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Laura Barber

Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt both used religion to legitimize their leaders, as is displayed in their wide production of religious artwork. The artwork and architecture representing this, however, differs greatly between cultures. The differences can be seen clearly at a superficial level, but also has a deeper meaning. The Egyptians built many structures in the shape of pyramids, whereas Mesopotamia built large platforms like Persepolis. If one looks closer at the uses for these structures, then the emphasis on the afterlife in Egyptian life becomes evident. The pyramids were built as burial grounds for pharaohs and much of the other art at the time dealt with the afterlife, including art of the gods. For example, the Books of the Dead were used to instruct the deceased in their passage into the afterlife, showing the various gods that would be present at the time of judgement. This likely indicates the Egyptians belief that death is the final passage to their gods, meaning that one is closer to the source of religion in death than they ever can be in life.
There are also similarities in how the two cultures expressed their devotion to their gods. The subjects of the art pieces often had their feet firmly placed on the ground in order to denote holy ground. The Egyptians show this in the funerary stele of Amenemhat to show that his burial ground was holy ground, whereas the Mesopotamians used this same tactic in the votive figures used for praying.