The Art of the Middle East Including Persia, Mesopotamia and Palestine

By Leonard Woolley | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE HURRI AND THE HITTITES

In tracing the history of the art of Sumer and Akkad down to about 1800 B.C. we have said nothing about the peripheral countries, only insisting that from them came much of the material upon which that art depended. The imports that Sumer required had to be paid for; this meant the constant exchange of goods and often personal contacts, and since Sumer led the way in the development of civilisation it was always setting a cultural example to the neighbouring peoples with whom it did trade. Amongst these were the Hurri people, living to the north and north-west of that part of Mesopotamia in which the Sumerian civilisation was at home. It was through Hurri territory that there came to Sumer the cedar and hardwoods of the Amanus mountains, and in the villages of the Amq plain, at the foot of the Amanus, first the painted pottery of al 'Ubaid and then the burnished wares of Uruk bear witness to the fact that the timber trade was active even in those early days; soon after 2700 B.C. the king of Alalakh, who controlled the trade-route, adorned the façade of his palace with huge columns built of specially-moulded mud bricks, a fashion set by his eastern clients such as those who built the colonnades of Warka and Kish. Further to the east the evidence for Sumerian contacts is, as might be expected, far more plentiful. At Brak, in the fertile valley of the Khabur, the walls of the 'Eye Temple', which is at least as early as the late Jamdat Nasr period, were enriched with mosaics of clay cones like those of Warka, and the altar had a frieze of gold, white limestone and grey shale, while the wall was decorated with eight-petalled stone rosettes like those of the First Dynasty temple at al 'Ubaid; moreover, there were found in the temple innumerable stone amulets in the form of animals -- they are really stamp seals, engraved underneath -- for the most part identical with those found in Sumer in the Jamdat Nasr levels. All this is borrowed art: but side by side with it come the curious 'eye idols' from which the temple takes its name, little alabaster figures with an almost square body and a neck supporting not a face but two (or sometimes three, four or six) big eyes, with perhaps a polos head-dress above. These have nothing to do with Sumer but are native to the land. Native also are two or three alabaster heads from acrolithic statues which, like the

'Eye idols'

Brak

-121-

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