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Bushel with ibex motifs

Bushel with ibex motifs, 4200--3500 B.C.E., Susa I period, necropolis, acropolis mound, Susa, Iran, painted terra-cotta, 28.90 x 16.40 cm, excavations led by Jacques de Morgan, 1906-08 (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker.
Created by Steven Zucker and Beth Harris.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user Christian Lumley
    These pots really remind me of later Greek Geometric Period pottery. Is there any way that pots of this style could have influenced later Greek pottery?
    (10 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Миленa
    The incredible sophistication in this pot - the contrast and balance of geometric and naturalistic shapes - reminds you that people from thousands of years ago were as intelligent as we are today!

    Archaeologists found this by accident because they were looking for a Biblical site. How many undiscovered sites do they suspect are still uncovered because we have nothing to motivate us to look in that area?
    (11 votes)
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  • marcimus orange style avatar for user Bella Grusing
    Wasn't most of this suppost to be located in Mesopotamia
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user JustinLee1533
    Why is it significant that the tails' of the dogs spin in the opposite direction of the goat's horns? Would it have been less significant if they were in the same direction?
    (2 votes)
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    • leafers ultimate style avatar for user amateur
      I think it's a matter of balance. Having the horns of the ibex spin one way and the tails of the dogs in another creates a sence of balanced movement. This being said, if they had been in the same direction the pot would have looked just as beautiful to me!
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Virginia Mason
    This pot is thrilling to look at. I love the birds around the top and the dogs. I never would have noticed them if they hadn't been pointed out. It seems so modern and witty. Are any modern artists influenced by this work?
    (2 votes)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user Yvonne
      Definitely! Earlier this year I was at Pompidou Centre viewing arts by Jeff Koons and Marcel Duchamp. Jeff Koons was influenced by Venus of Willendorf and arts of antiquity. And his works are kitch and similar to Andy Warhol in identifying what is the meaning of arts in a media saturated society. Marcel Duchamp in the same timeline as Pablo Picasso exploring cubism and futurism and influenced by previous movements of impressionists. Nude Descending the Staircase, in my opinion shares the similar experience of how to feel and embrace of the human form and storytelling. And if you look at the Greek vase painting, the human forms are stylised and forms stories. Marcel Duchamp influenced many post Modern artists, Jeff Koons is one of them.
      (3 votes)
  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Sara Healey
    Was it a religious thing, when they buried the pots with the bodies?
    (1 vote)
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  • leaf grey style avatar for user jdubu08
    Could the rectangular shapes boxing the mountain goat symbolize some form of protection? The dogs running around chasing the goats? The cranes just standing tall gazing over the land?
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user npotonon
    what we know about the people who built Stonehenge?
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user 189743
    What is the scale/size of these Ibex Beakers?
    (1 vote)
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  • starky sapling style avatar for user Allison
    what do you think?
    1.holy items
    2.simbols represent there life
    3.other (what i think is ...)
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(piano music) Voiceover: We're in the Louvre in Paris that holds one of the most important collections of clay vessels from Ancient Susa. Voiceover: Ancient Susa is in modern day Iran, going back about 6,000 years to 4,000 B.C.E., and we're looking at a beautiful beaker decorated with animal forms and geometric patterns. Voiceover: So, 6,000 years ago, this is right at the cusp of the Neolithic and the Historical Era, just before the great cities of Mesopotamia rise. Voiceover: In fact, this area at certain moments in history becomes politically part of southern Mesopotamia, the cities of Uruk and Ur, but at this point, 4,000 B.C.E, this is still prehistoric. We are looking at people who lived in a very fertile river valley who painted beautiful vessels and buried them in their cemetaries. Voiceover: At about 4,000 B.C., we believe that they built a raised mound and had a temple on top, and the whole area was continuously occupied for about 5,000 years, so we have this extraordinary accumulation, but when we dig all the way down, we get to this pot and pots like it. Voiceover: And because this is prehistoric, this is before writing and we have no records of why they bury their dead with the pots, what they believe, what their religion was, the gods or goddesses they were worshiping on that temple mount, but we do have extraordinarily beautiful pots. Voiceover: It's handmade, it's clay, and it's painted. It's quite thin and it doesn't have the perfection you get from something that's made on a wheel, though some archaeologists have conjectured it was perhaps made on a slow wheel, although others think it was completely handmade. In any case, it was clearly hand-painted. Voiceover: The circular forms balanced by forms that are linear, balanced by geometric, hard-edged forms, like rectangles. Voiceover: They mentioned animals but the most obvious is the mountain goat. The mountain goat occupies the large rectangle, and the body is actually made out of two arcs to create this very geometric form. Voiceover: But it's mostly his horns that take up the... (laughs) Voiceover: (laughs) Yeah. Voiceover: So, this is not a naturalistic image of a mountain goat. His body is reduced to triangles. So, very stylized images of these natural forms. Voiceover: Nevertheless, there is real detail here. We can make out the goat's beard, his ears. We can make out his nose, where his eyes would be. We can see the bush of his tail, and we see that kind of detail in the other animals that are represented here. Just above the rectangle that holds the goat, we see a band that wraps around the vessel, that has a kind of dog that's rather like a greyhound. Voiceover: Very thin and elongated, perhaps it's reclining, perhaps it's running, and then above that we see wading birds with elongated necks. Voiceover: The necks speak to the verticality of the vessel, and the roundness of the horns speak to the cylindrical shape of the vessel. It's wonderful the way these geometric elements reflect the shape of the object itself. There's this beautiful integration between the pictorial and the actual body of the pot. Voiceover: Look at how the tails of the dogs spin back in the opposite direction of the horns of the mountain goat, of the ibex. But then we have these things we can't identify, this criss-cross pattern with these angular forms in the center almost looks like stitching on a baseball. We see that shape repeated on other vessels, so perhaps it has meaning...in fact, perhaps the animals themselves had meaning, and were associated with different ideas, perhaps fertility, or water, because we know that those associations were made later on in Ancient Mesopotamia. Voiceover: Right, but we don't know if those meanings are in play here in Susa. Voiceover: The name "Susa" may be familiar, because later on it figures in the Prophecy of Daniel, and it also figures in the Book of Esther, variously [Esusa], or sometimes Shushan. Voiceover: And in fact, the reason that these pots were found is because an archaeologist was looking for the tomb of Daniel and came upon this extraordinary cemetary. (piano music)