Teaching Ancient Civilisations

I am currently teaching Ancient Civilisations, which is great, and a subject I love. So far, we’ve covered Origins of Man, to which one of my students commented it should be Origins of Humankind, and she’s right, and hence that’s how we refer to it in class now. It was interesting to see the reaction from the class when it was discussed we came from one location 70,000 years ago. It made for a lively discussion.

Spartan Warriors Wikipedia

Plate tectonic maps and Continental drift animations by C. R. Scotese,
PALEOMAP Project (www.scotese.com)

We looked at the formation of Earth, from Pangea, the movement of the tectonic plates, changing land-forms to the present status of the continents. Here’s an interesting fact which we discussed; the continents are moving 1 centre metre every 10 years. A gradual shift, yet in thousands of years to come, the world will look very different.

Another important skill the students need to know is the difference between primary and secondary sources. We had a bit fun here where the students were asked to get photos, tickets, certificates from their lives, and put them on an A4 sheet of paper without any writing. We discussed if it was easy or difficult to identify who the person was, and how archaeologists sift through thousands of pieces of artefacts to learn about what they have found. We are now moving onto Ancient Egypt.

A student asked why do they have to learn about Ancient Civilisations. It was a fair

Egyptian Scribe

question, and I like it when my students ask questions that require going beyond the curriculum. My answer was it is important to learn about our ancestors, where they came from, their achievements, their culture and the legacies they left behind. We only have a term to teach Ancient Civilisations, and can only cover a certain amount of the curriculum, as we teach Politics and Law, Geography and Economics.

We have such a rich and diverse history, and I do believe we can learn from our ancient ancestors, and from their triumphs. They were the trail-blazers of the day. However, we don’t seem to learn from their mistakes, such as wars, racism, poverty, genocide, greed, tyranny, creating weaponry to destroy life. This cycle has continued from generation to generation since the advent of civilisation.

For an enlightened people and for all our advancements, we still have a long way to go.

Why do you think the human race continues to repeat the malfeasances of our ancestors?

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.


Add Yours
  1. Jacqui Murray

    I suppose the simplistic answer to your question is: History repeats itself. We learn from history and then forget it and are doomed to make the same mistakes.

    Another reason may be: That’s who we are. We are an aggressive species that sometimes leaps before we look, that values dominance over humility. That wishes we didn’t.

    Hard to say, Luciana. Good question.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. rosarymcquestion


    Why generations continue to make the same mistakes is probably a question scholars have debated for centuries. After all, we are much more civilized in the twenty-first century than in the days of Cain and Abel, yet the world is still in constant turmoil. Therefore, could it be that the answer of why the human race continues to repeat these mistakes be simply because “we are all imperfect beings?” And if greed is a human characteristic, could it cause a domino effect…greed leads to war, war leads to poverty, etc.?

    I guess we’ll never know.

    Liked by 3 people

    • cav12

      Bella, what a great answer 😀
      Greed is one of the driving forces, that and power. Our ‘civilised’ state doesn’t account for much, as we continue to destroy and kill people.
      Perhaps, humankind is not meant to exist for long, that is our lesson.


  3. Aquileana

    I think there is so much to ponder when it comes to the Legacy of our ancestors.
    I have read an article about the origin of writing and alphabets in Greece. Societies seemed to be very connected, henece the reason of why the Phoenician alphabet finally helped greeks improve the linear B scripts, which were quite inchoate and rudimentary. The greek alphabet will later on be the primary source of Latin… And so many languages nowadays!. Well, just an example. 😉
    As to your question: I think that violence and Will of power are humans Inherent elements, somehow. In that sense, I paraphrase Hobbes and his motto “Homo homini lupus”.
    Great post, cara Luciana… Wishing you the best! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • cav12

      I love your reference to Hobbes. 😀
      It’s a pity humankind cannot look forward to an existence without violence. I guess that is why the art and astonishing architecture help balance the inhuman acts that constantly barrage the news.
      Grazie tante, cara Aquileana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Christy B

    Hi Luciana,
    I like that your student so astutely pointed out that it’s not to be “man” but instead “humankind” that we study ~ This makes me happy as it is all about gender equality. Recently I was discussing with a friend how we learned more about men than women in our high school history classes. I’m glad your teaching is going well and that you still have time to blog 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Linnea Tanner

    Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    The following is a reblog of a post by Luciana Cavalarro regarding her experiences with teaching ancient civilisations and how the past can teach us lessons in modern day. As always, her posts are thought-provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Linnea Tanner

    Hi Luciana,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences about teaching ancient civilisations. It is sometimes disconcerting that people don’t understand the importance of learning about the past, so we know how to handle issues in the present. It is interesting to note, as Christy, pointed out above, that history is rich with examples of women who dramatically impacted their societies and can serve as role models for us. Love to hear about your teaching experiences. Best wishes on the launch of your next book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Hi Linnea,
      I work at an all girls’ private school and we’re always encouraging our students to look to strong and courageous female role models. And as you stated, history has many amazing examples of women who’ve done extraordinary things.
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

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