Friday, January 13, 2023

Story of the World - Chapter 16: The Return of Assyria

Story of the World Chapter 16 Lesson Plans
Ashurbanipal on a Lion Hunt

They're back!   We learned about the Assyrians in Chapter 8, and now they are making a re-appearance. 

For those new to my site, this is part of my history series where I share supplementary activities for Story of the World history chapters.  If you aren't using Story of the World, you can still use this page to supplement your lessons:  Just skip over the "While Reading Story of the World" section, and browse my suggestions of books and scroll down to enjoy the Assyrian Banquet activity. 

I almost always supplement our Story of the World reading with pictures from other books.   Here's the books I used for this chapter.   Your library may have other books that would work just as well.

DISCLAIMER:  Here and elsewhere on the page, I include some links through which I can earn commission (but, I usually  suggest looking for these in your library, which of course is free). 

Mesopotamia - DK Eyewitness Book
This book has been one of the books I've used the most during the first half of Story of the World.   It's been the best picture reference related to all things about the various civilizations in Mesopotamia which Story of the World talks about.  The index makes it easy to find what I need (though since it's not organized by nation/city-state in most places they are scattered throughout the book).  Still, this is one I'm glad I bought.  

Bible Lands - DK Eyewitness Book
This is a great DK book about the various places mentioned in the Bible.  It's a respectful secular book that I thought I would use much more than I did throughout Story of the World, but I just ended up finding better illustrations elsewhere most of the time.  It did occasionally have something I used though, such as the illustration of Assyrian siege towers I used in this chapter.

The Assyrians by Elaine Landau
While I was really happy to find a book JUST on the Assyrians in my library, and this had some excellent pictures, it's not one I would feel the need to buy.


SECTION 1:  Ashurbanipal's Attack
For this section we looked at several books.  Really, DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia  would have provided sufficient pictures on it's own, but I had grabbed some other library books too, and picked the best pictures from each (it's nice sometimes too to have several books open at once so I don't have to flip pages).  There are some slight changes between the revised and original version of SOTW you can find here.

Paragraphs 1-3
We used the nice map in The Assyrians by Elaine Landau, which showed both the smaller area covered during early Assyria, and the vast area covered during the Assyrian empire.

In paragraph 3 there was one semi-error.  It said "The Isrealites were never allowed to return back to their own land again."  But later in SOTW it talks about how they were allowed to return under King Cyrus.   That was over a hundred years later, so those people who were drivien out by Ashurbanipal wouldn't have returned (only their descendants), which is probably what the author meant.   Still, I felt like it was confusing so I skipped that line.

Paragraph 4
DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia pictures a carving of Ashurbanipal in his palace (pg 47), and an earlier Assryian king on a lion hunt (pg 44-45).   I found a picture of smaller section of the banquet carving here (also included below, in the activities section).

Paragraph 5
DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia has a large picture of a section of carving showing Assyrian soldiers in pairs with bows and shields attacking a city and climbing ladders over the walls (pg 42-43).   I found this same carving online here. I've found better pictures online of the archers and shield bearers recently (see below.  You can click on the pictures to see them larger.)
Assyrians in formation with bows and large basket shields
This photograph by Mike Peel ( is licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Two types of Assyrian basket shields, one smaller, and one larger (both held by sheild bearer protecting archer).This illustration shows two different styles of basket shield.

Paragraph 6.
Bible Lands, in it's section on the Siege of Lachish (pg 46-47), shows an amazing carving of Assyrian's using a siege tower and battering ram (and also has an artist's rendering of one), as well as pictures of Assyrian armor and weapons.

SECTION 2:   The Library  at Nineveh
The Assyrians  had both artistic renderings of Nineveh and a picture of the formerly well-preserved ruins of the walls of Nineveh (sadly, I learned that Isis recently destroyed parts of these ruins recently,  and also destroyed many other artifacts of Nineveh.)   You can still see pictures of the gate that was destroyed Ninevah here.  There are also some excellent photos, map, and reconstructions here (with pictures you can mouse over to enlarge). 

We followed this by reading the Story of Jonah in a children's Bible.

This amazing digital recreation of the city of Nineveh is worth watching.

from Kais Jacob on Vimeo.


An Assyrian Banquet

Assyrian Relief of the Banquet of Ashurbanipal From Nineveh
This photograph by Mary Harrsch is licensed under the

Did you know that people from this time actually wrote down their recipes in cuneiform?   They did, which means we have lots of recipes, though it takes a little interpretation to figure out what they meant sometimes.   Thankfully, there's some historian cooks out there who did the hard work for us.

A fun activity is to make an Assyrian style banquet using some of these recipes.  I suggest making some or all of the dishes below with your children.   You could even have a pretend banquet, decking the table with fancy tablecloths and dishes and enjoying food fit for a king.  The passage suggested below would be a great piece to read to set the mood before you eat.

Silk Road Gourmet has a wonderful narrative description of an Assyrian Banquet in the first four paragraphs of the this post.   I suggest  stopping after the line "One by one the dishes you have waited all afternoon for are revealed" in the fourth paragraph, because after this she lists off broths to make a point--that the recipes on a translated cuneiform tablet were probably not all broths, but that, as she describes later...

I don’t think that any of the recipes translated by Bottero are broths. Rather, they are general guidelines for the flavors of dishes that range from koreshes, curries and soups to braised meats and dry pilafs – it all depends on the relative proportions of liquid and solid ingredients. Amounts of ingredients are almost always absent, so the exact dish prepared is left up to the cook.

A lot of the technical stuff after those four paragraphs wouldn't be interesting to most  kids...but they might enjoy making the recipe at the end of the post for Lamb with Barley and Mint.  Or not.  Maybe lamb and mint isn't really a kid-friendly recipe (I remember disliking something similar as a small child).  But, these other ancient recipes ARE a  more kid friendly and also not too hard to make:    

Mersu - Type 1
What I especially like about this one is the note down at the bottom that Coconut (an optional ingredient used), "might have been known by the neo-Assyrian period."   The Neo-Assyrian period is exactly the period of our chapter, so you can imagine this new and exciting food from abroad being introduced to the Assyrian court.

Mesopotamian Wheat Bread
Easy recipe kids would enjoy eating and making, with common ingredients.

Last :: Next

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Story of the World: Chap 15 - Phonician Traders

This page is part of my history series where I share supplementary activities for Story of the World history chapters.  If you aren't using Story of the World, you can still use this page:  Just skip over the "While Reading Story of the World" section, and browse my suggestions of books and activities for learning about the Phoenicians. 

I almost always supplement our Story of the World reading with pictures from other books.   Here's the books I used for this chapter.   Your library may have other books that would work just as well.

DISCLAIMER:  Here and elsewhere on the page, I include some links through which I can earn commission (but, even so, I highly suggest looking for these in your library first, which of course is free). 

The Phoenicians by Katherine Reece
I was so excited to actually find a children's book JUST ABOUT the Phoenicians in our library.  It had some good maps, pictures and illustrations we used--though I had to go to another source for pictures of Phoenician glass (they only showed a shaped glass bead).   While we didn't read further about the Phoenicians than the Story of the World text, this would have been a good source for that had we wanted to.  It also had info on modern Lebanon, where the area of the original homeland of ancient Phoenicia was located.

Bible Lands - Eyewitness Book
This is a great DK book about the various places mentioned in the Bible.  It's a respectful secular book that I thought I would use much more than I did throughout Story of the World, but I just ended up finding better illustrations elsewhere most of the time.  It did occasionally have something I used though, such as the illustrations of the Phoenician glassware and cloth I used to illustrate this chapter.


SECTION 1:  Phoenicia Traders
(Note:   The Revised and Original version are the same for this section, except for different maps and some slight punctuation changes).

Paragraphs 1- 2
We looked at some maps in The Phoenicians by Katherine Reece

Paragraph 3
We looked at pictures of ships and some of the trade goods mentioned in The Phoenicians (there's a great drawing of a Phoenician ship in the SOTW Activity pages too for kids to color).  
Paragraphs 4 - 6
We looked at the  glass bead shown in The Phoenicians and the pictures of blown glass vases shown on the page on the Phoenicians in Bible Lands (note, there's a newer version of this book but I'm not sure what pictures and information was changed in it).   A found a public domain image of a Phoenician glass bead which i shared below.   I imagine this also shows a little bit about how Phoenician men adorned themselves and wore their hair. 

Public Domain

Paragraph 7 - 8
Showed shell and purple cloth pictures from The Phoenicians and Bible Lands (found in pg 41 in the section on Money and Trade). You could also use the picture I found that shows the shells of the murex snails, and the cloth dyed with murex snail dye.   You can click on it to show a larger version where you can read the text.

This picture by  U.Name.Me and edited by TeKaBe
and by myself is licensed for sharing under the
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

SECTION 2:   The Founding of Carthage
(Note:  The Revised version mentions in the text that Carthage was first settled around 814 BC/BCE.  In the original version it says, in a footnote to parents, not in the main text, that it was founded in 850 BC/BCE.   I'm assuming this was a correction or update with newer info).   

For this section I really wanted to find an image of a Phonician woman to use as an illustration of Dido, but it turns out that the Phoenicians were not fond of making images of themselves.   However, other nations did and I found some  depictions here.

We also used an illustration of a Phoenician city in Ancient Civilizations.


My son loved watching the glass blowing video below...

We didn't do these, but they looked fun....

Purple Dye Craft
No murex secretions involved!

Did you know that our alphabet descended from the Phoenician alphabet?  The SOTW text didn't mention it, but it's one of their most important contributions to history.   Learn about it with the video and activity listed below.

The Alphabet, Video by Extra Credits History

Phoenician Alphabet Craft
They use clay, but Phoencians, being traders, more often used Egyptian papyrus.   You could also make a scroll to use, which was the way most papyrus was stored.


The Myth of Cadmus and the Founding of Thebes
Older students might be interested in reading another founding myth involving the Phoenicians:  Cadmus and the Founding of Thebes.   It's a fun story involving fighting a dragon.   While it does contain an un-detailed mention of sex (Zeus "lies with" the main character's sister, one of his many adulteries), apart from that it is pretty benign for a Greek myth.    This would be best for older children on their 2nd or later cycle through history, as it refers to Greek gods yet to be discussed in this volume.    

The Phoenician Alphabet in Archeology
A related archeology article about how the Greek alphabet derived from the Phoenician one (which mentions the myth).   You could follow this up by doing some activities with the Phoenician alphabet.


Last :: Next

The picture of a Phoenician ship in the credits is licensed for sharing under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.   It was created by NMB and also attributed to Elie Plus.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Building With Foam Mats

Back when my kids were little, we found a very fun alternate use for those foam floor padding mats.  Here's a few of the fun buildings we made with them.

Foam Block Tower

Cube House

Foam block tunnel

Tri Block Foam Playhouse

I found several styles of foam blocks on Amazon....they have some fun shapes and designs that weren't available when my kids were little.  I'm so curious what type of things kids could build with hexagon and rhombus shaped mats!

(Note:   The links below are affiliate links through which I can earn commission.).)

You may have noticed that I actually showed some faces in this post (usually not something I do). Well, my "little boys" are teens now, all three taller than me, and I got permission from two of them to share. My third still didn't want me to so I respected that. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Videos About Christopher Columbus ...that are actually accurate!

Videos on Columbus that are actually accurate.

Several years back I did a post about Christopher Columbus fact checking a lot of the errors floating around.    Now, I'd like to share some short videos you CAN use to teach this history to children, without exposing kids to things they aren't ready for or sugar coating this history.   Further down on this page are some good videos related to Spanish exploration, conquest and colonization.

Recommended Columbus Videos

BrainPop:  Columbus

(Recommended for All Ages)
This was free when I first accessed it, but sadly it isn't now.  But, because this was literally the best video for kids on Columbus I've found, I couldn't leave it off the list.  It was kid friendly, animated, accurate, and didn't try to demonize Columbus or make him into a hero.  It also dealt to some extent with both the positive and negative ramifications of Columbus' journey, both for the people of Europe and the people of the Americas. (NOTE:  I didn't have a chance to look into the "extras" about Columbus they have...just the video, so can't comment on those). 

Crash Course World History:  15th Century Mariners:  Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
This video talks briefly about Columbus, along with two other sailors from this time.  This doesn't at all deal much with the results of Columbus' trip across the Atlantic, positive or negative, but later videos in this series do (see below), so combined with those this covers this well.   My middle-schoolers loved the humor in John Green's crash course videos.

CONTENT CONCERNS:  Contains one joke related to a Chinese explorer being a Eunuch that some may find inappropriate (minute 1:40-2:05, easy to skip if you want to). You could also just watch the part about Columbus (6:30-9:27), though I really think the it's worth adding the part about the Portuguese explorer De Gama, which really sets up why the Spanish were looking for a passage to Asia and would fund Columbus' journeys. (That starts at minute 4:24).

Crash Course World History:  The Colombian Exchange

(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
This video shows but shows the impact of Columbus discovery on both sides the the Atlantic, for good and bad, so its a really important follow up to the last video.

CONTENT CONCERNS:   Smaller children might be scared by depictions of war and people dying of smallpox.  It uses OMG, spelled out, once (in an easily skippable side-segment in minutes 1:22-1:33).   There is, in talk about syphilis, some indirect reference to sex (in talking how it was spread by sailors they mention a quote "sailors...are men without women and therefor men of many women.")

Bartolomé de las Casas: Conscious of an Empire
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
I highly suggest this for high schoolers and middle schoolers who prefer un-animated documentaries.   This video is mainly about Bartolomé de las Casas, a priest who came to the new world shortly after Columbus had been removed of his governorship there, and later spent his life trying to end the enslavement and oppression of the native people in the Spanish colonies.   After briefly introducing De las Casas and Nicolás de Ovando (the 3rd governor of the new world), it backtracks to Columbus's previous journeys, including the establishment of colonies and subjugation of the native peoples, which continues until minute 12:04  (though I suggest watching the whole thing to learn more about what happened after Columbus in the Spanish colonies).    It is accurate overall, apart from one small error  mentioned below which is easy to discuss.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:  Contains one brief instance of cultural nudity.   Around minute 4:15 it briefly shows native people being shown to queen Isabela, including a woman with bare breasts (only slightly blurred).  It also contains more depictions of violence.  

Related to accuracy, it said that Bobadilla was sent back specifically to replace Columbus, but actually he was sent back mainly to investigate a colonist rebellion though he had the power to replace Columbus based on his investigation.   Another important detail that is left out is how Bobadilla also mishandling of the governing of the  colonies, and that things got worse for the indigenous people under his government.  While Columbus and his brothers had tried to maintain discipline of the colonists through arguably cruel means, Bobadilla went in the other direction and let the Colonists basically do what they wanted, including rape and abuse the native peoples without any censure (which I wrote about more in this article, in the section, "After Columbus".)

Biography.Com - Several Videos
(Recommended for Upper Elementary through High School)
There are three videos embedded in this article (and unfortunately when you load the article they all begin playing at you will want to scroll down and turn off the other two before showing to your kids).   All are are in the more typical older documentary style (not animated).     The first video covers the basics of the Columbus journeys and the first Spanish colonies started under Columbus.  My only slight criticism is they could have said something to clarify the differences at the time between subjugation under a feudal system (which we might recognize as a form of slavery today, but which they would not have), and chattel slavery (Columbus subjugated many Taino on his 2nd journey and later enslaved some).   But overall this is accurate. 

The 2nd video listed is more about the ships used on the journey, and the 3rd is a short footnote with a few more details.

The text article is also well done, but contains one error (it says on his 4th journey he was shipwrecked in Cuba when he was actually shipwrecked in Jamaica).

CONTENT CONCERNS:   The videos contain some artistic nudity (middle age drawings of the natives without clothing). 

Recommended Videos on
 Spanish Conquest/Colonization

The following aren't directly about Columbus, but can make a good follow up to show what happened in the new world after the voyages of Columbus.

Crash Course US History:  The Black Legend, Native Americans, and Spaniards
(Recommended for Middle School and High School)

This video covers, very briefly, the Native American peoples who lived in what is now the US before European contact, and covers what happened to them during Spanish colonization/exploration (which was after Columbus, but still related). My one minor quibble is that it sort of suggests that Bartolomé de las Casas was the only Spaniard fighting against the oppression of the natives, while in fact, he was convinced that the enslavement of the native peoples were wrong by other priests who were preaching this before him.   But none were as vocal or steadfast in their fight, so I don't think that oversimplification is worth skipping this video, which overall sets up well what happened to the native people during colonization.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:  It has pictures/depictions of massacres and torture which are not suitable for younger kids, and which also contain nudity (medieval artistic nudity).  

Extra Credits History:  Bartolomé de las Casas - Changing Your Mind
(Recommended for All Ages)
This one deals a little bit more with
Bartolomé de las Casas, who is mentioned briefly in the last video. I was so excited when this came out because this is probably my favorite historical character and the person who got me studying this time period. He was a Spanish priest who came to the colonies just after Columbus had his governorship stripped. While he originally participated in the oppression of the indigenous people he soon realized what was happening to them was wrong and spent the rest of his life trying to end their oppression.  The video did an excellent job and even managed to be completely kid friendly.

NOTE TO CHRISTIAN READERS:  Though this is a secular resource, they did very well at portraying de las Casas' faith.   They did however offer a brief  critical note about proselytizing (presenting as a negative that las Casas supported it).  Las Casas believed in
proselytizing through love and logic, not force or coercion, and  preached that this was the only Biblical way to share the gospel.      I found it ironic that they would share anti-proseletizing sentiment, even related to this specific type of proselytizing, in a video that was largely praising an individual's openness to worldview change.

Crash Course US History:   The Spanish Empire, Silver, and Runaway Inflation
(Suggested for Middle School and High School ...may work for late elementary also.)
This covers, briefly, the empires that existed before Spanish Conquest and what followed in the next several hundred years, and the results in America, Spain, and even China. 

Extra Credits - The Inca Empire
(Suggested for Mid-elementary through High School)
This series, about an hour long in all, tells what life was like in the Inca Empire and than chronicles it's conquest by the Spanish.  

CONTENT CONCERNS:   There is violence but it is animated and somewhat abstract.   I let my child watch other videos by Extra Credits with similar levels of violence around age 8. 

TedEd - The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire

(Suggested for All Ages)
This video also has some history of the Inca, and tells of their conquest.  It has less detail than the longer video by Extra Credits.   I feel like this video is more appropriate for younger kids because of the way it's told, in a way that reminds me of how a fable is told and with paper cut-out people that I think make the violence even more abstract than the stick people drawings of Extra Credits.  

Thanks to Pixabay for the images used to make the intro graphic.