Tag Archives: asian-pacific history

Term of Art: Afroasiatic Languages

“Afroasiatic languages formerly Hamito-Semitic languages: Superfamily of about 250 languages presently spoken by and estimated 250-300 million people ethnically and physically diverse people in North Africa and parts of sub-Saharan Africa and in southwest Asia. The major branches of Afroasiatic are Semitic, Berber, Egyptian, Cushitic and Chadic. Berber is a group of closely related languages spoken by perhaps 15 million people in enclaves scattered across North Africa from Morocco to northwest Egypt and in parts of the western Sahara. Cushitic is a family of about 30 languages spoken by more than 30 million people in northeast Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, and a few areas of northeast Tanzania. Omotic, formerly classified as part of Cushitic, is a cluster of perhaps more than 30 languages spoken by 2-3 million people, most of whom live near the Omo River in southwest Ethiopia. Chadic comprises about 140 languages, most poorly known to linguists, spoken in northern Nigeria, southern Niger, southern Chad, and northern Cameroon; except for Hausa, probably no individual Chadic language has more than half a million speakers.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Tower of Babel

“Tower of Babel: A structure erected after the Flood by the descendants of Noah when they reached Babylonia. According to Gen. 11, the plan was to build a tower that would reach to heaven, but Jehovah, displeased by the arrogance and presumption of the builders, “confounded their speech” so they could not understand one another and “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth.” The story provides a biblical explanation for the diversity of languages around the world. Tower of Babel has come to signify an ambitious or visionary scheme; the word babel has become associated with a confused uproar in which nothing can be heard but the hubbub.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

The Pentagram—Solomon’s Seal

The five-pointed star, the Pentagram, was a symbol of absolute authority to the Sumerian civilization of Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), as early as the third millennium BC. It represented an additional axis or the royal authority reaching out to the four corners of the earth. Later, in classical Greece, it was used as a mystic symbol by Pythagoreans and in early Jewish lore it was associated with Solomon’s Seal, a magical signet ring of King Solomon which gave him the power to command demons and speak to animals. (Confusingly, Solomon’s Seal can also be depicted as a hexagon.)

This Seal of Solomon was revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Indeed an interlinked ribbon version—known as the Seal of Solomon—is used on the Moroccan national flag. Medieval astrologers interpreted the pentagram as a symbol of the five wounds of Christ. However, the symbol dropped out of Christian use, having been co-opted by medieval necromancers and modern witchcraft.

Renaissance occultists made a distinction in the star’s orientation. When pointed upwards the star was good, symbolizing spirit presiding over the four elements of matter. Pointing down it was evil—the sign of the goat of black magic (whose face could be drawn in the star or its beard and horn suggested by the points). Wiccans have adopted the symbol (in its good form) as their emblem, and it is widely used by neo-Pagans, often as a pentacle, within an enclosed circle.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Cultural Literacy: Joseph Stalin

After the historic (and historically disgraceful) events at the United States Capitol building yesterday, I can think of no better time to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Joseph Stalin. N.B. that unlike the preponderance of Cultural Literacy materials posted on Mark’s Text Terminal, this is a full-page (as opposed to half-page) document with six questions. In other words, it is suitable for use as an independent practice (i.e. homework) assignment, or for an in-class guided inquiry with struggling and emergent readers.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Mogul (n)

It’s the Word of the Day at Merriam-Webster, and I was surprised to find I hadn’t already prepared work on it. So here, belatedly, I guess, is a context clues worksheet on the noun mogul. I’ve written the sentences in this document to reflect the meaning of this noun as “a person of rank, power, or influence.”

Don’t forget that this word comes to us from the noun Mughal, which means “an Indian Muslim of or descended from one of several conquering groups of Mongol, Turkish, and Persian origin.” In other words, if you’re teaching globals studies, world history, or whatever your school district names this area of study, this is a word students might need to know.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

United Nations

Now seems like a perfect time to post this reading on the United Nations and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Every person on this planet would benefit, I not so humbly submit, to consider themselves members of the United Nations–all species on earth would similarly benefit, I think.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Multiculturalism

“Multiculturalism: This movement focuses primarily on changing traditional canons throughout the humanities. With the expansion of canonical traditions and exposure of students at all levels to artists, writers, and historical movements previously marginalized in general bodies of knowledge, the next generation is expected to have a better grasp of an increasingly diverse society in a world in flux. In the realm of art in the United States, this has resulted in a greater emphasis on and interest in non-Western art and on works produced in communities without previous access to museum and gallery exposure (e.g. African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, women, gays, and lesbians).”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

2 Hands—10 Fingers

“The prime motivation behind the power of 10 is that you can with some authority recite your list of laws, prophets or gods as you tick off each of your ten fingers from a pair of hands, So the decision to decimate a rebel legion, to take tithe of a tenth of the harvest as tax or to rule for a decade seems logical, absolute, and ordained. The decimal system which now rules our numerical world, our wealth, our conception of time and distance derives from dekm—the Indo-Aryan word for ‘two hands,’ the power of ten.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Salman Rushdie

In memory of Samuel Paty, and in honor of teachers everywhere struggling to promote and conduct free and open inquiry, and as a cautionary tale about religious orthodoxy and extremism across the globe, I offer without further comment this reading on Salman Rushdie and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Ancient Near Eastern Art

“Ancient Near Eastern Art: Collective term for the art of ancient cultures (ca. 3500 B.C. to ca. 650 A.D.) in Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Levant. Some of the most important were Sumerian (Mesopotamia), Assyrian (Mesopotamia, the Levant), Hittite (Anatolia), and Achaemenian, Parthian, and Sassanian Persian (Iran).”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.