Week 2 (Hannah)

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.

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(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.

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(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.

(First picture is from my trip), (Holloway, 2014) Source, (Romey, 2017) Source

 

Bibliography:

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/

 

5 thoughts on “Week 2 (Hannah)”

  1. Realizing that we cannot take our earthly possessions with us to heaven would definitely change the motivations of many people, especially here in the United States. There are some people out there who spend their whole lives collecting money and expensive things, but where does all that stuff go when they die? Not with them, that’s for sure. It’s definitely good to keep that in mind when shopping or looking at spendy items… I also did research of the Jericho Skulls and after learning all about them, I am so jealous that you got to see a couple in person! Before, they were just two skulls in a glass case, but now that you have background information, I bet they’d be even more amazing if you went back and saw them again 🙂

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    1. It’s amazing how much we materialize things in America. What a lifestyle change it would be to stop collecting things and start building relationships! I know I am at fault for that as well. I would love to go back and see these skulls again now that I have a little more background knowledge!

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  2. I think you brought up a really interesting thought in how (and if) death and life are interacted with together in a culture. I feel like often they are so distinct, that it’s hard to think of them as having common aspects. It would be cool to evaluate how that interaction grows or disipates over time amongst cultures.

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  3. The elements surrounding the dead really do put in perspective on what was important to the people back then. That seems like a common trend throughout time, like burying the dead with things they liked. It’s interesting to see the difference in how the people back then saw death. It seems like religion has a lot of influence of death. For Christians, we expect heaven/hell, and for Hindus and other Asian religions, reincarnation is a huge element after death.

    That’s so cool you got to see the Jericho Skulls in person. I think it’s interesting that the people from the Neolithic age would try to make the skulls as lifelike as possible. It seems like an alternative of having a portrait painted or having a picture taken for remembrance. Do you know where the skulls were stored? Were they placed around the living areas like decoration, or was there a specific place that the skulls were placed?

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    1. Religon definitely plays a part in what we believe about life and death. It makes me want to learn more about other religions!

      That’s a great question! It looks like they would display them in their homes. So it was a way to remember the deceased family member.

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