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Chapter 2 The Rise of Civilization: The Art of the Ancient Near East. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 12e. The Ancient Near East. Understand the cultural changes in the Neolithic Revolution as they relate to the art and architecture.

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chapter 2 the rise of civilization the art of the ancient near east
Chapter 2

The Rise of Civilization:

The Art of the Ancient Near East

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 12e

Understand the cultural changes in the Neolithic Revolution as they relate to the art and architecture.
  • Understand the concept of civilization and the importance of Sumer in the ancient Near East.
  • Examine the artistic materials, techniques, subject matter, styles and conventions developed in the ancient Near East.
City-state: Independent cities that were each under the protection of a different deity, represented by the rulers. Rulers and priests directed all communal activities, which were institutionalized.
  • Cuneiform: The beginning of writing, taking the form of wedge-shaped signs, simplified from pictograph signs (simplified pictures).
  • Cylinder seal: A cylindrical piece of stone engraved to produce a raised impression when rolled over clay. Used to “sign” and seal documents.
  • Gilgamesh: An epic from the 3rd millennium BCE describing Gilgamesh, the legendary kind of Uruk and slayer of the monster Huwawa.
  • Heraldic composition: A composition that is symmetrical on either side of a central figure.
sumerian religion society and art
The Neolithic Revolution
  • Revolutionary change in daily life occurred in Mesopotamia.
    • AKAThe Fertile Crescent
      • Learned how to use wheel, plow, irrigation and control floods.
  • Sumerian Art
    • Was created in the City-States of Sumer.
    • The rulers were the gods’ representative on earth, thus rulers and the priests directed all activities.
    • Labor specialization developed.
  • City Planning & Religion: Reflected the central role of the local god in daily life. As well as administrative & economic.
Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
sumerian religion society and art6
The earliest writing dates to 3400-3200 BCE
    • Counting using pictographs scratched into soft clay arises in Sumer & Elam [Iraq/Iran]
    • Developed into cuneiform 
    • By 2600 BCE complex grammar had been developed.
    • The Epic of Gilgamesh is from this period.
  • Uruk’s White Temple:
    • 5,000 years old. Built of mud bricks
Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
sumerian religion society and art7
Uruk’s White Temple: 3200-3000 BCE [5,000 years old.]

-- The “bent axis” approach to the sanctuary was standard for Sumerian temples -- Corners oriented to cardinal directions -- Temple itself was small.

-- Gods reside above the level of humans.

Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art

Model 

sumerian religion society and art8
The Inanna [?] 3200-3000 BCE
  • Maybe just a priestess
  • Imported stone, colored shells & stones, a wig of gold leaf.
  • Missing body of wood clothed& decorated elegantly.
Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
sumerian religion society and art9
The Wark Vase [for presenting offerings]

ca 3200-3000 BCE

  • Sumerians may have been the first to tell stories using pictures.
  • The vase depicts a religious festival in honor of the goddess.
    • Divided into 3 “registers” or friezes
    • Lowest frieze shows animals in strict profile. Images reflected economics, but also fertility.
    • 2nd band: Naked men carrying jars of offerings; nature’s bounty – men composite– frontal & profile. Con-ceptual vs optical representation.
    • Top band:Female figure with tall horned headdress. Men bringing offerings are smaller – “hierarchy of scale”
Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
the gods goddesses of mesopotamia
Anu: Chief deity of sky and the city-state of Uruk.
  • Enil: Anu’s son; winds & earth. [took over as chief god]
  • Inanna: Goddess of love & war. Later named Ishtar.
  • Nanna: The moon god, also Sin; Ur.
  • Babylon:
    • Utu/Shamash: God of the Sun.
    • Marduk: chief god of theBabylonians.
      • Others: Nabu [writing/wisdom]; Ada [storms] [Both on Ishtar Gate]; Ningirsu [Lagash/Girsu – appears on theStele of the Vultures]
The Gods & Goddesses of Mesopotamia
sumerian religion society and art12
Votive Statues: Eshunna
    • 1-3 ft in height;Made of simple shapes – cones, cylinders, but specific in dress and type.

Statue of 2 worshippersat Eshunna ca. 2700 BCE

 From Temple of Ishtar at Mari, ca 2600-2500 BCE

Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
sumerian religion society and art13
How did the religion practiced by Sumerians differ from that practiced by Paleolithic hunters and how were those religions reflected in art? What was the relationship between religion and the state in ancient Sumer?Sumerian Religion, Society, and Art
victory vultures
Stele: Carved stone slab to commemorate an event.
    • This stele presents a labeled narrative. ca. 26005-2500 BCE
    • Victory of Eannatum of Lagash over Umma.
    • Takes its name from scene of vultures carrying off the severed heads of the vanquished.
      • Provides info about warfare techniques & the special status of the Sumerian ruler
      • The God Ningirsu watched over Ennatum
Victory & Vultures
war peace standard of ur
The Sumerians buried their elite in vaulted chambers, under the earth, with servants and possessions. ca. 2600 BCE
  • Standard of Ur: sloping sides inlaid with shells and lapis.
    • Called War/Peace, but may have been two parts of a single narrative.
    • Why is it called a “standard”?
“War & Peace”/Standard of Ur
War 

Peace 

lyre from ur restored
From the “King’s Grave” in Ur.
  • Bull’s head decoratation
  • On the soundbox are animals with human faces serving a banquet, playing music & dancing.
  • ca. 2600 BCE
Lyre from Ur [restored]
sumerian art in miniature
Cylinder seal depicting a banquet – from tomb of “Queen” Pu-abi. ca. 2600 BCE
  • Smaller scale than Standard of Ur, but similar figure types &rukes are utilized.
  • Use?
    • Seals were used to identify documents &protect storage jars.
Sumerian Art in Miniature
akkadian neo sumerian babylonian and hittite art
Gudea of Lagash: Ensi of Lagash c. 2100 BCE. Preferred statuettes to regal trappings, and also liked statues carved of him in diorite. [igneous/close to feldspar]
  • Hammurabi: King of Babylon from c. 1792-1750 BCE. He established a central government over south Mesopotamia. He is most famous for his code of laws, which he had inscribed on a black basalt stele.
  • Sargon II: Assyrian king, who started the building of a royal citadel at Dur Sharrukin that covered 25 acres.
the first near eastern kings
The head of the Akkadian ruler combines both naturalism and formal abstract patterning. 2250-2200 BCE


  • The shape of the nose
  • Different textures of hair and flesh
  • Contrasting textures of beard, mustache, and hair.

Abstract patterning

  • Patterns in hair
  • Stylistic symmetry
  • Formal patterns of lozenges and triangles.
The First Near-Eastern Kings
the first near eastern kings21
Victory stele of Naram-Sin from Susa: Defeat of the Lullubi
    • Second inscription by an Elamite king who captured Susa and took the stele as booty.
  • Symbolism?
    • Storming the mountain = scaling the heavens
The First Near-Eastern Kings

2254-2218 BCE

the first near eastern kings22
Neo-Sumerian state established at Ur: “The Third Dynasty of Ur.”
    • Ziggarut built ca. 2100 BCE
    • Made of baked bricks and bitumen.
    • 1,000 yrs after Uruk.
The First Near-Eastern Kings
the piety of gudea
These statues showed his piety as well as his wealth and pride
  • They were designed to always be in the temple to give the gods their due.
  • Diorite: Hard, costly stone: imported and difficult to carve.
    • Image is of Gudea presenting his plan to Ningirsu for the new temple. ca. 2100
The Piety of Gudea
the code of hammurabi
Ca. 1780 BCE [18th cen. BCE]
  • King Hammurabi wrote a comprehensive law code for his subjects.
    • If any man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out
    • If he kills a man’s slave he shall pay one-third of a mina.
    • It someone steals property from a temple, he will be put to death, as will the recipient of the stolen goods.
    • …. If a man’s wife is caught in bed with another man, both will be tied up and thrown in the water.
The Code of Hammurabi
king hammurabi
The stele with the code written on it was carried off to Susa as booty in 1157 BCE
  • It shows Hammurabi in the presence of the sun god, Shamash.
    • Symbol of Shamash?
    • Artist used convention of combined front and side views, with exception of headdress.
    • May have experimented with foreshortening.
King Hammurabi
zimiri lim ishtar
King Zimiri-Lin controlled Neo-Sumerian city-state of Mari during reign of Hammurabi.
  • Royal Palace was destroyed by Hammurabi in 1757 BCE
  • Painting frament represents the investiture of Zimiri-Lin, his right to rule granted by Ishtar [formerly Inanna]
  • Symbols:Ishtar:sacred lionRight to rule:rod/ring
  • Painting symbolizes the benevolence of the gods
Zimiri-Lim & Ishtar
the hittites fortified capital
The Lion Gate: ca. 1400 BCE -- Lions are 7 ft high
    • Early example of protecting cities through sculptures of wild beasts at the gate.
The Hittites’ Fortified Capital
middle elamite assyrian art
Proto-Elamite & Elamite records are among the earliest “writing” known.
    • Elam appears in Genesis 10:22
  • Statue of Queen Napir-Asu from Susa, 1350-1300 BCE – life-size
    • Weighs 3,760 lbs even now.
    • Has a solid bronze core inside a hollow-cast copper shell.
    • Was to be a permanent, immovable votive offering in the temple.
    • Shares many characteristics with earlier votive statues. They are?
Middle Elamite & Assyrian Art
assyrian citadel of sargon ii
Unfinished [ca. 721-705 BCE]
    • Exhibited both confidence & fear. Covered 25 acres
    • Had over 200 courtyards & rooms
  • Represented Sargon’sgrandeur:
    • Merciless &
    • Forgiving
  • Included a ziggurat and sanctuaries for 6 deities.
ASSYRIAN: Citadel of Sargon II
citadel of sargon ii
The Guardian Gates of the Citadel. [made of limestone] [ca. 721-705 BCE]
  • Lamassu: winged , human-headed bull
  • Partly in the round, but conceived as high reliefs.
  • Presents aconceptual viewof the creature,in order to showall aspects.
Citadel of Sargon II
chronicles of great deeds ashurnasirpal
ca. 875-860 BCE -- Later than Egyptian ones, but have greater detail. Records battlefield victories & slaying of wild animals.
  • A compressed style to make the story legible.
  • Combines different viewpoints.
Chronicles of “Great Deeds”: Ashurnasirpal
neo babylonian achaemenid art
Ishtar Gate:
  • King Nebuchadnezzar

[r. 604-562 BCE] – mentioned in Daniel.

  • Babylon was built of mud bricks, but the important buildings were faced with glazed bricks
  • Images on bricks are of Marduk’s dragon & Adad’s bull in profile.
Neo-Babylonian & Achaemenid Art

Babylon conquered by Cyrus of Persia in the 6th cen. BCE.

elamite assyrian and neo babylonian art
Evaluate the stylistic and formal visual aspects of later Mesopotamian art and its iconography.
  • Explore the ideas of power expressed in the art of the Assyrians.
  • Examine the materials and techniques of Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian painting and low relief sculpture.
  • Critically evaluate the role of art and power in different Near Eastern civilizations from this period.
Elamite, Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian Art
persia persepolis iran ca 521 465 bce
The Gate of All Lands: entrance to the complex
  • Many nations contributed to the site:
    • Ionian Greeks, Medes, Egyptians, Babylonians
Persia: Persepolis [Iran] ca. 521-465 BCE
persepolis iran39
Persepolis characteristics
  • Monumental gateway with man-headed bulls
  • Apadana - huge royal audience hall.
  • Reliefs
  • Columns
Persepolis [Iran]
persian and sassanian splendor
Explore how the Persian art and the later Sassanian art is different from other art of Mesopotamia.
  • Identify hallmarks of Persian culture and style in art and architecture.
Persian and Sassanian Splendor
sasanian art shapur i ctesiphon
Palace at Ctesiphon noted for the large barrel vault of the iwan, or audience hall.

-- 1,000 yrs later Islamic artists looked to this palace as their standard for their own work.

Sasanian Art: Shapur I & Ctesiphon

Shapur II?

discussion questions
Discuss how many artworks are intended to celebrate a ruler’s accomplishments—even if they did not occur?
  • Identify evidence of the Sumerian culture’s lasting influence today.
  • Identify evidence of the Persian Empire’s lasting influence today.
Discussion Questions
mesopotamian architecture
Compare the architecture of the Neo-Sumerian ziggurat with the city of Babylon and the fabled “Tower of Babel.” Explore the different materials used.Mesopotamian Architecture