Week Five – The First Sumerian Dictator

This week focused primarily on Sumer and the rise of Sargon who attempted to conquer the various city-states within Mesopotamia.

Story of the World:

Listened to The First Sumerian Dictator and completed the review questions and narration exercise. M1 and M2 completed the Sargon drawing page and M1 did the Sumer word jumble.

Read Together:

Unlike Ancient Egypt, Sumer doesn’t have a lot going for it with regard to children’s literature. So, we relied on SotW to provide some recommendations. Within their lesson plan were:

The Golden Sandal (A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story), by Rebecca Hickock. Both M1 and M2 enjoyed reading this book and instantly picked up the themes from the Cinderella story. This story is actually based on the Iraqi folktale of The Little Red Fish and the Golden Clog, but doesn’t necessarily take place during the time of Ancient Sumer. The illustrations are great and the morals are a bit stronger than the Disneyfied version.

The Three Princes: A Tale From the Middle East, by Eric Kimmel. I read this to M1 and I saw her pick it up a few more times on her own to read. She indicated that she really liked the bold colors in the story, especially those of the garments worn by the Three Princes. The story is actually based on a folktale from Africa called The Search, which leaves the reader with an open-ended conclusion to the story. Three Princes on the other hand has a firm conclusion, highlighting the selflessness of one of the Princes.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, pages 110 to 113 focus on the development of Mesopotamia from the development of cities to the flourishing of maritime trade and the rise of Sargon.

Watch Together:

We watched Crash Course in History’s Mesopotamia episode on Youtube on three occasions. Because Sumer was one of the first locations to develop pottery and the potter’s wheel, we watched several videos on making clay pots. Most focus on making pottery using electric potters wheels, so we really enjoyed this one, which was human driven.

Listen Together:

Although probably geared towards older students, I recently came upon a podcast focused on Maritime History. The first three episodes provide a great overview of the history of maritime trade, which flourished in Mesopotamia. Trade in Sumer was extremely important as the region contained little in natural resources to include metal or strong wood, but was rich in grain, wool, finished metal objects and pots. Boating through Mesopotamia’s canals and rivers brought about the first world trade. The Maritime History Podcast episodes I would recommend are:

Additionally, I would recommend listening to the BBC’s History of the World in 100 Objects podcast on The Standard of Ur.




Week 4 Review: The First Writing

Last week’s focus was the development of the first formal writing by humans. Historically, writing developed in two separate locations, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia respectively. The form and function this writing took differed significantly though.

Story of the World: 

Listened to the audiobook version for Story of the World for Chapter 3, The First Writing. M1 answered the follow-on review questions.


M1 completed the map of Ancient Sumer and Egypt, which illustrates where writing first developed, based on the flow of the rivers in each section. For our project, both M1 and M2 wanted to write hieroglyphics (Egypt) instead of cuneiform (Sumer). I used a simple salt dough recipe to have the girls make cartouches. The girls then used a wooden skewer to press, not drag, the pictograms for their names into the clay. We then baked the cartouches in the oven for about 3 hours at 200° F. Keep an eye on them, because you don’t want them to puff up. I would also recommend flipping the cartouches after 90 minutes.


For a simple salt dough recipe, you can use the following:

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 cup water

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix flour and salt on low speed using a stand or hand mixer. Gradually add the water and then the oil. The dough shouldn’t be too wet, but pliable enough so that it won’t crack when baked. Leftover dough can be placed in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for two weeks.

Read Aloud:

Seeker of Knowledge; The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs, by James Rumford is the story of Jean-Francois Champollion. The story, which is told in bright watercolors, highlights Jean-Francois’ earliest interest in Egypt and his intention to crack the hieroglyphs that capture his imagination. The story also places Jean-Francois in the historical context of Napoleonic Europe and North Africa and the rush to be the first person to decipher the Rosetta Stone. In addition the great illustrations, the text is filled with hieroglyphs that correspond to a word on the page. Well worth the read. Even though the discovery was made in the 19th Century, the linkages to the first writing are very apparent.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, by Gill Harvey and Struan Reid. Read page 83’s section on Precious Reeds, which provides an overview of the Papyrus plant. We then read pages 84 to 87, which focuses on education and the role of the scribe in Ancient Egypt and the formation of hieroglyphics.

Listen Aloud:

For older learners, take a listen to the Rosetta Stone podcast on the History of the World in 100 Objects. The podcast gives a great overview of the invention of writing, the discovery of the stone and the attempts at deciphering the stone. There are also HotW podcasts on a Cuneiform Early Writing Tablet and the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus, which highlights the importance of writing to convey ideas like math as a means of teaching.