The second half of the 4th millennium B.C. was a pivotal time in the development of complex societies in the Near East. Nowhere is this clearer than in the alluvial lowlands of southern Iraq, where Mesopotamian civilization had its origins. The process whereby this occurred is only beginning to be fathomed, but it is clear that communities in the southern Mesopotamian alluvium were expanding rapidly. Internally, this is discernible in the explosive growth of cities and their dependencies, as documented in surveys by Adams (1981). The city of Warka (ancient Uruk), for example, grew to an estimated 200 hectares by the Late Uruk period (Finkbeiner 1987), largely by incorporating rural populations from the surrounding countryside. Rapidly developing social and political differentiation is also observable within alluvial polities at this time. This may be inferred from architectural complexes at Warka and Eridu, where earlier prehistoric temples give way without interruption to ever more massive and complex Uruk administrative structures (Heinrich 1982; Safar et al. 1981). Other innovations include new forms of economic arrangements and record keeping, possibly for the first time in human history (Nissen 1985, 1986). Pertinent archaeological, representational, and textual evidence (such as Warka's Archaic Texts) suggest that by the Uruk period the state held control of a portion of the means of production (encumbered labor) and of its surplus (Zagarell 1986), and that craft and occupational specialization on an industrial scale had been developed (Nissen 1970, 1976). These changes were accompanied by the creation of new forms of symbolic representation that were presumably needed to validate the transformations taking place in the realm of social and political relationships. In turn, this led to the creation of an artistic tradition and iconographical repertoire that was to set the framework for pictorial representation in Mesopotamia for millennia to follow.
The internal processes just described, however, could not and did not occur in isolation. Save for the products of irrigated agriculture and animal husbandry, the alluvial lowlands of southern