• History of the Fine Arts: Visual Art
  • Introduction
  • Unit 1: The Ancient World
  • Unit 2: The Middle Ages
  • Unit 3: The Renaissance
  • Unit 4: The Enlightenment
  • Unit 5: The 19th Century
  • Unit 6: The 20th and 21st Century
  • Download
  • Translations
  • Chapter 1: Prehistoric Art

    The Stone Age Era is sometimes generally referred to as “Prehistoric,” but that term is problematic. It was first used in mid-nineteenth-century Britain when scholars ranked cultures on a single Eurocentric continuum from “savage” to “civilized.” This continuum is part of a European worldview that held the ideology—and justification—that so-called “savages” needed to be pacified and ruled. “Prehistory” referred to societies that had not developed writing, and the Eurocentrism of this ranking becomes clear when we realize that British archaeologists deemed China’s highly-developed culture as uncivilized because their written language used characters that can represent concepts or sounds, and not an alphabetic script. Additionally, highly advanced societies that prize oral literacy and oral history over writing would not have been considered civilized either. Archaeologists, anthropologists, and art historians have since recognized that to understand a culture, they have to consider it on its own terms, rather than measuring it by a yardstick from their own culture.

    A Word on Eurocentrism in the Study of Prehistoric Art

    Since the first modern scholars to recognize the Stone Age were Europeans, it is not surprising that they found their examples in Europe. Additionally, once one archaeological site became famous, people began to recognize other sites in neighboring areas and regions. But there are more troubling reasons for the Eurocentrism of the history of Paleolithic art:

    • Early in the 20th century, when the first cave paintings were recognized as being very old, many European scholars still believed that Europe was the most advanced part of the world, so they assumed that the oldest art would be found there.
    • Europeans took objects from around the world back to Europe, meaning that if you wanted to study these objects, you had to work within the European system of understanding them.
    • European specialists made the problematic argument that cave paintings found in Namibia could not be Paleolithic because they were too advanced for Africans to have made. This idea is rooted in the racist belief that Africans were inferior and uncivilized and hence could not have made these cave paintings. The paintings’ very naturalism suggested to Europeans that they were older than they actually were, because European tradition since the Renaissance had held naturalism—falsely—to be superior to abstraction. 

    Given this complicated introduction to art history in the Stone Age, we must tread carefully. Indeed, we may find ourselves victim to similar biases or misrepresentations if we are not careful to first consider the abundance of artworks from this period on their own terms. Unfortunately, much of the detail surrounding the context of these works has been lost to history; we simply do not have records to illuminate how these works were used or produced. Instead, we must strengthen our capacity for keen observation as we pose questions, and, if we are successful, the artworks themselves will answer. 

    First, let's get a sense of the period, its various divisions, and cultures.

    Video Transcript

    Paleolithic Art

    Paleolithic art is prehistoric, meaning it predates written records. As such, the meaning and significance assigned to the art dating from this period is based on analysis and conjecture. The nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the period influenced the art that was produced, which, with the exception of cave painting, tends to be small and easily portable.

    Neolithic Art

    This period is defined by the Neolithic Revolution, when the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals led to the transition from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to established settlement. As a result, we see the formation of cities, organized government and religion, the specialization of labor, the development of writing, and the construction of monumental architecture.

    Ancient Near East

    Some of the earliest examples of established cities are found in Mesopotamia, the area of land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. This region was ideal for the development of agriculture as both rivers flood annually, creating a fertile flood plain. The area was already home to native wild wheat and the presence of wild sheep populations aided in the domestication of livestock. As such, this region was highly desirable and become the home of multiple civilizations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. This is also the region where the first system of writing, called cuneiform, was developed by the Sumerians

    Paleolithic Art

    Paleolithic art is prehistoric, meaning it predates written records. As such, the meaning and significance assigned to the art dating from this period is based on analysis and conjecture. The nomadic, hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the period influenced the art that was produced, which, with the exception of cave painting, tends to be small and easily portable.

    Neolithic Art

    This period is defined by the Neolithic Revolution, when the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals led to the transition from a hunter gatherer lifestyle to established settlement. As a result, we see the formation of cities, organized government and religion, the specialization of labor, the development of writing, and the construction of monumental architecture.

    Ancient Near East

    Some of the earliest examples of established cities are found in Mesopotamia, the area of land between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. This region was ideal for the development of agriculture as both rivers flood annually, creating a fertile flood plain. The area was already home to native wild wheat and the presence of wild sheep populations aided in the domestication of livestock. As such, this region was highly desirable and become the home of multiple civilizations, including the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and Assyrians. This is also the region where the first system of writing, called cuneiform, was developed by the Sumerians


    Paleolithic and Neolithic Art 

    For our purposes, the main distinction between these two divisions consists in the mobility of the various civilizations. Paleolithic civilizations tended to regularly travel, rarely pausing long enough to make permanent structures or works. Thus, artworks from this period tend to be small and portable. Neolithic civilizations did just the opposite. Due to their development in agriculture, they constructed more permanent structures and artworks. Let's look at a few. 

    Lion Man

    The, now famous, Lion Man is a wonderful example of artwork in the Paleolithic period. Small and portable, it shows signs of regular use and careful attention to detail. As you explore this work, consider what features of the work suggest how it might have been used or what place it held in this early society. 

    Questions to Consider

    1. What elements or features of the Lion Man suggest how this work was used? 
    2. What intentional artistic decisions did the artist make in the production of Lion Man?
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    Video Transcript

    There are over 4,000 religions existing in the world, and 85% of the world's people are considered to be believers. And through time and across the world, we have no knowledge of a society that doesn't have beliefs. It seems to be a natural characteristic, a product of our hugely inventive minds, that we communicate with beings and worlds beyond nature.

    As fully modern people we go back 100,000 years and certainly, we recognize in the archaeological record, from Africa and from Southeast Asia and Australasia, really ancient things that show the modern human species beginning to symbolize thoughts. The oldest object that we have which shows us very clearly, that we are having a conversation with something that does not exist in nature, is the figure of the Lion Man.

    The Lion Man is made of mammoth ivory. This is the biggest animal in the late Ice Age environment. The fiercest animal in the environment was the cave lion, bigger than a modern African lion, without a mane, a huge fierce creature. What the sculptor who made the lion man has done, is to combine the mammoth, the lion, and the human. So we have human legs and groin, the navel in the correct place for a human being. And then, as you come up the body, you come into these immensely broad and strong shoulders and a head, the head of a lion, made with such naturalism that we can see that he's watching, that he's listening, the little furrow behind his ear, is the furrow created as the muscles tense of the ear to be turned and alert while listening. His eyes are looking forward and his mouth, in this extraordinary grin.

    This combination of human and animal features, this alertness, this participation, suggests that there's a conversation going on here, a conversation of a human who is so much part of nature, but wears clothes, makes tools, has fire, but yet is in awe of this fierce lion from whom it's important to protect oneself but also to admire. So this is a really important conversation happening here. Now, I can't say whether this sculpture represents an avatar, or a deity, or a creation story. None of that really matters. What matters is this conversation, this sign of mind, and this sign of using a belief in beings and worlds beyond nature that help us to get by, that help us to give us meaning and understanding and to overcome the things that frighten us, but also to share stories with one another around the fire. And we know this has happened with the Lion Man because his body is polished by the wear of being passed from hand to hand. And he's found in a cave, Stadel cave, not far from Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, deep in its recesses. The Lion Man was carefully put away after sharing stories around the fire, bonding, socializing, planning for tomorrow, thinking about the possibilities. So it shows beliefs in other worlds, in other beings, being a really important part for social cohesion and for confidence for human beings to have meaning and carry on with their lives.


    Hall of the Bulls

    Although not within the timespan of the Neolithic period (it is squarely within the typical date ranges of the Paleolithic period), the Hall of the Bulls demonstrates some of the concerns that would come to characterize artwork from that time. It is a site that includes wonderful pictorial displays that, although do not transmit information in the same way that text does, communicate information to the cave inhabitants. Let's explore this site in a little more detail. 

    Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E., 11 feet 6 inches long (photo: Francesco Bandarin, CC BY-SA 3.0)
    Figure 1.1 Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E., 11 feet 6 inches long (photo: Francesco Bandarin, CC BY-SA 3.0)

    The cave of Lascaux, France is one of almost 350 similar sites that are known to exist—most are isolated to a region of southern France and northern Spain. Both Neanderthals (named after the site in which their bones were first discovered—the Neander Valley in Germany) and Modern Humans (early Homo Sapiens Sapiens) coexisted in this region 30,000 years ago. Life was short and very difficult; resources were scarce and the climate was very cold. 

    Approximately 15,000 years later in the valley of Vèzére, in southwestern France, modern humans lived and witnessed the migratory patterns of a vast range of wildlife. They discovered a cave on a tall hill overlooking the valley. Inside, an unknown number of these people drew and painted images that, once discovered in 1940, have excited the imaginations of both researchers and the general public.

    After struggling through small openings and narrow passages to access the larger rooms beyond, prehistoric people discovered that the cave wall surfaces functioned as the perfect, blank “canvas” upon which to draw and paint. White calcite, roofed by nonporous rock, provides a uniquely dry place to feature art. To paint, these early artists used charcoal and ocher (a kind of pigmented, earthen material, that is soft and can be mixed with liquids, and comes in a range of colors like brown, red, yellow, and white). We find images of horses, deer, bison, elk, a few lions, a rhinoceros, and a bear—almost as an encyclopedia of the area’s large prehistoric wildlife. Among these images are abstract marks—dots and lines in a variety of configurations. In one image, a humanoid figure plays a mysterious role.

    Detail of Hall of Bulls, Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E.
    Figure 1.2 Detail of Hall of Bulls, Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E.

    Tier 1: Content--Hall of the Bulls

    Like all artwork, the content of this work contains elements worth exploring. As you consider this work, refer to the elements of art listed in Tier 1: Content.

    The artist's use of line and color is a prominent element. The animals are rendered in what has come to be called “twisted perspective,” in which their bodies are depicted in profile while we see the horns from a more frontal viewpoint. The images are sometimes entirely linear—line drawn to define the animal’s contour. In many other cases, the animals are described in solid and blended colors blown by mouth onto the wall. In other portions of the Lascaux cave, artists carved lines into the soft calcite surface. Some of these are infilled with color—others are not.

    The work's scale is also significant. The cave spaces range widely in size and ease of access. The famous Hall of Bulls is large enough to hold some fifty people. Other “rooms” and “halls” are extraordinarily narrow and tall. Archaeologists have found hundreds of stone tools. They have also identified holes in some walls that may have supported tree-limb scaffolding that would have elevated an artist high enough to reach the upper surfaces.

    In addition to these, you should consider the other elements at play (or absent) in the work as well, such as composition, form, and pattern. 

    Left wall of the Hall of Bulls, Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000-14,000 B.C.E., 11 feet 6 inches long
    Figure 1.3 Left wall of the Hall of Bulls, Lascaux II (replica of the original cave, which is closed to the public), original cave: c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E., 11 feet 6 inches long

    Given the large scale of many of the animal images, we can presume that the artists worked deliberately—carefully plotting out a particular form before completing outlines and adding color. Some researchers believe that “master” artists enlisted the help of assistants who mixed pigments and held animal fat lamps to illuminate the space. Alternatively, in the case of the “rooms” containing mostly engraved and overlapping forms, it seems that the pure process of drawing and repetitive re-drawing held serious (perhaps ritual) significance for the makers.

    Why did they do it?

    Many scholars have speculated about why prehistoric people painted and engraved the walls at Lascaux and other caves like it. Perhaps the most famous theory was put forth by a priest named Henri Breuil. Breuil spent considerable time in many of the caves, meticulously recording the images in drawings when the paintings were too challenging to photograph. Relying primarily on a field of study known as ethnography, Breuil believed that the images played a role in “hunting magic.” The theory suggests that the prehistoric people who used the cave may have believed that a way to overpower their prey involved creating images of it during rituals designed to ensure a successful hunt. This seems plausible when we remember that survival was entirely dependent on successful foraging and hunting, though it is also important to remember how little we actually know about these people.

    Disemboweled bison and bird-headed human figure? Cave at Lascaux, c. 16,000-14,000 B.C.E.
    Figure 1.4 Disemboweled bison and bird-headed human figure? Cave at Lascaux, c. 16,000–14,000 B.C.E.

    A bison, drawn in strong, black lines, bristles with energy, as the fur on the back of its neck stands up and the head is radically turned to face us. A form drawn under the bison’s abdomen is interpreted as internal organs, spilling out from a wound. A more crudely drawn form positioned below and to the left of the bison may represent a humanoid figure with the head of a bird. Nearby, a thin line is topped with another bird and there is also an arrow with barbs. Further below and to the far left the partial outline of a rhinoceros can be identified.

    Interpreters of this image tend to agree that some sort of interaction has taken place among these animals and the bird-headed human figure—in which the bison has sustained injury either from a weapon or from the horn of the rhinoceros. Why the person in the image has the rudimentary head of a bird, and why a bird form sits atop a stick very close to him is a mystery. Some suggest that the person is a shaman—a kind of priest or healer with powers involving the ability to communicate with spirits of other worlds. Regardless, this riveting image appears to depict action and reaction, although many aspects of it are difficult to piece together.

    Questions

    What can we really know about the creators of these paintings and what the images originally meant? These are questions that are difficult enough when we study art made only 500 years ago. It is much more perilous to assert meaning for the art of people who shared our anatomy but had not yet developed the cultures or linguistic structures that shaped who we have become. Do the tools of art history even apply? Here is evidence of a visual language that collapses the more than 1,000 generations that separate us, but we must be cautious. This is especially so if we want to understand the people that made this art as a way to understand ourselves. The desire to speculate based on what we see and the physical evidence of the caves is wildly seductive.


    Figure 1.4 Replica of the painting from the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France

    Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc

    The cave at Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc is over 1,000 feet in length with two large chambers. Carbon samples date the charcoal used to depict the two head-to-head Rhinoceroses (see the image above, bottom right) to between 30,340 and 32,410 years before 1995 when the samples were taken. The cave’s drawings depict other large animals including horses, mammoths, musk ox, ibex, reindeer, aurochs, megaceros deer, panther, and owl (scholars note that these animals were not then a normal part of people’s diet). Photographs show that the drawing at the top of this essay is very carefully rendered but may be misleading. We see a group of horses, rhinos, and bison and we see them as a group, overlapping and skewed in scale. But the photograph distorts the way these animal figures would have been originally seen. The bright electric lights used by the photographer create a broad flat scope of vision; how different to see each animal emerge from the dark under the flickering light cast by a flame.


    Art of the Ancient Near East

    In contrast to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Periods, the Ancient Near East offers a few more clues about the myriad of civilizations that occupied this historical and geographical region. In part this is due to the development of early forms of written language. Here, we explore just two of these civilizations, Sumerian and Babylonian, through the artworks that remain. 

    Sumer: Standing Male Worshipper (Tell Asmar)

    Tucked between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq, the city of Sumer formed around an agricultural theocracy (a civilization in which political and religious roles overlapped). In this environment, archeologists have found the first traces of written language, called Cuneiform. Though much is still unknown about Ancient Sumerian culture, the culture produced artworks that continue to enchant us today. 

    Let's explore one of these works, the Standing Male Worshipper from Tell Asmar. 

    Questions to Consider

    1. How do the features of this work reflect the way it was used or the role it played in its culture?
    2. How does the artist of this work use artistic elements and principles to communicate to the viewer?
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    Video Transcript

    Almost 5,000 years ago somebody carefully buried a small group of alabaster figures in the floor of a temple.

    And we're looking at one of those figures now and the Metropolitan Museum of Art calls this a standing male worshiper. He was buried along with 11 eleven other figures for a total of 12, most of them male.

    We're looking at one of the smaller figures. They range from just under a foot to almost three feet.

    The temple where these were buried was in a city called Eshnunna in the northern part of ancient Mesopotamia.

    What is now called Tell Asmar. The figures from Tell Asmar are widely considered to be the great expression of early dynastic Sumerian art. And we think the temple was dedicated to the god Abu.

    At this time, the third millennium BCE, in this area around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers some of the earliest cities in the world emerged and writing emerged. This is a watershed in human history.  The cities had administrative buildings, temples, palaces, many of which have been unearthed by archeologists.

    This is the transitional period right after the Bronze Age, the tail end of the Neolithic when civilizations are founded in the great river valleys around the world. And he's adorable.

    He is adorable. His wide eyes and his sense of attentiveness are very appealing I think but of course he wasn't meant to be looking at us. He was meant to be attentive to a statue, a sculpture of a god who was believed to be embodied in the sculpture.

    In fact, we believe that the person for whom this was a kind of stand-in was also embodied in this figurine.

    So an elite member of ancient Sumerian culture paid to have this sculpture made and placed before the god to be a kind of stand-in to perhaps continually offer prayers, to be continually attentive to the god.

    His hands are clasped together, he stands erect, his shoulders are broad so there is a sense of frontality.

    Even though he is carved on both sides he was meant to be seen from the front. Although that term "meant to be seen" is a funny one.

    Well he was meant to be seen by a God. You can see that the hair is parted at the center of the scalp and comes down in wavelets or perhaps braids that spiral down and then frame the central beard which is quite formal and cascades down in a series of regular waves. His hands are clasped just below the beard. His shoulders are really broad, his upper arms very broad and then there's very fine incising at the bottom of his skirt.

    But it's odd to me how cylindrical the bottom part of his body is and how flattened out the torso is.

    If you look at the face carefully, you can see that the very large eyes are in fact inlaid shell and in the center the pupils are black limestone. And you can also see that there is an incising of the eyebrows that might have originally been inlaid as well.

    This really different from Egyptian culture which emerges at the same time. In Egyptian culture, the sculptures primarily represent the pharaoh, the king and indicate his divinity but in the ancient Near East instead we have these votive images of worshipers but not so much of the kings. At least during this early dynastic period. The figures at Tell Asmar that were unearthed are very similar. They're not meant to be portraits of a specific person but a symbol of that person.

    But he does look very humble, his mouth is closed, his lips are sealed together and of course he is wonderfully attentive.

    And the fact that his hands are clasped, I think, makes him seem more humble as well.

    There is some interesting subtle choices that whoever carved this made. Look at the way that the skirt extends out and attaches itself to the forearms a bit wider than we would expect.

    And the torso it's just this almost V-shape. There is a sense of geometric patterning here and not the naturalistic forms of the body.

    If you look at the back of the figure you can see that there is a little cleft that's been carved in horizontally. And there's also what seems to be the indication perhaps of a tied belt that hangs down.

    You understand I think the artist's decision not to make a naturalistic figure because a naturalistic figure before the god might give a sense of someone just visiting, just passing through but this idea of a static, symmetrical, frontal, wide eyed figure gives a sense of timelessness of a figure that is forever offering prayers to the god.

    Babylonia: The Ishtar Gate

    Not far from the city of Sumer but hundreds of years after its peak, the kings of Babylonia unified the cultures along the Euphrates River, establishing a kingdom that would influence the development of civilizations for thousands of years. In addition to hosting developments in scholarly and technological pursuits, the kingdom employed many artisans that used their skills to communicate Babylonian grandeur and identity. One of these is the Law Code Stele (a stone slab) of the great King Hammurabi, an artifact that combines art and written language to codify a kingdom-wide legal code. Another is the famous Ishtar Gate, an imposing demonstration of the power and superiority of Babylonia to all that enter. 

    Questions to Consider

    1. What specific elements does the artist employ to communicate a clear message? 
    2. How might this work be changed if one of the elements were altered (e.g., color or scale)? 
    Watch on YouTube
    Video Transcript

    We're in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. And one of the most astonishing objects they have is—well, it's not an object.

    It's a gate for a city. There were eight double gates that formed part of the walls around the ancient city of Babylon.

    It's huge.

    It doesn't just impress us, it impressed people when it was built. In fact, it was called one of the Wonders of the World.

    So Nebuchadnezzar, of biblical fame, ascended to the throne and proceeded to rebuild the already ancient city of Babylon. This is a city that has its roots in the third millennia BC, but had become a major political center under King Hammurabi in the 1700s BCE. The city had remained populated, but regained importance in the sixth century under Nebuchadnezzar II and under his father, and what we're seeing here is part of the enormous building campaign that Nebuchadnezzar II had undertaken.

    We might recognize Nebuchadnezzar from the Bible, from the Book of Daniel. He's the ruler of Babylon who conquers and destroys the Temple in Jerusalem and who's responsible for the exile of the Jews.

    Clearly he was very powerful. He was able to undertake this enormous building campaign. He fortified and strengthened 11 miles of wall around the city of Babylon. He reconstructed the Great Ziggurat in Babylon, which had the temple of Marduk at its top and is probably the source of the story of the Tower of Babel. He created palaces, and he created this extraordinary gate.

    And Hanging Gardens, which were also considered one of the Wonders of the World. So the city of Babylon had eight double gates. The one we're looking at is one of those gates, and actually the smaller of the double gate. The other one would have been even larger, if that's possible to imagine.

    In fact, so large that the museum can't actually put it on display even in this very large space. This gate-- which, of course, would only be opened for the friendly-- is at the end of a long processional way lined with beautiful lions that speak very clearly of pride, of power, and of Nebuchadnezzar's rule.

    The lions that we see on the processional way represent Ishtar, one of the Babylonian goddesses, the goddess of war and wisdom and sexuality.

    They're raised up to eye level. And they're a little bit smaller than life-size, but they're pretty big.

    And they're frightening. Their mouths were open in these ferocious roars.

    It's true. They're snarling, aren't they?

    They are, but the fact that they're placed in this very regular way makes them seem as though they're almost trained, or controlled, by King Nebuchadnezzar himself.

    It makes us fear not only the lions, but it makes us fear the king. The image of the lion is beautiful, this faience raised to create a kind of relief sculpture. So in addition to the lions, there are two other animal forms that decorate the gate. And they're both meant to be as ferocious as the lions. A kind of ancient bull, known as an auroch—these were supposed to be terribly fierce. And then alternating with the rows of auroch are a kind of Mesopotamia dragon, which is really a composite beast. The front paws are those of lions. The head and neck come from a snake or serpent. The hind legs come from an eagle, perhaps.

    And their tails have a stinger like a scorpion.

    Those dragons are associated with Marduk, the patron god of the city. And Nebuchadnezzar associated himself directly with Marduk. The aurochs—that is, these bulls—are associated with the god Adad, a god associated with storms, with the fertility of the land, with the harvest. All of these animals speak to protecting the city but also providing for the city.

    They're ferocious animals, but they're also represented in a very regular way along the procession, and on the tower and archway of the gate, so that there's symmetry, a sense of order, in the way that they're represented.

    One of the most extraordinary aspects of these towers, of the gate as a whole, is the color. This is an arid place where the sun is bright, where it gets really hot. And you can imagine how brilliant the blues and the greens of the surface would have originally been, not in the context of the museum, but in the context of the edge of a desert. In Mesopotamia, there was a real problem. The Egyptians were able to build their great pyramids and other monuments out of the native stone that surrounded them. But in Mesopotamia, they didn't have that. This was a river valley. Babylon is on the banks of the Euphrates. In fact, the Euphrates cuts right through the city. When the Mesopotamians wanted to build, they created buildings out of brick created from the clay of the river valley. The brilliant blue that we see on the surface of the gate is faience. This is a technique that was known to the ancient Egyptians and other parts of the ancient world. And it uses copper to create this brilliant blue. And this is a beautiful example.

    So the gate is massive. It's frightening. It's decorative. And it's brilliantly colored. No wonder Nebuchadnezzar was so proud of it and wrote an inscription on the side.

    Let's go read that. Now, we're not sure where the inscription was originally placed on the wall. But in this reconstruction, it's on the left side of the left tower. Here's an excerpt:

    I, Nebuchadnezzar, laid the foundation

    of the gates down to the groundwater level

    and had them built out of pure blue stone.

    Upon the walls in the inner room of the gate

    are bulls and dragons.

    And thus, I magnificently adorned them

    with luxurious splendor for all mankind to behold in awe.

    And we are in awe two and a half millennia later.

    Nebuchadnezzar understood his place in history. And he actually wrote inscriptions in his new buildings that not only identified them and identified their purpose and him as their patron, but also asked future rulers to rebuild them for him.

    It's as though he knew that empires come and go.

    And that he could speak across history. And in our time, the ruler of Mesopotamia, which we now call Iraq, seemed to pay attention. Saddam Hussein actually had begun the rebuilding of parts of Babylonia. He built his own palace a few hundred meters away from the Ishtar Gate and began the reconstruction of parts of the city, as well. That came to a halt, of course, in the recent military actions against him. And of course, he was ultimately deposed and killed.

    And what it meant to rebuild this legendary city.

    Saddam Hussein was very much rebuilding it not for Nebuchadnezzar, but for his own political ambition.

    Reclaiming the power of Nebuchadnezzar for himself.

    That's right. And the power of ancient Mesopotamia.

    Previous Citation(s)
    On the overview of the stone age: Art of the Stone Age by Cerise Myers, Ellen C. Caldwell, Alice J. Taylor, Margaret Phelps & Lisa Soccio is licensed CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Art/Introduction_to_Art_History_I_(Myers)/05%3A_Art_of_the_Stone_Age/5.00%3A_Chapter_Introduction. On the Lion Man: The British Museum, "Lion Man," in Smarthistory, March 30, 2018, accessed June 28, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/lion-man-2/. On the Hall of the Bulls: Mary Beth Looney, "Hall of Bulls, Lascaux," in Smarthistory, November 19, 2015, accessed June 28, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/hall-of-bulls-lascaux/. On Sumer and the Standing Male Worshipper: Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris, "Standing Male Worshipper (Tell Asmar)," in Smarthistory, December 16, 2015, accessed June 28, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/standing-male-worshipper-from-the-square-temple-at-eshnunna-tell-asmar/. On Babylonia and the Ishtar Gate: Dr. Senta German, "The Ishtar Gate and Neo-Babylonian art and architecture," in Smarthistory, August 8, 2015, accessed June 28, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/neo-babylonian/.

    This content is provided to you freely by BYU-I Books.

    Access it online or download it at https://books.byui.edu/history_of_the_fine_arts_music/prehistoric_art.