The early civilizations of the world rely mostly on new discoveries and their own-made understanding to survive the environment they are in. Most of these are made under the impression of their own capacity to think and to explain the things happening around them. Some were also results of experiences that men and women had, and things that they realized as they journey through their life.
At the dawn of the Neolithic Period, the civilizations of Ancient Near East and Egypt began understanding new domains of need, and thus, created several systems that would accompany them. One notable system is that of the politics, on which reign from an earthly being became established. He or she becomes the most powerful in the eyes of his servants, and the whole civilization would look up to him as their leader and mentor. Another system that flourished is religion. Though there are no concrete evidences on how this came about, it is possible that the people tried to work up their imagination in explaining the different natural activities. Even long before, people worship the sun in times of drought, and did several rituals to call down rain. Everything was based on something that they could not fully grasp, and thus needed to create a system that would allow such thing.
Since the Ancient Near East and Egypt are close together, several similarities can be observed in these two systems. In addition to this, merchants and travelers from each area visit the other frequently, resulting to an exchange of ideas and views on politics and religions. However, there are still several notable differences, evidence of wanted identity and personification of the systems.
One way to view these similarities and differences is by means of looking at the artworks during those times. The foundations of the systems can be visibly seen in these pieces, which would include paintings, sculptures, and even architectures.
In the Ancient Near East, one of the most pronounced evidence of both earthly and godly hierarchy is the ziggurat. This is a high temple, very tall, and has a steeping slope. Just like other temples, its height is a main factor. It is a structure that acts like an intermediate between the heavens and earth. Its tip points directly to the heavens, and its architecture suggests a staircase to the heavenly realm. Usually, the ziggurats are holy areas, and only certain people can enter. The King is one of these chosen individuals that can gain access. This is a manifestation of the previously stated hierarchy, where the gods are directly followed by the earthly king. In Egypt, the direct counterpart of this is the pyramids. With the same pointed tip, steep slopes, and tall structure, the pyramids are as astonishing as the ziggurats. It is also created in accordance to light, and to the rising of the sun. Its pointed architecture also suggests a rising to the world of the afterlife, and a concrete example of their religion. However, unlike the ziggurat, the pyramids were used as burial places. Notable pyramids contain high ranking Egyptians, and most kings are buried in one of these. Again, even though a difference on the purpose of the building, it still manifests the political hierarchy of the civilization.
Aside from buildings, the systems are also manifested in sculptures. To begin with, a lot of sculptures can be seen inside these temples. Most are to show the greatness of a god or a king. An example in the Ancient Near East is the relief Warka Vase and the Standing Worshippers. Both illustrates the offering to a god and goddess, how the worshippers stand in awe by the presence of the divine. Aside from the expression in their face, this stunned effect can be seen in their large eyes, which are opened and gazing directly. In Egypt, the concept of the eye is also a common one. Many writings can be seen containing a triangle with an eye in the middle. Several paintings also portray people in a profile stance, or their standing on their side. This is to further exemplify the eye of the subject. But if the eye on Ancient Near East is due to the worshipping attitude of the people, in Egypt it signifies more of an awareness of the individual. Though some suggests the awareness can be also towards the presence of a divine being, it is still different from the direct worshipping approach found in the Near East.
In Egypt, earthly power and hierarchy are more pronounced when compared to that of the Near East. In the palaces and great tombs of the pharaohs, several statues standing tens of feet, or ever larger, adore the grounds. These can be either a statue of the king himself, of a god, signifying the close ties and relationship between both. In essence, these statues illustrate the pharaoh being the god in earth, and the elegance of the structures and artworks greatly display this.
In a whole, both Ancient Near East and Egypt created systems that depend highly on their political and religious beliefs. Though created by different civilizations, several similarities can still be observed. Their artworks, especially, exemplifies these similarities, and proves the unique, and yet consensus thinking of our early brothers.