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NEAR E 501 A: Art of the Ancient Near East

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 2:50pm
Location: 
* *
SLN: 
19311
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 301 A, ART H 400 B
Instructor:
Scott Noegel
Scott Noegel

Syllabus Description:

NEAR E 301/501 Art of the Ancient Near East

Note: This course is cross listed in Art History 4XX (check with that department for the exact prefix)

Syllabus

Prof. S. B. Noegel

Faculty URL: http://faculty.washington.edu/snoegel/

 

Course

This course examines the artistic remains of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt (roughly 3000 BCE-500 BCE). Topics examined include: images as immortality, the relationship between text and image, art and cosmology, visual propaganda, art and ritual power, and the legacy of ancient Near Eastern art. There are no prerequisites, though NEAR E 201 Introduction to the Ancient Near East is recommended.

 

Grading:

1. Midterm exam 40%

2. Final exam 45%

3. One quiz 10%

4. Improvement and participation 5%

 

Required Readings: 

 

Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Blackwell, 2019).

Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015).

 

* You can download both of these books freely from the UW Library. Note that readings selected from these edited works will be listed by the author. So you will need to locate them within each books. A few other assigned readings also must be downloaded from the library.

 

* Note: most of the readings are short/partial. Check the pagination—often I have assigned only a portion of the article.

 

*Graduate students: note that you have additional assigned readings.

 

* I will send you images, maps, and other reading materials (not in the books) via email.

 

 

Objectives:

1. Be able to identify and describe key items of ancient Near Eastern art.

2. Be able to describe the important principles of ancient Near Eastern art.

3. Be able to discuss these topics from a variety of perspectives covered in class.

4. Be able to discuss the continuities and innovations/ruptures in art that occur over the region’s more than 3000 years of history.

 

Questions to ponder for the entire term:

1. Is “art” only/an aesthetic category in the ancient Near East?

2. How might we discuss the functions of ancient Near Eastern art?

3. Does ancient Near Eastern art have any distinctive features?

4. What are the similarities and differences between Mesopotamian and Egyptian art?

 

Week One (TH Oct 1): Administrative Matters

Today we peruse the syllabus and outline the course’s goals, approach, structure, and topics covered.

 

 

Week Two (TUE/TH, Oct 6-8): Getting “Oriented” Part One

This week we focus not on specific objects, but on several topics that will provide the necessary background for the study of ancient Near Eastern art. We will survey the primary peoples and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt and place them in a chronological context. We also will discuss a number of aspects/features that Mesopotamian and Egyptian art have in common. Also covered will be the changing conceptions of ancient Near Eastern art in more recent times. A brief quiz on these topics and terms will occur at the start of the next week.

 

Read:

Ann C. Gunter, “The ‘Art’ of the ‘Ancient Near East,’” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 1-21. 

 

William H. Peck, “The Ordering of the Figure,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 360-374.

 

 

Week Three (TUE/TH, Oct 13-15): Image and Immortality

After the brief quiz, we will turn to the topic of images and their relationship to notions of immortality. Our focus this week is roughly on the 3rd millennium BCE (ca. 3000-2000 BCE). In Mesopotamia, this period is marked by the rise and fall of several different city-states, predominantly those that represent Sumerian culture (first half of the millennium), and then by a Semitic culture (second half). This era also saw the rise of a powerful priesthood and also a warrior class that eventually led to the formation of kingship. The end of the millennium saw a renaissance in Sumerian culture under Semitic rule. We will look at a number of artworks that represent Type Scenes, artistic motifs that artists will replicate throughout Mesopotamian history. The objects also will provide an opportunity (as they will generally throughout the course) to discuss specific principles of Mesopotamian art.

Third millennium Egypt saw the first unification of Upper (South) and Lower (North) Egypt under very powerful pharaohs and the creation of monumental building projects, most famously the Great Pyramids. The consolidation of power again provides a historical context for the establishment of several Type Scenes. However, unlike in Mesopotamia, many of the artworks and Type Scenes in Egypt have their social context in the funerary cult. The objects also will allow us to identify specific principles of Egyptian art (a pattern we will continue throughout the course).

 

Read:

Dominik Bonatz and Marlies Heinz, “Representation,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 233-240. 

 

Melinda K. Hartwig, “Sculpture,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 191-199. 

 

Alexandra Woods, “Relief,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 219-226.

 

Franceso Tiradritti, “Painting,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 249-254.

 

Graduate Students and/or Interested Others:

Irene J. Winter, “The Body of the Able Ruler: Toward an Understanding of the Statues of Gudea,” in Hermann Behrens, et al., eds., DUMU-E2-DUB-BA-A: Studies in Honor of Ake W. Sjöberg (OPSNKF, 11; Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1989), pp. 573-583.

 

 

Week Four (TUE/TH, Oct 20-22): Art and Cosmology

Our theme for this week is the relationship between art and cosmology. Our context will be the 2nd Millennium BCE (ca. 2000-1000 BCE), and like last week, we will devote one day to Mesopotamia and the other to Egypt. We will not restrict the term “cosmology” to beliefs in the origin of the universe, though this does play a part; but rather, we will apply the term also in its more refined sense of a worldview informed by all aspects of one’s culture, including religion. Invariably, this also translates into conceptions of the self and the “Other,” which in practical terms means “us” (order) and “them” (disorder) or “members of the culture” and “foreigners.”

The historical context of the second millennium in Mesopotamia involves the rise of the Amorites, a previously semi-nomadic people who eventually founded the Babylonian Empire. The cosmology/worldview of this new cultural element was significantly different from their predecessors and included a belief in the creation of the world that was fundamentally violent. A number of artworks reflect this Babylonian worldview.

As we saw last week, Egyptian cosmology also maintained a sharp distinction between order and chaos. However, the second millennium in Egypt followed upon a roughly two-hundred year collapse in royal power, which destroyed the centralized structure and organization that had defined the previous era. The intense reunification and power that marked the second millennium thus also began with a paradigmatic shift in worldview. One of the most important shifts was what sociologists/anthropologists refer to as the “Democratization of Religion.” Essentially this entailed the reconceptualizing of the divine king as far more human and the rise in non-royals (still mostly elites) seeking to have “royal-like” burials and afterlives. Several artworks from this period represent the changes in cosmology/worldview.

 

Read:

Ann Macy Roth, “Representing the Other: Non-Egyptians in Pharaonic Iconography,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 155-166.

 

Brian A. Brown, “Culture on Display: Representations of Ethnicity in the Art if the Late Assyrian Empire,” in Brian A. Brown, and Marian H. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to Near Eastern Art (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 515-542. * You can download this book (article) freely from the library.

 

Scott Noegel, “Dismemberment, Creation, and Ritual: Images of Divine Violence in the Ancient Near East,” in James Wellman, ed., Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence across Time and Tradition (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), pp. 13-27.

 

Melinda K. Hartwig, “Sculpture,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 200-203.

 

Franceso Tiradritti, “Painting,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 256-258.

 

Graduate Students and/or Interested Others:

Adelheid Otto, “Glyptic,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 411-431.

 

 

Week Five (TUE/TH, Oct 27-29): Art and Propaganda

The theme this week will be the relationship of art and propaganda in the first half of the first millennium BCE (ca. 1000-500 BCE). Thus, we will examine the ways that Mesopotamian and Egyptian art represent biased, exaggerated, and/or misleading views to promote a particular objective. In many ways, a propagandistic perspective shares a great deal in common with a cosmological view.

In Mesopotamia, this period is best represented by Neo-Assyrian culture, whose kings established the largest empire of the world up to that time. Their expansionist policies, which they accomplished primarily through horrific acts of warfare and tactics of terror, are portrayed on the palace walls of several of its kings. The reliefs provide a unique opportunity to examine Mesopotamian art from the perspective of propaganda, while also allowing us to add to the repertoire of principles of Mesopotamian art.

Since the first half of the first millennium BCE in Egypt was a period of internal collapse and the dissolution of the Egyptian empire, we will “fudge” our chronology a bit, and turn to the very end of the second millennium BCE for our examples of art as propaganda. Specifically, we will look at the monumental art of two powerful pharaohs of the period (Ramesses II and III), that depict the victories of their most important battles, the former at the Battle of Qadesh in Syria, and the latter against the so-called Sea-Peoples, a coalition of warriors from Canaan, Aegean, and Anatolia who attacked the Egyptian coast.

 

Read:

Dominik Bonatz and Marlies Heinz, “Representation,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 240-248, 253. 

 

Beate Pongratz-Leisten, “Ideology,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 283-308. 

 

Claudia E. Suter, “Statuary and Reliefs,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 385-410. 

 

Ann Macy Roth, “Representing the Other: Non-Egyptians in Pharaonic Iconography,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 167-174.

 

Melinda K. Hartwig, “Sculpture,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 203-208, 210-212.

 

Alexandra Woods, “Relief,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 226-238.

 

Franceso Tiradritti, “Painting,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 261-265.

 

Graduate Students and/or Interested Others:

Ronald J. Leprohon, “Ideology and Propaganda,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 309-327.

 

Week Six (TUE, Nov 3): Mid-term Exam

You will have the entire period to take the mid-term exam in class.

 

 

Weeks Six and Seven (TH/TUE, Nov 5-10): Art and “Magic”

At this juncture, we will dispense with sticking to particular historical periods, and instead focus on the topic of art as “magic.” We will discuss what is meant by “magic” in the context of ancient Near Eastern religious beliefs and practices, and look at several objects that Mesopotamians and Egyptians deemed as possessing apotropaic or performative ritual power. This will allow us to expand the discussion of illocutionary speech, acts, and objects, and the ritual empowerment of materials to other kinds of artworks that we already have studied. 

 

Read: 

Carolyn Nakamura, “Ritual,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 318-326.

 

Sophy Downes, “Agency,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 333-357.

 

Gerladine Pinch, “Magic Figurines and Statues,” and “Amulets,” in Magic in Ancient Egypt (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1994), pp. 90-,103 104-119.

 

Graduate Students and/or Interested Others:

Irene J. Winter, “‘Idols of the King’: Royal Images as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Journal of Ritual Studies 6 (1992), pp. 13-42.

 

 

Weeks Seven and Eight (TH/TUE, Nov 12-17): Innovations and Ruptures with Tradition

Having examined ancient Near Eastern art from several perspectives and through the lens of the major periods of Mesopotamian and Egyptian history, we now turn to several objects that represent major ruptures with artistic tradition.

In Mesopotamia, we see this with the invention of the narrative obelisk, first found in the reign of the Assyrian king Assurnasirpal I (r. 1049-1031 BCE). Unlike previous monumental stones, this carved object can be read “visually” as a narrative from bottom to top. To demonstrate innovations in Babylonian art, we will examine the arrival of a new people known as the Kassites who conquered Babylon (1531-1155 BCE) and infused native traditions with their own artistic themes and styles.

We find ruptures in Egyptian artistic traditions primarily in the so-called Intermediate periods, during which the centralized dynasties and their economic systems collapsed leaving Egypt to internecine wars and competitive provincial powers. We also find it in the first millennium BCE, when foreign people’s occupied the Egyptian throne. A final example, arguably one of the most famous, accompanied the rule of pharaoh Akhenaten (1353-1356 BCE), a king whose religious beliefs during the so-called “Amarna Period” temporarily “radicalized” the canons of Egyptian art.

 

Read: 

Paul Collins, “Narrative,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 261-282. 

 

Melinda K. Hartwig, “Sculpture,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 199-200, 208-210.

 

Franceso Tiradritti, “Painting,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 254-256, 258-260.

 

Emily Teeter, “Religion and Ritual,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 328-343.

 

Jaromir Malek, “Heretic City: The Amarna Period and Its Aftermath,” in Egyptian Art (London: Phaidon, 2000), pp. 259-304.

 

 

Weeks Eight and Nine (TH/TUE, Nov 19-24): Observations Applied

On these three days, I will show you several Mesopotamian and Egyptian artworks from the various periods we have studied and ask you to apply what you have learned in terms of the historical contexts, observations, and the identification of artistic principles that the works display. Periodically I will identify other principles we have not covered so far.

 

Read: 

Mehmet-Ali Ataç, “Visual Formula and Meaning in Neo-Assyrian Relief Sculpture,” Art Bulletin 88 (2006), pp. 69-101.

 

Cory D. Crawford, “Relating Image and Word in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Brian A. Brown, and Marian H. Feldman, eds., Critical Approaches to Near Eastern Art (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 241-264. * You can download this book (article) freely from the library.

 

Arlette David, “Hoopoes and Acacias: Decoding an Ancient Egyptian Funerary Scene,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 73 (2014), pp. 235-252. This article might seem a bit dense to the uninitiated, but try not to get bogged down in details. Find the overall main points.

 

 

 

 

Week Nine (TH, Nov 26): No class Thanksgiving

Enjoy your time off and use it to prepare ahead for the final exam.

 

 

Weeks Ten (TUE, Dec 1): Observations Applied Continued

We pick up where we left off before Thanksgiving.

 

 

Week Ten (TH, Dec 3): The Legacy of Ancient Near Eastern Art

On Tuesday, we will examine the legacy of ancient Near Eastern art by dividing it into two main periods: ancient and modern. The former period is the consequence of cultural continuity and transmission into later periods and cultures that followed the disappearance of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures (especially their languages and scripts). The modern period of legacy relates to the discovery of these cultures via conquest, museums, and archaeological excavations since the 18th century CE.

 

Read:

Betsy M. Bryant, “The Ancient Near East and Egypt,” in Ann C. Gunter, ed., A Companion to Ancient Near Eastern Art (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), pp. 533-564

 

Stephanie Dalley, “Occasions and Opportunities (I): To the Persian Conquest,” in Stephanie Dalley, ed., The Legacy of Mesopotamia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 9-33.

 

Jean-Marcel Humbert, “Egyptomania: Fascination for Egypt and Its Expression in the Modern World,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 465-481.

 

Barbara Mendoza, “Egyptian Connections with the Larger World,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 399-422.

 

Graduate Students and/or Interested Others:

Mehmet-Ali Ataç, “Connections with the Larger World: Ancient Near East,” in Melinda K. Hartwig, ed., A Companion to Ancient Egyptian Art (Chichester, UK: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), pp. 423-446.

 

Week Eleven (TUE/TH, Dec 8-10): Discussion and review (TUE) and final exam (TH)

This week we will spend one day reviewing for the final exam and the final day taking the exam.

 

Other Administrative Matters

 

Note: UW Grading Policy

https://www.washington.edu/students/gencat/front/Grading_Sys.html

 

Note: Student Academic Responsibility (cheating, plagiarsism, etc.)

https://depts.washington.edu/grading/pdf/AcademicResponsibility.pdf

 

 

Note: “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).”

Catalog Description: 
Examines the artistic remains of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia (3000 BCE-550 BCE), with some attention to architecture. Topics examined include: art as ritual power, the relationship betweens text and image, art and cosmology, visual propaganda, and the legacy of ancient Near Eastern art.
Credits: 
3.0
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
June 30, 2020 - 9:21pm
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