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Elements of Ancient Middle East Architecture

Updated on June 20, 2012


History is a vital part of who we are. People learn from mistakes. We create stronger and more organized methods to help us because of our past actions and creations. By looking at how we used to learn, create, grow, and prosper; we can become better at what we do.

In the ancient Middle East, they focused on gods and the rulers. Most of their architecture stood in palaces, places of worship, etc. Since wood was difficult to find, most of their buildings were created of stone and brick. Surfaces were covered in tiles and sculptures. Most of their buildings were colored and had inscriptions. This time zone is from 5300-350 BC. Elements include:

  • Monumental script
  • Wall Reliefs
  • Animal statuary
  • Gateway guardians
  • Hunting scenes

Wall Reliefs

Wall reliefs covered walls, terraces, and stairways. Sometimes they are separated from one another by bands of rosettes. This way more can be placed on the wall in a different story or another addition to history. Another popular wall adornment consists of nobels, chieftains, courtiers, guardsmen, and tribute bearers. The individuals are not only from the area of the building, but also from surrounding locations explaining visitors as well.

Monumental Script

Some of their buildings can be read much like a book. Palaces, monuments, columns; each can have many stories of gods and historic notes. For example, there are figures of kings at the palace at Nimrud. The writtings go over the figures of the kings and nobels to explain their achievements and accomplishments.

Animal Statuary

Egyptians adored and honored animals. Most of their gods were part human and part an animal. They would have the body of one creature, and the head of another. It must have been difficult to keep up with all 2,000 gods. The animals were powerfully sculpted with many different body parts. Common parts were heads, wings, beaks, claws. The animals did not have to be real either. Mythical beasts were just as important.

Gateway Guardians

To impress and create fear in visitors, enormous winged bulls with bearded human heads were placed at the enterences to cities and palaces. The scuplting was highly accomplished and detailed. Sometimes they were placed instead of columns.

Hunting Scenes

Realistic images of lion hunts and of lions attacking weaker animals are found along walls, stairways, etc. They exist in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian palaces to strike fear into the hearts of visitors. They were left to wonder what the kings would think of their comments.


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