It is interesting to compare the art of Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures. Both were agrarian and grew around the great rivers of the Middle East. They both built temples to their gods. The Sumerian culture built the White Temple and Ziggurat Uruk in 3400-3200 BCE. This Ziggurat was dedicated the sky god Anu. Within 800 years the Egyptians built the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza. The difference is that these were built store the remains and to protect the Pharaoh’s remains for the future afterlife. This provides a critical distinction between the two cultures and it is reflected in their art.
The Mesopotamian art focuses more on attributing the courage and strength of animals upon their Kings. The relief sculpture Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions is a great example of this from Assyria. Later the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way were completed in Babylon around 575BCE. Dedicated to the King Nebuchadnezzar, the decorations were panels of lions, bulls and a mythical dragon figure meant to convey the power of the king. A person to be feared with close contact with the gods.
The Egyptians believed that their kings, pharaohs were deities. Their culture focused on preparing the pharaoh to rule in the afterlife. A great example of this comes from the tomb of Tutankhamen from 1327 BCE. His death mask of gold and lapis luzuli is an example of art designed to protect the remains for their future role in ruling in the afterlife. The tomb itself contained the tools, ornaments, foods, chairs, even symbolic ships. All executed of the finest materials available at that time.