Tag: N&MEast

Inanna: Patron Deity of Uruk

The Ancient Near East was a region that could easily have been considered as the cradle of civilization. This was the place of the earliest forms of civilization, which could be seen in places such as Mesopotamia and Sumeria. The goddess Inanna/Ishtar was the foremost deity of Uruk, a city-state of Sumeria, and therefore critical to the Ancient Near East’s culture. Key elements that made this region drastically different than previous civilizations could be the clear utilization of agriculturally-viable environments, and possibly most important, this region was the first to be urbanized. Inanna, the patron deity of the city of Uruk in Sumeria, encompassed the agrarian and environmental aspects of this urbanized society, which can be ascertained from this ceramic head of a ram within this exhibition.

The Sumerian goddess Inanna/Ishtar was the patron deity of Uruk and the goddess who held sway over warfare and politics. Uruk was divided into two regions: one region was dedicated to the deity Anu, and the second region was dedicated to Inanna. Her name was written with a sign that represents a reed stalk tied in a loop at the top, which appears in even the very early texts from the mid-fourth millennium BCE (Inanna Mark Paragraph 1). In the article pertaining to Inanna by Joshua J. Mark, he referenced historian Gwendolyn Leick and her analyses of Mesopotamian culture. She said that from royal inscriptions of the early Dynastic Period, Inanna was frequently cited as a protectress of sorts for the kings, with Sargon of Akkad attributing his success in battles and politics to her (Inanna Mark Paragraph 2). While the deity was known as Inanna initially, as time went by and civilizations fell and rose, she became identified with the Akkadian goddess Ishtar, a Semitic deity associated with fertility. This is in part due to the Akkadian poet Enheduanna, Sargon of Akkad’s daughter, linking the two, and therein bringing Inanna from a local vegetative deity to the Queen of Heaven and ultimately the most popular goddess in Mesopotamia (Inanna Mark Paragraph 1). In this later form, she was a figure of political and military power, but also sexuality, eventually culminating in her surpassing Anu in popularity within Mesopotamia.

To further understand Inanna in Mesopotamian culture, one must look to mythological history and written texts of the time. Some particular sources that Mark addresses are Inanna and the Huluppu-Tree, which was an early creation myth, Inanna and the God of Wisdom, in which she brings knowledge and culture to Uruk, The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi, a tale of Inanna’s marriage to a vegetation god, and a poem entitled The Descent of Inanna in which the Queen of Heaven journeys to the underworld (Inanna Mark Paragraph 3). Within this vast mythological record of Uruk, Inanna was often said to have stolen the sacred meh from her father-god Enki at the sacred city of Eridu and brought them with her to Uruk. The meh were described as “divine decrees which are the basis of the culture pattern of Sumerian civilization.” Eridu was considered by the Sumerians to be the first city created by gods and therefore a place holy to them. By Inanna removing these decrees, she signified a transference of power from one city to another. In the aforementioned Inanna and the God of Wisdom, Enki makes an attempt to retrieve the decrees and return them to Eridu; however this is all in vain. Inanna successfully tricked her father and made Uruk, not Eridu, the seat of power in Sumeria. The moral to this story, particularly in relation to how Sumerians viewed the goddess Inanna, would be that Eridu was associated with rural life, whereas Uruk was the embodiment of the new way of life which was the city. This story would have given ancient Mesopotamians a reason as to why Eridu declined in importance as Uruk rose in size: it was the work of the gods (Uruk Mark Paragraph 5).

 

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Metropolitan Museum of Art. Copyright and Proprietary Rights. The text, images, trademarks, data, audio files, video files and clips, software, documentation or other information contained in these files, and other content on the Websites (collectively, the “Materials”) are proprietary to the Museum or its licensors. The Museum retains all rights, including copyright, in the Materials. Copyright and other proprietary rights may be held by individuals or entities other than, or in addition to, the Museum.

Keeping all of that information regarding Inanna in mind, this specific image depicts the head of a ram, made from clay. It may not immediately be clear how this artifact would pertain to Inanna, as she was said to ultimately be the goddess of war, politics, and later, sexuality; however, prior to her association with the Akkadian deity Ishtar, Inanna was a local vegetative god, with far less power than she had later. On the Metropolitan Museum’s website containing this image, it further explains this line of thinking, saying, “Indeed, it seems that images of sheep were common in the city at this time, especially within buildings associated with the cult of Inanna, goddess of Uruk. This might indicate that animal sculptures, such as this example, played a role in religious practice” (Metmuseum.org). Therefore, in this state, Inanna would have been represented in art as an animal, to encompass the importance of agriculture and the environment. It also would have represented Inanna’s ability to better society through the citizen’s continual devotion to her.

– Allison Lee

Works Cited

Mark, Joshua J. “Inanna,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified October 15, 2010. http://www.ancient.eu/Inanna/.

Mark, Joshua J. “Uruk,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified April 28, 2011. http://www.ancient.eu/uruk/.

“Head of a Ram.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed March 10, 2015. http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/326655?rpp=30&pg=1&ft=inanna&pos=1.

Genii

   As a part of your subconscious, the genii is a specific divine figure with an unspecific content flowing through every living creature representing the intercessor between the realms of God and man. The genii attends man throughout the duration of a life as his second or spiritual self, forever influencing and shaping ideals that the Gods set forth. As far as the literary testimonies concerned, what stands out is the overwhelming ratio of personal individual Genii, a revealing aspect for the central feature of this religious phenomenon, it’s paradoxical character that can be seen in every culture and religion.

   Every Human at birth receives a genius. The genius can be conceived as a friendly towards one person, and as a hostile towards another, or that it manifested itself to the same person in different ways at different times. The other popular theory is that we obtain two genii, one for the power of good with the other to the power of evil, and that at death depending on the influence we either rise to a higher state of existence or are condemned to a lower one. Along with the two different types of genius there are two different names regarding the gender that it resides in. Women called there genius Juno, regarding the genii of men as being in some way connected with Jupiter (mythindex.com). Among the Romans the name genius was given to the God who had the power of doing all things. The genius was a God who had the power of generating all things and presiding over them when produced. The Genii are emanations from the great gods that would act as the mediator; the agent that interprets the gods’ wills onto mankind, to keep the harmony between dimensions in order (Encyclopaedia Perthensis).

   The genii was normally depicted as a winged character by the cultures of the near middle east. However, the interpretation of this 5th-6th century bottle can more accurately describe the role the genii plays. On the outside there is a flowing pattern using four main characters who have  women’s bodies with a men’s faces representing the genii is equally a part of both genders. Each of these characters hold different objects, such as; a child, a plant, a bird and an offering plate, alluding to the fact that the genii resides in all living aspects of the world. The object being the bottle describes the idea of the genii living inside of every living thing, as part of who we are, how are personality is, our life blood.

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008 Free Software Foundation, Inc. <http://fsf.org/>

– Dustin Savage

Works Cited:

Encyclopaedia Perthensis; Or Universal Dictionary of the Arts, Science, Literature, etc. : Volume 10

http://www.mythindex.com/roman-mythology/G/Genius.html

Looting in the Near and Middle East

mummy_coffinThe Guardian: Photograph: Sandro Vannini/SCA Sandro Vannini/Supreme Council of Antiquities

Throughout history there has always been a want and a need for what you do not have, today this same premise is demonstrated in the Middle East. Due to the amount of political and economic unrest in the Middle East, they have been under the worlds watch in more ways than one. With the uprising of gangs and more predominantly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an old phenomenon has resurfaced and has made a huge impact on these regions known as looting. ISIS is now looting the Middle East on terms of funding their military operations of the region. Archeologists fear the reoccurrence of the looting fiasco from over a decade ago from the U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003. This hereby shed light onto a more controversial topic of whether international communities should intervene to help preserve these ancient artifacts that are so dear to the locals, region, and global community.

To date there has been little international involvement with the Middle Eastern problem of the need to protect and preserve the ancient civilizations that have been discovered or for the sites that have yet to be discovered. With the help of satellite technology, Sarah Parcak and her team have discovered images of buried and looted landscapes that in part discover buried cities, temples, and artifacts that could have never been seen with the naked eye. This is a huge help to the international community and has helped archeologists monitor activity of these sites.

80720_990x742-cb1402678818National Geographic: GRAPHICS: 5W INFOGRAPHICS. SOURCES: SARAH PARCAK AND GREGORY MUMFORD, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM; DIGITALGLOBE

 

While laws have been long disregarded in terms of the illegal activity of cultural artifacts inside the Middle Eastern borders and outside, there is a desperate need for a bigger solution. Now the internationally community and the museum community are working together to find a rightful way to preserve these ancient civilizations and with due time a solution stating that that they both are “calling for improved procedures at the international and federal level to prevent such practices”(Vlasic2). The need for this was seen in the United States in 2011, when three art dealers were accused of running an antiquities smuggling ring. The accused stated that they were able to lie about the place of origin, provenance, value, and the physical artifact. Apparently illegal art dealers routinely do not tell the truth of the history of ownership. Another way the international community should intervene is to establish more effective guidelines for the transfer and sale of cultural property from North America and the Middle East through more circumvent customs inspections.

So in time, to prevent this from happening, the international community should intervene to stop this horrific crime of destroying the long line of heritage these Middle Eastern countries and the world have highly regarded for generations. This can be done through mapping to locate the areas and more effective international transportation laws and establishing more effective customs inspections.

 

Jessica Honeycutt

 

Looting Issues in the Near and Middle East

Ziggurat in Iraq
Ziggurat in Iraq

Looting of artifacts within the Middle East has long since been an issue that appears to have no foreseeable resolution. This epidemic even dates back over thousands of years, such as during the ancient Mesopotamian era. A prime example of this relates to the stele of King Naram-Sin of Akkad, which was taken as war plunder and relocated in Susa, Iran. It was also interestingly one of the first known art pieces to be looted in war. With this set understanding that looting has occurred essentially since human existence, a particular point that two articles published in Art Journal by Zainab Bahrani and John Malcolm Russell touched upon was the well-publicized looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad in April of 2003. Another article in Al Jazeera that was written by Stephennie Mulder discussed lootings and the illegal sale of those artifacts, which she referred to as “blood antiquities,” that occurred in Syria and Iraq. All of that being said, if certain necessary steps are taken, these issues on theft could gradually begin to be resolved.

Stele of Narim-Sin
Stele of Narim-Sin

What may be viewed as the central argument within the aforementioned readings would be whether there are any known means to restrict the looting, and if so, what measures should be taken up to resolve the problem. Both the Russell and Bahrani articles were featured in the same magazine, so they addressed numerous commonalities, such as the cultural and personal significance behind these stolen artifacts and their relationship to their points of origin, whereas the Mulder article was a bit more technical, tackling the political side to these looting issues. A general agreement that all of these articles did seem to reach regarded the meaning behind the artifacts. It was not just the tragedy of losing irreplaceable artifacts, but more about the significance behind them. These items represented the country’s heritage and the people’s identities; therefore, once they were ripped unceremoniously from their locations, that identity was seemingly lost forever. With all of that said, personally, I feel that a clear way to truly begin to put an end to these lootings and thefts so as to preserve these meaningful objects would be via stricter security on the exportation of goods in and out of these countries, so as to better track the objects. To achieve such a feat, it seems clear that the economic and political situations in this region would need to be improved upon before any major changes could commence. To appropriately achieve more stringent security regarding the exportation of these goods, tracking systems within museums and airports would need to be implemented, or at the very least updated, as well as an overall governmental adjustment to curtail any further economic crises within the Middle East. These are not simple tasks to be done overnight; however, if other countries and institutions could step up and lend a hand, a remarkable difference could be underway.

My first point that I intend to expound upon pertains to the security within institutions, such as museums and airports. As Mulder points out in her article entitled The Blood Antiquities Funding ISIL, the real place that looting affects is in quiet showrooms and museums. On the final page, she says that by auction houses playing up connections of lost or endangered objects simply to boost sales, they are condoning this looting problem, simply to make a profit. “Collectors who imagine they are saving the artifacts from a worse fate delude themselves: Objects summarily ripped from the ground disappear into private collections and lose their ability to speak as material voices of history, robbed of the context that careful excavation by archaeologists and curation by museums can provide” (Mulder 4). I bring all of this in to relate it to my point on current lax regulations in airports and auction houses or museums, where these stolen artifacts are often headed. The looters themselves certainly do not care about the historical or cultural value behind the artifacts and monuments that they take; all they care about is making a profit off of the situation. Mulder briefly touches on this subject, which made me want to investigate further into security regulations and laws, and it certainly seems that there could be stricter protocols where these artifacts are concerned. I am obviously no expert on such matters; however, I feel that heightened security surrounding these artifacts could very well stop the lootings before they occur. If they did still continue to happen, hopefully a tracking system of sorts would be in place so as to know exactly where they are heading and stop the object’s departure, as well as pinpoint precisely what groups instigated the thefts. An effective way to know if an object has in fact been legally obtained would be through official export licenses from the countries in question so as to properly determine whether it should leave the country or not.

The second point that relates to looting that could be changed would be improving the economies and governments within the Middle East. This is certainly not a feat that could be easily achieved or even welcomed with open arms. Despite this, it seems that a change in their economy would vastly improve this situation, because the people could afford to have tightened security, and possibly less corruption so as to stop the crimes before they ever occur.

Warka Vase
Warka Vase

Bahrani and Russell said these lootings were not simply thefts of precious artifacts, but a destruction of the country’s identity and heritage. In what I think is an interesting excerpt from the Bahrani article, she says, “The reason that international laws on cultural heritage (such as the Hague Convention) exist is precisely because people’s sense of communal identity is defined in relation to a shared culture and history” (Bahrani 13). This quote stood out to me because she is clearly stating that the looters took more than just inanimate objects, but the people’s identities as well. Therefore, reforming the economy would drastically reduce these crimes, therein preserving their rich heritage. As pointed out in a New York Times article, President Obama was quoted as saying that Iraqi Sunnis are “detached from the global economy,” with which the author, Michael Singh, seems to generally agree (Singh Paragraphs 1 and 2). Singh goes on to say that the economies of the Middle East only account for just over four percent of global imports, which incidentally is even less than they did in the 1980s (Singh Paragraph 3). This all clearly alludes to the fact that the economies within this region need to be improved, so as to create a better environment and less potential room for crime. One of the ideas that Singh listed as a potential way to change their economy would be in relation to oil. He says, “America should also promote greater economic integration by cooperating with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors, and by offering Middle Eastern states better access to Western markets, especially the European Union” (Singh Paragraph 15). This is possibly one of the simplest ideas, yet I personally feel it is a strong one. By offering these states access to Western markets, they would not have to rely so heavily upon oil sales, thereby drastically changing the way their economy operates. The article continued to discuss the ways in which radical change could occur, and what steps could be taken to improve it. Singh said, “Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets,” […] “…ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth” (Singh Paragraph 13).

To appropriately achieve more stringent security regarding the exportation of these goods, tracking systems within museums and airports would need to be implemented, or at the very least updated, as well as an overall governmental adjustment to curtail any further economic crises within the Middle East. One specific idea that I mentioned was in relation to instituting a stronger, more detailed tracking system on the objects being exported, as well as better checking on proper exportation paperwork, so hopefully the artifacts would only be allowed to leave the original location by legal means. Another idea was improving the Middle East’s fragmented economies, through means such as access to different markets so as to lessen the pressure on oil sales. While these ideas may not be the absolute solution to handling looting and destruction of precious artifacts in the Middle East, they are certainly a promising start.

 

 

Works Cited

Mulder, Stephennie. “The Blood Antiquities Funding ISIL.” Al Jazeera. November 14, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015.

Bahrani, Zainab. “The Real Middle East Crisis is Economic.” Art Journal 62, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 10-17.

Russell, John Malcolm. “Why Should We Care?” Art Journal 62, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 22-29.

Singh, Michael. “Iraq’s Cultural Heritage: Monuments, History, and Loss.” New York Times. August 14, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/20/opinion/the-real-middle-east-crisis-is-economic.html?_r=1.