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The Aesthetic Value Of Lapis Lazuli In Mesopotamia

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Chapter Summary

The lapis lazuli in particular among the precious and semi-precious stones known from Mesopotamia was accorded considerable value in antiquity. This chapter explores which of lapis lazuli's various properties were held in high esteem; in short, how the stone was valued. It aims to understand better those qualities that reflect categories of value within Mesopotamian society, thereby bringing us closer to ancient Mesopotamian thought and experience. Such an inquiry must include both material properties-color, hardness, sheen-and ascribed properties-that is, amuletic/protective or associative dimensions; and must therefore take into consideration the visual and the symbolic aspects of the stone. While to be bright is valued as positive, there are some cases in which darkness can also be coded positively; however these are instances in which lustrousness is manifest. The way in which the dark-hued material of lapis lazuli is employed in a number of texts serves as a perfect illustration.

Keywords: aesthetic value; dark luster; lapis lazuli; Mesopotamia



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