Michael Wood explores the history behind some of the most well-known myths in the world. He traces the history of the story of the Queen of Sheba and chronicles the different versions of the legend that exist in various cultures. This 3,000-year-old story is referenced directly in the Hebrew Bible and the Muslim Koran. The people of Ethiopia believe that the Queen of Sheba is the reason they possess the Ark of the Covenant. Wood's long journey through the Red Sea Region documents the historical aspects of the story of the Queen of Sheba.
Language Arts, Mythology, World History, Religion, and Geography
Students will be able to:
- Participate in a brainstorming session and class discussion where they share what they know about the story of the Queen of Sheba and the basic characteristics of myths.
- Practice map reading, interpretation, and plotting skills along with their knowledge of geography to discuss the historical and cultural aspects of the story of the Queen of Sheba.
- Utilize a graphic organizer to compare how different cultures describe the Queen of Sheba and continue to incorporate this myth into their storytelling and religious beliefs.
- Conduct research from other primary sources to learn more about how the cultures represented in the film continue to pass on the story of the Queen of Sheba as part of their cultural and religious teachings.
- Produce creative projects about the Queen of Sheba and present their work to the class.
Relevant National Standards from Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) available at http://www.mcrel.org
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.
The World in Spatial Terms
Standard 1: Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools
Standard 2: Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment.
Places and Regions
Standard 4: Understands the physical and human characteristics of place.
Standard 5: Understands the concept of regions.>
Uses of Geography
Standard 17: Understands how geography is used to interpret the past.
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes.
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand a variety of information texts.
Listening and Speaking:
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Thinking and Reasoning:
Standard 3: Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying similarities and
Working With Others
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.
Approximately two 90-minute or three to four 45-minute class periods
- Internet access
- Photocopies of maps for the Red Sea Region
- Graphic Organizer Worksheet
- Television/VCR/DVD to view the "Myths and Heroes: Queen of Sheba" episode (Visit PBS Shop for ordering information)
- Access to Internet and library resources for the completion of project research
- Assorted art/craft supplies and multi-media presentation software for creation of projects (optional depending on the type of project assigned by the teacher)
Assumed Student Prior Knowledge
Students will need to have a basic understanding of the terms myth and legend. They will also need to understand historical references such as B.C. as it is used many times to create a timeline of events. Knowing that the Ark of the Covenant is a box that reportedly contains the marble tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai is also important to student understanding of Sheba's importance in the religious world, particularly in Ethiopia.
- Create student interest by accessing the "Myths and Heroes" section of the companion
website at "http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_four_sheba.html". View the video clip of Michael Wood's visit to Jerusalem so
students can be introduced to the various ways that The Queen of Sheba has been
portrayed and viewed in various cultures.
- Facilitate a short discussion about what students already know about this particular story.
Ask them to provide as many details as possible. Record this brainstorming on the board
or overhead so all students can see what has been contributed.
- Distribute a copy of a map of the Red Sea Region such as the one available at
, point out
the countries that will be the focus of the story of the Queen of Sheba. Discuss the general
geography of the area so students can understand why Sheba's empire was considered so
rich. Have students keep the map for future reference and use while viewing.
- Using the What is a Myth link on the companion website at http://www.pbs.org/mythsandheroes/myths_what.html, discuss some
of the basic characteristics of a myth including ideas such as:
- myths are passed down for many years
- myths are often changed to reflect the culture of the people telling the story
- myths have certain characteristics and types of characters that make them memorable stories
- myths can be changed over time as a result of the growth of new civilizations, globalization, and a greater understanding of the physical world
- myths originate from many different cultures but have common themes
- Distribute the Graphic Organizer Worksheet and explain that students will be using this to
compare the various stories each culture has regarding the Queen of Sheba. Direct students to
make note of details about the Queen of Sheba story as it is told in each different culture
represented in the film.
- As a class, view The Queen of Sheba episode. While viewing, have students:
NOTE: Stop the film at regular intervals to allow students to record details related to Sheba as
she is portrayed in each of the cultures presented in the film and for students to
correctly map the various areas visited by Michael Wood as he searched for the history
of the Queen of Sheba.
- Once viewing is complete, have students compare how the different cultures followed in the
film regard the Queen of Sheba by discussing the information recorded on the Graphic
Organizer Worksheet. It may be helpful to provide students with a copy of Michael Wood's
article "The Queen of Sheba," to assist with this discussion. The article is available at
- Discuss Michael Wood's journey to search out the history of Sheba and her empire. Facilitate
a discussion about the map including questions such as:
- How could the growth of civilizations and the geography of the area have influenced how Sheba was viewed in these countries as the myth was passed down over time?
- In the story, Sheba was a wealthy, powerful woman who ruled a vast, rich empire. On the map, discuss the area that could have been her kingdom and why it would have been considered rich at that time in history.
- While the countries of the Red Sea Region are close to one another, their stories about the Queen of Sheba and her significance in the culture and religion varies greatly. Discuss some geographic reasons for these variances.
- Using additional resources such as those listed in the "Related Resources" section below,
have students conduct research about the story of the Queen of Sheba in the Israeli,
Arabian, or Ethiopian culture. Students should create a project that represents the role of the
Queen of Sheba within the culture. Encourage students to use creative means to share what
they have learned including art (collage, drawing, painting), music (a song), poetry, or
multi-media (a PowerPoint type of presentation) to provide the class with details about:
- Sheba's physical characteristics
- Sheba's personality
- Sheba's role in religion
- Sheba's relationship with Solomon
- Sheba as a ruler/leader
- Other interesting information/details about Sheba
- Once projects have been completed, students should share their work with the class by
explaining artwork, performing songs, reading poetry, or presenting their PowerPoint show.
When making presentations, students should clearly indicate which culture they are
representing before beginning.
- Students could receive participation scores/grades for involvement in class brainstorming and
- Students could receive completion or accuracy grades for their work on the Graphic
Organizer Worksheet and completion of the mapping activity of Wood's travels.
- Students should receive individual grades on the creation and presentation of their individual
projects based on a scoring guide created by the teacher or the class.
- Students could complete self and peer evaluations to assess the quality of their individual
projects and provide one another with feedback about the content and presentation of these
- View portions of the 1959 Hollywood movie Solomon and Sheba and discuss how the
modern American version of the story differs from what has traditionally been passed down
in the Arab and African versions of the story.
- Examine the role of Sheba as a powerful woman. Compare and contrast her qualities and
characteristics to the strong women that appear in the ancient myths of other cultures.
Discuss the role of women in mythology, particularly as they appeared in leadership roles.
In Search of Myths and Heroes PBS companion site to the program
The Story of Africa: Christianity
Makeda: Queen of Sheba
Africa: Explore the Regions: Ethiopian Highlands Folkore
Wonders of the African World: The Holy Land