Connecting world cultures

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
The British Museum Timeline of the Ancient World By Katharine Wiltshire The British Museum Press pound;12.99

"I like doing the Greeks," a child once said, "but it's a pity they go backwards."

She had a point. A study of ancient civilisations plunges many children into negative numbers before they have got on top of the nine-times table. Add to that the sheer scale of time involved and the elusive nature of the evidence available and you can see why teachers take a deep breath before tackling chronology. So this is a useful resource for non-specialists.

It features four of the great world cultures - Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome - and spans the period from the dawn of history to the fall of Rome. A 14-page pull-out time chart (pictured here) shows what was happening in each culture at any particular time, while a section at the bottom of the chart highlights key events elsewhere in the world, such as the building of Stonehenge, the flight from Egypt, and so on. The dates are there for those who wish to use them, but the timeline's highly visual approach will help children understand how the different civilisations fit together, even if they haven't got the hang of bc dating conventions.

It is backed up by a 32-page reference book organised around key themes, including rulers, farming and building. Much thought has been given to the layout and a helpful "how to use this book" page gives clear guidance on time conventions and how to navigate the timeline. But, although it seems to be aimed at seven to 11-year-olds studying world civilisations, it is not a resource for primary children to use independently. The language is too demanding and although there are suggestions for further reading, there is no glossary or index. It's a resource for teachers then, rather than for pupils, but as such it is still well worth considering, because of its fastidious accuracy and because it's such a good, visual way of making links and connections with other periods studied.

Dinah Starkey is a teaching consultant and is on the editorial panel for TES Teacher's primary posters

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