Artifacts of the Near East

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The Near East harbored some of the earliest civilizations of the early world. The Near east contained a sectioned of land between the Euphrates and the Tigris River. This area was called Mesopotamia. Many different groups of people rose and fell in the near east. One of those groups was called the Assyrians.

“By the end of the ninth century BCE, the Assyrians controlled most of Mesopotamia.” The Assyrian rulers at the time would live in large palaces. One city called Kalhu had some of the greatest Assyrian artifacts preserved inside it. One of the throne rooms in this city was guarded by a large stone statue called a lamassus. The lamassus was the guardian or protector of the room they stood in front of.

These creatures had “the bearded head of a man, the powerful body of a lion or bull and the wings of an eagle, and the horned headdresses of a god.”

This made the lamassus a very important figure to the Assyrian people. “Because they were designed to be viewed frontally and from the side, lamassus seem to have five legs. When seen from the front, two forelegs are placed together and the creatures appear immobile. But when viewed from the side, the legs are shown as vigorously striding.”Most of these statues were twice the size of a person and symbolized strength, power, and wealth of the ruler. The main reason these are so important was the fact that they were used everywhere around important entrance ways. An entrance is the first time you walk into a room, the first impression of that place you are entering. These statues were very powerful idols and artifacts for the Assyrian peoples.

Another people that left behind many great artifacts were the Uruk. The Uruk built lavish temples that held statues of gods and goddesses. Leaders of the Uruk people were listed onto a tablet called the Uruk King List. This list was found between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what was once the Babylonian empire. This list contained all the names of the Uruk leaders. It started with Kandalanu (647-627) and ended with Seleucus II Callinicus (246-226/225). This list was one of the earliest forms of recorded history in Mesopotamia.

This tablet detailed the reigns of over 20 different kings, and showed that the Uruk people thought it was important to keep track of their history. It is also possible that Uruk people might have made marble faces of leaders to help keep their lives in people memories.

How the tablet was organized is rather interesting. There are obverse and reverse sides on the tablet. The symbols written down wrap a full 360 degrees around the tablet and yet each word is distinguishable from the others. This tablet was no doubt important to the Uruk and Babylonian people. Without artifacts like these there it would be much harder to try and identify who ruled when and what they ruled like. These types of artifacts are what help chronicle history.

The final culture in Mesopotamia that left behind important artifacts is the Sumerians. The Sumerians left behind limestone statues called votive figures. These were religious in nature and depicted mainly gods that the people would worship. Other materials used to make these figures included stone, wood, and metal, which had to be imported. Painting and sculpture was the main median used, also each statue had enlarged eyes. This could symbolize reverence towards the gods, or the always watching eye of the gods. In figure 2-8 of page 33 in Art History, there is a collection of these figures. One of the tallest figures is about 30 inches in height. This figure represents the god of vegetation. The next tallest represents a mother goddess. They were worshipped in the hope that they would bring fertility to women and to crops. The next largest figures are priests and the smallest figures are worshippers. There was a definite hierarchy of size between the figures.

Each figure also has it hands folded in prayer. This symbolizes waiting and longing for something. These were mainly built in the hope that rain might come to water crops, or that riches will bestow upon a person, or that children will be born.

These artifacts were extremely important in a religious sense. These were early idols used in worship during periods of distress. As a culture religious worship is a very important aspect in developing the civilization. People needed hope that there were better days to come in order to continue working and building their city.

So the Assyrian Lamassus, The Uruk Kings List, and the Sumerian Votive figures seem to be very important artifacts in understanding the lives of the people of Mesopotamia. The cultural areas that these artifacts were a part of included, religion, writing and documenting and also Art and architecture. These artifacts really let you see into the past and realize what was important to our early ancestors. As history moves on someday our statues and monuments will be studied and used to understand how we lived and what we used to do. That is how we move forward, that is how the cycle of history and the world works.

Works Cited1.Art History, Marilyn Stokstad. 3rd Edition. Paperback. Publisher: Prentice Hall. 20072. Jona Lendering, Holland, 1996.

3. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404