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Saturday, April 14, 2007
  Mesopotamia website review
The British Museum has upgraded its online presentation of it's Ancient Near Eastern collections with a teaching website (I do not know when the upgrade was done as I could find no publication date :(

The site (http://www.mesopotamia.co.uk) is aimed at school children, and both simplifies and breaks the material down into very small "chunks". On the whole this works well, but occasionally it is frustrating. The site is visually stunning. However, it was perhaps planned a while ago as the images look very small on a high resolution laptop screen (and sadly there is no facility to enlarge them).

Slingshot stones from Lakish
The information is at beginner level, but could be used to provide tertiary students with an overview and context. I looked particularly at the "Siege of Lakish" section (under "Assyria" and "Warfare"). Detail from the frieze is presented and highlighted by softening the "background", this is most effective, both directing attention but also showing context.

The section works by stepping through the "story", navigation is crude - simply "forward" and "back" arrows with some additional popups - but this helps keep wandering minds from straying. Actually I think this is a shame as it fails to use one great advantage of electronic texts the ability to encourage and facilitate serendipity and exploration.

It is interesting to compare this with other presentations of the topic.

BM Mesopotamia: uses html (with a touch of Flash) to create a visually stunning and therefore engaging introduction to the topic. But it oversimplifies and does not allow (much less encourage) exploration.

The Virtual World Project offers a virtual tour of Tell ed-Duweir (just click on "Lachish"). This is rich and interactive, it begs one to start exploring. It may be too complex for school students - at least as they begin, but you could use the BM offering to get them into the topic. The downside of the "Virtual World" approach is the time and effort - unless they have a bigger version of the images and other resources in their pockets, it is already looking small on a 1400x1050 screen, and will be a pain to upgrade.

Lastly (because in most respects least) my short video (using still photos) on this topic. Uses Windows Media (via the excellent PhotoStory) so a relatively low demand if hi-ish tech approach. It introduces the topic, but like the BM site does not allow or really encourage exploration.

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