Sam Harrelson

Introducing the Assyrians

 

Layard’s discoveries caused a media sensation and captured the public imagination. This had a major impact on painting and applied arts, in the UK and beyond, during the second half of the nineteenth century, which led to a brief phase of ‘Assyrian revival’. The Assyrian sculptures at the British Museum largely remain today where they were first installed over 160 years ago.

Source: Introducing the Assyrians – The British Museum Blog

My work, Asia Has Claims Upon New England: Assyrian Reliefs at Yale, covers the American reaction (primarily northeastern colleges meant to educate ministers such as Yale, Harvard, Williams, Union Seminary, Amherst etc) to “Assyriamania.”

The British Museum has an incredible collection of Assyrian artifacts, as does the Metropolitan Museum in New York. However, these small (at the time) colleges were also collecting Assyrian reliefs not just for academic study or curiosity but to prove a point about the Bible to the young men they were training for a life in the ministry.

It’s a fascinating story and I hope to revisit it and do more exploration into the missionary-minded impetus behind collecting and displaying these archaeological (and theological) pieces.

Btw, in “Asia Has Claims…,” I was able to work with Prof. Samuel Paley to produce a computer animation (way back in 2001) that more accurately depicted what the throne room of Ashurnasirpal II’s palace would have looked like (the one drawn in the 19th cent for Layard that’s at the top of this post was waaaaay off).




Sumer and the Modern Paradigm

Modern artists discovered Sumerian art between the world wars, at a time when British and American archaeological missions were working in southern Iraq. But archaeologists like Leonard Woolley, head of the mission in Ur were less fascinated by their finds. They considered Mesopotamian art inferior to Egyptian and to Graeco-Roman art and thought Mesopotamian iconography was an expression of a violent culture. Sacrificed bodies found at the Royal Tombs of Ur were the proof that the Bible was right about the Mesopotamian barbarism.

Source: – ANE TODAY – 201802 – Sumer and the Modern Paradigm




Don’t Buy Into the Myth of Human Progress

Integral calculus, like theology, are areas we imagine we have forward progress as humans… not always the case.

“What is perhaps more surprising is the sophistication with which they tracked the planet, judging from inscriptions on a small clay tablet dating to between 350 B.C. and 50 B.C. The tablet, a couple of inches wide and a couple of inches tall, reveals that the Babylonian astronomers employed a sort of precalculus in describing Jupiter’s motion across the night sky relative to the distant background stars. Until now, credit for this kind of mathematical technique had gone to Europeans who lived some 15 centuries later.”

Source: Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon – The New York Times

 




“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics…”

 

“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics… it doesn’t improve. The work that was done in 2000 B.C. is as relevant as art today. And that’s the fascinating thing about art. That’s a conundrum. There is no new invention…This work is valid.”

Early Bronze Age (Iran or Mesopotamia). Head of a ruler, ca. 2300–2000 B.C. Copper alloy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1947

Source: Dorothea Rockburne on an ancient Near Eastern head of a ruler | The Artist Project | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beautiful.