In This Article Babylonian Art and Architecture

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Digital Resources
  • Conferences and Proceedings
  • Journals
  • Archaeological Approaches
  • Seals
  • Jewelry and Personal Adornment
  • Ceramics
  • Architecture
  • Third and Second Millennia bc
  • Legacy and Reception
  • Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq

Art History Babylonian Art and Architecture
by
Michael Seymour
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0038

Introduction

Babylonian art and architecture are inseparable from other Mesopotamian studies. Both the cultural background of earlier periods in southern Mesopotamia and the parallel history of Babylonia’s northern neighbor, Assyria, are intimately linked and highly relevant to Babylonian cultural practices of all kinds. “Babylonia” here denotes southern and central Iraq in the period during which the city of Babylon was the political capital of the region, a period extending from the 18th to the 4th century BC. This is of course a very approximate definition, and one point to note is that it certainly does not exclude the long periods during which Babylon and Babylonia as a whole were subject to outside rule. The geographical component is also fluid, since the nature and extent of Babylonian culture and its influence beyond the Babylonian heartland and strong Babylonian influence in the arts of other areas inevitably varies considerably over time. The entire period is literate, and detailed historical information is available. Some relevant material is covered in this article, but other Oxford Bibliographies articles on related topics (Assyriological themes, Mesopotamian history, for example) will cover more. Recent years have seen serious damage to Iraq’s archaeological heritage, primarily through the looting of sites and museums. A short bibliography relating to this destruction is included here.

General Overviews

There is no clear distinction to be made between the study of ancient Mesopotamian visual culture and the fields of archaeology and ancient history on which its understanding so strongly depends. Any study of the subject requires an introduction to a social, cultural, and material context different from any modern comparator. As well as introductions to the imagery and media seen in Babylonian art, therefore, this section contains a small selection of introductory material on ancient Mesopotamian society and culture more broadly, and some critical readings dealing with a substantially different approach than our contemporary systems of visual interpretation and engagement in which images, their significance and their power were understood in their ancient context.

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