Ancient Civilizations Research Paper Topics

When studying ancient civilizations, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans get all the attention. But other worthy ancient cultures make good research paper topics too.

Learn more about the many ancient civilizations. (Credit: Heritage of Japan)

Learn more about the many ancient civilizations. (Credit: Heritage of Japan)

Here are some research paper topics on the early civilizations of Native Hawaiian people, ancient Japan, and ancient Mesoamerica.

Ancient Hawai’i

The populating of the chain of Hawaiian islands is a fascinating research paper topic. Hawai’i is unique in that it is one of the most remote areas of the planet where humans reached and populated. Polynesian explorers used double-hulled canoes lashed with coconut fibers and sails of woven mats to discover the Hawaiian archipelago a thousand years ago. The islands had subtropical weather, rich farm land, abundant ocean life, and natural resources.

Another good topic is to describe the government system in ancient Hawai’i. In A Shark Going Inland Is My Chief: The Island Civilization of Ancient Hawai’i, author Patrick Vinton Kirch wrote: “A distinct class of chiefs depended on and managed a vast population of farming and fishing commoners. An elaborate system of rules and obligations—the kapu system—governed the relationships between the chiefs and people. At the pinnacle of society were the island rulers, ali’i akua (literally, “god-kings”), whose prerogatives included royal incest and human sacrifice. In these practices, the Hawaiian kings resembled the pharaohs of Egypt and the Inca of Peru. Yet Hawaiian culture arose entirely independently in this most remote, most isolated of all places on Earth.”

Ancient Japan

Japan has a long, rich culture with lots of ideas for your term paper. In the Neolithic era, hunters and gatherers sparsely populated the Japanese islands. Around 300 B.C.E., peopled moved out of Korea and other mainland Asian regions into Japan during the Yayoi period. They cultivated rice, fished, raised cows, created pottery, made bronze and iron tools, built ships, and wove silk. With the building of roads by the first century C.E., they had populated most of Honshu and interacted with the northern indigenous Ainu people.

An interesting story is the rule of Queen Himiko during the Yayoi period. Claiming to be a descendent of the Sun Goddess, Himiko was unmarried and ruled the Yamatai kingdom from 183 to 248 C.E. controlling much of Kyushu. She had sent a diplomatic mission to China in 238, and the Chinese admired and wrote about her.

According to “Queen Himiko and the mystery of Yamatai-koku” on the Heritage of Japan website, “Shrouded in mystery, Queen Himiko was said to have controlled the kingdoms by sorcery and magic. She was seldom seen in public and was attended by ‘one thousand attendants, but only one man.’ Although Queen Himiko left the execution of the affairs of state to her younger brother, Queen Himiko very likely held actual power in addition to her ceremonial and religious role. She was guarded by a large army and the Chinese thought of her as a ruler with extraordinary power.”

Ancient Mesoamerica

Many research paper topics can be gleaned from the art, archeology, religion, mathematics, and culture of the ancient Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Toltec, and other civilizations in Mesoamerica. One of the most fascinating elements of Mesoamerica was their hieroglyphic writing style. In “Mesoamerican Writing Systems” at, “The most distinguishable feature of all Mesoamerican scripts is the highly intricate and pictorial form of signs…Visually, Mesoamerican scripts resemble each other, and share many similar glyphs. This is primarily due to the fact that many Mesoamerican glyphs bear resemblance to real objects such as animals, people, natural features, etc., albeit in a stylized fashion….Other times glyphs appear as complex geometrical shapes like circles, rectangles, cross-hatches, etc.”

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Ancient Civilizations.

What other ancient civilizations would make good research paper topics? Share them in the comments.

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