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Ancient art and civilizations

Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker of Smarthistory together with leading art historians, and our museum partners have created hundreds of short engaging conversational videos and articles, making Khan Academy one of the most accessible and extensive resources for the study of the history of art.
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Ancient Near East

Was writing invented to record poetry or great literature? Nope. Writing was invented to help keep track of beer and other goods and services. The ancient Sumerians were nothing if not practical. Ancient Near Eastern cultures established the first cities and large scale architecture. From the gates of the city of ancient Babylon, to the ancient code of laws instituted by King Hammurabi, the Ancient Near East is distant but also remarkably familiar.
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Judaism and art

Judaism is a monotheistic religion that emerged with the Israelites in the eastern Mediterranean (southern Levant) within the context of the Mesopotamian river valley civilizations. The Israelites were but one nomadic tribe from the area, so named because they considered themselves to be the descendants of Jacob, who changed his name to Israel.
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Egyptian art and culture

Woody Allen famously said, “I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” The ancient Egyptians on the other hand, confronted death head on. In fact, the art of the ancient Egyptians was (for the most part) never meant to be seen by the living—it was meant to benefit the dead in the afterlife. Throughout human history, art has been recognized for its ability to outlive us and has been used as a receptacle for our fears and hopes about our own mortality.
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Aegean art

Excavations led by teams of archaeologists in the nineteenth century hoped to find evidence for places and people in Homer's epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. They may not have found what they sought, but along the way, they made remarkable discoveries. This tutorial covers the art of the Cycladic Islands, and the Island of Crete (Minoan), and of Mainland Greece (Mycenaean).
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Greek art

The ancient Greeks kept busy. They produced painting and sculpture that was copied by the ancient Romans, by Renaissance and Baroque masters, and by the royal academies up until the early 20th century. We still copy ancient Greek architecture, refer to their philosophy, use their geometry, perform their theatre, hold olympic games, and redefine their democracy.
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Nabataean

There is only one true way to experience Petra, the greatest city of the Nabataeans, a people who occupied the area from Sinai and Negev to northern Arabia in the west and as far north as southern Syria. On foot or mounted on a camel, one should leave the modern village of Wadi Musa in modern-day Jordan and enter the Siq, a narrow, curving canyon, that traders, explorers and travelers have been walking through since time immemorial.
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Etruscan

Before the small village of Rome became “Rome” with a capital R (to paraphrase D.H. Lawrence), a brilliant civilization once controlled much peninsula we now call Italy. This was the Etruscan civilization, a vanished culture whose achievements set the stage not only for the development of ancient Roman art and culture but for the Italian Renaissance as well.
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Roman

The Romans weren’t very original (they borrowed the Greek’s and Egyptian’s gods, architecture, etc.), but they sure knew the political value of art and they were brilliant engineers and administrators. This tutorial traces Roman art and architecture from the Republic through the collapse of the Empire and the rise Christianity. Fly over a reconstruction of the ancient city of Rome. Understand how the Colosseum was built to appease a population angry at the excesses of the former Emperor Nero, and uncover the secret initiation rites buried by the ash of Mount Vesuvius.
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Asia

Asia is both huge and diverse. Explore Hinduism's principal deities, Buddhism's most sacred shrines and recently uncovered treasures from ancient Afghanistan.
Ancient Near East
Was writing invented to record poetry or great literature? Nope. Writing was invented to help keep track of beer and other goods and services. The ancient Sumerians were nothing if not practical. Ancient Near Eastern cultures established the first cities and large scale architecture. From the gates of the city of ancient Babylon, to the ancient code of laws instituted by King Hammurabi, the Ancient Near East is distant but also remarkably familiar.
All content in “Ancient Near East”

The Ancient Near East, an introduction

Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians - no wonder we need an introduction!

Sumerian

We sometimes use the word "Ur" to speak of the origin of something (for example, "Adam spoke the ur-language"). In fact, Ur was an actual Sumerian city and we can go back there to learn about the origin of writing, cities, and even civilization. Ur really was the ur-Ur.

Akkadian

Think Sargon and Narim-sin, the Akkadians ruled most of Mesopotamia for centuries a really long time ago.

Babylonian

For two thousand years the myth of Babylon has haunted the European imagination. The Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens, Belshazzar’s Feast and the Fall of Babylon have inspired artists, writers, poets, philosophers and film makers. Learn here about the source of these myths, Babylonia itself.

Assyrian

The Assyrian empire dominated Mesopotamia and all of the Near East for the first half of the first millennium, led by a series of highly ambitious and aggressive warrior kings. The culture of the Assyrians was brutal, the army seldom marching on the battlefield but rather terrorizing opponents into submission who, once conquered, were tortured, raped, beheaded, and flayed with their corpses publicly displayed. The Assyrians torched enemies' houses, salted their fields, and cut down their orchards.

Persian

Western histories have often looked at the Persians only in relation to their confrontations with the ancient Greeks, but the Persian empire was long-lived, complex and sophisticated. The heart of ancient Persia is in what is now southwest Iran, in the region called the Fars. In the second half of the 6th century B.C.E., the Persians (also called the Achaemenids) created an enormous empire reaching from the Indus Valley to Northern Greece and from Central Asia to Egypt.