Strata: Portraits of Humanity, Episode 13, “Syracuse 3D Reborn”

StrataImage-webThe latest entry in the video news-magazine series Strata:  Portraits of Humanity, produced by AntiquityNOW’s partner, Archaeological Legacy Institute, offers a feast for the eyes. It captures in astonishing dimension and detail the glorious city of Syracuse, in its time the epitome of Greek enterprise, art and culture.

Syracuse, Italy, founded by the Corinthians in 733 BC, was the birthplace of poets and thinkers and visited by many prominent figures of Greek culture.  Syracuse became one of the most influential Greek cities of the Mediterranean.  Nonetheless, Syracuse never has received the attention it deserves either in scientific literature or in the mainstream.  Addressing this problem, a virtual archaeology project aims at the overall digital reconstruction of the core district of Greek Syracuse and the production of a documentary entitled Syracuse 3D Reborn.

Strata: Portraits of Humanity is a monthly half-hour video series available online and on select cable channels. Strata is a showcase for unique and diverse stories about the world’s cultural heritage. Stories come from across the globe with segments produced by Archaeological Legacy Institute and dozens of producer and distributor partners around the world.

Click on the image below to view the program on The Archaeology Channel and scroll down to see the curriculum developed by AntiquityNOW to accompany this episode’s video.

Strata November 2015

Lesson Plans


  • To introduce students to the concept of how cultures evolve through conquest, colonialism and other influences
  • To realize how humans shape their environments to reflect their beliefs and cultural values
  • To appreciate how cultures put their unique imprint on the cities they build


  • To imagine past lives and appreciate how circumstances of the times influence behavior, mores and values
  • To think critically about why people thought and behaved the way they did in the past and how those same behaviors continue to exist today
  • To view a recreation of an ancient site such as Syracuse and appreciate the ingenuity, technology and artistry of the people who built it
  • To comprehend how the architecture of the past has resonance today

Lesson Plan #1

Project Idea #1 

  • The Greeks colonized much of the known ancient world through trade, influence and conquest. Colonization, imperialism and colonialism are terms that describe the takeover of one culture by another. Read more about these terms in the links below.
  • Read about the difference between colonialism and imperialism here.
  • Read about the ancient and modern concepts of colonization v. colonialism here.
  • Read about colonialism and its legacy here.
  • Read about the effects of colonialism
  • Group Discussion: Colonialism and colonization are practices that spark a great deal of argument as to their legitimacy, abuse of human rights and long-term consequences for all involved.
    • Discuss the different terms listed above.
      • What are some of the reasons people seek to occupy other lands?
      • What are the ways that people justify their actions?
      • What if the country in question of being occupied was governed by people who were slaughtering their citizens who didn’t agree with their way of governing? Jailing people who had a different religion? Using children as part of a labor force?
    • Hypothetical: You live in a country that is landlocked, and have to pay to use the roads of your neighboring countries to get to the sea. Your neighboring countries are not as technically advanced as your country, and are seen as often superstitious and primitive. Your people have taken a land that was mostly desert and mountains and after many centuries built cities and towns, paved roads, irrigated the land, developed a lively cultural scene and created a government that works well. However, your resources are running low as the population thrives, and having direct access to the sea would ensure your long-term survival by allowing maritime trade. Also, you believe that taking a neighboring country that is not being used well and influencing a people with backward ideas would be to everyone’s benefit. Separate into two groups, one in favor of colonialism, the other opposed. Make a list of arguments for your position. Debate the question in class.
      • Remember, in a debate you are taking a certain position and challenging each oppositional point in order to explore all sides of an issue. You don’t have to agree with the point of view you were given, although you have to argue as if you do. Review the resources below for help in planning your presentation.


Project Idea #2

  • Group Project: Syracuse had intricately constructed buildings and temples, and was strategically designed to function well because of its layout. Importantly, its majestic appearance built a sense of culture and pride of place for its people.
  • Split into groups with at least four people each. Each group will create the four constructions or depictions as described below. Consult as you go along so your different ideas will be compatible, and present to your class your final concepts.
    • Design your own town. You can use ideas from the 3D video of Syracuse or from pictures of other ancient cities, or you can create your own culture. (See AntiquityNOW’s description of The Culture Project below for inspiration.) You can draw the town or construct it out of cardboard or other material. You can even use a software program such as Minecraft.
    • Design your own temple(s). It can be based on Greek mythology, or click here for ideas about creating your own pantheon of gods and goddesses and building temples to reflect the attributes of these deities.
    • Draw methods of transportation by sea and land.
    • Draw the people:
      • Are there social classes? How can you tell from a person’s appearance that this is the case?
      • What are the different professions? What clothing distinguishes these people?
      • What does a family look like? Do people live in separate houses with members of the same familial group or are there clans or other groupings?


The Culture Project

A Group Activity in Imagining a New Culture


Culture comes from the way people decide to do things. A given group of people decides to worship a certain way, dress a certain way, have certain customs and rituals, and create a distinctive lifestyle.  All these things added together compose the culture of a people.

The creation of a culture comes about over the course of many years, and really never stops as long as that culture exists.  Habits and social behaviors are always adapting and changing.

What is fascinating to think about is how a culture began.  Why were certain customs adopted? What is a people’s view of God, the universe, of human existence? Why do different people have so varied lifestyles and mythologies?


This exercise is about creating your own culture from your very own imaginations.  As a group you will figure out who you are as a people. Using storytelling, artwork, your own made-up music and other imaginative elements, you will form your own tribe and describe who you are to the rest of the students.

Let’s go through some steps in thinking about what kind of culture you want to create.

  1. First, we must look to how a people survive in an environment. People who live in a very cold climate have different lifestyles than those who live in a tropical environment.  The tools they use, the food they eat, what they wear, their method of transportation, how they tell time, whether they are farmers, warriors, etc…these are just a few examples of how different cultures vary.
  2. How does your environment affect your lifestyle? Look around.  What do you see?  If you are in a frigid environment, what colors do you see?  What materials will you have to make, for example, clothing and cookware?  What if you live in a jungle?  How do the resources here change the way your culture lives?
  3. Use your environment to determine the aspects of your culture from the colors, textures and sights you see to the sounds you hear, the foods you eat and the animals that surround you.


For your group project describe the following:

  • The name of your people—what do you call yourselves? What is the meaning of your name (e.g., people of the eagle)?
  • The mythology of your creation—who created your people? How did your ancestors come to live on this earth and in this environment?
  • Your environment—what is the terrain and climate? How does this affect how your people live and the cultural behaviors and customs?
  • Language—start with naming items that are universal, such as parts of the body and common trees, plants and animals in your environment. Make up words that represent nouns and verbs. As your vocabulary becomes more complicated, you may want to add adjectives, nouns and prepositional phrases. Think about the kinds of things people need to communicate to others.
  • How do you record your language? Is it through an alphabet or hieroglyphics?  Write a simple list of vocabulary words.  Make up a few sentences to show the other students how your language works.
  • What are the symbols that tell others who you are (e.g., eagle to represent your name, people of the eagle)? How do you use these symbols in your tribe (e.g., ritual items, clothing, decorative objects such as jewelry).
  • What kinds of tools do you have? What are they used for?
  • What is the architecture of your city or village? Why does your dwelling look the way it does?  What role does your environment play in the building of your homes?
  • What kind of music is heard in your village? What kinds of sounds do you make to create music? Does your music have a tune, a rhythm, a beat? How does your environment influence your music?
  • What is your religion? What are the rituals and practices? How does this tie in with your creation mythology?
  • What do you look like? What is the color of your skin and eyes? What does your hair look like?  How does your environment affect your physical nature?
  • How do you dress? Describe the materials and decorations you use.
  • What are the roles of men, women and children? Do you have family units of parents and children or extended units of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.?
  • Do you have different groups of people in your tribe such as are the military, artists, priests, slaves, etc. How do these different roles work together to benefit the tribe?
  • Do you have enemies? What do you do to protect yourselves?
  • Do you trade in goods? How has your tribe changed with the introduction of new people with new ways? Or do you just trade with tribes of people of the same culture?  Explain how your tribe is influenced by your trade practices.
  • Are you proud of your culture? Why?
  • What role does memory play in your culture? Do you want others to know about your culture in the years or even centuries to come? How do you make sure that happens?
  • Under what circumstances would others want to destroy your culture? What would you need to do to protect your culture?

Have fun!  It’s all in your imagination!

Project Idea #3

  • The modern world is indebted to Greek architecture for its form, function and aestheticism.
  • Research the components of Greek architecture.
  • Compile pictures of modern buildings that have Greek influence and produce a slide show or picture book with annotations describing the ancient-modern connections.


Web links:

College of Global Studies, Arcadia University

Institute for Archaeological and Monumental Heritage, Italian National Research Council

Siracusa 3d Reborn: The first 3d theater about Ancient Greece

Syracuse (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Syracuse: History (Livius)

Syracuse, Italy (Wikipedia)

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