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3 Tutorials that teach The Ancient Near East
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The Ancient Near East

The Ancient Near East

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will provide an introduction to the art and architecture of the Ancient Near East.

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Tutorial

An introduction to the Ancient Near East.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you into this episode of Exploiting Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about the Ancient Near East. Today's lesson really serves to provide you with some background information about the areas we'll be looking at in later lessons.

As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, discuss the idea of controlled space and how it relates to architecture, explain some of the important social, cultural, and technological innovations of the Ancient Near East, and explain the geographic influence of the Fertile Crescent on the development of civilization in that area.

Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow. First key term is controlled space-- a type of civic design intended to impress or intimidate the viewer. Fertile Crescent is an agricultural region in the Middle and Near East. In the past, it was fertile, but now it's partly desert. And Mesopotamia-- the ancient area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The big idea for today is that the Fertile Crescent of the Middle and Near East was one of the first major areas of cultural and artistic growth in history.

So to begin, let's take a look at what period of time we're looking at. And for a reference point, I've highlighted 0 AD, which is not a year, but rather a single point in time. Now BC is before Christ, and AD is Anno Domini, which means "in the year of our Lord."

Now, remember, there is no year 0. So the year 1 AD is exactly one year after 1 BC. We'll be talking about when the first true civilization started to develop in Mesopotamia, which began roughly around 5000 BC, as you can see here.

So quick geography lesson. Now the area we're talking about today is called Mesopotamia, which translates to "land between rivers", which is a fitting name, as you'll see why in a moment. And Mesopotamia largely resided within present day Iraq, which is shown here in green.

If we zoom in a bit, we can see a reddish area titled the Fertile Crescent. And this is an area concentrated around the Nile River in Africa and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present day Middle East. And these are areas that saw some of the greatest populations surges and subsequent cultural developments in the ancient world. The environment has changed quite a bit since then, and these are largely desert areas today.

I've superimposed the modern day borders of Iraq, so you can see how it corresponds to the borders of the Fertile Crescent. And next, I'd like to point out the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, here. The land that falls between is this area called Mesopotamia. And it's an area that saw tremendous growth in the ancient world and development of some of the earliest-known civilizations on the planet. And once again, here's the border of modern day Iraq for comparison.

So the Neolithic Revolution is a super important period of time in human history. Its focus for humans shifted from a largely nomadic or hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agrarian or agricultural lifestyle. And in other words, we went from predominantly hunting and finding our food to growing it and farming it.

Now, you may ask why does this matter? Well, the development of agriculture is one of the most important developments in human history because it allowed for communities to develop into civilizations, where the exchange of ideas and interdependence allowed for tremendous cultural and technological growth.

Now, the concept of civilization is rather complex, but let me streamline it a bit for you. Or in fact, a lot. Simply put, a civilization is a human community that exhibits a range of complexity in terms of social stratification-- how people are divided up-- technological achievements, such as the use of the wheel, the development of a form of writing, and the use of flood control devices, and cultural development. A civilization is more than just a group of people hanging out.

The use of controlled space is a common theme of the architecture in the Middle East. And this example on the right is a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate, one of the gates. And I believe it's the eighth gate to the walled city of ancient Babylon. Now, just this example here is quite impressive. And this is essentially the idea behind the use of controlled space-- a ruler used this type of architecture as a way of, posturing or expressing a ruler's authority and power over his subjects, while also serving to intimidate his opponents.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, discuss the idea of controlled space and how it relates to architecture, and explain some of the important social, cultural, and technological innovations of the Ancient Near East, and explain the geographic influence of the Fertile Crescent on the development of civilization in that area?

Once again, the big idea for today is that the Fertile Crescent of the Middle and Near East was one of the first major areas of cultural and artistic growth in history. Well, that's it for today. I'd like to thank you for joining me. I'll see you next time.

Citations

 

Image of World Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Iraq_(orthographic_projection).svg; Image of Map of Fertile Crescent Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_fertile_cresent.svg; Image of Ishtar Gate Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ishtar_Gate_at_Berlin_Museum.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Controlled space

    A type of civic design intended to impress or intimidate the viewer.

  • Fertile crescent

    An agricultural region in the Middle and Near East, in the past it was fertile but now partly desert.

  • Mesopotamia

    Ancient area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.