Ancient Art–Sumerian Votive Figures

votive figure


If your interested in taking the time to read my essay on the Sumerians Votive Figures. I think its pretty interesting, but if not I understand. It is a long posting….

The Sumerians, living in the region in southern Mesopotamia, were extremely creative people. Sumerian architecture and art was decorative and complex, and primarily used for religious purposes. The Votive Figures were mined from the Square Temple in Eshnunna, which is the present day Iraq. They date back from 2900-2600 BCE. Sumerians carved the figures into limestone or gypsum. The figures looked like small stone people. The study of the Sumerians and their lives, have been researched time and time again. Historians have enough research to conclude the meaning and story behind the Sumerians creation of Votive figures.
The thing about theses figures is that they are all positioned the same way. They are positioned in a way a worshipper stands, with their hands folded and arms across their chest. The men and women Votive figures are ready to approach their God in the way they were created to do. They were part of a devotional practice, when the worshippers would sculpt themselves as a figure and place it in a shrine before the image of God. The concept was that the replica of the figure, would be constantly under the eye of God. It was a very religious idea, with good intentions. Although they are positioned the same, they are all different heights, faces, and shapes. They all have different characteristics, because everyone’s different.
Just like in society, some people are higher up on the scale then others. There will always be hierarchy in groups of people. This goes for the Votive figures as well. The tallest figure in the collection of figures is about 30 inches in height and represents Adu. Adu was the Sumerian God of vegetarian and was highly looked up to. Next to him in size is a woman who represents a mother goddess. Mother goddesses were worshipped in the hope that they would bring fertility to other women and to the crops. The next largest figures are priests and the smallest were the worshipers. Therefore the relative size of the figures indicates the relative importance they have on the Sumerians.
The Votive figures have stylized faces, bodies, and clothing. Not only was hierarchy determent by the size of the figures, but also by the accessories they were wearing. Spears, bows, grand helmets, and battle-axe’s were attributes reserved for the Gods. The Gods usually had horns on their helmet, and a toned muscular body. This is an example of artistic iconography. The different aspect of the figures is how to decipher whom each figure represented. Their wide-open eyes make them more attentive and connected to God. The male statues were often naked above the waist and wore a woolen skirt. Men figures generally wear long hair and a heavy bear. The eyebrows are emphasized but carving into the face, making the eyebrows out of negative space. The female figures wore long frilly dresses. Their hairstyles consisted of heavy coil arranged from ear to ear and a twist behind her head. Folded linen made into a headdress sometimes concealed her hair. The only figures that were ever sculpted naked were confined to the priests.
This is the way the Sumerians used an idea, the materials that were accessible, and the skill of carving, to create something valuable in their lives. The Votive figures represented the peace of knowing God was in the Sumerians lives. To recapitulate, these small stone figures were beautiful pieces of art that were applied to the Sumerians way of living.

the author

My name is Jen and I am 21 years old, living in Long Island. Im currently going to school for Graphic Design because art is my main passion. I spend much of my time searching the web for intriguing artwork. If you are an artist and want me to write an article about your work, visit the contact page and send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

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