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The use and meaning of light in ancient Mesopotamian cities

Shepperson, M.A.; (2012) The use and meaning of light in ancient Mesopotamian cities. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis seeks to explore the relationship between society, culture and lived experience within Mesopotamian cities though the way in which sunlight is manipulated within the urban built environment. Light is approached as both a physical phenomenon, which affects comfort and the practical usability of space, and as a symbolic phenomenon rich in social and religious meaning. Analysing ancient Mesopotamian architecture, light is shown to have been selectively admitted, controlled or excluded from both internal and external space in deliberate and meaningful ways. Through the reconstruction of these ancient urban light environments, to the extent possible from the recovered architecture, questions of the location, timing and meaning of activities within these cities become accessible. Sunlight is demonstrated to contribute towards the formation, structure and symbolism of cities and their architecture. Beginning at the scale of cities within the sunlit landscape, the analysis is narrowed to consider city form as a whole, and finally to individual buildings; residential, sacred and palatial. Although this analysis is primarily architectural, it is complemented by extensive consideration of contemporary textual sources, as well as iconographic and artefactual evidence. The development of original methodologies for approaching lighting within archaeological contexts forms an integral part of this analysis. The cities under detailed examination are limited to those on the Mesopotamian plain, and the chronological focus ranges from the Early Dynastic periods up to the end of the second millennium BC. Examples from outside these limits are drawn upon when directly relevant. This research represents a novel approach to ancient architecture, demonstrating the utility of light as a tool with which to analyse, not just ancient Mesopotamian settlements, but the built environment of any past society. The influence of sunlight in shaping ancient Mesopotamian cities is shown to be powerful and diverse.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The use and meaning of light in ancient Mesopotamian cities
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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