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Egypt, Mosopotamia and Crete's Knossos

2. Find two clearly identified items that are political and/or religious in nature. Try to find the meaning and symbolism in the works and describe them in detail. How are they Egyptian? What beliefs do they represent? This is an exercise in researching meaning in art.

Example: the pyramids at Giza are on the western bank of the Nile. This is the side where the sun sets which is symbolic of the passing of life. So the passing of the sun is a symbol of the passage of life. Possible ideas: Pharaoh is always young and healthy; he wears a cobra on his forehead (ureaus); pyramids are...well....pyramidal; boats have a strong symbolism; there's a bull on the back of the "Palette of Narmer" (in book) - why? what does it represent? Etc., etc. Start with an image in the book that you particularly like and try to find out why the artist chose to present it as he did.

Look at geography again. How is Egypt different from Mesopotamia? We often have people with a military background in class - how would you defend this area as opposed to Mesopotamia? What effect might this have on the culture?

3. The "palace" complex at Knossos on the island of Crete was the major settlement in Bronze Age Crete. The complex was added to many times in part because of natural disasters. Choose several sections of the complex and describe what it is and what function it serves. (For example, the main court or the West theatre area - try to find areas others haven't posted.)

The Knossos Palace is typical in many ways of all Minoan palaces. It will help to look at some other complexes in Bronze Age Crete to see what features they have. Also use comparison. How does this compare with previous examples of buildings from the Near East and Egypt?

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2. Find two clearly identified items that are political and/or religious in nature. Try to find the meaning and symbolism in the works and describe them in detail. How are they Egyptian? What beliefs do they represent? This is an exercise in researching meaning in art.

Example: the pyramids at Giza are on the western bank of the Nile. This is the side where the sun sets which is symbolic of the passing of life. So the passing of the sun is a symbol of the passage of life. Possible ideas: Pharaoh is always young and healthy; he wears a cobra on his forehead (ureaus); pyramids are...well....pyramidal; boats have a strong symbolism; there's a bull on the back of the "Palette of Narmer" (in book) - why? what does it represent? Etc., etc. Start with an image in the book that you particularly like and try to find out why the artist chose to present it as he did.

Retrieved from URL: http://www.memphis.edu/egypt/artifact.php
Information from museum site copied and pasted here for you:
Irtw-irw: Mummy, Coffin and Cartonnage Set
Mask and Pectoral: cartonnage, painted and gilded
Coffin: wood, painted and gilded
Date: Probably Early Ptolemaic Period (305-150 B.C.E.)
Provenance: Attributed to Akhmim
Irtw-irw's name (pronounced "ear-too ear-oo") means "may the eye (of the god) be against them." In other words, may the eye of the god protect Irtw-irw from his enemies. His mummified body reminds us of the importance of mummification in ancient Egyptian funerary belief.
Irtw-irw's funerary mask would have been positioned directly over the face and upper chest of his mummy after it was placed in the coffin. The mask depicts the facial features in a traditional manner. The features are not individualized to look like Irtw-irw, but picture him as if in the prime of life. Note that the mask is similar to the face painted on the coffin lid.
Irtw-irw's coffin lid is decorated with many images derived from ancient Egyptian religion. The outstanding feature of the coffin lid is the gilded face of Irtw-irw framed by a huge, blue wig. The gilded face suggests that at death Irtw-irw became like the sun god, whose face was gold. A brightly painted pectoral decorates Irtw-irw's chest. Below this pectoral (broad collar or necklace) is an image of a winged goddess. She wears a sun disk on her head and her arms extend into wings which stretch protectively around the mummy. In her hands are feathers, symbolic of ...

Solution Summary

Description of two artworks from ancient Egypt, with reference URLs from the museum sites. Discussion of the differences in geography between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and how that influenced each culture. Discussion of the Crete (Minoan) Palace at Knossos.

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