Mesopotamia, or ‘the country between two rivers’, is the oldest civilisation to have flourished at the confluence of two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. The Mesopotamians included various peoples, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Akkadians, who coexisted and succeeded one another, mixing and inter-relating in a Near East with a wide range of racial facets. These different peoples, who once lived along the banks of the two rivers, have left behind an archaeological heritage of inestimable value.
From Sumeria have come examples of fine works in marble, diorite, hammered gold, and lapis lazuli. Of the many portraits produced in this area, some of the best are those of Gudea, ruler of Lagash. Some of the portraits are in marble, others, such as the one in the Louvre in Paris, are cut in gray-black diorite.
Dating from about 2400 BC, they have the smooth perfection and idealized features of the classical period in Sumerian art. Sumerian art and architecture was ornate and complex. Clay was the Sumerians’ most abundant material. Stone, wood, and metal had to be imported.
The statues of various sizes are covered in gypsum or limestone. In general, men wear fringed or tufted fleece skirts and women, fringed or tufted dresses draped over one shoulder. The statues are usually carved with the hands clasped, right over left, at the chest or waist in a gesture of attentiveness. Some figures hold cups or branches of vegetation. Male statues were taller whereas female statues were smaller in size.
One of the famous statues of Mesopotamia ia the Tell Asmar sculpture. The Asmar statues were modeled from processed gypsum (calcium sulphate). The ancient technique involves firing gypsum at about 300 degrees Fahrenheit until it becomes a fine white powder (called plaster of Paris). The powder is then mixed with water and then modeled and/or sculpted.
Another famous statue is seated statue of gudea. This sculpture belongs to a series of diorite statues commissioned by Gudea, who devoted his energies to rebuilding the great temples of Lagash and installing statues of himself in them. Many inscribed with his name and divine dedications survive. Here, Gudea is depicted in the seated pose of a ruler before his subjects, his hands folded in a traditional gesture of greeting and prayer.
Assyrian Eagle Headed Spirit Wall Sculpture is an ancient Assyrian artifact of an eagle with magical powers. The eagle-headed winged protective spirit is known as an “Apkallu” spirit. The eagle-headed being touches traditions and beliefs that go back thousands of years in Mesopotamia, when similar images of terracotta would be buried under doorways or set up at the entrances of palaces and temples.