Artisans and Craftsmen
>> Ancient Mesopotamia
Artisans played an important role in the culture of the Mesopotamian people. They made everyday useful items like dishes, pots, clothing, baskets, boats, and weapons. They also created works of art meant to glorify the gods and the king.
The most common material for Mesopotamian artists was clay. Clay was used for pottery, monumental buildings, and tablets used to record history and legends.
The Mesopotamians developed their skills in pottery over thousands of years. At first they used their hands to make simple pots. Later they learned how to use a potter's wheel. They also used high temperature ovens to harden the clay. They learned how to make different shapes, glazes, and patterns. Soon their pottery turned into works of art.
Fine jewelry was a status symbol in Ancient Mesopotamia. Both men and women wore jewelry. Jewelers used fine gemstones, silver, and gold to make intricate designs. They made all sorts of jewelry including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
Around 3000 BC the metal workers of Mesopotamia learned how to make bronze by mixing tin and copper. They would melt the metal at very high temperatures and then poor it into moulds to make all sorts of items including tools, weapons, and sculptures.
Carpenters were important craftsmen in Ancient Mesopotamia. The most important items were made with imported wood such as cedar wood from Lebanon. They built palaces for the kings using cedar. They also constructed chariots for war and ships to travel on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Many fine pieces of wooden craftsmanship were decorated with inlays. They would take small pieces of glass, gems, shells, and metal to make beautiful and shiny decorations on items like furniture, religious pieces, and musical instruments.
Interesting Facts about Mesopotamian Artisans and Art
Some of the best surviving work of Mesopotamian art and craftsmanship was carved by stonemasons. They carved everything from large sculptures to small detailed reliefs. Most of the sculptures had religious or historical significance. They were usually of the gods or the king.
They also carved small detailed cylinder stones that were used as seals. These seals were quite small because they were used as signatures. They were also quite detailed so they couldn't be easily copied.
A cylinder seal
- Sumerian sculptures of men usually had long beards and wide open eyes.
- The Ancient Greeks were influenced by Assyrian art. One example is the Assyrian winged genie which took the form of winged beasts such as the Griffin and the Chimera in Greek art.
- In the wealthier cities, even the gates to the city became works of art. One example of this is the Ishtar Gate of Babylon built by King Nebuchadnezzar II. It is covered with colorful glazed bricks showing designs and pictures of animals.
- Pottery and sculptures were often painted.
- A lot of Sumerian jewelry was recovered from the Royal Tombs of Ur.
- Sumerian artisans also learned how to make glass about 3500 BC.
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