The advent of the 3rd millennium BCE saw a rise in contact between civilisations along the great land and maritime routes. The impetus for connectivity was often a desire for rare and precious materials such as ivory, cornelian and lapis lazuli, or metals such as tin, essential for the manufacture of bronze for superior weaponry. Luxury artefacts were traded and exchanged along these routes, and ambitious rulers even sought to enhance their prestige by importing wild and exotic animals for their zoological gardens, for hunting or simply for their own amusement.
These interactions, sometimes across thousands of miles, stimulated artistic enrichment throughout the centuries. This course focuses on the flowering of arts across boundaries, apparent in Bronze Age seals and hard-stone vessels, from India to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan. Luxury objects including virtuoso metalwork and ivories, and expensive commodities discovered on shipwrecks, all reveal connections between the ancient cultures of Egypt, the Mediterranean and the Near East. In the first millennium, the rise of Iranian empires spread new arts and ideas as far eastwards as the steppes of Central Asia, reaching beyond urban societies to the world of the nomads. In these days of international communications we can look back to several eras of antiquity when global exchange played a significant part in the development of arts and culture.
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