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Art & Music                   4,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

 And what is most remarkable is the prominence in this beautifully decorated northwestern ware of the bull's head (the so-called bucranium), viewed from the front and with great curving horns. The form is rendered both naturalistically and in variously stylized, very graceful designs. Another prominent device in this series is the double ax. We find the Maltese cross once again, as in Samarra, but no swastika,nor those graceful gazelle designs. Furthermore, in association with the female statuettes (which are numerous in this context) clay figures of the dove appear, as well as of the cow, humped ox, sheep, goat, and pig. But this is precisely the complex that appeared a full millennium later in Crete, and from there was carried by sea, through the Gates of Hercules, northward to the British Isles and south­ward to the Gold Coast, Nigeria, and the Congo. It is the basic complex, also, of the Mycenaean culture, from which the Greeks, and thereby ourselves, derived so many symbols. And when the cult of the dead and resurrected bull-god was carried from Syria to the Nile Delta, in the fourth or third millennium BC, these symbols went with it. Indeed, I believe that we may claim with a very high degree of certainty that in this Halafian symbology the of the bull and goddess, the dove, and the double ax, we have the earliest evidence yet discovered anywhere of the prodigiously influential mythology associated for us with the great names of Ishtar Tammuz, Venus and Adonis, Isis and Osiris, Mary and Jesus. From the Taurus Mountains, the mountains of the bull-god, who may already have been identified with the horned moon, which dies and is resurrected three days later, the cult was diffused, with the art of cattle-breeding itself, practically to the ends of the earth; and we celebrate the mystery of that mythological death and resurrection to this day, as a promise of our own eternity. But what experience and understanding of eternity, and what of time, gave rise in that early period to this constellation of eloquent forms? And why in the image of the bull? (128)

Africa

 Rock art dating to 5000 BC corroborates what the radar equipment revealed. In Libya, Egypt, and Mali, petroglyphs depict not only grazing animals, but also aquatic life such as crocodiles. This indicates that the desert was inhabited during a time prior to 4000 BC and as far back as 8000 BC, when the climate was wet. (70)

Southwest Asia

  In the period in which this neolithic constellation of naked female figurines first appears, and which may be called the high neolithic, the pottery becomes suddenly - very suddenly - extraordinarily fine and beautifully decorated; showing, moreover, a totally new concept of ornamental art and of the organization of aesthetic forms, one such as had never before appeared in the history of the world. In the earlier, paleolithic art of the great caves of southern France and northern Spain one finds no evidence of any concept of the geometrical organization of an aesthetic field. In fact, the painted or incised surfaces of the cave walls were so little regarded as fields of aesthetic interest that the animals frequently overlap each other in great tangles. Nor do we find anything like a geometrically organized aesthetic field in the works surviving from the later, terminal stages of the paleolithic. Many of the petroglyphs in the later stages the hunting age have lost their earlier impressionistic beauty and precision; some have even deteriorated into mere geometrical scrawls or abstractions. Furthermore, on certain fiat painted pebbles that have been found in what were apparently religious santuaries of the hunters, geometrical devices appear: the cross, the circle with a dot in the center, a line with a dot on either side, stripes, meanders, and something resembling the letter E. However, we do not find, even in this latest stage of the hunting period, anything that could be termed a geometrical organization, anything suggesting the concept of a definitely circumscribed field in which a number of disparate elements have been united or fused into one aesthetic whole by a rhythm of beauty. Whereas suddenly ­ very suddenly - in the period that we are now discussing, which coincides with the appearance in the world of well-established, strongly developing settled villages, there breaks into view an abundance of the most gracefully and consciously organized circular compositions of geometrical and abstract motifs, on the pottery of the so-called Halaf and Samarra styles. (128)


Pottery designs, c. 4000 B.C. Halaf ware (left), Samarra ware (right)

And we find certain symbols in the centers of these designs that have remained characteristic of such organizations to the present day. In the Samarra ware, for example, there occurs the earliest known association of the swastika with the center of a circular composition (there is, in fact, only one earlier known occurrence of the swastika anywhere: on the under-wings of an outstretched flying bird carved of mammoth ivory and found in a paleolithic site not far from Kiev). We find the Maltese cross, too, in the centers of these earliest known geometrical designs - occasionally modified in such a way as to suggest stylized animal forms emerging from the arms; and in several examples the figures of women appear, with their feet or heads coming together in the middle of the circular design, to form a star. Again, the forms of four gazelles may circumambulate a tree. A number of the bowls show lovely wading birds catching fish. (128)

And what is most remarkable is the prominence in this beautifully decorated northwestern ware of the bull's head (the so-called bucranium), viewed from the front and with great curving horns. The form is rendered both naturalistically and in variously stylized, very graceful designs. Another prominent device in this series is the double ax. We find the Maltese cross once again, as in Samarra, but no swastika,nor those graceful gazelle designs. Furthermore, in association with the female statuettes (which are numerous in this context) clay figures of the dove appear, as well as of the cow, humped ox, sheep, goat, and pig. (128)

The painted pottery from the earliest level of these south Mesopotamian riverine sites is known to archaeology as Obeid ware... And this again is a fine, geometrically ornamented ware, somewhat less graceful, perhaps, and less colorful than the products of the rich Halaf and Samarra styles, but remarkably beautiful nevertheless. Its designs, with few exceptions, are not polychromatic, but painted on a light background in one color only, black or brown. And the period is dated circa 4000-3500 BC. (128)

They [Indus Valley] had the Gilgamesh epic, with pictures of a man standing between two cats or lions, as in Sumer and with characteristic pictures of Gilgamesh's friend, Enkidu. The terra-cotta figurines of the Indus valley are similar to those of Mesopotamia. Temple walls were discovered in the Sumerian town of Erech, decorated in a very specialised way, with coloured cones of mud plugged into the wall to form beautiful mosaic patterns. These can be compared with thousands of similar cones from the Indus town of Harappa. Graffiti on walls at Abu Sahrain resemble those on Harappa pottery. (135)

3500 BC First and most beautiful cylinder seals. (135)

The eye slots or "goggles" of the figurines are a most interesting feature because the Near East in the fourth millennium BC was literally swamped with wafer-like figurines that depicted in a stylized manner the upper part of the deities, exaggerating their most prominent feature: a conical helmet with elliptical visors or goggles. (146)

A hoard of such figurines was found at Tell Brak, a prehistoric site on the Khabur River, the river on whose banks Ezekiel saw the divine chariot millennia later. It is undoubtedly no mere coincidence that the Hittites, linked to Sumer and Akkad via the Khabur area, adopted as their written sign for "gods" a symbol clearly borrowed from the "eye" figurines. It is also no wonder that this symbol or hieroglyph for "divine being," expressed in artistic styles, came to dominate the art not only of Asia Minor but also of the early Greeks during the Minoan and Mycenaean periods. (146)

Egypt

 Rock art dating to 5000 BC corroborates what the radar equipment revealed. In Libya, Egypt, and Mali, petroglyphs depict not only grazing animals, but also aquatic life such as crocodiles. This indicates that the desert was inhabited during a time prior to 4000 BC and as far back as 8000 BC, when the climate was wet. (70)

Sometime around 4500 BC, predynastic Egypt began with the Amratian period, also known as Naqada I, as most of the sites from this period date to the same time as the occupation of Naqada. A change in pottery decoration in this period reflects a developing, artistically advancing culture. Earlier ceramics were decorated with simple bands of paint, but the new designs show skillful geometric shapes and the figures of animals, either painted on or carved into a vessel. For practical reasons, as well as aesthetic, vessel shapes became more varied. Decorative items were also popular, chiefly the "dancer" figurines, small painted figures of women with upraised arms. (70)

The greatest difference between the Amratian and Gerzean peoples is their ceramics. Amratian pottery, although decorative, was clearly functional. Gerzean pottery, on the other hand, was crafted more along decorative lines and adorned with geometric motifs and realistic depictions of animals and people. Animals, such as ostriches and ibexes, uncommon near the Nile, provide a clue that the Gerzeans may have hunted in the sub-desert. They are also accredited with the first representations of gods, typically shown riding in boats and carrying standards, items that resemble the later standards representing the various provinces of Egypt. It may also be the case that these depictions were simply of historical records, but since they were almost always painted on symbolic artifacts buried with the dead, sacredness is a reasonable explanation. (70)

In defense of the dynastic race theory, carvings on an ivory knife handle from the town of Gebel-el-Arak (near Denderah, 250 miles south of Cairo) and paintings on the walls of a late-predynastic tomb dated to 3500 BC at Hierakonopolis suggest invasion of the Nile Valley by a seafaring people. Some believe the style of the ornamentation on the knife handle to be Mesopotamian or possibly Syrian. The scene possibly represents a sea battle against invaders; this is also depicted in the Hierakonopolis tomb. Both of these show Egypt's native ships and strange vessels with a high prow and stem, unmistakably Mesopotamian in origin. There is also the discovery of late-predynastic graves in the northern part of Upper Egypt, where the skulls unearthed were of greater size and the bodies were larger than those of the natives. According to Walter Emery, the difference is so distinct that any suggestion that these people derived from the earlier stock is impossible. (70)

The chief Egyptian sites of the basal stratum are on the left bank of the Nile, at Merimde, in the Delta region, and at Fayum, somewhat farther south, as well as on the right bank, about two hundred miles up the river, at Tasa. The assemblages differ slightly among themselves but in their culture level are about equivalent, the characteristic features being a rough black pottery; excellent basketry; spindle whorls for the fashioning of linen; palettes for cosmetics; burial in a contracted posture (at Tasa) or as in sleep, facing east (Merimde) ; bone, ivory, and (at Fayum) ostrich-shell beads; boar's-tusk and tiny stone-ax (celt) amulets (at Merimde); wheat stored in silos; and a barnyard stock of swine, cattle, sheep, and goats. C-14 dates for Fayum range c. 444O-c. 4100 BC. (128)

The Amratian peoples lived c. 4000-3500 BC and are significant in that they were the first people to introduce the use of totemic imagery on pottery. Their graves were also notable in that they lined them with mud walls. (149)

During my travels in Egypt I had examined many stone vessels - dating back in some cases to pre-dynastic times - that had been mysteriously hollowed out of a range of materials such as diorite, basalt, quartz crystal and metamorphic schist. For example, more than 30,000 such vessels had been found in the chambers beneath the Third Dynasty Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. That meant that they were at least as old as Zoser himself (i. e. around 2650 BC). Theoretically, they could have been even older than that, because identical vessels had been found in pre-dynastic strata dated to 4000 BC and earlier... ...many of the vessels were tall vases with long, thin, elegant necks and widely flared interiors, often incorporating fully hollowed-out shoulders. No instrument yet invented was capable of carving vases into shapes like these, because such an instrument would have had to have been narrow enough to have passed through the necks and strong enough (and of the right shape) to have scoured out the shoulders and the rounded interiors. (152)

Indus Valley

 The pre-Harappan simple village cultures of perhaps the late fourth millennium BC. Derivation, by way of Iran, from the Mesopotamian mythogenetic zone is indicated by the painted pottery styles, but the level of civilization was considerably below that of the contemporary high neolithic and hieratic city states of Mesopotamia. The architecture is poorly developed; metal is either unknown or little used; and the industries are chiefly of pottery, chert, and shell. The familiar triangular, zigzag, meander, checker, lozenge, and double ax motifs appear, as well as - once again - a series of crude female statuettes, often associated. with figures of the bull, and some even with evidences of human sacrifice. (128)

...this is what the discoveries at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro have now placed beyond question. They exhibit the Indus peoples of the fourth and third millennia BC, in possession of a highly developed culture in which no vestige of Indo-Aryan influence is to be found. Like the rest of Western Asia, the Indus country is still in the Chalcolithic Age - that age in which arms and utensils of stone continue to be used side by side with those of copper or bronze. They are skilful metal workers, with a plentiful supply of gold, silver, and copper. Lead, too, and tin are in use, but the latter only as an alloy in the making of bronze. Their domestic vessels are commonly of earthenware turned on the wheel and not infrequently painted with encaustic designs; more rarely they are of copper, bronze, or silver. The ornaments of the rich are made of the precious metals or of copper, sometimes overlaid with gold, of faience, ivory, carnelian, and other stones; for the poor they are usually of shell or terra-cotta. Figurines and toys, for which there is a wide vogue, are of terra-cotta, and shell and faience are freely used, as they are in Sumer and the West generally, not only for personal use of ornaments but for inlay work and other purposes. The Indus people cast bronze by the cire perdue method in the fourth millennium and had the wheel and the potter's wheel. Their statues were made in separate pieces and then joined together, all as in Mesopotamia. They had the Gilgamesh epic, with pictures of a man standing between two cats or lions, as in Sumer and with characteristic pictures of Gilgamesh's friend, Enkidu. The terra-cotta figurines of the Indus valley are similar to those of Mesopotamia. Temple walls were discovered in the Sumerian town of Erech, decorated in a very specialised way, with coloured cones of mud plugged into the wall to form beautiful mosaic patterns. These can be compared with thousands of similar cones from the Indus town of Harappa. Graffiti on walls at Abu Sahrain resemble those on Harappa pottery. (135)

China

 

Europe

 In the period in which this neolithic constellation of naked female figurines first appears, and which may be called the high neolithic, the pottery becomes suddenly - very suddenly - extraordinarily fine and beautifully decorated; showing, moreover, a totally new concept of ornamental art and of the organization of aesthetic forms, one such as had never before appeared in the history of the world. In the earlier, paleolithic art of the great caves of southern France and northern Spain one finds no evidence of any concept of the geometrical organization of an aesthetic field. In fact, the painted or incised surfaces of the cave walls were so little regarded as fields of aesthetic interest that the animals frequently overlap each other in great tangles. Nor do we find anything like a geometrically organized aesthetic field in the works surviving from the later, terminal stages of the paleolithic. Many of the petroglyphs in the later stages the hunting age have lost their earlier impressionistic beauty and precision; some have even deteriorated into mere geometrical scrawls or abstractions. Furthermore, on certain fiat painted pebbles that have been found in what were apparently religious santuaries of the hunters, geometrical devices appear: the cross, the circle with a dot in the center, a line with a dot on either side, stripes, meanders, and something resembling the letter E. However, we do not find, even in this latest stage of the hunting period, anything that could be termed a geometrical organization, anything suggesting the concept of a definitely circumscribed field in which a number of disparate elements have been united or fused into one aesthetic whole by a rhythm of beauty. Whereas suddenly ­ very suddenly - in the period that we are now discussing, which coincides with the appearance in the world of well-established, strongly developing settled villages, there breaks into view an abundance of the most gracefully and consciously organized circular compositions of geometrical and abstract motifs, on the pottery of the so-called Halaf and Samarra styles. (128)

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)

To the north of the bay, inland in the desert between the Ingenio and Nazca rivers, explorers have found one of the most puzzling riddles of antiquity, the so-called Nazca Lines. Called by some "the world's largest artworks," a vast area (some 200 square miles!) that extends eastward from the pampa (flat desert) to the rugged mountains was used by "someone" as a canvas to draw on it scores of images; the drawings are so huge that they make no sense at ground level--but when viewed from the air, clearly represent known and imaginary animals and birds (above). The drawings were made by removing the topsoil to a depth of several inches, and were executed with a unicursal line--a continuous line that curves and twists without crossing over itself. (137)

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 

Other