The ancient Near East was the home of early civilizations within a region roughly corresponding to the modern Middle East. These included Mesopotamia (modern Iraq, southeast Turkey, southwest Iran, northeastern Syria and Kuwait), ancient Iran (Elam, Media, Parthia and Persia), Anatolia/Asia Minor (Turkey’s Eastern Anatolia Region, Armenia, northwestern Iran, southern Georgia, and western Azerbaijan), the Levant (modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan), Cyprus, and the Arabian Peninsula. It begins with the rise of Sumer in the 4th millennium BC, and ends with the conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Within this span of roughly four thousand years, historians generally divide the period into 5 distinct ages: The Chalcolithic (4500 – 3300 BC), the early Bronze Age (3300 – 2000 BC), the middle Bronze Age (2000 – 1550 BC), the Late Bronze Age (1550 – 1200 BC), and the Iron Age (1200 – 500 BC). It is during these massive spans of time that some of the worlds most legendary empires arose and fell including but not limited to the Sumerian, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Elamite, the Hittite, and the aforementioned Achaemenid (or Persian Empire).
The ancient Near East is generally considered to be the cradle of civilization. It was the first to practice intensive year-round agriculture and invented the first writing system, along with the potter’s wheel and then the vehicular and mill wheel. Politically it created the first centralized governments, law codes and empires, as well as introducing the first instances of social stratification, slavery and organized warfare. It is also traditionally believed to be responsible for founding the fields of astronomy and mathematics. Artistically it’s tradition and legacy is as breath-taking and bewildering as any in the ancient world. With monumental sculpture and architecture, a complex and beautifully mysterious writing system, and distinct forms of metalwork in both iron and bronze, its creative and productive capacity was likely only matched by that of the ancient Egyptians. From small cylinder seals and Elamite bronzes that fit in the palm of your hand, to capacious cuneiform inscribed bricks from Assyria, the Barakat Collection effectively encapsulates all of the grandeur and artistry found in the Ancient Near East.