Ancient Near East

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Overview of Ancient Near Eastern culture with a focus on art and architeciture

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Ancient Near East

  1. 1. The Ancient Near East c. 3200 BCE-330 BCE Lecture II
  2. 2. Ancient Near East Dates and Places: • 3500-330BCE • “Fertile Crescent” of Mesopotamia Map Mesopotamia (Ancient Near East) 3500- 2000 BCE People: • City-states and empires • Agriculture • Specialized labor and social hierarchies • Writing system • Complex religions • No one unifying language or government system
  3. 3. Ancient Near East History: • Mesopotamia translates as “land between two rivers” • Area referred to as the “fertile crescent” • Rich land promoted agricultural lifestyle • Agricultural activities support growth of first cities including Uruk, Ur, Kish, Nippur, and Lagash Map Earliest Mesopotamian Cities 3500-2000 BCE
  4. 4. Ancient Near East Example: •Importance of commerce leads to invention of writing, arithmetic, written law codes, and coining money (begun c. 7th cent. BCE •Convention of placing portrait of king on money begun under Persian King Darius I who ruled turn of 5th cent. BCE Coin minted under Darius I of Persia, c. 4th century BCE
  5. 5. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: •Sumerians first of Mesopotamia’s earliest civilizations •Predate birth of Christ by 4,000 years •Self-ruling city-states •Contributions include: – Develop system of writing c. 3000 BCE • Writing established as form of inventory for agriculture and donations to gods – Establish lunar calendar – Devise mathematical computation system, medical and scientific discoveries, and architectural Ziggurat at Ur, modern day Iraq ca. 2100 BCE.
  6. 6. Ancient Near East: Sumer Themes: • Offerings • Gods • Warfare and hunting • Rulers Forms: • Mud brick construction • Natural and conceptual treatments of figures • Registers of space • Hierarchy of scale White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk, ca. 3200-3000BCE.
  7. 7. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: • Ziggurat platform • Monumental mud construction • Axial alignment • Temple for god on top • Cella for priests • “Waiting room” • Votive offerings placed inside • Hierarchy of space Nanna ziggurat at Ur, modern day Iraq, ca. 2100 BCE.
  8. 8. Themes: • Offerings • Gods Forms: • Natural and conceptual treatments of figures • Sculpted from marble • Abstraction of features • Emphasis on eyes • Similar poses, upright stance Statues of worshippers, from the Square Temple at Eshunna, Iraq c. 2700 BCE. Gypsum inlaid with shell and black limestone, tallest figure (male) 2’ 6” high. Ancient Near East: Sumer
  9. 9. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example • Cella for priests • Votive offerings placed inside • Various sizes and designs for sale • Symbolic devotion • Eternal wakefulness • Names of donors and god with prayer(s) Statuettes worshippers, ca. 2700 BCE. From Abu Temple, Tell Asmar, Iraq. Marble, largest c. 30.”
  10. 10. Ancient Near East: Sumer Themes: • Offerings • Gods (over 3,000 known deities) • Warfare and hunting • Rulers Forms: • Narrative • Natural and conceptual treatments of figures • Registers of space • Hierarchy of scale Warka Vase ca. 3200-3000BCE. Alabaster, 3 ¼” high. National Museum of Iraq.
  11. 11. Warka Vase ca. 3200-3000BCE. Alabaster, 3 ¼” high. National Museum of Iraq.
  12. 12. Ancient Near East: Sumer Themes: •The decoration tells the story of the annual festival celebrating the sacred marriage of two fertility deities, Inanna (also Ishtar (pronounced Easter) goddess of chaos and love, associated with fertility the moon, and the planet Venus, goddess of War and Queen of Heaven) and Dmuzi (also Tammuz god of vegetation, fertility, and the underworld) Detail The Marriage of Inanna and Dmuzi (, Warka Vase, c. 3200-3000 BCE. Alabaster, 3’ ¼” high.
  13. 13. Themes: •One of the longest lasting Goddesses from the ancient world is Sumer’s Inanna, who was revered in the Middle East for over 4,000 years •Her imagery include the lunar crescent horns and the 8-pointed star, the rosette, which represents the planet Venus, the egg and bunny •Her headgear consists of a horned crown enclosing a cone, which is symbolic for the sacred mountain Detail Inanna Receiving Offerings, Warka Vase, c. 3200-3000 BCE. Alabaster, 3’ ¼” high. National Museum of Iraq. Ancient Near East: Sumer
  14. 14. Ancient Near East: Sumer Themes: •Inanna’s origins are very very old and date back well into the Neolithic age. It is believed that the Goddess-revering Al ‘Ubaid culture brought Her imagery with them when they settled in the region south west of the Euphrates river as early as the 6th millennium BCE, i.e. 8,000 years ago. Her earliest temple was discovered in Uruk (Erech), Inanna’s main and longest lasting place of worship, and dates back to about 5,000 BCE. Queen of the Night or The Queen of Heaven, Babylonian goddess, southern Iraq, c. 1800-1750 BCE. Painted terracotta plaque, height approx. 19 ½.” British Museum, London.
  15. 15. Plaque and reconstruction. British Museum, London.
  16. 16. Warka Vase as recovered (6/12/03) • In recent years, the Uruk Vase has faced many obstacles. In 2003, the vase was stolen from the National Museum of Iraq along with many other priceless works of ancient Mesopotamia. Eventually the vase was returned to the museum but it had been shattered into over fourteen pieces. Currently the museum is in the process of restoring the vase. Ancient Near East: Sumer
  17. 17. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: •Registers of space •Anthropomorphic figures •Composite view/twisted perspective of figures •Instructional component •Interpreted as “fantastic realm of the dead” Bull-headed harp with inlaid sound box, from the Royal Cemetery, Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2600-2400 BCE. Wood, lapis lazuli, and shell, 3/6.” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  18. 18. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: •Epic of Gilgamesh, world’s first epic – Recorded Sumer late 3rd millennium BCE, possibly chanted or sung with harp accompaniment – Tragic story of love, jealousy, and revenge – Attempt to come to terms with death and nonbeing Bull-headed harp with inlaid sound box, from the Royal Cemetery, Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar), Iraq, ca. 2600-2400 BCE. Wood, lapis lazuli, and shell, 3/6.” The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  19. 19. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: • Burial good (uncertain function) • Historical narrative on two sides • Offerings and ritual • Warfare • Registers of space • Hierarchy of scale Standard of Ur, ca. 2600 BCE. Wood inlaid with shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, 8” x 1’ 7.” British Museum, London.
  20. 20. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: • Social order • Evidence of trade • “War” side and “Peace” side • Visual text of class divisions and royal authority • Simplified, abstracted, repetitive, and stylized design • No interior model, little sense of space Standard of Ur, ca. 2600 BCE. Wood inlaid with shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone, 8” x 1’ 7.” British Museum, London.
  21. 21. Ancient Near East: Sumer Example: •Seals were most often made of stone but also sometimes of bone, ivory, faience, glass, metal, wood, or even sun-dried or baked clay •A recessed inscription was carved onto the cylinder, which produced a raised impression when rolled on a clay tablet or envelope •Cylinder seals were used to protect vessels, clay envelopes and storeroom door latches from tampering • They guaranteed authenticity, marked ownership, indicated participation in a legal transaction and protected goods against theft Sumerian Cuneiform Cylinder Seal, Iraq, 3000 BCE. Smith College.
  22. 22. Ancient Near East: The Hebrews History: •Migratory tribal people called habiru or Hebrew •Origins traced to Sumer, c. 2000 BCE •Establish monotheistic religion based on covenant with God •Abraham of Ur signals beginning of Hebrew history – Patriarch leads Hebrews west across Fertile Crescent to Canaan Ark of the Covenant and sanctuary implements, Hammath near Tiberias, 4th c. Mosaic, Excavated 1961-1962.
  23. 23. Ancient Near East: The Hebrews History: •Located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee •Inscriptions found in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek •Includes zodiac images •Much of what is known is found in Bible •Hebrew God transcends nature and natural phenomenon Ark of the Covenant and sanctuary implements, Hammath near Tiberias, 4th c. Mosaic, dimensions unpublished. Excavated 1920-1921.
  24. 24. Ancient Near East: Akkad Themes: • Offerings • Gods • Warfare and hunting • Rulers Forms: • Natural and conceptual treatments of figures • Registers of space • Hierarchy of scale • Mutilated in antiquity Head of an Akkadian ruler, Iraq,ca. 2250-2200BCE. Copper, 1’ 2 1/8” high. Iraqi Museum, Baghdad possibly looted?)
  25. 25. Ancient Near East: Akkad Themes: • Royal portrait (possibly Sargon, but cannot be verified) • New concept of absolute monarchy (theocratic monarch) Forms: • Skilled casting, polishing, and engraving • Balance of naturalism and abstract patterns • Life-size • Geometric clarity • Use of contrasting textures • Sensitivity to formal pattern Head of an Akkadian ruler, Iraq, ca. 2250-2200BCE. Copper, 1’ 2 1/8” high. Iraqi Museum, Baghdad possibly looted?)
  26. 26. Ancient Near East: Akkad Example: • Evidence of women’s power • Enheduanna, Sargon’s daughter, moon priestess • She is the world's oldest known author whose works were written in cuneiform approximately 4300 years ago • Two of her known works are hymns to the goddess Inanna, The Exaltation of Inanna and In-nin sa-gur-ra • A third identified work, The Temple Hymns, addresses the sacred temples and their occupants, the goddess or god to whom they were consecrated Disk of Enheduanna, c. 2300 BCE. Calcite, approx. 10” diameter, 3” thick. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  27. 27. Ancient Near East: Akkad Example: • Shape probably meant to represent the full moon, as it features the high priestess of the moon god, Nanna. • Found in the temple of Nanna’s consort, Nin-gal (Great Lady) • Broken in antiquity, but most of the pieces were recovered on excavation and the whole has been restored • back of the disk bears an inscription, a dedication from Enheduanna to the moon god Back of restored disk showing inscribed dedication to the moon god and the name of Enheduanna herself.
  28. 28. Ancient Near East: Akkad Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, from Iran, ca. 2254- 2218BCE. Pink sandstone, 6’ 7” high. Louvre, Paris History: Rule established 2334 BCE Location of city still unknown Introduce new concept of royal power based on loyalty to king “King of the Four Quarters”
  29. 29. Ancient Near East: Akkad Example: • Divine kingship and its attributes • Political propaganda • Warfare • Relief sculpture • Hierarchy of scale • Composite view • Organization versus disarray • Landscape • Symbolism Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, from Iran, ca. 2254-2218BCE. Pink sandstone, 6’ 7” high. Louvre, Paris Shamash and Ishtar
  30. 30. Ancient Near East: Babylon Example: • Law code • Akkadian Cuneiform • King Hammurabi and god Shamash • Symbols of authority • Composite view with some foreshortening • New conventions including diagonal line Law Code Stele of King Hammurabi, basalt, Babylonian, 1792-1750 B.C.E. Basalt, 7’ 4 ½” x 25 ½.” Musée du Louvre, Paris
  31. 31. Ancient Near East: Babylon Example: • Earliest source of law codes, predates Ten Commandments, (may be possible source) • Over 300 specific laws governing Babylonia – Codifies Mesopotamian law – Effort to unify different peoples – Outlines actions and punishments – Specific guidelines by social status and gender – Laws are divine, from gods • Develops legacy Law Code Stele of King Hammurabi, basalt, Babylonian, 1792-1750 B.C.E. Basalt, 7’ 4 ½” x 25 ½.” Musée du Louvre, Paris
  32. 32. Law Code of King Hammurabi Sample laws covered the subjects of: •One of the most well known of Hammurabi's laws is: – Ex. Law #196. "If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye. If one break a man's bone, they shall break his bone. If one destroy the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman he shall pay one mana of silver. If one destroy the eye of a man's slave or break a bone of a man's slave he shall pay one-half his price.” •Religion – Ex. Law #127: "If any one "point the finger" at a sister of a god or the wife of any one, and can not prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked. (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)” •Slavery – Ex. Law #15: "If any one take a male or female slave of the court, or a male or female slave of a freed man, outside the city gates, he shall be put to death." [24] •Thievery – Ex. Law #22: "If any one is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.” •Food – Ex. Law #104: "If a merchant give an agent corn, wool, oil, or any other goods to transport, the agent shall give a receipt for the amount, and compensate the merchant therefor. Then he shall obtain a receipt from the merchant for the money that he gives the merchant.” •Hammurabi had many other punishments as well. If a boy struck his father they would cut off the boy's hand or fingers (translations vary
  33. 33. Ancient Near East: Babylon Example: •Recovered some time between 1878-1883 •Reconstruction of tablet revered by King Nabopolassar, between 625 and 605 BCE •The tablet has serrated edges like a saw, which was the symbol of both Shamash and Saint Simon Zelotes in later tradition The Seated Giant from the Tablet of Shamash Sumerian tablet, 888-855 BCE. Stone, 11 ½” x 7.” From Sippar, southern Iraq. British Museum,
  34. 34. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: • First Iron-Age empire • Citadel complex, 25 acres • Palace elevated 50 ft. • Home to king and court • Fortified and elevated • Monumental gateway • Audience hall (apadana) • Relief sculpture of processions Schematic map and reconstruction drawing of the citadel and palace complex of Sargon II, Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad, Iraq). c. 721-706 BCE
  35. 35. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: •Guarding the citadel were Lamassu (Akkadian for ''protective spirits'') •Lamassu were powerful mythological creatures with the wings of an eagle, the crowned head of a man, and the body of a bull or lion Gate of Sargon II's citadel excavation, Khorsabad. Excavated by Paul- Émile Botta 1842-1844
  36. 36. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: High relief partly in the round Facial features of monarch Life-like detail and stylized patterning Symbolism  Bull= virility • Lion= physical strength • Eagle= predatory agility Conceptual representation Lamassu guarded Assyrian citadels by frightening away the forces of chaos at the city gates and palace doorways The imposing presence of lamassu served as clear reminder of the king's ultimate authority over all who entered his domain Lamassu, from Sargon II's citadel at Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad), Iraq, 8th century BCE. Alabaster, approx. 14' h. Louvre, Paris.
  37. 37. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: • Low relief sculpture • Palace citadels • Narrative scenes • Political propaganda • Naturalism • Warfare and hunting to show ruler’s power • Period of constant warfare Detail Ashurbanipal besieging an Egyptian city, c. 667 BCE with reconstruction of palace walls.
  38. 38. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: • Low relief sculpture • Palace citadels • Unusual single scene • Naturalism • Controlled hunt (in inscriptions he claims to have killed a total of 450 lions) • Warfare and hunting to show ruler’s power • Period of constant warfare King Ashurnasirpal II killing lions, from Royal Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II, Nimrud, c. 883-859 BCE. Stone panel from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Room B, Panel 19) Alabaster relief, 3’3” x 8’ 4.” British Museum, London.
  39. 39. Ancient Near East: Assyria Example: • Low relief sculpture, previously brightly painted • In palace citadels • Narrative scenes • Naturalism • Controlled hunt • Warfare and hunting to show ruler’s power • Period of constant warfare Ashurbanipal hunting lions, Iraq, ca. 645-640BCE. Gypsum hall relief from the North Palace, Ninevah, , 5’ 4” high. excavated by H. Rassam beginning in 1853 British Museum.
  40. 40. Ancient Near East: Achaemenid Persia History: •First Persian Empire •Founded 6th c. BCE by Cyrus the Great •Takes name from king Achaemenes, who ruled Persis (southwestern Iran) between 705 BC and 675 BCE •First multicultural civilization of ancient world •Persepolis capital and ceremonial center East stairway of the Audience Hall of Darius and Xerses. ca. 500 BCE. Persepolis, Iran
  41. 41. Ancient Near East: Achaemenid Persia Example: • Persians establish monotheistic religion based on teachings of the prophet Zoroaster (c. 628- c.551) • Ahura-Mazda (“Wise Lord”) sole god – Demanded good works, good thoughts, and good deeds – Existence=cosmic struggle between light and darkness, good and evil • Zoroastrianism influential on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam East stairway of the Audience Hall of Darius and Xerses. ca. 500 BCE. Persepolis, Iran
  42. 42. Ancient Near East: Achaemenid Persia  ... I will not tolerate that the weak  shall suffer injustices brought upon  them by the mighty.  What is just  pleases me.... You, my subjects,  must not assume what the powerful  undertake as sublime.  What the  common man achieves is much more  extraordinary. – Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.) Relief sculpture of Darius the Great fighting evil from Audience Hall of Darius and Xerses. ca. 500 BCE. Persepolis, Iran
  43. 43. Ancient Near East: Achaemenid Persia Persepolis, ca. 521 465BCE. Example: • Citadel complex • Home to king and court • Fortified and elevated • Monumental gateway • Audience hall (apadana) • Relief sculpture of processions • Influence of Greek art through trade • Destroyed by Macedonian Alexander the Great

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