Topi Dasgupta’s Daily Life in the Ancient World course is about ancient civilizations. Ancient civilizations have the components of city development, social stratification, and symbolic systems of communication. One of the communication systems is writing, which was first created by the Sumer people – the earliest known civilization in the historical region of Southern Mesopotamia. This course takes place before the Common Era and sees the ancient world through the lens of ordinary people instead of people in power. Daily Life in Ancient World Display shows the level of sophistication and prosperity of early civilizations, which possessed organized class structure, development in the arts, and made advances in science and technology. Through studying unique languages and cultures, students are immersed in the course material.
Furthermore, students are encouraged to ask existential questions which relate to the course material. These questions include; “What marks the end of life – is it mummification or proper burial?” This encourages student curiosity and simultaneously helps them gain knowledge about the distant past.
This course also talks about civilizations’ use of agricultural subsistence through artificial fertilization, irrigation, and crop rotation. In this course, students study nomadic people – living off the land and harvesting a surplus of crops with tools such as a sickle.
Students who took this course recently engaged in a project that explored ancient Egypt’s mummification of humans and animals. To effectively complete this project, students gathered knowledge from class documentaries, books, and websites. Looking at the students’ work allowed one to gain a concrete definition of a mummy – a dead being whose body is dried with salt, embalmed, treated, and wrapped in many layers of linen cloth. Yet, the students’ work also highlighted a greater importance, as “mummification” was an integral process in ancient Egypt that commenced one’s journey to the afterlife. One of the projects featured a decorative mummified cat which was designed by a group of students who claimed to have spent over 10 hours carefully crafting this mummy. Letting their creativity run wild, they used various household items such as cardboard boxes and paper towels which acted as the material to wrap their mummy.
The basis of city development, social stratification, and symbolic systems of communication allows for a steady civilization that lasts for thousands of years. These civilizations are built on culture and traditions. Learning about the rich culture of the ancient civilizations, such as ancient Egyptian mummification and the erection of pyramids showed the level of sophistication that ancient civilizations had. Through engaging in hands on creative group projects students were able to gain a deeper understanding of how complex the ancient world was through asking questions and fostering a sense of curiosity about the ancient world.