Final Essay Questions

Choose ONE of the following options for your final exam. Answer the question completely in a well developed 8 page essay. You will need to combine lecture, the readings, and outside sources to adequately address the questions. You should cite at least 5 references regularly within the text and prepare a bibliography of references cited. Dr. Fagan’s texts should serve as an excellent introduction and guide to the issues involved in the questions, but only the World Prehistory textbook can count as one of the five sources. The other four should be taken from books and/or articles that you find in the library (web pages may be used, but do NOT count as one of the five sources). You should use the “guide to further reading” section below to begin to identify appropriate additional sources. Begin researching and developing your essay very soon and consult your TA immediately if you have any difficulties.




The search for the origins of agriculture, pastoralism, and settled life forms one of the central themes of anthropological archaeology. This development occurred after the end of the last Ice Age at various times, beginning in the Middle East and North Africa and over the next several thousand years taking place around the world. Some argue that population pressure drove people to begin producing food, others argue for a kind of co-evolution or risk management strategy where slow experimentation resulted in domestication, and finally some suggest that social pressure to produce food for feasting (and other activities that would enhance an individual’s prestige) drove the process. For this paper, compare and contrast two areas where this revolutionary shift in human society happened. Make sure to include a discussion of the logic behind each model, and consider how well each applies to the regions you have chosen. Compare and contrast ONE set of two areas from the following options:

  • South America (the Andes) vs. Mesoamerica
  • Western Asia (the Middle East) vs. China


Archaeologists have identified numerous state-level/complex societies in the past. Some of these include civilizations found in Mesoamerica, South America, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Using Dr. Fagan’s 5 characteristics of a state-level society (see page 200 in World Prehistory) as a framework, choose one of the sets of two civilizations listed below, to compare and contrast. Critically evaluate whether or not each is actually a state-level society. Address the archaeological evidence for each of Fagan’s five criteria when comparing and contrasting the two possible states you have chosen. You do not have to agree with Dr. Fagan’s criteria, but you must thoroughly support your argument as to whether or not each is a state. A complete essay must include a discussion of the factors that led (or possibly did not lead) to the formation of state-level societies in these regions. Again, compare and contrast ONE SET of two civilizations from the following options:

  • Harrapan ( Indus Valley) vs. Mississippian ( Cahokia)
  • Mycenaean vs. Chaco Canyon (Ancestral Pueblo)

Possible Sources and Guide to Further Reading:

  • Scarre, Chris and Brian Fagan, Ancient Civilizations
  • Wenke, Robert, Patterns in Prehistory (RESERVED)
  • Whitfield, Roderick and Wang Tao, Exploring China’s Past
  • Chang, Kwnag-chih, The Archaeology of Ancient China
  • Possehl, Gregory, Indus Age: The Beginnings (RESERVED)
  • Taylour, William, The Mycenaeans (RESERVED)
  • Smith, Bruce, The Emergence of Agriculture (RESERVED)
  • Pauketat, Timothy, and Thomas Emerson (eds.), Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World (RESERVED)
  • Cordell, Linda, The Prehistory of the Southwest (RESERVED)
  • Lu, Tracey, “The Origins and Dispersal of Rice Cultivation,” Antiquity 72 (1998)
  • Pope, K., M. Pohl, et al. “Origin and environmental setting of ancient agriculture in the lowlands of Mesoamerica.” Science 292
  • Bar-Yosef, Ofer, and Anna Belfer-Cohen, “Origins of sedentism and farming communities in the Levant,” Journal of World Prehistory, v. 3, no. 4, 1989

The books indicated will be place on 2-hour reserve at the library.


The standard anthropological format for references within the text is as follows (Silverman 1997:10-20) = (Name Year:Pages). You can treat the lectures as a personal communication = (Stuart Smith, pers. Comm., 2005), although they do NOT count as one of your sources. A References section should appear at the end of the paper, with entries formatted like this:

Kemp, Barry
1989 Ancient Egypt. Anatomy of a Civilization. London: Routledge.



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