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Video transcript

[Music] we're in the Louvre in Paris that holds one of the most important collections of clay vessels from ancient Susa ancient Susa is in modern-day Iran going back about 6,000 years to 4000 BCE and we're looking at a beautiful beaker decorated with animal forms and geometric patterns 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 arise in fact this area at certain moments in history becomes politically part of southern Mesopotamia the cities of auric and or but at this point 4000 BCE this is still prehistoric we're looking at people who lived in a very fertile river valley who painted beautiful vessels and buried them in their cemeteries at about 4000 BC we believe that the hills of raised mound and had a temple on top and the whole area was continuously occupied for about five thousand years so we have this extraordinary accumulation but when we dig all the way down we get to this pot and pots like it and because this is prehistoric this is before writing we have no records of why they bury their dead with the pots what they believe what their religion was the gods or goddesses that they were worshipping on that Temple Mount but we do have extraordinarily beautiful pots it's handmade it's clay and it's painted it's quite thin it doesn't have the perfection you get from something that's made on a wheel though some archaeologists have conjectured there was perhaps made on a slow wheel although others think it was completely handmade in any case it was clearly hand-painted the circular forms balanced by forms that are linear balanced by geometric hard edged forms like rectangles now you mentioned animals that the most obvious is the mountain goat the mountain goat occupies the large rectangle the body is actually made out of two arcs to create this very geometric form but it's mostly his horns could take up those suit this is not a naturalistic image of a mountain goat his body is reduced to triangles so very stylized in these natural forms nevertheless this real detail here we can make out the goats 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 it has a kind of dog that's rather like a greyhound very thin and elongated perhaps it's reclining perhaps it's running and then above that we see wading birds with elongated next the next 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 this is beautiful integration between the Victoria and the actual body of the pot 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 for this crisscross 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 had something 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 right but we don't know if those meanings are in play here in Susa the name Susa may be familiar because later on figures in the prophecy of daniel and it also figures in the book of Esther variously as soos are sometimes sue-shaun 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 Cemetery [Music]
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