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Cultural Studies I

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  1. Cultural Studies I Mesopotamia – Power and Social Order in the Fertile Crescent Friday, September 10, 2010

  2. The ancient Sumerian city of Ur • Located in present-day Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers • Abandoned more that 2,000 years ago! • Irrigation = surplus of grain = beer • Over half of each grain harvest used to produce beer – why? What does this indicate about society? • Ur was a hub in a great trading network

  3. Ur in the News http://www.boston.com/news/world/middleeast/articles/2010/09/07/kept_safe_in_us_iraqi_royal_statue_heads_home/ http://www.nineveh.com/U.S.%20Helps%20Recover%20Statue%20and%20Gives%20It%20Back%20to%20Iraqis.html

  4. What cultural forces shaped Mesopotamia? • Invention of metallurgy (required mining of ores, skilled artisans) – the end of the Stone Age and beginning of the Bronze Age • Bronze weapons dramatically changed society: • Transformed the military and nature of warfare • New military social class of soldiers emerged to protect from competing Sumerian city-states • Governments ruled by priest-kings who acted as intermediaries between the gods and people

  5. Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq -Pyramidal temple structure, 2100 BCE -successive platforms with outside staircases and a shrine at the top -meant to evoke a mountain with a temple on top -offerings made at the top, animals sacrificed to the resident god

  6. Stepped pyramid of King Zoser, Saqqara, Egypt Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq

  7. Reconstruction of a procession in ancient Ur based on archaeological digs

  8. U.S. troops climb the Ziggurat of Ur during the American occupation of Iraq

  9. Typical Sumerian sculpture: -single unibrow -all sculpture was religious or commemorative -many sculptures of gods and goddesses all connected to forces of nature (sun, sky, storms, etc) -polytheistic religion

  10. Royal graves at Ur • 1,840 graves were found dating from 2600-2000 BCE • Wood objects (most wood disintegrated – how do we know there were wood objects?) • musical instruments with gold and lapis lazuli indicate that music was important in Sumerian society

  11. Lyre from Tomb 789, from the cemetery at Ur

  12. Royal graves at Ur • 1,840 graves were found dating from 2600-2000 BCE • Much of what we know about ancient Sumerians is from these royal graves • Discovered by the British archaeologist, Woolley, in 1922 • Wood objects (most wood disintegrated – how do we know there were wood objects?) • musical instruments with gold and lapis lazuli indicate that music was important in Sumerian society • One of the earliest stringed instruments

  13. Royal Standard or Ur, 2600 BCE, excavated by Sir Woolley -is essentially an empty wooden box -possibly used as a pillow? Sound box of a musical instrument? -inlaid with lapis lazuli (blue stone), shell, red limestone -two sides depict ‘War’ (chariots, enemies being trampled, soldiers, etc) and ‘Peace’ (banquet scenes, musicians, booty from a raid)

  14. ‘Peace’, Royal Standard of Ur -musician playing a lyre, as seen in previous slide (similar to a harp)

  15. Ancient Sumerian writing: -drawn in wet clay with reeds, or a ‘stylus’ -development of phonetic writing (as in writing ‘belief’ with pictograms for ‘bee’ and leaf’)

  16. Akkad

  17. Akkad

  18. Akkad • Akkadians were from northern Mesopotamia and conquered all cities in Mesopotamia – including those in Sumer – when the Sumerians were at their height • The city of Akkad was never found – it is believed to lie under present-day Iraq

  19. Akkad • Akkad is considered by many scholars to be the first manifestation of an empire in history (3000 BCE) • Akkad conquered Sumerian, but retained cultural influences: took Sumerian script and promoted bilingualism. • Akkadian replaced Sumerian as the main language of Mesopotamia but Sumerian continued to be used in religious ceremoniesand science until the 1st century A.D. (sort of like Latin). • Akkadian is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic. • Their leader was called Sargon - his story was retold throughout the ages and gave birth to a narrative genre: the ‘rags-to-riches’ story (from humble origins to position of power). • What are other stories that parallel Sargon’s back story as an ‘illegitimate’ child whose mother deposited him in a river in a basket?

  20. Akkad • Akkad is considered by many scholars to be the first manifestation of an empire in history (3000 BCE) • Akkad conquered Sumerian, but retained cultural influences: took Sumerian script and promoted bilingualism. • Akkadian replaced Sumerian as the main language of Mesopotamia but Sumerian continued to be used in religious ceremoniesand science until the 1st century A.D. (sort of like Latin). • Akkadian is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Arabic. • Their leader was called Sargon - his story was retold throughout the ages and gave birth to a narrative genre: the ‘rags-to-riches’ story (from humble origins to position of power). • What are other stories that parallel Sargon’s back story as an ‘illegitimate’ child whose mother deposited him in a river in a basket?

  21. Head of Akkadian man -2300-2200 BCE, copper alloy -possibly a sculpture of Sargon, possibly his grandson -his eyes were destroyed in ancient times – they were likely gems stones that were pried out -extremely fine workmanship -evidence of Akkadian’s mastery of the lost wax casting technique – first existing work using this method

  22. Bablyon • Akkadian rule collapsed after just 150 years (2200 BCE) • 400 years of smaller, un-unified city-states until Hammurabi of Babylon gained control of the region

  23. Babylon

  24. Babylon

  25. Stele of Hammurabi, 1760 BC, Babylon (present-day Iran) -Hammurabi imposed order on a chaotic region – stele records Hammurabi’s decisions -meant to celebrate Hammurabi’s sense of justice and the wisdom of his rule

  26. -Hammurabi receives the blessing of Shamash (sun god) -Shamash is much bigger, meaning he is more important -Hammurabi subservient only to god and considers god as his people consider him -phallic shape = masculine prowess of king? -the stele articles principles of justice -reveals much about concerns and values of Mesopotamians: religion, hierarchy (women inferior to men, wives the personal property of husbands), incest forbidden, concern with the maintenance and protection of family, trade rights -the stele was copied for thousands of years – from this point on, the authority of the ruler not subject to whim but he had to be more impartial and follow procedure by law

  27. Assyrian Empire

  28. Assyrian Empire

  29. With the fall of Babylon in 1595 BCE to the Hittites from Turkey, the Middle East was unstable and chaotic. During this time, only the Assyrians were stable.

  30. -artists used the device of overlapping to show depth (as seen in cave paintings in Chauvet) -face is unrealistically visible while shooting an arrow -military themes – not a peaceful era but extremely militaristic, utilizing the invention of iron weaponry introduced by the Hittites -early political propaganda – celebrating the king’s achievements, intimidating opponents

  31. -massive gateways advertised the strength of the king -often composites – part man, part eagle, part bull -intended to amaze and terrify or intimidate the visitor

  32. Mesopotamia continued • Mesopotamia literally means ‘the land between two rivers’ • Largely present-day Iraq, also south east Turkey, Syria, south west Iran • Considered to be the cradle of civilization • Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian empires • Mesopotamians believed their kings and queens were descended from gods, although not gods themselves but intermediaries (unlike in ancient Egypt, where they believed that their kings were in fact gods on earth • Notable Mesopotamian kings: • Sargon of Akkad - conqueror of Mesopotamia and creator of the first empire that outlived its creator • Hammurabi – founder of the first Babylonian Empire

  33. -artists used the device of overlapping to show depth (as seen in cave paintings in Chauvet) -face is unrealistically visible while shooting an arrow -military themes – not a peaceful era but extremely militaristic, utilizing the invention of iron weaponry introduced by the Hittites -early political propaganda – celebrating the king’s achievements, intimidating opponents

  34. -massive gateways advertised the strength of the king -often composites – part man, part eagle, part bull -intended to amaze and terrify or intimidate the visitor

  35. Ancient Mesopotamian LiteratureThe Epic of Gilgamesh • Gilgamesh was probably a real ruler around 4700 years ago who had been mythologized • The epic, among the earliest known works of literature, is an ancient poem from Mesopotamia • Scholars believe that the epic evolved from a series of Sumerian legends and poems which were compiled much later into an epic form • The most complete version of the Epic of Gilgamesh is preserved on 12 clay tablets

  36. Epic of Gilgamesh FIRST PART: -Gilgamesh is a cruel and arrogant tyrant who oppresses the citizens of Uruk

  37. Babylon

  38. Epic of Gilgamesh FIRST PART: -Gilgamesh is a cruel and arrogant tyrant who oppresses the citizens of Uruk -he is one third human and two thirds god -the citizens of Uruk ask the gods for help and they create Enkidu, a primitive man with the same power as Gilgamesh -Enkidu goes to Uruk to confront Gilgamesh and they have a battle, then become best friends

  39. Epic of Gilgamesh continuedGilgamesh and Enkidu: buddy adventures • The pair slay the demi-god Humbaba • They encounter the goddess Ishtar (corresponds to prototypical goddesses found throughout the ancient world – Egyptian Isis, Greek and Roman goddesses of love, etc): Gilgamesh rejects her advances • Ishtar is humiliated and asks her father to avenge her • The Bull of Heaven is sent to destroy the city of Uruk but Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the bull • The gods decide that one of them must die for this affront – Enkidu dies

  40. Epic of Gilgamesh continued Gilgamesh searches for the secret of immortality • Gilgamesh is mad with grief over Enkidu’s death • He seeks a legendary man who has been alive since the Great Flood (which corresponds to the Flood Myth of the bible and many other flood myths from other cultures) and knows the secret of immortality • The man gives him a sacred flower that provides immortality but Gilgamesh gets it stolen as he is bathing

  41. Gilgamesh: a prototypical character • Gilgamesh is the first recorded wandering hero like Rama, Hercules, Conan • The epic questions dogma and the gods themselves and deals with sex, religion, and flawed beings in a realistic way not found again for literally thousands of years • Gilgamesh is strong, kingly, flawed, lost his best friend and gained knowledge if not immortality – an early page-turner!

  42. Influences of Gilgamesh • Greek epic ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer is closely patterned on the Epic of Gilgamesh • The Alexander the Great myth in Islamic and Syrian cultures: Alexander wanders through a region of darkness and terror in search of the water of life. He has strange encounters, reaches the water, but (like Gilgamesh) fails to become immortal. • Contemporary culture: anime, comics

  43. Gilgamesh appear in Final Fantasy and various anime series