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ARC 40 — Cornerstone Cultures of the Ancient Near East: Sumerians, Elamites, and Hittites

Quarter: Fall
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Oct 10—Dec 5
Time: 7:00—9:05 pm
Drop Deadline: Oct 23
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Patrick Hunt
Status: Open
Please Note: No class on November 21
7:00—9:05 pm
Oct 10—Dec 5
8 weeks
Drop By
Oct 23
2 Units
Patrick Hunt
Please Note: No class on November 21
Great Cornerstone Cultures: The Origins of World-Changing Civilizations

We often think of great civilizations—for example, the Greeks and Romans—as if they arrived fully formed. But doing so, we neglect the cultures beneath their foundations, on whose remnants those great civilizations were built. In the case of the Classical world, it is not only the Greek citystates and the Roman empire we should examine, but also their antecedents.

The Minoans, the Mycenaeans, and the Etruscans were “cornerstone cultures,” contributing to Greece and Rome’s formative literatures and mythologies, setting models and precedents for the cultures that followed, and impacting their social hierarchy and visual forms in art and architecture, as well as ideas of sovereignty and sea trade.

The Celts, Franks, and Vikings were absorbed into Europe but left their indelible stamp on the British Isles, France, Germany, Scandinavia, and other modern entities. In the Ancient Near East, the Sumerians, Elamites, and Hittites laid down the foundations for the Babylonians and related peoples of the Fertile Crescent and Anatolia.

In the Fall, Winter, and Spring, we will survey these nine “cornerstone cultures,” examining their rich archaeological and textual history, which their successors could not erase. While these courses build upon one another, each course can be taken independently as well.

Fall Course: Cornerstone Cultures of the Ancient Near East: Sumerians, Elamites, and Hittites

Between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and Anatolia, three early cultures emerged from three different environments to shape the Ancient Near East. One of the first of these cornerstone cultures—the Sumerians—developed in Mesopotamia around the late 4th millennium bce . The Elamites began in the Zagros highlands of what is now Iran circa 3000 BCE. The Hittites emerged in Anatolia as a formative Bronze Age (2000–1300 BCE) culture that ruled what is now Turkey.

In this course, we will examine how these cornerstone cultures evolved, what they contributed to what would become Mesopotamia and Anatolia, and what foundations they laid in religion, architecture, cosmology, and literature for later peoples and epochs. In Sumer, for example, we will trace the development of important cities like Erech and Ur, which became formative epicenters of history, myth, and culture, and produced texts like The Epic of Gilgamesh, which tells stories that were later absorbed into the Bible and other literature that followed. Similarly, we will examine how Hattusas (Bogazkoy), the capital of the Hittites, became the political center of Anatolia, and we will visit Troy and Ephesus, two hubs of trade with the rest of the ancient world. In addition, we will see how the Hittites were also pioneers in ironworking at the end of the Bronze Age. By the end of the course, students will understand how Sumer, Elam, and the Hittites each left its unique stamp on Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

This course includes a field trip to the Cantor Arts Center on Saturday, December 1, or Sunday, December 2. (Students can attend either session). Field trip transportation will be the responsibility of the student.

Patrick Hunt, Former Director, Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project

Patrick Hunt is the author of twenty books, including Hannibal, Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History, When Empires Clash: Twelve Great Battles in Antiquity, Wine Journeys: Myth and History, and Caravaggio (Life & Times). He is also a National Lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America, as well as an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. His Alps research has been sponsored by the National Geographic Expeditions Council. Hunt received a PhD from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Samuel Noah Kramer, History Begins at Sumer (ISBN 978-0812212761)
(Required) H.W.F. Saggs, Civilization Before Greece and Rome (ISBN 978-0300044409)
(Required) Patrick Hunt, Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History (ISBN 978-0452288775)