Dr. Shiyanthi Thavapalan (Brown University): The Meaning of Color in Ancient Mesopotamia

Since Newtonian physics, it seems impossible to think of color as anything other than a property of light. Yet the essential nature of this phenomenon has been subject to theorizing by many, both in the ancient world and in modern history. In recent years, scholarly interest in color has turned to semantics, focusing on the varying conceptualization of color in different languages and societies. My presentation is about colors in Mesopotamian art and in the Akkadian language. By exploring how colors and colorful materials were used, categorized and valued in society, I hope to bring us closer to ancient Mesopotamian thought and experience. On the theoretical level, my presentation is about the relationship between perception, cognition and naming. I propose that the meanings of Akkadian color terms do not correspond to English ones (nor to those in other European languages) because Akkadian words focus on the qualities of brightness and saturation as opposed to hue. Realizing that the origins of colors in Mesopotamia are found in the idea of brightness is not only significant for understanding systems of symbolism, but it also helps us to grasp the importance of color as an aesthetic feature of ancient art and architecture.

Event detail

Event start
26. 3. 2018 14:10 - 15:45
Faculty of Arts, Celetná 20, Prague 1 (Room 426)
Event type