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The Round City of Baghdad

8-10 yrs old

11-13 yrs old

14-18 yrs old

History

Reading and Writing

Religion & Philosophy

This map contains the fabled 8th century round city of Baghdad built by students on a massive 1:2 scale with a high degree of historical accuracy.

avatar Submitted By: John Miller

February 5, 2018

Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

External References

The Abbasids’ House of Wisdom in Baghdad

Muslim Heritage: Foundation for Science Knowledge and Civilisation

Story of cities #3: the birth of Baghdad was a landmark for world civilisation

The Guardian. "The foundation of al-Mansur’s ‘Round City’ in 762 was a glorious milestone in the history of urban design."

Islamic Architecture – Abbasid Period

Blog: Islamic Arts and Architecture

The City Of Mansur The Builder. Baghdad Between The Caliph’s Will And Shari’ah Norms

Ana Maria Negoitã. "The Round City of Baghdad was one of the first examples of an Islamic capital, even though its shape remains unique in the history

My Blog Post

More details about the build can be found here.

World Download and Associated Files

Download the world file here plus other helpful artifacts.

Learning Objectives

  • History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. How did Islam develop and change over time? How did Islam spread to multiple cultures?
  • History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. What were the multiple ways people of different cultures interacted at the sites of encounter, such as Baghdad?
  • History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. How did the environment affect the development and expansion of the Persian Empire, Muslim empires, and cities? What impact did this expansion have on the environment?
  • History–Social Science Framework for California Public Schools. How did the Muslim empires and institutions help different regions of Afroeurasia become more interconnected?
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6 Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7 Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8 Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author's claims.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.9 Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.

Guiding Ideas

This map can be used to meet multiple objectives across curriculum and grade levels. Through these varied lenses students can develop a better understanding of course objectives in the social sciences, literacy, mathematics and economics and the sciences.

Round Baghdad was designed for the Caliph, al-Mansur, who founded the city in 763. The circular design was intended to support a series of ringed administrative complexes, but it quickly became filled with common citizens. It stood for approximately two centuries. During this "Golden Age" of Islam, Baghdad was the capital of the Islamic Empire. It was a stop on the Silk Road, contained numerous academic focused institutions known as houses of wisdom and was tolerant of all religions and knowledge seekers. It was, by all accounts, a cultural center.

Within its walls visitors would find religious scholars, astronomers, poets, architects and mathematicians, merchants, musicians, philosophers and historians. It became known as the City of Peace. Situated next to the Tigris River, water was abundant and farmland surrounding the city swelled with new residents.

Students should develop their own questions from exploring this city. Questions from a historical investigation that might arise include:

  • How was Baghdad a cultural/scientific/religious center of the Islamic Empire?
  • How was Islam able to grow and spread from Baghdad throughout the empire and beyond?
  • How did geography determined the location of this city and how did its development and expansion affect the environment?
  • How did sites of encounter like Baghdad influence the growth of civilization?

Guiding ideas and questions from other curricular areas could include:

  • What flora and fauna were present during this period?
  • How did this city influence the creation of 1001 (Arabian) Nights tales?
  • What other examples existed for houses of wisdom around the world?
  • What religious and cultural experiences would you expect to find here?
  • Investigate Abbasid art and architecture. How are its influences present in this city and others today?
  • Although next to nothing exists of the historic city today, how was it represented by visitors at the time?
  • What were the common trading practices and what cultural artifacts might you discover in the multiple marketplaces?
  • Investigate the mathematics of the city. How did the architects approach the challenge. We made every attempt to reproduce round Baghdad on a 1:2 scale. How did we do?

We hope that this map promotes inquiry across all subject areas and is used for more than just historical analysis. We challenge students to uncover the secrets that made the round city of Baghdad the cultural heart of the Islamic Empire.

Student Activities

In my class the emphasis is on historical, written, and oral literacy. Prior to exploring this map, my students examine and acquire content through various sources. This foundational work, or lower level depth of knowledge acquisition, is completed collaboratively in class and assessed by various means.

When I am satisfied that they possess sufficient understanding of the content, we move into primary and secondary reading sources – several are attached to this plan. We conduct close readings, create graphic organizers, and annotate each document. I often incorporate an original story, a work of historical fiction, that takes place in the same time and location to provide a backstory for their leap into the past through Minecraft.

The intent of this map is to provide a place for students to experience the content. In the maps I develop, students live in a historical narrative and explore it on their own terms. They partake of quests, design solutions for problems they encounter, and construct meaning along with physical features and interactions with other players and NPCs.

Minecraft activities specific to my course include:

  • Students research, then role-play a citizen while creating a biographical sketch along the way.
  • Students participant in a market day exchange of trade goods, discovering Silk Road connections.
  • Students examine the three houses of wisdom to uncover topics and generate research questions.
  • Students encounter and interact with NPCs created by other students and by me and complete religious, scientific, and personal choice quests.
  • Students expand the city outside the walls to include farmland communities, the al-Khuld Palace, and bridges across the Tigris.
  • Students write an original story that takes place in round Baghdad to add to 1001 (Arabian) Nights.

Minecraft activities that might apply to other courses include:

  • Use Code Builder to develop the mostly undeveloped land surrounding the city.
  • Add appropriate plant and animal life to the city.
  • Add occupation specific interiors to the many of the buildings.
  • Design and develop waypoints on the roads leading out from Baghdad.
  • Add NPCs throughout the city.
  • Write a series of expository texts to be placed in the houses of wisdom.
  • Create another site of encounter from the time period and link it to Baghdad.

A few writing prompts to consider include:

  • Tell the story of a visitor just arriving in the city from a small village.
  • What are the dreams of a child growing up in this city?
  • You are the architect and al-Mansur is describing his wishes for the proposed city. How do you react?
  • You are invited to a grand reception in the palace under the green dome. Describe your encounters.
  • You uncover a foreign looking very odd object for sale in the market. Describe how it got there.
  • While exploring a house of wisdom, you discover a new book. What is the title and what does it contain?

Performance Expectations

I'm looking for my English learners to make connections, to apply and extend what they have learned and experienced through written and performance assessments. Below are several options that I use based on expected outcomes for the unit. Contact me for specific rubrics.

First person story, often written as a diary entry, covers the material and objectives that include the use of descriptive language and sensory vocabulary, historical details, and original thought.

Dialogue written for NPCs and expository text written and placed in books within the houses of wisdom.

Students use video and collaborate to record their 1001 Nights tales.

For students doing a study of comparative architecture, have them create a portfolio that contains images and descriptions of their creations.

Using mapping software students create an interactive map with Minecraft-themed stops along the Silk Road. Research and build other cities and sites and add student generated video tour clips to them on a shared map.

Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

External References

The Abbasids’ House of Wisdom in Baghdad

Muslim Heritage: Foundation for Science Knowledge and Civilisation

Story of cities #3: the birth of Baghdad was a landmark for world civilisation

The Guardian. "The foundation of al-Mansur’s ‘Round City’ in 762 was a glorious milestone in the history of urban design."

Islamic Architecture – Abbasid Period

Blog: Islamic Arts and Architecture

The City Of Mansur The Builder. Baghdad Between The Caliph’s Will And Shari’ah Norms

Ana Maria Negoitã. "The Round City of Baghdad was one of the first examples of an Islamic capital, even though its shape remains unique in the history

My Blog Post

More details about the build can be found here.

World Download and Associated Files

Download the world file here plus other helpful artifacts.