Put your name(s) at the bottom of the abstract. 


All written text which is used to provide key information and transitions MUST have citations tying into your bibliography. Plagiarism should be carefully avoided in this project – give credit where credit is due.  All images must also have captions which include shorthand bibliographic citations tying into the bibliography.  In-text citations and image citations can be in any style or shorthand as long as you are consistent (for example,   Johnson 1992:32; moveon.org/image4).  Complete references are to be placed in a bibliography which is to be pasted on the back of the poster (this includes complete website references so that typing in this address would bring up the specific page or image).    Your research must include a minimum of five references (ten if you work with a partner), only three (or six if you work with a partner) of which can be web sources. Be sure to balance text with images as posters are ultimately a visual learning medium. 


Your poster will be graded on the following six categories.  Together, these six categories create a rubric which sums to 100 points. 


1)    Format = 10 points

-       required size and sturdiness of poster board

-       all images and cited text have references that tie into bibliography

-       complete and scholarly bibliography on back of poster

-       title and abstract

-       all font is typed or very neat (i.e. no handwriting allowed except that created by using templates)


2)    Theme/Focus  = 15 points

-       appropriate for the course (i.e. related to our topics and concepts)

-       expressed consistently throughout the poster through your text, sub-sections, and captions

-       narrow topic (not too broad), that allows you to communicate a specific topic to the audience in the space allowed


3)    Information/Background Research = 25 points

-       includes informative text which summarizes/explains your topic

-       sub-sections have appropriate transitions which communicate your topic

-       evidence of a thorough research effort is present in bibliography and text


4)    Images = 20 points

-       images must be sharp with good contrast

-       the images fit together stylistically to communicate/teach about your topic

-       images have explanatory captions

-       the appropriate balance of images were used to communicate your topic


5)    Presentation/Layout = 15 points

-       well designed thoughtful poster

-       colors well coordinated, attractive and catches the eye

-       background is appropriate, ties together poster


6)    Clarity = 15 points

-       your written sections are clear and concise

-       your text is easily readable and grammatically correct

-       text and images are clearly related



Library Research Help:

If you need assistance finding information for this assignment, Milne Librarians may be able to help. You can speak with the reference librarian on duty between 10am and closing time most days (ask for help at the service desk) or chat with a librarian online by clicking the "IM a Librarian" button on the library website (http://www.geneseo.edu/library). 


You can also contact the Milne Librarian dedicated to Anthropology, Kim Hoffman, by emailing her directly (kdhoffman@geneseo.edu) or requesting an in-person meeting (http://bit.ly/milneresearchconsultation).


Class Schedule 

Week       Date                      Topic                                                      Reading 

One       1/22          Introductory Comments                 Guns, Germs, and Steel - all 

              1/24             Perspectives                                               Colinvaux Ch. 3


Two       1/27      Becoming Human - Oldowan              Isaac “Archaeological Tests …”        

              1/29  Moving up the Food Chain-Acheulian Hunters?               -    

              1/31        Give me Fire!                                                               -


Three     2/3       “The Cavemen”                           D’Errico et al. “Neanderthal Accult. …”

                                                                                (read up to Comments, pdf page 23)

              2/5         The Mousterian Problem      Mellars et al. “Neanderthal Problem…”  

                                                                                (read up to Marcel Otte, pdf page 11)            

              2/7         Neanderthals on Trial                                                    -


Four       2/10      Modern Humans                        Powers and Watts “Female Strategies …    

  2/12       Upper Paleolithic                                                         -

              2/14       Paleolithic Art                                 Soffer et al. “Venus Figurines …”

                                                                                    (read up to Comments, pdf page 16) 


Five       2/17      Brave New Worlds                                                  -          

              2/19     Post Pleistocene Changes       Barnosky “Late Pleistocene Extinctions”

              2/21                  Exam 1                                                         -


Six         2/24       Post Pleistocene Adaptations            Binford “Post Pleistocene …”                                                                                      

              2/26        Origins of Agriculture            Price and Bar-Yosef  “Origins of Ag.” 

            (skip sections on symposium and its participants and on organization of this issue)

              2/28        continued                                             Smith “Niche Construction”            


 Seven    3/3       Natufians                                                                      -

              3/5       PrePottery Neolithic                               Banning “Gobekli Tepi …”

                                                                               (read up to Comments, pdf page 24)                                                                                                                                                       

              3/7       Near Eastern Neolithic                             Hodder “Catalhoyuk …”


Eight      3/10       NE Neolithic continued                                              -

              3/12       Spread of Agriculture                    Fagan Ch 10   “Early Euro. Farmers”                                                                       

              3/14        Rise of the State                         Carneiro “ A Theory of the Origin …”       


Nine    3/17-3/21     No Class - Spring Break             Finish Guns, Germs, and Steel?


Ten       3/24    Ubaid Culture                   Redman “First Strides Towards Urbanization”

              3/26      Uruk Culture                          Aglaze “Mesopotamian Advantage …”     

                                                                              (read up to Comments, pdf page 18)                              

              3/28     Uruk continued                                               (GGS essay due)


Eleven   3/31      Discuss Guns, Germs, and Steel                                      -    

              4/2      Exam 2                                                                               -                                                                

              4/4     Mesopotamian Civilization – Search for Eden                   -


Twelve  4/7         Dynastic Sumerian Civilization                                      -                                           

              4/9              Epic of Gilgamesh                     Excerpt from Epic of Gilgamesh

              4/11            Decline of Sumeria                     Dickinson “Circumscription by …”                          


Thirteen 4/14        Egyptian Old Kingdom              Wenke Ch 9 “Origins of Complex …”

               4/16                 continued                          Petroski “Pyramids as Inclined Planes”

               4/18        Egyptian New Kingdom                                          -


Fourteen 4/21        Indus Valley Civilization                Maisel  “The Indus/Saravati …”  

                                                                  (skim and then read closely from pdf  pp. 19-38)                                          

               4/23           continued – decline                                               -   

               4/25     Chinese Civilization - origins             Wenke Ch 11 “Evolution of …”


Fifteen    4/28   Neolithic & Shang Dynasty            Campbell “Towards a Networks …”  

                                                                              (read up to Comments, pdf page 20)           

               4/30    Zhao Dynasty                                                               -

               5/2      Qin Dynasty                                                                 -        


Sixteen   5/5   Collapse of Complex Societies          Tainter “Understanding Collapse”

                                                                               &  Diamond “A Tale of Two Farms” 

                                                                                     (read up to section marked on pdf)

Seventeen 5/12   Exam 3 and Poster contest                              12:00-3:00 P.M.