The first trenches that were cut into a 500-acre site

Question

The first trenches that were cut into a 500-acre site at Tell Hamoukar, Syria, have yielded strong evidence for centrally administered complex societies in northern regions of the Middle East that were arising simultaneously with but independently of the more celebrated city-states of southern Mesopotamia, in what is now southern Iraq.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

Sentence Analysis

It is a long sentence, and thus breaking down the structure will greatly help in understanding the meaning of the sentence:

  • The first trenches (Main Subject)
    • that were cut into a 500-acre site at Tell Hamoukar, Syria, (Modifier for “trenches”. Which trenches? That were cut into a 500-acre site)
  • have yielded strong evidence (Main verb – ‘have yielded’)
    • for centrally administered complex societies in northern regions of the Middle East (modifies ‘evidence’. Evidence for what? This part answers the question)
      • that were arising (Logically, ‘that’ refers to ‘societies’. So, this part provides additional info about societies)
        • simultaneously with (This and the below bullet are forming a parallel structure. “arising simultaneously with the city-states” and “arising independently of the city-states”)
        • but independently of
          • the more celebrated city-states of southern Mesopotamia, in what is now southern Iraq.

The sentence essentially says that the given trenches have yielded strong evidence for some societies in some region. The sentence also provides additional information about these societies using a relative clause. These societies arose simultaneously with but independently of some city-states.

The subtle but a bit illogical thing about the sentence is that it says that somethings have provided evidence for the existence of some societies but the sentence provides additional information about the societies as if we already had this information about the societies. By changing the meaning of the original sentence, option E makes the meaning more logical.

Another problem with the original sentence is the use of progressive tense “were arising”. We should use progressive tense only to talk about continuous events happening in a moment of time. We shouldn’t use progressive tense to present general facts or information.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the problems mentioned above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Singular verb “yields” with plural subject “trenches”
  2. Incorrect use of progressive tense as highlighted in the original sentence.
  3. Use of “but also” is incorrect. Since logically we need a contrast here, we need ‘but’.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. “having been cut” is incorrect. “Having verb-ed” is used to present an earlier action to some other action. However, clearly, there is no sequence of actions here.
  2. Incorrect use of progressive tense as highlighted in the original sentence.
  3. We need “with” after ‘simultaneously’ since we say ‘simultaneously with’ and not ‘simultaneously of’.

(D) Incorrect. Please understand here that ‘cut’ is working as a verb-ed modifier, and its use is correct here. Rather, ‘cut’ is a more concise way of saying ‘that were cut’, just as ‘known’ is a more concise way of saying ‘that were known’. This option is incorrect for the following reasons:

  1. Singular verb “yields” with plural subject “trenches”
  2. The subtle meaning problem of the original sentence
  3. We need “with” after ‘simultaneously’ since we say ‘simultaneously with’ and not ‘simultaneously of’.
  4. Use of “but also” is incorrect. Since logically we need a contrast here, we need ‘but’.

(E) Correct. Both the problems of the original sentence have been corrected in this option. This option says that the trenches have yielded evidence that some societies arose simultaneously with but independently of some city-states. This meaning seems more logical than the meaning communicated by the original choice. So, we can see that the correct choice may alter the meaning of the original sentence if the new meaning is more logical than the previous one.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with a score of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at +91 9971 0010 67 or CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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