Sumerian Art & Architecture - Crystalinks
Before the Sumerians appeared on the land, it had been occupied by a non- Semitic . of other cities, they worked out relationships between them, just as the Greeks and Romans The empire, though short-lived, fostered art and literature. The world's earliest civilization developed in the Mesopotamian area of Sumer in present-day Iraq. Sumerian civilization spanned a period of three thousand. Read and learn for free about the following article: The Sumerians and Mesopotamia. Sumerian art, an introduction · White Temple and ziggurat, Uruk.
Gradually they drained the marshes and dug irrigation canals and ditches. Large-scale cooperation was needed to build the irrigation works, keep them in repair, and apportion the water.
This need gave rise to government and laws.
The rich soil produced abundant crops of barley, emmer a kind of wheatbeans, olives, grapes, and flax. For the first time there was a surplus to feed city workers such as artists, craftsmen, and merchants. This great change in living habits brought about civiliza- tion--defined as a city-based society held together by economic enterprises.
There were no nations then, only small city-states The Sumerians built their villages on artificial mounds to protect them from floods. Very early they learned to make bricks in molds and dry them in the sun or bake them in kilns.
Their sturdy houses were small and crowded close together on narrow lanes. Some were two or more stories high. The whole city was surrounded by a wall for protection. Outside the wall were the poor peoples' huts, built of reeds that were plastered with clay.
Each Sumerian city rose up around the shrine of a local god. As a reflection of a city's wealth, its temple became an elaborate structure. The temple buildings stood on a spacious raised platform reached by staircases and ramps. From the platform rose the temple tower, called a ziggurat holy mountainwith a circular staircase or ramp around the outside. On the temple grounds were quarters for priests, officials, accountants, musicians, and singers; treasure chambers; storehouses for grain, tools, and weapons; and workshops for bakers, pottery makers, brewers, leatherworkers, spinners and weavers, and jewelers.
There were also pens for keeping the sheep and goats that were destined for sacrifice to the temple god. Horses and camels were still unknown, but sheep, goats, oxen, donkeys, and dogs had been domesticated.
The Sumerians and Mesopotamia (article) | Khan Academy
The plow had been invented, and the wheel, made from a solid piece of wood, was used for carts and for shaping pottery. Oxen pulled the carts and plows; donkeys served as pack animals. Bulky goods were moved by boat on the rivers and canals. The boats were usually hauled from the banks, but sails also were in use.
Before BC the Sumerians had learned to make tools and weapons by smelting copper with tin to make bronze, a much harder metal than copper alone.
Mud, clay, and reeds were the only materials the Sumerians had in abundance. Trade was therefore necessary to supply the city workers with materials. Merchants went out in overland caravans or in ships to exchange the products of Sumerian industry for wood, stone, and metals.
There are indications that Sumerian sailing vessels even reached the valley of the Indus River in India. The chief route, however, was around the Fertile Crescent, between the Arabian Desert and the northern mountains. This route led up the valley of the two rivers, westward to Syria, and down the Mediterranean coast. The Sumerian Writing System Whether the Sumerians were the first to develop writing is uncertain, but theirs is the oldest known writing system.
The clay tablets on which they wrote were very durable when baked. Archaeologists have dug up many thousands of them--some dated earlier than BC. The earliest writing of the Sumerians was picture writing similar in some ways to Egyptian hieroglyphs. They began to develop their special style when they found that on soft, wet clay it was easier to impress a line than to scratch it.
To draw the pictures they used a stylus--probably a straight piece of reed with a three-cornered end.
- Mesopotamian art and architecture
- Sumerian art history – Mesopotamia
- The Sumerians and Mesopotamia
An unexpected result came about: Curved lines therefore had to be broken up into a series of straight strokes. Pictures lost their form and became stylized symbols. This kind of writing on clay is called cuneiform, from the Latin cuneus, meaning "wedge.
Art of Mesopotamia
A tremendous step forward was accomplished when the symbols came to be associated with the sound of the thing shown rather than with the idea of the thing itself. Typical temples of the Protoliterate period—both the platform type and the type built at ground level—are, however, much more elaborate both in planning and ornament.
Interior wall ornament often consists of a patterned mosaic of terra-cotta cones sunk into the wall, their exposed ends dipped in bright colours or sheathed in bronze.
The two forms of temple—the platform variety and that built at ground level—persisted throughout the early dynasties of Sumerian history c. It is known that two of the platform temples originally stood within walled enclosures, oval in shape and containing, in addition to the temple, accommodation for priests. These devices, which were intended to relieve the monotony of sun-dried brick or mud plaster, include a huge copper-sheathed lintel, with animal figures modeled partly in the round; wooden columns sheathed in a patterned mosaic of coloured stone or shell; and bands of copper-sheathed bulls and lions, modeled in relief but with projecting heads.
The planning of ground-level temples continued to elaborate on a single theme: Considerably less is known about palaces or other secular buildings at this time. Circular brick columns and austerely simplified facades have been found at Kish modern Tall al-Uhaimer, Iraq. Flat roofs, supported on palm trunks, must be assumed, although some knowledge of corbeled vaulting a technique of spanning an opening like an arch by having successive cones of masonry project farther inward as they rise on each side off the gap —and even of dome construction—is suggested by tombs at Ur, where a little stone was available.
Sculpture Practically all Sumerian sculpture served as adornment or ritual equipment for the temples. No clearly identifiable cult statues of gods or goddesses have yet been found. Many of the extant figures in stone are votive statues, as indicated by the phrases used in the inscriptions that they often bear: A togalike garment sometimes covers one shoulder. Men generally wear long hair and a heavy beard, both often trimmed in corrugations and painted black.
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The eyes and eyebrows are emphasized with coloured inlay. The female coiffure varies considerably but predominantly consists of a heavy coil arranged vertically from ear to ear and a chignon behind. The hair is sometimes concealed by a headdress of folded linen. Ritual nakedness is confined to priests.
Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, Sumeria, wearing a traditional kaunakes, limestone relief, c. The Egyptians quarried their own stone in prismatic blocks, and one can see that, even in their freestanding statues, strength of design is attained by the retention of geometric unity. By contrast, in Sumer, stone must have been imported from remote sources, often in the form of miscellaneous boulders, the amorphous character of which seems to have been retained by the statues into which they were transformed.
NergalNergal, a Mesopotamian god of the underworld, holding his lion-headed staffs, terra-cotta relief from Kish, c. Courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Eng. Beyond this general characteristic of Sumerian sculpture, two successive styles have been distinguished in the middle and late subdivisions of the Early Dynastic period. One very notable group of figures, from Tall al-Asmar, Iraq ancient Eshnunnadating from the first of these phases, shows a geometric simplification of forms that, to modern taste, is ingenious and aesthetically acceptable.
Statues characteristic of the second phase, on the other hand, though technically more competently carved, show aspirations to naturalism that are sometimes overly ambitious. The enigmatic character of cuneiform writing — and the difficulty of the Sumerian language — helped create the perception that cuneiform writing was both the veiled expression of hidden truths and a veto to their understanding.5-Minute Art History: Sumerian Art from Mesopotamia
Several centuries earlier Egyptian hieroglyphs had been similarly regarded as the repositories of mystical knowledge. Image courtesy Pedro Azara The myth: Mesopotamian myths are mostly known from very late written versions recovered from first millennium BCE. During the Second World War, a number of artists, like Baumeister, sought answers to the violence in Mesopotamian myths and in Genesis.
Two myths were prevalent: For architects Bruno Taut and Le Corbusier, the tower of Babel, without its aura of accursedness, was considered as a model of infinite, but at the same time, ordered growth. These were influential visions of utopian urbanism.
Image courtesy Pedro Azara Sumerian items have not lost their appeal as a source of inspiration for contemporary artists such as the Palestinian Maliheh Afnan who draws enigmatic writings inspired by cuneiform signs.
But most who are interested in Mesopotamian iconography, as the French artist Cyprien Gaillard, use it to denounce the fragile or lost condition, due to wars, greed or abandonment, of sites and symbols in most Near Eastern countries.
The relation between Sumerian art and Modern art has been treated in an exhibition From Ancient to Modern: