Teacher Guidance: Early Civilizations

This is the first of two units of teaching ideas covering ancient history


The river valley civilizations and their offshoots, 3500 BC to 500 BC

This unit addresses

  • chronology
  • change and continuity
  • cause and consequence
  • similarity and difference
  • connections and linkages

It looks at the role of geography and the environment in shaping human society, and asks students to look at technological developments, as well as developments in governmental, economic and belief systems. The unit seeks to give practice in critical thinking skills such as interpretation, analysis and significance.


To introduce students to the early civilizations of the Ancient World; to encourage them to compare and contrast different regions and periods in ancient history; to help them understand what developments took place over time.



1. Go to the map of the world in 3500 BC. Follow the links through to the following regions: Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia.


What was the world like? How was it different from ours?

What's going on in each of these regions? What's similar about them? What's different?

Are they all at the same stage of development? If not, which is the most advanced, technologically? - politically?

How did different peoples

....extract food from their environment?

....live in their environment (communities, houses)?

What technologies did they use?

From your exploration of the world in 3500 BC,

....what major change has affected the way humans relate to their environment over the previous few thousand years?

....what critical turning point in history occurs at around the time of this map (3500 BC)?

Supplementary question:

Why do we call the Sumerians the first “civilization”?

Give reasons for its rise.


2. Now move forward 1000 years to the next map, dated 2500 BC, and then to 1500 BC, 1000 BC and finally 500 BC.

For each of these dates:

What key changes have occurred since the last map? What's remained the same?

What are the most dynamic regions of the world at the time? Are they the same as in the last map, or not?

Which new states have appeared? Which have vanished?

What are the leading kingdoms or empires in the world at this time?

Have new forms of government or new kinds of state appeared since the last map?

What technological developments have there been?

What are the prime trade routes, both within and between regions? Have they changed sice the last map?

What cultural or technological exchanges have there been from one region to another?

Has farming become more widespread than in 3500 BC? If so, where has it expanded?

What migrations have occurred/are occurring?

Identify key trends in world history at this time, shaping the future.

3. When you have finished, review:

What has been achieved in terms of technological advance in these regions between 3500 BC and 500 BC?

What were the key developments in world history during this time?

Has government developed?

What has remained the same since 3500 BC?

What civilizations have risen and fallen between 3500 BC and 500 BC?

Which have risen and NOT fallen?



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