“Artifacts of the Ancient World”

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“Artifacts of the Ancient World”

The great civilizations of India, China, Japan, Africa and Mesoamerica left behind artifacts that are preserved in museums across the world. The Art Institute Museum, in Chicago, carries artifacts from each one of these great civilizations. One artifact from each civilization can and does best represent each civilization. But lets see what artifact best describes the civilization of India.

Present day India began on the Indus River in what is called the Indus Valley. This was one of the most powerful urban river civilizations in the ancient world. Around 2000 BCE a people called the Aryans came down from central Asia and moved into India. This period was called the Vedic period. “The Vedic period witnessed the formation of three of the four major enduring religions of India- Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism”.

One particular artifact at the museum that best represents the peoples of India would have to be the “Stele with Buddhas and Tara.” This stele depicts the eight events of Buddha’s life. Not only does this artifact represent an entire religion, but it also helps to see into the beliefs of a people. The artifact is a stele of Buddha standing with one arms palm out, and the other arm down at its side. Like Egyptian art, there was a canon of measurements that went along with sculpting a Buddha. The span is the basic measure, or the distance from the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the thumb of the outspread hand. This was a measurement that was used to help sculpt the features of the Buddha. This distance corresponds to the space between the dimple in the chin and the hair-line. Each span has twelve finger-breadths. All these measurements had to do with the religious aspects of Buddhism and the cosmic harmony measurements. The stele also represents the eight paths which are part of Buddhas first teachings. The eight paths are as followed. 1. Complete or Perfect Vision, also translated as right view or understanding 2. Perfected Emotion or Aspiration, also translated as right thought or attitude. 3. Perfected or whole Speech, this is also called right speech. 4. Integral Action, this is also called right action. 5. Proper Livelihood, this is also called right livelihood. 6. Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality 7. Complete or thorough Awareness, this is also called right mindfulness. 8. Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi. This is often translated as concentration and meditation of the mind. (2)

These paths are virtues by which the Indians lived by while practicing Buddhism. So this stele best represents their major belief structure as a people and also as their religious icon.
The second civilization to look at is China. China is the fourth largest country in the modern world, during the time of the ancients China was constantly fighting amongst itself. There were many different states among the country that wanted to gain control over the others. This feuding also led to a large number of dynastic changes. There were a total of 15 major dynastic changes that went on throughout chine between 1700 BCE-1368 CE. The one dynasty that seemed most important to China was the Han dynasty. This dynasty reunited the separated states after the civil war. This dynasty lasted from around 206 BCE-220 CE. Poetry, literature, and philosophy flourished during the Han Dynasty. Confucianism was established as the basis for correct official and individual conduct and for the educational curriculum. “Under Wudi, China regained control of territories. New commanderies were established in Korea, and contacts were made with the western regions of Central Asia. The conquest of Ferghana and neighboring regions in 101 B.C., which allowed the Han to seize a large number of the "heavenly" long-legged horses valued for cavalry maneuvers, also gave China control of the trade routes running north and south of the Taklamakan Desert. In return for its silk and gold, China received wine, spices,...
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