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Unit 2

2.1 Unit 2 Intro and the Near East (3500 BCEโ€“300 CE)

5 min readโ€ขoctober 28, 2020

cait

Cait Levin

charly511115

Charly Castillo


AP Art Historyย ๐Ÿ–ผ

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Unit 2 Overview

When people ask AP Art History students about their favorite work ๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ in the course, many of them say ones from this unit, and with good reason. The ancient Mediterranean ๐ŸŒ is home to some of the most renowned artworks and historical sites of all time, like the Pyramids of Giza and the Colosseum ๐ŸŸ๏ธ The people of this area also developed new artistic techniques that are used to this day, showing the influence of groups like the Mesopotamians, Greeks, and Romans on art throughout history. So, buckle up because this unit is gonna be a fun dive into everything ancient Mediterranean!
๐ŸšจReminder ๐ŸšจSince these works were made so long ago, we don't know exactly when each was created, so the dates below are approximate. Remember, you don't need to know the exact years for all the works on the AP Art History exam, just a general idea of when and the artistic movement (or location for earlier ones)!

The Near East (3500 BCEโ€“300 CE) ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡พ ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ท

In the area surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers was a fertile river valley called Mesopotamia (present-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and small parts of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon), which was home to the world's first civilizations ๐Ÿ˜๏ธThis region was composed of city-states, which are cities and surrounding areas that have their own governments and operate as independent states. Their society was stratified (organized into different social classes) and a monarchy ๐Ÿคด๐Ÿ‘ธ, making Mesopotamia less egalitarian (equal) than the communities mentioned in unit 1. The people of this region also practiced polytheism, a type of religion where followers believe in multiple gods.
These two themes of class and religion are evident in a lot of this region's works, so be sure to look for both of those as we travel around the Near East. First stop, Sumer!
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-meYnC33kFfcY.png?alt=media&token=a7967ef0-ebe4-4fb1-b1bc-48ea04998dd4

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5). Map of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and its surrounding areas.

Sumer (3500โ€“2340 BCE)

Architecture

  • Mostly temples and ziggurats (tall towers that were used in religious ceremonies because their height made them close to the heavens where Sumerian gods reside; believed to connect the Earth ๐ŸŒ to the heavens โ˜๏ธ)

Sculpture

  • Hands folded in gesture of prayer
  • Humans have large, exaggerated eyes ๐Ÿ‘€, possibly signifying that they are staring at a deity (a polytheistic god or goddess) above.
  • Men are depicted shirtless while women are dressed modestly, since nudity was associated with low-status and poverty.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-fSC95pbc7Wrs.png?alt=media&token=5267c8c3-0d86-4a3f-86ff-60333035838b

Image Courtesy of Sutori. Statues of Votive Figures.

Babylonia (1792โ€“1750 BCE)

Sculpture

  • Picture both historical (Hammurabi) and mythological figures (Shamash, the Mesopotamian Sun god โ˜€๏ธ); shows relationship between humans and the divine
  • Most are bas-relief sculptures (a sculpture that is carved from its medium, AKA a relief sculpture, and barely protrudes from the background).
  • Figures are in the composite view (shoulders are frontal, yet the rest of the body is in profile).
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2FScreen%20Shot%202020-09-04%20at%201.58-O7t3AQycw0Oi.png?alt=media&token=ed599224-1739-4f2c-8836-75c3e42a51eb

Image Courtesy of Kirby AP Art History on Tumblr. Stele of Hammurabi.

Assyria (883โ€“612 BCE)

Sculpture

  • Human figures have a stoic appearance ๐Ÿ˜, yet animals are depicted with emotion (we'll learn more about Stoicism and stoic art when we get to Greece).
  • Artists like to combine both human and animal figures, as seen in the lamassu (human-headed bull or lion ๐Ÿฆ in Assyrian mythology) below.
  • Were used for apotropaic purposes (to ward off harm and bad luck)
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2FScreen%20Shot%202020-09-04%20at%202.00-DARPm83AQaAv.png?alt=media&token=d0f49a47-3394-468a-a7c4-2a202dfc1133

Image Courtesy of AP Art History Go! Lamassu.

Persia (559-331 BCE)

Architecture

  • Meant to impress Persia's residents and visitors and show off the wealth of its rulers to others ๐Ÿ‘‘
  • Persepolitan columns (columns with two carved bulls for capitals) are commonly seen in Persian architectural works.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-35SLTlTZP55s.jpg?alt=media&token=c15370d3-96a1-4ea7-b084-1cc7c2190985

Image Courtesy of Alan Cordova on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Persepolis.

Egypt (3000โ€“30 BCE) ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ

Architecture

  • Pyramids are built as a part of a greater complex called a necropolis (an area used for burials) โšฐ๏ธ
  • Egyptian architecture has become grander and more elaborate over time; architects opted for pyramids over mastabas (unassuming tombs found in the ground), and engaged columns (columns that are attached to a wall, rather than freestanding) become popular.
  • New architectural elements: the hypostyle hall (hall with a roof supported by columns) and clerestory (a roof that is higher than other roofs in a building ๐Ÿ›๏ธ).
  • Columns made during the time of the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BCE) have lotus, palm ๐ŸŒด, or papyrus-shaped capitals (upper part of a column).
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-qYEOEOBJcj87.jpg?alt=media&token=be7b1b8f-5f2d-4f42-b91d-1ea99d754223

Image Courtesy of Amy Calvert. Pyramid of Khafre.

Painting

  • Hieroglyphics (ancient Egyptian writing system โœ๏ธ that uses symbols to represent characters) adorn many works and provide more context about their purpose, who is pictured, and what they accomplished during their lives
  • Created to ensure that the deceased ๐Ÿ’€ would make it to the afterlife
  • Painted on papyrus (a paper-like writing surface made from the papyrus plant)
  • Canon of proportions: shoulders are frontal, the rest of the body is in profile (shown from one side), men are depicted tallest while women and children are shorter
  • Lack of shading gives figures a flat, unrealistic appearance
  • Figures are usually pictured along a ground line (main line where the figures are standing), but some are pictured on registers (other horizontal lines) near the top of the work to mimic the appearance of distance (as seen below โฌ‡๏ธ)
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-7h5umt0Enlcf.jpg?alt=media&token=b90c9064-a143-4097-bf2e-8b9b2b34a32c

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia. Last Judgment of Hu-Nefer.

Sculpture

  • Usually carved from rock, rather than cut free from it
  • During the Amarna Period (1346-1336 BCE), artists began to break the canon of proportions and depicted humans with protruding stomachs, softer limbs, and more realistic-looking bodies (as seen below โฌ‡๏ธ)
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-FETkOatf8PWo.jpg?alt=media&token=f9750dbe-edcc-44c7-abc9-ebf43e5f553a

Image Courtesy of the Musรฉe du Louvre. Seated Scribe.

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