Encompasses present-day Iraq and northeastern Syria
Amorite nomads from the west establish themselves as local dynasts who initially form petty competing kingdoms throughout the region. Shamshi-Adad (ca. 18301776 B.C.) unites much of northern Mesopotamia, from Ashur on the Tigris to Mari on the Euphrates. His death allows Hammurabi (ca. 17921750 B.C.), king of Babylon, to expand his control of the south and unify much of Mesopotamia. The empire declines under succeeding kings and is brought to an end in a raid by the Hittites from Anatolia circa 1595 B.C. The Hurrians, who establish a state called Mitanni, dominate northern Mesopotamia, while in the south, the Kassites come to control Babylonia. By the mid-fourteenth century B.C., the emerging powers of the Hittites in Anatolia and the Assyrians in northern Mesopotamia bring an end to Mitanni's power. The Assyrians briefly expand their control over Babylonia and Syria. Toward the end of the period, a number of sites are violently destroyed. The Hittite empire and numerous city-states in Syria and the Levant collapse, while Mesopotamia suffers a decline.
- ca. 20001800 B.C.From
Ashur on the Tigris, Assyrians create a network of caravan routes, stretching
from the plains of Mesopotamia through the steep passes of the Taurus
Mountains into Anatolia. Here they establish trading colonies, where goods
including textiles, metals, and other prestige items are exchanged. Cuneiform
tablets, often enclosed within sealed clay envelopes, found in Anatolia,
document these transactions. These seal impressions display a wide variety
of local, Syrian, and northern and southern Mesopotamian styles.
- ca. 18001600 B.C. Continuing
the tradition of earlier kings, Hammurabi allows "justice to prevail in
the land" by collecting together 282 laws dealing with commercial, family,
and property matters. They are preserved on a stele where Hammurabi is
depicted in relief receiving the rod and ring, symbols of kingship, from
the sun god Shamash. As part of his expansionist policy, Hammurabi destroys
the palace of King Zimri-Lim at Mari on the Euphrates River in Syria.
The palace is decorated with wall paintings and stone statuary, and a
massive archive of cuneiform tablets provides a wealth of information
about contemporary political events. The most popular cylinder seals of
this period are made of hematite. This hard lustrous steel-gray stone
is carved using a drill and cutting wheel rather than with handheld tools.
- ca. 16001350 B.C.Dynamic
interaction across the Near East and the eastern Mediterranean brings
about a period of internationalism characterized by the transmission of
artistic motifs and styles through portable items such as ivories and
seals. While many languages are spoken throughout the Near East, Akkadian
and the cuneiform script dominate the written record. At the site of the
Egyptian capital at Amarna, an archive including cuneiform letters chronicles
the correspondence among rulers of Egypt, the city-states of Syria and
the Levant, Assyria, Babylonia, Anatolia, and Mitanni.
- ca. 13501000 B.C.A
characteristic monument of the period, the Kassite kudurru, or
boundary stone, is used to record royal grants. Inscribed in cuneiform,
kudurru are decorated in relief with royal and divine figures. In the
north, Assyrian cylinder seals emphasize balance and composition with
new subjects. Seal cutting, on a wide variety of hard stones, produces
beautiful designs such as animals moving across landscapes or winged horses
protecting their offspring from lions or griffins.
"Mesopotamia, 20001000 B.C.". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=03®ion=wam (October 2000)