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Timelines of World Art: Middle East

c. 100 BC–c. AD 100

The important trading city of Hatra in southern Iraq has heavily fortified walls of mud-brick on stone foundations, four large gates and the Great Temple inside the precincts. Some of the kings who sponsor various stages of the construction are commemorated with relief portraits on bricks set into the city walls. Read more...

AD 1–AD 100

Massive temples and tombs, including the Khaznat al-Fir`awn (Treasury of the Pharaoh), are carved from the stone cliffs at Petra, the capital of the Nabataean kingdom in Jordan. Read more...

c. AD 100–c. AD 300

Greco-Roman temples dedicated to the gods Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus are constructed at Baalbek in Lebanon at the site of an ancient caravan route. Read more...

c. AD 200–c. AD 300

Wall paintings from the synagogue in the Syrian city of Dura Europos provide the earliest known narrative depiction of biblical scenes, which challenges the assumption that early Jewish art prohibited figural imagery. Read more...

AD 306–AD 337

Emperor Constantine the Great unites the Roman Empire under his control and in AD 324 establishes his new capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), on the site of the Greek town of Byzantion in Turkey. He vigorously sponsors art projects that glorify his rule, such as the colossal portrait statue of him, and enhance Christianity, which he adopts and makes the official state religion. Read more...

AD 326

Construction begins on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in the form of a religious complex comprising a rotunda constructed over the Tomb of Christ, a courtyard and a basilica. Following several episodes of destruction and reconstruction, the entire complex is rebuilt by the Crusaders after their conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. Read more...

AD 537–AD 562

After the original 4th-century church is destroyed by fire, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is rebuilt as one of the most influential Byzantine centrally-planned, domed churches. Read more...

c. AD 629

Large silver plates decorated with narrative scenes continue the classical tradition of metalworking in Constantinople. One particularly impressive set depicts the Life of David and is probably part of an imperial commission. Read more...

AD 692

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock is the earliest important Islamic building still standing. It is decorated inside and out with gold and green mosaics (only the interior ones survive), demonstrating the most extensive use of mosaic on a structure in both ancient and medieval periods. Read more...

AD 700–AD 750

The Umayyad caliphs build a desert palace at Qusayr 'Amra in Jordan that reveals their wealth and the innovation of their architects. Fresco paintings of rulers and narrative scenes still survive at this site. Read more...

AD 706–AD 715

Umayyad caliph al-Walid I builds the Great Mosque of Damascus, using architecture for political and religious goals for the first time in Islamic art history, and establishes Damascus as one of the caliphate's primary cities. Read more...

AD 800–AD 900

Potters working in Samarra' under the Abbasid caliphate may be the first to develop lustreware, a type of pottery that incorporates a metal substance into the glaze to create an iridescent effect that resembles glittering metalwork. Read more...

c. 800–c. 1000

Calligraphy, especially that devoted to copying the Koran, flourishes during the Abbasid caliphate. The prominent script style, known as early Abbasid or more generally kufic, is characterized by thick strokes and a horizontal emphasis. Read more...

AD 800–1200

Potters in Nishapur, an important city in ancient Iran, create a sophisticated type of pottery that features black inscriptions painted onto a creamy-white background. Read more...

AD 848–AD 852

Baghdad and Samarra' become the primary cities of the Abbasid caliphate. With the construction of the mosque of al-Mutawakkil at Samarra', craftsmen develop a new style of carving architectural surfaces that spreads throughout the Islamic world. Read more...


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