History is compilation of data and materials gathered throughout time and analyzed to form some consensus of what happened in the past. A common way people learn about history is through reading and memorizing textbooks and historical literature. This can be an effective way of understanding the past but it is important to not overlook other ways of understanding the past such as artwork. Although artwork may not always tell the person about specific knowledge, it may sometimes give more information that other sources could not.
The important thing to note about historical artwork is that it shows the scholar insight about what the people of the time thought of themselves and not what other people thought of them. In this way, artwork acts as a primary source and gives off first hand information about a people’s own culture. Specifically, through analyzing the artwork of “Hunting the great stag” wall painting and the Narmer Palette, cultural insight on the rise of animal domestication and technology in the city of Catal Huyuk and the process of unification and kingship in Egypt can be learned respectively.
Hunting The Great Stag” was a wall painting in Catal Huyuk which was an ancient neolithic site that existed around 6300 B. C. (Winks). This painting is an important source of not only the city of Catal Huyuk but also of Neolithic era in general. At first glance the painting is seen to depict a tribe of hunters cornering a large animal in a chaotic fashion. During the neolithic era, agriculture and the domestication of animals slowly started to become popular. In “Hunting The Great Stag”, the rise in popularity of animal domestication can be seen through the large central animal in the picture.
We can see that the size difference between the animal and the humans is very large. This suggests that animals were a very prized part of neolithic culture because they were a source of food and clothing. Another impression it may leave on the viewer is that tribal efforts were a significant aspect of neolithic culture. As shown, an entire group of people are needed to collaborate to take down the stag. This further suggests the rise in animal domestication. Although the animals were prized to the people of catal huyuk, they were not respected.
As seen in the image of “Hunting The Great Stag”, one man is kicking the animal in the behind and another man is trying to break the horns of the animal. The lasting impression taken from this image suggests that the people of catal huyuk and of the neolithic age were first starting to form societies as it served an advantage in hunting and surviving. Another aspect of catal huyuk culture that can be analyzed in “Hunting The Great Stag” is technology. It is clear that technology was very primitive during this era.
This can shown by the painting itself. “Hunting The Great Stag” was painted using a technique called fresco which is a form of mural painting (fresco). The fact that the painting was drawn on the wall shows that paper was not yet a tool they could use for expression. Another indicator of primitive technology is the way the hunters are dressed and the tools they are using. It can be noted that all the men are dressed in not much clothes at all. They are also shown to all have beards which may be an indicator of the lack of shaving tools.
The tools they are using to defeat the animal are either stones or their bare hands which shows a very basic form of hunting. Finally, the fact that they used wall painting as a form of expression shows that language was not yet developed which is also a form of technology. Ultimately, the meaning of this painting is left ambiguous due to the archaic form of technology. The Narmer Palette was an ancient egyptian artefact that holds a great deal of symbolism about the unification of Egypt as well as Kingship. The term palette refers to an Egyptian tool use for the application of facial and body make up (Narmer).
The high quality workmanship indicates that this was a significant object and was most likely dedicated to a god/king (Narmer). One significance of the Narmer Palette was to tell a story of the unification of Upper and lower egypt through symbolism. On the left side of the palette, it can be noted that Narmer is part of upper Egypt which can be determined by the shape of his hat. Later he is turns to become part of lower Egypt as the hat changes (Calvert). As Narmer helps his army fight the foes, he eventually leaves victorious and unifies Egypt.
This can be seen on the second palette where the lions intertwine necks by Narmer controlling them. This shows forced unification of upper and lower egypt. One aspect of egyptian culture we can learn from the Palette of Narmer is kingship. In ancient Egypt, kings were often compared with gods and looked up to by the other civilians. In the Narmer Palette, we see that Narmer is in the center of the piece and is also the largest with his name in hieroglyphics above (Narmer). He is holding the hair of his servant and is scaled larger than anyone else in the palette.
This shows that there was a definite hierarchy system in egypt around the time 3100 B. C. (Narmer). The mace in his hand is also representative of his power along with him standing on top of his defeated enemies. It is also important to note that without centralized power in the form of a monarchy, the pyramids would have been able to be built. Ultimately, kingship is clearly depicted in Palette of Narmer. (bull head) As shown throughout the essay, we see that artwork is not only a form of visual entertainment but is also a way to tell a story.
Although both art pieces shared insights on different cultures, they both shared the idea that each culture has a unique style of representing itself so they could be remembered. Although art pieces may sometimes lack instant clarity, careful analyzation of art pieces can tell us more about history than other historical sources of informations. Ultimately, through analyzing the artwork of “Hunting the great stag” wall painting and the Narmer Palette, cultural insight on the rise of animal domestication and technology in the city of Catal Huyuk and the process of unification and kingship in Egypt can be learned respectively.