Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ancient Near East

Cylinder seals and modern impression
around 14th Century B.C.

Metropolitan Museum
Cradle of Civilization
5th "Live-in" session

Again I had a guided tour, this time to the Ancient Near East. A section rather small on the second floor that otherwise I don't think would have kept my attention for very long. But together with four other enthusiastic learners, among them a young hipster from Singapore who impressed with his added knowledge and a wonderful volunteer who was enthusiastically telling us about the "Cradle of Civilization" it ended up being a great extended hour filled with wonders.

Look at the above seals, these little cylinders had a persons symbolized story on it and by rolling it over it became their signature. They would usually hang it around their neck so it could be used at all time, like a form of identification, amazing.

Map of Mesopotamia

Tablets in Clay
Ca. 2000-3000 B.C.

The top tablet is early writing about wheat and barley quantities. The Mesopotamian land had a rich soil and was easy to farm and barley was often used as payment to the workers. Early on they learned how to control the rivers for irrigation. Flooding though could be extremely destructive and put a lot of stress on the people. They reached for the Gods for help. The temple was the God of the city and the main job of the ruler was to nourish the relationship with the Gods.

This little figure has it's face covered by its offering, so you are interestingly forced to look at it from it's side. Seemingly something common from what I saw, most of the pieces looked best from the side.

the entrance to the Northwest Palace 
of Ashurnasirpal II At Nimrud
883-859 B.C.

 If you ever go and look at these horse/humans guarding the palace, look at the legs. The horses has five legs so it would look beautiful from both the front and the side.

Part of the wall inside the castle

The Professional way
glazed Lion panel
(1792-1750 B.C.)

From the panels leading through the massive gate from the Temple of Marduk (city god of Babylon) to the Bit Akitu, the temple of the New Years festival.

Vessel terminating in the forepart of a 
fantastic iconine creature
Achaemenid period, 5th century B.C.

Gorgeous vessel probably belonging to an Achaemenid King.

Striding figure with ibex horns, a raptor skin draped around the shoulders and upturned boots
Arsenical copper
Iran or Mesopotamia
ca. 3000 B.C.

Created around the time of the first Sumerian cities emerged, when the figures began to represent more the human shape. With the triple belt and the beard this one is supposed to represent a royal or divine human being. Quite a bit of a demonic looking royal i would say.

Statue of Gudea
Ca. 2150 B.C.

This figure makes me think of peace. The seated pose with the hands folded is a traditional gesture of greeting and attentiveness. Parts of the inscription says:
"Gudea, the man who built the temple, may his life be long"

Head of a ruler
Arsenical copper
Iran (?)
2300-2000 B.C.

To read more about this head and theories of it being Ur-Namma here: 
You will notice my picture:)

The Royal Cemetery at Ur
(ca. 2600-2200 B.C.)

In these burial cites (part of hundreds) that probably belonged to the royal family of Ur, the deceased were buried with male and female guards and attendants in full dress and with chariots drawn by equids and oxen. A great source for illuminating life and customs in Sumer. I think the rest of the burial site is in Pennsylvania and at the British Museum.

Vessel stand with ibex support
Copper alloy, inlaid with shell and lapis lazuli
(Early Dynastic III 2600-2350 B.C.)

This stand was probably used for incense or offerings at a ritual.

Seated female
steatite or chlorite, limestone
Central Asia (Bactria-Margiana)
Late 3rd-early 2nd millennium B.C.

She is wearing a voluminous sheepskin robe, I adore this little figure of divinity.

Statuette of a female
Northwestern Iran, Caspian region
(Early 1st millenium B.C.)

Do you remember the Cycladic female? with the large wonderful buttocks. The Caspians put it all in the hips:)

Quiver plaque with animals and mythological scenes
Western Iran
(Early 1st millenium B.C.)

A gorgeous sword scabbard.

Vessel fragment in the form of nude female
Ceramic, paint
Southwestern Iran
Neo-Elamite period (8th - 7th Century B.C.)

I had a sigh of relief when I noticed this one. Somehow a little humor and sensuality does not hurt while you are out to learn.

Clothing from a horseman along the Silk Road

The Silk Road was the trade routes that connected the East, South and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, also North and Northeast Africa and Europe. The word stemming from Chinese silk trade from over 3000 years back in time.

Next up in the "Live-in Sessions" is the Oceanic Room and I can´t wait to tell you all about it. Impressive!

With Love 


  1. haakonsandvi@hotmail.comDecember 16, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Fantastisk morro å følge med på alt du presenterer Kristin! Selv om "mine" kunstformer nok alltid vil være foto og musikk, samt kokkekunst, er dine ukentlige kikkehull inn i en annen verden et ukentlig høydepunkt. Takk for at du bringer denne formen for kunst ut til en ellers ganske så "grønn" kunstelsker. Plukker opp stadig nye impulser!

    Håkon Sandviken

  2. Im totally fascinated with stuff like that! Its so interesting to learn that the cylinders had a story and the vessel its truly incredible:)
    Happy Thursday to you too,sweetie

  3. it still amazes me that these things are still among us... sad to know that so many of them were lost during the iraq invasion...

  4. i have always been fascinated by egypt! my dad and stepmom just took a trip there.. i was so jealous! haha

  5. Isn't it funny how us art enthusiasts sometimes make a bee line for the more exciting modern art and just ignore ancient relics? I suppose I always thought they were boring, but had a similar experience as you when visiting the National Archeological Museum in Athens this past summer. We went to the ancient section and saw a lot of things similar and it was just so fascinating to me for the first time. I guess when you take the time to learn about it, it becomes so impressive and amazing to think that people of that time could do things like that.

  6. wow...sometimes it seems to be that the ancient civilizations were more advanced in more ways than we can imagine...some great pieces here!

  7. What interesting post Kristin!
    thanks and "Feliz Navidad"

  8. Lovely and interesting and thanks for your sweet comment! Have a great weekend!

    Kristin xo

  9. Thanks so much for leaving a comment re: Chateau de Mossiac, Yes it is a hotel!

    What a very interesting blog thank you....such a nice an early Christmas present!

  10. Thank you so much for continuing to spoil us with all this art goodness! I'm utterly fascinated by such long-ago civilizations - and after a (totally unintended) weeklong hiatus from the internet (thanks to a crazed work & work-travel schedule), it's just so lovely to return to see this. So interesting how many of these pieces ended up looking best from the side. And I love that something as fragile as fabric survived in that Silk Road outfit.

    Hope you had a great weekend and a terrific week ahead! (I know you must also be gearing up for relocation). Can't wait to see the Oceania whenever you have the space & time to share!