Site Offers Portal Back in Time to Five Ancient Civilizations

Article excerpt

Virtual museums abound on the Internet, each offering immediate access to civilizations that may no longer exist but have contributed to our way of life.

One cyber-stop, created through the cooperation of two museums, gives junior anthropologists and archaeologists a chance to explore the beginnings of societies while learning about five mighty cultures dating to 10,000 B.C.



CREATOR: The education departments of the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., and the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta developed the site with technical expertise supplied by Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

CREATOR QUOTABLE: "We created this site originally to enliven the study of ancient civilizations for sixth-graders who were following the social studies curriculum of both New York state and Georgia. In a sense, it began as an on-line field trip. The first lessons were derived from years of experience both museums had had with real children in front of real works of art," says Patricia C. Rodewald, project manager for Odyssey Online.

"From the beginning we wanted children to experience the thrill of looking at and thinking about ancient artifacts and to figure them out for themselves. We wanted history to come alive for these students. Before long, however, the interactive characteristics of the Web itself began to inform the content and lessons. In a lesson highlighting an ancient Egyptian coffin, for example, we were able to show a CAT scan of a mummy and then engage students in `reading' the information the CAT scan provided. Thanks to technology, we could take our Web visitors way beyond a traditional field-trip experience."

WORD FROM THE WEBWISE: Odyssey Online combines the educational might as well as relics from the two galleries into one virtual destination that delves into the Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and sub-Saharan African civilizations.

Visitors to the 4-year-old site will learn quickly that a group's culture is defined not only by its people, but also by their life experiences, the folklore and religion they believed in, their ability to communicate and record their history, and how they viewed the dead.

For each of the five civilizations, icons offer more information on topics such as "People," "Mythology," "Daily Life," "Death & Burial," "Writing" and "Archaeology." When the icons are clicked, pictures of ancient objects, games, definitions, easy-to-read information, audio clips to help with pronunciations, and anecdotal stories are offered.

Information presented is brief, yet substantial enough to provide students with enough key words and concepts to help them conduct further research. From the site's pages, teachers and students can find icons that link to lists of books and other resources and Web sites that provide additional research on any of the subjects covered.

Through a quick peek at the "Ritual and Ceremony" area under Africa, visitors will find information on gods and spirits, divination and healing rituals, and the masks of African cultures. Clicking on the "Gods and Spirits" icon reveals news on the Yoruba, a population of about 10 million people who live in the southwestern regions of Nigeria and Benin and worship a supreme being, Oludumare.

Photographs of museum objects, such as a Greek vase highlighting the life of Hercules, pepper the site and, when clicked, expand in size, allowing a closer look at details while providing a description of the object, where it came from and where it is now. …