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Mesopotamian Art

Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu

The Peoples of Mesopotamia


The Sumerians
The Akkadians
The Bayblonians
The Assyrians
The Neo- Babylonians
See the site for detailed information:
http://www.eyeconart.net/history/ancient/mesopotamian.htm

21st - 17th c BCE Mesopotamian Babylonian Sculpture

The cuneiform script underwent considerable changes over a period of more than two
millennia. The image below shows the development of the sign SAG "head" (Borger nr. 184,
U+12295)

Stage 1 shows the pictogram as it was drawn around 3000 BC. Stage 2 shows the rotated
pictogram as written around 2800 BC. Stage 3 shows the abstracted glyph in archaic
monumental inscriptions, from ca. 2600 BC, and stage 4 is the sign as written in clay,
contemporary to stage 3. Stage 5 represents the late 3rd millennium, and stage 6 represents
Old Assyrian ductus of the early 2nd millennium, as adopted into Hittite. Stage 7 is the
simplified sign as written by Assyrian scribes in the early 1st millennium, and until the script's
extinction.

The Epic of Gilgamesh


The Epic of Gilgamesh is, perhaps, the oldest written story on Earth. It
comes to us from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written on 12 clay
tablets in cunieform script. It is about the adventures of the historical King
of Uruk (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE).

Art of the ancient civilizations that grew up in the area around the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers, now in Iraq. Mesopotamian art was largely used to glorify
powerful dynasties, and often reflected the belief that kingship and the divine
were closely interlocked.
Sumerian (35002300 BC) The first of the powerful Mesopotamian
civilizations, Sumer was concentrated in the cities of Ur, Eridu, and Uruk in
southern Mesopotamia. The Sumerians built temples on top of vast ziggurats
(stepped towers) and also vast, elaborately decorated palaces. Sculptures
include erect, stylized figures carved in marble and characterized by clasped
hands and huge eyes; those found in the Abu Temple, Tell Asmar, date from
2700 BC. Earlier sculptures in alabaster, such as the Female Head (3000
BC; Iraq Museum, Baghdad), show a greater naturalism and sensitivity. Inlay
work is seen in the Standard of Ur (2500 BC), a box decorated with pictures
in lapis lazuli, shell, and red sandstone. The Sumerians, who are thought to
have invented writing about 3000 BC, produced many small, finely carved
cylindrical seals made of marble, alabaster, carnelian, lapis lazuli, and stone.
The Sumerians, like the ancient Egyptians who were more or less their
contemporaries, believed in an afterlife, and so their tombs were well
furnished with art, furniture, and other items to prepare them for the next
world.

The statues found at the Abu Temple in Tell Asmar from c. 2700 BCE
Faces are dominated by very large eyes; but, for reasons we might take for
granted, artists of many cultures have placed emphasis on eyes.

Helmet of King Meskalamdug, c. 2400 BCE

Sumerian Votive Figures

Victory of Naram-Sin
(2200 BC; Louvre, Paris),
carved in relief

Akkadian (23002150 BC) The Akkadian invaders quickly


assimilated Sumerian styles. The stele (decorated upright slab)
Victory of Naram-Sin (2200 BC; Louvre, Paris), carved in relief,
depicts a military campaign of the warlike Akkadians. The
technical and artistic sophistication of bronze sculpture is
illustrated by the Head of an Akkadian King (2200 BC; Iraq
Museum, Baghdad).
Assyrian (1400600 BC) The characteristic Assyrian art form
was narrative relief sculpture. Unlike the other southern
Mesopotamian peoples, the Assyrians had access to large
quantities of stone, and their many carved reliefs have
consequently survived well. These shallow carvings were used
to decorate palaces, for example, the Palace of Ashurbanipal
(7th century BC). Its finely carved reliefs include dramatic
scenes of a lion hunt, now in the British Museum, London.
Winged bulls with human faces, carved partially in the round,
stood as sentinels at the royal gateways (Louvre, Paris).

Human-headed winged lion (lamassu), Assyrian 883859 B.C

Winged Assyrian Bull c.721-705 BCE

Mesopotamia, Nimrud, Head of a Woman, late 8th


century BCE, ivory plaque, originally part of
furniture. This piece is listed on the Oriental
Institute's database of treasures that have been lost
or stolen from Iraq.

Babylonian (625538 BC) Babylon came to artistic


prominence in the 6th century BC, when it flourished under King
Nebuchadnezzar II. He built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, a
series of terraced gardens. The Babylonians practised all the
Mesopotamian arts and excelled in brightly coloured glazed tiles,
used to create relief sculptures. An example is the Ishtar Gate
(about 575 BC) from the Temple of Bel, the biblical Tower of Babel
(Pergamon Museum, Berlin, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York).
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A Babylonian relief sculpture of a bull made of brightly glazed tiles on the


restored Ishtar Gate. The original sculpture dates from around 575 BC
and stood on the gate of the Temple of Bel, the biblical Tower of Babel in
Babylon.

Persia, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, sixth century BCE. Accounts


indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled
the city for 43 years starting in 605 BCE, and that he built them to cheer up
his homesick wife, Amyitis. Medes, the land she came from was green,
rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of
Mesopotamia depressing, so the king decided to recreate her homeland by
building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens. The Hanging Gardens
weren't actually "hanging", but instead were "overhanging" as in the case
of a terrace or balcony.