Finding good material on Mesopotamia proved to be a real challenge. There’s a fair amount of the usual dry history resources out there, but history in general, and the history of the Fertile Crescent is particular, is much too interesting to present as a dry list of names, dates, facts and figures. Mesopotamia at The British Museum on-line provides a good resource to make the history of the cradle of civilization come alive.
The website is organized first into sections covering information common to different Mesopotamian civilizations: geography; god, goddesses, demons and monsters; timeline; and writing. The site is then broken into more specific items relating to the dominant political force: for Sumer, the Royal Tombs of Ur and Ziggurats; for Babylonia, Astronomers and Trade and Transport; for Assyria, Palaces and Warfare.
The site does a great job of using actual artifacts to present history in an interesting way. In the section about warfare, students learn to locate relevant information on a wall relief from an Assyrian palace by clicking on various parts to learn about the pointed helmets, or the composite bows, or the types of shields. Another link presents photos of warfare artifacts that could be found on a battle site and asks the students to think about what’s missing and what might not be easily preserved (think wooden handles). Another area uses the image of a game board artifact to present an on-line version of the ancient game. Interactive stories and games present choices and the resulting consequences made by merchants involved in trade. A simulation puts the student in the role of a farmer deciding how and when to flood his fields to produce the most crop. The website even gives a tip of the hat to the Bible, mentioning the connection between Mesopotamia, the Garden of Even, Tower of Babel, and the patriarch Abraham.
It’s a fantastic resource. My kids find it interesting, and afterward it’s apparent they’ve learned and retained important concepts. It’s hard to ask for much more than that.