What the Ancients Knew The Egyptians Teacher s Guide

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1 What the Ancients Knew The Egyptians Grade Level: 6 8 Curriculum Focus: Social Studies Lesson Duration: 5 class periods Program Description What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians The earliest Egyptians lived in a world without science, full of mysteries with few explanations. Yet, with only basic tools, this civilization flourished, harnessed the Nile River, and created world wonders like the pyramids. Investigate the origins and development of the science and technology that made these accomplishments possible, examine the Nile s vital role in the everyday life of ancient Egypt, and explore the profound influences of Egyptian belief in the afterlife. Discussion Questions How did the ancient Egyptians detect rules and cycles of nature? How did these observations help them to harness the Nile River? What was the purpose of the Nileometer? What modern calendar month marked the beginning of the ancient Egyptian new year? What was the beginning of their calendar year based on? What season did the rising of the star Sirius (or Septet) signal? The Egyptians were the first culture to believe in an afterlife. How did observation of nature s rules and cycles serve as the source of this belief? How did this influence their burial methods? Their burial structures? Who made up the basic workforce that built the pyramids? Why did these people willingly participate in the projects? How did these projects benefit the people? Lesson Plan Student Objectives Examine the science and technology developed by the ancient Egyptians. Explore the historical and cultural context of ancient Egyptian science and technology. Examine the role of the Nile River in everyday life in ancient Egypt. Trace the evolution of the pyramids from their origin in early burial methods. Discern how monumental structures like the pyramids were reflections of deeply held Egyptian religious beliefs.

2 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 2 Explore the importance of hieroglyphics and identify when, where, and how they were used. Materials What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians video print resources about the history and culture of ancient Egypt as well as the science, technology, innovations, and monuments that are the legacy of this civilization; print resources about the Rosetta Stone Procedures 1. Prior to viewing the program, the teacher will provide students with a focused selection of books and pictures concerning ancient Egypt. Allow students sufficient time to browse through the materials. This activity will focus student attention on the general topic of ancient Egypt and serve to raise awareness in students who have limited knowledge of the topic. Next, begin a discussion by asking a student volunteer to locate Egypt on a large world map or globe. Then ask students the following questions and record their responses on the board. What images or ideas do you associate with ancient Egypt? Explain to students that ancient Egypt s civilization spanned thousands of years, then ask: When would you estimate the Egyptian civilization began? (about 3000 B.C.) If students have difficulty responding to the first question, try a word game, such as When I say a word, you tell me what place (or time or image) comes to your mind: mummy, pyramids, King Tut, Cleopatra, the Nile River, [and so forth]. Tell students that they will be viewing a program about ancient Egyptian innovations in science and technology. Direct students to think about the following questions as they watch the program. What is the link between the cycles of nature and many of the ancient Egyptian innovations in science and technology? What significance do these innovations have today? 2. After viewing the program, have students recall examples of the innovations in science and technology presented. Areas of discussion should include harnessing the Nile standardizing time inventing paper building mastabas and pyramids Clarify information and vocabulary as needed. Ask the following questions: How did study of the cycles of nature inspire many ancient Egyptian innovations? How did their quest for eternal life inspire basic geometry, rudimentary science, and innovations in technology? What contributed to the decline of this great civilization? What significance do the contributions of the ancient Egyptians have today?

3 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 3 3. To provide a historical framework for the information in the program and guide activities, have students use print and Internet resources to create a time line of key events in ancient Egypt. Divide the class into small groups of three or four students each. Members of each group will work together to provide dates for the following events and to organize them chronologically. King Menes unites Upper and Lower Egypt invention of the 365-day calendar establishment of the Old Kingdom with its capital in Memphis Great Pyramid of Giza built by King Khufu (Cheops) establishment of the Middle Kingdom and of Thebes as the new capital Queen Hatshepsut expands the Egyptian empire to include Nubia and Palestine Amenhotep IV (a.k.a. Akhenaton) supports worship of only one god, Aten, and moves the seat of government to a short-lived new capital city, Akhetaten Tutankkhamun revives polytheism and returns Egypt s capital to Thebes Ramses II (Ramses the Great) begins his 67-year reign and completes the Temple of Luxor invasion of Egypt from the south by the Nubian Empire, initiating an Ethiopian Dynasty Persian Empire conquers Egypt death of Nectanebo II (the last Egyptian-born pharaoh) Alexander the Great of Macedonia invades Egypt Macedonian general Ptolemy begins a new dynasty in the city of Alexandria Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII rules Egypt, assisted by Roman Emperor Julius Caesar Cleopatra commits suicide, and Egypt is annexed by the Roman Empire (Note: Advise students that, when using Internet resources for research, it is best to find at least two independent sources in agreement on facts such as dates.) Each student will contribute to the assigned group s time line. Completed time lines should be presented as a group-generated paper. Have students share their findings in a general class discussion. Use this opportunity to discuss and clarify discrepancies. As a follow-up activity, assign each student or have each select one of the people mentioned in the time line. Tell students to conduct further research on that person and prepare a brief oral report. Encourage them to supplement their reports with relevant pictures or maps. 4. The Nile: This activity will help students more fully understand the significant role of the Nile River in the everyday life of ancient Egyptians. Ask students to name two or three major rivers in the United States. Record student responses on the board. Discuss the following: Why are rivers an important natural resource? How do we use our rivers? What is the major river in

4 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 4 Egypt? According to the program, how did the ancient Egyptians attempt to harness the Nile? Why? Do you think their civilization could have thrived without the river? Explain your response. Have students use print and Internet resources to answer this question: How did the Nile River affect everyday life in ancient Egypt? Students should investigate the role of the Nile in agriculture fishing and hunting commerce health and hygiene religious beliefs defense Have students summarize their findings in a written report. Once reports have been completed, have students share their findings in a general class discussion of the topic. 5. Evolution of the Pyramids: For this activity, provide students with information about Egyptian burial and the evolution of the pyramids. Begin by asking students to refer to their time lines. Who built the Great Pyramid of Giza? When? What were earlier burial structures called? According to the program, out of what necessity did mastabas and pyramids evolve? Assign students to use print and Internet resources to research the topic and then create a series of drawings with captions that demonstrate this evolution from the earliest mastabas to the geometric form we are accustomed to seeing. Captions should include the timeframe of each new advance, what architectural changes accompanied it, and, if possible, the pharaoh and architect involved in design and construction. Students may present completed drawings in booklet or poster form. 6. Hieroglyphics: For this activity, the teacher will need to provide students with print material about Egyptian hieroglyphics. Show students some examples of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Ask students to suggest what the symbols represent. Explain to students that writing set the Egyptians apart from many of their neighbors. They used pictures, or hieroglyphics, to represent words and sounds. Have students use print and Internet sources to research the following questions. When did the Egyptians begin using hieroglyphics? Where were hieroglyphics primarily used? What did the individual hieroglyphs represent? About how many hieroglyphs were there? Did the Egyptians use punctuation when writing in hieroglyphics? In which direction were hieroglyphics written?

5 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 5 What materials could be used to create texts in hieroglyphics? What is a cartouche? How would your first name appear written in hieroglyphics? (Note: The Internet offers translator sites for this purpose. Have each student copy his or her name as it appears in hieroglyphics.) Once students have completed their research, lead a class discussion of the above questions. Ask students to share additional interesting information they have discovered about hieroglyphics during their research. Use student name translations to create a bulletin board display in which each student name is framed as it would be in a cartouche. 7. The Rosetta Stone: For this activity, the teacher will need to provide students with print material about the Rosetta Stone. Ask students to refer to their time lines to answer the following questions: What empire conquered Egypt in 525 B.C.? When did the last Egyptianborn pharaoh die? Who next invaded Egypt? What dynasty did the invaders establish? How long did that rule last? Explain to students that during the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Egyptian and Greek languages were used simultaneously. However, during the Roman rule that followed, Latin was the main language (and occasionally Greek). Use of Egyptian hieroglyphics declined until, within a hundred years, they were no longer used or understood. The ancient language was forgotten. Next, refer to your sample pictures of hieroglyphics and ask students these questions. If you did not know what words or sounds these symbols represented, how would you begin to decipher their meaning? What key would you need? (Suggest that students approach this problem like a secret code that must be deciphered.) Tell students that the key to Egyptian hieroglyphics was finally discovered in 1799 a key called the Rosetta Stone. Have them use print and Internet resources to research this topic in preparation for a general class discussion. Their research should address the following questions. In 1798 why were French military troops in Egypt? Who was in command of the French troops? Who discovered the Rosetta Stone? Why is it called the Rosetta Stone? What three languages were inscribed on the stone? Which of these three languages was known? Why was the Rosetta Stone the key to understanding ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics? Who finally succeeded in cracking the code and translating Egyptian hieroglyphics? 8. Reflections of Ancient Egypt: The following activity may be performed either as a class project or by students working in small groups. Have students gather images representing ancient Egypt: places, structures, artifacts, and writing. Have students use these to create a class bulletin

6 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 6 Assessment board or a series of posters (small group activity) that reflect the legacy of ancient Egypt. Discuss student image choices: What is the image? What aspect of ancient Egypt does it represent? Display completed posters. Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. Vocabulary 3 points: Students demonstrated thorough awareness of ancient Egyptian science and technology and of its historical and cultural context; produced an accurate time line; produced a complete, well-written report on the Nile River, including all of the requested information; accurately illustrated and captioned the evolution of the pyramids; made significant contributions to the Reflections of Ancient Egypt project. 2 points: Students demonstrated awareness of ancient Egyptian science and technology and of its historical and cultural context; produced a satisfactory time line; produced a satisfactory report on the Nile River, including most of the requested information; adequately illustrated and captioned the evolution of the pyramids; made acceptable contributions to the Reflections of Ancient Egypt project. 1 point: Students did not demonstrate awareness of ancient Egyptian science and technology or of its historical and cultural context; produced an unsatisfactory time line; produced an unsatisfactory report on the Nile River; poorly illustrated and captioned the evolution of the pyramids; made minimal contributions to the Reflections of Ancient Egypt project. cubit Definition: An ancient unit of length equal to the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, approximately cm (17-22 in) Context: Papyrus documents and existing cubit measuring rods suggest that, at construction, the Great Pyramid was 280 Egyptian cubits tall. limestone Definition: A rock formed chiefly by accumulation of organic remains (such as shells or coral), consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, extensively used in building, and yielding lime when burned Context: Fairly rough, low-grade limestone was used in construction of the pyramid core, while fine white limestone was often employed for the outer casing and to cover interior walls. mastaba Definition: In ancient Egypt, a brick tomb built with a flat base, sloping sides, and a flat roof; its design inspired the pyramids. Context: Mastabas are among the oldest superstructures in human history.

7 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 7 Nileometer Definition: Construction used from ancient times to measure the depth of the Nile River in order to predict and prepare for flooding or drought Context: A Nileometer could be a series of carved steps, a simple pillar, or a well, against which the Egyptians marked off measurements in cubits. obelisk Definition: A tall, slender pillar of stone with a square base and sides that taper like a pyramid s toward a pointed top Context: Obelisks were a prominent part of ancient Egyptian architecture. papyrus Definition: A tall, reed-like water plant of the Nile valley; a kind of paper made from the crushed and pressed stems of this plant, especially in ancient Egypt Context: Our English word paper is derived from the word papyrus. pyramid Definition: A massive memorial with a square base and four triangular sides; built as a royal tomb in ancient Egypt Context: The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) the largest pyramid in Egypt is located on the Giza Plateau just outside Cairo. technology Definition: The study, development, and application of devices, machines, and techniques for manufacturing and productive processes Context: The legacy of the ancient Egyptians includes basic geometry, rudimentary science, and seminal technologies. Academic Standards The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) NCSS has developed national guidelines for teaching social studies. To become a member of NCSS, or to view the standards online, go to This program addresses the following thematic standards: Culture Time, Continuity, and Change People, Places, and Environments Science, Technology, and Society Global Connections

8 What the Ancients Knew: The Egyptians 8 Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K 12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This program addresses the following national standards: History Historical Understanding: Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns; Understands the historical perspective. History World History Era 1 The Beginnings of Human Society: Understands the processes that contributed to the emergence of agricultural societies around the world. History World History Era 2 Early Civilizations and the Rise of Pastoral Peoples, BCE: Understands the major characteristics of civilization and the development of civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley. Geography The World in Spatial Terms: Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment. Geography Environment and Society: Understands how human actions modify the physical environment; Understands how physical systems affect human systems.

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