Exploring ancient civilizations – introduction & Prehistoric ages


  • Introduction: Importance of archaeology and the work of archeologists and anthropologists / Who were the first humans / Mythology: What the ancients believed about the origins of man and the universe: / Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution (10,000 – 4,000 BC) and its effects on the development of civilizations
  • Outline or analyze the emergence of early river valley civilizations /What were the major civilizations of the Fertile Crescent / Summarize the contributions of each; the “gifts of the Nile” ; the geographic benefits of the Nile River Valley?/ Evaluate the effect of physical features and geographic location in the development of the civilization, in particular, the four River Valley Civilizations / Determine how technology impacts the development of a civilization. (the role of geography in the development of civilizations of the Fertile Crescent):
  • Highlight in some way that the first four major civilizations were Mesopotamia (Tigris-Euphrates); Egypt (Nile); India (Indus); China (Hwang) and that they all began in the river valleys that were able maintain large-scale farming to feed large city populations.
  • As you progress through each of your readings on ancient civilizations highlight the five major elements needed to keep a civilization going (print and use this online chart as a worksheet for your child):

    ~ growth of cities with government;

    ~ development and use of writing;

    ~  development of a calendar;

    ~ advanced technical skills / artistic activity;

    ~ division of labor with creation of a social structure.

  • Study the major legacies of great civilizations: the lasting ideas, skills, scientific, architectural or infrastructural advancements, especially those that still have an impact on our civilization / Evaluate the development of civilization
  • Note the political, military, social and religious structures that were developed in order to deal with three fundamental problems of human existence and society: — the nature of human relationships; the nature of the universe and the role of the divine forces in the universe.

Click here for GENERAL RESOURCES ON ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS (survey books, framework readings, references, atlases, etc.)


General outline here

General survey books for preschool-early grammar stage:

Life Story by Virginia Lee Burton Well-written yet concise narrative for the very young, this is an incredible presentation of the whole drama of history from the birth of the earth till the personalized events of the narrator today. One of the very best ways to introduce the concept of time and history to preschool/early elementary children. (Setting of the last few pages is that of an American family) Illustrations are in the style of classic The Little House that children love so much.

Prehistory to Egypt Journey Through History series Easy text and charming watercolor illustrations present the lifestyles of peoples in the diverse ancient lands to the very young. Available at Rainbow Resource. $5.95

A Street Through Time: A 12,000 Year Walk through History by Anne Millard, Steve Noon Ingenius visual representation of one area on earth by a river and its evolving changes through the centuries from prehistory to the Middle Ages to today. Beautiful and detailed artwork. For ages 6 years onwards $16.95

Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of World History A chronological account of what’s going on in the world era by era. Easy text, suitable for grammar stage students. Bright and beautiful illustrations as well as photographs of artifacts. However, breadth of coverage means that much info is covered in brief paragraphs, so this “encyclopedia” lacks the depth of the traditional encyclopedia as we know it. Internet links are peppered throughout for further exploration. A timeline runs at the bottom of each page.

General survey books for late grammar to logic stage:

*** The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child Volume 1 (Ancient Times from the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor ) by Susan Wise Bauer This may well be the best recent multiage readaloud narrative of world history for the grammar aged children yet to have been written. Short sentences, plain and understandable language for the youngest ones listening in makes this an easy book for mothers to read to kids of different ages, or teachers in a multiage classroom. The language is less colorful and rich compared to other narratives such as the classic Hilyer’s A Child’s History of the World or Van Loon’s The Story of Mankind since it is written with the younger ones in mind, but the evenness and breadth of coverage of the panorama of world events more than makes up for it. Less selective than Hilyer and Van Loon, this author has done a remarkable job of even-handedly covering events often left out of other texts (or deserving only footnotes such as Sumer, Assyrian, Babylonians, early Indian or Chinese or African civilizations, the Jewish peoples, Confucius or Buddha. Unlike Hilyer or Van Loon, the author has also avoided any references to American culture so making it a very neutral text thus suitable for a non-American audience. As the author wrote the book to address the lack of world history books that had good narrative styles, while possessing the breadth and depth of coverage of historical events necessary for classical studies, you can expect this book to be suitable for use with the classical social studies curriculum outlined in her other best-selling book the Well Trained Mind. Preview sample chapters at the Well Trained Mind website website and preorder the book. A companion activity book is in the works (see below). $19.95

The Story of the World: Activity Book One The Activity Guide contains comprehension questions, sample narrations, maps, coloring pages, and activites for each chapter in The Story of the World. Purchase of the Activity Guide automatically grants families permission to photocopy pages and activities(See sample of the coloring page illustration featuring “Boadicea in her War Chariot,” from “The Romans in Britain” at the website) $30.00

A Child’s History Of the World by Hilyer A classic by the famed headmaster of the Calvert School of Baltimore, with a delightful narrative of the history of the world from the beginning to just past World War I. A grandfatherly telling of the story. Note: The book as the author explains in the preface was written for American children, so although the book was written to make them less Eurocentric, there are several references to American heritage in the narrative itself that make reading the narrative awkward for non-Americans. Sonlight.com has its own reprint of the original; Revised version available from Calvert School.org $14.95

OR The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon Awardwinning book that tells the story of mankind from its beginning (as known from archaeological digs) till the present day. A very interesting chatty narrative that does an excellent job of explaining the important events of world history. But as the author explains at the end of the most recent edition, it is a highly selective history, and he has had to leave out what many others consider to be significant events in world history such as the Mongol Empire invasions. One drawback for the visual learner is that the illustrations are really very simple pen and ink sketches.

Guided Discovery Program- Countries, Customs & Campaign’s 1 & 2- Teacher’s Manual and Student Activities ISBN: 0-88110-187-0. This is a workbook that goes along with Usborne’s World History book with the pages labeled corresponding to those of the Usborne book. It has a scope and sequence chart in the front of it that tells what worksheet to use when with Usborne’s World History Book.

The Kingfisher Book of the Ancient World does an excellent job of covering the history and geography of ancient civilizations from prehistory to the fall of Rome. It also includes ancient civilizations of the Americas and the Far East. A beautiful book that could be used as a core resource with all ages. $17.95

Short Lessons in World History Concise overview summaries of world history, each lesson summary to be followed by a short fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, puzzle or map question exercises. 12 mini-biographies are included. Two-colored text, clipart type visuals, clear maps. For grades 5-12 Available from Rainbow Resource.com $15.96

Time Traveler Omnibus This is a combined volume of all four Time Traveler Books:Pharaohs and Pyramids, Rome and Romans, Viking Raiders, and Knights and Castles the series covers aspects of life in different time periods throughout history. $22.95

General survey books for rhetoric stage (junior high to high school):

Ancient World Part of the Usborne World History series, this is an Usborne combined volume that includes the three books Early Civilization, The Greeks, and The Romans. Each volume of the Usborne’s series is 100 pages, organized as a series of chronological 2-page spreads. Sections on Egypt, the Indus valley, Crete, the Hittites, Canaan, Phoenicia, Hebrew Kingdoms, Assyrians, Persia, Greece, China, Japan, Africa, N. America, S. America, Celts, Rome, and the Rise of Christianity. The text is simple, straightforward with many maps, & illustrations. Reading level is 5th-6th grade. Hardback, 100 pages, each. $21.95 (GP)/ $26.95

Book of World History A hardback volume containing the six titles listed in a visually presented overview of world history: The First Civilizations, Warriors and Seafarers (1500BC to 500BC), Empires and Barbarians (500 BC to 600AD), Crusaders, Aztecs, and Samurai (600 to 1450 AD), Exploration and Discovery (1450 -). $24.95

Eyewitness Visual Dictionary of Ancient Civilizations is like a museum in a book. It covers all ancient cultures from the early Sumerians through Egypt, Greece, and Rome with beautiful color photographs and drawings of actual artifacts. All ages. Oversized hardback. $18.95

Resources for a humanities approach to history:

***Veritas Press developed this World History series of Flash Cards in conjunction with several Christian Classical Schools using the Greenleaf History curriculum. Five sets of cards cover history from the Old Testament to Modern Times. The cards serve as visual cue cards for teaching or discussion-prompter on significant events in world history and usually feature an art masterpiece of the period. The back of each card provides references to specific books and lesson plans in the Greenleaf Guides: Old Testament-Ancient Egypt $19.95 / Middle Ages – Renaissance-Reformation $19.95 / Age of Exploration and Discovery $19.95 / Modern World History $19.95 /Modern World History $19.95 Purchase from Veritas Press

A Young Person’s Guide to Philosophy by Jeremy Waite, Peter Lawman (ill.) A chronological journey through the history of Western philosophy and the lives and times of some of the greatest thinkers. Heavily illustrated, clear and accessible text. Recommended for jr high – high school ages. $16.95

Usborne World Religions ages 6-12

History Atlases for all ages:

Usborne Illustrated Atlas of World History Chronological time charts, maps, drawings, civilization information For ages 9 and up 96 page hardback “Traces the course of time from the beginning of the universe right up to the present day. Large, decorative maps set the historical scene, while detailed step-by-step map sequences show major world events such as the routes of explorers, the borders of changing empires, and the sites of decisive wars and battles. The maps are accompanied by beautiful illustrations and photographs of famous people, places and objects. Easy-to-read text, a glossary and time carts are ideal for quick reference.” $7.95

Uncle Josh’s Outline Map Book has 100 reproducible outline maps to use year after year in every type of study from history to hurricane tracking. Includes the 50 states, all seven continents, ancient historical regions, important war arenas, and more in 8 ? ” x 11″ size. You’ve got the whole world covered. $19.95

The Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East (The Cultural Atlas Series) by Michael Roaf Clear text examines key aspects and phases in the development of “the cradle of civilization” from prehistory to 330 B.C. Fifty original four-color maps and 300 photographs (two-thirds in color), glossary, chronological table, and gazetteer, as well as bibliography and index. $31.50

Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt OR The Penguin Atlas of Ancient Egypt.. (Chronological text is helpful) $16.95

Historical Atlas of Ancient Egypt by Bill Manley An excellent resource for the study of Egypt. Provides maps, photographs, info that will serve as an excellent backdrop to the books you are reading – A VP review $16.95

Cultural Atlas for Young People: Ancient Greece by Anton Powell Beginning with a timeline that stretches from 1500 B.C. and the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations through the empire of Alexander the Great ending in 240 B.C., this book, like the others in the Cultural Atlas for Young People series, is lavishly illustrated with National Geographic- quality photos and full-page maps. Part One covers a history of Greece, including the Minoans and Mycenaeans, Homer’s Greece, the siege of Troy, aristocrats and poets, colonization, Magna Graecia and the Tyrants, Sparta, Athens and democracy, war against the Persian empire, Greek warships and soldiers, the Peloponnesian Wars, the siege of Plataia, Greek coins, trade, seafaring, and slaves, the Spartan empire and the ten thousand, King Philip and the rise of Macedon, the royal tombs at Macedon, Alexander’s campaigns, and the successor kingdoms. Part Two covers the culture and society of the different regions of Greece, and Knossos and Mycenae. An excellent resource. A CCH review

Cultural Atlas for Young People: Ancient Rome by Mike Corbishley Beginning with a timeline that stretches from 800 B.C. through the empires of West and the East (500 A.D.), this book, like the others in the Cultural Atlas for Young People series, is lavishly illustrated with National Geographic- quality photos and full-page maps. Part One covers the history of Roman civilization, including the Etruscans, the foundation of Rome, the Punic Wars, the Legions, the Republic, Julius Caesar, men and women of the Empire, Pompeii, Augustus, Trajan, the provinces and conquests of Rome, the emperors, religion, Roman baths, imperial Rome, arenas and stadiums, Diocletian’s reforms, and the Roman ship. Part Two covers the geography, culture and society of the different regions of the Empire, including Africa, Spain, Gaul and Germany, Britain, Greece, Asia Minor, the East, and Egypt; and touching on topics such as the Roman villa, buildings and technology, and more. An excellent resource. $19.95 OR

The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History by Colin McEvedy Map-based narrative history written by a historian with a wonderful turn of phrase and a quirky sense of humor. Covers not only the ancient Near East and Egypt, but ancient Greece and Rome as well. $11.20

Visual or art approaches to history:

The Visual Dictionary of Ancient Civilizations (Dorling Kindersley) The ideal pictorial home reference book for the 16 civilizations covered in the book.

Timeline Sets and Figures 400 piece assorted set of figures to be colored, cut out and pasted in your notebooks or timelines. www.rainbowresource.com $28.00

Historical Timeline Figures 312 figures, over 20 reproducible figures. Printed on cardstock See samples online at www.geomatters.com $25.00

A Street Through Time: A 12,000 Year Walk through History by Anne Millard, Steve Noon Ingenius visual representation of one area on earth by a river and its evolving changes through the centuries from prehistory to the Middle Ages to today. Beautiful and detailed artwork. For all ages $16.95

Deluxe Teaching History Through Art by Visual Manna – Spiral bound resource for hands-on art projects, materials recipes, and history highlights chronological history summaries with correlating art projects. 37 lessons covering Prehistory through the Reformation $19.95

Learning About Ancient Civilizations Through Art by Bobbi Chertok. Many ancient cultures are covered and projects included. $18.95

Sumer and Babylonia / Ancient Egypt / Hebrews, Phoenicians & Hittites (Milliken Transparency/Reproducibles) Worksheet or transparency reproducibles of mapwork, illustrations covering everything from warfare to the arts and everyday life. A highly useful resource or supplement to project approaches. From Rainbow Resource.com $11.95

Movies Unlimited. Movies can be purchased from Moviesunlimited.com and educational reviews and guides for using movies can be had at Teachwithmovies.org/guides/. Other good catalogs can be obtained from Zengermedia.com or Social Studies.com


  • Introduction to history: Importance of archaeology (study of past societies through an analysis of their artefacts left behind) and anthropology (How do we know pre-history, ie what took place in past societies (study of human culture by analysing those artifacts) Describe the roles of an archeologist and an anthropologist and explain how they differ.
  • Who were the first humans: first human-like creatures in Africa (3-4 million); Homo sapiens (150,000-200,000 years); Stone Age / Paleolithic men (nomadic, using stone tools and living in caves); Print out and use chart at Killeenroos.com for concise and visual explanation. Compare the physical characteristics and accomplishments of Neanderthal people and Cro-Magnon people. / Mythology: What the ancients believed about the origins of man and the universe: / Explain the Evolution vs. Creation theories.
  • Agricultural or Neolithic Revolution (10,000 – 4,000 BC). Describe the effects of the Neolithic Revolution in the development of civilizations: Agriculture developed, animals were domesticated, stone axes and metals began to be used with the start of the Bronze Age around 3000-1200 BC. Food surplus was the main reason for the growth of civilizations. Fewer people needed to farm, some people became artisans and traders and shipfaring history developed.


Readings on prehistory for ages 4-8:

Sun, Moon and Stars by Mary Hoffman and Jane Ray Twenty myths, legends and lore collected from around the world that reveal what the heavens have been able to inspire in the hearts of people. Anyone who has not seen Jane Ray’s sumptuous guilded and naive illustrations is in for a treat. A perfect companion to astronomy or prehistory studies. $12.95

Earth, Wind and Fire by Jane Ray. Companion book in the same vein as the above exploring different elements of universe this time.

Archaeologists Dig for Clues (Let’s Read and Find Out Science) by Kat Duke A boy and his friends accompany Sophie an archaeologist on a dig in a cornfield. When all the children find are dust and pebbles (no treasure or mummies) they are disappointed, bt Sophie explains that the fun is in the detective work and archaeologists love examining garbage and that is how they find out about how people lived long ago. For ages 4-8 $4.95 *Usborne Living in Prehistoric Times by Jane Chisholm A good overview of the times for the very young in the usual Usborne illustrative style $4.50

Prehistoric People by Ovid K. Wong (Children’s Press) Seven very short and simply written chapters in large print entitled “What are humans?”; “How Scientists Study Prehistoric People”; “Homo habilis”; “Homo erectus”; “Homo sapiens”; “How the Species were related”2; “Learning from Prehistoric People”. Illustrated with color photos, maps and art reproductions.

*The Day of the Dinosaur (Stan and Jan Berenstein) Told in rhymes and somewhat cartoony and unfrightening representations of dinosaurs, this one will have your preschoolers both in stitches as well as memorizing dinosaur names in no time!

The Day After the Dinosaur by Stan and Jan Berenstein

*Dinosaur Hunters by John R. Jones (Step Into Reading 4) About the work of those who study dinosaur fossils. $3.99

*Wild and Woolly Mammoths (Let’s Read and Find Out Science) by Aliki (an SL reader) A charmingly illustrated picture book of mammoths and Stone Age peoples who hunted them.

Sunset of the Sabertooth by Mary Pope Osborne Jack and Annie are transported back in time to the Ice Age, where they encounter Cro-Magnon cave people, woolly mammoths, and fierce sabertooth tigers. $3.99

*Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne In the usual signature style, this blend of fact, fantasy and adventure story has Jack and Annie transported through to the prehistoric past in a land of volcanoes and dinosaurs. $3..99

Usborne Dinosaurs

Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible (Christian perspective)

Readings for the Logic-Rhetoric (Ages 9 and upwards) stage:

Mythology by Edith Hamilton. Some familiarity with mythology is necessary to understand the many references to myths in English literature. An excellent collection.

Young Scientist Book of Archaeology ages 9-12

Dinosaurs to Dodos : An Encyclopedia of Extinct Animals by Don Lessem, Jan Sovak. An informative encyclopedic style overview of major prehistoric periods and phenomena moving chronologically through 12 time periods. Clearly written articles describing the time period, its key geological changes on Earth and the development and extinction of animal species and offering reasons for their destruction. Many illustrations accompany the text and a gallery of extinct creatures from the period appears at the end of each short chapter. $13.56

Digging Up Tyrannosaurus Rex by John R. Horner and Don Lessem In the fall of 1988, a Montana rancher happened upon the first arm bone of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Buried wit it in the Montana sandstone was the most complete T skeleton ever found. Jack Horner describes how he and his team worked together to excavate this unique fossil and what their discoveries revealed about the life and appearance of the most fearsome of the dinosaurs. (8-10 years) $3.95

Beyond the Dinosaurs! : Sky Dragons, Sea Monsters, Mega-Mammals, and Other Prehistoric Beasts by Howard Zimmerman Looking at species other than dinosaurs, this book offers incredible facts about bizarre reptiles and mammals living during and after the Age of Dinosaurs including the Diatryma, a giant flightless bird, the monstrous, sea-dwelling Kronosaurus and the ferocious Hyaenodont, a mammal that, like modern hyenas, fed on the bodies of dead animals. Oversize, lavishly illustrated by the world’s top illustrators of prehistoric animals. Howard Zimmerman is also author of Dinosaurs! The Biggest Baddest Strangest Fastest $12.60

The Call of Distant Mammoths : Why the Ice Age Mammals Disappeared by Peter Douglas Ward An exciting and readable account of why the Ice Age Mammals disappeared with the central focus on the mammoth. $18.20

Stone Age Farmers Beside the Sea : Scotland’s Prehistoric Village of Skara Brae by Caroline Arnold and Arthur Arnold A beautiful book suitable for Gr. 4–7 with brilliant color photography introducing the ancient village of Skara Brae, “one of Europe’s oldest known and best preserved prehistoric (predating the Egyptian pyramids villages)” in northern Scotland’s Orkney Islands. The ancient settlement site, buried by sand and rediscovered following a storm 150 years ago, includes the stone walls of several small, interconnected houses buttressed by mounds of midden (trash mixed with soil and plant matter) that are overgrown with grass. A picture is drawn of the neolithic culture of the people who lived at Skara Brae from the ruins there and other nearby neolithic sites such as a burial mound, a cooking rough, and two Orkney monuments of giant standing stones. $15.95

Ice Mummy: The Discovery of a 5,000-Year-Old Man by Mark Dubowski and Cathy East Dubowski Two tourists hiking in the Alps of the Ice Mummy in 1991, discovered something sticking out of the snow, a man, frozen in the ice for 5,000 years. Written for the first time in an easy-to-read format and the only book to include information about the Mummy’s latest incarnation–as a museum exhibit in Bolzano, Italy. Color photos. $11.95

If You Lived in the Days of the Wild Mammoth Hunters by Mary Elting and Franklin Folsom (Scholastic) What life was like 11,000 years ago explained in conversational Q & A format. “Who were the mammoth hunters?”, “What was a mammoth hunt like?”

Ice Age Sabertooth: All About the Most Ferocious Cat That Ever Lived by Barbara Hehner, Mark Hallett To be released in April 2002 $13.96

Early Humans (Eyewitness) by Nick Merriman and Alfred Knopf covers prehistoric people from first hominids, “Life in the Ice Age”, “The First Artists” through to early days of civilization. Includes its hallmark signature visual feast of photo images of museum artifacts, prints and drawings.

Prehistoric America by A.T. White OOP $6.95 (used)

The First Men In The World by A.T. White takes the reader on an adventure, transporting the reader back to prehistoric life beginning with the first finds of cave man life. Writing in an highly imaginative style, this out of print book is worth searching for in used bookstores (between $10-20)

Hands-on Resources:

Prehistoric Cave Painting Kit / Rock Art Painting Kit / Grotte Chauvet Cave Painting Kit The first kit includes an info booklet, a foot-square stone tile for painting upon, a stone palette, a grindingstone, a handmade twig brush and stickpointer/scraper, and four packets of natural pigments; the second kit includes an info booklet, four pigments, a pair of handmade twig tools and the final kit includes a booklet including the account of the Grotte Chauvet cave paintings discovery in France, a reusable 6-inch sqare painting tile, handmade twig tools, four pigment packets. Also available separately are coloring pages of the Grotte Chauvet cave images. Available from Ancient Graffiti Email: ancientg@sovernet.com

NOVA: In Search of Human Origins three part video series hosted by discover of “Lucy” ancient hominid skeleton, Donald Johansen an anthropologist Available from MoviesUnlimited.com $59.99

Explore Our Human Origins Kit (produced in conjunction with the above NOVA video production) includes an 8 piece assortment of plant and animal fossils in sand to be sifted out, identified and labeled on the included Fossil Card, plaster for making a hand- or foot print cast, stone slab and paints for a cave painting, an Anthropologist’s Field Guide and a foldout poster illustrating the origins of life on earth. Available from Curiosity Kits email:ckitsinc@aol.com $20.00

Building Stonehenge NOVA Curiosity kit including modeling clay for making a replica of England’s famous Stonehenge, a display board for the created model, a solar tracker, D-I-Y solar tracker, info booklet Available from Curiosity Kits email:ckitsinc@aol.com $20.00

Magic Tree House Collection: Dinosaurs Before Dark, the Knight at Dawn, Mummies in the Morning, Pirates Past Noon (Books 1-4) [UNABRIDGED] by Mary Pope Osborne (Audio Cassette – December 2000)

Flints and Stones website features a virtual tour of the Ice Age from the British Museum of Antiquities

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