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Ancient History

ATAR Year 11

(Sample 2)

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Sample course outline

Ancient History – ATAR Year 11 (Sample 2)

Semester 2 – Unit 2 – Ancient societies

This unit is based on Elective 1: Old Kingdom Egypt, Dynasty 0 to Dynasty 6


Key teaching points


Nature of the society

Chronological and geographical context

  • an overview of the physical environment of ancient Egypt, including the geographic location, and the nature of the environment and its influence on the society

  • a brief overview of predynastic Egypt including the shift from nomadic lifestyle to the advent of farming, domestication of animals and political alignment of towns/villages

  • concept of ma’at (Order vs Chaos; ma’at representing justice and stability)

  • mapping activity – major sites and geographical features (including duality of Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt, plus Red Land and Black Land, the Faiyum and wadis)

  • availability of resources during the Old Kingdom (for example, the Eastern Desert’s importance for access to stone and minerals and Nubia for access to gold)

  • significance of the wadis as early trade routes – access into Sinai, Palestine, the Red Sea, for example Wadi Hamamat

  • overview of chronological context – timeline of predynastic, early dynastic and Old Kingdom periods

  • sources of evidence and problems associated with dating pharaonic rule (rival king lists)

Historical Skills


Overview of the institutions and structures of Egyptian society

Social structure

  • the main social hierarchies – Pharaoh and royal court, nobility, scribes, expert craftsmen and farmers

  • structure of the royal court – Pharaoh’s major and lesser wives, vizier

  • concept of the god-king, development of royal titulary

  • limitations of evidence relating to everyday life

Religious organisation

  • the key features of religion/s, key state gods such as Osiris (consider Osirian mythology) and Horus

  • unique nature of Egyptian religious beliefs such as evolution of prominent gods (concept of syncretism)

  • the role and function of key religious institutions (cult centres, such as Heliopolis in Fifth Dynasty) and religious positions (role and influence of priesthood)

  • beliefs underlying burial practices from pit graves to mastaba, significance of grave goods, Cult of the Dead

  • creation myths and influence on tomb architecture (ben-ben stone)

Political institutions

  • the key features of political organisation – extensive political powers of the pharaoh, role of provincial nomarchs, influence of priesthood on political system at this time

  • unification of Egypt – roles of individual kings (Scorpion Macehead and Narmer Palette, evidence of increased war-like activity at this time)

  • continued political rivalry between Upper and Lower Egypt in early dynastic era

Economic activities

  • the nature and importance of economic activity – agriculture, trade and building programs

  • the organisation of corvee system for pyramid construction

  • economic exchange, for example, evidence of trade and taxation

Task 7: Week 4: Short answer

Historical Skills

  • Chronology, terms and concepts

  • Analysis and use of sources


Ancient historical narrative: Old Kingdom

Evolution of pyramid shape; rise of pyramid building – Third and Fourth Dynasty

  • the significant events and developments of the time-period, the causes of these events and developments, their impact; and the key individuals of the time-period, their role, motivations, contributions and legacy:

  • evolution of pyramid shape from mastaba to true pyramid

  • Sneferu’s three pyramids

  • architectural developments of pyramid building, such as corbelled ceiling, staircases

  • features of the pyramid complex, such as satellite pyramids, causeway, mortuary temple, funerary boats

Decline of pyramid building – Fifth and Sixth Dynasty

  • evidence for the decline of quality, construction and materials used in pyramids; changing economic circumstances

  • changing roles of the god-king; rising power of nomarchs

  • rise of solar cult as reflected in development of sun temples

  • economic and political power of Heliopolitan priesthood as a potential threat to pharaonic power

  • features of sun temples (sacrificial altars, basins – Niuserre’s sun temple)

  • emergence of pyramid texts and significance of this – developing religious beliefs

  • famine stelae of Unas (Fifth Dynasty) as evidence of decline in economic conditions

  • other signs of change in state organisation

  • tomb biographies of Sixth Dynasty officials – Weni and one other, such as Harkhuf

  • major reasons for and evidence of collapse of the Old Kingdom – consider environmental, political, religious and economic factors

Task 8: Week 6: Essay/Extended answer

Task 9: Week 8: Source analysis

Historical Skills

  • Chronology, terms and concepts

  • Analysis and use of sources

  • Perspectives and interpretations

  • Explanation and communication


Significant features of Egyptian society

Investigate one of the following significant features employing an historical inquiry process and the Historical Skills.

  • art in Old Kingdom Egypt

  • role, status and importance of Royal women in Old Kingdom Egypt

  • the family in Old Kingdom Egypt

  • the military in Old Kingdom Egypt

  • beliefs, rituals, and festivals in Old Kingdom Egypt

Task 10: Week 12: Begin Historical inquiry

Task 11: Week 14: Historical inquiry validation essay

  • Chronology, terms and concepts

  • Historical questions and research

  • Analysis and use of sources

  • Perspectives and interpretations

  • Explanation and communication


Key teaching points




Task 12: Semester 2 examination

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