Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

Acquiring a good basic understanding of human development in the ancient Near East, a region often referred to as the 'cradle of civilisation', is important for any student of history. Starting with a brief survey of human habitation through the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods and focussing on the era from when recorded history began, this unit will engage with different types of evidence introducing students to the civilisations in Mesopotamia and their counterpart in Egypt. Themes examined will include the economic and technological bases of civilisation, religion, social structure, the development of writing, centralised government, imperialism and the role of women.  


The aim of this unit is to develop students' understanding of human development focussing on key cultures in the ancient Near East. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss theoretical and factual knowledge of the history of the ancient Near East (GA5, GA6) 

LO2 - Communicate clearly in written and/or oral form, in a style appropriate to a specified audience (GA9) 

LO3 - Locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to the ancient Near East to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument (GA3, GA8, G10) 

LO4 - Apply critical reading skills to your understanding of the ancient Near East and the methods that historians have used to research it (GA4, GA5) 

LO5 - Interpret and reflect on key historical debates relating to real-world situations/case studies in the history of the ancient Near East over time (GA3, GA4, GA5,GA6)

Graduate attributes

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

  • An overview of human habitation in the Palaeolithic and Neolithic periods. 
  • The geography, economy, social structure, political system, cultural practices and religious beliefs of selected ancient Near Eastern civilisations.   
  • Thematic study of specific civilisations including Sumer, Assyria, ancient Israel and Persia.  
  • The interpretation of archaeological and written evidence from the period.  
  • The historical development in the period from city-state to kingdom to empire.  
  • An evaluation of significant historiographical concepts, such as the theory of a “Bronze Age collapse” in the region.  
  • Public and private roles of women in selected ancient Near Eastern civilisations including both royal and non-royal women. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This 10 credit-point unit is taught online and, where appropriate, multimode. The one-hour lectures provide students with content which will help inform their understanding of primary and secondary sources related to the unit’s content, and the two-hour tutorials provide an opportunity for a variety of active learning experiences. Engaging students in active learning gives them the opportunity to work through the challenges that historians grapple with when studying ancient sources, and this will allow students to develop practical skills and learn how to apply them to a study of ancient history.  

Students in this unit will be encouraged to: develop specific skills in locating, reading and analysing sources; consider different approaches to the past and the dynamics of historical and historiographical debate; and employ active research techniques into their own research and analysis. This unit introduces students to strategies that will help them to: (a) understand and interpret the history of a particular country (or countries); (b) take a thematic approach to the study of the past.  

This unit has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as lectures, tutorials, reading, reflection, discussion, film screenings, skills workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with university assessment requirements. Such procedures may include, but are not limited to: essays, examinations, student presentations or case studies.  

The Skills/Knowledge Development Assignment requires students to focus on learning and correctly applying some key discipline and content specific terminology. This is particularly important in ancient history because students are often introduced to words and concepts with which they are unfamiliar. In completing this assignment students will demonstrate their ability to correctly apply ideas and knowledge relevant to the unit content (LO1) and to express this clearly for an academic audience (LO2). The Active Research Task gives student the opportunity to apply research techniques developed in tutorials, and key content and skills developed in the first assessment to investigate a research question and present their findings in the form of an evidence-based narrative or argument (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4). The Summative/Analytical Task asks students to reflect on the unit as a whole and draw together themes, ideas and information in response to a specific question or questions to meet the other Learning Outcomes (LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5). 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Skills/Knowledge Development Assignment 

The key purpose of this task is for students to discuss theoretical and factual knowledge of the history of the ancient Near East using relevant terminology to do so. Skills developed in this task will help prepare students for the research task.


LO1, LO2

GA5, GA6, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Active research task

Students will locate, use and appropriately reference a variety of primary and secondary materials relevant to the ancient Near East to develop an evidence-based historical narrative or argument.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10

Assessment Task 3: Summative/Analytical Task(s) 

The purpose of this assessment is for students to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic, critical thinking, and clear communication skills and will indicate an understanding of the ancient Near East and the methods that historians have used to research it. 


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA6, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references

Bottero, J. Everyday Life in ancient Mesopotamia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. 

Brosius, M. Persians: An introduction. London: Routledge, 2006. 

Chavalas, M. (Ed.). The ancient Near East. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 

Leick, G. The Babylonian world. London: Routledge, 2008. 

Miller, J.M. and Hayes, J.H. A history of ancient Israel and Judah. New York: John Knox, 2006.  

Morris, I. & Scheidal, W. (Eds.). Dynamics of ancient empires: State power from Assyria to Byzantium. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 

Snell, Daniel C. Life in the ancient Near East, 3100-332 BCE. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997. 

Stiebing Jr, William H. Ancient Near Eastern history and culture. London &New York: Routledge, 2016. 

Stol, Marten. Women in the ancient Near East. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2018. 

Van de Mieroop, Marc. A history of the ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015. 

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