Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Traveling the Ancient World

Objective: Students examine travel and cultural exchange in the ancient and medieval world and compare it to the present.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4 hours over 4 days

Building Background:
Ask students how and why people traveled the ancient and medieval world. List their responses on the board and offer the following: to trade goods; on religious journeys as missionaries or pilgrims; and to expand their knowledge of the world. Merchants traveled great distances to find goods to sell. Goods such as Roman metalware and wool were carried thousands of miles and traded for Chinese silk, Indian cloth, and Arabian perfumes. People also exchanged ideas and religions, such as Islam, along the trade routes. Explorers traveled unknown parts of the world to learn about unfamiliar places and people, find new trade goods, and spread their religions. The exchange of goods and ideas by people is called Cultural Exchange. Tell students that they will conduct their own cultural exchange as they research and travel the ancient and medieval world.

What To Do:

1. Ask students to research travel long ago by reviewing Chapter 1 of their textbooks or using the resources of your local library. If your class has Internet access, you might explore sites about the ancient trade route called the Silk Road and the many places along the route. Students can search this site:

The Silk Road
Students looking for information on the Silk Road will find it here. This essay describes the rise and decline of the Silk Road. http://www.mrdowling.com/613-silkroad.html

2. Encourage students to focus their research by taking notes on the different methods of travel, such as sailing ships and camel caravans; the various trade routes such as the Silk Road; and the goods that were found throughout the ancient and medieval world.

3. Distribute the Traveling the Ancient World worksheet. Ask students to use their notes to answer the questions and complete the map. To complete the map, students should label important places, draw trade routes, and place symbols of products at locations on the map where they were found or made. Students should also add to the map legend to explain their product symbols. Students can use the maps on pages 36-37 and 303 of their textbooks to help them add places, routes, and products to their maps.

4. Review the role of ancient and medieval merchants, pilgrims or missionaries, and explorers in history. Distribute the Your Own Journey worksheet and encourage each student to choose one of these roles. Students will follow the appropriate instructions for a trade mission, a religious journey, or an exploration.

5. After students have completed their task, have them form small groups. Within each group, ask the students to take turns sharing their roles, missions, and journeys. Help students to focus on how their mission promoted cultural exchange by examining goods and ideas they helped to move.

6. Ask volunteers to offer examples of how they might complete such a journey today. Have students write short essays describing a modern trade route, pilgrimage, or exploration using contemporary vehicles and products. Encourage students to include how these vehicles help them overcome physical features on the map, increase travel time, and promote cultural exchange.

Have the class share how their modern journeys, described in their essays, differed from the mission outlined on the worksheet. Ask students to provide you with examples of modern vehicles and cultural exchange.


Social Studies Center | Houghton Mifflin Social Studies | Unit Activities and Resources
Education Place | Site Index

Copyright © 1999 Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms and Conditions of Use.