Art 101 Guide |

GUIDE 2                                                                                        Unit 1

Your name: Time you begin:







This land “kindled the imagination of inquiring spirits to such a degree that it was in Mesopotamia that archaeology as an art of excavation celebrated its initial triumph.”

                                            – C. W. Ceram, Gods, Graves, and Scholars – The Story of Archaeology

 Recommendations – Sum up info in 3-5 statements for each issue (Some questions would require more and some less)   Put as much as you would like to know

– Keep it “One line – One sentence” (preferred to paragraph format) – Bulleted lines are recommended

Terms: for terms in boldrefer to the Glossary at the end of your textbook. Put a bookmark and use Glossary often.

Today, the Middle East is back on the stage of History. The future of the Western civilization that started here five thousand years ago – largely depends on the geopolitical outcome in this area. Every day we hear the names of these countries in media news.  Make sure you know where they are located.

Extra Credit (Yes, we are going to start right with this opportunity!)I encourage you to watch this introductory video (5:30) and make notes.  It will be very helpful in forming an overview of this complex section. (It will also bring you 1 point) 

Your 5-Statement Notes


Look closely at the modern time map of Middle East (here) and at the map of ancient Near East (in your book). Note:  Mesopotamia is the historical name of the land in Iraq.

Use to the map in your text to find all cultures we read about.


Important issues you should know.

·        Historic (as opposed to prehistoric) societies are marked by a written language (main criteria)

·        Term civilization is used to designatea culture (historic society) with a rather complex social structure, writing, agriculture, and bronze tools.

·         Invention of bronze (smelt of lead and tin) allowed for better weapons and lead to the emergence of larger empires.    

·        The first ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt had emerged almost at the same time lasted some three thousand years (the last 3 millennia B.C.)

·        Difference in their geographical location determined different historical paths and distinctive art forms.      “The Nile Valley of Egypt was protected by formidable deserts, making it possible for the Egyptians to enjoy thousands of years of relatively unbroken self-rule.”       “The Tigris-Euphrates valley of Mesopotamia, however, was vulnerable to repeated invasions; the area was ruled by a succession of different peoples.”                                                                                      (Prebles’ ARTFORMS, Patrick Frank, 2011)

·        Mesopotamia means “between the rivers”. 

                               Study Greek  to Understand Terms   mesos – middle  (as you already know from Mesolithic)

   potamos – river

             Sumer  –   Akkad  –  Babylonia  –  Assyria – Persia                              .                   (You should know this chain of cultures coexisting and succeeding each other in the ancient Near East)

                       These cultures/civilizations are called Mesopotamian



The term Mesopotamia is applied to a territory formed by the valleys of two rivers – the _Tigris__ and_Euphrates__.               

    (questions after you read them please)

Sumer: Geography & History    Sum up the first three paragraphs in several statements. (Delete my guiding texts in after reading them)

·        …

·        .

·        .

·        .Format: Try to keep statements bulleted.Tip: When finish typing one statement click “Enter” to get a new bulleted line (If you need more than default). Delete this text after reading to keep your guide clear and well-structured.

Note: I have just finished a revision of this guide. I would appreciate it you could select and correct in red font any typo or inconsistency with the textbook you might come across. Put a note if there is anything unclear.

      It might look like it is a lengthy document but this is because of pictures. Have good reading!

Abbreviationsc. (circa) means ‘around’/about (related to approximate date)B.C. (or B.C.E.) = “Before Christ” (or “Before Common Era”)  [used as synonyms]

Use online dictionary whenever in doubt of term or word. Bookmark these two for use. When you open them, find the Search window and type the word or expression of interest. (as seen below, on the righ)

Note: Ziggurat is not a temple but simply a platform supporting a sanctuary on

Note: Most of  the dates will not be asked on exams. But please pay attention to the dates! You should also know the timelines(in millennia). And also – simply try to imagine and feel – how long ago it was.

Example: I will not be asking when the statues from Abu Temple were produced (c. 2,500 B.C). But I expect you to know that all works of Sumerian art (incl. ziggurats) are dated back to the 3rd millennium B.C.

                Describe their features.

·        … 

·        …

·        …  


ü  Votive sculptures – figurines serving as “stand-ins” (substitutes) offering prayers in absence of the donor-worshippers.                                                                           


Cuneiform – the first written language

The Sumerians were the first people to invent writing and erect monumental constructions.

“The Sumerian repertory of subjects included fantastic creatures such as music making animals, bearded bulls, and man-beasts with bull heads or scorpion bodies.” (page 23) 

  (They removed pictures from this edition, so I am showing this ancient musical instrument below)



·        Located north of Sumer

·        Its independent city-states, along with Sumerian city-states, were united under the Akkadian ruler Sargon.      (An example how the 1st paragraph can be summed up even in 2 lines)

Q: How did the Akkadian Empire decline? There are two major theories about its end.

·        .           

·        .


ü  Stele –                 [see in Glossary at the end of the text]



“During the 18th century B.C. the Babylonian Empire, under Hammurabi, rose to power and dominated Mesopotamia.”                                                        [hah-moo-RAH-bee]                               


       Stele inscribed with the law code of Hammurabi. 1792

Code of Hammurabi, the most complete and perfect extant collection of Babylonian laws, developed during the reign of Hammurabi (1792–1750 bc) of the 1st dynasty of Babylon. It consists of his legal decisions that were collected toward the end of his reign and inscribed on a diorite stela set up in Babylon’s temple of Marduk, the national god of Babylonia.       These 282 case laws include economic provisions (prices, tariffs, trade, and commerce), family law (marriage and divorce), as well as criminal law (assault, theft) and civil law (slavery, debt). 1750 B.C.


ü  basalt

What happened with the death of Hammurabi?



Assyrian city-state emerged as the next unifying force in Mesopotamia.

·      What reputation did the Assyrians have among their neighbors? 


·      Was their empire powerful?  What part of Mesopotamia did they control?


·      What was the reason that led to the eventual decline of the Assyrian empire?


·      What was the most common form of art in Assyria? – *…

·       What were the most common subjects, favorite scenes to depict?


=========================================================Dying Lioness      (c. 668B.C.)Assyria          


Lamassu          (c. 720B.C.)Assyria          

Note: Statues demonstrate a combination of naturalism (life-like presentation of body’s anatomy and muscles) withconventional manner (you can also call it stylization)  – e.g., treatment of hair and beard according to certain rule/style)



Read about the growth of Persian Empire led by King Cyrus and later by King Darius; about the Greco-Persian wars the final defeat of the Persians by the Greeks led by Alexander the Great. (in 330 B.C.)

The art of Persia consists of sprawling palaces of grand dimensions and sculpture.”           

What were the favorite subjects depicted by the Persian artists? – *                                

                                                                                [Animals? Military events? Gods?]

ü  ibexes –              TERM (define)

The Palace at Persepolis      (c. 500B.C.)  

“The most important structure was the Apadana (Audience Hall) where the kings received foreign delegations.   “Reliefs lining the walls were originally painted and emphasized the king’s grandeur. “In contrast to the aggressive military scenes on Assyrian reliefs (wars and hunting), Persian reliefs depict solemn tribute bearers calmly presenting offerings to the king.    Their stylized beards and hair are typical doe Persian art. * Persepolis literally means “city of Persians” (L. Schneider Adams, Art Across Time, 2011, p. 75)         


Bull Capitals from the Royal Audience (Palace at Persepolis)                                                   Persia)                                                                                                                 


ü   Capital –      

ü    Volute –  

ü  *Relief– type of sculpture in which an image is developed outward (as above) or inward (sunken relief).  This term is a must-know; we will be using it all the time.

Your guide is done!   Now there is a great study technique that you could benefit from.

Go back to the beginning and scroll down reviewing your reading notes.

Efficiency of absorbing and retaining information at this point is several times increased. 

Could you please tell me how long did it take (about)? – *         – Thank you!    

   Marveling at the “Great iggurat of Ur” Archive photo from

          Over 50000 years separate us from its construction. Just think about this…

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