Bronze Age Art Text and Images

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Bronze Age Art Text and Images
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
EDUCATION PROGRAMS
Beyond Babylon Online Teacher Workshop: Classroom Activities
January 22–March 1, 2009
SHIPWRECK: AN ANCIENT SEA TRADE GAME
BRONZE AGE WORKS OF ART
http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/shipwreck/index.html
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Stag Vessel, Hittite Empire, 14th–13th century B.C.
Anatolia
Silver, gold inlay; H. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989
(1989.281.10)
This silver stag is actually a cup, designed for use in sacred rituals. Cups like this one
were made and used by people all along the Mediterranean coast during the Late Bronze
Age, and featured many different types of animal heads. Rhytons were often exchanged
as gifts between kings and queens because of their importance and beauty. This rhyton
was made by Hittite metalworkers. They were well known for their detailed
craftsmanship, which you can see in the antlers and face of this stag.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Cuneiform Tablet and Case, karum Kanesh II, early 2nd millennium B.C.
Anatolia
Clay; Tablet: H. 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm), Case: H. 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Klejman, 1966
(66.245.5a,b)
Clay tablets like this one were the letters of the Late Bronze Age, and their clay cases
were the envelopes. Once a tablet was placed inside its case, the case was marked with
two cylinder seals to show who owned it. A cylinder seal was like a signature, and each
was different. The seals on this case show worshippers handing a cup to a large, and
probably important, figure sitting in a chair. If an unauthorized person opened the case
and read the tablet, everyone would know because the seals would be broken. This tablet
is the record of court testimony describing a dispute between two merchants, who accuse
each other of theft. Assyrian merchants traveling to Anatolia often brought tablets like
this one with them as part of their business records.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Rhyton in the Form of a Bull's Head, ca. 1450–1400 B.C.; Late Minoan II
Minoan; Greece, Crete
Terracotta; H. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1973
(1973.35)
This is a pitcher in the shape of a bull’s head. It was used in religious ceremonies or
during funerals to make offerings of wine or blood to the gods. These types of liquid
offerings are called libations. The pitcher, or rhyton as it is officially called, was filled
through a hole in the top of the bull’s head. During a ceremony, the liquid would be
poured out of the bull’s mouth. The Minoan craftsman who made this rhyton was very
clever; he designed it so that no liquid would come out of the mouth while the hole in the
top was covered, for example by someone’s finger or thumb.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Stemmed Cup with Murex Decoration, late 14th century B.C.; Late Helladic IIIA:2
Mycenaean
Terracotta; H. 8 3/8 in. (21.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971
(1972.118.137)
This long-stemmed drinking cup, known as a kylix, is decorated with pictures of sea
creatures. It was made by Mycenaean potters living on the Greek mainland. The sea was
incredibly important to the Mycenaean people, both as a source of food and wealth. The
flaring body of this cup is decorated with sea anemones and murex shells. The murex is a
type of mollusk, similar to a snail, and people used its mucus to mix a richly colored
purple dye that was highly prized throughout the Mediterranean. This dye was called
Tyrian dye, and was used to color the robes of royalty and important priests.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Tripod, ca. 13th–12th century B.C.; Late Bronze Age
Cypriot
Copper-based metal; H. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by
subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.5684)
The Late Bronze Age is named after the metal bronze, which is made from a combination
of tin and copper. This three-legged stand, called a tripod, is made of bronze and is from
the island of Cyprus, which was famous for its metals. The stand was built to hold vases,
cups, and other vessels, and tripods like it were very popular in the lands surrounding the
Aegean Sea. Both the legs and the rim are decorated, and the band at the top shows a
series of hounds chasing wild goats around and around in an endless circle. There are
signs that this tripod was repaired by someone thousands of years ago, which suggests
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Cylinder Seal and Modern Impression: Animal Combat Sphinx, Old Syrian, early
2nd millennium B.C.
Syria-Levant
Hematite; H. 1/1 in. (2.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John J. Klejman,
1966 (66.76.2)
Cylinder seals were used as signatures, jewelry, and as magical charms during the Late
Bronze Age. They were usually made of stone, like this one, and the surface of the
cylinder was carved with detailed pictures. This seal shows a hunting scene with an
antelope galloping above a lion that appears to be pawing at its mate, whose head is
turned back. The winged creature is a female sphinx—an Egyptian decoration. She is
standing on a cobra, which has its head lifted as if to strike. The chain design above the
sphinx is a typical Syrian decoration.
Sickle Sword, 1307–1275 B.C.; Middle Assyrian period, reign of Adad-nirari I
Mesopotamia
Bronze; L. 21 3/8 in. (54.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1911
(11.166.1)
Curved swords like this one were used in Mesopotamia as symbols of power and
authority. In art, they were often shown in the hands of gods and kings. This particular
sword belonged to the Assyrian king Adad-nirari I, who ruled from 1307–1275 B.C. He
probably did not use the sword in battle, but held it instead during ceremonies as a sign of
his royalty. We know this sword belonged to Adad-nirari because it says so in three
places on the sword: on both sides of the blade, and along the top edge. The inscriptions,
written in cuneiform, say: “Palace of Adad-nirari, king of the universe, son of Arik-denili, king of Assyria, son of Enlil-nirari, king of Assyria.”
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Necklace Pendants and Beads, 18th–17th century B.C.; late Old Babylonian period
Mesopotamia
Gold; Diam. of largest medallion: 1 3/8 in. (3.5 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1947 (47.1a–h)
These pieces of jewelry are made of gold, and the pendants were crafted by some of the
finest artisans in the ancient Near East. Each of the pendants represents a god or goddess.
The two female figures on the left wearing horned headdresses and long, flowing dresses
represent Lama, the goddess of protection. The large disk in the middle is decorated with
rays coming out of a central circle, which is a symbol for the sun god Shamash. Ishtar,
the goddess of love and war, is symbolized by the rosettes covering the surfaces of the
two smaller disks. The pendant on the right is in the shape of forked lightning—its two
bolts following different paths—in honor of the storm god Adad.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Whip Handle in the Shape of a Horse, ca. 1390–1352 B.C.; New Kingdom
Egyptian; Thebes possibly
Ivory, stain, paint; L. 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
(26.7.1293)
Horses were not native to Egypt. It is widely thought that the Hyksos, who dominated
northern Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period, introduced horses and war
chariots to the Egyptians in the first half of the sixteenth century B.C. Horses and chariots
were among the most prized commodities in the elaborate system of royal gift exchange
that dominated the Late Bronze Age. Horses became increasingly important and were
associated with the gods and represented in various forms of art. This delicate horse
decorates an ivory handle that may have held a light-weight whip or a flywhisk used to
brush away flies. The horse seems to be running or prancing. It is stained reddish brown
and has a black mane.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Haremhab as a Scribe, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Haremhab, ca. 1323–1295
B.C.
Egyptian
Granodiorite; H. 46 in. (116.8 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. V. Everit Macy, 1923
(23.10.1)
In ancient Egypt, only a select few could read and write. These men were called scribes,
and they were an elite and important group. This is a statue of Haremhab, a royal scribe
and army general under the pharaoh Tutankhamun. Haremhab was educated and
powerful, and he eventually became pharaoh himself. Surrounding him in this statue are
many of the tools used by scribes in his day. Across his knees is a papyrus scroll on
which he has written a hymn to Thoth, the god of writing. Next to his left knee lies a shell
that contains ink, and over his left shoulder is slung a strap with a miniature scribe’s kit
attached to each end. Carved onto his arm, like a tattoo, is a figure of the god Amun, who
was sometimes thought of as a creator god.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Diadem, Hyksos Period, Dynasty 15, ca. 1640–1550 B.C.
Eastern Nile Delta
Gold; L. 19 3/8 in. (49.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1968
(68.136.1)
A diadem is a type of head ornament in the shape of a half crown. This one is made of
hammered gold. Both ends have been rolled into loops to which a string could be
attached in order to fasten the band around someone’s head. The style of this diadem is a
combination of designs common to three different cultures. Front and center is the head
of a deer with tall, twisting antlers. On either side of the deer are the heads of gazelles,
whose antlers are shorter and curved. The idea of decorating an object with animal heads
is a Canaanite one. However, most headbands of this type are from either western Asia or
Egypt. Lastly, between each of the heads is an eight-pointed star. This is most likely a
“star of Ishtar,” the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Relief Fragment with Vanquished Enemies, Dynasty 18, probably reign of Amenemhat
II (ca. 1427–1400 B.C.)
Thebes, Asasif
Painted sandstone; H. 24 x W. 45 1/4 in. (61 x 114.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1913 (13.180.21)
This stone block was originally part of a large relief—or picture carved in stone—on the
wall of a temple. The relief depicted a battle scene, showing a king riding in a chariot
over the bodies of his wounded, dying, and defeated enemies. Just visible at the top of
this block are the curved underbellies of the two horses pulling his chariot. Below the
horses are the fallen men. Their pointed beards and mustaches tell us they were from
western Asia. While this is a picture of military victory, it was really meant to show that
the king would always triumph over evil. It is for this reason that the scene was carved
onto the wall of a temple.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Game Board: The Game of Fifty-Eight Holes, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, ca.
1981–1802 B.C.
Thebes
Ivory, ebony; H. 2 1/2 x W. 6 in. (6.4 x 15.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
(26.7.1287)
We call this board game “hounds and jackals” because of the heads carved into the game
pieces. Players threw knucklebones to determine how to move their hounds or jackals
around the board. This particular set, which has a drawer in the front to store the pegs and
knucklebones, was found in an Egyptian tomb that was nearly 4,000 years old.
Archaeologists excavating in the Levant have found other, even older board games, some
of which are from as early as 8000 B.C. Games have been a part of life in settled
communities from the beginning. People have always enjoyed them as a way to relax,
and they are easy to carry from place to place, whether you are a merchant, soldier,
preacher, or runaway.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Vessel with Dolphins and Waterbirds, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 13, ca. 1820–1775
B.C.
Lisht North, Pit 879
Ceramic; H. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift,
1922 (22.1.95)
This vase is commonly called the “Dolphin Vase.” Scholars have always found it
interesting because it raises as many questions as it answers about where it was made. For
one thing, while it was found in Egypt, the clay it is made from comes from the Levant.
The technique of carving images onto a dark, glossy surface is common to both Egyptian
and Levantine pottery, but the shape of this vase is purely Levantine. To further
complicate matters, the leaping dolphins from which the vase gets its name are usually
found in Minoan art, while the plump, long-necked water birds look like Egyptian geese.
Either way—whatever the homeland of the potter who made this vase—it is safe to
assume that he knew a great deal about the styles and traditions of artists in neighboring
lands.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Cup, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III, ca. 1479–1425 B.C.
Mesopotamian; Thebes, Wadi Gabbanat el-Qurud
Glossy faience, gold; H. 4 in. (10.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
(26.7.1175)
Late in the summer of 1916, Egyptian villagers living near the Valley of the Kings found
the tomb of three wives of Thutmose III. Their names, carved on jars found in the tomb,
tell us that the women were most likely from Canaan. This cup was one of the many
luxury items and fragments of jewelry uncovered in the tomb. The richness of the objects
buried with the women suggests that they came to Egypt for political marriages, and not
as captives taken during battle. This cup is most likely from Mesopotamia, as its shape
and design are common to that region. It is made from faience, which is a type of glazed
pottery, and the bright reds, tans, turquoises, and whites of the glaze swirl together to
give the cup a glossy finish.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Akhenaten Sacrificing a Duck, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten,
ca. 1353–1336 B.C.
Egyptian
Limestone; H. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Norbert Schimmel, 1985
(1985.328.2)
This carving shows the pharaoh Akhenaten offering the sacrifice of a duck to his god,
Aten. We know the figure is Akhenaten because he is always shown with a long head and
prominent chin, like he is here. As Akhenaten holds the duck up to Aten, he wrings its
neck with his right hand, completing the sacrifice. Aten was the only god that Akhenaten
worshipped. He was the god of light, and Akhenaten believed it was through Aten that all
power came into the world. In this picture, Aten is represented by a large sun with rays
that end in small human hands. One of these hands holds an ankh—the hieroglyph
meaning “life”—toward the pharaoh’s nose.
Copyright © 2009 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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