Art & Music around 5,000 BC


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. (Before the Pharaohs)

Herodotus' record of his journey through Egypt in the fifth century BC does not include the story told Solon in the Timaeus. The Greek historian did find a venerable cult of Poseidon in North Africa, however, a land which was supposedly once under Atlantic control: "Alone of all nations the Libyans have had among them the name of Poseidon from the first, and they have ever honored this god". Herodotus also reported a curious people living at the foot of a mountain they called Atlas and from which they derived their name, "Atlantes". Little else was said of the Atlantes, other than that they ate no living creature and never had dreams. Maps based on Herodotus' account place them in the Hoggar region of the central Sahara, not far from the recently discovered collection of rock art in the massifs of Tassili n' Ajjer and Acacus. Most of these extraordinary works of art are far more ancient than Herodotus' Atlantes, but their ancestry is equally obscure and the traditions of their creators no less eccentric. (Plato Prehistorian)

Southwest Asia

The first major period of occupation at 'Ain Ghazal began at about 7,200 BC and it was pobably occupied  most or all of the time until about 5,000 BC. Covering approximately 30 acres, 'Ain Ghazal is about three times larger than Jericho, but it is unclear how much of the site was occupied at any one time. For its early age, the community of 'Ain Ghazal has impressive art. Large plaster figures of people were found under house floors. Numerous figures of people and and animals have been unearthed, and in one cache two clay figures of cattle had flint blades stuck into their heads, necks, and chests.(Patterns in Prehistory)

In the southwest [Iran] the early fifth millennium saw further increases in the number of new agricultural sites in Susiana, while in the northeast a chain of perhaps twenty settlements now stretched along the foothills of the Kopet Dagh and into the Gurgan plain. By this time the Sialk/Cheshmeh Ali plateau pottery had begun to display the ornamental animal motifs which were to give Iranian art its most distinctive trait. The end of the fifth millennium would see the first recorded use of the potter's wheel at Sialk, an innovation which, like the advances in metallurgy, was then to spread westward from Iran into southern Mesopotamia , and not, as was once supposed, the other way around. (Plato Prehistorian)

...beneath the complex of multi-roomed buildings at the base level of Tell es-Sawwan an extraordinary cemetery had been laid, in which the dead were accompanied by a great many alabaster vessels and figurines. (Plato Prehistorian)

In the south Samarran influence has been noted at Eridu, the first recorded settlement in the land later to be known as Sumer. Estimated to the late sixth millennium, the lowest strata at Eridu yielded mud-brick architecture and fine painted pottery whose chocolate-colored cruciform patterns are reminiscent of Samarran designs. (Plato Prehistorian)

The bulls' and rams' heads that dominated the shrines of Catal Huyuk appear on Halafian painted pottery; the wheeled cross and double-axe of the Catal VI mural were carved into amulets or seals at Arpachiyah. Lead and copper appear to have been worked in both cultures, and in fact the excavators of Arpachiyah concluded that the Halafian "cream bowl," with its sharply beveled base and flaring neck, was almost certainly a copy of a metal type, although none was found. But in general the Catal-Halaf parallels are so numerous that in spite of the great distance between the two cultures (750 miles from Konya to Mosul by road), Robert Braidwood concluded that Catal Huyuk was a westerly variant of the Halafian tradition. (Plato Prehistorian)

The lustrous painted pottery of Halaf was dominated in all phases by geometric patterns. Like the Samarrans, Halafian potters occasionally portrayed the figures of animals, and here the stylized heads of bull and ram appear as well, but far more common are minutely detailed panels of purely geometric designs. The frequency of checkered patterns is notable. Often both dark and light checkers contain a motif, such as a quatrefoil or a St. Andrew's cross; pairs of dark and light triangles inside other squares form fields of positive and negative images of the double-axe. …these checkered designs were used as a border or frame for interior polychrome centerpieces which have yet to be surpassed in the ceramic arts. Indeed, in spite of its noted homogeneity of style, the ceramics of Halaf were largely individual works of art, with no one piece the exact replica of another. The use of highly ferruginous clays allowed Halafian potters to fire their products at very high temperatures; firings apparently were controlled so that precisely the desired colors would result and each color stand out distinctly. As one analyst remarked, the Halafians "worked for contrast in a way that artists of the preceding and following periods did not."(Plato Prehistorian)

Hacilar painted pottery: (a) reddish brown-on-cream wares from Level II, (b) dark red-on-ivory bowl from Level I, c. 5,000 BC. (Plato Prehistorian)

Distinctly inferior to Halafian ceramics, the pottery of 'Ubaid nevertheless bears many of the same motifs; its spread through Iraq and lands farther west in the last half of the fifth millennium equaled or surpassed the sphere of Halafian influence. As there are unmistakable ceramic ties between 'Ubaid and both central and southwestern Iran, it has been suggested that the bearers of what we call 'Ubaid culture moved out of Iran and into the region of Sumer at some point in the fifth millennium BC. Others see 'Ubaid as an indigenous south Mesopotamian development, growing out of the Samarra-influenced Eridu culture of late sixth millennium Sumer. But however 'Ubaid arose, its disappearance at the end of the fifth millennium saw the emergence (or the reinstatement) of regionally differentiated cultures in northern and southern Mesopotamia that appear to have been much less closely connected to Iran. (Plato Prehistorian)

From first to last almost every branch of Babylonian, and even Assyrian, literature which is made known to us by the cuneiform inscriptions bears upon it a strong impress of religious influence and teaching; in fact, it may almost be said that all Babylonian literature is religious. Royal inscriptions are filled with phrases in which the king's devotion to the gods and their temples is insisted upon, historical texts contain frequent mentions of the gods individually or collectively, and allusions to events in the lives of the gods and goddesses, and even the contracts which men made with each other in the ordinary way of business, when written down were given a religious complexion. The longest texts we have deal with legends and myths of the gods, and it is clear that the priests contrived to make the attempts of all seekers after the knowledge of natural things subservient to existing religious ideas and beliefs. It is possible, though it is difficult to believe it, that some kind of profane or secular literature existed in Babylonia, but no examples of it have come down to us. The Sumerian agriculturists and workmen must have sung popular songs and told amusing tales to each other, but after these were edited by the priests little of their original plainness of speech and sparkle remained in them. The earliest and most persistent form of Sumerian and Babylonian literature is a rhythmic prose. Rhyming was unknown. The earliest song consisted of what we may call verses, each of which contained two halves with the same form and expressing the same sense; two such verses formed a distich. (Babylonian Life and History)

The following is a specimen of an early hymn to Anu: "O Prince of the gods, whose utterance ruleth over the obedient company of the gods; Lord of the horned crown, which is marvelously splendid; thou travelest hither and thither on the raging storm; thou standest in the royal chamber, to be admired as a king.

"The ears of the Igigi are directed to hear thy pure utterance; the Anunnaki in a body come to thee, being full of reverence for thee.

"At thy word the gods cast themselves on the ground in a body like a reed on the stream; thy command blows like the wind and causes food and drink to thrive; at thy word the angry gods turn back to their habitations.

"May all the gods of heaven and earth appear before thee with gifts and offerings; may the kings of the countries bring to thee heavy tribute; may men stand before thee daily with sacrifices, prayers and adorations.

The following is a specimen of the prayers that were said by a suppliant after singing a hymn of praise to the god Marduk: "Speak to me, O my god! May he make me white like the Arantu flower. Let the merciful hands of my god order my well-being, so that I may always stand before thee with prayer and tears and a fervent [heart]. May the wanton folk who live in various parts of the country worship thee; destroy my sin, do away my sin. "O brave Marduk, destroy my sin, do away my sin. "O great goddess Erua, destroy my sin. "O Nabu, of fair name, destroy my sin. "O great goddess Tashmit, destroy my sin. "O brave Nergal, destroy my sin. "O ye gods who dwell in the heaven of Anu, destroy my sin. "Dissipate thou the great sins which I have committed from my youth up, and destroy thou them seven times. "May thy heart, as the father who begot me, and the mother Who bore me, be at peace; then, O brave Marduk, will I worship thee with lowly submission."(Babylonian Life and History)

It is only in the next and final stage of the early Anatolian development, and then gradually also in neighboring areas - circa 5500-4500 BC- that those well-known, unlifelike, conventionalized naked-goddess figurines appear that have been generally associated with the earliest village arts. A trend from naturalism to abstraction, from visual to conceptual thought, would seem thus to be indicated. And in the Anatolian sphere, meanwhile, which is still in advance of all, signs have begun appearing of the dawn of the earliest age of metals, the early chalcolithic: beads and little tubes of copper and lead, various trinkets, and even a few metal tools. A truly superb painted pottery is also being manufactured, pointing toward the great ceramic styles of the following millennium (Halaf wares, Samarra wares, Obeid wares, etc.). The expansion southward and eastward of the arts and manners of settled village life now has begun to cover the whole of the Near East, new centers of creative transformation are developing, and the stage has been set for the rise in Mesopotamia, circa 4000 BC, of the first of the great historic civilizations. (Primitive Mythology)

By 5000 BC, the Near East was producing clay and pottery objects of superb quality and fantastic design. But once again progress slowed, and by 4500 BC, archaeological evidence indicates, regression was all around. Pottery became simpler. Stone utensils--a relic of the Stone Age--again became predominant. Inhabited sites reveal fewer remains. Some sites that had been centers of pottery and clay industries began to be abandoned, and distinct clay manufacturing disappeared. (The 12th Planet)

Vivian Broman Morales had...spoken of the 'Ubaid culture's strange 'lizard goddess figures', which she compared with the ophidian, or serpentine, clay heads found by Robert Braidwood and his team at Jarmo in Iraqi Kurdistan. These 'lizard goddesses' I had found depicted in various books that featured the art of the 'Ubaid culture. They took the form of 'strange anthropomorphic figurines, either male or female (although mostly female), with slim, well-proportioned naked bodies, wide shoulders, and strange reptilian heads that scholars generally describe as 'lizard-like' in appearance. These show long, tapered faces like snouts, with wide slit-eyes - usually elliptical pellets of clay pinched to form what are known as 'coffee-bean' eyes - and a thick, dark plume of bitumen on their heads to represent a coil of erect hair (similar coils fashioned in clay appear on some of the heads found at jarmo). All statuettes display either female pubic hair or male genitalia. (The 12th Planet)

Each 'Ubaid figurine has its own unique pose - some female statuettes stand with their feet together and their hands on their hips. At least one male figurine has its arms horizontally placed across its lower chest area and holds what appears to be a wand or sceptre in its left hand; plausibly a symbol of divinity or kingship. The figurines also appear with several oval-shaped pellets of clay covering their upper chest, shoulders and back. By far the strangest and most compelling of the reptilian statuettes is a naked female who holds a baby to her left breast. The infant's left hand clings on to the breast, and there can be little doubt that it is suckling milk. It is a very touching image, although it bears one extremely chilling feature - the child has long slanted eyes and the head of a reptile. This is highly significant, for it suggests that the baby was seen to have been born with these features. ...most of the examples found were retrieved from graves, where they were often the only item of any importance...(From the Ashes of Angels)

The differences in chronology between the Jarmo heads and the 'Ubaid figurines suggest that this distinctive form of serpentine art had developed in the highlands of Kurdistan as early as 6750 BC before being transferred on to the Iraqi plains around 5000 BC. The snake had been a major feature among the religious practices of ancient Mesopotamia, where it was identified with divine wisdom, sexual energy and guardianship over other­worldly domains. (From the Ashes of Angels)

It was around 5000 BC, however, for a period of anything up to a thousand years, that the 'Ubaid culture held sway in Elam. Archaeological excavations from the final phase of their influence have revealed a large variety of unique stone stamp seals (left) of a highly shamanistic nature. Each depicts what the scholars have described as an anthropomorphic 'goat-headed demon', with incised marks on its body to signify body hair and its arms raised out and upwards. These totemic figures are intriguing in their own right. It is, however, the imagery that accompanies them that is of special interest, for in one instance the figure appears to be controlling serpents; in another a serpent passes behind the goat-man; and in a third, the figure appears to be controlling two huge 'birds of prey" that rise up towards its body. ...the evidence...suggests that there was an early concept of a creature or creatures, which combined the features of goat and powerful bird in a manner unknown to us; that the human figure with the horned animal head on stamps of the Ubaid period was a powerful, shaman­like demon capable of warding off serpents. (From the Ashes of Angels)


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. (Before the Pharaohs)

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. (Before the Pharaohs)

Indus Valley





Often decorated in lustrous dark brown paint on an apricot-colored slip, Neolithic Urfirnis has been ranked among the finest achievements of the prehistoric potter. Its similarity to Halafian ceramics extends, according to one team of analysts to fabric, shape, glaze paint, and decoration. (Plato Prehistorian)

Among the figurines of this period in southern Greece was a standing clay female, more slender and graceful than prior Greek models. As shown in the example from Lerna, this kore-type figurine is remarkably like the ceramic maiden-goddess at Mureybet III, her senior by more than two thousand years. (Plato Prehistorian)

People called Hamangians also seemed to emerge out of nowhere to settle in the region of coastal Bulgaria. Two fascinating and quite modern­looking sculptures from early in the fifth millennium BC were found together in a grave. One dubbed "The Thinker" is the figure of a man seated on a low stool, legs bent, elbows on his knees, hands on his cheeks. The other is of a woman seated on the ground, one leg stretched out in front of her, the other bent and upright on which she is resting her hands. (Noah's Flood)

South America




North America