Subjects Description This collection focuses on how architectural material is transformed, revised, swallowed whole, plagiarized, or in any other way appropriated.
Architecture The beginnings of monumental architecture in Mesopotamia are usually considered to have been contemporary with the founding of the Sumerian cities and the invention of writing, about bce.
Conscious attempts at architectural design during this so-called Protoliterate period c. Already, in the Ubaid period c. It is built of mud brick on a raised plinth platform base of the same material, and its walls are ornamented on their outside surfaces with alternating buttresses supports and recesses.
Tripartite in form, its long central sanctuary is flanked on two sides by subsidiary chambers, provided with an altar at one end and a freestanding offering table at the other. 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; The relationship between architecture and politics 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. 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.
In this second style, some scholars see evidence of occasional attempts at portraiture.
Yet, in spite of minor variations, all these figures adhere to the single formula of presenting the conventional characteristics of Sumerian physiognomy. Their provenance is not confined to the Sumerian cities in the south. An important group of statues is derived from the ancient capital of Marion the middle Euphrateswhere the population is known to have been racially different from the Sumerians.
In the Mari statues there also appears to have been no deviation from the sculptural formula; they are distinguished only by technical peculiarities in the carving. Deprived of stone, Sumerian sculptors exploited alternative materials.
Fine examples of metal casting have been found, some of them suggesting knowledge of the cire perdue lost-wax process, and copper statues more than half life-size are known to have existed.
In metalwork, however, the ingenuity of Sumerian artists is perhaps best judged from their contrivance of composite figures. It is the limestone face of a life-size statue Iraqi Museum, Baghdadthe remainder of which must have been composed of other materials; the method of attachment is visible on the surviving face.
Devices of this sort were brought to perfection by craftsmen of the Early Dynastic period, the finest examples of whose work are to be seen among the treasures from the royal tombs at Ur: The inlay and enrichment of wooden objects reaches its peak in this period, as may be seen in the so-called standard or double-sided panel from Ur British Museumon which elaborate scenes of peace and war are depicted in a delicate inlay of shell and semiprecious stones.
The refinement of craftsmanship in metal is also apparent in the famous wig-helmet of gold Iraqi Museumbelonging to a Sumerian prince, and in weapons, implementsand utensils.
Relief carving in stone was a medium of expression popular with the Sumerians and first appears in a rather crude form in Protoliterate times.What Is the Relationship Between the State and the Federal Government?
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