World History Episode 2 The Indus Valley Civilization (Time Stamp 8:01)

Pashupati, Mohenjodaro Seal, 2600 -1900 BCE

Context in CC: “Also they traded. One of the coolest things that the Indus Valley Civilization produced were seals used as identification markers on goods and clay tablets. These seals contained a writing that we still can’t decipher and number of fantastic designs, many featuring animals and monsters.” (5:04) Okay so this quote isn’t lifted from when the seal is actually shown, but it’s more contextually relevant. 

Greater Historical/Art Historical Relevance: I, like John, am a huge fan of the Indus Valley civilization. I haven’t studied it since Freshman year of high school, but I still remember it because it was my first taste of art history ever. It’s a pretty fascinating culture, but let’s talk about the seal.

John talks about this seal as proof of the fact that people of the Indus Valley Civilization traded. They found seals like these in Mesopotamia. Archeologists and historians have proposed that this imagery anticipates the Hindu deity Shiva in his role as Pashupati, or ‘Lord of Animals’ (1). However, what’s more interesting is that similar imagery was used in Mesopotamia around the same time.

The most well known example is on the top of the front panel of the Bull Lyre from the Sumerian city of Ur. In the panel a man successfully control two bulls with human faces. While, the lyre is possible contemporary to the Mohenjodaro seals, the imagery used on the seals and on the lyre is actually a reoccurring motif throughout ancient art history.

The 'master of animals’ resurfaces in Minoan, Mycenaean, Greek, and Native American imagery, amongst others. In some instances historians have interpreted the master of animals as a deity, but even if that is not the case, the master of animals motif is a way for these cultures to express someone or something wielding a great power, controls nature.

The best learning derives from discussion, at least that’s what my liberal arts education taught me. My professors always emphasized that there are always multiple ways to interpret a art object or artifact. What do you think this reoccurring motif means? Why did it hold value across so many cultures?

1. J. P. Losty, et al. “Indian subcontinent.” In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, (accessed August 27, 2012).

World History Episode 2 The Indus Valley Civilization (Time Stamp 2:56)

The Parthenon, Architects: Iktinos & Kallikrates, Sculpture: Phidias, 447-432 BCE (Athens, Greece)

Context in CC: What is a civilization? So John tells us all the things that are symptomatic of civilization and then proceeds to flash us to images of a few places that are representative of civilization and says we’ll talk about them later. This is ancient Greece.

Greater Historical/Art Historical Relevance: Okay so if there’s one thing every person who has taken and introductory art history class remembers its the Greco-Roman orders of architecture. So here’s a break from our regularly scheduled context heavy discussion for a lesson about the three main orders of Greek Architecture! 

So there are three primary orders of Greek architecture: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, and the easiest way to tell them apart is by examining their capitals. What’s a capital, you ask? It’s the bit on top of the column. Doric order columns have fairly simple capitals mostly just round sometimes with a decorative element. Ionic capitals a have volutes. Those are the things that look like a rolled up scroll turned upside down on top of the column. Corinthian capitals are definitely the fanciest. They’re decorated with acanthus leaves as well as sometimes volutes.

There are plenty of other differences. Doric architecture usually feels a lot heavier, more grounded. The columns are wider than both Ionic and Corinthian. There are differences in the frieze and other parts of the entablature as well.

Are you confused yet? Is the vocabulary throwing you off. If it is (and even if it’s not) here’s a helpful diagram —> click here

I had the orders of architecture hammered into my head so many time in AP Art History, Intro Art History, and Ancient Art History that my automatic reaction to seeing a greek building is to categorize it. So of which order of architecture is the Parthenon an good example?

I’ll talk more about Greek art when it Crash Course comes around to Greece, and by that I mean when I get to that episode.

World History Episode 2 The Indus Valley Civilization (Time Stamp 2:57)

The Great Sphinx of Giza, Egyptian, Reign of the Pharoah Khafre c. 2500 BCE

Context in CC: What is a civilization? So John tells us all the things that are symptomatic of civilization and then proceeds to flash us to images of a few places that are representative of civilization and says we’ll talk about them later. This is Egypt, in all it’s exciting and amazing glory. I just really like Egypt, okay?

Greater Historical/Art Historical Relevance: So I’ve already waxed poetic about how cool I think Egypt is, so I’ll spare you that again. The sphinx is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of man. At least in Egyptian Imagery it has the body of a lion and the head of a man. But while we associate the sphinx with Egypt, and the oldest images of the sphinx originate there, the Greeks had there own depictions of the creature: body of a lion, wings of a bird, and face of a woman. Versions of the Sphinx also exist in ancient Mesopotamia (the Assyrian Lamassu, among others) and Southeast Asia (purushamriga in south India, and manusiha in Burma). 

The Great Sphinx was built during the Old Kingdom by the Pharaoh Khafra (who also built one of those iconic pyramids), the face of the Sphinx is believed to be a depiction of the Pharaoh. There are many contradicting theories around the why and the when of the Sphinx creation. But since we’re talking about civilization, it’s important to revel in the fact that Egypt had the organized social structure to allow the rulers to commission these gigantic works of art and usually complete them in a single lifetime.

I know I said I wouldn’t bring it up again, but let’s go back to the fact the ancient Egyptian Civilization lasted a really long time . Long enough that over a thousand years later, when Giza was abandoned, Thutmose IV appointed a team to excavate the Sphinx. They managed to dig out the front paws of the lions body. But think about that. A thousand years. I think sometimes, especially when we study history from a western perspective we forget about the scope of it.