Information

Warka Vase [Middle Register]



Warka Vase [Middle Register] - History

More than 4,000 years ago the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers began to teem with life--first the Sumerian, then the Babylonian, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Persian empires. Here too excavations have unearthed evidence of great skill and artistry. Examples of fine works in marble, diorite, hammered gold, and lapis lazuli have been found. Stone, wood, and metal was imported. Sumerian art and architecture was ornate and complex - primarily used for religious purposes - painting and sculpture the main median used.

Of the many portraits produced in this area, some of the best are those of Gudea, ruler of Lagash. Some of the portraits are in marble, others, such as the one in the Louvre in Paris, are cut in gray-black diorite. Dating from about 2400 BC, they have the smooth perfection and idealized features of the classical period in Sumerian art.

Clay was the Sumerians' most abundant material. Sumerian techniques and motifs were widely available because of the invention of cuneiform writing before 3000 B.C. Among other Sumerian arts forms were highly sophisticated clay cylinder seals used to mark documents or property.

The famous votive marble sculptures from Tell Asmar represent tall, bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts. The tallest figure is about 30 inches in height. He represents the god of vegetation. The next tallest represents a mother goddess-mother goddesses were common in many ancient cultures. They were worshipped in the hope that they would bring fertility to women and to crops. (Another connection to African culture.)

The next largest figures are priests. The smallest figures are worshippers - a definite hierarchy of size. This is an example of artistic iconography. We learn to read picture symbols- - bodies are cylindrical and scarcely differentiated by gender, with their uplifted heads and hands clasped. This is a pose of supplication-wanting or waiting for something.

Ur yielded much outstanding Sumerian work, e.g., a wooden harp with the head of a bull on top, showing mythological scenes in gold and mosaic inlay on the sound box (c.2650 B.C., Univ. of Penn., Philadelphia).

This system of writing developed before the last centuries of the 4th millennium B.C. in the lower Tigris and Euphrates valley, most likely by the Sumerians. The characters consist of arrangements of wedge-like strokes, generally on clay tablets. The history of the script is strikingly like that of the Egyptian hieroglyphic.

Sumerian Sculpture


Practically all Sumerian sculpture served as adornment or ritual equipment for the temples. No clearly identifiable cult statues of gods or goddesses have yet been found. Many of the extant figures in stone are votive statues, as indicated by the phrases used in the inscriptions that they often bear: "It offers prayers," or "Statue, say to my king (god)."

The Warka Vase, is the oldest ritual vase in carved stone discovered in ancient Sumer and can be dated to round about 3000 B.C. or probably 4th-3rd millennium B.C. It shows men entering the presence of his gods, specifically a cult goddess Innin (Inanna), represented by two bundles of reeds placed side by side symbolizing the entrance to a temple. The detailed drawing above was made from tracing a photograph (from Campbell, Shepsut) of the temple vase found at Uruk/Warka, dating from approximately 3100 BCE. It is over one meter (nearly 4 feet) tall. On the upper tier is a figure of a nude man that may possibly represent the sacrificial king. He approaches the robed queen Inanna. Inanna wears a horned headdress.

The Queen of Heaven stands in front of two looped temple poles or "asherah," phallic posts, sacred to the goddess. A group of nude priests bring gifts of baskets of gifts, including, fruits to pay her homage on the lower tier. This vase is now at the Iraq Museum in Bagdad.


Inanna - Female Head from Uruk, c. 3500 - 3000 B.C., Iraq Museum, Baghdad.

Inanna in the Middle East was an Earth and later a (horned) moon goddess Canaanite derivative of Sumerian Innin, or Akkadian Ishtar of Uruk. Ereshkigal (wife of Nergal) was Inanna's (Ishtar's) elder sister. She descended from the heavens into the hell region of her sister-opposite, the Queen of Death, Ereshkigal. And she sent Ninshubur her messenger with instructions to rescue her should she not return. The seven judges (Annunaki) hung her naked on a stake. Ninshubar tried various gods (Enlil, Nanna, Enki who assisted him with two sexless creatures to sprinkle a magical food and water on her corpse 60 times). She was preceded by Belili, wife of Baal (Heb. Tamar, taw-mawr', from an unused root meaning to be erect, a palm tree). She ended up as Annis, the blue hag who sucked the blood of children. Inanna in Egypt became the goddess of the Dog Star, Sirius which announced the flood season of the Nile."

Sumerian Statuettes, from the Temple of Abu, Tel Asmar, c. 2700 - 2600 B.C., Iraq Museum, Baghdad and Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.

Male statues stand or sit with hands clasped in an attitude of prayer. They are often naked above the waist and wear a woolen skirt curiously woven in a pattern that suggests overlapping petals (commonly described by the Greek word kaunakes, meaning "thick cloak"). A toga-like garment sometimes covers one shoulder. Men generally wear long hair and a heavy beard, both often trimmed in corrugations and painted black. The eyes and eyebrows are emphasized with colored inlay. The female coiffure varies considerably but predominantly consists of a heavy coil arranged vertically from ear to ear and a chignon behind. A headdress of folded linen sometimes conceals the hair. Ritual nakedness is confined to priests.

It has been thought that the rarity of stone in Mesopotamia contributed to the primary stylistic distinction between Sumerian and Egyptian sculpture. The Egyptians quarried their own stone in prismatic blocks, and one can see that, even in their freestanding statues, strength of design is attained by the retention of geometric unity. By contrast, in Sumer, stone must have been imported from remote sources, often in the form of miscellaneous boulders, the amorphous character of which seems to have been retained by the statues into which they were transformed.

Beyond this general characteristic of Sumerian sculpture, two successive styles have been distinguished in the middle and late subdivisions of the Early Dynastic period. One very notable group of figures, from Tall al-Asmar, Iraq (ancient Eshnunna), dating from the first of these phases, shows a geometric simplification of forms that, to modern taste, is ingenious and aesthetically acceptable. Statues characteristic of the second phase on the other hand, though technically more competently carved, show aspirations to naturalism that are sometimes overly ambitious. In this second style, some scholars see evidence of occasional attempts at portraiture.

Yet, in spite of minor variations, all these figures adhere to the single formula of presenting the conventional characteristics of Sumerian physiognomy. Their provenance is not confined to the Sumerian cities in the south. An important group of statues is derived from the ancient capital of Mari, on the middle Euphrates, where the population is known to have been racially different from the Sumerians. In the Mari statues there also appears to have been no deviation from the sculptural formula they are distinguished only by technical peculiarities in the carving.

Deprived of stone, Sumerian sculptors exploited alternative materials. Fine examples of metal casting have been found, some of them suggesting knowledge of the cire perdue (lost-wax) process, and copper statues more than half life-size are known to have existed. In metalwork, however, the ingenuity of Sumerian artists is perhaps best judged from their contrivance of composite figures.

The earliest and one of the finest examples of such figures--and of Sumerian sculpture as a whole--comes from a Protoliterate level of excavation at Tall al-Warka'. It is the limestone face of a life-size statue (Iraqi Museum, Baghdad), the remainder of which must have been composed of other materials the method of attachment is visible on the surviving face.

Devices of this sort were brought to perfection by craftsmen of the Early Dynastic period, the finest examples of whose work are to be seen among the treasures from the royal tombs at Ur: a bull's head decorating a harp, composed of wood or bitumen covered with gold and wearing a lapis lazuli beard (British Museum)


Sumerian Bull's Head, Lyre from Tomb of Paubi, c. 2600 B.C.

A rampant he-goat in gold and lapis,
supported by a golden tree
(University Museum, Philadelphia)


Ram (Billy Goat) and Tree, Offering Stand from
Ur (to male fertility god, Tammuz), 2600 B.C.,

The composite headdresses of court ladies (British Museum, Iraqi Museum, and University Museum) or, more simply, the miniature figure of a wild ass, cast in electrum (a natural yellow alloy of gold and silver) and mounted on a bronze rein ring (British Museum).

The inlay and enrichment of wooden objects reaches its peak in this period, as may be seen in the so-called standard or double-sided panel from Ur (British Museum), on which elaborate scenes of peace and war are depicted in a delicate inlay of shell and semiprecious stones. The refinement of craftsmanship in metal is also apparent in the famous wig-helmet of gold (Iraqi Museum), belonging to a Sumerian prince, and in weapons, implements, and utensils.

Relief carving in stone was a medium of expression popular with the Sumerians and first appears in a rather crude form in Protoliterate times. In the final phase of the Early Dynastic period, its style became conventional. The most common form of relief sculpture was that of stone plaques, 1 foot (30 centimeters) or more square, pierced in the center for attachment to the walls of a temple, with scenes depicted in several registers (horizontal rows).

The subjects usually seem to be commemorative of specific events, such as feasts or building activities, but representation is highly standardized, so that almost identical plaques have been found at sites as much as 500 miles (800 kilometers) apart. Fragments of more ambitious commemorative stele have also been recovered the Stele of Vultures (Louvre Museum) from Telloh, Iraq (ancient Lagash), is one example. Although it commemorates a military victory, it has a religious content. The most important figure is that of a patron deity, emphasized by its size, rather than that of the king. The formal massing of figures suggests the beginnings of mastery in design, and a formula has been devised for multiplying identical figures, such as chariot horses.

In a somewhat different category are the cylinder seals so widely utilized at this time. Used for the same purposes as the more familiar stamp seal and likewise engraved in negative (intaglio), the cylinder-shaped seal was rolled over wet clay on which it left an impression in relief. Delicately carved with miniature designs on a variety of stones or shell, cylinder seals rank as one of the higher forms of Sumerian art.

Prominent among their subjects is the complicated imagery of Sumerian mythology and religious ritual. Still only partially understood, their skillful adaptation to linear designs can at least be easily appreciated. Some of the finest cylinder seals date from the Protoliterate period (see photograph). After a slight deterioration in the first Early Dynastic period, when brocade patterns or files of running animals were preferred (see photograph), mythical scenes returned. Conflicts are depicted between wild beasts and protecting demigods or hybrid figures, associated by some scholars with the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. The monotony of animated motifs is occasionally relieved by the introduction of an inscription.


Votive Statues, from the Temple of Abu, Tell Asmar
c.2500 BC, limestone, shell, and gypsum

Sumerian Architecture

The beginnings of monumental architecture in Mesopotamia are usually considered to have been contemporary with the founding of the Sumerian cities and the invention of writing, in about 3100 BC. Conscious attempts at architectural design during this so-called Protoliterate period (c. 3400-c. 2900 BC) are recognizable in the construction of religious buildings. There is, however, one temple, at Abu Shahrayn (ancient Eridu), that is no more than a final rebuilding of a shrine the original foundation of which dates back to the beginning of the 4th millennium the continuity of design has been thought by some to confirm the presence of the Sumerians throughout the temple's history.

Already, in the Ubaid period (c. 5200-c.3500 BC), this temple anticipated most of the architectural characteristics of the typical Protoliterate Sumerian platform temple. It is built of mud brick on a raised plinth (platform base) of the same material, and its walls are ornamented on their outside surfaces with alternating buttresses (supports) and recesses. Tripartite in form, its long central sanctuary is flanked on two sides by subsidiary chambers, provided with an altar at one end and a freestanding offering table at the other.

Typical temples of the Protoliterate period--both the platform type and the type built at ground level--are, however, much more elaborate both in planning and ornament. Interior wall ornament often consists of a patterned mosaic of Terra cotta cones sunk into the wall, their exposed ends dipped in bright colors or sheathed in bronze. An open hall at the Sumerian city of Uruk (biblical Erech modern Tall al-Warka', Iraq) contains freestanding and attached brick columns that have been brilliantly decorated in this way. Alternatively, the internal-wall faces of a platform temple could be ornamented with mural paintings depicting mythical scenes, such as at 'Uqair.

The two forms of temple - the platform variety and that built at ground level - persisted throughout the early dynasties of Sumerian history (c. 2900-c. 2400 BC). It is known that two of the platform temples originally stood within walled enclosures, oval in shape and containing, in addition to the temple, accommodation for priests. But the raised shrines themselves are lost, and their appearance can be judged only from facade ornaments discovered at Tall al-'Ubayd. These devices, which were intended to relieve the monotony of sun-dried brick or mud plaster, include a huge copper-sheathed lintel, with animal figures modeled partly in the round wooden columns sheathed in a patterned mosaic of colored stone or shell and bands of copper-sheathed bulls and lions, modeled in relief but with projecting heads. The planning of ground-level temples continued to elaborate on a single theme: a rectangular sanctuary, entered on the cross axis, with altar, offering table, and pedestals for votive statuary (statues used for vicarious worship or intercession).

Considerably less is known about palaces or other secular buildings at this time. Circular brick columns and austerely simplified facades have been found at Kish (modern Tall al-Uhaimer, Iraq). Flat roofs, supported on palm trunks, must be assumed, although some knowledge of corbelled vaulting (a technique of spanning an opening like an arch by having successive cones of masonry project farther inward as they rise on each side off the gap)--and even of dome construction--is suggested by tombs at Ur, where a little stone was available.

The Sumerian temple was a small brick house that the god was supposed to visit periodically. It was ornamented so as to recall the reed houses built by the earliest Sumerians in the valley. This house, however, was set on a brick platform, which became larger and taller as time progressed until the platform at Ur (built around 2100 BC) was 150 by 200 feet (45 by 60 meters) and 75 feet (23 meters) high.

These Mesopotamian temple platforms are called ziggurats, a word derived from the Assyrian ziqquratu, meaning "high." They were symbols in themselves the ziggurat at Ur was planted with trees to make it represent a mountain. There the god visited Earth, and the priests climbed to its top to worship. Most cities were simple in structure, the ziggurat was one of the world's first great architectural structures.


White Temple and Ziggurat, Uruk (Warka), 3200 -3000 B.C.

The white temple was erected at Warka or Uruk (Sumer). It stood on a brick terrace, formed by the construction of successive buildings on the site (the Ziggurat). The top was reached by a staircase. The temple measured 22 x 17 meters (73 x 57 feet). Access to the temple was through three doors, the main located at its south side.


Okar Research

"Bas-relief sculpture is an art form that was started in Ancient Mesopotamia, but more commonly known from Classical Greece. Bas-relief is a French term that means, “low raised.” There are three main types of sculpture: bas-relief, high relief, and in the round. Bas-relief sculpture is very articulate work that is meant to be seen from one direction, unlike in the round sculpture that is meant to be seen from all angles. Bas-relief sculpture was primarily used as a way to tell stories or record major events.

"The Warka Vase is a carved alabaster stone vessel found in the temple complex of the Sumerian goddess Inanna in the ruins of the ancient city of Uruk, located in the modern Al Muthanna Governorate, in southern Iraq. Like the Narmer Palette from Egypt, it is one of the earliest surviving works of narrative relief sculpture, dated to c. 3200� BC.". Kleiner, Fred S. Mamiya, Christin J. (2006). Gardner's Art Through the Ages: The Western Perspective

. "the people of Sumer in an Inanna poem. An interesting bas-relief work is the Warka Vase. The Warka Vase is an ancient urn carved of stone that features bas-relief. The urn depicts various levels of the Sumerian world, in other words, the Sumerian hierarchy. Toward the bottom of the vase, are grains. Above that sheep, and then humans working in a field. At the very top of the vase is the goddess we all know as Inanna. Inanna is the largest figure on the vase. On the bottom register we see the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This image probably symbolizes the honor the people gave to the rivers for providing water and fertile soil to grow plants. The middle register shows a group of males carrying what looks to be fruit and grains. On the top register, Inanna is shown being offered a bowl of fruit by a male figure. The vase shows the sacrifice the people are willing to bestow upon their goddess. The offerings being depicted on the Warka Vase are most likely linked to the Sacred Marriage. The constant reference to Inanna displays the importance of her presence during this time. I think it is important to mention that the figures on the vase, not including Inanna were nude. Nudity, in Mesopotamian and other ancient art works is an interpretation of destitution or fragileness, however in the Warka Vase, the nude figures are displayed differently. The nudity depicted on the Warka Vase leans more toward the idea of beauty of the human body, which leads us to the Greek depictions of the nude figure. The Warka Vase was discovered in Inanna’s temple located in Southern Iraq. It is what we would consider a narrative relief sculpture. The vase shows the sacrifice and assurance of fertility and abundance. The importance of the rituals presented on this vase, are verified by it’s narrative.". http://honr201spring2013.blogspot.com/2013/01/bas-relief-sculpture.html

Square Bas Relief, Greco-Bactrian Image, late 2nd-3rd century. Slate, 12 3/8 x 12 5/8 in. (31.5 x 32 cm). Brooklyn Museum


5.3.2 Symbolism, Iconography, and Visual Literacy

Symbols like the cross or the swastika will only have shared meaning for those who agree upon and affirm a specific interpretation, which can be positive or negative for any particular group of people. This specific meaning in symbols is always going to be the case for viewing of any visual expression, whether in simplified graphic sign form or a more detailed pictorial rendition. Additionally, the viewers must also often have some measure of instruction about how to view a particular work so they can understand its meaning more fully.

Also noteworthy is that members of any group use art as a means of sharing ideas and sentiment, as well as for expressing and teaching ideology. While the didactic uses of art have often been discussed in terms of instruction for the non-literate, we should recognize that the meanings of pictorial content and the tools used to create the picture must be learned as well. The apparent superficial meanings that are evident through unschooled visual examination do not produce the level of comprehension available in a more fully developed illustration of a tenet of a faith, political message, history lesson, or chart or graph of economic trends. So &ldquovisual literacy&rdquo should be considered a skill related to verbal and reading literacy for any didactic function. Only members of a group who have been led to understand and perceive the underlying principles will know how to &ldquoread&rdquo an illustrated message.

For example, we can look at the Ritual Vase from Warka (today Iraq) or the Seven Sacraments Altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden. (The Warka Vase: http:// dieselpunk44.blogspot. com/2013/08/the-warka- vase.html) (Figure 5.17) One could likely identify the basic pictorial content of either work, but further knowledge would be needed to analyze them further. If you were a member of the intended audience, you might have a bit more insight into what each artist had created in pictorial terms, but even the initiated viewer would likely have a limited &ldquoreading&rdquo of the work.

In the case of the Ritual Vase from Warka, even if you had lived in ancient Sumer and had been a devotee of the goddess Inanna, you would likely need further instruction about how the carvings on the different registers of the vase were arranged to show the cosmological conception of the created world. That is, one starts at the bottom with the primordial earth and waters, moves to the plants and animals above them drawing sustenance so that they could be harvested and herded by the humans, who then offer part of their gleanings to the goddess serving them from the temple as seen in the upper realm of the middle photograph. This design would be further explained as a neatly hierarchical arrangement, in which the levels of the created world were presented in different sizes, according to their relative importance. Additional meanings could be layered upon this cursory explanation with repeated teaching occasions and viewings.

The Seven Sacraments Altarpiece was painted by Rogier van der Weyden in a region and an era of tremendously complicated iconography: Flanders during the Late Gothic/Northern Renaissance period. The presentation here includes detailed pictorial description of each of the seven sacraments that marked the stages and stations of Christian life. This symbolism again developed over time, and often in response to theological writings that informed the artist and the viewer about specific meanings. The written sources are detailed and complex, with the pictorial rendition richly reflecting what the well-instructed Christian would know about these important rituals and their effects.

The larger central panel of the triptych, or three-part, format was used by the artist to emphasize the Crucifixion as the dominant overarching event that is related to each of the sacraments. Additionally, he provided angels with scrolls to identify them as if speaking to the viewer. So, here the messages are both pictorial and inscribed, and the iconography is a complex program that relates all these ritual events to the whole of the Christian life and faith. Truly, the viewer must be an initiate to discern the meanings behind all the symbolism or a scholar to discover them. Nonetheless, even the casual or uninitiated can read much of what is present in the painting and can identify both familiar elements and those that might lead you to further investigation. This is often the task and the path in interpretation of iconography in art.


The first successful VASE Middle School pilot was held on April 24, 1999. The pilot was designed to determine if a VASE program would benefit the students in middle school art. This event was a tremendous success with 6 districts, 9 schools, and 10 teachers represented. 57 Middle School art students submitted their works of art for the interview process. A second pilot for Junior VASE was in April of 2000 and had 2 school districts, 7 schools and 70 students. After that Junior VASE became an official program for Intermediate, Middle Schools, and Junior High Schools in Texas in 2001. Junior VASE encompass grades 6 through 8.

Regional Events may occur from late March to mid May on a Saturday. The regional event is the culminating event for Junior VASE followed by the Platinum Event. Currently there are events in every region except 2, 5 ,and 9. Several regions have multi events.

To participate, teachers must be a member in good standing with TAEA and submit all required participation information online at http://www.taea.org/VASE/. An entry fee of $15 for each regional entry is required, and students may enter two pieces. The artworks are judged by a team of certified jurors.

Events are scheduled within the 20 TEA regional education service centers. Each region has a Regional Director(s) responsible for planning and running of their event. These events can be found on the Regional Locator map of Texas. The locator map will give you the information for your Regional Director and the dates and location for their event. Jurors will look for originality of concept, technical expertise, understanding of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), and the interpretation of the student's stated intent. The jurors evaluate the art using the following standards:

Rating 4 &mdash Excellent
Rating 3 &mdash Strong
Rating 2 &mdash Developing
Rating 1 &mdash Emerging

Students register for four different experience levels depending on the student current Level in art. All Level 1 students (or has completed but not advanced to 2) will compete in Division 1, all Level 2 students (or has completed but not advanced to 3) will be Division 2, All Level 3 students will be in Division 3, and all students in Pre AP art or High School ArtI will be in Division 4. Medals are awarded to students receiving a Rating of 4 in each division and will be judged again for the Platinum Event based and 10 % in each Division will receive a Platinum Medal. Images of these artworks will be posted on the TAEA website.


In Iraq's four-year looting frenzy, the allies have become the vandals

F ly into the American air base of Tallil outside Nasiriya in central Iraq and the flight path is over the great ziggurat of Ur, reputedly the earliest city on earth. Seen from the base in the desert haze or the sand-filled gloom of dusk, the structure is indistinguishable from the mounds of fuel dumps, stores and hangars. Ur is safe within the base compound. But its walls are pockmarked with wartime shrapnel and a blockhouse is being built over an adjacent archaeological site. When the head of Iraq's supposedly sovereign board of antiquities and heritage, Abbas al-Hussaini, tried to inspect the site recently, the Americans refused him access to his own most important monument.

Yesterday Hussaini reported to the British Museum on his struggles to protect his work in a state of anarchy. It was a heart breaking presentation. Under Saddam you were likely to be tortured and shot if you let someone steal an antiquity in today's Iraq you are likely to be tortured and shot if you don't. The tragic fate of the national museum in Baghdad in April 2003 was as if federal troops had invaded New York city, sacked the police and told the criminal community that the Metropolitan was at their disposal. The local tank commander was told specifically not to protect the museum for a full two weeks after the invasion. Even the Nazis protected the Louvre.

When I visited the museum six months later, its then director, Donny George, proudly showed me the best he was making of a bad job. He was about to reopen, albeit with half his most important objects stolen. The pro-war lobby had stopped pretending that the looting was nothing to do with the Americans, who were shamefacedly helping retrieve stolen objects under the dynamic US colonel, Michael Bogdanos (author of a book on the subject). The vigorous Italian cultural envoy to the coalition, Mario Bondioli-Osio, was giving generously for restoration.

The beautiful Warka vase, carved in 3000BC, was recovered though smashed into 14 pieces. The exquisite Lyre of Ur, the world's most ancient musical instrument, was found badly damaged. Clerics in Sadr City were ingeniously asked to tell wives to refuse to sleep with their husbands if looted objects were not returned, with some success. Nothing could be done about the fire-gutted national library and the loss of five centuries of Ottoman records (and works by Piccasso and Miro). But the message of winning hearts and minds seemed to have got through.

Today the picture is transformed. Donny George fled for his life last August after death threats. The national museum is not open but shut. Nor is it just shut. Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff cannot get inside. There is no prospect of reopening.

Hussaini confirmed a report two years ago by John Curtis, of the British Museum, on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.

Meanwhile the courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai of Khan al-Raba was used by the Americans for exploding captured insurgent weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the walls. The place is now a ruin.

Outside the capital some 10,000 sites of incomparable importance to the history of western civilisation, barely 20% yet excavated, are being looted as systematically as was the museum in 2003. When George tried to remove vulnerable carvings from the ancient city of Umma to Baghdad, he found gangs of looters already in place with bulldozers, dump trucks and AK47s.

Hussaini showed one site after another lost to archaeology in a four-year "looting frenzy". The remains of the 2000BC cities of Isin and Shurnpak appear to have vanished: pictures show them replaced by a desert of badger holes created by an army of some 300 looters. Castles, ziggurats, deserted cities, ancient minarets and mosques have gone or are going. Hussaini has 11 teams combing the country engaged in rescue work, mostly collecting detritus left by looters. His small force of site guards is no match for heavily armed looters, able to shift objects to eager European and American dealers in days.

Most ominous is a message reputedly put out from Moqtada al-Sadr's office, that while Muslim heritage should be respected, pre-Muslim relics were up for grabs. As George said before his flight, his successors might be "only interested in Islamic sites and not Iraq's earlier heritage". While Hussaini is clearly devoted to all Iraq's history, the Taliban's destruction of Afghanistan's pre-Muslim Bamiyan Buddhas is in every mind.

Despite Sadr's apparent preference, sectarian militias are pursuing an orgy of destruction of Muslim sites. Apart from the high-profile bombings of some of the loveliest surviving mosques in the Arab world, radical groups opposed to all shrines have begun blasting 10th- and 11th-century structures, irrespective of Sunni or Shia origin. Eighteen ancient shrines have been lost, 10 in Kirkuk and the south in the past month alone. The great monument and souk at Kifel, north of Najaf - reputedly the tomb of Ezekiel and once guarded by Iraqi Jews (mostly driven into exile by the occupation) - have been all but destroyed.

It is abundantly clear that the Americans and British are not protecting Iraq's historic sites. All foreign archaeologists have had to leave. Troops are doing nothing to prevent the "farming" of known antiquities. This is in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention that an occupying army should "use all means within its power" to guard the cultural heritage of a defeated state.

Shortly after the invasion, the British minister Tessa Jowell won plaudits for "pledging" £5m to protect Iraq's antiquities. I can find no one who can tell me where, how or whether this money has been spent. It appears to have been pure spin. Only the British Museum and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq have kept the flag flying. The latter's grant has just been cut, presumably to pay for the Olympics binge.

As long as Britain and America remain in denial over the anarchy they have created in Iraq, they clearly feel they must deny its devastating side-effects. Two million refugees now camping in Jordan and Syria are ignored, since life in Iraq is supposed to be "better than before". Likewise dozens of Iraqis working for the British and thus facing death threats are denied asylum. To grant it would mean the former defence and now home secretary, the bullish John Reid, admitting he was wrong. They will die before he does that.

Though I opposed the invasion I assumed that its outcome would at least be a more civilised environment. Yet Iraq's people are being murdered in droves for want of order. Authority has collapsed. That western civilisation should have been born in so benighted a country as Iraq may seem bad luck. But only now is that birth being refused all guardianship, in defiance of international law. If this is Tony Blair's "values war", then language has lost all meaning. British collusion in such destruction is a scandal that will outlive any passing conflict. And we had the cheek to call the Taliban vandals.


Museum of Lost Objects: Looted Sumerian Seal

In the chaotic, violent April of 2003, as US tanks rolled into Baghdad, the Iraq Museum was broken into and pillaged. Looters rampaged through the halls, storerooms, and cellars, stealing more than 15,000 precious objects.

"It was terrible. You didn't want to believe it," says Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani, who worked for many years at the museum before moving to London.

"Especially hearing about objects that you know, and then people start saying they've gone - it was a shock."

Back in the 1960s, al-Gailani - one of Iraq's first female archaeologists - spent eight years helping to document the museum's collection of 7,000 cylinder seals.

These seals were an ancient tool for signing documents or sealing important goods, each carved all over with pictures that told a story.

One of Lamia's favourites was found in Hamrin, north of Baghdad. At 4,600 years old it's the oldest object in our Museum of Lost Objects, and at 3.9cm (1.5in) high, also the smallest.

When rolled in wet clay, it vividly depicts an ancient harvest festival, presided over by a powerful goddess, as pictured above.

"The goddess is an agricultural goddess," says al-Gailani. "Her chair is a man with a branch in his hand! It's an attendant and she's sitting on him. You don't see that often. Really this is very unique."

In front of the goddess, the scene is split into two tiers. The upper tier shows a group of men in a boat, travelling by river to the festival. There's also a goat which represents the produce or property of the temple.

The lower tier depicts more figures carrying items on their heads - probably baskets containing agricultural produce - which are then placed in a big pile in front of the goddess.

It's a reminder of the importance of ancient Mesopotamia's relationship to the earth. It was the agricultural revolution in this part of the world that led, eventually, to the birth of human civilisation.

When Baghdad was captured by the Americans on 9 April 2003, the museum was one of many cultural and historical sites that were left unprotected.

It's said a small boy climbed through a window and let everyone in.

The staff tried to chase the looters away. To begin with, they were just interested in practical things - chairs, computers, telephones. But then, as the hours and eventually days went by, they took the artefacts themselves.

  • The Museum of Lost Objects traces the stories of 10 antiquities or ancient sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria about the Sumerian Seal on Radio 4 from 12:00 GMT on Friday 11 March or get the Museum of Lost Objects podcast
  • Read the complete series: The Winged Bull of Nineveh, The Temple of Bel, The Tell of Qarqur, Aleppo's minaret, The Lion of al-Lat, Mar Elian's monastery, The Unacceptable Poet, The Der Zor memorial and The Genie of Nimrud.

The 4,500-year-old Harp of Ur, one of a collection of finds that comprise the world's oldest stringed instruments, was later found smashed in the car park, stripped of its gold inlay and precious stones.

The priceless Warka Vase - a beautifully carved 5,000-year-old stone vessel - disappeared.

Someone even stole the 150kg Bassetki Statue, a 4,000-year-old copper monument showing the legs of a seated nude figure. Cracks on the staircase and floor suggested its new owners dropped it a few times on their way out the building.

It seems it was only at the insistence of the British Museum in London that soldiers were eventually sent to guard what was left of the collection.

According to John Curtis, who was Keeper of the Middle East Section at the British Museum, his director Neil MacGregor phoned the Prime Minister's office and urged them to contact the White House about saving the Iraq Museum. Tanks arrived outside the building later that day.

A week later, Curtis and McGregor were in Baghdad at the invitation of Donny George, one of the directors of the Iraq Museum, and a close colleague of theirs.

"Nobody had been in since the tanks had arrived," says Curtis.

"We parked in the museum forecourt and actually slept the night there on the colonnade outside the main door. Even when we went there was gunfire to be heard all around.

"It was an appalling sight inside the museum, and a lot of it was just gratuitous violence. Cases have been smashed and broken even when they didn't have anything in them, for no good reason.

"There was clearly a great deal of resentment on the part of the local populace. The museum was a government symbol, and there was a lot of anti-government feeling. So people took it out on all those buildings and institutions which they perceived to be associated with the government."

Lamia al-Gailani says her Arab friends had trouble accepting that Baghdadis may have been responsible for looting their own treasures.

"Everyone had their own theory of who looted the museum," she says. "It depended on who they don't like. Was it the Americans? Was it the Israelis? Was it the Kuwaitis? It was very funny, but also sad that they never, never accused the actual people in Baghdad of looting."

The following month al-Gailani returned to the museum to see things for herself.

"I got out of the taxi and I saw Donny coming down the drive, very excited. He gave me the biggest hug in the world and he whispered into my ears, 'We've just had the Warka Vase back and it's there in the boot of that car!'"

She recalls entering the museum and seeing the staff standing in the lobby, dazed. "They were in such a state of shock that I remember not a single one of them was able to finish a sentence. It was eerie and terrible to see the museum empty like that."

The Iraqi authorities granted a "no-questions-asked" amnesty that allowed people to bring stolen goods back without fear of arrest. In this way, the Warka Vase was returned - and there was even a tip-off about the Bassetki Statue, which was found doused in a cesspool in the suburbs of Baghdad.

But while many items were recovered, 5,000 cylinder seals - including our little harvest seal - remain missing. The seals were kept in the basement storerooms of the museum, described by al-Gailani as "like a labyrinth".

"Every time I went down, I would shout out to the person in front of me so I knew which way to go," she recalls.

"The seals were in a corner, in small boxes put on top of a cabinet. How did the looters find it unless they knew where they are? You can blame anybody. They could be outsiders, but they've heard about them - or it could be people within the museum.

"No-one was caught because of the museum looting. No-one. Not a single person."

But thanks to the dogged work of Iraqi officials, thousands of stolen objects have now been recovered.

In February 2015, the Iraq Museum was officially reopened for the first time since the American invasion.

Al-Gailani went back again, and discovered to her delight that some beloved artefacts had made a return journey from her own personal Museum of Lost Objects.

"I was going round the museum and seeing some of the objects which I thought were looted," she says. "To see them again, it's like seeing friends."

The Museum of Lost Objects traces the stories of 10 antiquities or ancient sites that have been destroyed or looted in Iraq and Syria.

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Texas High School Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE) celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2019. The first VASE event was held in 1994 with just over 400 student entries after 25 years, High School VASE entries number around 35,000. Students create artworks, write about their creative processes and understanding of visual art, and articulate information about their artwork during an interview with a VASE juror, who evaluates their work using a standards-based rubric.

Academically eligible high school students in grades 9-12 from throughout Texas can participate in VASE, entered by teachers who are members in good standing with TAEA. Teachers/sponsors register and set up a teacher page that provides important dates, payment information, event documents, and feedback opportunities. District Arts Administrators can also set up an Admin page. Each student can submit a maximum of two art entries.

Twenty-nine regional events are scheduled based on the 20 TEA Education Service Center regions, and zones created in larger regions. Each regional meet has a Regional Director responsible for the planning and running of the event. Regional Directors and their events can be located on the Regional Locator.


For the 2021 VASE season, in the interest of safety and equity for all, the VASE Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended that all 2021 events, including High School VASE, State VASE Event, Junior VASE, and TEAM, be conducted online, in a similar manner to the State VASE Event 2020. The State Directors of VASE, and the TAEA Executive Board, have agreed.

The State Directors of VASE are working to prepare everyone for this move to online events. We will be sharing information and training for all as soon as we are ready.

Please direct your questions to your Regional Director.

Mary Tavares, TEAM
Suzanne Greene, Junior VASE
Chris Cooper, High School VASE
Sarah Pagona, State Event Director

PS &mdash If your District Email Administrator has questions about "whitelisting" VASE emails for student entry, this letter from the State Directors of VASE may help.


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Watch the video: Ancient Near East - The Uruk Vase (January 2022).