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History of Science Ancient Mesopotamia

History of Science Online

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LibraryThing: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia Week 2: Science in Ancient Mesopotamia

Starting Assumptions

# Due Date Pts Activity Time
1 Tuesday
11:59 p.m.
10 Starting Assumptions
Think about what you know already about the culture and period, share your knowledge and experience with other students in the class
30 min.

Before reading further on this page, make sure you are familiar with the general description of the Starting Assumptions assignment.

In our whirlwind tour of the history of science, this week we make our stop in the civilizations of the ancient Near East. Our aim will be to get to know the ancient Babylonian astronomers in terms of their own place and time. We'll not be like tourists in Uruk, Ninevah or Babylon who seek fast food at McDonald's.

Starting Assumptions Questions

  1. What most interests you about the historical context of the ancient Near East, including ancient Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Persia or Assyria?
  2. The upper-left corner icon for this week is a detail from the gate of Ishtar, an entry way into the ancient city of Babylon, now in the Berlin Museum (larger version). What comes to mind when you think of "Babylon"? "Ishtar"?
  3. Did you ever study Mesopotamian culture or civilization in school before? Do you know anything about ancient Near Eastern history, mythology or religion?
  4. What are some of the best-known artifacts or discoveries from the ancient near east? The Code of Hammurabi? Ziggurats?
  5. Can you read any cuneiform signs? Do you know much about the early history of writing?
  6. Have you read the Epic of Gilgamesh? What did you think of it?
  7. Have you seen the Star Trek Next Generation episode "Darmok" where Captain Jean-Luc Picard retells the story of Gilgamesh?
  8. Have you seen any interesting movies or documentaries that relate to ancient Babylonian science, history or mythology?
  9. Have you seen "They Might Be Giants" music video by "The Mesopotamians"? In our brief whirlwind tour, we'll encounter all four of the Mesopotamian characters mentioned in this song.
  10. Can you recognize very many constellations? Do you like skylore; the literature and stories of the constellations? What are your favorite constellations or skylore stories? Do you know the stories of any of the following constellations? Orion, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Pegasus, Perseus, Argo navis? Note: here's a page on how to find constellations using the Big Dipper.
  11. **What are some similarities between ancient Mesopotamian cultures and culture today? How might these similarities help us to understand ancient Mesopotamian culture? What are some differences between ancient Mesopotamian cultures and culture today? How might these differences pose an obstacle to our understanding of ancient Mesopotamian culture? Babylonian culture was very religious. How do you think this might have affected their science? What do you think is the chief barrier that obstructs modern appreciation of ancient Near Eastern science? **

Instructions for Starting Assumptions assignment:

  1. Look over the questions and links below; then watch the Starting Assumptions video prompt for this unit at Janux.
  2. PART ONE:
    1. Write a paragraph, 150 words minimum, in response to any questions that interest you.
    2. Post your completed paragraph in the Starting Assumptions discussion stream for this week at Janux.
  3. PART TWO:
    • Read the Starting Assumptions posts of at least two other students at Janux. Make another post in the discussion stream at Janux replying to their posts. (If you are the first or second person to post, you will have to check back later to complete this part of the assignment.)
    • IMPORTANT: When you respond, please begin by greeting the persons by name you are replying to, so that they will be more likely to notice that you are replying to them. And over the next several hours, check back and see if anyone comments on your post as well. If you provide interesting comments in response to others, they will be more likely to look for your posts both now and in the future.
  4. As you post your paragraph and respond to two other students, complete the Gradebook Declaration in Desire2Learn. Your Gradebook Declaration is subject to the Honor Code. Check all that apply: if you have completed the assignment, you will check all five statements. If you work on the assignment at different times, you may make the Gradebook Declaration incrementally as you complete each part. You may redo the Gradebook Declaration as often as you like up until the due date, if any part is incomplete the first time.

Here is the text of the Desire2Learn Gradebook Declaration:

(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 50 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 100 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have posted my Starting Assumptions (at least 150 words) at Confluence, including a response to the required question(s).
(2 points) I have replied to the post of at least one other student.
(2 points) I have replied to the post of at least two other students.


Have you read the Epic of Gilgamesh lately? “When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.” Clifton Fadiman

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HSCI 3013. History of Science to 17th centuryCreative Commons license
Kerry Magruder, Instructor, 2004
Brent Purkaple, TA

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Many thanks to the pedagogical model developed in Mythology and Folklore and other online courses by Laura Gibbs, which have been an inspiration for this course.

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This course is currently undergoing major reconstruction to bring it into alignment with the new version of the course at Janux