| Narrative Description
of the Project
I. 1. Rationale and Significance
The civilization of Nubia, which dates back to 4000 BC, provides a rich subject for humanities scholarship. The humanities disciplines of history, archaeology, classics, literature, philology, and linguistics, as well as social science fields such as cultural anthropology are all critical to the interpretation of Nubian history. Ancient Nubia is a dynamic field of study, currently being fueled by ongoing archeological excavations, that can be incorporated into many areas of K-12 curricula in ways that can help strengthen humanities education.
This project is based on long-standing efforts to develop opportunities for teachers and students to explore the history and significance of Nubia. Two institutes were funded by NEH in 1993 (ES-22447-92) and in 1994 (ES-22644-94). The goal of these institutes was to improve humanities education in a set of school systems in Massachusetts and Rhode Island by providing almost 70 elementary and secondary school teachers with opportunities to learn in depth about ancient Nubia and to develop their own curriculum units about Nubia. Both institutes were highly successful (see Appendix F).
(2) Nubia offers a unique opportunity to study the history of an ancient civilization while research and knowledge about it is unfolding, and as new information is being interpreted and presented to the public.
(3) There is an active national debate over the role of Africa in world history that has served to spark public interest in humanities scholarship in this area; this project can lay a solid and objective foundation upon which to continue these discussions.
(4) There has been increased attention to the content of the school curriculum, especially with regard to what constitutes the core body of knowledge that is needed by an educated citizenry in an increasingly global society. This project will promote an increased understanding of diverse cultures, as well as technology literacy.
2. Promoting Technology in Humanities Education: to promote the application of new teaching and learning technologies in humanities education by training teachers to use these new tools and by contributing to the pool of culturally diverse educational materials accessible via these technologies;
3. Reforming Teaching and Learning: to develop a sustained collaboration among teachers, college faculty, museum educators, and parents that emphasizes new approaches to using multicultural educational materials for achieving high educational standards across the disciplines for all children;
4. Fostering Long-term Collaboration and Networking: to create a continuing forum where ongoing scholarship, the renewal of teaching, and school reform efforts can be focused on developing an improved curriculum to make teaching and learning more effective.
The Great Pyramid at Giza, one of the grand monuments of ancient Egypt, was one of the seven wonders of the world. Until the Eiffel Tower was constructed in the 1800's, it was the tallest structure human beings ever built. How the pyramids were built with such precision is still a technological mystery! These monumental structures and much of Egypt's ancient history have long been encoded as significant in the annals of Western civilization. But hidden in most of our references about ancient history were another people and culture-developing, thriving, and competing with the ancient Egyptians. These were the Nubians and the Kingdom of Kush.
The Nubians lived in the territory that is now Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan and appeared at least 6000 years ago. The Nubians were shaped by Egypt, and in turn they influenced Egypt. They built powerful political states, including Kerma, Napata, and Meroe, in the heart of what is now Sudan. They were developers of agriculture, builders of pyramids, innovators in technology, and creators and bearers of significant religious, cultural, artistic, and social traditions. The Nubians were defenders of early Israel and important enough to be mentioned several times in the Bible, and in the writings of such early scholars as Herodotus, the Greek scholar known as the "Father of History". Nubia preceded ancient Greece and Rome, and outlasted them both. Not only was Nubia Egypt's rival in ancient Africa-the Nubians were, in fact, Egypt's rulers for many decades. How is it that we have come to know so well the Egyptians, but know so little about these Black people, the Nubians? How is it that we value the contributions of the Egyptians to world civilization while the contributions of the Nubians remain anonymous, if not invisible? And why have we not traced the lives of these most ancient Black people who have survived for more than six millennia down to modern times?
What has happened in history is not always what gets recorded as "History." This is certainly the case with the ancient Nubians, for their actual history has not been passed down to us. Scientists are often forced to reframe the core body of scientific knowledge in response to new discoveries. For example, according to a NASA spokesperson, new scientific evidence gathered from the Hubble telescope and other satellites requires that we "rewrite the science textbooks." But too often it appears difficult, if not impossible, for scholars and observers of human history and culture to understand how new scholarship and new research might lead to the need to "correct" our historical understanding. Attempts to revise standard history texts and reframe the past in light of new knowledge tend to provoke great controversy.
Our perspective of ancient history and civilizations has focused on the Egyptians, since the rich body of archeological artifacts gave us a clearer view of their civilization than of any other from that period. However, we are now in a position to broaden our perspective of the ancient world thanks to new archeological discoveries in Nubia. A recent Time magazine article (Scott Macleod, "The Nile's Other Kingdom", September 15, 1997) reports that currently "at least 15 teams [of archeologists] from the U.S., Europe and Sudan are sifting through the same sands for secrets of ancient Nubia." (See Appendix G for the complete article). One of our principal consultants, Dr. Timothy Kendall of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, was leading an expedition earlier this year when he discovered clues which may uncover a passage to the temple Jebel Barkal. The passage was closed by an earthquake around 100 or 200 A.D., and therefore the temple may contain artifacts that have been preserved for 18 centuries, and that may lead to insights about Nubian coronation rites and the symbiotic relationship between Nubia and Egypt. Dietrich Wildung, curator of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, told Time that recent archeological findings, such as those of Dr. Timothy Kendall, represent "nothing less than the discovery of a new dimension of the ancient world."
Despite the current outpouring of information about ancient Nubia, recent commentary suggests that we are sorely in need of higher and clearer standards of scholarship and discussion as Nubian history is investigated and interpreted. It seems that the high quality scholarship and recent findings in this field have not yet permeated the broader intellectual community. Harvard's Nathan Glazer, in his recent book We Are All Multiculturalists Now (Harvard University Press, 1997), includes a chapter on "The Rediscovery of Nubia and Kush." But rather than discuss the work of leading scholars in the field, he cites only a New York Times article, choosing to emphasize "political correctness" rather than rigorous scholarship and new scientific findings pouring forth from this region of the world. Discussing his view that "the need for equal respect" of all cultures plays havoc with history, Glazer makes this claim:
Rather than "swallowing up" the study of ancient Egypt, the most recent scholarship and scientific findings about Nubia paint a different picture of the evolution of Egypt than that to which we have become accustomed. In Sudan: Ancient Kingdoms of the Nile (1997), the massive catalogue accompanying an exhibit now touring Europe, J. Leclant writes:
The project which we propose on Nubia will serve all of us well by presenting high quality scholarship on an important African civilization which flourished at the same time as Egypt and was also very significant in the history of the ancient world. As a result of this project, teachers, students, and the general public will be able to explore the epic story of a civilization "as old as historical time itself." Since new knowledge is currently emerging and being interpreted, we are in a unique position to engage teachers and students in the process of historical discovery. The inclusion of Nubia in the field of ancient history can help us both broaden and deepen our understanding of the ancient world. The National Standards for History Education state that "historical memory is the key to self-identity, to seeing one's place in the stream of time, and one's connectedness with all of humankind." Thus the process of "rewriting the history books"-reframing our historical perspective by infusing new knowledge-is a process of deepening our understanding of ourselves.
C. Role of Technology
2. Emphasize content and pedagogy, not just hardware. . . . the development and utilization of useful educational software and information resources, and the adaptation of curricula to make effective use of technology, are likely to represent more formidable challenges [than acquiring modern computing and networking hardware].
3. Give special attention to professional development. The substantial investment in hardware, infrastructure, software and content that is recommended in this report will be largely wasted if K-12 teachers are not provided with the preparation and support they will need to effectively integrate information technologies into their teaching. . . . Teachers should be provided with ongoing mentoring and consultative support, and with the time required to familiarize themselves with available software and content, to incorporate technology into their lesson plans, and to discuss technology use with other teachers.
This project embraces all of the goals in both of these reports. Our use of technology in this project is to support the teaching and learning of the rich content area of ancient Nubia. This project will work intensively with teachers to help them develop curriculum units around Nubia and to integrate resources and activities that are made available via new technologies. We will also facilitate collaboration and communication among teachers, and continue to support them beyond the development phase, as they actually incorporate the curriculum units and technological resources into their teaching.
Telecommunications and networking technologies are playing an increasingly important role in professional development opportunities for educators. The May 1997 ETS report entitled Computers and Classrooms: The Status of Technology in U.S. Schools states:
Educators report a range of incentives for using telecommunications as a professional resource. Networking activities play a critical role in increasing professionalism and relieving the isolation typically experienced by teachers. Teachers view the opportunity to communicate with other teachers and share ideas as one of the major benefits of this technology. Obtaining rapid feedback on curricular issues and other topics of professional interest, and keeping current on subject matter, pedagogy, and technology trends are also important incentives. (p. 44).
NubiaNet, the World Wide Web site that will be developed as part of this project, will take advantage of telecommunications and networking technologies to reach a wider group of educators than we have been able to reach with previous traditional institutes and follow-up activities. This wider audience of teachers, scholars, students, educators in museums and libraries, home-schoolers, and others who want to learn and teach about Nubia will be able to access the most up-to-date research as well as exemplary curricular materials. Participants in NubiaNet will be able to communicate and collaborate with each other. This means that classroom teachers will be able to contact scholars, technology experts, curriculum design specialists, as well as other teachers and students for help designing and implementing curriculum activities related to Nubia. Rather than feeling isolated, teachers will be members of a vibrant on-line community. These uses of telecommunications and networking technologies will help NubiaNet achieve the four primary goals described in section 1A of this proposal: enhancing the knowledge base, promoting technology in humanities education, reforming teaching and learning, and fostering long-term collaboration and networking. Specific uses of the World Wide Web in this project will be discussed in detail in the Project Description.
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