The fifth graders journeyed to the Upper School last week to look at reproductions of art as part of their studies on ancient Sumer.
In the fifth grade, students begin to explore the development of civilizations that arose around river ecologies in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, Southwest Eurasia, and the Americas. To supplement their learning about these cultures, the students examined a replica of the stele featuring the Law Code of Hammurabi that stands in the lobby of the Senior Thesis Building.
Upper School cultural history teacher Terry Lichtenstein offered insight into the sculpture, asking the students to look closely at the detailed carvings and think about the meanings behind them. Hammurabi was a First Dynasty king in the city-state of Babylon, an ancient city-states on the Mesopotamian plain. He is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi’s Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. The sculpture features an image of King Hammurabi receiving the laws from Shamash, the sun god. The laws, written in cuneiform, are inscribed beneath the two figures.
After close observation and note taking, the students followed Terry to her classroom for a short art history lesson, reminiscent of a college-style class with slides and open discussion. Passing more sculpture reproductions and paintings en route, one student proclaimed, “Ross is a huge art museum!”
Once the class was seated, Terry talked about polytheism in ancient Mesopotamia and showed an image of the Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, who was the first Mesopotamian king known to have claimed divinity for himself. “This is really about celebrating power, the power of the king,” Terry explained. “How do we know that he is the king?” she asked the class. “He’s much taller,” answered one student. “He’s wearing a crown,” offered another. The stele depicts Naram-Sin’s triumph over a chief and his people.
“I really enjoy learning this,” said Schuyler VanTassel at the end of the lesson. “I’m pretty excited to learn about the Sumerians and Egyptians.”