How do you know what these images mean?

Did you ever wonder how archaeologist make meaning from ancient images which lack textual explanation? My advice after years of studying visual culture from ancient Iraq and Syria: Avoid intuition, try situating the image in question within the overall ‘world of images’, which characterised a certain period and place, through classification and comparison. And: Try to contextualise the artefact bearing the image and its visual and textual components in as many directions as you possibly can. This may lead you to the social necessity which caused the image’s existence in the first place. And may get us closer to its meaning for the people who produced and used it. Not an easy task. Digital Humanities will make it easier.

For more words of wisdom on image making – and breaking – in early Babylonia, check out my “Reflections in clay: the tactile art of terracottas”, which is Episode 9 of the podcast series Thin End of the Wedge, which explores life in the ancient Middle East and is hosted by Jon Taylor:

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