by sylladex

Mesopotamia (land between two rivers – the Tigris & Euphrates), also known as the Fertile Crescent. Mesopotamia sees the perfection of farming, creation of irrigation systems, the construction of the plow & the wheel. Because farming takes off, we begin to see the development of culture.
1. Sumerians (3500 – 2340 BCE) – Uruk, Ur
2. Akkadians (2340 – 2180 BCE) Naram Sim
3. Neo Sumerian (2125 – 225(?) BCE) – Gudea, 3rd dynasty of Ur
4. Babylonians (1793 – 1750 BCE) – Hammurabi

SUMERIANS – 3500-2340 BCE

  • No unified empire – all city states. Each city state had it’s own god/goddess & this god/dess was believed to protect the city state & its people. Religion becomes very important during this time. Cities will build elaborate temples for their god/desses to keep them happy. Gods provided fertility (crops, babies, animals).
  • 4 levels of society:
  1.  Bottom: Slaves (prisoners of war)
  2. Peasants & Workers (work in temples, assist farmers, etc.)
  3. Landowners
  4. Ruler
  • Ruler of the city is a representation of the god(s). You would go to him and on your behalf he would go to the gods.
  • Sumerians are referred to as the culture of firsts: wheel, plow, irrigation, writing.
  • Writing began as pictographs, changes over time. Becomes wedge-shaped (cuniform). Writing was first used for accounting/economics (recording things with trading). Other cultures adopt it, applying their language to the writing. The Sumerians are known for their literature (Epic of Gilgamesh). Sumerian Cuniform was deciphered in 1857.
  • Gilgamish was a king of Uruk in 2750 bce – stories about him began to circulate after his death. Earliest version dates to 2100 bce. When other cultures came along, they took the epic & translated it to their own languages. The Assyrains had a copy in their libraries. The story is basically about Gilgamesh & his companion. His companion dies & then he goes in search of immortality. Gilgamesh was a king and was therefore semi-divine.
  • So note that things are changing from prehistory with the advent of literature. This also gives us the first Stele.

Stele from Uruk, 3500-3000 BCE

  • Granite, Low relief (subtractive method). First Stele.
  • Scene of 2 men hunting lions, shooting arrows. One man is going to stab the lion. It is believed this was to commemorate a battle between man & animals. This ties in with the establishment of city states – when you create a city, you have to push the animals out & you’re going to have some problems and you ahve the beginning of man thinking he is the steward of the land. Likely this is a legendary battle that never actually happened.
  • Steles were done for commemoration – battles, kings, leaders. They were erected someplace. Used also for recording history and myths.

Face of a Woman 3300-3000 BCE

  • 8 Inches, sculpture in the round, marble (imported) (therefore someone important). Most likely the goddess Inanna, although some believe it may be a priestess of Inanna.
  • Back of sculpture is flat, holes for eyes, opening on the head – obviously was decorated and adorned. Likely a wig was put on it, shells in eye holes & eyebrow indentation, dressed in finest fabrics & probably attached to a wooden body. Sculpture probably resided in the temple & on certain days of the year was carried out by the priest.
  • Believed by the people that Inanna would come down from the sky & meet with the priests and the king (the only people who could go into the temple).
  • Inanna was the goddess of love and war, ties in with fertility, also important to farming.
  • Head was stolen in 2003 from the Iraq National Museum but was returned. Looting of this nature is a large problem, especially during war, as is damage to artifacts.

Carved Vase to Inanna 3300-3000 BCE, Uruk

(Warka Vase)

  • 36 inches, alabaster. Found in what was believed to be the ruins of Inanna’s temple.
  • Divided into 3 registers used to divide up scenes. (This is the first time we’ve seen registers)
  • It is believed a narrative is being told here. Start at the bottom; there is a wavy line (reference to water). In the next register we have animals (rams) lined up, looks like they’re walking in a procession. Next level has naked men carrying baskets of food. At the very top, there is a female figure (Inanna) and a naked man (priest) with offerings. We know the man is a priest because he is bald, has bare feet and is on sacred ground. The baskets of food the other men are carrying are also offerings, as are the rams.
  • Some believe this is a depiction of the New Year’s Festival. Offerings for fertility & crops, there was also a religious ceremony where the king would marry Inanna.
  • Back of vase has two people in the top register, standing there and have offerings for the goddess. They are standing on what appears to be a stepladder, symbolizing the ziggurat (temple). It is believed that you go to the zigurat and you communicate with the gods & goddesses.
  • Side note: These gods & goddesses are a lot like those of the Greeks – very human & emotional, but having supernatural powers & immortaility. The Mesopotamians believed they were created to serve the gods & the Mesopotamian religion also contained the idea of a personal god, much like a guardian angel. Obviously this was a polytheistic religon, which consisted of many gods that were venerated, all of them being responsible for different things. Certain professions had patron gods. There were, however certain gods & goddesses that were somewhat more important – the gods of the sky & heavens (moon, sun, etc.). And nothing is formed in a vaccum, including religion, so you’ll notice that every religion is going to influence those that follow it.

Votive Figures 2900-2600 BCE

  • Alabaster & limestone.
  • Found at a temple. It is believed that these figures were placed in temples standing in front of a large sculpture of a god/dess in worship.
  • Posed: hands clasped, looking up, wide eyes. Adorning. Look alert, ready to serve. Some figures are holding small bottles for libations (liquid poured out for the god).
  • Figures were mass produced – go pick them up at the market. The wealthy could have them commissioned. Here we see evidence of a stratified society – larger figures cost more (wealthy), smaller ones cost less. But figures look similar – men: beards, shoulder length hair, skirts, no shirt. women: robes w/ right shoulder exposed. Some figures are kneeling. Conical shape – a sumerian stylistic trait. Freestanding. Wide eyes – some say this means they are awake/alert/venerating while others believe that a hallucinogen was used to enahnce the religious experience.
  • But some variation: bald man (probably a priest). Some have writing on the bottom, messages to the gods of veneration, prayer, requests, etc.

Bull Headed Lyre 2550-2400 BCE, Ur

  • Believed that wealthy families were buried in this cemetary. People were found buried underground in these tombs along with objects created from precious & imported materials
  • Discovered in a royal cemetary (tomb 878) by Leonard Wolley in the 1920’s.
  • Made from wood, decorated. Lapis lazuli, gold. Lyre is like a harp. this is not the only lyre found in Ur. In fact, on the lyre, there is a lyre being played (indication of importance). Used in royal banquets & funerary banquets.
  • Remember why bulls are so important (many depictions in paleolithic & neolithic art) – Strength, virility, fertility, farming.
  • Registers containing scenes, scholars are still in debate about what is being depicted here. Some say it’s scenes from the epic of gilgamesh – one figure in particular is connected to that epic (the scorpion man near the bottom – he protetcts the land of the dead in the Epic of Gilgamesh.)

Notes from August 29
Missing notes from August 31
September 5 was Labor Day, no class

Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions 850 BCE
Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions

  • Considered to be a narrative plot telling us a story about this hunt. This is the way the king showed his power – people would come and watch. Political propaganda.

Citadel & Palace of Sargon II, 721-706 BCE

  • Name change – likely because the ruler is connecting himself to Sargon the First, an Accadian Ruler. In the near east, all of these cultures that come in take what the early cultures had. Citadel (palace) sargon had built .
  • Sargon also built a zigarrat with 7 levels, each of them being 18 feet high. Each level was a different color. Note that the zigaurrat is right next to the palace – reminder that the king is next to the gods. Sargon’s palace was also high as well to show that he was powerful. Living next to the king would be his high officials. This is where people from neighboring areas would come and visit the king and officials from other towns would come to visit him or pay taxes.
  • The Lower Town -capital city, in front of but outside of the complex.

Lamassu from Palace of Sargon II 721-706 bce

  • These guard Sargon II’s palace.
  • Composite view.
  • Lamassu always have a human head & the body of an animal – these Lamassu have the body of a bull but some have lion bodies. Frontal view when walking up to the palace. Lamassu was a mythical animal believed to be very powerful and protect the king.
  • (slide of one that is part eagle from the side)
  • Lamassu vary in size – some are 8 ft, some are 10, some are large as 12.
  • King showing his power – connecting himself with animals like the previous king did. Think about these part-animal figures sitting out and acting as protectors. It’s likely that Sargon was influenced by the Egyptian Sphynx (head of the Pharaoh with the body of a lion). But unlike the Egyptian art, the Lamassu are much more decorative. Abstract designs in the beard, details in the animal. The sphynx was fully painted but didn’t have this much detail.

Tributary holding a model 721-706 bce

  • Subject of the king shown in the palace to display the power of the king. Possibly an archetect, due to position of hand and the fact that he is holding a model. Also, too, men accompany him with wood.
  • Likely building something important as wood had to be imported.
  • Notable details: stylized hair and beard, garment of feathers on archetect (shows where he’s from & rank), fish in water.

Men Transporting Wood
(nothing to say about it?)

Gilgamesh 721 – 706 bce

  • Statue believed to be Gilgamesh.
  • Gilgamesh could kill lions with his bare hands. Heirarchy of size – lion looks very small, showing how large and powerful Gilgamesh is. Detail in beard, pattern of garment, anatomy (leg muscles).

Soldiers & Elamite KingPalace of Assurbanipal, 669-627

  • Assurbanipal considered to be last great Assyrian King & much art was made for him (Lion hunts, depictions of leisure scenes & battles. He owned a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh in his library written in Acadian.) Assyrians used cuniform like the Sumerians, but it is altered. Assurbanipal conquered Egypt (out of the new kingdom, so Egypt has already fallen several times)
  • Depicted in this piece, Soldiers returning from battle with the Elamite king as their prisoner. Captured royalty for political purposes. Men are holding their hands up (we saw this in the stele of Hammurabi – this is likely some kind of religious thing – could be thankin the gods for victory. Hammurabi did this to show that he was devout and humble) these hands are further away, so it could be a show of thanks. During this time, Gods are responsible for everything, so when there is a victory, it’s important to thank the gods so you will continue to have victories.
  • Men are in profile, detail in muscles of the legs.
  • Cuniform at the top describes the scene with text.

Assurbanipal & His Queen in the Garden669-627 bce

  • Assurbanipal is reclined here (& wrapped in a blanket), showing not only that he is relaxed, but that he is powerful – queen is sitting up, so he is obviously more important. Servants on the right are fanning the king & two are fanning the queen – fans for comfort and to keep away bugs. Servants holding food, she has drink, he has food – this is where they come for leisure.
  • Note exotic plants brought in from foreign lands.
  • There is a head of a felled enemy reminding us of the power of the king.

Lion Released & Killed 669 – 627

  • Lions were kept in cages. Note that this is a continuous narrative, not 3 different lions. A little man opens the cage on the right (He isn’t really little, it’s just emphasis on the lion). Lion is in a flying gallop pose. These are completely controlled just like the other lion hunt. Note the two men standing with the king.

Assurbanipal Killing a Lion –669 – 627 bce

  • Lion is large – almost as large as the king.
  • Note there are several arrows in the lion – this shows that they would shoot the lions with the arrows first to weaken them because they are such powerful animals. Then the king stabs them to kill them. (There is a man on the side with the bows & arrows; he is also there to protect the king)
  • Detail: Same beard you see all the time, pattern on garment, detail on lion.
  • Focal point: King & Lion (slightly different focal point than previous works)

Springing Lion669-627 bce

  • The idea here is that the king is very powerful because he has killed a lot of lions. Lions were released one at a time, contrary to the feeling this image portrays. Spear men are before the king in the chariot and additional men would ride around and shoot lions if they got out of control. Still, despite these protectors, the king is powerful here.

Tablet from Assurbanipal’s Library – 669-627 bce

  • Written in cuniform, this tablet has observations about venus (astronomical). This proves that the Assyrians knew the movement of some of the planets; they were into astrology. In this library a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh was also found. It is important to show how this myth continued over all of these years, throughout all of these societies.

Neo-Babylonian Period

Biblically, Nebekenezer, the book of Daniel talks about him supressing the Jews. They also believe this period is where the Tower of Babel was built.

Reconstruction of Babylon in the 6th Century

  • Ceremonial entrance – enter through Ishtar’s gate. Note the hanging gardens, similar to gardens that other kings had, but more extravagant – considered one of the 7 wonders of the world. Garden was built by Nebekenezer for his wife – she brought in plants and animals from all over the world. Garden had an irrigation system.

Ishtar’s Gate 575 BCE

  • Innana’s incarnation through the Babylonians was Ishtar. This gate is currently in a museum in Berlin – it was taken arpart and then put back together.
  • Constructed of dark blue bricks, glazed.
  • Images of Lions (symbols of Ishtar), some are under palm trees, some are striding.
  • Horned Dragons (Mush hush Shu). Dragons no longer have lion paws on back legs – claws from birds of prey now. Composite view. These dragons symbolize the god Marduk (one of the most important gods during this period – patriarch). Marduk looks like the king is depicted – stylized beard, headdress – connecting the king to the gods.
  • Horses. (The focus here is obvs. on animals)

Zigurat & Temple of Marduk

  • This is what scholars believe was the Tower of Babel. As before, we have the zigguarat, then the temple on top. 3 stairwarys.
  • Painted – white, black, purple, blue, silver and orange. The Zigurate is the largest structure in the city, and when it was painted, it would stand out. Obviously the most important structure in Babylon – showing again how important the gods are.
  • Marduk – patron God of Babylon.

New Year’s Eve Festival

  • Festival began back with the Sumerians and continued through the cultures that followed. This was a time of renewal/purification. Lasted 12 days. During the Neo-Babylonian period, they would reinact the sacred marriage between Marduk & Ishtar (King & High Priestess) in the Zigurrat.
  • Statues of Marduk & Ishtar were carried throughout the city so people could see them, ask for things, celebrate. Music was important. This is an excuse to come together, celebrate and party.
  • King would go to the temple during this festival and remove all of his regalia and sit before the idol & kneel down. The priest would actually come and force the king to get on his keens before the idol and the king would make a negative confession, taking on the sins of the people. In this way, the king becomes the scapegoat and the priest is forcing him to be humble.

(notes from Sept. 7)