Near East Essay, Research Paper
Prehistoric Art and Art of the Ancient Near East When you look at art that spans many thousands of years you are bound to see distinct differences. This is taken for granted given the art was created during different eras and during different civilizations. What may not be as obvious, are the similarities that these historic artifacts have in common with one another. Let’s start by looking at, and comparing, the architectural features of Stonehenge, the Anu Ziggurat and White Temple at Uruk, and the ceremonial Temple at Persepolis. They were all constructed during different ages, so one would assume that their commonalties would be few. Stonehenge dates back to 2750 BCE and is built on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. At first view, Stonehenge appears to be only a cluster of stones. There is much more to this great work of art than just a pile of stones though, thousands of years passed as these huge rocks made their way out of quarries, over 150 miles from the monument itself. One of the great mysteries of Stonehenge is how the stones got there.Many hundreds of miles away in the deserts of Iraq are the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple of Uruk. Compared to a picture of Stonehenge you would say that the two have nothing in common. After you learn that the Anu Ziggurat and the White Temple of Uruk were built in 3100 BCE you may think they have even less in common. Well, the truth is they have a lot more in common than you think. Both were constructed over many thousands of years with more detail being constantly added. These are not the works of modern architects who have blueprints and drawings to work from. These are the creations of many generations and quite possibly many different groups of people. The Temple at Persepolis, constructed in 460 BCE, in Iran (formerly known as Persia), displays this quite well. The evidence that Persia was a multicultural city lies in the hundreds of stone columns located in The Hall of 100 columns. The columns reflect design from Persian, Mede, Egyptian, and possibly Greek sources. Other similarities are not so obvious. The primary use of all these structures seems to be religion. There is less proof for what Stonehenge was used for than either of the later but many ideas exist. Some historians believe that Stonehenge was built for astronomical purposes, and enabled ancients to track the stars. All of the structures have been used at some point for ceremonial purpose and it is believed that ancient people used these ‘temples’ to communicate with their god’s’. Another form of art is sculpture. Votive figures have existed for thousands of years, they were believed to be extensions of the human mind, used for prayer when the owner had no time to pray. The votive statue was in constant prayer for the human it represented. Two votive figures that separate themselves by 800 years are the votive figures of Tell Asmar and the votive figures of Gudea. Though the figures span nearly a century they are nearly identical in composure. Both figures stand erect with hands clasped at the waist as if in prayer. The figure of Gudea is holding a vessel that is overflowing with the water of life. Both have large eyes with over emphasized brows. This is so that the votive can return the gaze of the deity it is offering prayer too.
With such similar characteristics it is reasonable to say that the people who created these figures didn’t change a lot through the 800 years that separates them. Both figures are from Iraq, though different areas, so the people would have had much in common as far as location is concerned. I think that the lack of change in the overall appearance of the votive indicates that the peoples of this region did not advance much during this 800 years, though written language may have become more important because we see it in the later votive figures of Gudea. Throughout the world we find many examples of ancient cave paintings. This is not an art that was restricted to one region of the globe. The function of cave paintings is hypothetical because so little is known about them. They are generally in difficult to reach places which leads us to believe that they are not the work of average people, but of skilled craftsman. Most ancient art is tied to religious purpose and cave art is no different. Some historians believe that cave art was done for religious purposes, that the cave served as a ‘cathedral’ for the surrounding population and that the art developed over a span of many hundreds of years. hers believe that cave art is the work of Shamans. Designed in the images of sacred animals to bring luck to the people around the cave. Some people believe that the cave art was designed for hunters as kind of a ‘good luck’ charm. These people believe that the animals on the walls were the animals that were hunted and that the tribe shot paint or arrows at the pictures to assure a successful hunt. And some believe that cave art is exactly that. Art. That it has no purpose except for artistic pleasure. If you look at the Hall of Bulls, in the Lascaux Caves, France, you will see a painting that seems to support all of these theories. The animals are distinct and colorful, perhaps in honor of them, perhaps for the beauty that color adds to the scene. There are dots and chips in the wall that indicate that something was ‘thrown’ or ’spit’ at the paintings, maybe the work of men leaving for the hunt. And some of the animals overlap, this could indicate that the paintings were done over a period of years at people visited this ancient ‘museum’. The purpose is unknown but the theories can be backed up. Ancient art isn’t easy to analyze. We can’t always look at it and know what its purpose was, or why it was designed. Appreciating the complexity of what we can’t easily explain is part of appreciating art itself. Looking at how art develops over a period of time helps us to understand how civilization developed and gives us an insight to how art developed. The builders of this ancient art may be forgotten but because of what they’ve left behind, their story can be interpreted and remembered today. REFERENCES Stokstad, Marilyn. Volume One, Art History. Harry N Abrams: New York, 1995. Hawkins, Gerald S. Stonehenge Decoded. Doubleday: New York, 1965.