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Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Ancient River Valley Civilizations

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Recommended Books:

  • The First Civilizations by Anne Millard
  • Archaeologists Dig For Clues (Let’s Read and Find Out Science) by Kate Duke
  • China: Land of the Emperor’s Great Wall (Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Mummies and Pyramids (Research Guide) by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Season of the Sandstorms by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Tigers at Twilight by Mary Pope Osborne
  • A Crazy Day with Cobras by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Day of the Dragon King by Mary Pope Osborne
  • Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne

Target Vocabulary: ancient, archaeologist, archaeology, artifact, century, China, civilization, community, decade, decipher, dynasty, Egypt, emperor, empire, excavation, fertile, forbidden, future, god/goddess, goods, hierarchy, hieroglyphics, history, Indus Valley, kingdom, Mesopotamia, past, pharoah, present, ruins, settlement, time, timeline, valley

Lesson Themes:

What is ancient history? ~ Explain that ancient history refers to history that happened a long time ago. The opposite of ancient is modern. We study history by measuring periods or blocks of time: decades (10 years), centuries (100 years), age/empire/dynasty, etc. The farther back you go in time, the more ancient the history. Things related to the ancient world are also referred to as early (early history, early people, etc.) Discuss prehistory (things prior to our ancient history) to make sure the student understands the difference between the two. You can also discuss the various ways we measure time: by studying the sun and stars, or by using a calendar, watch or clock. You can also discuss what a timeline is and its function: to measure and show time in terms of the past, present and future.

Four Ancient River Valley Civilizations ~ There were four major civilizations that settled and flourished around different river valley regions in the ancient world: Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, Indus Valley and ancient China. Although each had its own independent and specific culture, they shared many commonalities:

  • farming communities who settled along major rivers with an established irrigation system
  • planned city-state structure and government
  • specific languages
  • social groups/classes with hierarchical levels
  • trade, craftsmen and skilled workers
  • slave labor
  • family life and social responsibility
  • academic study
  • music, art and other forms of entertainment
  • a polytheistic belief system
  • use of horse-drawn chariot
  • internal struggles
  • warring with other city-states

You can approach lessons in various ways:

  • discuss the commonalities of the four river valley civilizations
  • discuss each of them individually in more detail
  • compare components of two civilizations, such as Mesopotamia & ancient Egypt for a Middle Eastern comparison or Indus Valley & ancient China for an Asian comparison
  • offer biographical lessons on key figures, such as pharaohs, emperors, Hammurabi, deities, etc.
  • discuss significant archaeological discoveries within those civilizations, such as Sumerian cuneiform tablets, ruins, Mohejo-Daro, temples, etc.
  • incorporate related themes from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Related Resources:


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