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Lesson Plan: Gods, Goddesses, and the Supernatural

Human-headed winged lion (lamassu)
Neo-Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II, 883–859 b.c.
Mesopotamia, excavated at Kalhu (modern Nimrud)
Gypsum alabaster; 122 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 109 in. (331.2 x 62.2 x 276.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1932 (32.143.2)

Collection Area: Ancient Near Eastern Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts, World History
Grades: Elementary School, Middle School
Topics/Themes: Identity, Power and Leadership, Animals in Art


Goals

Students will be able to:
  • identify ways Mesopotamians, living in the ninth to the seventh century b.c., used art to convey messages to palace visitors; and
  • create a protective figure for an amulet using Ancient Near Eastern art as a source of inspiration.

National Learning Standards

English Language Arts
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

Visual Arts
NA-VA.K-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
NA-VA.K-12.2 Using Knowledge of Structures and Functions
NA-VA.K-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating a Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
NA-VA.K-12.4 Understanding the Visual Arts in Relation to History and Cultures

World History
NSS-WH.5-12.3 Era 3: Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires, 1000 b.c.e.–300 c.e.


Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.


Questions for Viewing

  • This figure combines the features of several animals in a unified whole. What animals come to mind as you look at this sculpture? What qualities do you associate with these animals?
  • Which part of each animal has the artist incorporated? What function do these attributes have in the natural world?
  • What might these features indicate about the figure?
  • This sculpture originally supported a palace doorway in ancient Mesopotamia. How might this sculpture make you feel if you were entering the palace? Why?
  • If you were going to choose a being to protect you, what features would you want it to have? Why?

Activity

Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Cardboard, pencils, foil, yarn or string, hole punch, glue, embellishments
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts
Duration: 120 minutes

Design your own supernatural being to be displayed on a protective amulet that includes at least one human and one animal feature. As you sketch your design, consider whom this being will protect and against what it will protect. Cut a silhouette of your drawing out of cardboard and cover it with tin or gold foil. Add embellishments and tie it to a cord to be worn around the neck. Write a creation story for this protective being, detailing who made it and why. This could also be turned into a picture book.


Resources

Aruz, Joan, et al. eds. Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium b.c. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

Benzel, Kim, Sarah B. Graff, Yelena Rakic, and Edith W. Watts. Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010. Download the resource.

Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. "Assyria, 1365–609 b.c." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (Originally published 2004, last revised April 2010)

"Human-headed winged lion (lamassu) [Excavated at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Mesopotamia] (32.143.2)." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

Nigg, Joseph, ed. The Book of Fabulous Beasts: A Treasury of Writings from Ancient Times to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Pre-Visit Guide for Teachers: Art of the Ancient Near East (PDF)


Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Striding horned demon
Proto-Elamite period, ca. 3100–2900 b.c.
Iran or Mesopotamia
Copper alloy; H. 6 7/8 in. (17.5 cm); W. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2007 (2007.280)

Relief of King Ashurnasirpal II
Neo-Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II, 883–859 b.c.
Mesopotamia, excavated at Kalhu (modern Nimrud)
Gpsum alabaster; H. 92 1/4 in. (234.3 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1932 (32.143.4)


Author: Adapted from a lesson plan by Jordis Rosberg in Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators
Affiliation: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Date: 2010

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