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Rachel Nelson

The Ancient Near East maintained a very strict social hierarchy; we know this because their preserved art depicts it clearly for us to see and learn from. The Warka Vassel from Uruk or present day Iraq was created between 3300 BC and 3000 BC. The alabaster vassel shows offerings being presented to the goddess Inanna. At the top of the vase, the priest-king can be seen standing while the offerings take place, a servant lifting his sash from the ground. Even though he is not actively taking place in the offering-giving his placement makes him the focus of the piece, as if all the proceedings are due to his bidding and the servants and animals are just the vessels themselves, used to accomplish the task at hand. Even the goddess seems overshadowed by the king, as if the religious devotion is merely to reassert the king’s own divinity. The servants are almost identical, making them seem unimportant and disposable along with the animals and plants at the base of the vessel. In a way, not only is a hierarchy depicted, but also an ecosystem of sorts. The plants feed the animals, which sustains the peasants/servants who exist to serve and glorify the king and goddess, who are on the same level. The imagery is also a metaphor, each higher level standing on the one beneath it.