Art is a huge part of ancient history. Ancient art provides insight from the past about many different civilizations. Just from looking at ancient art archeologists can found out hold old something like pottery is, or who ruled over an area at a certain time. Egypt and Persia are thought to have the richest artistic history and various, diverse artifacts from thousands of years ago.
The Egyptian Empire consisted of three different time periods, The Old Kingdom, The Middle Kingdom, and The New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom was one of the most dynamic periods in the development of Egyptian art. Artists expressed their cultures, masons learned to build monuments and buildings, sculptors made statues in wood, metal, and stone. They also perfected the art of carving and carved on the walls of temples and tombs. During the Middle Kingdom there was a change in the art, a new technique came in to use. This style was called tempera, which mimicked relief sculpture. In the period, the style of Egyptian art was very futuristic, decorative, lively, and linear in character. The New Kingdom, which lasted almost 500 years, is known especially for architecture and statues honoring gods and pharaohs, during this time Egypt also produced an abundance of artistic masterpieces. All of these different periods and cultures created the ideas of art and architecture that we use today.
Persia also consisted of several dynasties that greatly influenced the Persian style of art. There was The Sassanian dynasty, The Timurid dynasty, and the Safavid dynasty. The Sassanian dynasty had the richest period of artistic achievement. The Persians developed a wide range of new styles and techniques. The Sassanians also introduced silk to Persia. In Persia, they produced fine jewelry, and used silver, gold, bronze and even ceramic to decorate their palaces with sculptures and mosaics. The Timurid dynasty reflected Chinese culture in their ceramics and ornate calligraphy which developed. During the Timurid dynasty, Chinese influences were apparent in the development of one of Persia’s greatest artistic achievements, the miniature painting, which was used to illustrate books of poetry, history, and romance. The last dynasty was called the Safavid dynasty. During this period, Persian art changed and began to show influences of Western style. During this time, Persians began to make rugs. They made rugs out of many different fabrics, but usually silk. Palaces began to be painted with murals. The Safavid dynasty marked Persia’s artistic decline due to European influences growing stronger. Persia, over many centuries blended many influences to create a rich diversity of arts, styles, and techniques.
Ancient Egyptian art forms are characterized by the depiction of gods, human beings, heroic battles, and nature. Ancient Egyptian art displays detailed representations of Ancient Egyptian’s social statuses and belief systems. Egyptians always depicted people in sculptures and paintings to be happy and young. Traditionally, figures of humans were drawn in profile but one eye and both shoulders were shown frontally. This art style resulted in forms which were caused by lack of perspective. The head was not drawn as a full face but it had a full face eye. Artists made both arms visible on both sides of the body. All subjects were depicted in profile against a flat background. Egyptian art is also characterized by the use of simple lines and shapes in order to create balance. Horizontal and vertical reference lines were used by artists to maintain correct proportions. The body was shown in three quarters view. Legs were turned sideways and head and eyes faced forward. The art style of the Ancient Egyptians used a combination of all these different styles.
Ancient Egyptians used a variety of materials including wood, metal, and stone. Egyptians used a variety of different stone in a variety of different ways. The Egyptians first started using stone around the second dynasty. They used stone like limestone and granite, and were the first to make huge structures out of stone. Granite, diorite, and other hard stones were used mainly for lapidary work because of its strength and durability. Working with stone had to be done with stone tools and building a larger structure like a pyramid could take many years to build, but sculptures and smaller architectural work was easier because they were made of a softer stone. Sculptures were made of limestone and sandstone because sculptors could carve more detail into a sculpture.
Stone was also a material Egyptians used in creating their artwork. Metal was commonly used, especially arsenic bronze because of its flexibility. Gold and silver were very highly valued and often traded. In Ancient times, silver was rarer then gold and back then was more expensive. Nubia was Egypt’s chief source of gold, because gold was plentiful in the desert. Besides gold, deserts were also explored for building stone such as basalt and diorite. Egyptians also looked for mineral resources that could be used throughout Egypt. Later on, copper and turquoise were discovered at the Sinai Peninsula and were used to design jewelry.
Egyptians used gold for ship building, baskets, furniture, and other crafts but wood was Egypt’s most serious deficiency. Wood for these and many more uses were supplied by Africa. The wood came by ship and traded a variety of exotic woods like cedar and ebony. A sculptor would use wood in a variety of ways but it was so rare that it had to be imported. Wood that was used in Egypt included tamarisk, acacia, fig, tree wood, and pine tree. These woods would be carved with knives and then polished with stones.
Papyrus was a paper-like material from reeds that grew along the banks of the Nile. The reeds went through a whole process before it could be written on. First they were extracted, glued, soaked, and then dried. After it dried, papyrus lasted a long time and was used mainly for writing and art. Hieroglyphics were symbols that could be considered writing or art. Hieroglyphics retained a pictorial appearance and were highly decorative when carved or painted.
The use of color was very important in Egyptian art. Six basic colors were used in Ancient Egyptian art, white, black, red, yellow, blue, and green. All these different colors also had different meanings in Egyptian art. White meant purity, black meant death, red meant victory, yellow meant gold/sun, blue meant water/re-birth, and green meant new life/plants. The colors used were symbolic and all of them had a variety of meanings.
Persian art is considered one of the richest art heritages in world history. Their types of art included painting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metal working, and stone masonry. Persia was a very artistic dynasty and archeologists have found thousands of artifacts and everyone they found had great quality and design. Thousands of unique artifacts were found in only two sites. One archeologist said, “The taste and talent of this people can be seen through the design of their earth wares”. Painted pottery has been discovered and dates back as far as the third millennium. The first pots showed simple geometric shapes and linear patterns. Pots were not only painted on but sometimes had scenes on nature molded into them.
Persian art has always reflected other cultures. Originally, Persian art was mostly naturalistic, but when Islam arose, it discouraged the depiction of living creatures so Persians had to adjust to the new rules. The main art styles of Ancient Persia included Rug weaving and miniature paintings. The art and skill of carpet weaving had its roots in Persia. Weavers mixed colors and patterns to make beautiful, diverse rugs. Colors that make the cloth have color are natural dies such as flowers, roots, or tea. All rugs were different because people used different patterns, knots, and textures. There are several different branches in Persian Miniature Paintings. There is the classical art of Persian miniature and the teahouse style of painting. Many modern Iranian artists now practice art in an international style.
Historians credit Ancient Egyptians with teaching man-kind how to build. Over many centuries, Egyptians learned how to build palaces, temples, gateways, courtyards, pyramids, and houses. In pre-dynastic times huts and shrines were built of wood, but those structures were only temporary. Egyptians used what was available to them (mud, wood, reed, straw, stone, etc.). Egyptians had many different forms of architecture including Mastabas (step pyramids), tombs, and pyramids. The step pyramid at Sakkarah was the first structure ever made out of stone. At that time, Egyptians just started using stone like limestone.
In ancient Egypt tombs and pyramids were both used as burials. In the building of the pyramid complex, as well as the burial chamber, people like pharaohs stored things like furniture, weapons, tools, jewelry, and precious objects inside. Royal tomb remains, besides the damaged items, indicate that Egypt was highly organized and civilized. These tombs developed from earlier forms of burial. The earliest graves were pits dug in the desert lined with reed mats and had pottery and personal belongings lain around the body.
Persian architecture also had a very unique design and style. Persian architecture had maintained continuity but was often interrupted by political conflicts or foreign invasion. Their architecture was based on geometry and shapes and lines. Persian building plans were often based on symmetrical layouts. Certain elements of Persian architecture have been used throughout the entire history of Persia. Their architecture was famous for decorative preferences, columns, and the plan and elevation of buildings. The first ideas of houses and huts were used and then were upgraded, but even the first styles, they continued to use for a long time. Persian buildings vary from peasant huts to houses, pavilions, and gardens. Until modern building materials were used, houses in Persia were made of mud-brick. One to two story houses with thick walls were built especially to control temperature.
In some houses and larger buildings there were sometimes cooling systems. Persian architecture displays a variety of structural and aesthetic design. Materials available during that time and in that area caused the major forms in traditional architecture. Heavy clays encouraged the development of all primitive building techniques (molded mud bricks). With so much clay in the earth, these ideas of mud-brick caused the development of the brick we use today.