Test 1 Study Guide

by sylladex

In lieu of transposing all of my notes this close to the date of the test, I’m just going to go through them and find the pieces that are in the study guide and transcribe what I have on those pieces either from my notes or the textbook. I may employ the textbook or even the internet for pieces I was absent for that haven’t been shared by classmates on the facebook page.

Woman from Willendorf, 24,000BCE, Austria
Limestone, 4 inches.

found in Willendorf, Vienna. Limestone. Found paint made out of red ochre, so we know it was painted. Sculpture in the round. Originally called “Venus from Willendorf,” but changed b/c that was Greek or whatever and this isn’t.

Figure is curvy, thick, level of detail is quite astonishing. Emphasis on breasts, vagina, curves. Fertility. She is large because women put on weight in the hips when they are fertile & this signifies that she is prepared to have children. This also could have been an ideal of beauty from the time period.

Not a portrait of a specific woman. These people lived in groups & didn’t have an idea of the individual like we do. Thing on her head might be a hat.

Figure is only 4 inches, small, portable, people probably carried it around with them. Some have proposed that this is referencing some kind of goddess, but no one is really sure. Goddess religions predate Christianity and are prominent during this time. Not until Western Religions do we get to prominent male gods and women being pushed down, etc.

In the paleolithic, human sculptures were rare, and usually of women.

Lascaux Cave, Bird-Headed Man with Bison, 15,000BCE

this piece is deep in the cave & hard to access. Bison is 3 ft, 8 in. long. Man with a bird mask & a staff with a bird on it. Some believe this is shamanism. Birds play an important part in shamanistic religions, primarily because birds can occupy 2 realms – the earth & the heavens. Also the staff with the bird on it – Shamans in Siberia still use this staff. (looking at contemporary culture to understand ancient cultures)

Are the man & the bison occupying the same space? If this is a shaman, he could be having some kind of vision. Bison has been speared & disemboweled. Could be depicting a myth, omen/vision for a good hunt.

Stonehenge, 2750-1500BCE, England

Post & Lentil construction, beginnings of architecture. Continuously built on. Before there was Stonehenge, there was Woodhenge – wooden posts placed in a circle. (Native Americans also had woodhenges). Functioned as a calender focused on the sun – useful for a farming community to know when to plant. Heel stone in line with altar stone & this is how the sun would hit.

The larger stones were taken from about 23 miles away (weigh up to 15 tons). Water may have been used for moving stones. Smaller stones (blue stones) likely brought from 150 miles away. It is believed that these stones came from an area with a spring and that they believed the stones had healing powers.

Burial mounds have also been found at Stonehenge. Location probably served religious & ritual purposes in conjunction with calender purposes.

Sumerian, Face of a Woman, 3300BCE-3000BCE, Uruk

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.

Sumerian, Votive Figures, 2900-2600BCE

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 enhance 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.

Sumerian, Bull Headed Lyre, 2550-2400BCE, Ur

Detail of Bull, Detail of the front

Believed that wealthy families were buried in this cemetery. People were found buried underground in these tombs along with objects created from precious & imported materials

Discovered in a royal cemetery (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 protects the land of the dead in the Epic of Gilgamesh.)

Akkadian, Stele of Naram-Sin, 2220-2184BCE

6 ft 7 inches, Pink Sandstone

Naram-Sin was the grandson of Sargon; Name means “Beloved of the Moon God”.

Commemorates his defeat of the Lullubi. Inscribed twice – once for Naram Sin’s victory & then again later by an Elamite king who had taken the Stele back as booty after a victory. (citation: book)

Storming the mountain, shows his connection to the gods. Naram-Sin is the highest and largest figure in the piece (focal point, hierarchical scale)

A ground line is shown in this picture – this is significant. The diagonal movement of the ground line moves throughout the piece, moving the eye, showing action and movement. Change in composition and establishment of rhythm – this is also accomplished by the repetition of soldiers behind Naram-Sin. Soldiers show order while the enemy is arranged chaotically, showing how order overcomes chaos.

((Info about Sumerians))

  • 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 (cuneiform). 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 Cuneiform 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 Assyrians 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.

Sumerian, Nanna Ziggurat, 2100-2050BCE, Ur
(Notes from book & facebook, not class)

  • Ziggurat: to build High
  • Base is a solid mass of brick 50 ft high. Builders used baked bricks laid in bitumen (an asphalt like substance) for the facing of the entire monument. 3 ramp-like stairways of 100 steps converge on a tower-flanked gateway. From there, another flight of steps probably led to the temple proper, which no longer exists.
  • The temples thought of as waiting rooms, where the gods could come to.
  • Shows the power of the Sumerian, Their king, and of their gods.

Babylonian, Stele of Hammurabi, 1792-1750
(((Notes from Book)))

(full size)
7 ft 7 inches, Basalt

Contained Hammurabi’s law code written in Akkadian – 3,500 lines of cuneform characters. These laws goverened all aspects of Babylonian life, from commerce and property to murder, theft & marital fidelity, inheritances and the treatment of slaves.
Carried off as booty to Susa alongside the Stele of Naram Sin.

Top is a high-relief representation of Hammurabi in the presence of Shamash (the flame shouldered sun god). Hammurabi (king) raises his hand in respect. The god extends to him the rod and ring that symbolize authority. The symbols derive from builders tools – measuring rods and coiled rope – and connote the ruler’s capacity to build the social order and to measure people’s lives (that is, to render judgements and enforce the laws spelled out on the stele).

Stele is noteworthy artistically as well – the sculptor depicted Shamash in the familiar convention of combined front and side views but with 2 important exceptions – his great headdress with its 4 pairs of horns is in true profile so that only 4, not all 8 pairs of horns are visible & the artist seems to have tentatively explored the notion of  foreshortening. Shamash’s beard is in a series of diagonal, rather than horizontal lines, suggesting its recession from the picture plane, and the sculptor represented the side of his throne at an angle.

Sample of laws included on the Stele:

  • If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out
  • If he kills a man’s slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina
  • If someone steals property from a temple, he will be put to death, as will the person who recieves the stolen goods.
  • If a man rents a boat and the boat is wrecked, the renter shall replace the boat with another
  • If a married woman dies before bearing any sons, her dowry shall be repaid to her father but if she gave birth to sons, the dowry shall belong to them.
  • If a man’s wife is caught in bed with another man, both will be tied up and thrown int he water.

Assyrian, Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions, 850BCE

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.

(  Ask about this piece on Monday :(  )

Assyrian, Assurbanipal and His Queen in the Garden, 669-627BCE

  • 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.

Early Dynastic, Palette of King Narmer, 3000BCE

  • 2 ft tall, made of slate (stone)
  • Palettes were used to grind eye makeup (which was used to protect from the sun). This was obviously a ceremonial palette rather than one for daily use. Palettes often celebrated Hathor, who was a goddess of beauty and the deified mother of the Pharaoh.
  • Palette shows how Narmer brought together Upper & Lower Egypt.
  • Note the Papyrus & “Bowling Pin” shaped crown. The Papyrus is a symbol of Lower Egypt, while the crown is a symbol of Upper Egypt.
  • Detail: Narmer smites an enemy

Early Dynastic, Imhotep, Stepped Pyramid, 2630-2611 BCE

(Full Size) (Detail & Schematics)

  • Djoser’s tomb.
  • These are the earliest burial chambers following the one-story Mastabas. The Step Pyramid is a natural progression from Mastaba to the full Pyramids.
  • It’s possible that Djoser wanted something larger and more significant for his tomb, so what Imhotep devised was a series of stacked mastabas that acted as a stairway that the Pharaoh would symbolically ascend to meet Ra in the sky in his solar boat and move into the afterlife.
  • We see here in the pyramid, a reference to the mound that came out of the waters of chaos (Ben Ben)
  • This pyramid is part of an entire complex that includes a mortuary temple (where Djoser’s Ka statue would be) – a place where people could come and give the king offerings. Also included was the Heb-sed court. (here(?) every 13th year a festival celebrating the renewal of the king occurred in which the gods would come down and approve the king’s continued rule.) Then there was the House of the North which includes the first columns in art history – they are engaged columns designed to reference papyrus.

(Note: Comparing step pyramid to the ziggaurat: )

  • both have the idea of going toward the sky
  • huge & only the upper echelon are allowed within.
  • no physical stairs int he actual step pyramid.
  • one’s rectangular & the other one is a pyramid shape
  • one’s for living worship & the other is for death

Old Kingdom, Pyramids at Giza (Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure)

(Overhead view of Giza Complex & Detail)

The Complex at Giza consists of 3 large pyramids – the tombs of Khufu, Khafre & Menkaure.

Pyramids, as previously mentioned refer to the Ben Ben, however the shape was important for other reasons – the triangle shape refers to the sun’s rays and the construction of the pyramid is oriented to the 4 cardinal directions to align the pyramids with the rising and setting sun.

Only a king could be buried in a pyramid.

Construction was done by citizens (not slaves) as a civil service for young men who were recruited from cities by the Pharaoh. It was kind of like being drafted – you had a place to live and you were given meals.

Built of limestone that was quarried – stone was cut out with copper chisels and wooden mallets. Pieces of stone were removed from the quarry and then transported by donkeys, wooden rollers and sleds, or by hand by men. Once the raw stone reached the pyramid, it would be reshaped and polished to fit where it belonged. Some believe that ramps were used at right angles and then built up, while others believe there was a ramp built around the pyramid and then built up.

The Sphinx was also a part of the Giza complex.

Pyramid of Khufu (2551-2528 BCE)
450 ft, largest pyramid.
Khufu was not well liked and many of his Ka statues were destroyed.

Pyramid of Khafre 2520-2494
(NO INFORMATION?? Ask Monday.)

Pyramid of Menkaure, 2490-2472 bce
Smallest of the 3 pyramids at Giza, likely because they were running out of stone and people were getting tired of doing this hard labor for the king. This sort of tension ran through the end of the Old Kingdom – civil unrest eventually causing the Old Kingdom to fall apart after 500 years.

Old Kingdom, Khafre Enthroned, 2520-2494 BCE

(Back & Detail)

  • 5 ft 6 in. dyarite. looked green when the light hit it.
  • Found in the valley temple
  • Khafre is seated, enthroned. He is wearing the royal headdress. Horus is behind his head.
  • idealized

Old Kingdom, Great Sphinx, 2520-2494 BCE

  • 65 ft x 240 ft, Sandstone.
  • Carved from a spur of rock in an ancient quarry. Collossal statue – largest in the ancient near east.
  • Placed in front of the Pyramid of Khafre – it’s likely that the face of the Pharaoh on the Sphinx is Khafre. (Originally adorned with headdress & false beard & Painted). Some scholars believe it portrays Khufu & was carved before construction of Khafre’s complex began.
  • Regardless, portrayed a sun god & was thus appropriate for a Pharaoh. The composite form suggests that the Pharaoh combines human intelligence with the immense  strength and authority of the king of beasts.  (from the book)
  • The Stele at the foot of the Sphinx: Dream Stele of Thutmose the 4th. He was hunting on the Giza plateau one day and he fell asleep below the Sphinx. He had a dream during which the Sphinx offered to make him the next Pharaoh if he unburied him from the sand.

Old Kingdom, Triad of Menkaure, 2490-2474 BCE

  • 38 inches, Graywlacke
  • Menkaure is the largest figure, (hierarchical scale).
  • On his left, Hathor. On his right, an anthropomorphic representation of a province.
  • We know it’s Hathor because she has the horns & sun disk. (She’s also sometimes depicted as a cow)
  • Observation of Hathor’s feet indicate that the king holds more powerful than her. Although she has one foot forward, Menukare’s forward foot is further forward than hers.
  • Hathor and Menkaure are holding hands – showing the king’s connection to the gods. The Province is not holding hands with Menukare, signifying that she is the least powerful. Her feet are also together, showing that both her feet are on the earth.
  • Egyptologists believed that each province had a triad like this – when you observed this, you were reminded that the Pharaoh, as well as the Gods & Goddesses were reigning over you. Each province may have a governor but the king is reigning over (holding hands with Hathor; one foot in heaven, one on earth).
  • Notably Menukare is wearing the crown of upper Egypt (bowling pin shape).
  • Hathor is known as the mother of the Pharaoh, so this may also have something to do with why they are holding hands also.

Middle Kingdom, Seated Statue of Mentuhotep II, 2055BCE-2004BCE

  • Limestone Ka statue.
  • Found in his burial tomb at Deir El Bahri. (tomb built within the cliffs).
  • Face & body painted black, arms crossed referencing Osiris. When sun hits the black statue, it looks green – also a reference to Osiris. (Like the Ka statue of Kaphre made of dyrite)
  • Wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, seated, enthroned.
  • Mentuhotep is significant because he reunited Upper & Lower Egypt after the collapse of the Old Kingdom. Later Pharaohs will refer back to him.

Middle Kingdom, Amun Receives Senusret I, 1965BCE-1920BCE

  • Senusret I began the construction of the Karnak temple in Luxor to which every Pharaoh after him will later contribute.
  • This piece, located in the White Chapel in Karnak is a presentation scene. Amun is receiving him by holding an Anhk up to his mouth. Behind Senusret we have the god Montu (Falcon head, headdress with sun disk & two plumes sticking out, connecting him with Amun. Note that Montu is also taking on the characteristics of Horus). Note that Montu has his arm around Senusret, showing again the connection between the Pharaoh and the Gods.
  • Senusret, shown in twisted perspective (or composite view) has the white crown of Upper Egypt, a mallet in one hand and a staff in the other. The mallet is a reference to war.
  • Note the Cartouche that contains Senusret’s name.

Middle Kingdom, Head of Senusret III, 1874BCE-1855BCE

  • Senusret III was significant because of his military expansions. He expanded the kingdom into the area of Palestine.
  • I’m not entirely sure which section of my notes refers to this piece, however I have some notes labeled “Another depiction of Senusret III” that I think might be about this piece, so I’ll use those and then ask him about it on Monday.
  • Sculptures during this time were notable due to the change from idealistic, young and powerful looking people to more natural people that displayed emotion. There are varying theories as to why Senusret looks old and sad here – some say it’s simply naturalism and it’s what he really looked like (he aged as he reigned) while others believe he looks sad as a reflection of the fall of the empire after the first intermediate period – an event the Egyptians never forgot. (Even in literature you have a lot of mention of the first fall of Egypt.)
  • Made of Stone.

New Kingdom, Funerary Temple, Deir El-Bahri, 1479-1458 BCE

(From the book)
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.

  • Hatshepsut – first great female monarch whose name is recorded. She was the regent to Thutmose III, but proclaimed herself Pharaoh after a few years, even going so far as to claim that her father had chosen her as his successor during his lifetime.
  • Painted reliefs recounting her divine birth (Said to be the daughter of the god Amun-Re – a sanctuary to whom was situated on the temple’s uppermost level) and significant achievements adorned her immense funerary temple.
  • Temple rises from the valley floor in three colonnaded terraces connected by ramps on the central axis. The long horizontals and verticals of the colonnades and their rhythm of light and dark repeat the pattern of the limestone cliffs above. The colonnade pillars, which are either simply rectangular or <i>chamfered</i> (beveled or flattened at he edges) into 16 sides, are well proportioned and rhythmically spaced.
  • The terraces were originally gardens containing frankincense trees and rare plants the pharaoh brought in.

New Kingdom, Hatshepsut as Osiris, 1479-1458 BCE

(Zoom Out)
(no info, posted to facebook group to request info.)

New Kingdom, Hatshepsut Enthroned, 1479-1458 BCE

(no info, posted to facebook group to request info.)

New Kingdom, Amenhotep III with Gods, 1390-1352

(no info, posted to facebook group to request info.)

New Kingdom, Colossal Statue of Akhenaton, 1352-1336

  • 13 feet high, Sandstone.
  • This was created to show the power of Akhenaton.
  • Akhenanton made significant changes to both the religion of ancient Egypt as well as its art style and the canon used to represent images. The statues become more curvy with longer faces that are idealized. Although these changes are not as abrupt as Egyptologists might have once believed them to be, they are still significant. He maintains old stylistic designs such as the use of the crook and flail, false beard and headdress, but the visual changes are stark and stunning. This art style is referred to as the Armana Period.
  • Religious changes were even more significant and drastic. Formerly an extremely monotheistic religion, Akhenaton abandoned (and outright banned) the worship of the all of the gods, and instead focused on a god named Aten (or Aton, according to the textbook), represented by a sun disk (significant because all gods before this were represented in animal or human form). He went so far as to strike out the name of Amen from inscriptions and emptied out the great temples, enraging priests. He also moved the capital downriver from Thebes to a site he named Akhetaten (Akhetaton according to the book) (named after the Aten god). Akhetaten is now called Armana.

New Kingdom, Akhenaten and His Family, 1352-1336

  • 15 inches, limestone, sunken relief.
  • This is the first time a family portrait like this has been seen. The family is being shown in a domestic scene. People would have these in their homes.
  • Note that Nefertiti’s headdress is similar to the headdress of lower Egypt.
  • The Aten is at the top, but the family is the focal point. The Aten’s rays reach down, ending in hands as it is normally depicted, but note that the rays in front of Nefertiti & Akhenaten end in ankhs, signifying life and power – the god is literally giving life and power to the Pharaoh and his wife. A cobra was originally inside the Aten sun disk, but it is no longer there.
  • Note the small throne that Nefertiti is sitting on is made of lotus & papyrus plants, symbols of upper & lower Egypt.
  • There is a theme here representing the nearly equal ruling power of the king and queen that has not previously been seen. The royal family is as important as the Pharaoh and the Gods here.

(About Pharaoh Tutankhamen)

  • Ruled from 1333 – 1323
  • Son of Akhenanten and a lesser wife. His birth name was Tutankhaten – “Living image of the Sun Disc,” but as Egypt returned to the traditional religion after Akhenaten’s rule his name was changed to Tutankhamen (Living image of Amen).
  • There will still be some remnants of the Armana art style, despite all of the changes that came into effect after Akhenaten’s death.
  • During his rule, the capitol moved South from Akhetaten back to Thebes (near Karnak). This means a return to building on the temple at Karnak, including repairing damage done to the temple by Akhenaten.
  • He became king at age 8, died at 19. There is some debate on how he died – theories include murder, infection from a broken leg, and heart disease. We know a lot about Tutankhamen because of how much treasure was found intact in his tomb. He was, however, a minor pharaoh in the history of Egypt, so imagine, based on this, how much treasure was probably in the looted temples like Giza.
  • Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter (egyptologist) in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. All of the New Kingdom pharaohs (with the exception of Hatshepsut) will be buried here in rock-cut tombs in the cliffs and underground.

New Kingdom, Mask of Tutankhamen, 1333-1323

  • 1 ft, 9 inches. Gold, lapis lazuli & semi-precious stones.
  • This is a death mask that was found on his body. Note that the face isn’t elongated like statues and depictions of Akhenaten. There is a return to the young and idealized representation of the Pharaoh (although Tutankhamen was very young).
  • The cobra on the top is a reference to Wadjet, a very early Sun Goddess and Goddess of Lower Egypt.
  • This mask no longer travels – fear of theft & damage.

New Kingdom, King Tutankhamen’s Throne, 1333-1323


  • 40 inches. Wood, gold leaf & silver.
  • Detail on the back of the sculpture is a family portrait in the Armana style. It shows Tutankhamen with his wife, who is rubbing lotion on him. This is obviously a family scene. The Aten is depicted in the background, including cobra and sun rays. His wife is wearing a plumed headdress. There is also a reference to lotus and papyrus on the pictured throne that Tutankhamen is seated on, just as Nefertiti’s throne in the portrait of Akhenanten and his family.
  • Also note the lions and lion paws seen previously on Kaphre’s sculpture.

New Kingdom, Book of the Dead (Hunefer), 1285BCE

This is a continuous narrative. The scenes are as follows:

  • Anubis has Hunefer by the hand.
  • Anubis is weighing Hunefer’s heart
  • Thoth is recording what’s happening
  • Horus presenting Hunefer to Osiris
  • In front of Osiris sit his 4 sons in the form of canopic jars, while behind him stand Isis & Nepthys.

About the Book of the Dead:

  • Also called the “Book of Going Forth by Day” (The sun goes forth by day, you will also.)
  • During the Old Kingdom, Pyramid Texts were inscribed on the tomb walls. In the Middle Kingdom there were Coffin Texts. Now, in the New Kingdom, we have The Book of the Dead. The spells are now on papyrus – some were up to 70 ft long. The scrolls were rolled up and put in between the legs of the mummified corpse.
  • The spells were then used by the spirit of the dead person as they took their journey. Some of those spells were also transformative, allowing the user to transform himself into other beings, usually animals (snake, falcon) but also things like lotus. This may be what the Sphinx is about as well.Of course the deceased wants to have every possibility when they’re dead because of whatever they may encounter on their journey.
  • This isn’t like the Bible where there is a set canon – when a person commissioned their Book of the Dead, they had spells and passages to choose from that they wanted included. Even middle-class citizens eventually had their own books commissioned.

Africa, Nok, Head, 500BCE-200CE

  • 8 inches, Terra Cotta.
  • The first Nok sculpture was discovered near the small town of Nok in 1983, and thus the name was coined. We have no idea what the people who created these called themselves – they had no written language.
  • The instructor first said that they were found all throughout Africa, but then he contradicted himself and said they were all found in Nigeria. (I’ll ask him about this on Monday)
  • They were found near rivers, which complicates things for archeologists, as we’re now unsure how they were originally used or where they were placed. They probably moved with flooding and erosion.
  • The Bottom is broken – it was probably a full sculpture with a body smaller than the head, however no bodies or complete sculptures have been found. It’s also possible that the bodies were made of wood and were not preserved. The heads would have been bigger (and potentially made out of a more durable material because this culture likely placed emphasis on the head just as the Yoruba people who live in the area do now. The Yoruba hold the belief that the head is the most important part of the body, and thus place emphasis on it in their art.)
  • It is believed that these figurines could have been buried in or near shrines or graves or simply placed inside of them. It is likely that they were made of royalty or gods, although there is an emphasis on ancestor veneration in the current Yoruba culture, as well as many cultures throughout Africa. (Royalty would be especially important ancestors – important to keep their memory alive. People would also go to shrines and ask them for things, such as fertility or crops.)It’s also possible that these figures could have been adorned and brought out during festivals as we’ve seen in other cultures previously (Egypt, the Near East & the contemporary Yoruba).
  • This sculpture contains specific Nok stylistic traits – upside-down triangle eyes, ridged eyebrows, broad nose, open mouth. The eyes for the holes, nostrils and mouth were likely for the firing process and are also a stylistic trait. Notice the hair – it was reflective of the hair that people had at the time.
  • It is believed these heads were made using a subtractive method because the Nok were a woodcarving people, as the contemporary cultures in Nigeria are. It’s also believed that they had a masking tradition. However, wood deteriorates, so we have nothing left of these things today.

(About the Yoruba)

The Yoruba are the largest ethnic group in Africa and their culture has spread throughout the world. They were greatly impacted by the slaving trade, and this, too, has helped to spread their culture throughout the world. (including the US and the Carribean).

Religion: Santeria. Within this we get the idea of Orishas (spirits). Spritis can be deified ancestors or personified natural forces (sometimes both). Also, the idea of ancestor veneration is maintained, including having a family shrine. The religion is constantly changing and evolving and has no set dogma. Even today, the religion varies from one village to another.

Capital City: ileife, from about 1200 ce – 1400 ce. It had lots of power & provinces. It is still a city today, although it iis not still part of this powerful Yoruba kingdom. It was greatly impacted by the slave trade, which kind of ruined everything when it hit. All of the Yoruba’s cities are circular, with the king’s palace in the center and everything built around it.

Yoruba creation myth: God Olodumare (supreme god) instructs Obatala (creator god) to create life. At this time the world was covered in water, Obatala took a snail shell with dirt & a chicken. Earth was poured onto the water and the chicken spread it all around. Obatala creates Ileife & this becomes his city (patron god). Other gods create their own cities.

In all African religions you have this idea of a supreme god (first mover) who begins everything – but once he instructs another god to create life, he goes away and the humans don’t have any more interaction with him. You have Orishas as go-betweens.

With the Yoruba, we have tons of heads too, especially during this time.

Africa, Yoruba, Head of an Oni, 11-12th century

  • Oni means king.
  • 1 ft high, brass. Lost wax casting method (which started in Asia).
  • The Lost Wax Casting method is a very advanced procedure which took a lot of time – of course it is only going to be used for the king because of this intensive creation process.
  • Found buried with other brass objects in the back of the king’s palace.
  • It is believed that this was used during certain ceremonies. Again, the king is a very important ancestor that they would want to please. So they would bring it out adorned with a headdress, likely on a wooden body (emphasis on the head)
  • Note the lines on the face – at first historians believed that this was a representation of scarification, but notice the holes on the top Most likely it was a headdress that the head was wearing, much like contemporary Yoruba Oni
  • It was believed that the Oni was very powerful – his voice is powerful and you can’t look him in the eyes, so he is completely covered.
  • Idealized naturalism – looks young (flesh on face, eyes nose mouth ears -realism). When westerners first found these heads, they did not believe that the people of that area did them. (Social Darwinism)

Aegean (Cyclades Islands), Male Lyre Player, 2700-2500 BCE

9 inches high, marble
(From book)

The most elaborate of the male Cycladic figurines take the form of these seated musicians.  The meaning of all Cycladic figurines is elusive, but this seated musician may be playing for the deceased in the afterlife. The statuette displays the same simple geometric shapes and flat planes as other figurines from this period. Still, the artist showed a keen interest in recording the elegant shape of what must have been a prized possession: the harp with a duck-bill or swan-head ornament at the apex of its sound box. (Animal-headed instruments are well documented in contemporary Mesopotamia and Egypt.)

There is an absence of written documents in Greece at this date, as everywhere else in prehistoric times. This, coupled with the lack of information about where many these pieces were found and in what context makes it difficult to determine their exact meaning. It is likely, in fact, that the same form took on different meaning in different contexts

To understand the role that this or any other artworks played in ancient society – in many cases, even to determine the date and place of origin of an object – the art historian must know where the piece was uncovered. Only when the context ofan artwork is known, can one go beyond an appreciation of its formal qualities and begin to analyze its place in art history – and in the society that produced it.

The extraordinary popularity of Cylcadic figures in recent decades has had unfortunate consequences. Clandestine treasure hunters, eager to meet he insatiable demands of modern collectors, have plundered many sites and smuggled their finds out of Greece to sell to the highest bidder on the international market. Entire prehistoric cemeteries and towns have been destroyed because of the high esteem in which these sculptures are now held. About 10% of the known Cycladic marble statuettes come from secure archaeological context – many of the rest could be forgeries produced after WWII when developments in modern art fostered a new appreciation of these abstract renditions of human anatomy and created a boom in demand for “Cycladica” among collectors.

Minoan, Young Girl Gathering Flowers, 1700-1450BCE

(No Information Provided)

Minoan, Woman with Snakes, 1700-1450BCE

1 ft, 1 1/2 inch high, Faience (low-fired opaque glasslike silicate)
(From the book)

  • (Popularly known as the) Snake Goddess, from the palace at Knossos (Crete), Greece.
  • One of the most string finds at the palace at Knossos.
  • Reconstructed from several pieces, it is one of several similar figurines that some scholars believe may represent mortal attendants rather than a deity, although the prominently exposed breasts suggest that these figurines stand in the long line of prehistoric fertility images usually considered to be deities.
  • The snakes in her hands and the feline on her head imply that she has power over the animal world appropriate for a deity.
  • The formality of the figure is reminiscent of Egyptian and Near Eastern statuary, but the costume with its open bodice and flounced skirt is distinctly Minoan. If the statuette represents a goddess, as seems likely, it is yet another example of how humans fashion their gods in their own image.

Minoan, Harvester Vase, 1700-1450BCE

  • Greatest Diameter – 5 inches, Steatite, originally with gold leaf.
  • This vase is the finest surviving example of Minoan relief sculpture. Only the upper half of the egg-shaped body and neck of the vessel are preserved. Missing are the the lower parts of the harvesters & the ground on which they stand, as well as the gold leaf that originally covered the relief figures
  • Formulaic scenes of sowing and harvesting were staples of Egyptian funerary art but the Minoan artist shunned static repetition in favor of a composition that bursts with the energy of its individually characterized figures.
  • Depicted is a riotous crowd singing and shouting as they go to or return from the fields. The artist vividly captured the forward movement and exuberance of the youths.
  • Although most of the figures conform to the age-old convention of combined profile and frontal views, the sculptor singled out one figure from his companions. He shakes a rattle to beat time and the artist depicted him in full profile with his lungs so inflated with air that his ribs show. This is one of the first examples in history to represent the underlying muscular and skeletal structure of the human body. This is a remarkable achievement, especially given the vase’s small size. Equally noteworthy is how the sculptor recorded the tension and relaxation of facial muscles with astonishing exactitude, not just for the leader with the rattle, but for his 3 companions as well. This degree of animation of the human face is without precedent in ancient art.

Mycenaean, Mask of Agamemnon, 1600-1100BCE

  • 1 ft long, gold.
  • The gold was taken and beaten from behind to create this relief.
  • The man who found this mask (anthropologist Heinrich Schliemann) was a businessman and amateur archeologist. He came to the area looking for the remnants of Agamemnon – the legendary king who led the Greek forces in the battle of Troy. No one is really sure if Agamemnon actually existed – they believe now that they have found the city of Troy in Turkey. But Schliemann said this was Agememnon, so it was accepted at that time that that was who it was.
  • Scholars now recognize that this artifact is from 300 years to early to be Agememnon.
  • Some also say that things were added to the mask, such as the mustache and large ears.
  • This was a  funerary mask so it was placed on someone’s face when they were buried. It’s much smaller than Tutankhamen’s mask – a noted move toward naturalism, where they’re trying to cover the face, rather than make a colossal mask.

Key Terms

  • Paleolithic- Old Stone Age…. Hunter groups, moved around
  • Neolithic-New Stone age… Farming and settlement began
  • High Relief-Carving method where more than 1/2 of the subject is projected from the background
  • Low Relief-Carving method with a shallow overall depth.
  • Sunken Relief-The subject is carved within the background
  • Shaman- A Person who could communicate with the other world/Gods. First type of religious beliefs.
  • Post and Lintel- Two bars up, on across…. How Stonehedge was built
  • Mesopotamia-Middle-East area we studied involving the Syrians, Sumer and Babylonians. Means “The Land Between Two Rivers,” also known as the fertile crescent.
  • Twisted Perspective-Where one part of the body is at profile while the other part is at frontal view…. Very common in Egyptain art. Also known as “composite view”.
  • Heirarchy of Scale-The importance of an object in a piece is shown in size. The more important, the bigger
  • Ka-Egyptain spirit…. It was what traveled into the afterlife. There were many statues made for the ka of the pharohs.
  • Mastaba-First type of tomb for the Pharohs… Squared off top.
  • Rock Cut Tomb- Burial chambers built within the wall of a mountain
  • Necropolis- Large burial site for many people…Means “City of the dead.
  • Maat-The egyptain word for truth and order. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. The job she was often represented doing was weighing the heart of the deceased as they were judged when they died. If the heart was heavier (with evil or misdeeds) than her feather, it was consumed by Ammit (a beast with the head of a crocodile, the front legs and body of lion or leopard, and the back legs of a hippopotamus). If the heart was lighter than her feather, the deceased was permitted to continue to the afterlife.
  • Amarna Style- Change in style of egyptain art, during the reign of Akhenaten. Named after the current Armana region where Akhenaten’s captal, Akhetaten once stood.
  • Repousse- Type of metal wor where you make a revers of the shape on the back. See Burial Mask
  • Ethnoarcheology-The study of the past through current cultures.
  • Idealism – When a piece is drawn//created more to fit the ideal image than reality/truth

(Sierra was kind enough to provide the definitions for key terms. I expanded on a few of them, but the credit really lies with her. Thank you.)