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Laura: I like how you pointed out how death was views as a time when one met the gods. This is one of the key reasons why the Egyptian culture was so obsessed with the afterlife. Most of the art they created was not even made to be enjoyed by the living but to accompany them into the afterlife. You can see how much they valued this by the huge tombs they created. Even now it is amazing to fathom how much was put into the Great Pyramids and the the intricate works throughout the tomb of Nefertari. Additionally, you can see them pay homage to the gods throughout the time period in pieces such as the falcon, which symbolized the god Horus, in the Palette of the King Narmer.
Miranda: I like the point you made about the vague demonstration of strength. I also found your point about the sole purpose to serve those at the top an excellent way of putting it.
The social hierarchy that existed during this time period is easily identifiable through various pieces. Votive figures that where placed at temples to stand in for worshipers varied in sizing which was linked to the difference in wealth and social standing. On the Stele of Naram-Sin the figure of Naram-Sin is larger then all the others to show he is more important. Social hierarchy is also shown on the Warka Vase from Uruk. The vase is divided into four registers. At the bottom there are animals, just above those animals are naked men which are probably servants or slaves of some sort. The top register depicts a Priest-King and the Goddess Inanna on the same level. This shows how many cultures believed that state officials operated on the gods behalf in a theocratic political system.
The various different rulers of Mesopotamia used art and architecture to display their power. This is shown by commissioning large and ornate structures to showcase their wealth and authority given to them by the Gods. Assurnasirpall II killing lions was a way for Assurnaispall of Assyria assert his bravery, power and authority. The depiction of killing a lion was a symbolic way to show the rulers power over the mighty creature which was revered for its strength. Nebuchadnessar II also did this when he constructed the Ishtar Gate. This gate was the ceremonial entrance to Babbylon and was constructed using bricks that were inlaid with rare stones called lapis lazuli. In a more modern time Saddam Hussein tried to recreate this gate as a showcase of his own power and authority.
I do not agree with the statement that prehistoric art is abstract. If you look at the sculptures such as women willendorf or man and woman from cernavoda it is obvious that early art was depicting humans. This is also evident in the depictions of animals and hunting often found in cave paintings. We should take into account the type and materials they had available at the time and the rudimentary tools they had. That being said you may find some abstract concepts in the deities that they worshiped during that time.
I like Miranda’s point that “without the knowledge of the creator, we do not know if it’s meant to be perceived that way.” This still holds true for art in general and because these pieces of art were from a time much different than the one we live in now it is hard to speculate on the true meaning or purpose.
I think that as humans evolved they used art to communicate or document their lives and beliefs. Some of the pieces created served a more functional purpose such as the early ceramic bowls that were used in ceremonies. Other pieces were used to pay homage to their ancestors and their beliefs as evident in the houses in Ã‡ATALHÃ–YÃœK. Early cave paintings that depict hunting could have been used to tell a story or help teach future generations of the traditions used when hunting.
In response to Bob Hook’s posting. I agree with your caution on interpretations of early art given human nature to disagree. The contrast you pointed out on each piece was very thoughtful. As for the thought that caves could have been the first art museums, I would more likely suspect they were just the most stable structures that humans could inhabit/defend at the time.
Here is my introduction video.