Mesopotamian Art at Artemission


Amulet Seal in the form of a Bull. c. 3000 B.C.

For thousands of years Mesopotamia was home to hunters, fishers, and farmers, exploiting fertile soil, rivers, and abundant animals.

By around 3200 B.C., the largest settlement in southern Mesopotamia, if not the world, was Uruk: a true city dominated by monumental mud-brick buildings decorated with mosaics of painted clay cones embedded in the walls, and extraordinary works of Mesopotamian art.

Large-scale sculpture in the round and relief carving appeared for the first time, together with metal casting using the lost-wax process. Simple pictographs were drawn on clay tablets, example of which can sometimes be found on Artemission site, to record the management of goods and the allocation of workers’ rations. These pictographs are the precursors of later cuneiform writing, many, from private collections are also listed on Artemission.


Pictographic tablet, c. 3000-2800 B.C.

Objects inspired by Mesopotamia were found from central Iran to the Egyptian Nile Delta. During the following Early Dynastic period (2900–2350 B.C.), when city-states dominated Mesopotamia, the city rulers gradually grew in importance and increasingly sought luxury materials to express their power, including jewellery, amulets, cylinder seals, seals, bronze and clay vessels. See Near Eastern category on our site.

sumerianearrings on artemission site

Sumerian Gold Earrings, c. 2500 B.C.

These goods, many from abroad, were acquired either by trade or conquest. At this time Uruk was surrounded by a massive wall, which according to tradition was built on the orders of King Gilgamesh. Although he may have been an actual king of Uruk around 2700 B.C., Gilgamesh became the hero of many later stories and epics.

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