HIST 343: Comparative Global Cultures

Dr. George Katsiaficas                                               Fall 2013

Office Beatty 410 (telephone 989-4384)                       e-mail: katsiaficasg@wit.edu

Office Hours by appointment                                      Lecture/Lab/Total Credits 4/0/4


Course Description: The purpose of the course is to provide students with general knowledge of the world’s major ancient civilizations. In our modern epoch, Western ideas and technologies have forced traditional cultures to react and adapt to nationalism, industrialization, colonization, and the world economic system.  This course is designed to help students better understand ancient civilizations that preceded the modern world. Rather than simply studying European (or Western) civilization, we investigate the range of civilizations that evolved on this planet and the global transformation of our species from a naturally occurring force to an historical entity. The diverse paths through which the ground was prepared for the emergence of the contemporary world provide insight into the nature of human beings and our multicultural past and future.




Many of the readings can be found in McKay, John p. et. al. A History of World Societies. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.


Required readings will be posted on Blackboard or made otherwise available.


Recommended Readings: Students could obtain a copy of Wood, Michael. Legacy: The Search for Ancient Cultures. New York: Sterling Publishers, 1995.


The College Bookstore is located at 103 Ward Street, Boston MA 02115   telephone 617-445-8814.


Course Learning Outcomes: Through this course, students will:


--develop a better facility for critical thinking and analysis.

--demonstrate a working knowledge of different historical eras

--make interpretive sense of a large body of historical data

--articulate a clear and original historical interpretation in both research papers and oral presentations

--apply historical understanding to themselves and the time in which they live

--demonstrate multiculturally awareness through a classical history of all the world's principal civilizations

--describe and demonstrate knowledge of the Museum of Fine Arts’ extensive collective of ancient artifacts

--discuss different views of history than those commonly taken for granted in the US

--discuss global history and culture

--use Internet and library resources to locate scholarly sources

--use PowerPoint and work as part of a team

--formulate and express their own opinions and viewpoints


Instructional Methodologies:

While the main methodology we will employ will be qualitative comparative-historical analysis, quantitative data will also be presented in the course of the semester. In order to gain insight, I use a spectrum of means: comparative and historical research, analysis of the narrative of events, and sifting of quantitative data. Students are encouraged to use a variety of methodologies in their papers and presentations.


We are blessed to have the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) so close to campus. We will visit the Museum of Fine Arts as often as possible to give students first-hand experiences with cultural artifacts. Their aura cannot be gleaned from books or slide images. We shall meet there as often as possible. These museum visits are an integral part of the course. Many students in the past have found them to be the highlight of their semester experience. Do not bring your computer nor, if possible, even your backpack to the MFA. We will put backpacks etc. in carts that will be waiting for us. We are going to the MFA 8 times during the semester. Dates will be announced in class.


Grading: There will be three exams scheduled during the semester as well as one term paper and an oral presentation using Power Point (all described below).  The exams will be a combination of multiple choice and essays drawn from the readings and PowerPoints as well as from the MFA visits and classroom discussions. Some material presented in class and the MFA will not be covered in the readings and vice versa.


The essay questions will be given to you long in advance to use as study guides. There will be choices about topics like: to compare and contrast two different ancient civilizations, to discuss the ethics of modern museums and their various methods of acquisition, or to speculate about possibly different outcomes to history's broad strokes based upon past decisions. Before coming to the test, students should prepare at least five pages of typed double-spaced answers to the required question(s). In class, Prof. K will choose another question for students to write about in class. In class essays should be at least two pages in the Blue Book.


Prof. K’s Power Points and required readings will all remain posted on Blackboard for your review.


Grading Formula: Grades will be determined by performance on the exams and presentation as well an additional component comprised of online and classroom participation.


Each of 3 exams=15%;


Online Participation (including Assignment #1 and all BB assignments) =25%.

Term Paper=20%


Extra credit work may be done as specified by the instructor.





Each student must join a team of three people to prepare a PowerPoint presentation (or one using video, printed charts and displays, or other media) of about 10 minutes on a topic of their own choice (with the approval of the instructor). With three members of a team, the presentation should be very detailed with much research evident and many fine graphics. After the first test, each team should prepare an outline and email it to me. Your outline should contain your Topic, Focus, Sources of Information, and Team Names. You should choose a civilization, a person, an event, or some aspect of a civilization before 1500—something in which you are genuinely interested. A digital copy of the entire PPT must be turned in (or emailed) with the presentation.


Sample topics include:


Assyrian Astrological Doomsday Prophecies

Mayan Manuscripts

Indian Emperor Ashoka

The Dogon Understanding of Sirius

Greek Theater’s Relationship to Democracy

The Astronomy of the Pyramids of Egypt

Angkor Wat


The Great Zimbabwe

The Great Wall of China


Guidelines for the presentation:


Use as many photos and graphics as possible. Don’t forget to shrink the photos!

Do not simply read from the screen—make your presentation effective by looking at us.

Work on pronunciation of difficult terms ahead of time so you say them with ease.

Have a good introduction and conclusion.

Speak clearly.

Look at the Presentation Evaluation Form on BB to see how you will be evaluated.


Term Papers


Format:     10 page paper (minimum) with additional footnotes/bibliography.


Due Date: First Class Meeting During Week 12


The Term Paper is the most important component of your grade, which should be a combination of research and critical analysis. You must document your research with footnotes, which can be formatted in any style so long as Prof. K can decipher your sources of information. When you come across articles of great utility, print out a copy and turn it in with your paper. This paper cannot be less than double-spaced 10 pages. The pages should be numbered and the font no larger than 12 points. Margins of 1 inch or less are required.


Topics: Students are encouraged to choose a topic relevant to course materials that they are genuinely interested in researching and discussing. Once you choose a topic, go find scholarly source material. I am also available for consultation on the topic. The subject will be of the student's choosing, with the advice and consent of the Instructor. An outline including the topic, the specific focus, and the references that will be used (no encyclopedias) is due the week of the midterm exam. You may submit an outline of your proposed research at any time before the deadline. The sooner you submit your outline, the sooner you can get it back with comments and begin your work.


Possible topics include:


Assyrian Astrological Doomsday Prophecies

Mayan Manuscripts

Indian Emperor Ashoka

The Dogon Understanding of Sirius

Greek Theater’s Relationship to Democracy

The Astronomy of the Pyramids of Egypt

Angkor Wat


The Great Zimbabwe

The Great Wall of China

Who Was CleopatraVII?


An outline of the term paper is due at the time of the midterm exam.




Strict adherence to Wentworth’s attendance policy applies. Students are expected to attend classes, take tests, and submit papers and other work at the times specified by the instructor. Students who are absent from class or the MFA will be evaluated to ascertain their ability to achieve the course objectives and to continue in the course.  Instructors may include, as part of the semester's grades, marks for the quality and quantity of the student's participation in class.

A student who is absent from class on the day of a previously announced examination, including the final examination, is not entitled, as a matter of right, to make up what was missed. The instructor involved is free to decide whether a make-up will be allowed.

A student who is absent from class is responsible for obtaining knowledge of what happened in class, especially information about announced tests, papers, or other assignments.

At the discretion of the instructor, a student who misses 15 percent of classes (attendance and assignments) may be withdrawn from the course by the instructor. A grade of WA will appear on the student’s official transcript as a result.  Wentworth reserves the right to take academic action against any student who does not attend class or studio and/or who does not take tests or submit papers and other work at the times specified by the instructor.

Wentworth Grading System:

Grade        Definition                                      Weight      Numerical

A       Student learning and accomplishment             4.00           96-100


A-      far exceeds published objectives for the                  3.67           92-95

course/test/assignment and student work

is distinguished consistently by its high

level of competency and/or innovation.


B+     Student learning and accomplishment             3.33           88-91


B       goes beyond what is expected in the                       3.00           84-87

published objectives for the course/test/

assignment and student work is frequently

characterized by its special depth of

understanding, development, and/or innovative



B-      Student learning and accomplishment             2.67           80-83


C+     meets all published objectives for the             2.33           76-79


C       course/test/assignment and student                       2.00           72-75

work demonstrates the expected level of

understanding, and application of concepts



C-      Student learning and accomplishment             1.67           68-71


D+     based on the published objectives for             1.33           64-67


D       the course/test/assignment were met                    1.00           60-63

with minimum passing achievement.


F       Student learning and accomplishment             0.00           Less

based on the published objectives for than 60

the course/test/assignment were not

sufficiently addressed nor met



The drop/add period for day students ends on Friday of the first week of classes. Dropping and/or adding courses are done online. Courses dropped in this period are removed from the student’s record. Courses to be added that require written permission, e.g. closed courses, must be done using a Drop/Add form that is available in the Student Service Center. Non-attendance does not constitute dropping a course. If a student has registered for a course and subsequently withdraws or receives a failing grade in its prerequisite, then the student must drop that course. In some cases, the Registrar will drop the student from that course. However, it is the student’s responsibility to make sure that he or she meets the course prerequisites and to drop a course if the student has not successfully completed the prerequisite. The student must see his or her academic advisor or academic department head for schedule revision and to discuss the impact of the failed or withdrawn course on the student’s degree status.



A student who is absent from class on the day of a previously announced examination, including the final examination, is not entitled, as a matter of right, to make up what was missed. The instructor is free to decide whether a make-up will be allowed. A student who is legitimately absent (with a doctor’s note) may make up the materials missed if the student contacts the instructor within 24 hours of the examination.



The Learning Center assists all Wentworth students with academic challenges in the areas of math, science, technical courses specific to majors, and writing. It is a supportive and safe learning environment for students looking to improve or maintain their academic standing. In this student-based learning environment, students can receive individual help with their studies, meet and work in study groups, or go on-line to find resources to assist them in meeting their goals for academic success.  It includes tutors in many subjects, online writing assistance, and workshops.  Make appointments at www.wit.edu/academics/resources or through Lconnect.



“Students at Wentworth are expected to be honest and forthright in their academic endeavors.  Academic dishonesty includes cheating, inventing false information or citations, plagiarism, tampering with computers, destroying other people’s studio property, or academic misconduct” (Academic Catalog). See your catalogue for a full explanation.



Cases of cheating and plagiarism will result in an F on the assignment or exam for the first offence. A second offence will result in an F grade for the semester and referral of the student to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.



Any student who thinks s/he may require a disability-related accommodation for this course should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs.  Disability Services coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.  They are located in Watson Hall 003 (the Counseling Center) and can be contacted at 617-989-4390 or counseling@wit.edu.  For more information on acceptable documentation and the Disability Services process, visit the Disability Services website at www.wit.edu/disabilityservices



If you are enrolled in this course through College of the Fenway Cross Registration, notify your instructor and provide him/her with your email address to insure that you receive course materials in a timely fashion. You should also discuss and make arrangements to access on-line materials. If you wish to drop or withdraw from the course, please be aware that you must complete the necessary documentation in accordance with the Wentworth calendar.


Weekly Assignments


Note: The online work includes doing the required readings on Black Board, viewing Prof. K’s Power Points, and participating in the discussions as specified below. All required readings and PPT’s are on Blackboard and should be done BEFORE the meeting at the MFA or other classes during the week specified.


WEEK                   TOPIC/BlackBoard Work                                       


Sept 2                Introduction to the course Writing Assignment #1                 


Blackboard assignment:  Writing Assignment #1   

Visit the MFA with another person from this class. Choose one piece from any of the collections of ancient artifacts (Africa, Egypt, Middle East, China, India, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Islam) and discuss the chosen work. Write down the name of the piece and the MFA collection number. Compare and contrast both of your understandings of who may have made the piece and for what purposes. Each duo should write one paper, which is at least one page typed and due one week later.


Sept 9             Africa                                                



--Interview with Ivan Van Sertima, author of They Came Before Columbus: African Presence in the New World (New York: Random House, 1976).

--“Lost Cities of Africa: Mali”

--“African Kingdoms and Societies: 450-1450”

--Power Point: Africa


BB assignment: During our MFA visit and in class, Prof. K has made connections between artifacts and beliefs of ancient African cultures and our own rituals and beliefs. Discuss some of these connections. Using a specific example, discuss whether or not you agree that we are similar to these seemingly distant civilizations, and if not, how we are fundamentally different.  Post once and reply twice


Sept 16           Americas                             MFA



--“Splendid Maya Palace is Found Hidden in the Jungle”   

--“The Polynesian Connection” 

--“Central America: The Burden of Time”

--“High in the Andes, Keeping an Incan Mystery Alive”

--“Olmec Writing System Discovered” (Archaeology, January 2007)

--PowerPoint: Ancient America


BB assignment: For most of US history, researchers have made outrageously false statements that deny or deprecate Native American writing. In this week's readings and video, we have many examples of sophisticated literature among ancient Americans. Give examples of some of these writing systems. How do you explain the centuries of falsehood? How do you understand what was lost by Diego de Landa's destroying so many ancient Mayan codices? Watch the PBS video (see web link) for more on Maya and de Landa


post once respond twice


Sept 23           Egypt                                         MFA



--“Workers Not Slaves” Built the Great Pyramids (Tom Valeo, Boston Globe, August 24, 1992)

--“Egypt: The Habit of Civilization”

--Power Point: Egypt


BB Assignment: We have much knowledge of ancient Egypt thanks to the Rosetta Stone. For more than a millennium, knowledge of ancient hieroglyphics was lost. Given your understanding of ancient America, which civilization compares most robustly with the ancient Egyptians? Give reasons for your choice (i.e. pyramid building, advanced astronomical knowledge, agricultural practices, centralized control, and so on). Try to offer critical comments about your classmates' posts. Post once; reply twice.


Sept 30           Ancient Middle East                           MFA



--“Iraq: The Cradle of Civilization”

--“Arabia and the Heritage of the Axial Age”

--“Primitive Democracy in Ancient Mesopotamia”

--Power Point: Ancient Mesopotamia


BB Assignment: How do you understand the differences between Mesopotamian cultures/civilization and Egyptian? List at least one difference and discuss it. Post once; reply twice.


Oct 7        Review and    Test #1         

The test is a combination of essays and multiple-choice questions.


Oct 14             Team meetings for presentations      Outlines due

See the Presentation Evaluation Form on BB and presentation guidelines below. At a minimum, the outline should include the group members’ names, the topic, the focus, and sources of information.


Oct 21             India                                          MFA



--“India: Empire of the Spirit”

--“Life and Learning at the Buddhist Universities”

--Power Point: India


BB Assignment: India’s religious productions include Hinduism and Buddhism, two major world religions that are quite different from each other. They also share many similarities. In your view, are their differences greater than their similarities? Define the terms of your answer. Post once; reply twice.


Oct 28           China                                          MFA



--excerpts from Gavin Menzies, 1421: The Year China Discovered the World (London: Transworld Publishers, 2002)

--“A New Theory Puts Columbus Fleet Ahead of Columbus”

--“The Mandate of Heaven”

--Power Point: China


BB Assignment: Prof. K believes the Great Wall of China is humanity's most significant single achievement in terms of building. Do you agree? If so, say what makes it so important. If not, say why not. In any case, give alternatives to the Great Wall as "humanity's greatest building achievement." Post once; reply twice.


Nov 4              Greece/Rome                                    MFA



--BU Professor Unearths Major Archaeological Find: New Period is Added to the History of Greece” by Kathryn Marchocki, Boston Herald, July 29, 1991.

--Important Dates in Greek Civilization by Prof. K

--Power Point: Greco-Roman Civilization


BB Assignment: Compare Greek and Roman political strengths and weaknesses. What do you think is the most important reason why the Roman Empire was able to sustain itself for so long while Greece's city-states were eclipsed first by Alexander of Macedonia and later by the Romans?


Nov 11            Review                                       Test #2               

The test is a combination of essays and multiple-choice questions.


Nov 18            Christianity/Byzantium: Medieval Europe 

                Student Presentations begin

                Term Papers Due


--“The Barbarian West”

--“The Second Rome: Constantinople”

--Power Point:  Christianity and Byzantium


BB Assignment: Constantinople was capital of the Roman Empire for 1123 years, as long as Egyptian centers of power. Yet today it is almost unknown in history. How do you account for Americans' relative lack of knowledge of this center of Christian power?



Nov 25            Islam/Judaism/Nomads                                 



--“Europe and West Asia: 350-850”

--“The Islamic World, 600-1400”

--Power Point: Islam and Byzantium


BB Assignment: In your view, what are the most important differences and similarities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity? If you were coming to Earth from another planet, how might you view them? How are they the same? How are they different?


Dec 2              Review


Dec 5       FINAL EXAM    

Guidelines and Rubric for Online Discussions


In this class, online discussions will count towards your grade in the course (you will find them on BlackBoard). The purpose of the discussions is to frame and promote collaborative learning. Active and regular participation is not only important for me to see, but also important for you in learning the course content and in developing your thoughts and positions on various topics.  


The three cardinal rules for Discussion Boards:

1.    Please remember that the culture of mutual respect that is part of this course extends into the virtual classroom environment. 

2.    Participation in these discussion boards is required. 

3.    Participation alone is not enough; a thoughtful and meaningful approach in your posts is required. (Quality counts!)



The total of your participation in a single discussion board question (topic) will be graded.


  1. You are expected to participate by Friday at 5 p.m. of each week.
  1. You should begin at least one thread and provide at least two posts in response to other participants’ threads.
  1. Posting should be a minimum of one short paragraph and a maximum of two paragraphs. Whether you agree or disagree explain why with supporting evidence and concepts from the readings or a related experience. Include a reference, link, or citation when appropriate.
  1. Be organized in your thoughts and ideas.
  1. Incorporate correlations with the assigned readings or topics.
  1. Stay on topic.
  1. Provide evidence of critical, college-level thinking and thoughtfulness in your responses or interactions. Avoid summarizing.
  1. Contribute to the learning community by being creative in your approaches to topics, being relevant in the presented viewpoints, and attempting to motivate the discussion.
  1. Be aware of grammar and sentence mechanics.
  1. Use proper etiquette. Remember that being respectfully critical is the ideal.


Summary of Guidelines for Postings


§  Postings should be a minimum of one paragraph..

§  Avoid postings that are limited to 'I agree' or 'great idea', etc. If you agree (or disagree) with a posting then say why you agree by supporting your statement with concepts from the readings or by bringing in a related example or experience.

§  Address the questions as much as possible (don't let the discussion stray).

§  Try to use quotes from the textbook that support your postings. Include page numbers when you do that.

§  Build on others’ responses to create threads.

§  Bring in related prior knowledge (work experience, prior coursework, readings, etc.)