The History of Art- The Bronze age

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Part -1

Human Civilization walked into a new age of art in 3300 BCE which lasted around 1200 BCE. This specific time frame is referred to as“The bronze age”. The name was first coined by the Danish antiquarian Christian Jurgensen Thompsen (1788-1865). The bronze age linked the Stone age with the Iron Age giving us a clear representation that is indicative of the lifestyle and artistic development during the time period.

The bronze age marked the beginning of the usage of metals like copper and bronze. Copper and bronze were used for various purposes, for example, Warfare equipment, hunting, ornaments, etc. During this age, the artistic activities were upgraded as the usage of stone reduced. Since, metallic elements were more flexible, as a result, sculptures and other artifacts were more elegantly and proper details were included. We can also find direct written accounts from the bronze age as humans began to record details of trade and livelihood by engraving symbols and numbers in metallic blocks or plates. It is evident that many technological advances took place during this age.

Bronze Age

The bronze age can be associated more with a particular culture or Civilization rather than a specific time period because it began and ended at different times in different places. Ancient Sumerians of the Middle East is supposed to be the first people to enter the bronze age. The earliest bronze age Civilization includes Sumer, Babylonia, Assyria, etc. Bronze age entered China much later i.e. (1600-1046 BCE) during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. In Ancient Egypt, the bronze age began in 3150 BCE. Again, western Europe witnessed the development of the Bronze age through the period 1300-700 BCE approximately. Thus, we study the bronze age in correlation with different cultures that emerged during that age.

Mask Made from Bronze
Standing Soulder

The river valleys of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant(Eastern Mediterranean coast of modern-day Turkey)have together been known as the Fertile Crescent as well as the ‘cradle of civilization’ because of the technologies which rapidly developed in the region. Mesopotamia existed around the Mediterranean in the Near East (present-day Iraq) and it upholds one of the best examples of the Bronze age.

This site witnessed a number of art and cultural advances. The writing was first developed by Mesopotamians. As the nation prospered, people contributed to developing the writing, religion, art, and culture of the region. During this period, pottery, sculpture, metalwork, etc. began and developed to a great extent. Mesopotamian art and sculptures (3000-500BCE) include a huge number of ceramic arts, reliefs, and stone sculptures carved into statues, mosaics, seals, monumental architecture, etc. These are crucial pieces of evidence that help us in recreating the life and culture that flourished at that time.

Bronze statue From Egypt

Sumer(also known as Sumeria) is the land of the earliest art of ancient times. Sumerians settled in the lands of Southern Mesopotamia and were considered to be the first civilizing population. With time, they developed trade, agriculture, metalworks, and pottery.

Sumerian art began with pottery but later statues, ornaments and a wide range of artifacts began to be created and developed by the Sumerians. The first relief structure, discovered in 1842 was from Sumeria. The structure was the remains of a great palace of an Assyrian king named Sargon II built in the early 8th century BCE (Assyrian Empire flourished from about 1200-600 BCE).

Gradually, in various other locations, cities, temples, and palaces, were discovered which allowed men to learn about Mesopotamia society. In 1936-37, during the excavations of TepeGawra (Iraq), foundation walls of a pre-Sumerian acropolis were discovered which determined that the region consisted of an advanced and civilized society. In the relief structure, there are evidence of temples, community buildings, and also monumental structures.

Some of the earliest Sumerian works of art were found in Ur and a temple to a goddess named Nin-Kharsag was discovered a few miles from Ur. This temple was built around 3100 BCE. During the excavation of Nin-Kharsag, remains of four standing statues of bulls were discovered which are known to be the oldest type of copper statues in the world. During the period, statues of large sizes were also created but due to their representation of gods and kings, they were often destroyed by conquering enemies.

Reliefs sculptures of the early Sumerians, for instance, Tablet of Ur-Nina, were created before 3000BCE. Mosaic art, stone, and terracotta sculptures of the bronze age which date back to 3000 BCE have been found in various locations of the region depicting the advances in art and sculptures over the years.


Thus, we acknowledge that many accomplishments were already achieved in the field of art during the early phase of the bronze age. Metals replaced stones. However, art was yet to evolve during the later phase of the Bronze Age which will be discussed in the next chapter.

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