Attitudes Towards Animals in Neolithic and Assyrian Times
Animals have been viewed differently by different cultures. This is evident when comparing the wall painting of a deer hunt from the Neolithic period (Gardner, 38) and the reliefs of Ashurbanipal hunting lions and the dying lions from the Assyrian dominated period of the ancient near east (Gardner, 56). The deer hunt scene, painted at Catal Huyuk c. 5750 BC, depicts several humans hunting two large deer and one small deer. The reliefs, sculpted at Nineveh c. 650 BC, consist of King Ashurbanipal sitting in a chariot and shooting several lions with his bow and arrow, and a close-up view of a dying lioness that has been shot three times by arrows but is still trying to move. The deer hunt scene shows that prehistoric people had more respect for animals than the Assyrian people did partly because the Neolithic people felt that magic was needed to help with their hunting. The two works also show that there was a large difference in the technology of these two cultures. In addition the Assyrians would sometimes hunt for sport, while the Neolithic people would hunt only out of necessity for food.
The deer hunt scene shows the animals as being stronger than humans, while the lion hunt scene shows the animals as being weak as compared to King Ashurbanipal. The two adult deer are much larger than any of the humans in the first scene. Humans are usually slightly taller than most deer, but here the deer are drawn about twice as tall as the humans. It also takes several humans with weapons to hunt the deer. In the lion scene, all of the lions have been killed or injured by arrows. The only person in the scene with a bow and arrows is King Ashurbanipal. It is apparent that he has shot all of the lions himself, showing his superior strength over the lions.
In prehistoric times, cave paintings of hunting scenes served magical purposes: "By confining them (animals) to the surface of their cave...
Bibliography: Tansey, Richard G. & Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner 's Art Through the Ages, Tenth Edition. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.
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