As agriculture settlements turned into empires, architecture, sculptures and pottery progressed as well. Cities were formed with architectural elements to adorn the buildings, sculptures were created to glorify the gods as well as kings, and pottery transformed from having a functional purpose to being used to tell a story or depict a conquest. Artists began to explore with different types of materials, with colors and with different techniques.

Did you know?
During the Mesopotamian period artists became craftsmen; potters, metalsmiths, jewelers, stonemasons, carpenters and more. All of these types of artisans and craftsmen still exist today, and many still use the same techniques invented/discovered in the Mesopotamian art period. Techniques such as using clay from the earth to make pottery, forming the pottery on a wheel and then heating it in a high temperature oven to harden the clay.

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Below is some basic information on Mesopotamian and its characteristics and influences. If you would like to print off a copy of this page along with samples of art from this period, you can download the Mesopotamian Summary above.

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin

This stone slab monument (“stele”) celebrates the triumph of King Naram-Sin over a mountain people, the Lullubi. This major work illustrates the imperial art of the Akkadian Dynasty.

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The Standard of Ur
The Standard of Ur

The large surfaces show aspects of life in early Mesopotamia. The pictures on each side are divided into three levels which are read from bottom to top. One side shows scenes of peace and the other side shows scenes of war.

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Warka Vase
Warka Vase

This alabaster vase is 3 feet tall and weighs around 600 pounds. It was found in the Temple of Inanna in the Sumerian city of Uruk (Uruk is the ancient name, Warka is the modern name). The vase shows a king worshiping the goddess Inanna, which is an example of how art began to be used to display the role of a ruler and their connection to society.

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Quick Facts:
  • "Mesopotamia" means "land between the river "

  • Where the idea of civilized society started

Characteristics and/or Types of Art:
  • Warrior art (to put importance on military victories)

  • Storytelling on stone

  • First written language 

  • One god (instead of multiple gods) 

  • Law to create equality

  • Focus on war between competing city-states