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Chapter 02 - Art of the Ancient Near East


It is in the Ancient Near east, that writing first began. With the invention of writing came written records that replaced the reliance upon images and oral traditionsas a means of keeping records.


 Art of the Ancient Near East - Art History Example

  • Geographically, the Ancient Near East refers to area that includes present day Turkey, Iran and Iraq.
  • Populations first settled in the grassy areas surrounding the river valleys.The area was ideal for agriculture, with good soil, adequate rainfall and domesticated animals.
  • As the population increased, the people began to move into the river valleys and delta regions.

CHRONOLOGY: divided into four general phases

  • # Early Neolithic Communities 8000-5500 BCE
  • # Ancient Mesopotamian Cultures 3200-330 BCE
  • # Sumerian Period 3200-2225 BCE (includes the Akkadian Period)
  • # Assyrian Period 1000-612 BCE


Early Neolithic Communities

 Art of the Ancient Near East - Art History Example

Jericho-located on a plateau on the Jordan River.

  • represents the world's oldest fortified community
  • fortifications make the beginning of monumental architecture

SCULPTURE-examples from Jericho mark the beginning of monumental sculpture and individualized portraiture.

  • Human Skull, c7000-6000 BCE

Chatal Huyuk-located in Anatolia, flourished 6500-5500 BCE.This area was the first to experiment in city planning.

SCULPTURE-most examples are small female figures

  • Seated Goddess, Catal Huyuk, c5900 BCE

Sumerian Art

Between 3500 and 2800 BCE city-states began to emerge along the rivers of Southern Mesopotamia. The city-states of Sumer are considered to be one of the first great civilizations of man and are credited with inventing the first written language, cuneiform.

ARCHITECTURE-ziggurat-a stepped pyramid structure, with a temple or shrine located on top. Ziggurats were religious shrines, that symbolized a bridge between man on earth, and the gods in heaven.

  • Nanna Ziggurat, Ur (modern Iraq) (fig.2-5), c2100-2050 BCE


SCULPTURE-Sumerian sculpture was religious in nature, representing Sumerian dieties.

  • Face of Woman,from Urak (fig.2-6), c3500-3000 BCE
  • Statuettes, from Temple of Abu, Tell Asmar (fig.2-9), c2900-2600 BCE
  • Bull Lyre, from tomb of Queen Puabi of Ur (fig.2-11), c2685
  • Standard of Ur, c2700 BCE


Akkadian Art


 Akkadian Art - Art History Example


Approximately 2300 BCE, the city-states of Sumer came under the domination of a powerful ruler, Sargon I of Akkad. The Akkadians adopted Sumerian culture with one exception. It was under the leadership of Sargon, that devotion to the leader rather than the city-state became the political norm. The Akkadians ruled until 2180 BCE, when they were attacked and conquered by the Guti (only Lagash remained independent).

SCULPTURE-first examples of political works of art

  • Head of Akkadian Ruler from Nineveh (fig.2-15), c2200 BCE
  • Stela of Naramsin (fig. 2-16), c2254-2218 BCE


Babylonian Art


Babylonian Art - Art History Example


Sumer was once again fully united under the Babylonian ruler, Hammurabi in 1792 BCE. Hammurabi was most famous for his code of laws.

  • Stela of Hammurabi, from Susa (fig.2-18), c1792-1750 BCE



Assyrian Art


 Assyrian Art - Art History Example


  • Guardian Figure, from throne room of Sargon II (fig.2-23), c720 BCE
  • Citadel and Palace Complex of Sargon II (fig2-22), c721-706 BCE

Neo-Babylonian Art


Neo-Babylonian Art - Art History Example


  • Ishtar Gate c575 BCE

Persian Art

  • Apadana (audience hall) of Darius and Xerxes (fig 2-32) 518-c460 BCE
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