April 6, 2012
The Art of the Ancient Near East
Ancient sources are key to researchers and archeologists today to discovery the history of the ancient world. Such artistic resources include architecture, sculptures, writing, pictures, reliefs, pottery, and much more. The source that will be focused on in this topic of art in the ancient Near East are reliefs found within the region. There are many forms and styles in which reliefs were made. Though overall, reliefs are perceived as important artifacts for unraveling history in the ancient Near East.
People were first inspired to create art since the beginning of human evolution. In the Stone Age around 10,000 BCE stone tools were first invented giving Nomadic people the inspiration to carve. It was not until the Neolithic Revolution in 8000 – 6000 BCE that hunter and gatherers began settling permanently due to population growth. More time in one place gave the people the time needed to advance in technology. Such advances include the pottery wheel and the plow. Pottery was made to simplify their way of life, though it gave them a new surface to draw upon and from there the art of carving began.
“Man started drawing because he believed he can make life out of rock.” Reliefs were not just used as written sources, dated back to the beginning of civilizations; people etched artwork into pottery and walls. Much pottery was found in tombs that help archeologists determine who was buried there. An example of relief on pottery is the Buff Ware Vase found in the Predynastic period around 4000 BCE. This type of clay can only be found along the Nile River, indicating it belonged to the Egyptians settled at that time. “With the help of the pottery we can thus gain a more or less reliable conspectus of the development of the late "Neolithic" culture of Egypt”. Authors King and Hall support the idea that reliefs help unravel the history of the ancient Near East. Man started carving reliefs not only because it produced art but it also because it had a longer lasting life and later became useful to organize the economics of these now settled people. Permanent villages led to urbanization; an established civilization with technological and agricultural advances. This led to a more centralized economy and once economies became more complex people needed a way to keep organized. Clay tokens were first discovered on baskets as a form for counting, assuming it was to determine how many items were placed in that basket. Then came numerical signs indicating stylus were being used. This can be proved by evidence found in archaic texts from Uruk. Three stages of the stylus imprinted onto tablets and reliefs helped organize the reliefs when they were made. The pointed stylus was used in the late Uruk period 3100 BCE. The second type of stylus used in the Jamdet Nasr period 3000 BCE and the Early Dynastic Period 2400 BCE had a more rounded tip that people would press into the clay then drag, leaving a unique impression. The last type of stylus had a triangle pointed tip used during the Ur III period 2000 BCE. The type of stylus used on each relief helped archeologists determine the periods in which reliefs were created. The Sumerian King List is a literacy tablet that first recorded the rise of dynasties in 2100 BCE. Translated by Jona Lindering, the list starts with kingship descending from heaven in Eridu, and then lists the rise falls of every ruler after Eridu. The relief is significant to unraveling ancient history because Archeologists commonly use it as a main source of written evidence and to study the overall framework of Mesopotamia. The Urbanization Revolution of Sumer spread to northern Mesopotamia and north Syria. It was then that the temple came about in Ubaid 5000 – 3600 BCE, and religious hierarchic activity was found in Eridu (southern Mesopotania). Such evidence included...