What animals meant to our ancient ancestors

Animals have always walked tall in the company of bipeds. Just how much they meant to our ancient ancestors is graphically illustrated in a new exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

It is a collection from Near Eastern, Egyptian, and classical cultures, carefully gathered by Leo Mildenberg, a director the Bank Leu in Zurich and an authority on ancient coins. About 250 works from his collection will be exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art through Nov. 29.

Included are miniature animal figures of bronze, gold, terra cotta, and glass; small earthenware vessels shaped like or decorated with animals; and a variety of other works for ritual, decorative, or practical use. Also displayed are some rare and unique works and some of the finest known examples of ancient animal sculpture.

Following its Cleveland showing, the animals will travel to the Indiana University Art Musuem, the Toledo Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the University Art Museum of the University of California at Berkeley.

The exhibition provides a look at how ancient craftsmen viewed animals and what they meant to different cultures.

A group of Anatolian animal sculptures is the oldest period represented in the exhibit. These animals were walking around in the late 4th millennium BC.

Among other noteworthy objects from the Near East is a bronze bull from the Hattian culture, late 3rd millennium BC. Possibly a representation of that culture's weather god, the bull is a blend of naturalistic art and geometric form.

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