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Comparing US History to Ancient Civilizations

By Melissa Taylor-Salvador
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"How did the development of the United States compare with the development of ancient civilizations?"

  Understandings & Objectives


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Core Understandings
  • Ancient civilizations and our present civilization have similarities, differences, and connections.
  • There is a strong connection between ancient governments and the United States government.
  • The United States adopted many ideas and learned from ancient civilizations.
  • Religion has been justification for conquest and warfare throughout history.
  • Learning through history assists in understanding why things are the way they are today and informs us what the future may hold.
Learning Objectives
  • Sixth graders and fifth graders will get into groups and discuss what they have learned about history.
  • Students will learn through researching their texts and supplemental materials.
  • Students will compare and contrast their topics and civilizations.
  • Students will write a research report comparing United States history and ancient civilizations.
  • Students will present a PowerPoint presentation about what they have learned and why it is important to learn from history.
California Content Standards
History and Social Science
Grade Five. United States History and Geography: Making a New Nation
HSS.5.1. Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River.
HSS.5.1.1. Describe how geography and climate influenced the way various nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including locations of villages, the distinct structures that they built, and how they obtained food, clothing, tools, and utensils.
HSS.5.1.2. Describe their varied customs and folklore traditions.
HSS.5.1.3. Explain their varied economies and systems of government.
HSS.5.2. Students trace the routes of early explorers and describe the early explorations of the Americas.
HSS.5.2.1. Describe the entrepreneurial characteristics of early explorers (e.g., Christopher Columbus, Francisco V?squez de Coronado) and the technological developments that made sea exploration by latitude and longitude possible (e.g., compass, sextant, astrolabe, seaworthy ships, chronometers, gunpowder).
HSS.5.2.2. Explain the aims, obstacles, and accomplishments of the explorers, sponsors, and leaders of key European expeditions and the reasons Europeans chose to explore and colonize the world (e.g., the Spanish Reconquista, the Protestant Reformation, the Counter Reformation).
HSS.5.2.3. Trace the routes of the major land explorers of the United States, the distances traveled by explorers, and the Atlantic trade routes that linked Africa, the West Indies, the British colonies, and Europe.
HSS.5.2.4. Locate on maps of North and South America land claimed by Spain, France, England, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Russia.
HSS.5.3. Students describe the cooperation and conflict that existed among the American Indians and between the Indian nations and the new settlers.
HSS.5.3.1. Describe the competition among the English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and Indian nations for control of North America.
HSS.5.3.2. Describe the cooperation that existed between the colonists and Indians during the 1600s and 1700s (e.g., in agriculture, the fur trade, military alliances, treaties, cultural interchanges).
HSS.5.3.3. Examine the conflicts before the Revolutionary War (e.g., the Pequot and King Philip's Wars in New England, the Powhatan Wars in Virginia, the French and Indian War).
HSS.5.3.4. Discuss the role of broken treaties and massacres and the factors that led to the Indians defeat, including the resistance of Indian nations to encroachments and assimilation (e.g., the story of the Trail of Tears).
HSS.5.3.5. Describe the internecine Indian conflicts, including the competing claims for control of lands (e.g., actions of the Iroquois, Huron, Lakota [Sioux]).
HSS.5.3.6. Explain the influence and achievements of significant leaders of the time (e.g., John Marshall, Andrew Jackson, Chief Tecumseh, Chief Logan, Chief John Ross, Sequoyah).
HSS.5.4. Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.
HSS.5.4.1. Understand the influence of location and physical setting on the founding of the original 13 colonies, and identify on a map the locations of the colonies and of the American Indian nations already inhabiting these areas.
HSS.5.4.2. Identify the major individuals and groups responsible for the founding of the various colonies and the reasons for their founding (e.g., John Smith, Virginia; Roger Williams, Rhode Island; William Penn, Pennsylvania; Lord Baltimore, Maryland; William Bradford, Plymouth; John Winthrop, Massachusetts).
HSS.5.4.3. Describe the religious aspects of the earliest colonies (e.g., Puritanism in Massachusetts, Anglicanism in Virginia, Catholicism in Maryland, Quakerism in Pennsylvania).
HSS.5.4.4. Identify the significance and leaders of the First Great Awakening, which marked a shift in religious ideas, practices, and allegiances in the colonial period, the growth of religious toleration, and free exercise of religion.
HSS.5.4.5. Understand how the British colonial period created the basis for the development of political self-government and a free-market economic system and the differences between the British, Spanish, and French colonial systems.
HSS.5.4.6. Describe the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South.
HSS.5.4.7. Explain the early democratic ideas and practices that emerged during the colonial period, including the significance of representative assemblies and town meetings.
HSS.5.5. Students explain the causes of the American Revolution.
HSS.5.5.1. Understand how political, religious, and economic ideas and interests brought about the Revolution (e.g., resistance to imperial policy, the Stamp Act, the Townshend Acts, taxes on tea, Coercive Acts).
HSS.5.5.2. Know the significance of the first and second Continental Congresses and of the Committees of Correspondence.
HSS.5.5.3. Understand the people and events associated with the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence and the document's significance, including the key political concepts it embodies, the origins of those concepts, and its role in severing ties with Great Britain.
HSS.5.5.4. Describe the views, lives, and impact of key individuals during this period (e.g., King George III, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams).
HSS.5.6. Students understand the course and consequences of the American Revolution.
HSS.5.6.1. Identify and map the major military battles, campaigns, and turning points of the Revolutionary War, the roles of the American and British leaders, and the Indian leaders' alliances on both sides.
HSS.5.6.2. Describe the contributions of France and other nations and of individuals to the out-come of the Revolution (e.g., Benjamin Franklin's negotiations with the French, the French navy, the Treaty of Paris, The Netherlands, Russia, the Marquis Marie Joseph de Lafayette, Tadeusz Ko?sciuszko, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben).
HSS.5.6.3. Identify the different roles women played during the Revolution (e.g., Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Molly Pitcher, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren).
HSS.5.6.4. Understand the personal impact and economic hardship of the war on families, problems of financing the war, wartime inflation, and laws against hoarding goods and materials and profiteering.
HSS.5.6.5. Explain how state constitutions that were established after 1776 embodied the ideals of the American Revolution and helped serve as models for the U.S. Constitution.
HSS.5.6.6. Demonstrate knowledge of the significance of land policies developed under the Continental Congress (e.g., sale of western lands, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787) and those policies' impact on American Indians' land.
HSS.5.6.7. Understand how the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence changed the way people viewed slavery.
HSS.5.7. Students describe the people and events associated with the development of the U.S. Constitution and analyze the Constitution's significance as the foundation of the American republic.
HSS.5.7.1. List the shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation as set forth by their critics.
HSS.5.7.2. Explain the significance of the new Constitution of 1787, including the struggles over its ratification and the reasons for the addition of the Bill of Rights.
HSS.5.7.3. Understand the fundamental principles of American constitutional democracy, including how the government derives its power from the people and the primacy of individual liberty.
HSS.5.7.4. Understand how the Constitution is designed to secure our liberty by both empowering and limiting central government and compare the powers granted to citizens, Congress, the president, and the Supreme Court with those reserved to the states.
HSS.5.7.5. Discuss the meaning of the American creed that calls on citizens to safeguard the liberty of individual Americans within a unified nation, to respect the rule of law, and to preserve the Constitution.
HSS.5.8. Students trace the colonization, immigration, and settlement patterns of the American people from 1789 to the mid-1800s, with emphasis on the role of economic incentives, effects of the physical and political geography, and transportation systems.
HSS.5.8.1. Discuss the waves of immigrants from Europe between 1789 and 1850 and their modes of transportation into the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys and through the Cumberland Gap (e.g., overland wagons, canals, flatboats, steamboats).
HSS.5.8.2. Name the states and territories that existed in 1850 and identify their locations and major geographical features (e.g., mountain ranges, principal rivers, dominant plant regions).
HSS.5.8.3. Demonstrate knowledge of the explorations of the trans-Mississippi West following the Louisiana Purchase (e.g., Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Zebulon Pike, John Fremont).
HSS.5.8.4. Discuss the experiences of settlers on the overland trails to the West (e.g., location of the routes; purpose of the journeys; the influence of the terrain, rivers, vegetation, and climate; life in the territories at the end of these trails).
HSS.5.8.5. Describe the continued migration of Mexican settlers into Mexican territories of the West and Southwest.
HSS.5.8.6. Relate how and when California, Texas, Oregon, and other western lands became part of the United States, including the significance of the Texas War for Independence and the Mexican-American War.
Grade Six. World History and Geography: Ancient Civilizations
HSS.6.2. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Kush.
HSS.6.2.1. Locate and describe the major river systems and discuss the physical settings that supported permanent settlement and early civilizations.
HSS.6.2.2. Trace the development of agricultural techniques that permitted the production of economic surplus and the emergence of cities as centers of culture and power.
HSS.6.2.3. Understand the relationship between religion and the social and political order in Mesopotamia and Egypt.
HSS.6.2.4. Know the significance of Hammurabi's Code.
HSS.6.2.5. Discuss the main features of Egyptian art and architecture.
HSS.6.2.6. Describe the role of Egyptian trade in the eastern Mediterranean and Nile valley.
HSS.6.2.7. Understand the significance of Queen Hatshepsut and Ramses the Great.
HSS.6.2.8. Identify the location of the Kush civilization and describe its political, commercial, and cultural relations with Egypt.
HSS.6.2.9. Trace the evolution of language and its written forms.
HSS.6.3. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the Ancient Hebrews.
HSS.6.3.1. Describe the origins and significance of Judaism as the first monotheistic religion based on the concept of one God who sets down moral laws for humanity.
HSS.6.3.2. Identify the sources of the ethical teachings and central beliefs of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible, the Commentaries): belief in God, observance of law, practice of the concepts of righteousness and justice, and importance of study; and describe how the ideas of the Hebrew traditions are reflected in the moral and ethical traditions of Western civilization.
HSS.6.3.3. Explain the significance of Abraham, Moses, Naomi, Ruth, David, and Yohanan ben Zaccai in the development of the Jewish religion.
HSS.6.3.4. Discuss the locations of the settlements and movements of Hebrew peoples, including the Exodus and their movement to and from Egypt, and outline the significance of the Exodus to the Jewish and other people.
HSS.6.3.5. Discuss how Judaism survived and developed despite the continuing dispersion of much of the Jewish population from Jerusalem and the rest of Israel after the destruction of the second Temple in A.D. 70.
HSS.6.4. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of Ancient Greece.
HSS.6.4.1. Discuss the connections between geography and the development of city-states in the region of the Aegean Sea, including patterns of trade and commerce among Greek city-states and within the wider Mediterranean region.
HSS.6.4.2. Trace the transition from tyranny and oligarchy to early democratic forms of government and back to dictatorship in ancient Greece, including the significance of the invention of the idea of citizenship (e.g., from Pericles' Funeral Oration).
HSS.6.4.3. State the key differences between Athenian, or direct, democracy and representative democracy.
HSS.6.4.4. Explain the significance of Greek mythology to the everyday life of people in the region and how Greek literature continues to permeate our literature and language today, drawing from Greek mythology and epics, such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and from Aesop's Fables.
HSS.6.4.5. Outline the founding, expansion, and political organization of the Persian Empire.
HSS.6.4.6. Compare and contrast life in Athens and Sparta, with emphasis on their roles in the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars.
HSS.6.4.7. Trace the rise of Alexander the Great and the spread of Greek culture eastward and into Egypt.
HSS.6.4.8. Describe the enduring contributions of important Greek figures in the arts and sciences (e.g., Hypatia, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Thucydides).
HSS.6.5. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of India.
HSS.6.5.1. Locate and describe the major river system and discuss the physical setting that sup-ported the rise of this civilization.
HSS.6.5.2. Discuss the significance of the Aryan invasions.
HSS.6.5.3. Explain the major beliefs and practices of Brahmanism in India and how they evolved into early Hinduism.
HSS.6.5.4. Outline the social structure of the caste system.
HSS.6.5.5. Know the life and moral teachings of Buddha and how Buddhism spread in India, Ceylon, and Central Asia.
HSS.6.5.6. Describe the growth of the Maurya empire and the political and moral achievements of the emperor Asoka.
HSS.6.5.7. Discuss important aesthetic and intellectual traditions (e.g., Sanskrit literature, including the Bhagavad Gita; medicine; metallurgy; and mathematics, including Hindu-Arabic numerals and the zero).
HSS.6.6. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the early civilizations of China.
HSS.6.6.1. Locate and describe the origins of Chinese civilization in the Huang-He Valley during the Shang Dynasty.
HSS.6.6.2. Explain the geographic features of China that made governance and the spread of ideas and goods difficult and served to isolate the country from the rest of the world.
HSS.6.6.3. Know about the life of Confucius and the fundamental teachings of Confucianism and Taoism.
HSS.6.6.4. Identify the political and cultural problems prevalent in the time of Confucius and how he sought to solve them.
HSS.6.6.5. List the policies and achievements of the emperor Shi Huangdi in unifying northern China under the Qin Dynasty.
HSS.6.6.6. Detail the political contributions of the Han Dynasty to the development of the imperial bureaucratic state and the expansion of the empire.
HSS.6.6.7. Cite the significance of the trans-Eurasian "silk roads" in the period of the Han Dynasty and Roman Empire and their locations.
HSS.6.6.8. Describe the diffusion of Buddhism northward to China during the Han Dynasty.
HSS.6.7. Students analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures during the development of Rome.
HSS.6.7.2. Describe the government of the Roman Republic and its significance (e.g., written constitution and tripartite government, checks and balances, civic duty).
HSS.6.7.3. Identify the location of and the political and geographic reasons for the growth of Roman territories and expansion of the empire, including how the empire fostered economic growth through the use of currency and trade routes.
HSS.6.7.4. Discuss the influence of Julius Caesar and Augustus in Rome's transition from republic to empire.
HSS.6.7.5. Trace the migration of Jews around the Mediterranean region and the effects of their conflict with the Romans, including the Romans' restrictions on their right to live in Jerusalem.
HSS.6.7.6. Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (e.g., belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation).
HSS.6.7.7. Describe the circumstances that led to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other Roman territories.
HSS.6.7.8. Discuss the legacies of Roman art and architecture, technology and science, literature, language, and law.