S/M Anth 215 - Ancient Civilizations of the Old World
SUNY Geneseo
Spring 2015




SUNY College at Geneseo

Spring Semester 2015

Instructor: Dr. Paul J. Pacheco, Office: Bailey Hall 153A

Office Hours:  T 9:00 A.M. - 2:30 P.M. or by appointment

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


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 essay based on chapters in 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 an essay on chapters in 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 Materials


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 myCourses as pdf files in a folder marked Reading pdfs 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 critical essay 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; however, some essays on exams will be drawn directly from the reading.  As a rule, there will be no make-up exams except in extenuating and pre-arranged circumstances.   A penalty of 5 points per day, cumulative to 25 points per academic week, applies to all late assignments.  Permission is not required to be late so no excuses are necessary, but all late assignments are subject to the penalty regardless of the reason they are late.  However, posters must be turned in the day of the final.



Grades and Important Dates


            Exam 1                                    100 points       Feb 20th

            Exam 2                                    100 points       April 3rd

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

            Poster                                        75 points       May 12th

            Poster Research Bibliog.          25 points       May 1st

            Diamond Critical Essay           100 points       March 13th


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 Critical Essay (due March 13th)                                                        


           Your assignment is to write an essay about Diamond’s perspective on the origins of plant and animal domestication.  Base the essay on your critical reading of Chapters 4-10 from "Guns, Germs, and Steel".  Begin by summarizing Diamond’s arguments and then consider how his perspective meshes with the perspectives you have learned about in class lecture, discussions, or other course readings on this topic.  Does Diamond’s perspective contribute to our understanding of this critical process in human history?  Explain how it does or does not help, noting important insights and/or critical flaws.


Your essay is required to be 1300 + 200 words long; no exceptions. Failure to comply with the word count limit (i.e. less than 1100 or greater than 1500 words) will result 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 should be dropped into the designated Drop Box under the Course Materials tab on your myCourses page by 1:30 P.M. on March 13th.  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 essay must be turned in with a cover page.  A bibliography is not necessary, but you must include one if you use sources other than GGS or those given to you on the class syllabus.  The cover page and bibliography (if you have one) do not count towards the word limit. The cover page needs to include your name and the title of your essay.  Do not put your name anywhere else except on the cover sheet.  You may use any formal style of writing and referencing for your review that you choose.  The most important thing to consider is that you remain consistent.  Consult a reference guide or the course instructor if you have any 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 essay 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 12th)    


            The topic for your poster is your 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.  If you have any doubt whether or not your topic is appropriate, please clear your topic through the course instructor.  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 this project is to inform creatively an audience of your peers 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 project which allows you to communicate the essence of the topic both visually and verbally in a relatively small space.          


            The Poster Research Bibliography is due May 1stOn this day, you must turn in a bibliography listing the sources that you have researched for your topic.   In addition to the hard copy which you turn in to me during class, an electronic version using Microsoft Word should be dropped into the designated Drop Box under the Course Materials tab on your myCourses page by 1:30 P.M. on May 1st.  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 (i.e. as opposed to academic journal articles, book chapters, or books).  Any citation style may be used as long as the citations are complete.  Complete citations will include author’s full name(s), date of publication, page numbers, publisher if a book, title of the article, chapter, or book, and title of the journal or book if the work is an article contained therein. Web sources must also include the complete web address/link and the date that you accessed the source.   Note that journal articles found through web sources like JSTOR do not count as web sources; they count as academic journal articles.  Carefully consider the academic quality of your sources during your research as it will be assessed in your grade.  This part of the project is worth 25 points.   Feedback will be provided the following Monday, which is the last day of class.


            All posters should include a title placed at the top the poster, and a concise abstract, located near the title, that summarizes your poster topic and which includes your name(s)Place your bibliography on the back of the poster.  Your bibliography must minimally include all of the sources that you turned in on May 1st , but also can include additional sources if you did more research.   All written text in the poster 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 also 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).   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 75 points. 


1)    Format = 5 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  = 10 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/ Research/Citation = 20 points

-       poster includes informative text which summarizes/explains your topic

-       sub-sections have appropriate transitions which communicate your topic

-       items in the bibliography minimally include those turned in on May 1st

-       all items in the bibliography are appropriately cited somewhere on the poster


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 = 10 points

-       well designed thoughtful poster

-       colors well coordinated, attractive and catches the eye

-       background is appropriate, ties together poster


6)    Clarity = 10 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). 



Class Schedule 

Week       Date                      Topic                                                      Reading 

One       1/21         Introductory Comments                                                -

              1/23             Perspectives                                               Colinvaux Ch. 3


Two       1/26      Becoming Human - Oldowan              Isaac “Archaeological Tests …”        

              1/28     Moving up the Food Chain-Acheulian Hunters?            -    

              1/30        Give me Fire!                                                               -


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

                                                                                (read up to Comments, pdf page 23)

              2/4         The Mousterian Problem      Mellars et al. “Neanderthal Problem…”  

                                                                               (read through Marcel Otte, pdf page 13)            

              2/6         Neanderthals on Trial                                                    -


Four       2/9      Modern Humans                        Powers and Watts “Female Strategies …    

  2/11     Upper Paleolithic        Barton et al. “Explaining Upper Paleolithic Art …

              2/13       Paleolithic Art                                 Soffer et al. “Venus Figurines …”

                                                                                    (read up to Comments, pdf page 16) 


Five       2/16      Brave New Worlds              Davidson “Colonization of Australia …”     

              2/18     Post Pleistocene Changes       Barnosky “Late Pleistocene Extinctions”

              2/20                 Exam 1                                                         -


Six         2/23       Post Pleistocene Adaptations            Binford “Post Pleistocene …”                                                                                      

              2/25        Origins of Agriculture            Price and Bar-Yosef  “Origins of Ag.” 

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

              2/27        continued                                             Smith “Niche Construction”            


Seven     3/2       Natufians                                            Diamond’s GGS  Chapters 4-6

              3/4       PrePottery Neolithic                               Banning “Gobekli Tepi …”

                                                                               (read up to Comments, pdf page 24)                                                                                                                                                       

              3/6      Near Eastern Neolithic                         Diamond’s GGS  Chapters 7-8


Eight      3/9       NE Neolithic continued                       Diamond’s GGS  Chapters 9-10

              3/11     Spread of Agriculture                       Fagan Ch 10   “Early Euro. Farmers”                                                                       

              3/13      Discuss  Guns, Germs, and Steel       Guns, Germs, and Steel essay due


Nine    3/16-3/20   No Class - Spring Break                                           -


Ten       3/23    Rise of the State                         Carneiro “ A Theory of the Origin …”

              3/25     Ubaid Culture                   Redman “First Strides Towards Urbanization”


              3/27     Mesopotamian Civilization – Search for Eden                 -



Eleven   3/30   Uruk Culture                          Aglaze “Mesopotamian Advantage …”    

                                                                              (read up to Comments, pdf page 18)                             


              4/1      Uruk continued                                                                 -


              4/3      Exam 2                                                                              -


Twelve  4/6      Dynastic Sumerian Civilization                                        -                                           

              4/8       Epic of Gilgamesh                           Excerpt from Epic of Gilgamesh

              4/10     Decline of Sumeria                           Dickinson “Circumscription by …”                          




Thirteen 4/13        Egyptian Old Kingdom              Wenke Ch 9 “Origins of Complex …”

               4/15                 continued                          Petroski “Pyramids as Inclined Planes”

               4/17        Egyptian New Kingdom                                          -


Fourteen 4/20        Indus Valley Civilization                Maisel  “The Indus/Saravati …”  

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

               4/22           continued –                                 Dales “ Mythical Massacre …”

               4/24     Chinese Civilization - origins             Wenke Ch 11 “Evolution of …”


Fifteen    4/27   Neolithic & Shang Dynasty            Campbell “Towards a Networks …”  

                                                                              (read up to Comments, pdf page 20)           

               4/29    Zhao Dynasty                                                               -

               5/1      Qin Dynasty                                       Poster Research Bibliography Due      


Sixteen   5/4   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.