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Did civilization arise before religion or did religion arise before civilization?

History books teach us that civilization arose with the Neolithic Revolution when hunter-gatherers first settled down because of the discovery of agriculture.  Settled life then led to cities, writing, and religion. The discovery of Göbekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey several years ago may change that story.

Göbekli Tepe contains a series of circles with limestone pillars carved with bas-reliefs of animals like gazelles, foxes, and wild boar. The tallest pillars are 18 feet high and weigh 16 tons.  It looks like a temple "reminiscent of Stonehenge," according to the National Geographic.

But Göbekli Tepe is much older than Stonehenge and over seven thousand years older than the Pyramid at Giza. It was built before the Neolithic Revolution, 11,600 years ago. As the New Yorker Magazine noted, most historians believe that hunter-gatherers did not have the "complex symbolic systems, social hierarchies, and the division of labor, three things you probably need before you can build a twenty-two-acre megalithic temple."

 According to the online magazine, Archaeology, Klaus Schmidt, of the German Archaeological Institute and the chief archaeologist at Göbekli Tepe, believes that the animals on the pillars "probably illustrate stories of hunter-gatherer religion and beliefs, though we don't know at the moment.  The sculptors of Göbekli Tepe may have simply wanted to depict the animals they saw, or perhaps create symbolic representations of the animals to use in rituals to ensure hunting success." 

Does Göbekli Tepe mean that the need for religion or for a scared site led hunter-gatherers to organize themselves into a workforce, settle down for a long period of time, and eventually discover agriculture?

Here's a clip from National Geographic about building Göbekli Tepe and below that a longer documentary from National Geographic about the discovery.
Göbekli Tepe - National Geographic Channel - YouTube
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Teaching Zoroastrianism?  Here' s a fascinating essay that outlines its influence today!

Which religion influenced the beliefs of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism?

Monotheism started with its founder long before Abraham. The idea of heaven and hell originated with it, as did the idea of good and evil.

Not only did its ideas influence the Abrahamic religions, but they also influenced culture.

Richard Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"  can be seen in the score of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Freddy Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, got inspiration from the religion's founder and the Mazda car maker takes its name from the founder.

Zoroastrianism started in Iran and grew with the three great Iranian empires which included that of Cyrus the Great, but began to weaken after the invasion of Alexander the Great and the later development of Islam. Many Zoroastrians fled and migrated to India where they became known as Parsis.

In a terrific essay for BBC Culture, called "The Obscure Religion that Shaped the West," Joobin Bekhrad, examines the influence of Zarathustra's beliefs on western culture.

You can find out more about Zoroastrianism from BBC Religion.

And here is an interesting article about the vanishing population of India's Parsi community.
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Wikipedia Commons
Here's an interesting essay that reminds us why we should study Confucianism.

Most American know little about Chinese philosophy. They know little beyond the idea that Confucianism is based on five relationships and Doism has something to do with nature.

In addition, few philosophy departments in the top universities even have a regular faculty member who teaches Chinese philosophy.  Of course, you can find a lot of Greek philosophy.

But, according to Bryan W. Van Norden, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple Professor at Yale-NUS College, understanding Chinese thought is a matter of urgency.  He outlines three reasons in an terrific essay for The Conversation called, Why the US doesn’t understand Chinese thought – and must.
  1. China's economy could become the largest in the world by 2030. We should understand the philosophical and religious framework of a country with so much influence  because, notes Professor Norden, "traditional philosophy is of continuing relevance in China." 
  2. Chinese philosophy has lot to offer. For example, Confucian ethics can "provide a deeper understanding of ethical issues regarding the family and can even inform policy recommendations."
  3. Finally, Professor Norden argues that we need more cultural diversity in our philosophy departments. They are too Euro-centric in focus. They should diversify into Asia and consider feminist, indigenous American, Islamic, Latin American and South Asian philosophies.
Just as one might need to understand the Judeo-Christian background of the Untied States in order to understand some of the political policy, one should understand the Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist philosophies that inform Chinese policy.

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Here's a terrific six-minute review of the importance of Bartolomé de las Casas from Ohio State University's  (OSU) Origins.

De Las Casas was a 16th-century Spanish Dominican friar who protested the treatment of slaves in the Carribean. He petitioned the Spanish crown in 1515 in an attempt to stop the abuses. He was among the first to report on the exploitation of indigenous Americans and call for the abolition of slavery.
Bartolomé de las Casas and 500 Years of Racial Injustice - YouTube

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Here are FOUR awesome episodes of Throughline that are ideal for World History. The first one compares the life of Simon Bolivar to that of Hugo Chavez, who died in 2012.

The second episode traces the conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam while the third episode outlines the origins of the split between North and South Korea in light of President Trump's overtures to Kim Jong Un.

The last episode examines the assassination of the popularly elected Iranian leader, Mohammad Mossadegh.

The two hosts do a great job of tying the historical event to current events.
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Here is an excellent video clip from Edutopia that shows what a student-centered blended learning class looks like.

It shows how students at different learning levels can master skills and content at their own pace.  Instead of listening to a lecture, students usually start class with a video and take notes.  They then move on to an actual lesson assignment and then to an exit ticket to show mastery.

Some students have to listen to the video a couple of times while some might need to listen only once.  Consequently, students are often working on different lessons.  The teacher circulates and helps students as needed.

This sounds great but seems to require a big investment in planning multiple lessons each day.  While one student works on lesson two, another might be working on lesson four, which means teachers have to have a lot of lessons on tap each day, if I understand the concept correctly.

A Student-Centered Model of Blended Learning - YouTube

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The Cornell University Library has an awesome collection of "persuasive maps" like the one above.  The collection, which comes from Cornell's rare maps division, includes maps great for both American and world history.

The purpose of the maps is to influence opinion and would be great for students to practice their sourcing skills.

The maps employ different persuasive tools like allegory and satire.


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Here's an interesting story from the PBS NewsHour about a Muslim slave from West Africa who was kidnapped and brought to Ameria in the 1800s.

The slave, Omar Ibn Said, wrote his autobiography in Arabic so it could not be edited or censored by masters or even abolitionists.

Said begins his autobiography with a quote from the Quran that says only God has true possession of human beings.

It's an interesting story because it dispels the idea that slaves were illiterate or incapable of culture.

The Library of Congress digitized the autobiography. 

It also has a link to a podcast called the Long Journey of Omar Ibn Said and a video about the preservation of Said's manuscript.

Finally, you can read a blog post about how to use the manuscript in the classroom.
How the autobiography of a Muslim slave is challenging an American narrative - YouTube

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Studying the Cold War?

Here's a link to a timeline assignment I made for eight Cold War events.

Students used Sutori to annotate each event with a summary, an image, and notation about whether the event was part of containment theory, NATO or Warsaw Pact, capitalism or communism, or a nuclear weapons issue.

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India's major political party, the BJP, is renaming towns with Muslim names, like Allahabad, which dates to the 16th century, when Mughals first conquered northern India.

The story, which comes from NPR, reminds us of other name changes like Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, and Calcutta to Kolkata.

This might be an interesting story for students to see how history impacts current events in India and even to debate the case for changing the names. Does India have an obligation to its Mughal past and is the Modi government trying to change history?
 

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