Lesson 1: Civilizations

Getting Started

In this unit, you will study the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. To begin, this lesson will explore what a civilization is. Civilization is a word that historians use to describe a society or culture that is organized in specific ways.

Stuff You Need

  • Ancient Civilizations by Joseph Fullman (DK Eyewitness)
  • 3-ring binder
  • Ancient Civilization Timeline Cards
  • glue or glue stick
  • hole punch
  • scissors
  • World History Timeline

Ideas to Think About

  • How can modern people learn about the cultures of ancient civilizations?
  • What are the characteristics of a civilization?

Things to Know

  • Historians use the term civilization to describe a society or culture that is organized in specific ways.
  • Characteristics of a civilization can include successful development of agriculture (farming), a large population center (like a city), a variety of specialized jobs, a ruling government, a division of people into social and economic classes, a shared language and belief system, and the development of art, architecture, and other advancements.


  • Analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. (SS)
  • Locate and describe the major river systems and discuss the physical settings that supported permanent settlement and early civilizations. (SS)
  • Identify the characteristics of a civilization. (SS)

Introducing the Lesson

Your child will begin his study of ancient civilizations by exploring what historians mean by the term "civilization."
Reading and Questions
Materials: Ancient Civilizations by Joseph Fullman (DK Eyewitness)
Read pages 6-7 of Ancient Civilizations. This reading will describe some of the common features of ancient civilizations. After you've completed the reading, answer the following questions.
  1. In what ways does the successful development of agriculture (farming) help civilizations develop?
    Successful agriculture allows people to settle in one permanent place, provides enough food for larger villages or cities, and allows people to do a variety of jobs (since not everyone has to farm).
  2. Why do you think most ancient civilizations develop along major rivers like the Nile?
    The banks of rivers had good soil for growing crops. Your child may also mention that the rivers provided water and transport routes.
  3. What are some benefits of a shared writing system in an ancient civilization?
    Answers include allowing governments to to work more efficiently and enabling businesses to keep records.
  4. In what ways is our country a civilization?
    Answers will vary.