Blogs: History

Located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in present-day Iraq, the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia made remarkable achievements in writing, art, and agriculture. Image of ziggurat

This National Geographic video provides a short introduction. For older students, here’s a John Green Crash Course video with more details. You may also like this interactive map, which shows how Mesopotamian culture developed.

The University of Chicago has an amazing collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, and at their website, you can examine them in depth, learn about what daily life was like, listen to interviews with archaeologists, or even go on a virtual archaeological dig.

At the British Museum’s Mesopotamia site, you can find maps and information about the writing, mythology, buildings, and astronomers from various Mesopotamian cultures.

Ancient Mesopotamia covers geography, religion, economics, clothing, and the achievements of Mesopotamian cultures.

Several different empires existed in region of Mesopotamia, including the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. The Sumerians were known for inventing cuneiform writing. You can see what your monogram would look like in this writing system. They also wrote the first superhero story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and played board games. One Babylonian ruler is famous for creating Hammurabi’s Code, a collection of laws. Ziggurats, large step pyramids like the one shown in the photo, were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians.

If you didn’t find the information that you need, please contact a librarian for more assistance.

The ancient Egyptians get all the credit for pyramids, but they weren't the only ones building these massive structures. Not only did pyramids appear in neighboring areas of Africa, but halfway around the world, the Maya and Aztecs, along with the Toltecs, built stepped pyramids. These pyramids of Mexico and Central America were often used as foundations for temples. This meant they usually had flat tops instead of the pointy Egyptian style. Built at different times thousands of miles from each other, the pyramids of the Old and New Worlds still have some similarites.

infographic of Egyptian and Latin American pyramids

Check out this New Book of Knowledge article for more information about pyramids or try some of the books below. If you want or need any more help, ask a librarian!

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Troy the Musical! put on by the Odyssey Program at PPS’s Hayhurst School. There were laughs aplenty as we were taken through a musical romp starting with the tale of that trickster Eris, goddess of strife, and the Apple of Discord through to demise of Troy with that pesky Trojan Horse. It was a much livelier version than the somber, yet stunning, 1971 classic The Trojan Women.

Though it had plenty of romance, a little less heated than the the 1956 Helen of Troy.

My curiosity piqued I had to some more digging (pun included) with the great archeology information found at University of Cincinnati's Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites and the Troia Projekt of the University of Tübingen, Germany. Most of our written history about siege of Troy comes from Homer’s The Illiad, but that often reads more as fiction with the Grecian Gods often stepping in and taking an active role. The Greeks were often at war, but for the Trojans thia war was epic, and historians tell us how it lasted for over ten years.

The students at Odyssey should be very proud of themselves, for their great singing, comedic timing, and the ability to dance in flippers. Thanks for the glitter, laughs and bringing Homer’s story to life.

 

Ben Franklin was always thinking and exploring new ideas. He was a practical man who invented things that helped make life better.

1. His kite flying experiments to study lighning and electricity are still famous today.

2. He was the first person in America to invent a musical instrument.

He called it the Glass Armonica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lightning rods are still used today on buildings and houses. Lightning rod from the Franklin Institute

 

4. Bifocal glasses allow people to use just one pair of glasses to see thing far away and close up.

5. The Franklin stove kept houses warmer and used less wood than fireplaces.

Ben Franklin invented or improved many other things as well. He never patented any of his invetions or made money from them.

If you want to discover more about Ben Franklin and his inventions watch this

documentary from the History Channel, or ask a librarian.

 

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This video explores the integral role horses played in Nez Perce history and how they relate to the tribe’s culture today.


When researching Native Americans of Oregon, the Oregon Blue Book provides a good introduction to Oregon tribes, and has information on current tribal leaders and the economy of the tribe, plus an overview of the tribe’s history and culture.

Native Languages of Americas provides information about the original inhabitants of Oregon and includes a map of where they were located.

The Northwest Portland Area Health Board provides history and geographical information for the nine tribes that make up its membership.

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians provides information about Oregon tribes and a list of links to their websites, plus information about natural resources, economic development and tribal government for the Cow Creek Band.

Access Genealogy contains an overview of the history Oregon tribes, and links to many tribes' individual websites.

You can also search the library’s catalog, or do an online search for a tribe’s name. Many tribes have their own websites, which contain current information about tribal affairs, and might also include historical material.

If you still need more help, contact a librarian to be sure you get what you need.

Greek and Roman history are subjects that continue to captivate our interests. A large part of this has to do with how much they influence our daily lives in literature, architecture, recreation, government, philosophy, and much, much more.

Even though there are remnants in today’s life, in comparison, life is very different than it used to be. Hour-long baths, arranged marriages, and having your father manage all your business until you are 25-years-old, are just some of the things that were customary then.  Would you be ready for public speaking or to lead an army when you turn 17 like this young adult living in Rome in 73 A.D.?

Life was exciting living in the Roman Empire with gladiators, chariot races, and exotic bath houses. It was a time that gave us great leaders such as Augustus, Nero, Julius Caesar, and Claudius. If you were a Roman leader, who would you most resemble?

There are some similarities to what life was like in Greece and Rome, but still, things were varied. Life could be very different even in places as close as Athens and Sparta. Depending on where you were born, and whether you were a boy or a girl, you could have a very different experience from those youth close by. Play this game from The British Museum that allows you compare the lives of both men and women from these two Greek cities, and learn more about daily life in ancient Greece. Be sure to take the Greek “house challenge” to see where you would find men and women hanging out, and doing what, under the same roof.

THOMAS JEFFERSON

The Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery", as it eventually came to be called, was conceived by Thomas Jefferson. He was dedicated to exploration of the vast territory west of the Mississippi River and learning about the Native Americans who resided there. He wanted to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean and map the topography. Also, he expected the Corps to catalog the flora and fauna they encountered. On the Monticello web site read about Thomas Jefferson's part in funding and planning the Corp's work.

MERIWETHER LEWIS AND WILLIAM CLARK

President Jefferson chose his secretary Meriwether Lewis as the ideal candidate to captain the Corps. Lewis then chose his Co-Captain, William Clark. They had served in the military together and were an ideal team.  Between them, they possessed the skills needed to face the challenges of their incredible journey.

TOUSSAINT CHARBONNEAU

Monsieur Charbonneau is not noted for his popularity with the rest of the Corps or his abilities as a member of the team...it appears that the only contribution of real value he provided was the interpreting services of his wife, Sacajawea. This description of Charbonneau makes it clear he was considered a sort of "necessary evil".

SACAJAWEA

There are many questions surrounding Sacajawea's story that have been controversial. One is the correct spelling/pronunciation of her name and another question is at what age and where did she die? My search for accurate information about these questions and others about Sacajawea led me to the descendants of her tribe of origin, the Lemhi Shoshoni. I found an article researched and published by the Idaho Statesman during the year of the Lewis and Clark Centennial. Tim Woodward interviewed members of Sacajawea's birth tribe. The story of the kidnapping and slavery of Sacajawea and her marriage to Charbonneau make difficult reading. Her life as a member of the Corps of Discovery is but a small piece of her complex history. From the time she was kidnapped, Sacajawea's life was determined by people who were not interested in her happiness but in taking advantage of her talents. Sacajawea probably died due to an illness that may have resulted from the birth of her second child, a daughter named Lissette.

JEAN-BAPTISTE CHARBONNEAU (POMPEY) 

Sacajawea gave birth to Jean-Baptiste during the first winter of the expedition when they were camped at Fort Mandan in North Dakota. William Clark was very fond of the toddler nicknamed "Pomp" or "Pompey". National Geographic Magazine describes the landmarks the Corps mapped and named after Pompey. After the expedition he was provided for by Clark, but never adopted by him. Jean-Baptiste spent time as an adult in Europe but eventually returned to the United States to take up a mountain man lifestyle similar to his father's. The man, who had traveled as a child on one of the greatest explorations of all time, died and is buried in Oregon.

Jean Baptiste-Charbonneau grave site in Oregon.

YORK

York was William Clark's slave and belonged to him from the time both were children. His contributions to the success of the Corps were as valuable as any of the other members. In recent years, letters William Clark wrote to his brother reveal that he did not feel York's "services" with the Corps had any value. He didn't care that York wished to live close to his wife and refused to grant him his freedom. Clark told his brother that if York didn't improve his attitude he was going to loan him to a harsh master. The final years of York's life are detailed by the National Park Service. You can learn how York's position in the 1800's is typical of the complexities of the slave/owner relationship.

SERGEANT CHARLES FLOYD

Sgt. Floyd holds the dubious honor of being the only member of the Corps of Discovery to perish on the journey. This unhappy event took place soon after the Corps embarked on their Missouri River voyage. Flying at Sgt. Floyd's monument is a replica of the 15 star and 15 stripe flag he would have defended for the military. Visit his Sioux City memorial to learn what ended Sgt. Floyd's trek.

SEAMAN

Seaman was a Newfoundland dog and a valued member of the Corps of Discovery. He was purchased by Meriwether Lewis for $20 (about $400 in 1806), perhaps because he had webbed feet and much of the trip was intended to take place by pirogue. Seaman caught small game, entertained the expedition members and provided excellent service at guard duty. There are many theories about what became of Seaman. This version of Seaman's fate is my favorite...and it appears to be based on some historical evidence.  Here is a great photo of a sculpture including Seaman which is located in Fort Clatsop National Park--he is paying very close attention to the flounder rather than his guard duty.

Stanley Wanlass Sculpture with Seaman

WHO WERE THE OTHER GUYS

The rest of the Corps included volunteer members of the U.S. Army and a handful of civilians. They were chosen for the skills they could contribute in carrying out the goals of the expedition and for keeping all members alive and safe. The U.S. Army created a terrific summary of the privates, the civilians, and the boatmen.

 

Can you imagine saying goodbye to almost everyone you know, leaving behind most of your possessions, and traveling 2,000 miles across the country to live in a place you'd never seen? Almost 500,000 people did just this, packing mostly supplies they would need for the journey into covered wagons, and traveling along the Oregon Trail.

The trail started in Missouri, and then went through what is now Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. History Globe shows an 1843 map of the trail, featuring "Unorganized Territory" (land with no government) and "Oregon Country" (what is now Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and part of Montana and Wyoming). The map will make more sense when you click on the  "modern map" link! The Trail Tour section of the website provides information and images about various stopping points along the trail.

History comes alive when we learn about events through people and their stories. The OrgeonTerritory and its Pioneers is a gold mine for learning about these stories and what life was like on the trail. The website itself is a pioneer on the Internet, started in 1989. It looks much different than websites that you are used to browsing, but don't let that that keep you from exploring. It is packed with great information. Take a look at the section called "The Journey'" to learn about daily life along the trail. Oregon Trail 101 features some amazing pictures of wagon trains and emigrants. Check out Emigrant Diaries and Journals to learn what people who traveled the trail thought about their experience.

The Oregon and California Trails Association is another great resource for learning about the people who crossed the Oregon Trail. The Peoples and Places section of the website shares emigrant profiles and trail stories.

Want to take a break from your research and play a game? Actually, you don't have to! The Oregon Trail lets you research while you are playing a game. See how you would have fared on the trail and learn about some of the hardships that those who crossed it faced. This game has been around since the 1980's, so check in with your teacher and family to see if they played the game when they were your age. You can either play the early version of the game online, or download an app. Besides the game, the website shares information about daily life along the trail.

Want to learn more about the Oregon Trail? Just ask a librarian !

Discover some of the ancestors of peoples now living in modern day Mexico to Peru from these websites and books about the Aztecs, Incas and Mayans.  Map of Mesoamerica, Aztecs, 14th-15th centuriesMap of Mesoamerica, Maya

 

The British Museum in London has artifacts from around the world, representing people, places and cultures from the past two million years. The museum has short introductions to Aztecs, Incas and Mayans. Click on photos to find out more about that object and its importance.

 

Scroll down the page of The Civilizations of Ancient Mesoamerica to read about the history and culture of ancient Mexicans. Visit The World of the Ancient Mayans for more information.

Map of Latin America, Inca Empire, 15th century

 

Have fun exploring The Sport of Life and Death: the Mesoamerican Ballgame. Not only can you learn about the world's first team sport, you can get quick info about each culture and the time periods. Test your knowledge as you play a game (no sacrifices involved). Check out the video below about the rubber balls used for the game and see an example of how a version of the game was played.

If you want or need more help, contact a librarian. We're just a click away!

After the Revolutionary War, the new country had to decide how to govern itself.  The Continental Congress wrote the Articles of Confederation in 1777. This document gave the new individual states power and put in place a weak central government. The Library of Congress has an easy to read timeline for the Articles of Confederation. This new system created lots of problems, and in 1787 all the states except Rhode Island sent delegates to Philadelphia to fix the Articles. Instead they wrote an entirely new document called the Constitution of the United States.

The Constitutional Convention changed the future of the United States. The delegates decided that their work must remain a secretThey argued and they compromised and they created the three branches of government still in use today.

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If you want to know more contact a librarian.

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