Animal Symols in Ancient Art

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Art 11
Ancient Near E. &
Ancient Egypt Take Home
Question 3

Ancient Animals

The most interesting thing that I noticed after comparing Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Paleolithic European art is that some of the Paleolithic art is more realistic than the Neolithic art is. I feel that the Paleolithic people of Europe spent more time observing the animals than Mesopotamians and Egyptians did because they were not busy developing agriculture, massive architecture and religion. Paleolithic animals are portrayed much differently than Mesopotamian and Egyptian art in five ways; abstract form, religious deities, the portrayal of motion, color and the development of livestock.

Paleolithic animal art mostly shows the animals profile standing still. In the “Spotted Horse” cave painting you see a profile of a horse with air blown spots on it. There is an absence of much color because there wasn’t many paint options available to them. The “Two Bison” carving depicts two bison fully formed, mostly formed as a profile. The details in each of these works are very life like. It has been said by scholars that the animals are shown to be a symbol of “luck” in hopes that more animals will come, also I feel that the artists show the animals in such detail to be used as a reference to others, and a historical reference. Other than Mesopotamian and Egyptian “animal art,” the animals are not really symbols of a deity or a symbol of life and death.

“The Standard of Ur“ and the “Bull Headed Lyre” are works from Ancient Mesopotamia that clearly show a story of “war and peace,” and celebration of death. Unlike the Paleolithic Age, it shows animals as being used for life stock and pulling chariots. The animals in the “Bull Headed Lyre” are symbols of human/animal deities celebrating the after life. The figures are a bit more abstract than the cave animals because you have to really use your imagination to understand the story of the pictures and the meaning of...
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