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Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
Mesopotamia (Revised)
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Mesopotamia (Revised)


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Art history of the Sumerians and successor states.

Art history of the Sumerians and successor states.

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  • 1. Mesopotamia and the Near East The Roots of Western European Culture
  • 2. Location of Mesopotamia
    • Meant “Between Two Rivers”: The Tigris and Euphrates
    • Empires: Sumeria followed by Akad then Assur (Assyria)
  • 3. Neolithic: The Fertile Crescent
    • Fertile Crescent: starts at Levant (E. Mediterranean Sea; some would extend it to Egypt),
    • Upward into Turkey and Syria;
    • Then down to Iraq and Iran.
  • 4. Near Eastern Neolithic
    • Mesopotamia was too dry to sustain local agriculture
    • Neolithic began in the Fertile Crescent, comprising
    • The Levant (eastern shore of the Mediterranean
    • Taurus Mountains of Turkey
    • Zagros Mountains of Iran
  • 5. Wild Ancestors of Domesticates
    • The Fertile Crescent was the natural habitat of
    • Wild ancestors of domesticated plants
    • Wheat --Legumes (peas and beans)
    • Barley
    • Wild ancestors of domesticated animals
    • Cattle --Pigs
    • Sheep --Goats
  • 6. Domestication Processes
    • “ Founder” plants were domesticated 9000-7000 BC
    • Grains (3) : Emmer and einkorn wheat, rye
    • Legumes (5): Lentils, peas, faba beans, chickpeas, bitter vetch
    • Flax for oil and fiber
  • 7. Abu Hureyra: Domesticates
    • Location: Euphrates Valley in Syria
    • Shift from wild to domesticated species (left)
    • Bone count shows shift from gazelle to sheep and goat bone count around 6500 BC
    • Cattle and pig bone increases as well
    • Grain and legume remains also increase
  • 8. Abu Hureya: Other Developments
    • Housing: rectangular mud brick (artist’s conception)
    • Site of Abu Hureyra (lower left)
    • Clay: There were containers, but no fired pottery
    • Evidence of trade:
    • Cowrie shells (Mediterranean)
    • Turquoise (Sinai)
    • Obsidian and other crystalline stone from Turkey
  • 9. Abu Hureyra: Decline
    • Abandonment: 6000 BC
    • Factors
    • Arid conditions precluded farming
    • Pastoralism (herding) more viable in a grassland environment
    • Likely scenarios
    • Migration to the Zagros Mountains as herders
    • Movement to the upper part of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
  • 10. Mesopotamia: Introduction
    • Meaning: From the Greek, “between two rivers” (Euphrates and Tigris)
    • Location: southern strip of land between the Euphrates and Tigris River
    • First villages formed in northern Meso-potamian floodplain about 6000 BC
    • Seasonal rainfall sustained agriculture
    • Communities comprised several houses with roof entrances
  • 11. Sites of Mesopotamia
    • This map shows Eridu Ur and Uruk in south in Sumer
    • Sources of many structures, (ziggurats), technology (wheels, metallurgy) and gods
    • Babylonia (Babilonia) to the northwest
    • Home of the lawgiver Hammurabi
  • 12. The Gods of Mesopotamia: I
    • Anu : The father of the gods; god of heaven (above left)
    • Adad: the rain god, and of storms
    • Dumuzi (Tanmuz): God of vegetation and the Underword; Husband of Ishtar
    • Ishtar (Innana): Goddess of love, fertility, and war; Queen of Heavan; Nemesis of Gilgamesh (lower left)
  • 13. The Gods of Mesopotamia II
    • Apsu: God of the primeval sweet waters
    • Ea: God of wisdom and patron of the arts
    • Enlil: God of earth, wind, and air (aka Marduk in later cultures)
    • Ninhursag: Mother goddess, creator of vegetation; wife of Enlil
    • Nisaba: Goddess of grain
    • Skanash: God of the sun, judge, and law giver; god of wisdom
    • Sin: Goddess of the moon
  • 14. The Epic of Gilgamesh I
    • Gilgamesh represents a theme of the enjoyments of life That ends sooner or later
    • Gilgamesh is one-part human, two-part god, blessed with beauty and courage
    • When he spurns the love of Ishtar (the Queen of Heaven) and kills the Bull of Heaven, (upper left)
    • He is punished with the loss of his dearest (male) companion, Enkidu (depicted above right)
  • 15. Epic of Gilgamesh II
    • Gilgamesh then goes on a quest for everlasting life
    • When he finds a plant that promises everlasting life, a serpent snatches it away (Left)
    • He is left with a vision of death, a “house of dust,” and a place of inescapable sadness
    • The snake recurs in the Book of Genesis and leads to the Fall of Man
  • 16. The Prevailing Theme: Enjoyment and Despair
    • Michael Wood: The theme dominates the history of Iraq
    • The video shows how the theme of greatness followed by disaster recurs throughout Mesopotamian/Iraqi history
    • Another theme: constant warfare
    • Much of the art emphasizes battles, symbolic lions, and other manifestations of war.
  • 17. Ubaid Era (5300-4100 BC): Overview
    • The population shifts from northern plains to southern river valley
    • The Area lacked:
    • Sufficient rainfall for dry (nonirrigated) farming
    • Plants and animals capable of domestication
    • Even usable stone and metal ores
    • Despite it all, by 4500 BC, towns and public buildings dotted the countryside
    • Irrigation sufficient to support a nonfarm population
    • Shrines and then temples emerged
  • 18. Ubaid Era: Main Attributes
    • Spread of irrigation canals
    • Construction of temple complexes
    • A monochrome pottery design
    • Triangles, grids, zigzag lines were common (upper left)
    • Less decorative than the polychrome Halafian pottery originating in Syria
    • Ceramics made on slow-turning potter’s wheel
    • For lack of workable stone and metals, tools were made of fired clay (notice ceramic sickles, lower left)
  • 19. Eridu (5000-3100 BC)
    • Most of the early structures at Eridu were residential
    • Later, public and ritual centers were erected
    • At its peak, population was 5000
    • In one site, a series of shrines were constructed, one over another (diagram, upper left)
    • Earliest, dated 5000 BC, was a simple shrine
    • By 3000 AD, a ziggurat was constructed in the form of a 200 yard square enclosure
    • Unidentified God statuette at Eridu (lower left)
  • 20. Social Stratification: Eridu
    • Little sign of the extreme social differentiation that was to come
    • No elaborate funerary complexes found in this period
    • No sign of a single ruler dominating Sumeria
    • This city was the prototype of the city-state organization that was to come ( reconstructed ziggurat of Eridu)
  • 21. Uruk Period (4100-3100 BC)
    • The first city, Uruk with a population of 10,000
    • Overshadowed by the Anu Ziggurat and later the White Temple
    • Named after the principal god Anu
    • Like Eridu, constructed over earlier shrines
    • The White Temple was constructed over the Anu Ziggurat
    • Both temples entailed massive manpower inputs—7500 man-years alone
    • Structures separated priestly residents from the populace
    • Walls were constructed in Early Dynastic Period (3100-2370 BC)
  • 22. Ziggurat: Structure
    • Note the stairs and levels of the Ziggurat at Ur
    • For details of design, see pp. 56-57
  • 23. Uruk and Vicinity: Technology and Trade
    • Pottery
    • Fine design of Ubaid gave way to crudely made utilitarian objects (upper left)
    • Plow was invented with a metal tipped wooden blade
    • Far more productive than the digging stick
    • Agricultural base diversified
    • Wheat, barley, flax, dates
    • Cattle raising and fishing
  • 24. Uruk and Vicinity: Trade
    • Resource poor itself, Sumeria relied on trade
    • Main routes: the rivers (especially the Euphrates) and overland east-west
    • Products imported
    • Persian Gulf
    • Precious metals and stone: gold, silver, carnelian, lapus lazuli, onyx, alabaster
    • Textiles, skins, and ivory
    • Timber
    • Northern regions: copper
  • 25. Uruk: Writing and Accounting, A Five-Step Model
    • Main source: Denise Schmandt-Besserat: Before Writing: From Counting to Cuneiform
    • Step 1, 9000 BP: 16 basic shapes, geometric, animal, or pottery jar forms;
    • Top of graphic: Seal form (upper right) depicting cattle (upper left)
    • Step 2, 6000 BP: 300 forms with varied markings (e.g.., distinctions between raw and finished materials)
  • 26. Final Steps of Writing and Accounting
    • Step 3, 5500 BP: Bullae, or clay envelopes covering and indicating the tokens inside (upper left; this indicated oil)
    • Step 4, 5200 BP: Flattened tokens to indicate kind and amount of commodities recorded
    • Step 5, 5100 BP: Information recorded on clay tablets using cuneiform, or ideographic wedge-shaped, markings (see lower left)
    • This clay tablet indicates the sheep and goats owned by someone in Mesopotamia
  • 27. Writing and Accounting: Refinements
    • Number of symbols
    • Early texts: 1500 symbols
    • One-for-one relations with commodity
    • Thus, one symbol represented wheat, another for chariot, a third for copper ingot or block
    • Later texts: 750 unique symbols
    • Advantage: Increased the control by administration of products and people
    • System was still cumbersome
    • Elements could be combined but not in the way we can
    • Cuneiform is not alphabet-based
    • Want to see your name in cuneiform? Log on to and follow instructions
  • 28. Early Dynastic Period (3100-2370)
    • City states dominated Mesopotamia
    • 10-15 were present various times
    • Uruk itself increased to 50,000 inhabitants
    • Defensive walls were constructed
    • Monarchs became independent of temple rule
    • City states rose and fell
    • Uruk: Challenged by other city states around 2700 BC
    • Ur: Located 75 miles away, became Uruk’s principal economic and military rival
    • Bands of highwaymen, possibly pastoralists, raided the merchants en route
  • 29. Ur
    • Site of the “Royal Cemetery” uncovered by Sir Leonard Woolley, English archaeologist
    • Site contained chariots, headdresses, lyres, jewelry
    • Classic example: lyres with bearded bull (upper left)
    • The blue is constructed from lapis lazuli crystals
    • Lower graphic is a typical Sumerian theme: animals with human faces
    • This comes from the front panel of a lyre
  • 30. Evidence of Extreme Stratification: Burials
    • Sir Leonard Woolley unearthed 2500 burials
    • Fewer than 20 were of royalty
    • Queen Shub-ad (upper left) was lying on a bed accompanied by female attendants
    • 2 wagons drawn by oxen driven by male servants backed down into entry ramp
    • 59 bodies, mostly female, were on the ground near the tomb
    • All retainers were lavishly bedecked with crafted elements
    • Oxen dispatched, then all in the party consumed poison
    • Lyre with bull’s head (lower left) was associated with the Good Queen
  • 31. Lower Class Graves
    • Of the other graves in the site
    • A large number contains modest quantity of goods
    • A far larger number contain none at all
  • 32. Akkad
    • First of the empires that consolidated city states’
    • Sargon I led the expansion (Upper left)
    • Detail from Victory stelae from Susa (lower left, see also larger graphic on p. 63)
    • Irony: a stela intended to celebrate Akkadian victory actually documented their defeat
  • 33. Lagash
    • Lagash, ruled by Gudea, succeeded Akkad
    • Gudea drew a temple plan from a vision of the gods (upper)
    • Lower: Gudea with temple plan on his lap
    • Represents a model of the inspiration of heaven on earth through Gudea as a channel
  • 34. The Ziggurat of Ur: A Contrast with Egypt’s Pyramids
    • The ziggurats became ritual and administrative centers
    • The massive structure was intended to inspire awe among the subjects
    • The pyramids were to be eternal homes of the pharaohs
    • Ziggurats were built in states; pyramids were not
    • Egypt’s pyramids were of stone; ziggurats were built of mud bricks in a stone-poor region
  • 35. Babylon: Code of Hammurabi
    • Hammurabi: The Lawgiver
    • As commerce increased, civil law served to regulate transactions
    • Criminal law was instituted
    • Lex talonis—eye for an eye—became one of the cornerstones
    • Here, Hammurabi receives the law code from the sun god
  • 36. Babylon: Tower of Babel
    • Babylon was the site of another ziggurat, the Tower of Babel
    • Biblical interpretations: humankind’s intellectual arrogance
    • God imposed different languages on the builders
    • However, Babylon already had a diversity of languages and cultures
    • Why construction was halted remains a mystery
  • 37. Warlike Themes: The Assyrians as Extreme Types
    • Even today, the Assyrians is a classic study of ruthless warfare
    • Under Assurnasirpal II, the Assyrians expanded his empire throughout Mesopotamia
    • Cruelty cited in his boast that he dyed the mountains red with blood
    • Combined war with culture, creating the largest library of the time
    • Included the creation myths and epics of Mesopotamia
    • Added to the arts reflecting war (left)
  • 38. Neo-Babylonian Empire
    • A ziggurat dedicated to the god Marduk, thought to be the Tower of Babel in biblical lore
    • The Ishtar gate used the round arch, later to be imitated in Rome and Europe (above)
    • It was faced (covered) with glazed bricks
    • There was also a temple dedicated to Ishtar
  • 39. Ishtar
    • Babylonia is associated with Ishtar in the Bible
    • She is said to be the patron of sacred prostitutes in her temple (upper left, a Phoenician rendition)
    • Women were to “lay with strangers” (at a price)
    • She was also a war goddess for the Assyrians
    • The Book of Revelation cites her as the Harlot (or Whore) of Babylon (lower left)
  • 40. Conclusion
    • Themes of Mesopotamia are very different from those of Egypt
    • Egypt was relatively stable; Mesopotamia comprised warring city states
    • Empires rose, did not last long, fell to others
    • Mesopotamia was inventive; resource-poor, wealth had to come from technological innovations and trade
    • War was often the motor force for innovation
    • Art—depicting themes of war and powerful monarchs
    • Ishtar/Innana: “Make love and war”