Head of a Sumerian Male from Tell Asmar

Head of a Sumerian Male from Tell Asmar

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*Found in Austria. breasts, stomach, pubic area was emphasized. More of a depiction rather than portrait. Prehistoric ideal woman -In the earliest art, humankind consists almost exclusively of women as opposed to men, and the painters andsculptors almost invariably showed them nude, although scholars generally assume that during the Ice Age both women and men wore garments covering parts of their bodies. When archaeologists first discovered Paleolithic statuettes of women, they dubbed them &ldquoVenuses&rdquo after the Greco-Roman goddess of beauty and love, whom artists usually depicted nude. The nickname is inappropriate and misleading. It is doubtful that the Old Stone Age figurines represented deities of any kind. One of the oldest and the most famous of the prehistoric female firgures is the tiny limestone figurine of a woman that long has been known as the Venus of Willendorf after its find spot in Austria . Its cluster of almost ball-like shapes is unusual , the result in part of the sculptor&rsquos response to the natural shape of the stone selected for carving. The anatomical exaggeration has suggested to many that this and similar statuettes served as fertility images . But other Paleolithic stone women of far more slender proportions exists, and the meaning of these images is as elusive as everything else about the Paleolithic art. Yet the preponderance of female over male figures in the Old Stone Age seems to indicate a preoccupation with women, whose child-bearing capabilities ensured the survival of the species. The sculptor did not aim for naturalism in shape and proportion . As with most Paleolithic figures, the sculptor did not carve any facial features. Here there carver suggested only a mass of curly hair or, as some researchers have recently argued, a hat woven from plant fibers-evidence for the art of textile manufacture at a very early date. The breast of the Willendorf women are enormous, far larger than the tiny forearms and hands that rest upon them. The carver also took pains to scratch into the stone the outline of the pubic triangle. Sculptors often omitted this detail in other early figurines, leading some scholars to question the nature of these figures as fertility images. Whatever the purpose of these statuettes, the makers intent seems to have been to represent not a specific woman but the female form.


They called themselves ùĝ saĝ gíg-ga, the black-headed ones. Their semitic-speaking neighbors called their land Shumer or Sumer, and this is the name that comes down to us. They were living in southern Mesopotamic by 4100 BCE, but when they actually arrived there and where they came from are hard questions and the subject of much scholastic sound and fury. Their language has no known relatives, and their own stories about wandering the earth and being led by the gods to their later home are too much like many other such stories for cynical moderns to accept them. (Ebih II, superintendant of Mari, c. 2400 BCE)

Wherever they came from, once they settled in Sumer they embarked on a remarkable reinvention of human life. Controlling the flow of rivers with complex irrigation systems, they grew enough food to support large numbers of non farmers. They gathered together in towns that grew into small cities, surrounded by brick walls. (Bronze and silver bull, origin unknown, c. 2900 to 2600 BCE)

Their rulers invented a new status for themselves no longer war chiefs or elders, they became kings and sat on thrones in lavish throne rooms, surrounded by officials and armed guards. (An unknown ruler c. 2400-2200 BCE, from the Louvre)

As they grew wealthier, they invested much of their surplus in religion. Over the centuries their temples grew into towns in themselves, and the platforms that held their shrines rose into little mountains. (Group of votive idols from the Tell Asmar Hoard, c. 2900-2600 BCE).

Enlil, the great god of earth.

Male and female worshipers, now in the the Louvre, c. 2100 BCE

To keep track of their wealth the temples developed ever more elaborate aids to memory -- different shapes and numbers of clay counters, sealed in clay envelopes little pictures and numbers scratched on clay and finally written lists with symbols that could be read aloud as words. If they were not the inventors of writing, they were among its first practitioners. (Tablet of Ur-Nammu, c. 2100 BCE).

Because they wrote, we know their names. This is the famous ruler Gudea of Lagash (c. 2150-2100 BCE), holding a vessel overflowing with water that symbolizes mastery of the rivers and canals.

One of Gudea's female relations.

Vase from Warka, c. 2200 BCE.

They loved art, and filled their temples, palaces and tombs with beautiful things. (Steatite lion with inlay)

Ostrich egg cups from Ur, c. 2600 BCE.

Much of the most beautiful art from Sumer comes from the Royal Tombs of Ur, excavated by British, American and Iraqi archaeologists between 1922 and 1934. The tombs date to between 2600 and 2400 BCE. Part of their fame derives from the amazing objects found in them, but part also from the evidence that dozens of servants or slaves were sacrificed to accompany the kings and queens to the afterlife. (Base of a gold bowl from Ur)

City-states in Mesopotamia

By the late 4th millennium BC, Sumer was divided into about a dozen independent city-states, which were divided by canals and boundary stones. Each was centered on a temple dedicated to the particular patron god or goddess of the city and ruled over by a priestly governor ( ensi) or by a king ( lugal) who was intimately tied to the city's religious rites.

The five "first" cities said to have exercised pre-dynastic kingship:

  1. Eridu (Tell Abu Shahrain)
  2. Bad-tibira (probably Tell al-Madain)
  3. Larsa (Tell as-Senkereh)
  4. Sippar (Tell Abu Habbah)
  5. Shuruppak (Tell Fara)
  1. Uruk (Warka)
  2. Kish (Tell Uheimir & Ingharra)
  3. Ur (Tell al-Muqayyar)
  4. Nippur (Afak)
  5. Lagash (Tell al-Hiba)
  6. Girsu (Tello or Telloh)
  7. Umma (Tell Jokha)
  8. Hamazi 1
  9. Adab (Tell Bismaya)
  10. Mari (Tell Hariri) 2
  11. Akshak 1
  12. Akkad 1
  13. Isin (Ishan al-Bahriyat)

( 1 location uncertain)
( 2 an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)

Minor cities (from south to north):

  1. Kuara (Tell al-Lahm)
  2. Zabala (Tell Ibzeikh)
  3. Kisurra (Tell Abu Hatab)
  4. Marad (Tell Wannat es-Sadum)
  5. Dilbat (Tell ed-Duleim)
  6. Borsippa (Birs Nimrud)
  7. Kutha (Tell Ibrahim)
  8. Der (al-Badra)
  9. Eshnunna (Tell Asmar)
  10. Nagar (Tell Brak) 2

( 2 an outlying city in northern Mesopotamia)

Apart from Mari, which lies full 330 km (205 mi) northwest of Agade, but which is credited in the king list as having &ldquoexercised kingship&rdquo in the Early Dynastic II period, and Nagar, an outpost, these cities are all in the Euphrates-Tigris alluvial plain, south of Baghdad in what are now the Bရil, Diyala, Wāsit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Al-Muthannā and Al-Qဝisiyyah governorates of Iraq.

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Unknown, Egyptian, Relief of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II and the Goddess Hathor, c. 2010–2000 b.c. H. 14 3/16in. (36cm) 38 9/16in. (98 cm). Gift of Egypt Exploration Fund, 1907, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. Accession #: 07.230.2.

For thousands of years sculpture has filled many roles in human life. The earliest sculpture was probably made to supply magical help to hunters. After the dawn of civilization, statues were used to represent gods. Ancient kings, possibly in the hope of making themselves immortal, had likenesses carved, and portrait sculpture was born. The Greeks made statues that depicted perfectly formed men and women. Early Christians decorated churches with demons and devils, reminders of the presence of evil for the many churchgoers who could neither read nor write.

From its beginnings until the present, sculpture has been largely monumental. In the 15th century, monuments to biblical heroes were built on the streets of Italian cities, and in the 20th century a monument to a songwriter was built in the heart of New York City. Great fountains with sculpture in the center are as commonplace beside modern skyscrapers as they were in the courts of old palaces. The ancient Sumerians celebrated military victory with sculpture. The participants of World War II also used sculpture to honor their soldiers.


Sculpture may be the oldest of the arts. People carved before they painted or designed dwellings. The earliest drawings were probably carved on rock or incised (scratched) in earth. Therefore, these drawings were as much forerunners of relief sculpture as of painting.

Only a few objects survive to show what sculpture was like thousands of years ago. There are, however, hundreds of recent examples of sculpture made by people living in primitive cultures. These examples may be similar to prehistoric sculpture.

From recent primitive sculpture and from the few surviving prehistoric pieces, we can judge that prehistoric sculpture was never made to be beautiful. It was always made to be used in rituals. In their constant fight for survival, early people made sculpture to provide spiritual support.

Figures of men, women, and animals and combinations of all these served to honor the strange and sometimes frightening forces of nature, which were worshiped as evil or good spirits. Oddly shaped figures must have represented prayers for strong sons, good crops, and abundant game and fish. Sculpture in the form of masks was worn by priests or medicine men in dances designed to drive away evil spirits or beg favors from good ones.


The earliest civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China gradually developed forms of writing about 3000 B.C. The people of these civilizations, like their prehistoric ancestors, also expressed deeply felt beliefs in sculpture.

Egyptian sculpture and all Egyptian art was based on the belief in a life after death. The body of the Egyptian ruler, or pharaoh, was carefully preserved, and goods were buried with him to provide for his needs forever. The pyramids, great monumental tombs of Giza, were built for the most powerful early rulers. The pharaoh and his wife were buried in chambers cut deep inside the huge blocks of stone.

Life-size and even larger statues, carved in slate, alabaster, and limestone, were as regular and simple in shape as the tombs themselves. Placed in the temples and inside the burial chambers, these statues were images of the rulers, the nobles, and the gods worshiped by the Egyptians. The Egyptians believed that the spirit of the dead person could always return to these images. Hundreds of smaller statuettes in clay or wood showed people engaged in all the normal actions of life: kneading bread, sailing, counting cattle. These statuettes were astonishingly lifelike. Scenes carved in relief and painted in the tomb chambers or on temple walls described Egyptian life in all its variety.

Egyptian sculptors always presented ideas clearly. The pharaoh or noble is made larger than less important people. In relief sculpture every part of a figure is clearly shown. An eye looking straight forward is placed against the profile of a face, the upper part of the body faces front, and the legs are again in profile.

The Egyptians often combined features from various creatures to symbolize ideas. For example, the human head of the pharaoh Khafre is added to the crouching figure of a lion to form the Great Sphinx. This composition suggests the combination of human intelligence and animal strength.

Egyptian sculptors made standing and seated figures in the round and in relief. Changes in style reveal changed circumstances. The portraits of rulers of the Middle Kingdom (2134?-1778? B.C.) lose the strength and vigor of those of their ancestors at Giza. The faces are drawn, sad, and weary. A greater energy and force returns in the period of Egypt's greatest power, the New Kingdom (1567-1080 B.C.). Colossal figures like those of Ramses II at the entrance to his tomb at Abu-Simbel are broad, powerful, and commanding. A smaller portrait of Ramses II shows the smooth finish, precise craftsmanship, and elegance of late New Kingdom art.

The "land between the rivers," Mesopotamia, had a much less stable society than Egypt and lacked Egypt's vast amounts of stone for monumental sculpture. Its cities were often destroyed by floods and invading armies.

The earliest examples of sculpture in this region were formed of light materials: baked and unbaked clay, wood or combinations of wood, shells, and gold leaf. A group of stone figures from Tell Asmar depicts gods, priests, and worshipers in a way very different from Egyptian sculpture. These figures are cone-shaped, with flaring skirts, small heads, huge, beaklike noses, and large, staring eyes.

Stone sculpture from such heavily fortified city palaces as Nineveh, Nimrud, and Khorsabad reveal the aggressive, warlike character of later (10th-century B.C.) conquerors of this region, the Assyrians. At the entrances of their palaces the Assyrians placed huge symbols of the king's might and majesty in the form of colossal guardian monsters--five-legged, winged bulls with human heads. Slabs of stone carved in relief with scenes of hunts, battles, victory banquets, and ceremonial rituals were placed along the lower walls inside the palaces.

A greater lightness and brilliance can be seen in a still later center of this region, Babylon. The Babylonians used brightly colored tiles in their reliefs.

Persian conquerors who occupied Babylon in the 6th century B.C. brought with them a tradition of fine craftsmanship. This skill persisted as they continued creating superb designs in bronze and gold. Sometimes the designs are purely abstract ornamental patterns sometimes they are animal forms freely shaped into graceful figures. Relief sculpture from the great palace of Darius at Persepolis (begun about 520 B.C.) retains some Assyrian features. The figures have heads with tightly curled hair and beards. Flat areas bounded by sharply cut lines contrast with richly patterned ones. The figures in this sculpture are softly curved and rounded draperies are fine and light.

The easy, natural movements of these figures marching in stately procession along the walls of the palace at Persepolis may well reflect qualities of the most original sculptors of the era (6th century B.C.), the Greeks.

Just a few examples of sculpture remain from the colorful Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Ivory and terra-cotta small statuettes of snake goddesses, priestesses, and acrobats and cups with such scenes in relief as a bull being caught in a net or harvesters returning from the fields give lively suggestions of Minoans in action.

Just a few examples of sculpture remain from the colorful Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Ivory and terra-cotta small statuettes of snake goddesses, priestesses, and acrobats and cups with such scenes in relief as a bull being caught in a net or harvesters returning from the fields give lively suggestions of Minoans in action.

Power passed from Crete to the mainland, but little sculpture from such sites as Tiryns or Mycenae has been found. The Lion Gate at Mycenae (about 1250 B.C.), with its two massive beasts guarding the entrance to the fortified city, is an exceptional monumental sculpture from this time. The beaten-gold mask of Agamemnon is memorable for its suggestion of the great heroes of Homeric legends. The mask was found buried with golden cups, daggers, breastplates, and other objects in the tombs and shaft graves of Mycenae.

Around 600 B.C., Greece developed one of the great civilizations in the history of the world. Sculpture became one of the most important forms of expression for the Greeks.

The Greek belief that "man is the measure of all things" is nowhere more clearly shown than in Greek sculpture. The human figure was the principal subject of all Greek art. Beginning in the late 7th century B.C., sculptors in Greece constantly sought better ways to represent the human figure.

The Greeks developed a standing figure of a nude male, called the Kouros or Apollo. The Kouros served to depict gods and heroes. The Kore, or standing figure of a draped female, was more graceful and was used to portray maidens and goddesses. The winged female figure, or Nike, became the personification of victory.

The fact that Greek sculptors concentrated their energies on a limited number of problems may have helped bring about the rapid changes that occurred in Greek sculpture between the 7th century and the late 4th century B.C. The change from abstraction to naturalism, from simple figures to realistic ones, took place during this period. Later figures have normal proportions and stand or sit easily in perfectly balanced poses.

Historians have adopted a special set of terms to suggest the main changes in the development of Greek sculpture and of Greek art in general. The early, or Archaic, phase lasted about 150 years, from 625 to 480 B.C. A short interval called Early Classical or Severe, from 480 to 450 B.C., was followed by a half century of Classical sculpture. Late Classical indicates Greek art produced between 400 and 323 B.C., and Hellenistic art was made from 323 to 146 B.C.

The most important function of Greek sculpture was to honor gods and goddesses. Statues were placed in temples or were carved as part of a temple. Greek temples were shrines created to preserve the images of the gods. The people worshiped outdoors.

Greek sculpture changed with Greek civilization. Praxiteles' Hermes is slimmer and more elegant than the strong, vigorous SpearBearer, by Polykleitos. Figures by Skopas from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus are harsher and more dramatic than the quiet, controlled figures by Phidias.

Hellenistic sculptors emphasized the human figure. They reflected the great changes in their world when they treated in new ways subjects traditionally favored by earlier Greek sculptors. A new interest developed in the phases of life, from childhood to extreme old age. Sculptors described their figures in as natural and exact a way as possible. An ill old woman hobbles painfully back from the market a little boy almost squeezes a poor goose to death.

The Greeks were defeated by the Romans, but the Hellenistic style lasted for centuries. Greek sculpture survived because the Romans were greatly impressed by Greek art. From the early days of the republic, Romans imported examples of Greek art, ordered copies of famous Greek works, and commissioned Greek sculptors to do Roman subjects.


Greek sculpture and Greek art had been exported to Italy long before Romans ruled the land. By the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. the Etruscans were firmly settled in Italy. Hundreds of objects have been and are still being found in vast Etruscan cemeteries. Some of the sculpture and many vases are Greek, while others are lively Etruscan translations of Greek forms. Many small bronze figures of farmers, warriors, or gods show the great talents of the Etruscans as metalworkers and sculptors.

Rome profited from the double artistic inheritance of Greek and Etruscan sculpture. The inventiveness of Roman sculptors added to this heritage. The most important contributions of the Roman sculptors were portraits.

The development of Roman sculpture was the reverse of that of Greek sculpture. Instead of progressing from fairly simple, abstract forms to more natural and realistic statues, Roman sculpture, once realistic, became far more simple and abstract.


Early Christian sculpture resembled the art of Rome. Sarcophagi (burial chests) found in Italy are all Roman in type, although they are given a special meaning by subjects, signs, or symbols important for Christians.

Sculpture, however, was not a natural form of expression for the early Christians. This was because one of the Ten Commandments forbids the making of graven (carved) images. Many early Christians interpreted this commandment, just as the Hebrews had, to mean that it was wrong to make any images of the human figure. Eventually church authorities decided that art could serve Christianity. It was only the making of idols (false gods) that was regarded as a breach of the commandment.

In the 5th century A.D. the western half of the Roman Empire fell to invading Germanic tribes from northern and central Europe. These peoples soon became Christians and spread the religion throughout Europe. Unlike the Romans, the Germanic peoples had no tradition of human representation in art. Their art consisted mainly of complex patterns and shapes used for decoration. It influenced Christian art as much as Greco-Roman art did.

There are relatively few examples of sculpture made in the first 1,000 years of Christianity. Among these rare examples are portable altars, reliquaries (containers for the remains of Christian saints and martyrs), chalices, and other objects used in the services of Christian worship. These were shaped with great care and were often made of precious materials. Sculptors used the fragile and lovely medium of ivory in many ways. They carved it in relief for small altars or as covers for the Gospels, the Bible, or prayerbooks. Small, freestanding figures represented the Madonna and the Christ Child, angels, or Christian saints.

A new and brilliant chapter in Christian art began after the year 1000. For the next three centuries sculptors, architects, masons, carpenters, and hundreds of other craftsmen created some of the most impressive Christian churches ever built.

These artists worked on a bolder and larger scale than had been possible for hundreds of years. For their ideas they looked to the best examples of great structures they knew—Roman buildings. The term "Romanesque" suggests the Roman qualities of the art of the 11th and 12th centuries. Important changes were made by these later artists. German Romanesque churches differ from Italian ones, and Spanish from French ones. Ideas of carving, building, and painting circulated freely, for people often went on pilgrimages to worship at sacred sites in different countries.

An early 11th century example of Romanesque sculpture shows the way Roman ideas were translated. The bronze doors of the Cathedral of Hildesheim have ten panels with scenes from the Bible. The placing, purpose, and arrangement of these large doors clearly recall the 5th-century doors of Santa Sabina in Rome. But the details are different. Small figures twist and turn freely. Their heads and hands are enlarged and stand out from the surface of the relief.

Sculpture after the 12th century gradually changed from the clear, concentrated abstractions of Romanesque art to a more natural and lifelike appearance. Human figures shown in natural proportions were carved in high relief on church columns and portals.

As Gothic sculptors became more skilled, they also gained greater freedom and independence. Later Gothic figures are depicted much more realistically than those made during the Romanesque and earlier Gothic periods. The faces of the statues have expression, and their garments are draped in a natural way. Hundreds of carvings in the great Gothic cathedrals all over Western Europe presented aspects of the Christian faith in terms that every Christian could understand.

The great era of building drew to a close by the early 14th century. A series of wars and crises prevented the building of anything more than small chapels and a few additions to earlier structures. One finds only small statuettes and objects, used for private devotions, instead of the great programs of monumental sculpture that in the 13th century had enriched such cathedrals as those at Amiens, Paris, Rheims, Wells, Burgos, and Strasbourg.


Jutting into the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian peninsula, at the crossroads of several worlds, had been the heart of the Roman Empire. Rome was the center of the western Christian world. Later, northeastern Italy--especially Venice--became the gateway to the Near East and the Orient. Italian artists never completely accepted the Gothic styles that dominated art in Western Europe. The reason is that Italian artists were surrounded by the remains of the Classical Age and exposed to the Eastern influence of Byzantine art. (The article Byzantine Art and Architecture can be found in this encyclopedia.)

As early as the 13th century the Italians planted the seeds of a new age: the Renaissance. Although the elements of medieval and Byzantine art contributed a great deal to the formation of Renaissance sculpture, Italian artists were interested in reviving the classical approach to art. ("Renaissance" means "rebirth.")

The most significant change in art that occurred in the Renaissance was the new emphasis on glorifying the human figure. No longer was sculpture to deal only with idealized saints and angels sculpted figures began to look more lifelike.

The relief sculpture of Nicola Pisano (1220-84) forecast the new age. In the late 13th century Pisano carved nude male figures on a church pulpit. (The nude figure had not been used in sculpture since the fall of Rome.) Although Pisano obviously tried to copy the heroic figures of classical art, he knew little about human anatomy, and his work was still proportioned like Byzantine and medieval sculpture.

By the early 15th century the Renaissance was well under way. The sculptor Donatello created the first freestanding nude since classical times, a bronze figure of David. Donatello clearly understood the whole anatomy of the figure so well that he could present the young biblical hero with an ease and assurance. By the early 16th century the sculptural heritage of another Florentine, the great painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti, was such that his version of David is almost superhuman in its force and strength.

Donatello and his contemporaries Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) and Jacopo della Quercia (1378?-1438) made themselves the masters of both the freestanding human figure and sculpture in relief. Jacopo's stone panels at San Petronio, Bologna, are powerful and emotional. Ghiberti's famous bronze doors of the Baptistery in Florence show his control of the science of perspective and his masterful handling of the human figure.

A host of sculptors worked with these men and, in turn, trained younger sculptors. Their individual talents varied, and these were applied to a number of different sculptural problems. Christian themes continued to be important, but in addition, fountains, portraits, tombs, equestrian statues, and subjects from classical mythology were all created to meet a lively demand. Luca della Robbia (1400?-82) and others developed a new medium--glazed terra-cotta. It was a popular and attractive substitute for the more expensive marble.

Michelangelo unquestionably became the dominant figure in 16th-century sculpture, and he is thought by many people to be the greatest single figure in the history of art. All his sculpture, from the early, beautifully finished Pietà to the tragic fragment the Rondanini Pietà, left unfinished at his death, was made with skill and power. Michelangelo's contemporaries and the sculptors who lived in later years in Italy and elsewhere developed a more elegant, decorative style, relying on a smooth, precise finish and complex, elaborate designs. This style was called mannerism.

Sculptors in the 17th century continued to deal with the same wide variety of sculptural problems as their Renaissance predecessors, using the human figure as a form of expression. They reacted, however, against the mannerism of late 16th century sculptors. They worked instead for a return to the greater strength of Michelangelo and the energy and agility of 15th-century sculpture.

Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was, like Michelangelo, a gifted artist. In a long and productive career, he easily became the dominating figure in his own country and one of the major artists in Europe during a brilliant, creative period. Bernini's David reveals his admiration for Michelangelo and his own originality. It has the largeness and strength of Michelangelo's David but is a much more active and less tragic figure. Bernini's figures stand in dramatic poses--as though they were actors on a stage, reaching out to the observer. As a result, we feel drawn toward them and their grace.

The basic qualities of 17th-century art were carried forward into the 18th century but were transformed for the taste of a different generation. The term "rococo" suggests the preference for gayer, lighter, and more decorative effects in sculpture and in all the arts.

Jean Baptiste Pigalle (1714-85) and Étienne Maurice Falconet (1716-91) show the same technical dexterity as Bernini, but their figures are slight and cheerful. The skill revealed in their delicate work, with its tiny, sweetly shaped figures and graceful movement, represents a marked change from the strong, religious intensity of Bernini's work.

Statuettes and statues of small groups were designed as pleasant and often witty additions to lovely rooms. The individual talents of the sculptors and their joint efforts created an ornamental effect. The same brilliance and skill also created a group of superbly beautiful churches in southern Germany.


The pendulum of taste swung in a new direction in the late 18th century while Clodion (1738-1814) and other rococo sculptors were still active. This direction, called neoclassic to describe the deliberate return to classical subject matter and style, lasted in strength for nearly a century. The change can be seen in the work of the distinguished sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). His statue of George Washington could be compared to a portrait of a Roman emperor.

The most commanding figure of neoclassical sculpture was the Italian Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Canova was a favorite of the kings and noblemen of Europe. His specialty was the monument in which a statesman or other important figure was dressed in the robes and garlands of classical figures. Canova frankly imitated antique sculptors. His Perseus and The Pugilists are exhibited in the Vatican with ancient classical sculpture.

During the 19th century many sculptors rebelled against the neoclassical tradition. They wanted their works of art to say something, to express an idea or a feeling. They wanted to copy nature, not the works of other sculptors. François Rude (1784-1855) was one of the first to react against the coldness of the neoclassical style.

An intensity of emotion brings to life the work of Antoine Louis Barye (1795-1875). Jaguar Devouring a Hare is an exciting scene of conflict and violent struggle.

Although the Romantic movement was growing, many artists still preferred to work in the classical tradition followed in the academies. In the 1860's a young sculptor named Auguste Rodin was turned away three times from the École des Beaux-Arts, the academy in Paris. By the end of the century he was the most famous sculptor in France and throughout most of Europe.

Although Rodin sought to copy nature, he used many new techniques. Both the hollows and raised portions of a surface were important to Rodin. He experimented with the effects of light on the surface of forms, just as the impressionists were doing in painting. He carved figures in shadow or emerging from an unfinished block. Whether he praised the homely courage of the subjects in Burghers of Calais or the lovers in The Kiss—their heads enshadowed—Rodin suggested the natural, unposed moments in life.


The 20th century was an age of experimentation with new ideas, new styles, and new materials. Studies of the human figure gave way to new subjects: dreams, ideas, emotions, and studies of form and space. Plastic, chromium, and welded steel were used, as well as boxes, broken automobile parts, and pieces of old furniture.

Twentieth-century sculptors owed a great debt to Rodin. His tremendous output and variety inspired a new generation of sculptors to express new thoughts in an art form that had been repeating old ideas for 200 years. Although Rodin's successors tended to move away from both his realism and his literary subjects, his innovations had an important influence. Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) rejected Rodin's rough surfaces. The smooth figures of Maillol's stone and bronze works seem to rest in calm repose.

As artists of the Renaissance had used the rediscovered works of classical Greece and Rome for inspiration, artists of the 20th century looked to the simple and powerful forms of the primitive African and Oceanic art. Wilhelm Lehmbruck (1881-1919), the German sculptor, began under the influence of Maillol. Later Lehmbruck distorted his figures by making them unnaturally long in the manner of primitive art. The faces of Women, by Gaston Lachaise (1882-1935), suggest the sculpture of ancient India. The round, solid, and massive bodies seem to symbolize the vitality of womanhood.

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957), a Romanian who worked mostly in Paris, combined Romanian folk traditions with the simplicity of African wood carving and Oriental sculpture. Brancusi sought absolute simplicity of form and purity of meaning. This simplicity and purity is found in such works as New-Born and Bird in Space.

Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest sculptors as well as perhaps the greatest painter of the 20th century, saw another quality in primitive art. In the simplicity of forms he saw that objects of nature are not necessarily solid masses but are made up of circles, squares, triangles, and cubes. This led to a style called cubism, which was developed by Picasso and Georges Braque. Picasso's Head of a Woman (1909) is one of the first cubist sculptures. In it Picasso divided the surface of a head into many different planes.

With Picasso and Brancusi, Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973) was one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century. His powerful bronze forms show his understanding of cubism and the simple strength of African art, as well as all the other movements in 20th-century art.

As World War I began, the atmosphere in Europe was anxious. Some artists reflected the tensions of the uneasy times in a new form of art called dada--meaningless, representing nothing, and opposed to all other art. "Found objects" and household items, such as the sinks and hangers of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), were exhibited as sculpture. At the same time, a group of Italian artists called futurists were excited by the pace of the machine age. Their sculpture showed objects in motion. Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) was a leading futurist.

After World War I, the movement called surrealism developed. Many artists who had been cubists or dadaists became surrealists. The work of Jean Arp (1887-1966), with its fanciful forms that seem to float in space, belongs to this movement.

During the 1920's and 1930's, the constructivists built rather than carved or modeled their sculptures. The beauty of pure form and space excited them. The Russian brothers Naum Gabo (1890-1977) and Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962) used blades of metal and plastic to achieve an effect of lightness and transparency. Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942) introduced the use of forged iron. The tremendous influence of his technique is seen particularly in the work of Picasso, a student of Gonzalez in the technique of welding.

As modern sculpture developed, it became more and more individualistic, although it still showed its debt to the past. The long, thin figures of Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) seem to wander alone in a world without boundaries. Alexander Calder (1898-1976) created moving sculptures called mobiles and stationary ones called stabiles. The wire and metal-strip constructions made by Richard Lippold (1915-2002) evoke a feeling of delicate lightness. The steel geometric sculptures of David Smith (1906-65) have a sense of balance and order that pleases the eye.

In the 1960's and 1970's, still more new styles developed. Some artists chose to portray subjects from the everyday world around them—the Brillo boxes and soup cans of Andy Warhol (1928-87), the surrealist boxes of Joseph Cornell (1903-72), the plaster hamburgers and "soft typewriters" of Claes Oldenburg (1929-). Others combined painting, sculpture, and "found objects," as in the work of Marisol Escobar (1930-). George Segal (1924-2000) used plaster casts of human figures in everyday poses. Louise Nevelson (1900-88) combined small units of metal and wood (often table and chair legs, bed posts) into huge structures that she called "environments." Sculptors like Barnett Newman (1905-70) and Tony Smith (1912-80) created massive pieces that are often shown outdoors. Some sculpture not only moves but is run by computer.

One dominant figure in the world of sculpture, Henry Moore (1898-1986), used traditional materials (wood, bronze, and stone) in exploring traditional problems of sculpture such as the seated figure and the reclining figure. He believed that the space shapes created by a sculpture are as important to its design as the solid forms, and he often put holes or openings in his sculptures. Moore also contrasted light and dark by curving his bronze figures inward and outward.

Form and space, reality, emotion, and perfect beauty are the interests of artists in all centuries. The 20th century only gave them new shape.

Head of a Sumerian Male from Tell Asmar - History

plaques, stone 212, 211𔃁

   decrease (northern plain) 44

   derived from domestic buildings 108𔃇

   increase (Uruk period) 16, 17

   and settlement patterns 39

   bevelled rim bowls 120, 164𔃃, 180

   bowls, as grave goods 138, 143

   Jemdat Nasr painted wares 19, 92, 121, 166, 182

   Ninevite V ware 121, 120𔂿

   scarlet-washed (ED I) 19, 20, 92, 184

   solid-footed goblets 143, 165, 166

   specialist (for export) 164

   stamped (Tepe Gawra) 116, 117

   transitional Ubaid/Uruk ware, Tepe Gawra 116

   see also stone bowls

   shown on cylinder seals 165

pottery ornaments, as grave goods 138

   between religious and secular 89󈟆, 216𔃆

pre-Halaf period, stamp seals 198

   administrative responsibilities 100

   relations with secular power 89

private enterprise 32, 159, 166, 191𔃀

   and private wealth 32, 191, 218

private houses see domestic buildings

private landownership 32, 57, 218

Professions List (late Uruk) 27, 32

proto-Elamite language 180, 197

proxemics, study of living space requirements 108

   burial at Ur 53, 147, 148, 149, 163, 163

public buildings 89�, 218

   Early Dynastic period 96�, 105, 218

   industrial activities within 98, 102

   interpretation of functions 30𔂿, 89󈟆, 98, 105𔃄

   interpreted as temples 75, 117

   see also domestic buildings palaces temples

Purushkanda, Anatolia 33, 190

Quetta, Pakistan, lapis mines near 181

radiocarbon dating 16, 23𔃃

   lower Mesopotamian plain 10

Ras al-Amiya, Ubaid site 38

Ras Shamra, stamp seal 198

   for agricultural labourers 57

   bevelled rim bowls for 164

   for industrial workers 159

   see also industry metals stone timber trade

Razuk, circular building 183

recycling, of usable materials 135, 170, 214

Reforms of Uruinimgina 89

Rich, Claudius, British Resident in Baghdad 1

   and control of water supply 45

   and settlement patterns 10

   see also canals Euphrates Tigris Zab

   administrative responsibilities 100

   Early Dynastic city-states 20, 28

   see also kings palace power, balance of priests temple

Sabi Abyad, Burnt Village 198

Saddam Hussein, draining of marshes 11

saluki, hunting dog 58, 59

Sammelfund hoard, metal objects 168

Sargon of Agade 17, 29, 33, 216, 221

   and evidence for trading contacts 189󈟆

   centralised training 195, 197

   agricultural scenes 56, 200, 201

   banquet scenes 150, 152, 202, 204

   from Beydar (northern style) 125, 126

   combat scenes 202, 202, 203, 204

   depiction of crafts 162, 162, 165

   Piedmont style 183, 183, 201

   see also cylinder seals

   collective (Jemdat Nasr) 92

   Harappan (Indus valley) 189, 189

   see also cylinder seals stamp seals

Semitic languages 13, 26, 197

   Early Dynastic period 41 map, 42 map, 44, 45

   linear (on waterways) 10, 40, 45

   Ur III period 43 map

   agricultural hinterlands 52

   correlation of size with importance 39

   erosion after abandonment 46

   hierarchy (Uruk period) 16, 44

   see also cities town plans towns villages

shaduf, for irrigation 54

Shamshi-Adad, first king of Assyria 35

Shamshu-Iluna of Babylon 113

Sharkallisharri, king of Agade 103

sharru, ‘king’ (Akkadian) 27, 29

Shatt-el-Arab waterway 9, 15

   inlay in plaques 212, 213

Shulgi, king of Ur 35, 58, 83, 103

Sippar, nomadic camps near 12

skeletons, evidence from 11, 148, 157

   evidence from burials 32, 136, 138, 142

   see also elite groups

soil fertility, southern zone 10

   of material production 18, 158

sports, wrestling 152, 153

stamp seals 198, 198𔃇, 215

   of units of measurement 68

statuary and statues 175, 204𔃆, 215

   copper 21, 171, 172, 171𔃁

   naturalism 206, 207, 208

   nude male figures 187, 188, 204

   royal (black diorite) 21, 176, 189, 190, 207

   Warka head (mask of woman’s head) 204, 205, 220

   see also figurines stelae

steatite/chlorite (stone) 182

stelae 210, 209󈝷, 215

   Eannatum of Lagash 209, 219

   Lion Hunt 178, 179, 209

   supplies (northern zone) 6, 68

   see also statuary and statues stelae stone bowls stone objects

   Intercultural style 184, 185

   see also seals statuary and statues

   in public buildings 98, 102

   and cuneiform writing 195

Sumerian language 11, 12, 25

   no longer spoken 13, 26, 35

   written (cuneiform) 196, 197

surveying (archaeological) 5, 37𔃇, 41 map, 42 map, 43 map

Susa 165, 180, 181, 184

   black diorite statues 207

systems theory, in archaeology 221

   as evidence of administrative centres 99

   pictograms on 19, 194, 194

   see also texts writing

Tchoga Zambil, Iran, ziggurat 88

technology, Uruk period 17, 215

Tell Abu Qasim, circular building 183

   Northern palace (Agade) 101, 101𔃀, 162

   Northern palace (earlier) 100

   Palace of Rulers (Ur III period) 104, 104𔃃

   Square temple 78, 83, 106, 206

   middle Uruk site 16, 119, 120, 122

   seal impressions 120, 202

   Kleine Antentempel 81, 124

Tell edh Dhiba’i, old Babylonian site 174, 175

   circular building 93, 94, 94𔃃, 183

   scarlet ware vase 20

Tell Maddhur, circular building 183

Tell Ouelli, Ubaid period 52

Tell Taya 107, 130, 129󈞌

   house plan (compound) 130, 131, 131

Tell Uqair 40, 74, 75, 91

   votive statue 206, 206

   formed by disintegrating mudbrick 66

   as centre of government 216

   power of in city-states 21, 27, 30

   compared with domestic buildings 77𔃇, 82

   Jemdat Nasr (third millennium) 75𔃄

   multiple shrines 77, 79

   position of altars 82, 104

   see also palaces public buildings temple plans

   megaron buildings 82, 118, 117󈝾

   Round house 92, 116, 117, 137𔃆

   wolf’s head (electrum) 139, 139, 167

Tepe Yahya, Iran 68, 180, 184, 185

   evidence from royal graves at Ur 148𔃇

   Death of Gilgamesh 135, 156

   descriptions of afterlife 135

   evidence of date palms 53

   evidence of manufacturing 158

   poems on destruction of Ur 23

   reference to copper imports 181

Til Barsib, stone tomb 127, 154

tokens, clay, accounting 139, 193, 194

   mausoleum at Umm al-Marra 128, 128, 154

   Shulgi’s mausoleum 83, 155, 156, 173

   superstructures 141, 147, 155

   within domestic buildings 110, 113, 135, 155

   see also burials cemeteries grave goods graves

   Kranzhugel 125, 123𔃄, 133

   Ur (Ur III period) 61𔃀, 63, 65

   see also building materials

   administrative quarters 61

   streets (paved with sherds) 61, 64, 112

Toynbee theory (‘stimulus and response’) 9

   see also raw materials

trade routes 8, 181 map

   see also communications

trading colonies, Uruk 120, 178, 179

   by water (for bulk goods) 14, 59, 179

turquoise, grave goods 139

   wall plaque 81, 212, 213

   settlement patterns 40, 48, 49, 50

   standard units of measurement 68

Umm al-Aqarib, temple plan 82

Umm al-Marra, stone mausoleum 128, 128, 154

   rivalry with Lagash 30, 45

United States, early archaeology in Iraq 3

   city layout 61𔃀, 63, 64, 65

   domestic buildings 113, 113󈝺

   fall and destruction of city 23, 35, 219

   Jemdat Nasr cemetery 141𔃀, 184, 186

   private graves (in houses) 155

   Royal Cemetery 137, 146, 145󈞠, 153𔃅, 218

     the lady Puabi 53, 147, 148, 149, 163, 163

Tocho T8

Dirección: Jennifer Y. Chi & Pedro Azara, con Marc Marín
Coordinación: Jennifer Babcock
Conservadora: Angela Nacol
Montaje: Misha Leiner (CoDe) , con Pedro Azara y Marc Marín
Filmaciones: Marcel Borràs
Música: Joan Borrell
Catálogo editado por la Princeton University Press, 2015

Fotos: Tocho, ISAW, Nueva York, 9 de febrero de 2015

Se puede consultar la página web de la exposición desde hoy


Nota: Los textos definitivos son más breves


  1. S. Bianco in Magie d’ambra 2005 Citation: Magie d&rsquoambra: Amuleti e gioielli della Basilicata antica. Exh. cat. Potenza, 2005. , pp. 94–96, ill. p. 99.↩
  2. This is theorized on the basis of a small percentage of excavations or published accounts the number of unpublished graves and deposits with amber objects and the amount of pre-Roman amber in non-source-country museums and collections (from old or unreported finds and uncontrolled excavations) is unfortunately very high. The exceptions are critical (such as the male Tomb 43 at Melfi-Pisciolo).↩

Orientalizing Greek and Etruscan images of nonhuman primates are generically referred to as “monkeys” in the literature, although some may represent baboons, especially the hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas), as well as a long-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus) and the green monkey, or vervet (Cercopithecus aethiops). The prototypes of the eighth-to-seventh-century amber pendants from Italy (Etruscan, Latin, Faliscan, Picene) are Egyptian in invention, but they also may have derived from Phoenician examples and could be related to northern Mesopotamian, northern and western Syrian, Old Babylonian, and Anatolian types and symbolism. In Egypt, amulets in the form of monkeys and baboons are first known in the Old Kingdom, made of steatite and faïence, then of amethyst and carnelian in the Middle Kingdom, and in a wider variety of materials from the New Kingdom onward. The green monkey is most often the subject of Egyptian and Phoenician simian amulets: its humanlike features, the females’ motherly love, its cleverness and ability to mimic, and its greenish color (symbolic of freshness and regeneration) account for its popularity. It participates at the side of the dwarf as an emissary of Ra, the sun-god, in magical invocations for successful parturition and thus has a solar aspect ( Andrews 1994 Citation: Andrews, C. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Austin, TX, 1994. , p. 66). In Egyptian glazed-composition faïence maternity amulets, where it is joined with Bes, the green monkey takes on the role of nurse for the newborn and is connected to music and dance, as associated with birthing. For the monkey and maternity, see also Bulté 1991 Citation: Bulté, J. Talismans égyptiens d&rsquoheureuse maternité: “Faïence” bleu vert à pois foncés. Paris, 1991. , pp. 99–102. Monkey representations in the Levant seem to carry several connotations, of both Near Eastern and Egyptian origin, including veneration, eroticism, good luck, and best wishes. In erotic scenes on Old Babylonian terracottas, simian dancers often keep company with dwarfs. As S. Schroer and J. Eggler, “Monkey,” in Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East, (accessed November 12, 2009), p. 1, note for Mesopotamian and Elamite art, “Just like in Egypt, there is a proximity between the monkeys and the Nude Goddess. This may be due to their playful nature, but also their excitability … leading to their association with sex and eroticism.”

Amber and glazed-composition amulets of monkeys might work in various direct and indirect forms of magic: to ensure love and sexual fulfillment to provide sexual aid in this world and the next, to aid in rebirth and rejuvenation, to assist in the care of newborns, and to inject humor (a potent aversion technique). On the nonhuman primate in Egyptian art generally, see Andrews 1994 Citation: Andrews, C. Amulets of Ancient Egypt. Austin, TX, 1994. , pp. 66–67 and A. Kozloff, ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection (Cleveland, 1981), pp. 67–69, nos. 54–56. For a wide range of opinions about “monkeys” in Etruscan art, see Waarsenburg 1995 Citation: Waarsenburg, D. J. The Northwest Necropolis of Satricum: An Iron Age Cemetery in Latium Vetus. Amsterdam, 1995. , p. 415–16, and esp. 445–50. See also Bonfante 2003 Citation: Bonfante, L. Etruscan Dress. Updated ed. Baltimore, 2003. , pp. 138, 141 Negroni Catacchio 1999 Citation: Negroni Catacchio, N. “Alcune ambre figurate preromane di provenienza italiana in collezioni private di New York.” In Koina: Miscellanea di studi archeologici in onore di Piero Orlandini, edited by M. Castoldi, pp. 279–90. Milan, 1999. , pp. 280–82 Waarsenburg 1996 Citation: Waarsenburg, D. J. “Astarte and Monkey Representations in the Italian Orientalizing Period: The Amber Sculptures from Satricum.” In Die Akten des Internationalen Kolloquiums “Interactions in the Iron Age: Phoenicians, Greeks and the Indigenous Peoples of the Western Mediterranean” in Amsterdam am 26. und 27. März 1992, Hamburger Beiträge zur Archäologie 19–20 (Mainz, 1996), pp. 33–71. F.-W. von Hase, “Die golden Prunkfibel aus Vulci, Ponte Sodo,” Jahrbuch des Römisches-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 31 (1984): 269–75 J. Szilágyi, Abbreviation: RA Revue archéologique 1972: fasc. 1:111–26 and D. Rebuffat Emmanuel, “Singes de Maurétanie Tingitane et d’Italie—Réflexions sur une analogie iconographique,” Abbreviation: StEtr Studi etruschi 35 (1967): 633–44. For an Etrusco-Corinthian aryballos in the form of an “ape,” see B. A. Kathman in Kozloff 1981 Citation: Kozloff, A. P., ed. Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection. Cleveland, 1981. , pp. 95–96, no. 95.

For the monkey in the Minoan world, see N. Marinatos, “An Offering of Saffron to the Minoan Goddess of Nature: The Role of the Monkey and the Importance of Saffron,” in Gifts to the Gods: Proceedings of the Uppsala Symposium 1985, Boreas 15, ed. T. Linders and G. Nordquist (Uppsala, 1987), pp. 123–32, who argues convincingly for a religious function for monkeys and interprets various Minoan roles for them: as adorants, as intermediaries between humans and the goddess of nature, as her servants, and as guardians. Marinatos draws parallels with Egyptian and Anatolian images of squatting monkeys (nn. 10, 17) and suggests the images’ possible entry into Crete in the Middle Bronze Age, but points also to Mesopotamian examples of the squatting posture. Both Egyptian and Near Eastern prototypes are proposed, with reference to R. D. Barnet, “Monkey Business,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 5 (1973): 1–10 and C. Mendelson, “More Monkey Business,” Anatolian Studies 33 (1983): 81–83. F.-W. von Hase 1984 (above) proposes Phoenicians as intermediaries in the transition of the motif to Italy. For a view on the possible permutation of the “monkey” type into human imagery in early Greece, see S. Langdon, “From Monkey to Man: The Evolution of a Geometric Sculptural Type,” Abbreviation: AJA American Journal of Archaeology 94 (1990): 407–24.

To be added to this discussion are the simianlike “emaciated humans” of the Old Babylonian period, the clay plaques of the goddess Nintu, and the separate statuette images in the same form. D. Parayre, “Les âges de la vie dans le répertoire figuratif oriental,” KtèMA 22 (1997): 67, identifies the figures as representing premature or deformed fetuses. See her figs. 10a (stamped relief possibly from Tell Asmar, Louvre) and 10b (bronze statuette, Cincinnati Art Museum). Parayre suggests that the fetus images may be figural transpositions of the šumma izbu series, listing the precautions to take in the case of premature, nonviable, or monstrous births. If the amber pendants represented such fetuses rather than monkeys or baboons, they would be extraordinary “like banishes like” amulets. Alternatively, if the amber monkeys are identified with the Minoan interpretation of the type (following Marinatos), they may be associated with the local nature goddesses in Crete, as in Mesopotamia.↩

Waarsenburg 1995 Citation: Waarsenburg, D. J. The Northwest Necropolis of Satricum: An Iron Age Cemetery in Latium Vetus. Amsterdam, 1995. , pp. 410–11, nn. 1058–64: the “flint” likely originated on the nearby island of Ponza and is thus one of several secondarily reused in the Iron Age. Obsidian “flints” are found in central Italy in tombs dating from the ninth to the seventh centuries and in several Latin votive deposits, including in Satricum. A tomb from Terni yielded a Neolithic flint wrapped in an embossed bronze sheet medallion with a representation of Bes. Waarsenburg suggests that the “flint” from Tomb VI would have been known in antiquity as a ceraunium, or lightning stone. P. Tamburini in Antichità dall’Umbria a New York, exh. cat. (Perugia, 1991), p. 276, discusses such lightning stones and cites A. Cherici, “Keraunia,” Abbreviation: ArchCl Archeologia classica 41 (1989): 372, n. 37. Tamburini points to the ancient belief “in the heavenly origin of prehistoric flintstones found by chance on the ground … [and] their relation to the thunderbolt” and “to their simple apotropaic function.” Still in early-twentieth-century Italy, Neolithic flints are recorded as important amulets to protect against lightning, and to protect people, animals, houses, and land against natural disasters, as G. Bellucci (in n. 150, above) shows. In Etruria, both Menerva and Tinia could hurl thunderbolts, and as such they may have had oracular faculties, as suggested by G. Camporeale, “La manubia di Menerva,” in Agathos daimōn: Mythes et cultes Études d’iconographie en l’honneur de Lilly Kahil (Athens, 2000), pp. 77–86. Waarsenburg 1995 Citation: Waarsenburg, D. J. The Northwest Necropolis of Satricum: An Iron Age Cemetery in Latium Vetus. Amsterdam, 1995. , p. 411, notes that “a functional and semantic relationship seems to have existed also between Eileithuia, lightning and the Elysium.… An entry in [the Suda] states that Eilusion—normally the afterlife world—was also used to denote a place hit by lightning.” Was the flint a special amulet of protection against lightning?

A carved amber in New York likely represents a thunderbolt (a perfect marriage of subject and material). Metropolitan Museum of Art 1992.11.22, Purchase, Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer Philanthropic Fund, Patti Cadby Birch and the Joseph Rosen Foundation Inc., and Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1992: The Metropolitan Museum Annual Report (1991–92), p. 37 C. A. Picón, “Carved Ambers,” Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1991–1992: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 10 Art of the Classical World 2007 Citation: Picón, C. A., et al. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007. , pp. 295, 473, no. 339.

The bracelet pendant worn by the male figure on the Etruscan stone sarcophagus of a couple from Vulci, now in Boston (Museum of Fine Arts 86.145), appears to be either a shark’s tooth or a “flint.”↩

Artist's Notebook

One has to remember that the artwork of the Ancient Egyptians were not created to be seen by people in this world. Much of the artwork that was in tombs and pyramids were there to symbolize the wealth and power of the one who had laid to rest there and they would take this into the afterlife along with everything else that they were buried with. The artwork, whether statues or relief, were there to benefit a divine being, such as Tutankhamen, or the deceased recipient.

There are technically twelve different periods of Ancient Egyptian Art. These include
Prehistoric (before 3000 BCE +- 100 BCE)
Early Dynastic (c. 3000 BCE - 2680 BCE)
Old Kingdom (2680 BCE - 2259 BCE)
Middle Kingdom (2258 BCE - 1786 BCE)
New Kingdom (1786 BCE - 1069 BCE), including the Amarna Period (1085 BCE - 1055 BCE)
Third Intermediate Period (1069 BCE - 664 BCE)
First Persian Period, Late Period and Second Persian Period (664 BCE - 332 BCE)
Ptolematic Kingdom (332 BCE - 30 BCE)
Roman Egypt (30 BCE - Fourth Century CE)

There are many characteristics of Ancient Egyptian art that are spread across all time periods of the Egyptians. This includes the hierarchical scale of portraying. This means that the size of people drawn or painted determined how important they were in the social order. For example, a Pharaoh like Tutankhamen, is usually the largest figure depicted to symbolize the ruler's powers. The Egyptians often believed these to be superhuman powers because they were made the Ruler. Therefore, figures of high officials or tomb owners are usually smaller. The smallest that you can be drawn if you were a servant, an entertainer, animal, tree and also architectural details.

The Egyptians are commonly known for their sculptures and architecture. The Pyramids, Sphinx and The Valley of The Kings come under this.

The technique that the Egyptians used is called sunk relief, which is well suited to very brilliant sunlight, like that in Egypt. This is where the image is made by cutting the relief sculpture itself into a flat surface. In a simpler form the images are usually mostly linear in nature, like in hieroglyphs, but in more cases the figure itself is in low relief, but set within a sunken area shaped round the image, so that the relief never rises beyond the original flat surface. Because there is large amount of brilliant sunlight in Egypt, the Ancient Egyptians used this to their advantage as the strong sunlight is used to emphasise the outlines and forms by shadow, as no attempt was made to soften the edge of the sunk area, leaving a face at a right-angle to the surface around it.
The main figures in reliefs adhere to the same figure convention as in painting, with parted legs (where not seated) and head shown to the side, but the torso from the front, and a standard set of proportions making up the figure, using 18 "fists" to go from ground to the hair-line on the forehead. Some conventions make statues of males darker than female ones. This points out very quickly as to which statue is which gender. This would also generally make the eye drawn to the male figures.

Pharaohs were always regarded as Gods. The larger sculpture survives from Egyptian Temples and Tombs massive statues were built to represent Gods and Pharaohs and their queens, usually for open areas in or outside temples. This allowed the people of Egypt to see the power and importance that the Gods and Pharaohs held. The Great Sphinx of Giza however, was never repeated and is a statue in a million, but avenues lined with very large statues including sphinxes and other animals formed part of many temple complexes.

The most sacred cult image of a God in a temple, usually held in the Naos (a small shrine), was in the form of a relatively small boat or barque holding an image of a god, and apparently usually in precious metal - none have survived due to grave robbers who looted many graves of Pharaohs and temples dedicated to the Gods and the Pharaohs.

There were very strict conditions that had to be followed while crafting statues and specific rules governed appearance of every Egyptian God. For example, Horus (the sky God) was essentially to be represented with a falcon's head, Anubis (the God of funeral rites) was to be always shown with a jackal's head. Artistic works were ranked according to their compliance with these conditions or conventions, and the conventions were followed so strictly that, over three thousand years, the appearance of statues changed very little. This is why Ancient Egypt and its art seems to have changed very little over the time period of the Ancient Egyptians. The conventions were intended to convey the timeless and non-aging quality of the figure's ka.

Painting wasn't too big in Ancient Egypt. Less prestigious works were in tombs, temples and palaces and they were painted just on a flat surface. Stone surfaces were prepared by whitewash, however if they were a little rough, a layer of coarse mud layer was applied with a layer of smooth gesso above. Some finer limestones could take the paint directly. The pigments the Egyptians used were mostly mineral and chosen to withstand the strong sunlight that they experienced without it fading. The binding medium that they used in painting still remains unclear to us today. Egg tempera and various gums and resins have been tested, however none come out in the same way. It is clear that true fresco painted into a thin layer of wet plaster was not used. We believe that the paint was applied to dried plaster, in what is called "fresco a secco" in Italian. After painting, Egyptians would have applied a varnish or resin protective coating. Due to this technique that we believe the Egyptians used, many paintings with some exposure to the elements have survived remarkably well, although those on fully exposed walls rarely have.

Many ancient Egyptian paintings have survived though due to the extremely dry climate that Egypt experiences. The paintings were often made with the intent of making a pleasant afterlife for the deceased. The themes that were painted included journeys through the afterworld or protective deities introducing the deceased to the Gods of the underworld, such as Osiris. Some tomb paintings found show activities that the deceased were involved in when they were alive and that they wish to carry on for eternity.

In the New Kingdom and later, the Book of The Dead was buried with the entombed person and was considered an important introduction to the afterlife.

Even though painting wasn't big in Ancient Egypt, it was consistent, like the statues were. They are painted in such a way to show profile view and a side view of the animal or person. For example, the head may be in profile view but the body is from a frontal view. The main colours were red, blue, green, gold, black and yellow.

Monotheism: From the Temples of China to the Sands of Egypt

In his book of Ecclesiastes , the Israeli King Solomon reveals a profound knowledge of life and the heart of man. He realizes that we are all on this earth for a short period of time, and he points out the changing of times for every person. One of his most astute observations, though, is that the Creator has set into each person’s heart some idea of the divine. Of this Solomon writes, “He (God) has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3: 11). That wise king knew that somewhere in the depths of each man’s heart he was aware that there was something bigger than this life, beyond this life Solomon knew that the very essence of human being cried out to know the Creator. This longing is captured best in the German word Sehnsucht . That word describes such a depth of longing that it has no English translation. Because of man’s Sehnsucht and his handed-down stories of the lost Eden , many cultures in their developmental infancy formed elementary ideas of monotheism, the belief in and worship of a single god. The modern education system tries to teach students that man’s religious impulse began with animism and polytheism. This idea, though, is very far from fact. The Bible and modern research are showing that the religious impulse of primitive man began with an unrefined brand of monotheism and from the ashes of this primitive monotheism came the Hebrew and Christian faiths. To better understand this idea, though, one has to understand the secular viewpoint.

On March 20, 1852, Herbert Spencer published his ground-breaking idea on the evolution of religion. Appearing first in “The Leader,” Spencer’s Development Hypothesis, which has been one of the leading ideas on religious evolution among primitive cultures, posits that mankind’s initial religious system was a sort of crude polytheism that centered on ancestors. After many centuries of this style of worship, the ancestors began to acquire divine attributes. So, from having a multiplicity of venerated ancestors, ancient man gradually gained a pantheon of gods. Polytheism would hold firm for many years until men evolved further. The result of this continuing evolution is the advent of monotheism, which primitive man would have been too simple to understand, many evolutionary advocates would state. In addition to Spencer’s idea, there is another road of religious evolution that advocates of the Development Theory. They say that most primitive cultures were animistic in origin. The animistic ideas would give rise to beliefs in spirits, which in turn would become the belief in many, varied deities. Then from a well-developed polytheism could monotheism grow. This theory has become very pervasive it is accepted by many in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and theology. Even the 11 century AD Jewish scholar Rabbi Rashi believed that monotheism did not begin until God’s revelation to Abraham in Genesis 12. It is so widely accepted because it fits in very neatly and comfortably with the evolutionary worldview, yet it is biblically inconsistent. Even some findings in modern research are showing that the Development Hypothesis is wrong. What does the Bible teach on this subject?

From the standpoint of biblical scholarship, primitive monotheism was the original form of worship in most cultures. From the beginning Adam and Eve knew God (Genesis 2). Though they were affected by the Fall, the primeval parents passed down the knowledge of God. This knowledge they gave to their third son Seth, and he handed it down to his child Enosh. It was his generation that began to call on the name of Yahweh (Genesis 4:26). The Hebrew Bible uses the word Yahweh in this passage. That is significant because Yahweh was the name God revealed to the Jews and Christians. The generation of Enosh was seeking the same God as the Jews and Christians. Thus the worship of God was passed down from Enosh to Noah, from whose sons came the rest of the world. They carried with them the stories about Creation, the Fall, and the Flood. The person of God had been very real to their not-so-distant ancestors.

Then the generation that built the Tower of Babel arose. They still had the traditions and Genesis stories, yet they were intentionally led away from God. The man known as Nimrod encouraged men to abandon God and build that infamous Tower at Babel. Of this the Jewish historian Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews writes, “Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect”. Humans, in their hubris, were trying to build a tower so high that it would reach God. In Akkadian Babel means gateway to a god. Yahweh, though, struck the tongues of that rebellious generation and confused their speech. In Hebrew that same word balel , means confusion. Man’s rebellion from God caused confusion. This idea would hold firm as later generations spread out and forgot God in their worship of many gods, they became confused.

So as men spread out from Babel in the plains of Shinar, they took with them the stories of Genesis and the worship of the God, who had just, through judgment, reaffirmed himself in their eyes. As different societies were formed, some were more agrarian or nomadic or settled like the Sumerians or Egyptians. According to Wilhelm Schmidt and Don Richardson, who are two leading proponents of the theory of primitive monotheism, the more primitive, agrarian or nomadic cultures of the earth have a clearer concept of a supreme, benevolent creator god.

Throughout history there have been many examples of civilizations that have started off with some kind of simple monotheism. In his book, Eternity in their Hearts, Don Richardson writes this concerning societies with a simple monotheism, “Probably 90 percent or more of the folk religions on this planet contain clear acknowledgment of the existence of one Supreme God” (qtd. in Morris)! For example, the Blackfoot Indian tribe believed that Nah-too-si, which means Holiness, created everything contained in the universe and the earth itself. He is the highest god. All that is below are spirits. In the Cherokee tribe there also exists a simple monotheism. This tribe’s religion centers on The Great Spirit, or Yowa. Linguistically, Yowa is very similar to the Hebrew name Yahweh. Like Yahweh, Yowa is considered omnipresent. Another striking similarity is that Yowa greatly loves the earth. He is even transcendent like Yahweh. The only major point of difference is that Yowa is considered to be part of creation. Like the Cherokees, the Karen tribe of Burma worshiped a Supreme God. They called him Y’wa, which is also strikingly close to Yahweh. In his aforementioned book, Richardson cites this Karen hymn:

The omnipotent is Y'wa him have we not believed.
Y'wa created men anciently
He has a perfect knowledge of all things!
Y'wa created men at the beginning
He knows all things to the present time!
O my children and grandchildren!
The earth is the treading place of the feet of Y'wa.
And heaven is the place where he sits.
He sees all things, and we are manifest to him."

This hymn is very similar to a passage from Isaiah 66:1, "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?” Indeed, these smaller tribes were not the mightiest or most technologically advanced of nations, yet they possessed a faith reaching nearer to heaven than any polytheistic system.

In addition to the tribal examples, there are many advanced societies that at one period in their existence adhered to a simple monotheism. In the September 1991 volume of “Creation,” Dr. Henry Morris writes about the simple monotheism that pervaded ancient China for many centuries. “For a long time,” he writes, “the Chinese people worshipped just one God, Shang Ti (also called Shang Di), the Lord of Heaven, retaining a clear tradition of the Great Flood and their migration from the region of Babel. Eventually, however, this system was replaced by the humanistic religion of Confucius, still later by the occult religions of Taoism and Buddhism, and finally by the atheistic religion of communism” (“Missions”). When juxtaposed to the Hebrew religion and God, Chinese monotheism is very advanced for its time. First, the Chinese had a consistent system of sacrifice to Shang Di. Between 2256 BC and 2205 BC the Shu Jing , a very old book of Chinese history, records that Emperor Shun sacrificed a bull to Shang Di. This was known as the Border Sacrifice. Eventually it became a yearly rite to be performed by the emperor. So, in the Temple of Heaven a bull would be sacrificed annually to Shang Di. The Chinese Border Sacrifice echoes the Hebrew sin offering set forth by God in Leviticus 9:2, which says, “Take a bull calf for your sin offering and a ram for your burnt offering, both without defect, and present them before the LORD.” In addition to this, Shang Di held many common aspects with Yahweh. Both were considered loving, and both were seen as the Creators. The great Chinese philosopher Motze says this of Shang Di as Creator, “I know Heaven loves men dearly not without reason. Heaven ordered the sun, the moon, and the stars to enlighten and guide them. Heaven ordained the four seasons, Spring, Autumn, Winter, and Summer, to regulate them. Heaven sent down snow, frost, rain, and dew to grow the five grains and flax and silk so that the people could use and enjoy them. Heaven established the hills and river, ravines and valleys, and arranged many things to minister to man’s good or bring him evil” (qtd. in Nelson). Until 1911 the annual sacrifice to Shang Di was executed, but after that year the last emperor was deposed. China then entered a dark period of atheism.

Egypt is another example of a very advanced society that possessed a simple monotheistic religion at one time. The god Amun-Ra was the chief of all Egyptian deities. He was the one in whom Egyptian monotheism previously dwelled. Like Yahweh, Amun-Ra had no parents. During the New Kingdom period, Amun-Ra was believed to transcend this world, like Yahweh. Amun-Ra’s cult developed so much that, like Brahman in India, the lesser deities became mere manifestations of this supreme deity. In support of Amun-Ra’s Yahweh-like qualities, Egyptologist Sir William Budge cites this passage from the Book of the Dead, "A Hymn To Amen-Ra . president of all the gods . Lord of the heavens . Lord of Truth . maker of men creator of beasts . Ra, whose word is truth, the Governor of the world, the mighty one of valour, the chiefs who made the world as he made himself”…” He heareth the prayer of the oppressed one, he is kind of heart to him that calleth upon him, he delivereth the timid man from the oppressor . He is the Lord of knowledge, and Wisdom is the utterance of his mouth” (qtd. in Merrill). In so many aspects of their religion, the Egyptians were close, but they just did not quite get it.

The Sumerian civilization, like Egypt, was the earth’s oldest civilization and also possessed a simple monotheism at one time. If one will remember that the Tower of Babel was built on Sumerian soil, it only makes sense that this culture was monotheistic for a time. The 1930-1936 excavation of Tell Asmar (Eshnunna) greatly reinforces the claim for Sumerian monotheism. This site revealed that in a social setting were found religious objects. They were found in a temple and the houses of temple worshippers. In Sumerian religions, cylinder seals are normally dedicated to a certain god. The ones found in this area, though, according to the archeologist Dr. Henry Frankfort, “can all be fitted into a consistent picture in which a single god worshipped in this temple forms the central figure. It seems that at this early period his various aspects were not considered separate deities in the Sumero-Accadian pantheon" (qtd. in Merrill). Along with Sumer, India possessed a simple monotheism years ago. The German scholar Max Muller in Lectures on the Science of Language states that "there is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda and even in the invocation of the innumerable gods the remembrance of a God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds” (qtd. in Merrill). The Indian religion of Hinduism once taught that there is one god called Brahman. All the lesser gods were merely manifestations of him.

As shown through the above paragraphs, many ancient societies used to know and worship the one true God. In Deuteronomy 6:4 God makes this proclamation to the children of Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” For many centuries civilizations like China, Sumer, and the Cherokees held fast to the essence of that declaration, yet in their sinful states they traded the perfect God for lesser deities. In Romans 1:18-23 Paul writes of this trend and how it comes to be. He writes, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” The trend of surrendering worship of God for idols happened in various ways. The first way it could have happened is that over time aspects of the Supreme God were vested in a multitude of lesser deities. For many civilizations, such as India or Greece, this process is captured in their mythologies. Max Muller explains this process well when he writes, "Mythology, which was the bane of the ancient world, is in truth a disease of language. A myth means a word, but a word which, from being a name or an attribute, has been allowed to assume a more substantial existence. Most of the Greek, Roman, Indian, and other heathen gods are nothing but poetical names which were gradually allowed to assume divine personality never contemplated by their original inventors” (qtd. Merrill). Originally the Greek word hekatos was just another word for the moon, but after time passed it developed into the goddess Hecate. Sometimes, when these aspects were being transferred, they were not completely transferred. In India, it is believed that there is a supreme god Brahman, but they believe that he manifests himself in lesser deities. According to a second principle, another way cultures fall into paganism is just through simple interactions with other cultures. Cultural interactions produced bigger pantheons. According to Sir Flinders Petrie, who is an Egyptologist, “Each city appears to have had but one god belonging to it, to whom others were in time added. Similarly, Babylonian cities each had their supreme god, and the combinations of these and their transformations in order to form them into groups when their homes were politically united, show how essentially they were solitary deities at first” (qtd. in Merrill). If either of these two principles were not the case for a society, there is a third principle: History, especially of events from Genesis 1-11, became mythology, confusing who was man and who was God. The most prominent example for this principle is Greece. In his December 2003 article in “Answers”, Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr. says, “I maintain that myth is essen tially history, and that many ancient myths and works of art tell the same story as the book of Genesis” (“Athena and Eve”). In other cases a fourth principle applies: simple monotheism is just overtaken by newer, more powerful religions. China is the perfect example of this. For centuries they worshiped Shang Di until the advent of Confucianism and Buddhism. As with China, these principles find application in many cultures worldwide.

The first principle finds application in Egypt. Budge posits that some characteristics of the creator god were transformed into lesser gods. In one Egyptian creation myth, the creator Amun created all the other gods in the beginning of time. While Judaism teaches that God alone is sufficient to sustain creation, Egyptian mythology taught that Amun made smaller gods to oversee creations continuing functionality. Thus, Amun may have initially been seen as the sufficient Creator, his functions to rule the creation fell to lesser gods and goddesses. Another example of the first principle is India. The Indians at once worshipped Brahman as the supreme god, but he later was divided into lesser deities, such as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. There is even an apparent linguistic connection between Brahma, the creator, and Brahman. Then in the second principle, Sumer would be a good example. The Sumerian cities were independent city-states. Each city-state had a patron deity, which reflects the primeval memory of the One God. Political unions of city-states resulted in the inclusion of many local gods into a bigger pantheon.

By far the best example of the third principle is Greece. They originally had a concept of God that became Zeus. Just in a simple etymology of the name “Zeus” one can see his ancient connection to God. His name is very similar to the word Theos or Deos (meaning god). That word originally comes from the Proto-Indo-European word Dyeus ph 2 tēr, meaning “Sky Father”. In the ancient Indo-European language, the words sky, heaven, and god are all under the same word, dyeu. Thus, Zeus is the god of the heavens (or sky). Deuteronomy 26:15 refers to the heavens as God’s dwelling place. As Zeus rules the heavens so does God. At the same time, though, God is bigger than the heavens. This can be seen in the Old Testament passage of 1 Kings 8:27, which says, “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” Zeus is limited to heaven. In addition to this , in his Hymn to Zeus , the Greek poet Cleanthes says, “We are his offspring” (NIV Bible footnote). In Acts 17:29 Paul applies this same phrase to God. Similar to the corruption of God that became Zeus, many of the mythological stories had their roots in stories from Genesis. As many similarities as there are between God and Zeus, the latter god lacks a critical aspect of Yahweh: sovereignty. Even though Zeus is king of the gods, he is not unlimited in power. He is bound by the decree of the fates. He cannot even completely control the earth because it belongs to his mother, the primordial deity Gaia. The true God of the Jews, though, controls heaven and earth. There is none who has competing claims with Yahweh. It belongs to him by right of creation. Zeus did not even create the earth. He is truly sovereign . Indeed, in the person of Zeus the Greeks remembered some of who God is, yet they also became confused over his identity and lost some aspects of his character. Some of Zeus’s identity was influenced by another biblical figure: Adam.

In addition to having a corrupted version of God, the Greek myths were influenced by the Genesis stories. Though Zeus was originally based on God, his gradual corruption was quickened as aspects of the biblical figure Adam were joined to him. Joined with his consort Hera, these two divinities were influenced by the first couple, Adam and Eve. The two deities shared two critical connects. First, Zeus and Hera were also husband and wife. Similarly, Adam and Eve were joined in marriage. Second, Zeus and Hera were brother and sister. That is just a skewed version of Adam and Eve’s relationship beyond marriage. Eve was created from Adam’s rib, which God had removed for that purpose. When Adam first saw his beautiful, new helpmate he declared, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). These two were not brother and sister. They had a deeper relationship they were connected by creation. To further support this fact, Hera was once called Dione which is the feminine form of Dios or Zeus. Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr., addressing this subject, says, “This suggests that the two were once, like Adam and Eve, a single entity” (“Athena and Eve”). In addition to this, Hera and Eve were similar in another way. Both were considered mothers. Genesis 3:20 refers to Eve as “the mother of all the living.” Similarly, the sixth century BC Greek poet Alcaeus refers to Hera as the “mother of all” (qtd. in Johnson, “Athena and Eve”). Even the longevity of Adam and Eve’s lives could have led to their deification. Adam lived for 930 years!

Beyond Hera and Zeus, other Greek myths were influenced by Genesis. One such myth is Pandora and her infamous box. She, like Eve, was the first woman. Pandora opened the box, unleashing evil onto the world. Thankfully, though, she did not open it enough for hope to escape. Similarly, Eve ate the fruit of the Tree and brought evil into the world, yet a hope remained in God’s box. In Genesis 3:15 God declares this hope, “And I will put enmity between you (the tempter serpent) and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This prophecy of hope would be fulfilled in Christ. Another myth, the birth of Athena, echoes the birth of Eve. As Eve was conceived of a bone from Adam, Athena was birthed from Zeus’s skull. Both were born as adults. It can even be taken a step further by saying they only had fathers Zeus was Athena’s father and God was Eve’s father. On this subject Johnson again states, “I have no difficulty in seeing the full-grown birth of Athena out of a male god as a picture of Eve’s full-grown birth out of Adam” (“The Serpent Worshippers”). The final myth to be compared to Genesis is the myth of Hephaestus. He was the god of the forge and metallurgy. Tubal-Cain, a descendent of Cain, was the first recorded man to practice metallurgy. From Tubal-Cain is derived the Greek god Hephaestus. This is an example of the Greeks confusing God and man. They had stories about their ancestor who was a man, but over time they made him a god.

As the Greeks represented the third principle, the fourth principle finds its primary representation in the Chinese civilization. Though they once worshiped Shang Di, the Chinese people soon were overtaken by the philosophies of Confucianism, the religions of Buddhism and Daoism, and finally the atheism of communism. For over a millennium the machinery of the Chinese state was fueled by the philosophies of Confucius. The main problem of it is that it focuses on man at the expense of Shang Di. Then with Buddhism Shang Di was shoved aside even more. By the time 1911 came the annual sacrifice to Shang Di was merely a meaningless ritual, stripped of its originally memory and beauty. In the vacuum caused by the humanism of these philosophies and the loss of Shang Di, atheism gained power. This is the result of letting new, powerful religions and philosophies take hold in the populace. Shang Di, though, is not with his people. Even as I write this paper, his power is sweeping over China and people are coming to know his son: the risen Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, as men spread out from the plains of Shinar, they carried with them for a time the knowledge of the true God. His worship was established in places like China, Egypt, and among the Cherokee tribes. Soon, though, they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:23). Through whichever of the four principles it occurred, many cultures lost their original, simple monotheism and turned to pagan beliefs. This is evident in the cultures of Sumer, Egypt, and most prominently Greece, whose own mythology bears the distinct influences of God and the Genesis story. This is not defeat for the Creator, though. His voice can still be heard today. It rises up from ruins of ancient Egypt to the pinnacle of China’s Temple of Heaven. It goes forth to the whole earth, reaching out to every man. It is like Paul speaks to the Athenians in Acts 17: 26-27: “From one man he (God) made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole

earth and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each of us.” Whether you are in Egypt, China, or any nation of the earth, God is calling out to you today. Will you respond?

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Watch the video: Ancient Art Lecture 4: Sumerian and Akkadian Art (February 2023).

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