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Mesopotamian Art

After the cave dwellers came early humans who settled in civilizations, one of the earliest civilizations was Mesopotamia. The people that once lived in Mesopotamia were called the Sumerians.

The Sumerians used art as a way to communicate their hopes and dreams and to tell stories. 


As well as being credited with building some of the world's first cities, the Sumerian people are also believed to be the first to develop written language. This language  was called "cuneiform." Cuneiform  involved using tools to carve lines into tablets of stone

sample of an ancient tablet from Mesopotamia
Male Statue from ancient  Iraq

Sumerian Worshiper from Tell Asmar at the Iraq Museum

Sumerian art sample of a tablet
Standard of Ur image

The Standard of Ur

In 1927, archaeologists found fragments in the ancient city of Ur. ( where Iraq is now) The fragments were found in a royal tomb. They pieced these fragments together to form this ornate box. 

The “Standard of Ur” is a small box whose two sides and end panels are covered with figurative and geometric mosaics made of pieces of shell, lapis lazuli, and red limestone.

The Standard of Ur is at the British Museum.

The mosaics on the Standard of Ur detail life in early Mesopotamia. The two sides, dubbed the “War Side” and the “Peace Side,” tell a story. The top of each side depicts a king, larger in scale than the other figures. The Standard shows the two most important roles of an early Mesopotamian ruler: the warrior who protected the people and secured access to resources and the leader who was an intermediary between the people and the gods.


Queen Nefertari playing ancient board game called senet

Satirical papyrus, c 1250 BCE. 

A figured scene in which animals ape human activities, but in a topsy-turvy world, they act against their natural instincts. The lion does not attack the gazelle but plays the senet game. This was like a comic strip. 


Most of what we know about ancient Egyptians comes from their art. Ancient Egyptian art dates back to about 5000 years ago. The civilization of Ancient Egypt ruled the land of the Nile for over 3000 years. Surprisingly enough, their art changed little during that time. The original style of art was first used in 3000 B.C., and this style remained. 

Most ancient Egyptian art was connected to religion and the belief in the afterlife. Art was made to give instructions to the gods so that they could look after the dead. Paintings were left in tombs of the rich and powerful in order to inform the gods how the dead people had lived their lives. The paintings would show people at work or playing games.

satirical papyrus, ancient Egypt



hieroglyphics sample

What does  hieroglyph mean?

Hieroglyphs consist of two Greek words: hieros meaning holy, and glyphe, meaning writing
So hieroglyph means sacred writing

What did the Ancient Egyptians write Hieroglyphs on?
They were composed of papyrus reed, which is a water or swamp plant with tall, straight stems. The reeds were straightened, dried, and adhered together to make pages. Egyptians carved hieroglyphs onto a stone and painted them on the dividers of tombs.

What did Ancient Egyptians use to write with?
The Ancient Egyptians wrote with pen and ink on fine paper called papyrus.
Egyptians used thin sharp reeds as pens, which they would dip in ink to write with.
They crushed plants and mixed them with water to create ink and paint. 

IN 1799 an engraved rock called The Rosetta Stone was discovered in Egypt. The Roseta Stone enabled experts to decode the symbols and read Hieroglyphs 

The Rosetta Stone has been on display inthe British Museum since 1802

Sample of ancient EGYPTIAN ART with flat people

Artists had a special way of drawing or painting people. The Egyptians drew heads, eyes, legs, and feet as if you were looking at them from the side. They drew shoulders and chests as if you were looking at them from the front. This  was uniquely Egyptian, and very distinctive. Men were usually drawn with dark colours and women with light colours.

Not everyone learned to read and write in ancient Egypt. Only one group of people called scribes was allowed to have this knowledge.

Scribes  attended a special school for scribes. At this school you would learn how to read and write hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts. This was hard work. These scripts are complicated, and there were many signs to learn.

Students spent a lot of time practising the signs by copying them onto sheets of papyrus, old pieces of pottery or flakes of limestone.

A palette was used to hold a scribe's reed brushes and ink. The palettes below are made of wood and ivory. 

palette samples from ancient times
HIPPO sculpture from ancient Egypt

Meet William the hippo from ancient Egypt

PREHISTORIC ART sample and link to Prehistoric art page.
art history graphic and lnk
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