Art of the Inscription: A review of “Assyrian Historiography” by A.T. Olmstead

Read this on Project Gutenberg

Or you can just buy it off Amazon by clicking on the cover.

Whenever Art History looks at art from the Ancient era such as Mesopotamia, it goes beyond the usual figurines and illustrations.  Sometimes, the written word take place as the main topic of conversation.  This happens in Medieval and Egyptian art history as well.  Calligraphy and pictograms dance on the line between drawing and writing with wanting to give a little extra decoration to the text.

The main why I am reviewing this book on my art history blog.

Another old and free book I found on Amazon, this volume records and how and when the Assyrian civilization inscribed their history.   The author Olmstead analyzes biases, lies, and omissions done by historians of the day.  An interesting conundrum for people who want to trust historians of the past, but at the same time, have to consider these works as tools of propaganda and promoting national pride.  Or just committing honest errors.  Olmstead points out that he (and possibly others) coming across these errors and making sure which annals (as he calls them) had a more truthful reputation.

Other subjects beyond royalty do come up such as remembering their gods, their feud with the Babylonians, to moving buildings from one location to another.  For any art historian or archeologist reading, Olmstead also writes about the preferred material the Assyrians used for their writing material.  What really fascinated me about that part came from the cylindrical designs the culture used as writing material.  Such a great departure from popular flat canvas practically every writer from past to present uses.  The only other culture I can think of that uses cylindrical design for remembering historical events comes from Trajan’s Column courtesy of the Roman Empire.  Also, Ancient Egyptians often scribed their historical events on obelisks.  On the Assyrians, they also used obelisks and prisms.  One must consider how these shapes meant a lot to the Assyrian culture for writers commit their royal events to these unique canvases.

ETA: Added a link, removed a sentence, and tweaked another..


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