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Books: Delight to the Eye Volume 56 Number 5, September/October 2003
by Perry Bialor

[image] Steatite statue of a priest-king from Mohenjo-daro, left. Right, a diorite statue of Gudea, ruler of Lagash, from Girsu (modern Tello), Mesopotamia. (Left: © J. M. Kenoyer, courtesy the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Pakistan. [LARGER IMAGE] Right: Bruce White, courtesy Musée du Louvre, Paris. [LARGER IMAGE]) [image]

The catalog Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003; $75) more than just documents the exhibition of the same name that recently ended at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 564 pages with 535 color illustrations and 177 black-and-white figures, the catalog fleshes out the context of the art objects with current scholarship on the major sites and emerging cultures of Mesopotamia, the Aegean, the Indus Valley, and Central Asia.

Edited by Joan Cruz, curator in charge of the Metropolitan's department of ancient Near Eastern art, the catalog has fifty-one authors, many with multiple contributions. Despite the high quality of the whole, individual chapters are uneven in detail and analysis. Often elided is the fact that the provenience and chronological problems mentioned in the volume would disappear if more of the objects had come from properly excavated sites.

Still, the catalog is a delight to the eye and essential reading. Of particular interest are sections on technology--stone sculptural production, metal-working techniques, lost-wax casting, and use of copper alloys--as well as a special section on the "Intercultural Style" of carved chlorite objects, which share a distinctive iconography (especially men in combat with snakes) that integrates stylistic elements from the Indus to Mesopotamia.

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© 2003 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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