One way cultures differentiate from each other is through their view on life and death and how those two interact (if they interact). This relationship can be seen in the different artifacts and art pieces that the Sumerians placed in royal tombs. One of the things they placed in these burial sites were lyre sound boxes that were decorated with gold and jewels. The ornate beauty of this lyre shows that the Sumerians respected and loved music. It would have taken time and craftsmanship to create this piece, so the fact that it is in a royal cemetery speaks volumes to the importance of prestige and leadership. Sumerian leaders were buried with the beautiful things that they loved. Maybe they even thought that those things would be taken with them into their heaven. This shows that things do not just have a useful purpose, but also a spiritual purpose to some extent. I think the relationship between life and death was very important to the Sumerian people. If death did not have some significance, there would be no need to be buried with decorated sculptures, lyres, and jewelry.
(The British Museum, 2017) Source
I think it is hard to process and think about death and life as so intimately connected like the Sumerians or Egyptians thought. From a Western perspective, some believe you die and that is the end. From a Christian perspective, we believe that there is an afterlife, either heaven or hell, but you cannot take any of your earthly possessions with you. In these ancient times, death was almost glorified especially if you were royalty. It is hard to not bring my Western perspective into the picture when reading and looking at these artifacts. It is interesting that life and death and their interaction look different not only between cultures, but between individuals.
What stood out to me most as I was reading were the Jericho Skulls. I actually had the opportunity to see one of these skulls when I visited the Jordan Archeological Museum in Amman, Jordan. I didn’t really realize what I was seeing when I was looking at it, so it was fun to do some extra research on these sculptures. These skulls were found in the old city of Jericho which is in the modern-day West Bank. They are from the Neolithic period where people would put plaster on human skulls and place shells for eyes to restore and preserve these skulls (Romey, 2017). Most likely these skulls were preserved for ancestral worship. These skulls were spread out to many different museums and one landed at the British Museum. Once there, they used a 3-D printer to create an image of what they man would have looked like (Romey, 2017). It is crazy that we have the technology to do that.
(Romey, 2017) Source
Something that I found interesting was how these people would try to make these skulls as life-like as possible. They used shells for eyes and even painted on hair and facial hair (Holloway, 2014). There were also skulls made for a variety of people. Women, children, and men are all represented in the Jericho Skulls (German, 2018). It is still argued what the exact reason for plastering these skulls was, but we can tell that there was significance in remembering the dead in some way.
German, S. (2018). Khan Academy . Retrieved from Jericho: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/jericho-skull-neolithic-facial-reconstruction-archaeology-british-museum/
Holloway, A. (2014, January 18). Ancient Origins. Retrieved from The plastered skulls of Jericho: http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-asia/plastered-skulls-jericho-001232
Romey, K. (2017, January 5). National Geographic. Retrieved from Face of 9,500-Year-Old Man Revealed for First Time: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/01/jericho-skull-neolithic-facial-reconstruction-archaeology-british-museum/