1.5 The first Civilisations

AGE 1: The Time of Hunters and Farmers
1.5 The first civilisations

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Slide 1: Tekstslide
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In deze les zitten 21 slides, met interactieve quizzen, tekstslides en 1 video.

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AGE 1: The Time of Hunters and Farmers
1.5 The first civilisations

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Slide 2 - Link

Write in your notebook the title of this lesson
Go to the website:

Write in your notebook the five traits (characteristics) of a civilisation

Slide 3 - Open vraag

What is this lesson about?
The first farmers settled around rivers in the Middle East. Because of the fertile ground around the rivers, the farmers were able to get an agricultural surplus. This abundance of food allowed people to specialise in other jobs: like traders, craftsmen or priests. Villages in Sumer and Egypt grew to become cities with a highly developed level of culture.

Slide 4 - Tekstslide

What you can explain /  do after this lesson
  • how Egypt and Sumer could develop around rivers
  • how an agricultural surplus could lead to a highly developed civilisation
  • explain what an agricultural-urban society is and how it developed
  • give the characteristics of the first civilisations and explain them

Slide 5 - Tekstslide

Word Duty

Mesopotamia: fertile area in the Middle East; Greek for ‘land between two rivers’
Irrigation: artificial way to spread water across farmland to make it fertile
Agricultural surplus: when farmers produce more food than they can eat
Specialise: when someone becomes very good at one thing
Craftsman: someone who makes products with his hands and tools
Bartering: exchange goods or services directly for other goods or services
Markets: places where people come to barter their products
Agricultural-urban society: society in which the majority of people live as farmers, while the minority live in cities
Culture: things people think and do, such as religion, traditions, art, clothes and language
Civilisation: highly developed society
Pharaoh: the king of ancient Egypt


Slide 6 - Tekstslide


In the Middle East and in North Africa, farmers lived in villages close to rivers. They were able to produce so much food that some of them could specialise in art, trade, religion, writing or warfare. Eventually the villages grew to become the first cities.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

The land between two rivers

Farming started in the Middle East. The ancient city of Uruk, in modern-day Iraq, was once one of the biggest cities on the planet. It must have been a beautiful place, with temples, workshops and markets. Thousands of people lived there. But today, it lies lost in the sands of the desert. How could the inhabitants of Uruk live in such a dry place? And what happened to them?
Archaeologists discovered that the first inhabitants of Uruk were farmers. They lived in one place, grew crops and raised animals. For growing their crops they needed fertile soil and water.
Around 3500 BC, the landscape around Uruk was different from how it is now. The city was not built in the desert, but close to two rivers: the Euphrates and the Tigris. The ancient Greeks named this area Mesopotamia, which means ‘the land between two rivers.’
Source 1.5.1
Map of the Fertile Crescent
Source 1.5.2
This Standard was found in the Sumerian city of Ur. It showes farmers and shepherds with their cattle and harvest (c. 2600 - 2400 BC).

Slide 8 - Tekstslide

Teacher's Tip:
If you need to write DIFFERENCES in your answer it is important that you ALWAYS mention BOTH things that you are comparing.
For example: What is the difference between a fish and a bird?
WRONG ANSWER: "a bird has feathers"
CORRECT ANSWER: " a bird has feathers and a fish has scales"

Slide 9 - Tekstslide

Fertile floods

Once in a while these two big rivers overflowed. A great amount of water then covered the land and destroyed everything in its path. But these rivers did not only cause destruction. The Euphrates and the Tigris also transformed the desert into a green land covered with grass and trees. When the water level dropped, a dark layer of silt (clay) stayed behind on the riverbank. This clay was so fertile that the farmers of Mesopotamia chose to grow their crops there. And they truly grew fast! No wonder these farmers saw these rivers as life-giving miracles.

The three steps in the flooding of the Euphrates River are shown below. First the water is low, then it covers the riverbanks. Finally it leaves pools of water and fertile ground so the farmers can grow their crops.
Source 1.5.3
Three steps in the flooding of the Euphrates River (present-day drawing).
The Sumerians studied the stars to understand the changing of seasons and to predict the floods of the rivers. They tried to calculate when the floods would occur. This is how they started calculating time. The number twelve was important to them. Nowadays one day is still two times twelve and a year has twelve months.

Slide 10 - Tekstslide

4. Drag the texts to the correct pictures.

Because of heavy rainfall, the water level in the river rises. This causes it to overflow and cover the land.

When the water level drops, the river leaves silt. The farmers use this to make their land fertile. They store some of the water in pools.

The river is at a low point.
There is not enough fertile soil for crops to grow.

Slide 11 - Sleepvraag

Floods caused by the gods

The farmers of Mesopotamia and Egypt depended on the river. They grew their grain on its banks and built houses from the clay. They believed that the floods were caused by the gods. These gods could punish the farmers by changing the flow of the river. Some years the river would not rise high enough and there could be a drought. Without the water, crops would fail and because of this people would die of famine.
Some other years, the water level could be too high and it then destroyed the fields and houses so people would drown. In both situations the Sumerians and Egyptians would respond by praying to the gods for a better flood next time.
Source 1.5.5
The river Nile today. The flooding is regulated by dams.
Source 1.5.4
Sobek, the Egyptian god of the Nile, half man, half crocodile

Slide 12 - Tekstslide

An abundance of food

Once in a while these two big rivers overflowed. A gThe farmers of Mesopotamia soon found that they could use the river to their own benefit. They dug small canals to spread water further inland. We call this irrigation. Thanks to irrigation, water could flow to areas that were dry before. In this way they turned it into fertile land.
Because of irrigation and the fertile silt, farmers were able to produce more food than they could eat. Of course these farmers did not throw this agricultural surplus away. Instead they used it to trade with each other. There was so much food that some people didn’t even have to be farmers at all. Some of them could do other jobs. So if someone was good at baking pots he could specialise in that craft and become a potter. Another might become a craftsman like a goldsmith, a carpenter or a shoemaker. These craftsmen traded their products with farmers. For example: a pair of shoes for grain or a necklace for a cow. This is what we call bartering.
Source 1.5.6
A craftsman made these basket shaped hair ornaments of gold (around 2000 BC).
Source 1.5.7
Sumerian craftsmen working

Slide 13 - Tekstslide

6. Drag the following events in chronological order, from first to last.

Because of this agricultural surplus some people could 
Some farmers learned that they could dig small canals to make more land fertile.
The craftsmen and farmers traded their wares at markets for food.
Some of these craftsmen started to live in cities; this is how agricultural-urban societies arose.
Because of irrigation and floods, farmers grew more food than they could eat.
These people became craftsmen when they specialised in making products with their hands.
The river overflowed and left fertile silt. Farmers grew their crops there.

Slide 14 - Sleepvraag

Teacher's Tip:
If a question asks you to "use the source" it is important that you do that. 
If the source is a picture, you can describe what you SEE. You can start your answer with: 
"In the source I see......", or: "The source shows...."

If the source is a text, you can copy a passage from that text. You can start your answer with:
"The source says:......."

Slide 15 - Tekstslide

Villages become cities

Just as today, trading and bartering occurred at markets. Craftsmen and traders showed their wares at stands. Farmers came there to trade their crops or their cattle. Year after year more craftsmen built their workplaces and houses near the market.
They were followed by shop owners, innkeepers and priests who built temples to honour the gods.
Because of this the villages grew to become cities. At that moment the society changed: not everyone worked as a farmer anymore. Some people chose to live and work in the city. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia were one of the first groups of people to have an agricultural-urban society.
Source 1.5.8
A trader tells a scribe (schrijver) about the products and amounts he is trading. In the back is a Sumerian Ziggurat (a temple tower). 
(present-day drawing).

Slide 16 - Tekstslide

Sumer and Egypt: the first civilisations

Uruk was not the only city in Mesopotamia. In years, many cities arose. They waged war against each other, but they mostly worked together. These cities adopted the same culture. They had the same language, writing, laws, art and religion. Because of this we speak of a civilisation. In the Sumerian civilisation every city had its own leader. The leader of the strongest city could name himself king of Sumer.
In Egypt another civilisation arose around the Nile River. The Egyptians also relied on the flooding of the river and some lived in cities. Their king was called a Pharaoh, and he was worshipped as a god.
The Sumerians and the Egyptians influenced the other countries around them. Through war and trade their culture was spread throughout the Middle East.
Source 1.3.2
Artist’s reconstruction of the Sumerian city of Ur
(IMAGE by Artefacts Berlin)

Slide 17 - Tekstslide

only in Sumer
only in Egypt
in both
9. Read: "Sumer and Egypt: the first civilisations"
highly developed civilisation
 ruled by a king
Euphrates and Tigris
every city had a king
arose around river(s)

Slide 18 - Sleepvraag

Write down one question about something from this lesson that you find difficult.

Slide 19 - Open vraag


Slide 20 - Tekstslide

Slide 21 - Video