Unearthing the Art of the Ancients

Unearthing the Art of the Ancients


Photo by British Museum 

What makes the human species compelled to make art?

In the spirit of pure speculation on my part, I will convey a few theories that come to mind.

I suppose the first question I ponder is if the ancient artist or craftsman created with posterity in mind. Did they create wanting or wishing that it would last beyond their years? If so, would that be related to a longing for immortality? Perhaps the gods of these myths looked favorably on artisans such as Calliope, the Ancient Greek muse and protector of epic poetry and arts.

THEORY #1 - Quest for immortality 

Let’s take a look at the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti. This artifact was uncovered in 1912 at the site of Achet-Aton by Egyptologist and historian Ludwig Borchardt. The bust was found on the grounds of the pharaohs premiere artisan, Thutmose. In this case, artisans were sought after for their skill to immortalize royalty and embellish their surroundings.

                   Photo from the Berlin Museum

Much more artistic interest can be found in the ancient art of hieroglyphics, papyrus scrolls and murals. These works of art serve as depictions of societal life and cultural norms.

Fast forward a few thousand years and now we see our share of enormous murals and talented graffiti artists which follow closely the same expressive path. We all have a tremendous desire to communicate whether it be through speech, writing, song, or art. This desire along with our bustling population, there is no shortage of art, images and artifacts that portray today’s modern society. It’s fascinating to think about which of today’s art will be unearthed in future millennia.

THEORY #2 - Art as expression, either of a society or the individual


Photo by Paola Bendandi from Upsplash

Since we touched on Ancient Greek mythology, let’s discuss the breathtaking art of ancient mosaics. Mosaics also date back thousands of years and is the art of assembling scenes and patterns using stones, pebbles, marble, glass, clay or tile. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans propelled this art form into the highly developed and elaborate art it is today. In fact, they are finding ancient mosaics more rapidly than ever in recent years.

Photo from The Archeologist at the excavation at Zeugma, an Ancient Greek City on the Syrian border dating back to 300 BC

Mosaics are closely related to storytelling. A painting without paint. Bringing thousands of tiny pieces of pigmented tile or stone together to create a story most relevant to the elite families of the era was the task of these amazing artisans.

Mosaics show the immense patience, dedication and attention to detail that ignites the wonder in me. Who can come away from such a discovery without a deep sense of respect and admiration for these unknown artisans? 

It is also lovely to know that mosaic artistry is still flourishing in our modern day. The Art of mosaic is still being passed down by masters of the craft to eager and wonder-filled students. To be able to take part in an art form with such rich history must be a reward in itself.

THEORY #3 - Mastery, Art for the sake of Art

Photo by Giuliano May from Upsplash

Well, there you have it. Three theories behind our need to make art. I have no doubt there are many others that haven’t been touched on, but that just adds to the mystery. 

We will never know the inspirations and aspirations of every single artist among us. Let’s rejoice in the knowledge that there’s still so much art yet to be “unearthed” in our lifetimes.

If you are also fascinated by ancient art, just let me know what your thoughts are of this blog post. What types of art forms do you find interesting?

Speaking of unearthing, it’s time for me to try to unearth some work of my own. I’m always excited to find out the result!

Cheers and Nothing but the best,

Julie (Juju) Hickman

P.S. If you’re so inclined, you can take a listen to today’s song choice by America Authors

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