3MESOPOTAMIA Sumer c4000-2340BC Akkad c2340-2180BC Lagash c2180-2150BC Third Dynasty of Ur c BCBabylonia c BCHittite (Anatolia) c BCAssyria c BCNeo Babylonia c BCPersia c BC
4SUMER• The creators of Mesopotamian civilization were the Sumerians. By 3000BC they had established a number of independent city-states, including Ur, Lagash, Eridu, Uruk, and Umma.• Government was a Theocracy (Government by divine authority) Kings derived their authority from the gods.Because of the location and geography of Mesopotamia, there were constant invasions and war.• A continuity of culture is discernible, however, because subsequent civilizations adopted many features of the Sumerian culture. It became the “mother culture” for Mesopotamia.• Sumerians are credited with the invention of the wheel (3000BC), the round arch, invention of the potter’s wheel, the study of astronomy and metallurgy (This advancement resulted in metal weapons).
5Pictographs were used to record inventories of cattle and other accounting transactions. These were scratched into clay plaques.By BC this method had been simplified into wedge shaped marks known as Cuneiform. Cuneiform characters which were used for administrative and economic purposes. Sumerian language evolved from pictures of concrete objects to simplified and stylized signs, leading eventually to a phonetic system that made possible the written expression of abstract ideas.
6White Temple & Ziggurat, Uruk, c3200-3000BC Most important building in the city was a temple, dedicated to the chief god or goddess of the city. It was often built atop a massive stepped, pyramidal tower, built with mud bricks, called a ziggurat. (Tombs were not a feature of the ziggurat.)
7The Ziggurat was formed of mud bricks, 40’ in height, with a temple atop, located in the center of the city. It was pyramidal in shape, consisting of a series of platforms, each decreasing in size as the structure grew higher.The corners were oriented to the cardinal points.The temple itself not accommodate a large number of worshipers, probably only the priests, ruling aristocracy, and other community leaders.The construction reflected Sumerian beliefs in the residence of the gods being in the sky. The main entrance was on the opposite side to the base of the stairway on the ziggurat. The worshiper climbed the stairs and had to turn corners and change directions, just as if he were climbing a mountain (contrast to straight angle axis of Egyptian Temples).White Temple & Ziggurat, Uruk, c BC
8Mesopotamian GodsSumerian GodsEnlil god of the air; a productive, beneficent creator who ensures good harvestsAnu supreme god of the heavensEnki (Akkadian Ea) god of water, arts and crafts, and wisdomNinhursag: the Great Mother and Lady of the Mountain, goddess of the earth, and Anu’s consortUtu (Akkadian Shamash) sun god, judge, and protectorNanna (Akkadian Sin) god of the moonInanna (Akkadian Ishtar) goddess of fertility, love, and warNergal & Ereshkigal: queen and king of the underwork
9Face of Woman from Ur (Uruk, c3500BC Ivory, 8”) Originally designed to have hair (perhaps of gold leaf). Colored shell or stone would probably have filled the recesses for the eyebrows and the large eyes.Drilled for attachment to a head and body. (This was the facial mask)
10The friezes are read from bottom to top. Warka Vase, Uruk, c3200BC, Alabaster 3’The vase is an example of Sumerian narrative art (may have been the first), depicting offerings being made to Inanna (the Sumerian goddess of love and war, later known as Ishtar. Most important female diety in Mesopotamian history)The vase is divided into 3 friezes (bands or registers) with relief sculptures.The friezes are read from bottom to top.The lowest frieze shows sheep and rams arranged above barley and flax and a wavey line representing flowing water. The animals are in profile, but unlike previous prehistoric paintings of animals, there is a ground line.The central frieze depicts a procession of men carrying baskets filled with offerings for the god. The men are shown in a composite view, including both frontal and side views. The combination was intended to show the characteristic view of each component.The top frieze depicts a female with a headdress (Inanna or a priestess). A priest- king and attendants are depicted presenting offerings to Inanna.
11Gardner’s, Adams and Stokstad write that these are all worshipers Gardner’s, Adams and Stokstad write that these are all worshipers. The size difference indicative of the differences it social status or the amount of their offerings. Janson believes that the tallest is Abu, the second a mother goddess, and the rest priests and worshipers. All agree that the wide open eyes conveyed a sense of awe in the presence of divinity.Statues from the Abu TempleTell Asmar, c2700BC, Marble, 30”
12An association of animals with deities is a carry-over from prehistoric times; we find in not only in Mesopotamia but in Egypt as well. What distinguishes the sacred animals of the Sumerians is the active part they play in mythology. Much of this lore, unfortunately, has not come down to us in written form, but tantalizing glimpses of it can be caught in pictorial representations such as those on an inlaid panel from a harp. We can regard them as the earliest known ancestors of the animal fable that flourished in the West from Aesop to La Fontaine.Bull Lyre c2685Wood and Gold inlaid with shell, lapis, & red limestone
13Shu Bab Ram with the Tree of Life, c2600BC, Wood,gold & Lapis lazuli Ram was a sacred animal
14Standard of Ur, c2600BC Wood inlaid with shell, lapis, and red limestone.
15The Standard of Ur is a rectangular box with sloping sides The Standard of Ur is a rectangular box with sloping sides. Its function is unknown. On the two long sides there are depicted scenes of war on one side and scenes of peace on the other. It is unclear if they are a single narrative. On the War side, the lower frieze depicts chariots driving over enemy figures. The middle frieze soldiers lead away enemy captives. The top frieze shows soldiers presenting enemy captives to the king. His importance is denoted by his larger size (hierarchical proportions).On the Peace side, the lower frieze shows men carrying provisions or possibly war booty. The middle register shows attendants leading animals and carrying fish, probably for the feast on the top register. On the top register the king is seated (larger size) for the great feast.
16Head of Akkadian Rulerc2300BC (Probably Sargon)In 2340BC Sargon, leader of the Akkadians, overran the Sumerian city-states and established a dynastic empire. Later in his rule he elevated himself to the status of a god. Akkad was located just north of Sumer.
17Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, c2300BC Pink sandstone, 6 Victory Stele of Naram-Sin, c2300BC Pink sandstone, 6.5’ (Stele: An upright stone slab or pillar, usually carved or inscribed for commemorative purposes.)Naram-Sin, Sargon’s grandson, had this stele carved to commemorate the military victory over the Lullubi (a people of the Iranian mountains). There is no ground line, the composition is hieratic in both spatial and relational aspects.
18Votive Statue of Gudea c2120BC, diorite 29” About 2180BC the Akkadian empire fell to the Guti, a mountain people from the northeast. They controlled most of the Mesoptamian plain, except for Lagash. During this period Lagash was ruled by the pious Gudea. This devoted ruler had several of the temples reconstructed and new ones built. Sculptures, depicting his own devotion and just rule were situated in the temples. He had sculptures of diorite made of himself (often wearing a sheepskin hat). This very hard stone was carved with less detail, but finished in a manner more sophisticated than the earlier sculpture from Tell Asmar. Egyptian sculptures utilized this stone in many works depicting the pharoahs. Sumerian sculptors rounded off the forms to emphasize their cylinderical nature, and unlike the Egyptians, suggested muscular tension in the arms and shoulders.
19Ziggurat, Ur, c2100BCThird Dynasty of Ur: Neo-Sumerian, c BCRule in Mesopotamia had reverted to city-states. Ur-Nammu of Ur succeeded in reunifying much of Mesopotamia in 2125BC, and established the final dominance of Sumerian culture in Mesopotamia. The economy flourished and new temples and canals were built, but invasions by nomadic tribes over a lengthy period (almost 300 years) caused chaos in the region. The best preserved and considerably larger ziggurat at Ur was built during the Neo-Sumerian period, when the Sumerians temporarily regained power after the collapse of the Akkadian Empire, about 2180BC. Three stairways, each of a hundred steps, converge at the top of the first platform; others ascended a second and then a third level, on which stood the temple. The remaining masses of brickwork, recently somewhat restored, dominate the plain for many miles. The original monument, perhaps planted with trees and other vegetation, must have made a majestic setting for religious ceremonials.
20Mesopotamia reverted to its former chaotic pattern of conflicting city-states. From the brief Isin-Larsa period ( BC), so called from the ascendancy of the of the cities bearing these names, dates a terra-cotta relief of extraordinary power and beauty, the first voluptuous female nude known from antiquity. This creature, at once alluring and frightening, represents the goddess of death, the baleful Lilith, possibly the screech owl of Isaiah. Adorned only with gigantic earrings and the characteristic four-tiered headdress of a deity, she smilingly upholds, behind her head, a looped cord - either the symbol of human life or the instrument with which she brings it to an end. Her great wings a partially spread behind her full-breasted, round-hipped body. Instead of feet she has terrible feathered talons; flanked by staring owls, she perches upon the rumps of two lions back-to-back. Originally, her body was painted red, one owl black and the other red, and the manes of the lions black. The setting is established by the pattern of scales along the base, a conventionalized of the sacred mountain.The Goddess Lilith, c BC, terra-cotta, ht. 20”
21BABYLON - Hammurabi’s Reign c1792-1750BC Finally in 1792BC Hammurabi, a Babylonian ruler (from the Arabian desert to the west known as Amorites whose capital was Babylon) gained control of Sumer, Akkad and reunified Mesopotamia. Sumerian culture was assimilated and thereby passed on. He was most famous for establishing the first codfied law. known as the Code of Hammurabi.This code of laws defined a law with severe penalties, but varying according to the social class of the offender. The rights of the wealthy were favored over the poor, freemen over slaves, and men over women.Stele of Hammurabi , BC, basalt, 6’The laws of Hammurabi are listed on the stoneThe top high relief sculpture depicts Hammurabiand the diety, Shamash, the sun god.
22Stele of Hammurabi , 1792-1750BC, basalt, 6’ Hammurabi made his capital, Babylon, the intellectual and cultural center of the ancient Near East. One of his great accomplishments was the first systematic codification of his people’s rights, duties, and punishments for wrong doing, which was engraved on the Stele of Hammurabi. This black basalt stele depicts a legendary event and as a historical document that records a conversation about justice between god and man. At the top of the stele, we see Hammurabi on a mountaintop, indicated by the three flat tiers on which Shamash, the sun god and god of justice, rests his feet. Hammurabi listens respectfully, standing in an attitude of prayer. Shamash sits on a backless throne, dressed in long flounced robe and crowned by a conical horned cap. Flames rise from his shoulders, and he holds additional symbols of his power, the measuring rod and the rope circle, as he gives the law the the king Hammurabi, the intermediary between the god and the people. From there, the laws themselves flow forth in horizontal bands of exquisitely engraved cuneiform signs. The idea of god-given laws engraved on stone tables is a long-standing tradition in the ancient Near East. A prologue on the front of the stele lists the temples Hammurabi has restored, and an epilogue on the back glorifies Hammurabi as a peacemaker, but most of the stele was clearly intended to ensure uniform treatment of people throughout his kingdom. Most of the 300 or so entries that follow deal with commercial and property matters. Only 68 relate to domestic problems, and a mere 20 deal with physical assault. Punishments were based on the wealth, class, and gender of the parties, the rights of the wealthy were favored over the poor, freemen over slaves, men over women.Stele of Hammurabi , BC, basalt, 6’
23Lion Gate, c1400BCHittite guardian beasts at the gate to their strongly fortified capital.
24Hittite War God c1400BC, stone 6’5” Babylon was sacked by the Hittites c1595BC, ending the Old Babylonian period.They returned to their homeland (Anatolia, current day Turkey) and leaving Babylonin the hands of the Kassites (from central Asia) who controlled this area weaklyfor almost half a century.
25LAMASSU-Winged human-headed bull, c883BC From the palace of Assurnasirpal II, Nimrud, limestone, 10 ft. highActed as guardian-protectors of palaces and throne rooms.When seen from the front appear to be immobile, however when seen from the side they seem to be striding forward.Assyria had gained power by c1400BC. After c1000BC they began to invade and conquer neighboring city states. By the c800BC they controlled most of Mesopotamia and by c700 they had extended their influence as far west as Egypt. But internal weakness and external political forces caused the empire’s collapse by c600BC.
26Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions, c850BC Limestone The personal glorification of the king was served by another recurrent subject, the royal lion hunts. These were more in the nature of ceremonial combats than actual hunts; the animals were released from cages within a hollow square formed by troops with shields, for the king to kill. (Presumably, at a much earlier time, the hunting of lions in the field had been an important duty of Mesopotamian rulers as the shepherds of the communal flocks.) The lion attacking the royal chariot from the rear is clearly the hero of the scene. Of magnificent strength and courage, the wounded animal seems to embody all the dramatic emotion that we miss in the pictorial accounts of war.
27Dying Lioness, c650BC, linestone, from Nineveh The lion hunt reliefs from Nineveh, about two centuries later than those of Nimrud, are the finest of all. Despite the shallowness of the actual carving, the bodies have a greater sense weight and volume because of the subtle gradations of the surface. Images such as the dying lioness have an unforgettable tragic grandeur.
28To describe the progress of specific events in time and space had been outside the scope of both Egyptian and Sumerian art; even the scene on the Stele of Naram-Sin is symbolic rather than historic. The Assyrian artist thus had to develop an entirely new set of devices in order to cope with the problem of pictorial storytelling. If his results can hardly ever be called beautiful, they achieve their main purpose - to be clearly readable. This relief shows the sack of the Elamite city of Hamanu in the main register: Assyrian soldiers with pickaxes and crowbars are demolishing the fortifications - notice the falling timbers and bricks in mid air - after they have set fire to the town itself; others are marching away from it, down a wooded hill, laden with booty.The Sack of the City of Hamanu by Ashurbanipal, c650BC, limestone, Nineveh
29Ishtar Gate, Babylon c575BC The Chaldeans, a Semitic speaking people, had gained ascendancy in Babylonia by c600BC, and came to form the chief resistance to Assyrian control of Mesopotamia.The Chaldean king Nabopolassar ( BC), joined forces with the Medes (From Media in western Iran) to capture the Assyrian capital at Nineveh in 612BC. The Scythians (a nomadic people from southern Russia) also invaded Assyria from the northeast. His son Nebuchadnezzar II ( BC) achieved final victory over the Assyrians, defeated Egypt and gained control of Syria and Palestine. Babylon was rebuilt as the center of the Babylonian Empire. The Hanging Gardens and the great Marduk ziggurat (the Bible’s Tower of Babel) were considered to be two of the great wonders of the world by the Greeks.Ishtar Gate,Babylonc575BC
30Striding Lion - Panel from the Processional Way, c BC Composed of glazed bricks. The figure of the lion was molded in low relief before the bricks were glazed and fired.The city of Babylon straddles the Euphrates River, which could be crossed by via a bridge or by ferry boats. The city was surrounded by thick masonry walls with eight principal gates that provided entrance to the city. Each of these gates was dedicated top a major protective deity. On the eastern side of the Euphrates, the city was crossed by a broad paved street that was up to 60 ft. wide. This thoroughfare was know as the Processional Way since it was the path that led to a ritual temple. It passed one of the northern entrances know as the Ishtar Gate. A series of striding lions lined this Processional Way for more than 500 ft.
31Palace of Darius I, Persepolis, Iran There were no Achaemenid temples since religious rituals were held outdoors, where fires were burned on altars. Their architecture was most notable in the great palaces, especially in Persepolis. It was built on a stone platform with and consisted of columned buildings. The most significant building was the Apadana (Audiance Hall). It was decorated with 100 columns, each 40’ tall. The column show Egyptian and Greek influences, but the bull capitals were unique to Persia.
32Achaemenid Gold Rhyton, Drinking vessel, 5thCenturyBC Repose: Technique for producing this vessel, design hammered from the back.
33Parts of this presentation are used under the Fair Use Exemption of U.S. Copyright Law.RESOURCES• Adams, Laurie. Art Across Time (New York: McGraw Hill, 1999).• Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God (New York: Viking Press, 1969).• Janson, H.W.. History of Art (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1986).• Kleiner, Fred, Mamiya, Christin, & Tansey, Richard. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages-11th edition (New York: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001).• Skokstad, Marilyn. Art History (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002).• Speilvogel, Jackson. Western Civilization (Belmont: Wadsworth, 2003).• West, Shearer, The Bulfinch Guide to Art History (New York: Little, Brown, & Co., 1996).