Mesopotamian developments

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on
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Each era is categorically examined for developments and markers that distinguish it from other eras in,

  • Society

  • Art & architecture

  • Language

  • Finds (either sites or objects)

Halaf

DevelopmentDescription

Art & Architecture

Pottery decoration: frontal bucrania; walking horned animals; schematic humans; rosettes and leaves as floral decorations; and Maltese crosses and swastikas as geometric decorations. Red, black and white colors. Painted female cultic figurines were found.

halaf figurine from chagar bazar in the british museumHalaf Figurine. Chagar Bazar, 5600 - 5200 BC. Image © L M Clancy, 2010 09 09. British Museum, ME 125381.

Ubaid Period

DevelopmentDescription

Society

Chiefdom

Art & architecture

Slow wheel use begins.
Ubaid House.
Ubaid Figurines
Ubaid ceramics
Tortoise Vase

Key features of Ubaid (and Uruk) temples: built on a platform; niched and buttressed façade; sometimes clay cone decoration. They are found in a tripartite plan, as in the Uruk era when the T-shaped plan also arises.

Finds

Ubaid
Ur
Eridu
Tell Abu Husaini

Female Ubaid Figure

Ubaid Period I

Ubaid Period II (Hajji Mohammad)

Uruk Period

DevelopmentDescription

Society

Theocratic polity.

Art & architecture

Beveled Rim Bowls

Key features of Uruk (and Ubaid) temples: built on a platform; niched and buttressed façade; sometimes clay cone decoration. The Mosaic and the Limestone temples of the Eanna precinct at Uruk are incredible examples. Two standard temple plans have been recognized in the Uruk era: the triparite plan and the T-shaped plan.

Finds

Uruk
Habuba Kabira
Jebel Aruda

Uruk Vase (link)
Lady of Uruk (link)
Uruk Statuette (link)

Jemdet Nasr Period

DevelopmentDescription

Language

Girsu/Tello is the first place where Sumerian was identified was a language. The Jemdet Nasr sees the end fo both the tripartite and the T-shaped temple plans, which began at least in the middle Ubaid but do not continue into the Early Dynastic era.

Finds

Sin Temple (Khafaje)
White Temple (Uruk)
Eye Temple (Tell Braq)
Archaic Shrine (Tell Asmar)

Early Dynastic Period

DevelopmentDescription

Society

Warring city-states. Major kings were Enmebargesi, Gilgamesh, Agade.

Art & architecture

The ED era is characterized by the plano-convex brick, often laid in a herring-bone fashion. These are an unideal type-fossil, as they do not occur north of the Diyala and have been found in Akkadian contexts. In the Diyala, the ED is typified by scarletware.

Solid-footed goblet

Temple Oval

With the demise of the tripartite and T-shaped temple plans, there is great diversity in temple planning with no standardized plan. However, there is continuity in the orientation (cardinal points), niched and buttressed façade, a (usually) bent-axis approach, and the presence of the same fittings (altar, hearth and offering tables).

Language

Cased cuneiform died out, replaced by lined/non-cased cuneiform. Cased cuneiform was used only in an archaizing fashion such as with Hammurabi's Code.

Finds

Standard of Ur
Diyala Sites
(Tutub, Eshnunna, Tell Agrab).
Eridu
Girsu
Lagash
Nippur
Ur
Uruk

Tell Asmar Hoard

Early Dynastic I

DevelopmentDescription

Art & architecture

Plano-convex bricks
Tall ware with the base
???? (fast wheel-made)

Early Dynastic II

DevelopmentDescription

Art & architecture

Fast wheel-made with a little bit of decoration, like around the handle.

Early Dynastic III (2600 - 2200/2300 BC)

DevelopmentDescription

Society

A network of powerful cities existed in the ED III, consisting of Ur, Nippur, Kish, Mari, Tell Brak and Ebla.

Art & architecture

Goddess-handle jars, which began in ED III, maybe lasted into Akkadian era.

Shift to naturalism is evident in sculptures and cylinder seals, a development continuing into the Akkadian epoch.

Finds

Ur
Nippur
Kish
Mari
Tell Brak
Ebla

Standard of Ur
Ram in Thicket (link)
Stele of the Vultures

Early Dynastic IIIa

Reclining doe, Early Dynastic IIIA, Sumerian, Mesopotamian. Gold. Met Museum.
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Early Dynastic IIIb

Akkadian/Agade Period

DevelopmentDescription

Society

First transregional state.

Art & architecture

The bronze head of Sargon / Naram-Sin epitomizes the naturalism of this era. The Sumerian Palace is largely Agade and replaced the ED palace but it still has the same architecture = fortified walls; interior courtyard; monumental architecture.

Finds

Sargon / Naram-Sin Head
Stele of Naram-Sin

Ur III Period

DevelopmentDescription

Finds

Stele of Ur-Nammu

Early Bronze Age

DevelopmentDescription

Art & architecture

Khabur Ware is found from 1900 to 1600 BC in northern Mesopotamia, and is distinctly characterized by stripes and triangles painted decoration. Pottery at this time in southern Mesopotamia was usually plain.

khabur ware from chagar bazar in the british museumKhabur Ware. Image © L M Clancy, 2010 01 27. British Museum, ME 125429.

Later Period

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Reclining doe, Early Dynastic IIIA, Sumerian, Mesopotamian. Gold. Met Museum.

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