Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The Master and Mistress of Animals

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on May 14, 2019

The Master and Mistress of Animals

Master of Animals

 Mistress of the Animals

The Master of Animals or Lord of Animals is a motif in ancient art showing a human between and grasping two confronted animals. It is very widespread in the art of the Ancient Near East and Egypt. Unless he is shown with specific divine attributes, he is typically described as a hero, although what the motif represented to the cultures which created the works probably varies greatly.

Although such figures are not all, or even usually, deities, the term can also be a generic name for a number of deities from a variety of cultures with close relationships to the animal kingdom or in part animal form (in cultures where that is not the norm).

The figure is normally male, but not always, the animals may be realistic or fantastical, and the figure may have animal elements such as horns, or an animal upper body. The human figure may be standing, found from the 4th millennium BC, or kneeling on one knee, these latter found from the 3rd millennium BC. They are usually shown looking frontally, but in Assyrian pieces typically shown from the side.

Sometimes the animals are clearly alive, whether fairly passive and tamed, or still struggling or attacking. In other pieces they may represent dead hunter’s prey. Other associated representations show a figure controlling or “taming” a single animal, usually to the right of the figure. These figures control animals, usually wild ones, and are responsible for their continued reproduction and availability for hunters.

Ubaid

The earliest known depiction of the Master of Animals appears on stamp seals of the Ubaid period in Mesopotamia. The motif appears on a terracotta stamp seal from Tell Telloh, ancient Girsu, at the end of the prehistoric Ubaid period of Mesopotamia, c. 4000 BC.

In the art of Mesopotamia the motif appears very early, usually with a “naked hero”, for example at Uruk in the Uruk period (c. 4000 to 3100 BC), but was “outmoded in Mesopotamia by the seventh century BC”. In Luristan bronzes the motif is extremely common, and often highly stylized.

In terms of its composition the Master of Animals motif compares with another very common motif in the art of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean, that of two confronted animals flanking and grazing on a Tree of Life.

Indus Valley Civilization

Pashupati seal

The figure has been connected to the famous Pashupati seal from the Indus Valley Civilization (2500-1500 BC), showing a figure seated in a yoga-like posture, with a horned headress (or horns), and surrounded by animals.

Pashupati (Sanskrit Paśupati) is an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva as “lord of the animals”. He is revered throughout the Hindu world, but especially in Nepal, where he is unofficially regarded as a national deity. Paśupati “Lord of all animals” was originally an epithet of Rudra in the Vedic period and now is an epithet of Shiva.

The five faces of Pashupatinath represent various incarnations of Shiva; Sadyojata (also known as Barun), Vamdeva (also known as Uma Maheswara), Tatpurusha, Aghor & Ishana. They face West, North, East, South and Zenith respectively, and represent Hinduism’s five primary elements namely earth, water, air, light and ether.

Shiva has the epithet Pashupati meaning the “Lord of animals”, and these figures may derive from a Proto-Indo-European deity or archetype. Chapter 39 of the Book of Job has been interpreted as an assertion of the God of the Hebrew Bible as Master of Animals.

The Pashupati Seal is a steatite seal that was discovered at the Mohenjo-daro archaeological site of the Indus Valley Civilization. The seal depicts a seated figure that is possibly tricephalic (having three heads, with a possible fourth face towards the back).

The man has a horned headdress and is surrounded by animals. He may represent a horned deity. The figure has often been connected with the widespread motif of the Master of Animals found in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean art, and the many other traditions of horned deities.

It is purported to be one of the earliest depictions of the Hindu god Shiva (“Pashupati”, meaning “lord of animals”, is one of Shiva’s epithets) or Rudra, who is associated with asceticism, yoga, and linga; regarded as a lord of animals; and often depicted as having three heads.

An early description and analysis of the seal’s iconography was provided by archaeologist John Marshall who had served as the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India and led the excavations of the Indus Valley sites.

Most significantly he identified the seal as an early prototype of the Hindu god Shiva (or, his Vedic predecessor, Rudra), who also was known by the title Pashupati (‘lord or father of all the animals’) in historic times.

In a 1928–29 publication, Marshall summarized his reasons for the identification as follows: My reasons for the identification are four. In the first place the figure has three faces and that Siva was portrayed with three as well as with more usual five faces, there are abundant examples to prove.

Secondly, the head is crowned with the horns of a bull and the trisula are characteristic emblems of Siva. Thirdly, the figure is in a typical yoga attitude, and Siva was and still is, regarded as a mahayogi—the prince of Yogis.

Fourthly, he is surrounded by animals, and Siva is par excellence the “Lord of Animals” (Pasupati)—of the wild animals of the jungle, according to the Vedic meaning of the word pashu, no less than that of domesticated cattle.

Later, in 1931, he expanded his reasons to include the fact that Shiva is associated with the phallus in the form of linga, and that in medieval art he is shown with deer or ibexes, as are seen below the throne on the seal.

Marshall’s analysis of the Indus Valley religion, and the Pashupati seal in particular, was very influential and widely accepted for at least the next two generations. For instance, Herbert Sullivan, wrote in 1964 that Marshall’s analysis “has been accepted almost universally and has greatly influenced scholarly understanding of the historical development of Hinduism”.

Writing in 1976, Doris Srinivasan introduced an article otherwise critical of Marshall’s interpretation by observing that “no matter what position is taken regarding the seal’s iconography, it is always prefaced by Marshall’s interpretation. On balance the proto-Śiva character of the seal has been accepted.”

Thomas McEvilley noted, in line with Marshall, that the central figure was in the yoga pose Mulabandhasana, quoting the Kalpa Sutra’s description “a squatting position with joined heels” used with meditation and fasting to attain infinite knowledge (kevala).

And Alf Hiltebeitel noted in 2011 that, following Marshall’s analysis, “nearly all efforts at interpreting the [Indus Valley] religion have centered discussion around [the Pashupati seal] figure”.

Luristan Bronzes

Luristan bronzes (rarely “Lorestān”, “Lorestāni” etc. in sources in English) are small cast objects decorated with bronze sculptures from the Early Iron Age which have been found in large numbers in Lorestān Province and Kermanshah in western Iran.

They include a great number of ornaments, tools, weapons, horse-fittings and a smaller number of vessels including situlae, and those found in recorded excavations are generally found in burials. The ethnicity of the people who created them remains unclear, though they may well have been Persian, possibly related to the modern Lur people who have given their name to the area. They probably date to between about 1000 and 650 BC.

The bronzes tend to be flat and use openwork, like the related metalwork of Scythian art. They represent the art of a nomadic or transhumant people, for whom all possessions needed to be light and portable, and necessary objects such as weapons, finials (perhaps for tent-poles), horse-harness fittings, pins, cups and small fittings are highly decorated over their small surface area.

Representations of animals are common, especially goats or sheep with large horns, and the forms and styles are distinctive and inventive. The “Master of Animals” motif, showing a human positioned between and grasping two confronted animals is common but typically highly stylized. Some female “mistress of animals” are seen.

Germanic motifs

Sutton Hoo purse-lid

Torslunda plates

The purse-lid from the Sutton Hoo burial, one of the major objects excavated from the Anglo-Saxon royal burial-ground at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England, of about 620 AD has two plaques with a man between two wolves.

The motif is common in Anglo-Saxon art and related Early Medieval styles, where the animals generally remain aggressive. Other notable examples of the motif in Germanic art include one of the Torslunda plates, four cast bronze dies found in the Torslunda parish on the Swedish island Öland, and helmets from Vendel and Valsgärde.

Each plate contains a different mythological design, traditionally labeled, displayed here counterclockwise from the bottom right A to D, as “man between bears”, “man with axe holding roped animal”, “walking warriors carrying spears” and “dancing man with horned head-dress and man with spear wearing wolfskin”.

Horned gods

 Horned god

The Master of Animals may all have a Stone Age precursor who was probably a hunter’s deity. Many relate to the horned deity of the hunt, another common type, typified by Cernunnos, and a variety of stag, bull, ram and goat gods.

Horned gods are not universal however, and in some cultures bear gods, like Arktos might take the role, or even the more anthropomorphic deities who lead the Wild Hunt. Such figures are also often referred to as ‘Lord of the forest’* or ‘Lord of the mountain’.

The term Horned God is an early 20th-century syncretic term for a horned or antlered anthropomorphic god with partly pseudohistorical origins, partly based on historical horned deities. The Horned God represents the male part of the religion’s duotheistic theological system, the consort of the female Triple Goddess of the Moon or other Mother Goddess.

He is associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting, and the life cycle. Whilst depictions of the deity vary, he is always shown with either horns or antlers upon his head, often depicted as being theriocephalic (having a beast’s head), in this way emphasizing “the union of the divine and the animal”, the latter of which includes humanity.

He is generally regarded as a dualistic god of twofold aspects: bright and dark, night and day, summer and winter, the Oak King and the Holly King. In this dualistic view, his two horns symbolize, in part, his dual nature. (The use of horns to symbolize duality is also reflected in the phrase “on the horns of a dilemma.”) 

The three aspects of the Goddess and the two aspects of the Horned God are sometimes mapped on to the five points of the Pentagram, although which points correspond to which deity aspects varies. He can also be represented as a triune god, split into three aspects that reflect those of the Triple Goddess: the Youth (Warrior), the Father, and the Sage.

There is evidence of a horned god from several cultures. Many horned deities are known to have been worshipped in various cultures throughout history. Evidence for horned gods appear very early in the human record. The so-called Sorcerer dates from perhaps 13,000 BCE. 

Twenty-one red deer headdresses, made from the skulls of the red deer and likely fitted with leather laces, have been uncovered at the Mesolithic site of Star Carr. They are thought to date from roughly 9,000 BCE.

Various depictions of humans with horns from European and Indian sources, ranging from the paleolithic French cave painting of “The Sorcerer” to the Indic Pashupati to the modern English Dorset Ooser, are evidence for an unbroken, Europe-wide tradition of worship of a singular Horned God. 

Trois Frères, cave in Ariège, France, containing an important group of Late Paleolithic paintings and engravings. The cave was discovered in 1914, and most of the pictures of animals, together with a couple of therianthropes (half-human, half-animal figures), are located on the walls of a deep interior chamber known as the Sanctuary.

This area is filled with some 280 often-overlapping engraved figures of bison, horses, stags, reindeer, ibex, and mammoths. The great majority probably date to the mid-Magdalenian Period (about 14,000 years ago). 

The Sanctuary is dominated by the cave’s most famous figure, a small image, both painted and engraved, known as the Horned God, or the Sorcerer. It depicts a human with the features of several different animals, and it dominates the mass of animal figures from a height of 13 feet (4 metres) above the cave floor. 

Its significance is unknown, but it is usually interpreted as some kind of great spirit or master of the animals. The unusual nature of the Sanctuary’s decoration may reflect the practice of magical ceremonies in the chamber.

In a different part of the cave, there is a small chamber, known as the Chapel of the Lioness, that contains a large engraving of a lioness on a natural “altar,” with numerous special objects (animal teeth, shells, flint tools) carefully placed in crevices below it and around the walls. These are most plausibly seen as votive objects.

Cernunnos

Pillar of the Boatmen

Gundestrup cauldron

Cernunnos is the conventional name given in Celtic studies to depictions of the “horned god” of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. Cernunnos is depicted with the antlers of a stag, seated cross-legged, associated with animals, and holding or wearing torcs.

He appears, however, all over Gaul, and among the Celtiberians. Cernunnos is depicted with the antlers of a stag, seated cross-legged, associated with animals, and holding or wearing torcs. This deity is known from over 50 examples in the Gallo-Roman period, mostly in north-eastern Gaul.

The name itself is only attested once, on the 1st-century Pillar of the Boatmen (French: Pilier des nautes), where he is shown as an antlered figure with torcs hanging from his antlers, but he appears all over Gaul, and among the Celtiberians.

The Pillar of the Boatmen, now displayed in the Musée National du Moyen Age in Paris, is a monumental Roman column erected in Lutetia (modern Paris) in honour of Jupiter by the guild of boatmen in the 1st century AD.

Constructed by Gaulish sailors probably in 14 CE, it was discovered in 1710 within the foundations of the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, site of ancient Lutetia, the civitas capital of the Celtic Parisii. It is the oldest monument in Paris and is one of the earliest pieces of representational Gallo-Roman art to carry a written inscription.

The pillar is made of a type of limestone called “pierre de Saint-Leu-d’Esserent”, from Saint-Leu, Oise, France. It is likely to have been formed in four tiers and although the order from top to bottom is reasonably certain from the relative sizes of the blocks, we do not know the rotational order in which the blocks were arranged; there are 64 possibilities. However, there is no proof that they were stacked and could also have been two pairs of altars.

The guild was for relatively wealthy shipowners or traders. An indication of the power of the guild is shown by one of the sculptures of the pillar where they parade in arms with shields and spears, a privilege granted by the Romans, which is exceptional in less than half a century after the conquest of Gaul. The guild was also the first known society of Paris.

The top tier, of which only the top half remains, depicts Cernunnos, Smertrios, and Castor and Pollux. Smertrios is shown kneeling, brandishing a club and attacking a snake. Castor and Pollux are shown standing beside their horses, each holding a spear.

Cernunnos has stag’s antlers in their early stage of annual growth from which hang two torcs.  The lower part of the relief is lost, but the dimensions suggest that the god was sitting cross-legged, providing a direct parallel to the antlered figure on the Gundestrup cauldron.

From the amount of the body in the top half, Cernunnos is assumed to have been depicted in a cross-legged seated position as is typical of other Cernunnos depictions; there is insufficient room for him to be seated on a chair or standing.

The second tier, which is complete, shows Jupiter, Esus, Tarvos Trigaranos and Vulcan. Jupiter is shown standing, holding a spear and a thunderbolt. Esus is shown standing beside a willow tree, which he is cutting down with an axe. Tarvos Trigaranus is depicted as a large, heavy-set bull standing in front of a willow tree. Two cranes stand on his back and a third on his head. Vulcan is shown standing, with hammer and tongs.

In spite of the name Cernunnos being attested nowhere else, it is commonly used in Celtological literature as describing all comparable depictions of horned/antlered deities. This “Cernunnos” type in Celtic iconography is often portrayed with animals, in particular the stag, and also frequently associated with the ram-horned serpent, and less frequently bulls (at Rheims), dogs and rats.

Because of his frequent association with creatures, scholars often describe Cernunnos as the “Lord of the Animals” or the “Lord of Wild Things”, and Miranda Green describes him as a “peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness”.

The Pilier des nautes links him with sailors and with commerce, suggesting that he was also associated with material wealth as does the coin pouch from the Cernunnos of Rheims (Marne, Champagne, France)—in antiquity, Durocortorum, the civitas capital of the Remi tribe—and the stag vomiting coins from Niedercorn-Turbelslach (Luxembourg) in the lands of the Treveri. The god may have symbolized the fecundity of the stag-inhabited forest.

Other examples of “Cernunnos” images include a petroglyph in Val Camonica in Cisalpine Gaul. The antlered human figure has been dated as early as the 7th century BCE or as late as the 4th. An antlered child appears on a relief from Vendeuvres, flanked by serpents and holding a purse and a torc.

The best known image appears on the Gundestrup cauldron, a richly decorated silver vessel, thought to date from between 200 BC and 300 AD, or more narrowly between 150 BC and 1 BC, found on Jutland, dating to the 1st century BCE, thought to depict Celtic subject matter though usually regarded as of Thracian workmanship.

The figure on the Gundestrup cauldron sits with legs part-crossed, has antlers, is surrounded by animals and grasps a snake in one hand and a torc in the other. This famous and puzzling object probably dates to 200 BC, or possibly as late as 300 AD, and though found in Denmark was perhaps made in Thrace.

The Gundestrup cauldron is a richly decorated silver vessel, thought to date from between 200 BC and 300 AD, or more narrowly between 150 BC and 1 BC. This places it within the late La Tène period or early Roman Iron Age. The antlered figure in plate A has been commonly identified as Cernunnos. Possibly the lost portion below his bust showed him seated cross-legged as the figure on the cauldron is.

Despite the fact that the vessel was found in Denmark, it was probably not made there or nearby; it includes elements of Gaulish and Thracian origin in the workmanship, metallurgy, and imagery. Other aspects of the iconography derive from the Near East, and there are intriguing parallels with ancient India and later Hindu deities and their stories.

The techniques and elements of the style of the panels relate closely to other Thracian silver, while much of the depiction, in particular of the human figures, relates to the Celts, though attempts to relate the scenes closely to Celtic mythology remain controversial.

Scholars are mostly content to regard the former as motifs borrowed purely for their visual appeal, without carrying over anything much of their original meaning, but despite the distance some have attempted to relate the latter to wider traditions remaining from Proto-Indo-European religion.

Mistress of the Animals

The Master of the Animals sometimes also have female equivalents, the so-called Mistress of the Animals. Potnia Theron (“Mistress of the Animals”), a phrase first used by Homer, is used for early Greek depictions of goddesses, usually Artemis, holding animals. The Greek god shown as “Master of Animals” is usually Apollo, the god of hunting.

The word Potnia, meaning mistress or lady, was a Mycenaean Greek word inherited by Classical Greek, with the same meaning, cognate to Sanskrit patnī. An Artemis type deity, a ‘Mistress of the Animals’, is often assumed to have existed in prehistorical religion and often referred to as Potnia Theron, with some scholars positing a relationship between Artemis and goddesses depicted in Minoan art and Potnia Theron has become a generic term for any female associated with animals.

Many depictions in ancient art present a widespread ancient motif of the mistress of Animals, showing a central figure with a human form grasping two animals, one to each side. The oldest depiction has been discovered in Çatalhöyük in Anatolia, dated to the 6th millennium BC and identified by some as a mother goddess.

Cybele

Cybele (Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/ Kubeleya “Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother”, perhaps “Mountain Mother”) is an Anatolian mother goddess. She is Phrygia’s only known goddess, and was probably its national deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BC.

In Greece, as in Phrygia, she was a “Mistress of animals” (Potnia Therōn), with her mastery of the natural world expressed by the lions that flank her, sit in her lap or draw her chariot. She was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the harvest–mother goddess Demeter.

She was readily assimilated to the Minoan-Greek earth-mother Rhea, “Mother of the gods”, whose raucous, ecstatic rites she may have acquired. As an exemplar of devoted motherhood, she was partly assimilated to the grain-goddess Demeter, whose torchlight procession recalled her search for her lost daughter, Persephone.

Inara

Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the “potnia theron” of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma, a Hurrian mountain god, who was also worshipped by the Hittites and Luwians.

The original source and meaning of the name Sarruma is unknown. In Hittite and Hurrian texts, his name was linked with the Akkadian šarri (“King”) and could be written with the Sumerogram for King, LUGAL-ma. In Hieroglyphic Luwian, his name was written with a pair of walking legs, which is transcribed as SARMA.

Inanna

Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess associated with love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power. She was originally worshipped in Sumer and was later worshipped by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians under the name Ishtar. She was known as the “Queen of Heaven” and was the patron goddess of the Eanna temple at the city of Uruk, which was her main cult center.

She was associated with the planet Venus and her most prominent symbols included the lion and the eight-pointed star. Inanna-Ishtar was associated with lions, which the ancient Mesopotamians regarded as a symbol of power. Her husband was the god Dumuzid (later known as Tammuz) and her sukkal, or personal attendant, was the goddess Ninshubur (who later became the male deity Papsukkal).

Durga

The Hindu goddess Durga may also have been influenced by Inanna. Like Inanna, Durga was envisioned as a warrior goddess with a fierce temper who slew demons. Both goddesses were portrayed riding on the backs of lions and both were associated with the destruction of the wicked. Like Inanna, Durga was also associated with sexuality.

Durga, identified as Adi Parashakti, is a principal and popular form of Hindu Goddess. She is the warrior goddess, whose mythology centres around combating evils and demonic forces that threaten peace, prosperity and dharma of the good. She is the fierce form of the protective mother goddess, willing to unleash her anger against wrong, violence for liberation and destruction to empower creation.

She is a central deity in Shaktism tradition of Hinduism, where she is equated with the concept of ultimate reality called Brahman. One of the most important texts of Shaktism is Devi Mahatmya (“Glory of the Goddess”), also known as Durgā Saptashatī or Chandi patha, which celebrates Durga as the goddess, declaring her as the supreme being and the creator of the universe.

Vedic literature does not have any particular goddess matching the concept of Durga. Her legends appear in the medieval era, as angry, ferocious aspects of mother goddess Parvati take the avatar as Durga or Kali. She manifests as a goddess with eight or ten arms holding weapons and skulls of demons, and is astride on a tiger or lion.

Durga’s emergence and mythology is described in the Puranas, particularly the Devi Mahatmya. The text describes Kālī’s emerging out of Durga when she becomes extremely angry. Durga’s face turns pitch dark, and suddenly Kali springs forth from Durga’s forehead. Kali appears as an independent deity, or like Durga, viewed as the wife of Shiva. In this aspect, she represents the omnipotent Shakti of Shiva. She holds both the creative and destructive power of time.

Devī is the Sanskrit word for “goddess”; the masculine form is Deva. Devi – the feminine form, and Deva – the masculine form, mean “heavenly, divine, anything of excellence”, and are also gender specific terms for a deity in Hinduism.

Etymologically, the cognates of Devi are Latin dea and Greek thea. According to Douglas Harper, the etymological root Dev- means “a shining one,” from *div- “to shine,” and it is a cognate with Greek dios “divine” and Zeus, and Latin deus (Old Latin deivos).

Devi’s epithets synonymous with Durga appear in Upanishadic literature, such as Kali in verse 1.2.4 of the Mundaka Upanishad dated to about the 5th century BCE. Kali is described as “terrible yet swift as thought”, very red and smoky colored manifestation of the divine with a fire-like flickering tongue, before the text begins presenting its thesis that one must seek self-knowledge and the knowledge of the eternal Brahman.

Egypt-Mesopotamia relations

Egypt-Mesopotamia relations

Gebel el-Arak Knife

Egypt-Mesopotamia relations seem to have developed from the 4th millennium BCE, starting in the Uruk period for Mesopotamia and the Gerzean culture of pre-literate Prehistoric Egypt (circa 3500-3200 BCE).

Influences can be seen in the visual arts of Egypt, in imported products, and also in the possible transfer of writing from Mesopotamia to Egypt, and generated “deep-seated” parallels in the early stages of both cultures.

The Master of Animals motif also takes pride of place at the top of the famous Gebel el-Arak Knife in the Louvre, an ivory and flint knife dating from the Naqada II d period of Egyptian prehistory, which began c.3450 BC, showing Mesopotamian influence. Here a figure in Mesopotamian dress, often taken to be a god, grapples with two lions.

The handle of the knife is carved on both sides with finely executed figures arranged in five horizontal registers. The opposite side of the handle shows Mesopotamian influence featuring the Master of Animals motif, very common in Mesopotamian art, in the form of a figure wearing Mesopotamian clothing flanked by two upright lions symbolising the Morning and Evening Stars (now both identified with the planet Venus).

Robert du Mesnil du Buisson said the central figure is the god El. David Rohl identifies him with Meskiagkasher (Biblical Cush), who “journeyed upon the sea and came ashore at the mountains”. Nicolas Grimal refrains from speculating on the identity of the ambiguous figure, referring to it as a “warrior”.

Modern scholarship generally attributes the back reliefs to Mesopotamian influence, and more specifically attribute the design of the clothed wrestler to the Mesopotamian “priest-king” Master of Animals images of the Late Uruk period.

There was generally a high-level of trade between Ancient Egypt and the Near-East throughout the Pre-dynastic period of Egypt, during the Naqada II (3600-3350 BCE) and Naqada III (3350-2950 BCE) phases. These were contemporary with the Late Uruk (3500-3100 BCE) and Jemdet Nasr (3100-2900 BCE) periods in Mesopotamia.

The main period of cultural exchange, particularly consisting in the transfer of Mesopotamian imagery and symbols to Egypt, is considered to have lasted about 250 years, during the Naqada II to Dynasty I periods.

Ghassulian refers to a culture and an archaeological stage dating to the Middle and Late Chalcolithic Period in the Southern Levant (c. 4400 – c. 3500 BC). The Ghassulian culture correlates closely with the Amratian of Egypt and also seems to have affinities (e.g., the distinctive churns, or “bird vases”) with early Minoan culture in Crete.

Several facts allow us to assume that the carriers of this culture were immigrants who had brought their own culture with them: all excavated sites represent an advanced stage of this culture, whereas no evidence of its nascent stages has been discovered, so far, anywhere in the region.

The Ghassulians were a Chalcolithic culture as they used stone tools but also smelted copper. Funerary customs show evidence that they buried their dead in stone dolmens and also practiced Secondary burial. This culture’s characteristics indicate they had connections with neighboring regions and that their culture had not evolved in the southern Levant.

Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) is part of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, a Neolithic culture centered in upper Mesopotamia, dating to c. 10,800 – c. 8,500 years ago, that is, 8,800-6,500 BCE. It was typed by Kathleen Kenyon during her archaeological excavations at Jericho in the West Bank.

Like the earlier PPNA people, the PPNB culture developed from the Mesolithic Natufian culture. However, it shows evidence of a northerly origin, possibly indicating an influx from the region of north eastern Anatolia.

Cultural tendencies of this period differ from that of the earlier Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) period in that people living during this period began to depend more heavily upon domesticated animals to supplement their earlier mixed agrarian and hunter-gatherer diet.

This is the first period in which architectural styles of the southern Levant became primarily rectilinear; earlier typical dwellings were circular, elliptical and occasionally even octagonal. Pyrotechnology was highly developed in this period. During this period, one of the main features of houses is evidenced by a thick layer of white clay plaster floors highly polished and made of lime produced from limestone.

It is believed that the use of clay plaster for floor and wall coverings during PPNB led to the discovery of pottery. The earliest proto-pottery was White Ware vessels, made from lime and gray ash, built up around baskets before firing, for several centuries around 7000 BC at sites such as Tell Neba’a Faour (Beqaa Valley).

Sites from this period found in the Levant utilizing rectangular floor plans and plastered floor techniques were found at Ain Ghazal, Yiftahel (western Galilee), and Abu Hureyra (Upper Euphrates). The period is dated to between ca. 10,700 and ca. 8,000 BP or 7000 – 6000 BCE.

Plastered human skulls were reconstructed human skulls that were made in the ancient Levant between 9000 and 6000 BC in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period. They represent some of the oldest forms of art in the Middle East and demonstrate that the prehistoric population took great care in burying their ancestors below their homes. The skulls denote some of the earliest sculptural examples of portraiture in the history of art.

In the Amuq valley of Syria, located in the southern part of Turkey, in the Hatay Province, close to the city of Antakya (Antioch on the Orontes), PPNB culture seems to have survived, influencing further cultural developments further south. Work at the site of ‘Ain Ghazal in Jordan has indicated a later Pre-Pottery Neolithic C period, which existed between 8,200 and 7,900 BP.

A Circum Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex developed in the period from the climatic crisis of 6200 BCE, partly as a result of an increasing emphasis in PPNB farming cultures upon animal domesticates, and a fusion with their ancestral Natufian and Harifian hunter gatherers in Southern Palestine, with affiliate connections with the cultures of Fayyum and the Eastern Desert of Egypt.

Nomadic elements fused with PPNB led to the Agricultural Revolution/ Neolithic Revolution in the Levant to form the Minhata Culture and Yarmukian Culture which were to spread southwards, beginning the development of the classic mixed farming Mediterranean culture, and from 5600 BC were associated with the Ghassulian culture of the region, the first chalcolithic culture of the Levant.

Cultures practicing this lifestyle spread down the Red Sea shoreline and moved east from Syria into southern Iraq. The Ghassulian culture developed from the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex. Canaanite culture apparently developed in situ from the earlier Ghassulian chalcolithic culture.

Canaanite culture apparently developed in situ from the earlier Ghassulian chalcolithic culture, which pioneered the Mediterranean agricultural system typical of the Canaanite region, which comprised intensive subsistence horticulture, extensive grain growing, commercial wine and olive cultivation and transhumance pastoralism.

In climatology, the 8.2-kiloyear event was a sudden decrease in global temperatures that occurred approximately 8,200 years before the present, or c. 6,200 BC, and which lasted for the next two to four centuries. Drier conditions were notable in North Africa, and East Africa suffered five centuries of general drought.

In West Asia, especially Mesopotamia, the 8.2-kiloyear event was a 300-year aridification and cooling episode, which may have provided the natural force for Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture and surplus production, which were essential for the earliest formation of classes and urban life.

However, changes taking place over centuries around the period are difficult to link specifically to the approximately 100-year abrupt event, as recorded most clearly in the Greenland ice cores.

In particular, in Tell Sabi Abyad, an archaeological site in the Balikh River valley in northern Syria, significant cultural changes are observed at c. 6200 BC; the settlement was not abandoned at the time. The earliest pottery of Syria was discovered here; it dates at ca. 6900-6800 BC, and consists of mineral-tempered, and sometimes painted wares.

Archaeologists discovered what seems like the oldest painted pottery here. Remarkably, the earliest pottery was of a very high quality, and some of it was already painted. Later, the painted pottery was discontinued, and the quality declined.

It was not until around 6200 BC that people began to add painted decorations again. The question of why the Neolithic inhabitants of Tell Sabi Abyad initially stopped painting their pottery is unanswered for the time being.

Pottery found at the site includes Dark Faced Burnished Ware and a Fine Ware that resembled Hassuna Ware and Samarra Ware. Bowls and jars often had angled necks and ornate geometric designs, some featuring horned animals.

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