History of ancient egyptian and middle east art

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USP COURSE: 1º Grado en Historia e Historia del Arte


The main objectives are the following:

  • To provide students with a critical knowledge of the artistic production along the History, placing the art work in the socio-politic, economic, religious and ideological context of each historical period.

  • To provide students with knowledge on the characteristics, functions and basic lines of Art in its different expressions that allow them for a reading of the work of art through the interpretation of the language of its forms and the appreciation of its aesthetical values.

  • To know the different formal and visual languages together with the diverse artistic techniques used along the History and how they influence and act on the work of art.

  • To study the several approaches and methodologies in the History of Art and the several interpretations of the artistic object.

  • To acquire an analytical spirit in order to analyze the art work

  • To learn the use of new technologies as tools for the study of art work and its diffusion

  • To dominate the basic knowledge of preservation and management of artistic and historic heritage.


LECTURE: The professor will expose the theoretical aspects of the subject using didactic material such as photocopies that will be handed out in class or digitalized documents on the Campus Virtual-blackboard-. Students should have read previously a basic bibliography that they will receive at the beginning of the semester in order to contrast different points of view.

SEMINAR: There will be several seminars to approach to research with the aim to teach from the first moment the management of specific bibliography and other resources and to develop a critical learning.

Several monographic seminars will be announced to promote active participation from students.

PRACTICE: The practical sessions will consist of visits to permanent collections and temporal exhibitions as well as other institutions that house relevant works for the study of ancient art. The realization of practical sessions is subject to schedule and availability of the museums and/or institutions.
SYNTHESIS PAPERS: Students will have to write a synthesis paper on an art work in the collection of Museo Arqueologico Nacional to be chosen by the students. It should be analyzed in the research line “Art and society: politics, religion and daily life in Egypt and Middle East”. The paper will have a maximum extension of 10 pages; font: Times New Roman size 12.

The students will have to submit two written commentaries on two art works following the guidelines established in the workshops.

The final grade will be calculated based on:

  • Two written tests 60%

  • Individual research paper 20%

  • Two commentaries on two art works (workshop) 10 %

  • Participation in seminars, classes and practical sessions 10%

Thematic outline
Theme 1: Keys to interpret the Ancient Egyptian Art

Special features within the geographical frame. Obstacles to time dating and chronological frameworks: Dynasties and empires. The Egyptian society: religious and political world view. The aims of Egyptian art and their aesthetic impacts.

Theme 2: The origins of Egyptian Art: From the pre-dynastic period to Tinita Empire (First and Second Dynasties)

The pre-dynastic art: Funerary architecture. The grave goods and the decorative arts. Beginnings of sculpture and relief: the palette of cosmetics. The unification of Empire. The Tinita period. The royal funerary architecture. Sculpture and Relief: Narmer’s palette and the configuration of pharaoh’s iconography.

Theme 3: The Ancient Empire: the splendor in the Pyramids (Third and Fourth Dynasties)

The funerary architecture. The belief in an afterlife. Typology of private funerary architecture: the mastaba. The born of new royal funerary architecture: the funerary complex of Zoser. The great pyramids during the Fourth dynasty.

Theme 4: The Ancient Empire and the figurative arts.

Characteristics and peculiarities of pharaonic sculpture. The courtesan sculpture. Bass relief and painting.

Theme 5: From Middle Empire to New Empire.

Origins and configuration of the worship temple typology. The Karnak and Luxor Temple Complexes. Typologies of funerary temples. Peculiarities of figurative arts. The Amarna period.

Theme 6: Sumerian Art.

The origins of Mesopotamia’s Civilization and its development. The cities-state: the temple and the palace. The religious beliefs and the round shape sculpture. The birth of historical relief.

Theme 7: Akkadian Art

The consolidation of empire and the Akkadian palaces. The narrative historical relief.

Theme 8: The Sumerian Reinassance: from the Lagash Dynasties to Third Dynasty of Ur.

The peak of religious architecture: the ziggurat. Characteristics of sculpture: the Gudeas. The Neo-sumerian relief.

Theme 9: Assyrian Art

The arts at the service of power. The town-planning and palace projects. The architectural decoration. The narrative frieze of Kalakh, Jorsabad y Ninive.

Theme 10: The splendor of Babylonian Art

The origins of Babylonian art: The Babylon of Hammurabi. The splendor of First Millenium: the town-planning development and the monumental Neobabylon architecture. Sculpture and relief.

Theme 11. Persian Art

The origins of Persian art. The nomadic tradition and the first artistic expressions. The stage from Ciro to Dario. The art at the service of the sovereign. Architecture for palaces and the architectural decoration.

Theme 12: The art from peripheral areas

The Hittite art in the Anatolia peninsula. The Phoenician, the Syrian art and the Mediterranean.

VV. AA. (dir. J. A. Ramírez) (2001) Historia del Arte. El mundo antiguo; vol. I, Alianza Editorial,


JANSON, H. W.(1991): Historia general del Arte, vol. I, El Mundo Antiguo; vol. II, La Edad Media,

Alianza, Madrid.

MARTÍN GONZÁLEZ, J. J. (1982): Historia del Arte, I, Gredos, Madrid.
I. Collections:

VVAA. (1947-1958): Ars Hispaniae, Plus Ultra, Madrid.

VVAA. (1960-80): El Universo de las Formas, Aguilar, Madrid.

VVAA. (1966-1984): Summa Artis, Madrid, Espasa Calpe, Madrid.

II. Artistic vocabulary dictionaries:

FATÁS, G. y BORRÁS, G. (1980): Diccionario de términos de arte y arqueología, Madrid, Alianza,


LAJO, R. y SURROCA, J. (2001), Léxico de Arte, Akal, Madrid.

III. Egyptian Art and Middle East Art:

ALVAR, J. (1989): Las claves del Arte mesopotámico y persa, Ariel, Barcelona.

FRANKFORT, H. (1982): Arte y arquitectura del Oriente Antiguo, Cátedra, Madrid.

MANNICHE, L. (1997): El arte egipcio, Alianza Editorial, Madrid.

SMITH, W.S. (2000): Arte y arquitectura del antiguo Egipcio, Cátedra, Madrid.
Enciclopedia de arte : (http://www.artcyclopedia.com/index.html)

The Grove Dictionary of Art (http://www.artnet.com/library/biosgrove.asp)

Art History Resources on the Web: (http://witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHLinks.html)

The Egypt Archive: (http://www.egyptarchive.co.uk/html/index.html)

Arte Antiguo: (http://www.utexas.edu/courses/classicalarch/images.html)

Arte mesopotámico: (http://cdli.ucla.edu/staff/englund/Images/Images.html

Museo arqueológico Nacional (http://man.mcu.es)

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