Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Story of the World Volume 1 - Error List (Updated 12/1/16)

While I love Story of the World, I have found some inaccuracies in it and read about some others.  Since I'm reading Story of the World to my child, editing these out is usually not hard.  To save others the trouble of re-doing my search, I've included a list of what I found found below.  Some are not so much errors as omissions or choices of one historical theory where there is some controversy among historians over what really happened.  A lot of them are trivial, but I included any error I found just to be thorough.


Chap 1
In this chapter it says "around 7,000 years ago families didn't live in houses and shop at grocery stores" but were nomads...some take issue with this because of evidence of cities dated to 10,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.  If you believe in young earth theology and that those dates are misdated you might think that 7,000 years is too long.  Dates are an easy fix, though, as you are reading to the child.  You can even omit the dates altogether by saying "A long time ago" in stead of 7,000 years.

Chap 3
The description of how papyrus was made is wrong.  The book says that the papyrus reeds were softened and mashed into a pulp.  That is how modern paper is made (and probably some other later ancient papers too), but not how papyrus is made (now or ever).  Papyrus reeds are cut into thin strips, pounded to flatten and soaked, woven into sheets and than pressed (now in presses, then, under stones).  In the book it also says "But paper has a problem!  When paper gets wet, the ink on it dissolves and the paper falls apart."  The part about the ink dissolving in water is true, but unlike pulp made paper, papyrus can be soaked in water and does not disintegrate.  You can wash off old paint and ink and re-use it.   So, while her main point about loosing papyrus to time still stands, some of the finer details were wrong.  (Interesting side note:  Papyrus, which less sturdy in the short run than leather, in the long run, over thousands of years, holds up better than it...so we have more papyrus than leather scrolls from Ancient Egypt.  But of course stone beats all in longevity). 

Chap 4
- Decribes New Kingdom mummification practices in the section about the Old Kingdom and the pyramids.
- States that Pharoahs weren't buried in mastaba tombs when they had been before the invention of the pyramid.
- - States that the pyramid capstones were plated with gold when they were plated with electrum, an alloy of silver and gold  (OK, honestly, I think this "error" is nitpicky and only include it to be thorough.  Electrum is "a natural or artificial alloy of gold with at least 20 percent silver"...since it contains gold I think gold is close enough for a children's text).

Chap 6
The author states that she's going to tell the story of Abram from the Bible and then freely mixes in extra-biblical sources and free interpretations, which some Christians may object to.  A lot of Children's Bible stories do similarly.  Finding another version these stories in a Children's Bible is not hard if you do not like this one, and of course you can read the story straight from the Bible in stead as well.

Chapter 10
SOTW notes..."she could hear the noises of trading caravans, the sound of camel-hooves on stone," -    Technically, camels don't have hooves.

Chapter 12

(From "Egypt Invades Nubia" section).
Whether Queen Kiye was from Nubia or not is debated, but regardless, during this period of time the part of Nubia she might have been from was actually part of Egypt, so she was certainly Egyptian even if she was of Nubian ancestry (which, I should note, is actually a different question then whether she was "black," a racial distinction that would have been meaningless to the Egyptians--they didn't have the modern conception of race, and Egyptian art shows that native Egyptians had various skin tones, from very light to very dark. )   More on this here.

(From "The Hyksos Invade Egypt" section)
There is a meaningful difference between the original and revised version of Story of the World in this chapter.  The revised version reflects more recent archaeological evidence that shows that  the Hyksos didn't suddenly invade...they gradually settled in Egypt in large in numbers, and then rose up and took over.   (See more changes here )

Chapter 13
The book said that Hatshepsut didn't fight any wars.  But she did.   According to the book 'Hatchepust, the Female Pharoah' by Joyce Tyldesley, which came out shortly after the first edition of Story of the World, there is growing evidence of Hatshepsut's military prowess.   During her reighn wars were fought against Nubia, the nations of the Upper Nile,  against the Ethiopians, and probably also against the Asiatics.  However, the book also did say that "Hatchepsut's military policy is perhaps best described as one of unobtrusive control; active defence rather than deliberate offence."  

The book said that the only jobs women in Egypt were allowed to do was to be a "wife and mother, priestess, or dancer."  This may have been true for upper class women (though even here being a wife in those cases involved managing the servants of the household, so it was more than just taking care of and teaching children).     Among the lower classes there were many other jobs done by women.    Women could also be musicians, weavers, servants, cooks, perfumers, and various other odd jobs.   Farmer's wives worked alongside their husbands in the fields, and women were sometimes known to manage farms or businesses in the absence of their husbands or sons.  

In this chapter it said that the only jobs women in Egypt were allowed to do was to be a wife and mother, priestess, or dancer.  This was somewhat true for upper class women (though they could also be musicians or professional mourners, and even being a wife involved managing the servants of the household, so it was more than just taking care of and teaching children).     But among the lower classes there were many other jobs done by women.    Women could also be  weavers, servants, cooks, perfumers, and even doctors.   Farmer's wives worked alongside their husbands in the fields, and women were sometimes known to manage farms or businesses in the absence of their husbands or sons.

This may be a little out of order because we haven't gotten to these sections yet... so I organized these by place, not chapter (though I have put chapter when I've been able to figure out where it belongs).   Some of the following is quoted straight from the source I found mentioning the error (and linked the original source where I could...unfortunately I didn't start saving sources until later in my search, so I don't have all of them).  I have not had time to research all of these claims of inaccuracy yet to see if hey are true, and will be updating this page as I do.

CRETE/MINOANS - Chapter 18
There's criticism that she describes the  Minoan civilization was destroyed by the eruption of Thera when it really flourished two centuries after that explosion. While it's true that the Minoan civilization didn't end with Thera, it did have a profound impact on the civilization and may have caused an end to their "rise" as the apex of their civilization coincides with that event.   And there is a second natural desaster (possibly and eruption of Thera) closer to end of the Minoan civilization that she could be referring to as well (and the dates of both eruptions are in question).   So I think this is more interpretation differences than error.

To quote another source:  " there's still a lot of controversy over what happened. Susan Wise Bauer chose one theory. While it's true Crete wasn't deserted after Thera erupted, it certainly began to lose its primacy around this time to Mycenae. If anything, SWB is guilty of simplification, which is to be expected in an elementary history text."


Chapter 20
The book says that the Olympics  got their name from mount Olympus.  This is  a common misconception...the Olympics actually got their name from the ancient city of Olympia where they were first held, which is nowhere near mount Olympus (Could that city may have derived it's name from they mythical Mount Olympus or the "Olympian" gods who lived there?  Possibly.  I couldn't find any info on how it was named.  There is also a mythical Olympus, a mythical musican to whom the invention of the flute is ascribed, who it could have been named after.  And Olympian coins featured both Zeus and "the Nymph Olympia" which, apart from a mention on Wikipedia, I couldn't find more about.  )

Chapter 25
One commenter wrote "I was browsing the pages and I focused on the ancient Greece pages, as I am originally from Greece. To my horror, the first inaccuracy was a perpetuated one that Alexander the Great was not Greek. I let this slide because I know there has been a huge propaganda about this and the author may have bought on that."  


"...although the Celts fall well within the time period of this book, they are mentioned on just a few pages that relate to Julius Caesar's military career and later in a short description of Boudicca's rebellion. The latter section is missing from the index, by the way. And she used the less-preferred spelling "Boadicea." Why were the Celts largely omitted from this book? They beat the daylights of the Romans in 370 BCE and motivated the Romans to transform their military strategies from the Greek phalanx to their own new and devastating style. The Celts' never-unified territory spanned Europe from Turkey to Ireland, but what we learn about them here is that "the people who lived in Britain were called Celts. They were tall, muscular, warlike men." Hmmm . . . I wonder how they managed to reproduce. This constitutes a serious omission of a major ancient civilization. They didn't even get a mention in the pronunciation guide." (From review here).

Chapter 40 - Boadicea/Boudicca

It said "In ancient times, women weren't considered very brave or strong." That was the viewpoint of the ancient Romans, but not the Celts (and even the Romans, who generally held that view, described Celtic women, in general, as being fierce).   I wish that SOTW had spent a few words making that distinction between the Roman and Celtic view of women.  

Also, while not technically inaccurate,  Chapter 40 made her attacks sound like much less than what they were.   I understand the need to soften some of what happened for children,  but I think she went too far.   What she decribes on "raid on Londinium" was actually a massacre where everyone was killed and the city was burned to the ground.

Various commentors mentions problems with the chapter on the Peloponnesian War.  Some mentioned things omitted, and not enough being said about Pericles...but those aren't really errors, just choices about what to include.   One reviewer (a history teacher) said  "the story of Alcibiades contains many untrue statements. I am not even planning to use this chapter with my students. Instead we will be reading the story of Alcibiades from "Famous Men of Greece." .... An example of this problem in the activity book is the picture of the Spartan boy hiding the fox: he is wearing Roman armor. Ironically this is one of the better drawings in the book, but I hope it has been removed in the revised version."  Another commentor said "I studied the Peloponnesian War well enough to know that she is misleading about some things and flat out wrong about others. The author makes it sound as though the war consisted of Sparta marching over and waiting outside the Athenian walls... no mention at all of the Athenian Navy and that that was how they were fighting the war. There is also another mistake that is not just a misleading summary. She states that the plague (as in epidemic) in Athens is caused by fleas on rats. Wrong. We still don't know what *disease* it was, let alone how it was transmitted. She is thinking of the black death and it blows my mind that she could make this mistake."

"The most substantial error I found in Volume is that it says native North Americans ate wheat, a grain which was not actually introduced to North American until after 1600 A.C.E. This is a big deal because it's a high protein crop that helped make denser population and labour specialization possible in Europe, and for which there was no North American equivalent. I'm surprised this wasn't caught before the second edition." (From review here)

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