The piece of artwork that stood out to me in this week’s reading was the “Sculptured Vase from Uruk” from 3500-3000 B.C. The vase is covered with icons along the surface. The icons represent the celebration of “renewal and rebirth” (Adams, 2005). One of the most common themes for rituals during the Neolithic period was fertility. The goddess of fertility, love and war is Inanna. All of this is connected to the idea with the living. It can also represent the dead because life and death go hand-in-hand.
Death is such a dark, fragile topic. In general, I believe our society treats the topic of life and death with respect. Every culture has their own belief on this idea. I find it very fascinating to learn about what each culture believe happens after death. My grandmother is Buddhist. She believes that when we die, our spirits are rebirthed into another human/animal/being. The goal is to reach enlightenment and get out of the cycle of rebirth. I love listening to stories from people like my grandmother or reading about them in textbooks because I know it is helping me to become more cultured, which is such a great feeling.
Due to climate changes during the Neolithic era, people in the Near East learned how to culturally adapt. They were constantly on the move because of the difficult living conditions of the droughts and cold. They changed from their usually customs of hunting and focused more on agriculture/farming. One of the cities in the Near East is Jericho. It is a city in the West Bank and was one of the most protected areas. Their mud-brick houses were surrounded by walls and trenches to act as a barrier from their enemies.
During this time period, they started developing more religious ceremonies centered around the circle of life, “particularly those related to burial customs” (Holloway, 2014). Traditionally, they buried the dead underneath their houses. There have been findings of skulls in the ancient homes called “Jericho Skulls.” They would take off the heads of the dead and place plaster all over it. They shaped the plaster in a way to make them look as true to a living person as possible by taking off the skin and jawbones. As a result of the close representation of the dead, it is thought the skulls may be, “portraits of the deceased” (Holloway, 2014). They have found over 60 of these skulls in this area of Jericho.
Many people have tried to figure out what they are supposed to symbolized. There are three ideas the article I found my information from stated, which are, “that it is a religious aspect to practice reflecting a belief that life continues after death through the preservation of the individual characteristics of the deceased, they are powerful images made to remember and commemorate loved ones”, or that they “were used as substitutes for the deceased to help ward off the return of the dead” (Holloway, 2014).
Overall, the idea of life and death is a very prevalent theme during this time period. It could be due to the amount of change these people had to endure from the climate changing. Many people probably died because of the droughts and cold weather, which is why fertility would be celebrated and needed for their population to grow. It is a very interesting theme and I am glad we were able to reflect about this week.
Adams, L. S. (2005). A history of western art (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Holloway, A. (2014, January 18). The plastered skulls of Jericho. Retrieved June 12, 2018, from http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/plastered-skulls-jericho-001232