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Lucas Warthen

The cultures of the Ancient Near East maintained a strict social hierarchy. The rules and conditions of everyday life, politics, and commerce changed based on your position in society. Discuss examples of this and how the visual record of Mesopotamia helps us understand the lives of its inhabitants.

I think the biggest and best example of social hierarchy in Mesopotamia comes from the Carved Vessel from Uruk. It is a rather simple piece of art, but the symbolism present in it is extremely prevalent. The top register depicts the priest-king Dumuzi on the same level as the goddess Inanna, while there are offerings being handed to her. Under that there is a large bar, representing the difference between the king / gods and the next ‘level’ of people, the servants, who are in the second register. Following that is another large bar, splitting the difference between servants and animals. The last two registers are very close together – animals and lastly plants – showing their similar importance in the hierarchy of beings. I think the biggest thing to note here is that the difference between priest-king / god and servant is the same as the difference between servant and plant / animal, so the priest-kings (or rulers in general) see themselves not only a different level than the servants, but as way higher and more important than the servants could ever be.