HUMANPAST.NET

Art & Music                   2,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

Africa

 

Southwest Asia

 

...in 2001, in Iran, a flash flood near the Halil River opened ancient graves packed with beautiful stone pottery. Local villagers began plundering, forcing police to confiscate hundreds of finely worked stone vessels carved with images of animals and decorated with semiprecious stones. Because the vessels were not scientifically recovered, their age and origin are open to debate. However, the Iranian archaeologist in charge of the site, Yousef Madjidzadeh, strongly believes most were made more than four thousand years ago, and that the society that made them predates ancient Mesopotamia. This can be seen as another telltale sign of Bu Wizzer, the Land of Osiris, and the greater Mediterranean culture. (70)

circa 1800 BC... "We always knew," the Berkeley team explained, "that there was music in the earlier Assyrio-Babylonian civilization, but until this deciphering we did not know that it had the same heptatonic-diatonic scale that is characteristic of contemporary Western music, and of Greek music of the first millennium BC." Until now it was thought that Western music originated in Greece; now it has been established that our music--as so much else of Western civilization--originated in Mesopotamia. ...Professor Crocker could play the ancient tune only by constructing a lyre like those which had been found in the ruins of Ur. ...many Sumerian hymnal texts had "what appear to be musical notations in the margins." "The Sumerians and their successors had a full musical life," she concluded. No wonder, then, that we find a great variety of musical instruments--as well as of singers and dancers performing---depicted on cylinder seals and clay tablets. (146)

Excavating the Assyrian capital Assur from 1903 to 1914, Walter Andrae and his colleagues found in the Temple of Ishtar a battered statue of the goddess showing her with various "contraptions" attached to her chest and back. In 1934 archaeologists excavating at Marl came upon a similar but intact statue buried in the ground. It was a life-size likeness of a beautiful woman. Her unusual headdress was adorned with a pair of horns, indicating that she was a goddess. Standing around the 4,000-year-old statue, the archaeologists were thrilled by her lifelike appearance (in a snapshot, one can hardly distinguish between the statue and the living men). They named her The Goddess with a Vase because she was holding a cylindrical object. Unlike the flat carvings or bas-reliefs, this life-size, three-dimensional representation of the goddess reveals interesting features about her attire.

On her head she wears not a milliner's chapeau but a special helmet; protruding from it on both sides and fitted over the ears are objects that remind one of a pilot's earphones. On her neck and upper chest the goddess wears a necklace of many small (and probably precious) stones; in her hands she holds a cylindrical object which appears too thick and heavy to be a vase for holding water. Over a blouse of see-through material, two parallel straps run across her chest, leading back to and holding in place an unusual box of rectangular shape. The box is held tight against the back of the goddess's neck and is firmly attached to the helmet with a horizontal strap. Whatever the box held inside must have been heavy, for the contraption is further supported by two large shoulder pads. The weight of the box is increased by a hose that is connected to its base by a circular clasp. The complete package of instruments - for this is what they undoubtedly were ­ is held in place with the aid of the two sets of straps that crisscross the goddess's back and chest. (146)

The parallel between the seven objects required by Inanna for her aerial journeys and the dress and objects worn by the statue from Marl (and probably also the mutilated one found at Ishtar's temple in Ashur) is easily proved. We see the "measuring pendants" - the earphones - on her ears; the rows or "chains" of small stones around her neck; the "twin stones" - the two shoulder pads - on her shoulders; the "golden cylinder" in her hands, and the clasping straps that crisscross her breast. She is indeed clothed in a "PALA garment" ("ruler's garment"), and on her head she wears the SHU.GAR.RA helmet - a term that literally means "that which makes go far into universe." The team headed by Andrae found yet another unusual depiction of Ishtar at her temple in Ashur (right). More a wall sculpture than the usual relief, it showed the goddess with a tight-fitting decorated helmet with the "earphones" extended as though they had their own flat antennas, and wearing very distinct goggles that were part of the helmet. (146)

A Sumerian stela now on view in Paris in the Louvre may well depict the incident reported in the Book of Genesis. It was put up circa 2300 BC by Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, and scholars have assumed that it depicts the king victorious over his enemies. But the large central figure is that of a deity and not of the human king, for the person is wearing a helmet adorned with horns - the identifying mark exclusive to the gods. Furthermore, this central figure does not appear to be the leader of the smaller-sized humans, but to be trampling upon them. These humans, in turn, do not seem to be engaged in any warlike activities, but to be marching toward, and standing in adoration of, the same large conical object on which the deity's attention is also focused. Armed with a bow and lance, the deity seems to view the object menacingly rather than with adoration. (146)

An Assyrian seal engraving from circa 1500 BC shows two "eagle-men" saluting a shem! (above) (146)

 

 

Indeed, the usual depiction of the Eagles showed them holding in one hand the Fruit of Life and in the other the Water of Life, in full conformity with the tales of Adapa, Etana, and Gilgamesh. (146)

Sumerian texts describing Sippar relate that it had a central part, hidden and protected by mighty walls. Within those walls stood the Temple of Utu, "a house which is like a house of the Heavens." In an inner courtyard of the temple, also protected by high walls, stood "erected upwards, the mighty APIN" ("an object that plows through," according to the translators). A drawing found at the temple mound of Anu at Uruk depicts such an object. (left)

Egypt

 There were also advances in Egyptian art and architecture during this period. Many literary classics were composed, and the cult of Osiris completed its replacement of the colder, sterner religion of Ra and gave the common people some hope of the afterlife that in the past had been restricted to royalty. (47)

Egyptian art challenges Western notions about aesthetics. For the Egyptians, art was mainly functional and had a purpose--it was done so that people and things could live forever. Wall frescoes, statues, and drawings were all done not just to record an image, but "to create and maintain a perfect world in which the good life ... could continue to flourish without opposition from the bad." Therefore, decay and imperfection are seldom shown in Egyptian art--people and objects are shown in ideal condition, since they are meant to be part of an ideal afterlife. And given this purpose, people and objects, whether loaves of bread, geese, gardens, or boxes, should be depicted in their most recognizable forms and positions, and not necessarily from a single point of view or in perspective. (47)

Grave goods also included statues, carved as lifelike representations of the people they honored. Some of these statues had truly remarkable eyes, fashioned in such a way that they seem to follow an onlooker as he or she walks in front of the statue. Examples of such statues, from the fourth and fifth dynasties (2575-2323 BC), are on display at the Louvre in Paris and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (70)

Indus Valley

 The Harappan people simply did not produce large amounts of “art” in the form of sculpture, figurines, paintings, or even bodily adornment—or at least few such things have been preserved into our own time. (48)

This lovely bronze figure from Mohenjo-daro is one of the few examples of Harappan art. (48)

The principal archaeological evidences relating to the demise of Harappan civilization are: (l) the in crea sing heterog enei ty of pottery and other artifact styles wi th in the same area th at in earlier centuries ha d been so uniform stylisticall y; (2) the "degradation" of art and architec ture toward the end of the Harappan perio d — whic h has led some imaginative schol ars to suppose at the Harappans had lost their sense of central unity and purpose... (48)

There is a Mohenjo-Daro seal bearing a "makara" (crocodile), another one from Harappa, and, as Heras points out in his Studies in Proto-Indo-Mediterranean Culture, “these makaras (crocodiles) were very likely a sub-tribe of the Nagas.” A bird-person amulet flanked by two serpents (nagas) was found in Harappa. The crocodile figure from Las Mercedes, as would be expected, has serpents carved on both sides of its mouth. This totemic world is predeific, prenational, premythological. (120)

The so-called Harappa stage of the great cities of Mohenjo-daro, Chanhu-daro, and Harappa (c. 2500-1200/1000 BC), which bursts abruptly into view, without preparation, already fully formed and showing many completely obvious signs of inspiration from the earlier high centers of the West, yet undeniable signs, also, of a native Indian tradition - this too already well developed. For on two of the stamp-seals of the period we find figures seated on low thrones in the meditating yoga posture. One of these is flanked by two kneeling worshipers and rearing serpents, while the other, with two gazelles reposing beneath his seat, is surrounded by four wild beasts ­ a water buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant, and tiger. The seated yogi among the beasts wears on his head a curious headdress with a high crown and two immense horns, which, as Heinrich Zimmer has pointed out, resembles to a striking degree one of the most prominent symbols of early Buddhist art, the sign of the so-called "Three Jewels" (symbolizing the Buddha, the doctrine, and the order of the Buddha's followers), which is in the form of a kind of trident. The Hindu god Shiva carries a trident also; and among the Greeks, as we know, this same sign was the attribute of Poseidon (Neptune), the god of the watery deep. (128)

Another important art miniature of the period is a well-formed stone torso, 3 3/4 inches high, of a male dancer in a posture suggesting that of the later dancing Shiva of the South Indian bronzes. The figure, apparently, was ithyphallic, which would have accorded with Shiva's character as a phallic as well as meditative god. And yet another dancer - a beautifully cast copper female nude, 4 1/4 inches high - indicates, further, that already in the second millennium BC the temple dance had been developed, which in India, until most recent times, has been one of the principal liturgical arts. Ceramic female figurines discovered in dwellings likewise point to an extension of the cult of the goddess from the Near East. However, there have been found, in addition to these images, a number of simple sexual symbols: cone-shaped or phallic erect stones, denoting the male, and circular stones with a hollow center, representing the female. Such primitive forms (known as lingam and yoni) are still the most common objects of worship in India, whether in temples, in the open country, or in the household cult. Surviving from the tradition of the neolithic, they outnumber statistically all the other types of Indian sacred images, and occur most commonly in association, specifically, with Shiva and his goddess, Devi. (128)

One perfect example of this strange fusion is a one-and-a-quarter-inch-high copper figurine officially identified as 'a Canaanite god, c. 2000 BC. This item, now in the author's personal collection, possesses a long serpentine neck, cut with a deeply incised zigzag. Its 'human' head is shaped like the hood of a cobra - the termination of which is curled over to form a kind of snake headdress. On the inside of the cobra hood is a three-dimensional human face, composed of a bird beak, a tiny mouth and two distinctive 'coffee-bean' eyes, like those found on the Jarmo heads. Blended together here, whether by accident or design, were some of the most important abstract symbols of the fallen race. Furthermore, the zigzag is an indisputable serpentine symbol, while the stalk-like neck is indicative of the long-necked Anakim, the supposed progeny of the Nephilim who inhabited the land of Canaan in prehistoric times.

China

 Longshan cultures, like the Yangshao, are defined on the basis of similar styles of artifacts--in the Longshan case by highly burnished, wheel made, thick-walled black pottery in many different vessel forms; these pots are found with minor stylistic variations, from the southeastern coast of China to the northern. (49)

There are also signs of change in social organization. Compared with Yangshao graves, Longshan burials seem to differ between those of richer and those of poorer people, at least as reflected in the pots, metal implements, and other items buried with these people. Longshan pottery and jade ornaments are so technologically sophisticated and beautiful that they suggest the existence of at least some semi-specialized craftsmen. (49)

…in the Freer Gallery in Washington there was a beautiful little bronze elephant with crosses and curlicues all over its rump and sides. It's Chinese! Late Shang dynasty. I was back to 2000 BC… (120)

The High Neolithic. The most important archaeological site in the whole of the Far East is at Anyang, in the northeastern comer of Honan, where the Swedish geologist J. G. Andersson (the same to whom we owe the find of Cboukoutien) discovered three superimposed strata of pottery, representing the earliest levels of the Chinese high neolithic and hieratic city state, as follows: the painted pottery of the Yangshao culture level (c. 2200-1900 BC, shown above), the black pottery of the Lungshan culture level (c. 1900-1523 BC), and the white pottery and bronze sacrificial vessels of the Shang culture level (1523-1027 BC). Pigs, cattle, and dogs were the domestic beasts of the Yangshao complex, with a considerable emphasis on the pigs, and the chief crop was a millet or primitive wheat. Among the other elements carried from the Southeast European, Danube-Dniester zone were a number of distinctive painted pottery motifs (e.g., the double ax, spiral and swastika, meander and polygonal designs, concentric-circle and checker patterns, wavy-water lines, angular zigzags, and organizations of bands), spear- and arrowheads of slate, a way of building pile dwellings along river and lake shores...It is, in short, to the impact of this Yangshao-Austronesian culture wave that a great part of the broad diffusion must now be attributed. The head­hunt, the pig, pile dwellings, megaliths, and their associated rites of animal sacrifice came together on this wave from the West. (128)

Europe

 

"Faceless" statue from Guerrero, Mexico (left); "faceless" statute from ancient Cyclades (right). Consider one small idol found in Guerrero. Anyone conversant with Mediterranean art can immediately identify it as a very slight variant of the classic faceless Cycladic idols. Location: the Cyclades islands close to Crete. Probable time-frame: circa 2000 BC. (120)

The Phaistos disc is a circular clay disc which was found in the Minoan palace at Phaistos in southern Crete. It is printed on both sides with movable type. The pictographs have also been found upon two other Cretan objects, a bronze axe from the cave of Arkalochori; and a stone from Mallia. The date of the disc is given as between 1700 and 1600 BC. It is attributed to the Peoples of the Sea. The resemblance of certain of these sea-people glyphs to certain Mexican glyphs found on their surviving codices can scarcely be accidental. (135)

Mykenaean princes were buried with a gold mask placed over their faces. Citadel of Mykenae, shaft grave V, 16th century BC. (135)

...the rocks [of southern Sweden] are more than a noble feature in a fine landscape, for they bear on their surface a record of prehistoric man which has few rivals anywhere in the world. For centuries Bronze Age people laboriously engraved on them scenes of their magic rites and ceremonies, repeating time and again the symbols which reassured them that their rites remained effective. He finds that the centre for them is in western Sweden. The engravings are greatly concerned with boats and are found near the coast. It is therefore reasonable, in my estimation, to suppose that they are associated with a sea-people. Gelling finds difficulty in dating their engravings but believes that they span at least six centuries, some of them being hardly later than the fifteenth century BC. But as his story unfolds the same symbols are carved and the same rites portrayed, one after the other, which characterise those Mediterranean sailors occupied with the rest of the Atlantic trade. These were their last outposts in the north. He refers to engravings both of serpents and of serpent-worship. There are many other engravings of sun-symbols, including the swastika, in association with men in a manner that the author finds it difficult to make sense of. (135)

Of the ships, some of which carry large crews, certain engravings portray acrobats somersaulting backwards over them, much like a Cretan bull-grappling game, only over boats. The author suggests that one engraving depicts bull-fighting as in Crete. Of these figures (right) of tumblers somersaulting over a boat (a) comes from Scania, (b-h) from Bohuslan. They resemble the somersaulting over the back of the bull in the bull-grappling games of Crete. (135)

We find here a range of customs and symbols associated with our traders that spread around the world: the golden sun-disc,- gold being the metal sacred to sun-worshippers - the many sun-symbols, the design of the spiral, serpents portrayed and serpent worship, bull-fighting possibly, the worship of the earth-mother, the men dressed as birds, the sacred marriage, possibly the sacred tree and the twin gods. The academics endeavour to say this happened by chance. (135)

 

 

 

 

 

 

South America

 The domestication of cotton between about 4000 BC and 1200 BC provided a relatively cheap source of textiles, and cotton textiles were complemented by a highly developed weaving craft in which reeds and other grasses were woven into sandals, clothes, and many other products. Using mineral and plant-derived dyes, ancient Andeans decorated many of their textiles with a wide variety of motifs, including geometric figures and stylized people and animals. (52)

One figure on the Tiahuanaco sun gate is that of a bird blowing a trumpet. Condor and puma heads, circles and squares have a timelessness about them, but a trumpet is the product of a specific technology and culture, and trumpets other than conch shells were not a part of Amerindian technology/culture. This kind of funnel-shaped trumpet was probably cast in a mold. Where did it come from? I wasn't surprised to find exactly the same type of trumpet in ancient Mesopotamia. (120)

Thor Heyerdahl has established a conclusive link between Easter Island and Titicaca. Not finding any direct correspondence between the huge stone heads on Easter Island and anything on the mainland, he dug down to lower archeological strata on the island and found small stone statues (above left) that corresponded exactly with archaic counterparts found at Tiahuanaco (above right). This was the invaluable discovery described in Aku Aku. The earlier Kon Tiki expedition was merely to prove that it was possible to drift from the Peruvian coast to Polynesia. (120)

Phallic statues from Colombia (left) and Polynesia (right).Throughout the Pacific islands there are stone statues and temples very similar to those found in Tiahuanaco and elsewhere on the American Pacific coast. On the Marquesas Islands, there are "phallicoid" human figure almost identical with those found at San Agustin in Colombia: (120)

Cat-gods from Colombia (left and center) and Polynesia. (120)

Jomon pottery from Valdivia, Ecuador, was dated at 2300 BC. It was a very distinctive, "incised" pottery, and the incisions in the wet clay were exactly the same as those of pottery found contemporaneously in prehistoric Japan. Incised pottery from (left to right) Ecuador and early Japan (Jomon). But the prehistoric Hsiao-t’un also demonstrated similar incised patterning, and there were even hollow heads with little cut out eyes, nostrils, and mouths that looked not only like prehistoric Japanese heads but also like some heads found in the lower archeological strata in Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico. (120)

Jar from Teotihuacan (left) and storage jar from Crete. (120)

…some of the early Mesopotamian-Iranian ware looked more Southwest Amerindian than anything I'd ever seen anywhere else. See, for example, the following illustrations. (120)

The formative period in Ecuador, they say, commenced with the first use of pottery on the coast, carbon dated to 2500 BC. The earliest phase of this culture is associated with the type of pottery called Valdivian, which is so similar to pottery used at the same period in south Japan with the Jomom culture that it is held to be proof of trans-Pacific contact. 'Nevertheless, the similarities between the two pottery complexes are so striking and the datings are so fitly in agreement that a trans-Pacific introduction of pottery at about 2500 BC seems to be the only explanation of the facts. (135)

Mesoamerica

 In the 1940s archaeologist Matthew Sterling made some mind-jarring discoveries at La Venta. Upon arrival at the site, his team noticed a large chunk of stone protruding from the ground at the center of an enclosed area. The rock, tilting forward, was covered with unusual carvings. When they dug it out of the earth they found a stele measuring 14 feet high by 7 feet wide and about 12 inches thick. Their excitement soon turned to extreme puzzlement, however, for the two tall men depicted on the stele could never have been in Mexico 4,000 years ago! The figures, extremely realistic in their representation, were dressed in elaborate robes and wore European-style shoes with curled toes. One had been defaced but the other was clearly a Caucasian male with a high-bridged nose and a beard. As far as is known, however, there were no Caucasians in Mexico prior to the conquistadors. Who carved these monuments and who served as the models? And how had the 20-ton stele been hauled there from the basalt quarry 60 miles away? (68)

"Faceless" statue from Guerrero, Mexico (left); "faceless" statute from ancient Cyclades (right). Consider one small idol found in Guerrero. Anyone conversant with Mediterranean art can immediately identify it as a very slight variant of the classic faceless Cycladic idols. Location: the Cyclades islands close to Crete. Probable time-frame: circa 2000 BC. (120)

2300 BC Probable date of Naram-Sin's pendant found in New Mexico. (135)

Pottery appears between 1900 and 1750 BC on the Pacific coast of Chiapas, in the valleys of highland Mexico, and on the Gulf coast of northern Veracruz, expanding over the rest of Mesoamerica after 1750 BC. (159)

During the Manati A phase (1700 - 1500 BC), the bottom of the spring was lined with sandstone rocks and boulders, some of which bore V-shaped cuts and shallow depressions similar to marks on later monuments at San Lorenzo and La Venta. The sandy sediments surrounding and covering the sandstone rocks contained fragments of pots that had been flung into the spring, many polished greenstone axes and beads, stone mortars, and nine rubber balls, all about 15 cm in diameter. Most of these items had been deposited haphazardly or in loose concentrations, but one of the rubber balls was found associated with 40 fine stone axes and seeds of hog plum, fragments of otate (false bamboo), and a piece of copal resin. The pottery, which resembles ceramics from contemporary phases at San Lorenzo and the Chiapas coast, included flat-bottomed bowls, globular tecomates, and other neckless jars. Many of the vessels were covered with polished slips in cream, red, or dark reddish-brown, and some were decorated by brushing, grooving, fluting, rocker-stamping, or incising. In addition, some of the tecomates were sealed with bitumen, and many of the vessels had soot adhering to them, suggesting they had been used in cooking. (159)

Other materials with restricted distributions that appear to have been traded among Olmec sites, either in their raw form or as finished products, include kaolin clay, hematite, bitumen, and coastal products, including shell, stingray spines, and shark's teeth. Obsidian was the most prevalent of these goods, and it was acquired from sources hundreds of kilometers away in Central Mexico and Guatemala. Jade, serpentine, and other greenstones were not acquired in the quantities they would be during the Middle Formative period, but they were obtained by 1700 BC, most impressively for the ritual offerings at El Manari. Later, during the San Lorenzo phase, iron ore mirrors and cubes, the latter in impressive quantities, were imported from Oaxaca and Chiapas. (159)

North America

 Beginning at about 2000 BC, people all over the East began burying their dead with exotic items, such as copper, marine shells, and ground-stone jewelry--often covering the corpse with red ocher, a mineral pigment. (53)

Other

Jomon pottery from Valdivia, Ecuador, was dated at 2300 BC. It was a very distinctive, "incised" pottery, and the incisions in the wet clay were exactly the same as those of pottery found contemporaneously in prehistoric Japan. Incised pottery from (left to right) Ecuador and early Japan (Jomon). But the prehistoric Hsiao-t’un also demonstrated similar incised patterning, and there were even hollow heads with little cut out eyes, nostrils, and mouths that looked not only like prehistoric Japanese heads but also like some heads found in the lower archeological strata in Guerrero on the Pacific coast of Mexico. (120)