This page is divided into lessons. Each lesson has pre-study discourse questions, terms/vocabulary, a brief statement about location, a map, a table of important facts, information about the people and civilization, visuals and information about the art itself, and finally what to do once completed. Let's break down these sections so that you know what to expect and why I've put these elements where I have.
First, Pre-Study Discourse questions:
These questions are meant to stimulate your mind and give you something important to think about while you read the presented information. Most of the time, the questions will deal with extremely important facts about the civilization that mark a shift in the art work or beginning of a new era. For instance, I could ask 'What is the "Code of Hammurabi"?' as a question. In this example, the Code of Hammurabi is important because it is the world's first written record of law and punishment and is dated to 1792-1750 BC. So, by keeping the discourse questions in mind, you can keep track of how society changes, improves, and advances - in an easy chronological order.
Second, Terminology and vocabulary:
Below the discourse questions, I present several terms for you to be aware of while reading. These terms are not defined until the very end of the lesson. This is because I'm trying to be sensitive of the many different ways a person can learn new information. I felt that giving all kinds of definitions at the beginning would be counter-productive to those who would rather read the material, get an understanding, and then learn the proper definitions. With these people in mind, I put the terms first and the definitions last. However, if you'd rather have the definitions first, simply scroll down to the bottom of the screen before you begin reading. At any rate, try to keep these terms in mind as you read, as they are either important to the specific culture being studied OR they are important to art history in general.
Third, What is...? location statement:
This statement merely serves as a brief explanation of how the civilization relates to the art period of the lesson and where the city-state of that society is located in modern-day times. It is designed to prepare you for who and where we are studying. This is especially beneficial when the location inhabits many different societies at once. For instance, when I explain 'What is Mesopotamia?', you will be alerted that this geographical area is the home to such civilizations as Assyria, Akkad, Lagash, Babylon, Sumer and Uruk. Knowing this kind of information, at the start, allows us to begin our study without confusion.
Fourth, the Map of the area:
This one is obviously a visual aid for those learners who like to see what they are being told. Sometimes, it isn't enough just to talk about things, so I do my best to have plenty of visual aids. These maps will always be ancient maps - so it's important to realize that the areas designated on these maps are specifically designed for the time frame that we are studying. I will not be using any modern-day maps, whatsoever. This is because lands and areas of societies change drastically with time; to fully understand the period we are studying, we must concentrate our attention on where their locations were in their own day-and-age. Thus, ancient maps are necessary. And, in some cases, more than one will be shown as a way to track an empire's growth.
Fifth, Table of Facts that are important to our study:
These facts are designed to help you differentiate between peoples, societies, civilizations, art works, time periods, and even kings. When you study art history, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell one type of art from another; either the appearance is similar or the names are similar, and the lines become blurry as to who is who and what is what. For this reason, I have chosen a visual piece of art and a ruler that should be used in order to keep all the information separated and organized. If you ever get confused about who ruled during a time period or what art was being made by the people of the area, just think back to the table.
Sixth, the People and Civilization information:
This space is used to give a brief introduction about the people and civilization being studied. You will learn where the people came from, what religion they practiced, what their accomplishments were, how their existence shaped the future, and even what kind of writing they were doing. For example, did you know that the oldest written novel, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was written by the Sumerians in 2400 BC? All of this wonderful information will give you a backdrop for the art that we'll study and will, hopefully, answer the age old question: Why should we - as the world's descendents - care about the ancients?
Seventh, the Art itself:
I believe this is self-explanatory. This will be the bulk of the lesson: looking at art work of those civilizations that we are studying. By studying the art, and obtaining a deep understanding of its meaning, we can gain an appreciation of the people behind the creations. What was life like? What was important at that time in history? How were people portrayed in art and why? What does the art work "say" about the people? What message were they conveying to the future generations? Studying art is more than just looking at pictures. It's a way of looking back on long gone societies and being able to become part of their once glorious world. It's - quite literally - about rediscovering life. And as such, dates will be listed, as well as titles, artists (if known), medium (what the work is made out of), and location - all important information to know, especially for anyone who seriously wants to learn art history.
Eighth, At the End of the lesson:
Once you have completely studied the entire lesson, you have two options: take a test over the material (which is highly suggested) OR go on to the next section. If you elect to take the exam, it is suggested that you use the Study Guide first. The study guide will give you the areas that the exam focuses on and prepares you for a no-surprise test over the lesson. When you are ready, take the test and submit your answers via Assignment Submission Form (which is located under 'Assignments'.). I will grade your work and send it back to you, with comments attached. By taking the exam, you can fully gauge your progress and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. And, since this is not for an official grade, it's a no-stress way of learning. However, if you don't wish to take the exam, you don't have to. Simply navigate to the next lesson, and move on at your own pace. It's that easy and it's your choice.
Just one more thing, promise!
Before you can begin learning about the ancients, you should be familiar with the dating system. I'm sure that some of you are well aware of this convention, but, I also know that some of you are not. So that we're all on the same page, let's review the ancient dating system. Unlike the modern-day year counting system - that goes from lowest to highest (1-2012), BC runs from highest to lowest (5000-1). For example, 5000 BC is older than 3000 BC and 1 BC is older than 1 AD; and as such, 1270 BC is older than 1270 AD. Making sense? Now, there is another convention that we must discuss: centuries. When we say 18th century in modern-day time (AD), we mean the 1700s; just as we live in the 21st century and the dates are in the 2000s. In the BC years, it is the exact same: 4th century BC is actually 300s and the 27th century BC is the 2600s. If you remember that BC dates are like placements on the negative line in mathematics, and AD dates are like the placements on the positive line, then you'll always know that BC is from high to 1 and AD is from 1 to high; there is no zero date in either BC or AD - the dates jump from 1 BC directly to 1 AD.
Visual example of BC and AD dating system:
. -3000 0 +3000 .
3000 BC 1500 BC 500 BC 1 BC / 1 AD 500 AD 1500 AD 3000 AD
I hope this all made sense. If not, just let me know - and ask questions.
Now that you understand the lesson plan, and what everything means, you are ready to start your study of ancient art.
Simply hover over the lessons menu and click a topic to begin!