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Sumerian Art: Older than civilizations

"The earliest civilization of Sumerians is the first who valued art and crafts more than war and empire expansion. Their craft has survived and today we can still see them as said, The survival of artistic modes in which we recognize ourselves, identify ourselves and place ourselves will survive as long as humanity survives." -M. H. Abrams


Introduction


The Sumerians were one of the first civilizations that started circa 4500 BC and ended around 1900 BC. This civilization influenced the ancient Middle East and Persia with their accomplishments and innovations. Their people echoed diverse ancient cultures such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, Ethiopia, and more. They were a highly religious agricultural society. They put great emphasis on art culture and the written word as is the case with all cultures.


They were innovative inventive people on par with modern-day societies on many aspects of life. In our recorded history they are the culture that gave us the first of many things. The first Empire, the first city-states, the first democracy, the first autocracy. They introduced writing, education, religion, law and order, art, and literature. The Sumerians were the earliest experts in many fields.


They were located between The Tigris and the Euphrates rivers along with the Persian Gulf to the southeastern side of their earliest countries. The rivers were prone to flooding which resulted in rich farmlands and plentiful supplies of smooth clay that had washed down from the faraway mountains.


The Initiation


Sumerians had a vast array of professions to choose from differentiated between two groups. The Sumerian upper classes, mostly royalty and priests and the lower class consisting of farmers, traders and craftsmen. They had a huge variety of craftsmen such as sculptors, jewelers, lapidaries, carpenters, Smith's, leather workers, basket makers, builders, and many more.


The Sumerians were most known for clay works. As clay was the most abundant material available, it provided Sumerian with much prosperity by trading them with the world. Pottery, terra-cotta sculpture, cuneiform tablets, tableware and clay cylinder seals were the regular products made by them.

The artisans were highly skilled but they faced many hardships during the earlier periods. Be it extreme weather, invasion by enemies and wild animals. Their art tells the story of their relationship with nature, their battles and conquests, along with their religious beliefs and Mythological deities.





As time passes there have been some changes in techniques used to make the artifacts but the original culture is still preserved in their craft along with the designs. The Sumerians were the first to use the turning wheel for making pottery which allowed them to mass-produce . Before the turning wheel, the production of a perfect circular design was very hard to achieve.


The Turning Wheel for Sumerian Art




As time passes there have been some changes in techniques used to make the artifacts but the original culture is still preserved in their craft along with the designs. The Sumerians were the first to use the turning wheel for making pottery which allowed them to mass-produce . Before the turning wheel, the production of a perfect circular design was very hard to achieve.

They had a black pigment, probably manganese for decoration of the ceramics. Their intricate designs of florals and repetitive random patterns are also seen in metallic and glassware. Copper, Gold and silver are combined in beautiful design and the dinnerware are formed by highly skilled artisans. Also, glassware is combined with metals to form unique designs of tableware astonishing to the eyes. The mesmerizing designs are a unique quality of perfection.


The crafts are as old as time because the people of Sumer were the one's to develop the concept of time dividing days and nights into 12 hour periods, an hour with sixty minutes, and each minute with sixty seconds.


The Happy Tragedy


In today's Iraq, the war and military disturbance has destroyed a lot of artefacts in museums and tarnished this beautiful art form. There are efforts being made to preserve this art form as an important part of Sumerian history. Globalization and awareness towards preservation have made sure we don't lose this piece of our heritage.


Sumeria's gift to the world is definitely not something to be forgotten easily only because them molding this craft, meant for us to preserve it. Let's join hands to make sure that staying afloat in the markets shall not be a problem for extraordinary and groundbreaking forms of art like this one from Sumeria.




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By

Shrikant Das








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