Ancient Near Eastern Art, from 4000 B.C.E to about 500 C.E., consists mostly of artifacts that have been excavated in the regions of Mesopotamia, Assyria, Sumer, Anatolia, and the islands of Crete and Cyprus. Artifacts consisted of figurines, pottery, jewelry and other decorative objects that represented wealth, power, and social status. The pieces we have found particularly interesting are; a diorite statue of a king and an ivory one of a tribute bearer, a silver and gold vessel, a gilt silver dish and gold jewelry crafted by the Phoenicians, basalt carvings by the Hittites, a statue of a worshiper, cylinder seal, and headdress all from the Sumerian culture.
In that time in history the artist in that region mimicked the Egyptians in their style and as a people. What made them interesting was they used symbols and specific animals to create a way of describing what they experienced from their surroundings; whether it was in people or animals themselves. For example, they used animals to describe characteristics of a king. If he was a strong king they gave him they persona of a bear in their drawing of him or if he was a humble king they gave him the appearance of a regular person while all the other people around him were shown to be like gods. These images and scenes were done in a relief process where the figures are projecting out from the stone in which they are carved casting shadows and creating dimension.
Certain art pieces were meant to communicate to others a person’s overall power or specific role within the city. These pieces differ in form; from animal representation to scenes of a religious ceremony. Most statues found in the Mesopotamia area were made of either bone or stone. Art in the Near Eastern cultures separated the kings, the gods, the hunters, and lower society into a hierarchy system. The statues that were found were representation of many different culture groups in this area. All these different groups took part in and passed on various traditions of creating these art forms.
As this area of the Fertile Crescent grew in population and status so did the works of art they created. Much of what we consider art today was inscribed in steles upon the walls of temples, tombs, and palaces. Artisans and craftsmen were utilized to depict scenes of battle and images of Gods and kings as ornamentation and to pay tribute to those they honored. Great statues of animal like guardians not only adorn but make up a significant part of the entry gates for many palaces throughout the region. These statues were considered protective beings and made a monumental impression on the King’s visitors.
Early forms of writing also come from this time period. Cuneiform is found on steles and tablets communicating laws and business conduct of this region. The architecture of temples, tombs, and palaces was itself an expressive form of art. Much of what is found today are remnants of these structures and the possessions of those buried in the tombs.