Feedback on Exam 1a

Here is the question you were to answer:
Discuss the roles women have played in the following respects: in hunter-gatherer groups, in agriculture, in religion, in law. Be sure to include examples from the reader showing how women's status was reflected in writings about them and about goddesses. Identify specific civilizations you are talking about: do not vaguely say "in ancient times" or "in Mesopotamia." Don't confuse pre-civilized agricultural societies with early civilizations. Be sure to include examples from Egypt. Answers must reflect knowledge of the assigned readings in Reading About the World as well as lectures and Duiker.

Note the word "discuss." This implies more than a brief reference to status: you needed to give concrete examples of as many illustrations as you could.

Most people did OK on the hunter-gatherer groups. Lots of people mentioned the bulbous fertility goddesses, but those who mentioned that these were from the neolithic era got more credit than those who didn't put them in any historical context. (By the way, the word is spelled "buttocks," not "buttox.") Several mistakenly associated them with Sumer. It was especially useful to describe the images you saw from Sumer and Akkad of later fertility figurines like Ishtar and explain their significance. Despite the specific statement in the question that you were not to use the term "in Mesopotamia" instead of specifying Sumer or Akkad in referring to specific writings or gods, quite a few did.

Most people got the point I stressed in lecture about women working in the fields during planting and harvest in the neolithic agricultural villages. Some people mistakenly referred to hunting and gathering in the fields--cultivated fields are a characteristic of agricultural societies, not hunter-gatherer ones.

Since the question specifically directed you to draw examples from your reader, this should have been a high priority. Answers which drew only on that part of the Code of Hammurabi in Duiker got lower grades. Two or three examples of laws concerning women from Hammurabi would have been appropriate, plus some discussion of the legal status of women in Egypt from Duiker and lecture. Lots of people made good use of the provisions regulating women wine sellers, and divorce, though some people mistakenly assigned these to Egypt rather than Akkad. Be careful in taking notes to divide one lecture from another so that when you go back over them you'll know which notes relate to which culture.

You needed to discuss at least a couple of goddesses. Ishtar is an obvious choice for Sumer/Akkad, since she appears in the selection from the Epic of Gilgamesh and you also read a hymn to Ishtar. A few people also mentioned Tiamat or other goddesses, which was more impressive. You needed to give some specifics about these writings, not just mention the titles and say that she was a fertility goddess. Many people misplaced Çatal Hüy¨k as being in Mesopotamia, though Duiker and I both clearly located it in Anatolia (modern Turkey)--far north--and much earlier than Sumer.

Isis was mentioned by some people for Egypt, which is good; fewer mentioned the Hymn to Sekhmet-Bast, though that is the only assigned reading devoted to an Egyptian goddess. Since you had just read it for that day's assignment it should have been fresh in your mind. To get an A you had to include at least one reading from the Egyptian material.

Other relevant writings about women included the Sumerian and Babylonian Proverbs and the love poems from the Egyptian New Kingdom. The best answers included at least one of these. A few enterprising students noted Tiamat's being carved up by Marduk to create the world.

Quite a few people remembered to discuss Hatshepsut, the famous woman pharoah though some people misspelled her name. I didn't expect you to remember how to spell her name, but I did want you to talk about her at least briefly. A few people thought she was Mesopotamian.

Remember, Reading About the World is the core text for this course, not Duiker. Far more people used the reader in their answers than students in past semesters, but there's still room for improvement. I would also like to see more specific images from lectures mentioned.

The aim of a good essay exam answer is not to give the minimal information necessary to be "correct": an essay exam is an invitation to impress the teacher with how much relevant knowledge you have.

Don't bother beginning your essays with an "introduction." Just plunge right in to the essay and write as compactly as you can. Here's a made-up example of a needlessly wordy answer: "Many ancient people in cultures which first invented agriculture worshipped fertility goddesses. They were fat and big-busted and big-hipped. This was supposed to give the idea of fertility." Here is a more compact version which contains more information in far fewer words: "Neolithic fertility figurines like those found at Çatal Hüyük had large breasts and thighs." The second version recognizes that you don't need to say twice that these figurines have to do with fertility; once is enough. It nails the period: Neolithic. And it gives a specific example: Çatal Hüyük. Practice writing essays in advance with a timer to get better at this sort of thing.

If you did not write more than two pages in the twenty minutes you had, you need to prepare more thoroughly next time so you can write more rapidly. If you have a disability which causes you to need more time, consult with Disabled Student Services about qualifying for special help.

For more information on the agricultural revolution, see the Answers to Student Questions about Agriculture.

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