World Art Overview



Essential Humanities identifies nine civilizations, referred to as the nine global civilizations, as especially influential throughout world history (see Global Civilizations). By studying the art of these civilizations, one can achieve a well-rounded perspective on traditional art across the globe.

The Nine Global Civilizations
Middle East Mesopotamian > Persian > Islamic
South Asia South Asian
East Asia East Asian
Europe and colonial offshoots Western
Meso/South America Mesoamerican

The "World Art" section of Essential Humanities is devoted to non-Western aesthetics; accordingly, this section covers each of the civilizations listed above (except Western). It must be remembered, however, that some parts of the world did not experience the rise of civilization until the modern age. Essential Humanities accounts for this by adding three regions to its survey: Sub-Saharan Africa, North America, and Oceania.

Main Article

Table Summary

Summary of World Art
Mesopotamian architecture ziggurats, Ishtar Gate
sculpture statues (notably portal guardians), wall reliefs
Egyptian architecture Old Kingdom: tombs (mastabas and pyramids)
Middle/New Kingdom: temples
in-the-round sculpture colossal statues (notably the Sphinx), statues, obelisks
painting and relief sculpture wall paintings/reliefs, illuminated manuscripts
Persian architecture Achaemenid: post-and-beam palaces (notably the Apadana)
Sassanid: arched palaces (notably the palace at Ctesiphon)
sculpture animal capitals, wall reliefs, metalwork
Islamic architecture mosques
painting calligraphy/pattern decoration, illumination
South Asian Indus civilization seals, figures
Indian architecture Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples
Indian sculpture and wall painting statues, wall paintings/reliefs
Indo-Islamic art architecture, illumination
East Asian ancient Chinese art sculpture (bronze ceremonial vessels, Terracotta Army), painting (tomb murals)
Chinese art
painting figure, landscape, bird-and-flower
sculpture statues (notably the Forbidden City statues)
architecture palace architecture (notably the Forbidden City buildings), pagodas, Great Wall
ceramics monochrome Song ceramics, blue-and-white Ming ceramics
Japanese art woodcut
East Asian Buddhist art statues, wall paintings/reliefs
Mesoamerican architecture stepped pyramids (notably El Castillo), palaces, ball courts
sculpture colossal heads (Olmec), figures, stelae
painting pottery decoration, wall paintings, illumination
Andean Chavin essential style of Andean art (stone sculpture, goldwork, pottery)
Moche and Nazca pottery decoration, Nazca lines
Tiwanaku-Wari Tiwanaku (notably the stone gateway and pillar statues)
Chimu Chan Chan
Inca Machu Picchu, goldwork
all Andean cultures weaving
Sub-Saharan Egyptian-based art ancient Nubia
Byzantine-based art Ethiopia, medieval Nubia
wooden sculpture masks, figures
non-wooden sculpture Nok clay figures, forest kingdom bronzes
architecture rock-cut churches (Ethiopia), Saharan style buildings, Great Zimbabwe enclosures
painting rock painting, weaving
North American large sculpture Northwest: wood sculpture (notably totem poles)
small sculpture Arctic: masks, figurines
Southwest: Kachina dolls
Eastern Woodlands: stone/clay figures, vessels, pipes; copperwork
painting Southwest: pottery decoration, sand painting
architecture Southwest: Pueblo complexes
Eastern Woodlands: mounds
quillwork Northeast and Plains: clothing, birchbark objects
Oceanian wood sculpture masks, figures
other sculpture Easter Island statues
painting tapa cloth (Polynesia and Melanesia), rock painting (Australia)
architecture wood/plant material buildings (notably Maori meeting-houses)