30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World

Rated 5 out of 5 by from In-depth and fascinating! I bought this for my husband for Christmas and we both really like it! My husband is amazed by the advances in research and updates to knowledge, which is incorporated into the lectures. The presenter is lively, and the lectures are interspersed with lots of images.
Date published: 2019-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More courses by Diana K. McDonald, please! Professor Diana K. McDonald Ph.D provides an excellent overview of a selection of ancient works over 6 3-hour DVDs which I found consistently compelling and informative. I easily watched a DVD in one sitting. I have around 20 courses from The Teaching Company and accept that the user's response to a lecturer's style is subjective. What annoys one user will not be even noticed by another. I found Diana McDonald wonderful and wish she presented more titles in The Great Courses series. She has clear diction and speaks in an easy and engaging manner. McDonald is a mistress of her subject and teaches with enthusiam. I used this course in conjunction with two by Bob Briers, 'The Great Pharaohs' and 'The Egyptian Empire', as well as Jeremy McInerny's 'Ancient Greek Culture'. I had some small acquaintance with Mesopotamia through 'The Epic of Gilgamesh', having read a couple of translations. In other words this was a newish area of study for me. Having completed the courses mentioned above I have a greater understanding of some areas of early history and culture. I recall a trip to the British Museum some years ago and the Assyrian Reliefs on show there - at the time I didn't pay too much attention to them, but now I can't wait to revisit the museum to have another, better informed look at them. The remit of the course is quite wide: 35,000 year old cave paintings, the earliest exemplars of narrative art, funerary artefacts and wall paintings, architechture, statuary, vase painting, Chinese bronzes, Moche jewelry, and textiles from South America. If you are at all interested in our ancient predecessors and their cultures you will find this course both profitable and enjoyable.
Date published: 2019-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Equal Parts Art and History I appreciate that I learned far more from this course than just particulars of 30 works of art. Professor Diana K. McDonald shared a great deal of historical context about the eras and the cultures from which these masterpieces came, and she discussed as well the expressive genres that her featured works either characterized or revised afresh. The amount of informational content provided in this wide-ranging course was impressive. Accompanying visuals, enhanced by helpful colour-coding and highlighting, were beautiful, in synch with the lectures, and amounted to another real strength of the course. A minor personal dissatisfaction was that text sometimes projected on-screen “assembled” itself in an unsettling, swimming-into-view fashion, apparently via a computerized technique that I felt amounted to a distraction. The professor’s manner of presentation, while certainly very good, might have been even more engaging given a bit more spontaneity. I know that I particularly enjoyed the few occasions on which it seemed that she digressed from her precisely worded script to make a comment that sounded more like a personal aside. I also would have liked a number of “gaps” filled in better, such was when we students were provided with extensive details about depictions on the contrasting “war” and “peace” long panels of The Standard of Ur, were told further that there were also mosaics on its shorter end panels, but were then neither told about nor shown those end panels. I will give just one more example of what I am calling a “gap.” In a lecture about ancient Greek vase painting, two pots were displayed without discussion of what was depicted upon them, apparently simply to make the point that special techniques had been required to shape images to curved pottery surfaces; but what were some of those special techniques or optical tricks by the artists, and why were the puzzling scenes on those particular pots given no explication while the images on other pottery received thorough discussion in the same lecture? My points of critique are minor ones, however, and I would welcome studying further courses by Dr. McDonald. I give her credit for being one of those professors who has “walked the talk,” having done her own field research in several parts of the world. Her style does “grow on one;” her 35th lecture on “What Can We Learn From Ancient Art?” was particularly insightful; and after the following lecture #36, I was sorry the course had ended.
Date published: 2019-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lively lectures This course provided exactly what I was expecting. Prof. McDonald keeps the lectures interesting.
Date published: 2019-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well explained and illustrated lectures Learned a lot stuff. Nice to rediscover some of the items I have seen in the British Museum years ago and introduced to the Central American artworks. Lectures are detailed and easily understood. Would recommend.
Date published: 2019-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favorite Lecturer & Course Stumbled upon this course and are so glad that my wife and I did. The material was very interesting and presented by someone very knowledgeable and passionate about it. I confess we loved seeing what the professor would be wearing next and her dramatic presentations made the course the most memorable we've seen so far. With DVD the appearance and entertainment factors equal the content which was very good also.
Date published: 2019-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More than photos The visual images are interspersed with current archeological findings and current interpretations of the ancient world. I would not classify this course a a purely arts course but one of serious ancient archeological research.
Date published: 2019-01-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from was miming really necessary? I liked the content and great deal esp. the discussions about the linkage amongst art pieces over time, in how they present power and propaganda. What is most distracting is the professor's need to mime out actions and over dramatizing each point. It takes a lot away from the course. Wish it was otherwise.
Date published: 2018-12-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Got better A number of reviewers have panned the lecturer, and I have mixed feelings on that. She starts off a bit wooden, but relaxes and improves over times, so I was glad I stuck with it. I have taken many GC courses over the years, some have had excellent natural lecturers, some not so much. She is no Robert Sapolski, but neither is she a failure. Her bio seems to indicate she is more of a scholar than a teacher, and it shows, but she also has an ability to communicate in class when she feels comfortable in her environment, and that also [eventually] shows. I guess it comes down to whether you approach this more for education, or for entertainment (and either are valid). The actual material is well presented, and well selected. There are pieces not covered that I would have like to have seen, others that were covered that have been done better very deeply elsewhere (the Elgin Marbles). But, worth the time to watch.
Date published: 2018-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Art on display First, I've noticed that some people seem to react negatively to the presenter, so I have to say first off I certainly don't see any problem. She does talk a little more slowly than some other lecturers and perhaps does use her hands while talking, but not in a way I found to be a problem. The presenter in fact has a pleasant speaking voice and is easy to listen to. But the main thing here is the artwork, and it is spectacular. The explanations of the cultural background to the art is very enlightening. For example, I've seen photos of the goat in the thicket and thought it was nothing but a charming piece of sculpture. Hearing the deeper religious symbolism behind the image opened up a whole new dimension of understanding and enjoyment. This lecture will be wonderful viewing for anyone generally interested in history, as well as art specifically.
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fine and underrated this Course is extremely interesting, the works of art are superb, the professors delivery is Pleasant and in no way disturbingly fll of gestures,simply not true..I would very much like to see another Course of her; highly recommended
Date published: 2018-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative discussion of some beautiful art I've been lucky to have seen about 1/3 of the works in this course in museums around the world. I found this course quite interesting and informative, and just as useful for those works I had seen as those I hadn't seen. The lecturer provides insightful commentary on the aesthetic, technical, cultural, and political context of each of these works of ancient art. My only slight negative comment is that the lecturer speaks in a sing-song voice that sometimes comes across as if she's speaking to a class of grade-schoolers instead of adults. But that didn't impede my enjoyment, and I learned a lot.
Date published: 2018-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Art, History, Culture Connected in One Course This course definitely provoked a lot of comments about the professor's presentation. I was also a bit concerned during the first two lectures with what appeared to be addressing an elementary school class. However, those who left the course early I think made a big mistake. The very things some people complained about I found an advantage. She spoke slowly enough you had time to absorb what was being said. A little repetition helps the learning process. Her dress was very appropriate and even stylish. I have seen a few of the pieces she discusses in museums in Europe. I wish I had taken this course prior to visiting those museums. This course was excellent at connecting the history, culture and religion of a society to its art work. The intricate details of each piece ( some of the 'pieces' are huge buildings ) were explained quite well. I recommend you watch lecture 1 first, then go to lectures 35 and 36, then go back to lesson 2 and continue to the end.
Date published: 2018-07-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from super content I loved the subject matter and the illustrations. My one hesitation is in the lecturer as I hate to be negative but she seemed uncomfortable with the camera(s) and this made me uncomfortable. She was an excellent presenter other than that important factor.
Date published: 2018-06-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unwatchable I have been a Great Courses devotee for over a decade, so it pains me to say this, but this course is simply not watchable. The lecturer's forced gestures are more appropriate to charades than to a discussion of art, and her speaking style is so over-enunciated and emotive that it is virtually impossible to stay focused on the content. I tried to stick with it, as the topic is interesting, but after three lectures I had to give up.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from From Cave man to Mayan I had problems with the presentation. McDonald's style seemed stilted to me and her hand motions exaggerated. Whether or not this course is for you depends how much you like art and especially ancient art. Other than the Greeks, I learned I didn't like most ancient art. The course presents a good representation from around the world. I hated Mayan and Aztec art.
Date published: 2018-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very informative The professor is very engaging with a different outfit on for each lecture, often in tune with what she is discussing. her topics selected are very informative and well worth the time spent in viewing them, often worth a replay to review some of the topics covered.
Date published: 2018-01-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Bizarre professor I own 40 courses I have bought as DVD's...this is one of the first I watched as new subscription on Amazon. The professor is downright bizarre. Her change of costumes from one segment to the next is strange. Her exaggerated hand motions are, at a minimum, distracting. Her lecturing style is very, very weird. That the good folks at the Great Courses did not exercise a greater degree of editorial oversight is unacceptable. At a minimum, the camera time should have been spent more on the ancient art works in question, and less upon this bizarre personage.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fine Mix of Attributes Respectfully, I strongly take issue with many of the reviewers who have given this course a low rating. The negative feedback seems to be largely owing to a dislike of the professor's voice and/or gestures. I wouldn't likely give a high rating on the basis of those criteria either. But why would we rate a course with these features most in mind anyway? There is, I would submit, to the contrary, a very fine mix of attributes in the course that makes it excellent. First, the topic is superb. These are extraordinary masterpieces, deserving our keen attention. I know something about many of them and a lot about a few. And - still - I learned a good bit from the course about all of them. Second, the use of technology in the video was outstanding. I was able to see and study closely elements of these masterpieces in ways I never had before. Third, and by no means least, I give the professor high marks for her knowledge of the masterpieces and the skill with which she taught about them in ways that are important. She gave proper and commendable attention to the history, the culture, and the aesthetics of each of these treasures. And I thought she did an exemplary job of showing contrasts and comparisons in them, where appropriate, across cultures. Was she perfect? No. In addition to the common complaints, I would add that she strayed at times into less important areas. But this was the exception. For the most part, her substantive work and teaching, which is what I would suggest should matter most, was outstanding. To those with an open mind, I would add that I'm one of the tougher raters in the bunch who have been at it with TGC for years. I don't give many 5 star ratings. This course truly and clearly deserves one.
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great topic but terrible presentation I was really looking forward to his topic Wonderful topic Content was ok, average But the delivery by the professor was horrible.
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from brilliant o my God/dess, this course is wonderful, and I haven't even gotten to North America yet
Date published: 2017-06-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from presenter is difficult to watch Bought this on sale. The material is so detailed as to be almost irrelevant as she analyses the object obsessively. She herself employs a very poor presentation style. I watched three lectures and will not watch any more. This is my first time to be disappointed with a course, and I have been purchasing courses for years!
Date published: 2017-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A MUST WATCH Simply compelling viewing. Diana McDonald is one of those professors who delivers her material with meticulous knowledge. The course encapsulates an era I knew very little about. The masterpieces Professor McDonald has chosen speaks volumes in themselves but I particularly like the juxtaposition of masterpieces from different continents. I was hooked from the beginning and watched the course almost in one go. Thank you for enriching my mind by creating such great course.
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible Performance, content lacking The professors hand gestures and constant motion are exhausting. Add to it, the constant camera movement, and it can make one ill. Rarely is the content focused on the masterpiece itself. Much of the time is spent on side stories or assumptions that have been layered upon speculation. This is really a 101 Course on Ancient Civilizations.
Date published: 2017-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Engrossing Ok, the constant hand gesturing is a little unusual, but if you dismiss this course based on that criterion you are doing yourself a great disservice. I found this course very informative, engrossing and enjoyable. The lecturer's love for her subject comes through and I learned a great deal about art and history. And it was even interesting to see how she matched her clothing with the topic of the lectures.
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Annoying Presentation Instructors movements and mannerisms very annoying and distracting. Reminded me of some pre-school program actor. I've viewed almost all of the fine arts courses offered and they all had very good content and presentations. I would recommend all of them.
Date published: 2016-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course; Great professor! Excellent course and professor. A wonderful assortment of ancient art, along with substantial information on the associated ancient history. I particularly like her use of modern photos and videos of native animals such as lions and snakes, to help explain the origins of the mythical and real creatures in much of this ancient art.
Date published: 2016-05-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Ancient Art Revealed Finally, a course looking at ancient art! It was a reminder of the ancient art history course I took in college. It brought back good memories. I have seen several of the masterpieces in the course personally. It was great to have a more rounded and thorough understanding of them. There were several pieces of artwork that I had expected to see, but was surprised that they were omitted. I had hoped that the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xian and the Augustus Primaporta statue would have been included. But time and space probably prevented them from being included. Hopefully another course on ancient art will be produced in the future. There are so much more artwork to look at in our past.
Date published: 2015-05-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointment! I really looked forward to buying this course because I'm interest in art, history and archaeology - it seemed like a perfect fit. And the works of art are truly magnificent. But the professor's manner is very offputting; it seems more suitable for an audience of very small children rather than adults. A great disappointment.
Date published: 2015-01-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Art in the past The presentation is somehow casual, with repetitions to emphasize the obvious fact hat many monuments glorify the tyrant and ignore the people. Often very little is known about the civilization and even less is revealed by the course. The presentation is distracted by meaningless gesticulation and by the diversity of attire. Most of them are inappropriate and some definitely ridiculous for an adult. Only occasionally she wears a modest dark suite appropriate to the purpose. The greater merit of the course is that it encourages the readers to travel outside the standard circuit and to explore what the course briefly and superficially describes.
Date published: 2014-12-13
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30 Masterpieces of the Ancient World
Course Trailer
Where Do We Come From?
1: Where Do We Come From?

What are the common themes of ancient art? Why is ancient art relevant today? What makes a masterpiece? Before you begin your journey through the world of ancient art, consider why ancient art matters, what it tells us about different cultures, and its impact on and similarity to our world today.

34 min
Ancient Cave Art-Chauvet, France
2: Ancient Cave Art-Chauvet, France

What are the common themes of ancient art? Why is ancient art relevant today? What makes a masterpiece? Before you begin your journey through the world of ancient art, consider why ancient art matters, what it tells us about different cultures, and its impact on and similarity to our world today.

32 min
The Uruk Vase-Vision of an Ordered World
3: The Uruk Vase-Vision of an Ordered World

In Mesopotamia, writing was developed 5,000 years ago, alongside the first narrative art, which set the stage for everything that followed in the Western art historical tradition. The registers on the Uruk Vase tell the story of civilization and reveal a hierarchical world as seen by one of the most complex societies of the era....

28 min
The Standard of Ur-Role of the King
4: The Standard of Ur-Role of the King

Turn to the masterpieces of the ancient Sumerians in the city of Ur, the "Cradle of Civilization." No one knows whether the mysterious Royal Standard of Ur is actually a standard-or even royal-but it tells us a great deal about the technology, social structure, and the dazzling riches of this society....

31 min
"Ram Caught in a Thicket"
5: "Ram Caught in a Thicket"

Explore the fertility theme in the first 3-D sculpture of the course. "Ram Caught in a Thicket" was excavated from the Great Death Pit at Ur. In addition to telling us about royal burials, the sculpture tells us about the society's wealth, its relationship with animals, and the religious role of the rulers and lords....

29 min
Great Ziggurat at Ur-Ancient Architecture
6: Great Ziggurat at Ur-Ancient Architecture

With the magnificent ziggurats, ancient people reached for the sky, which was the domain of the deities. Learn about Nanna, the Sumerian moon god, and experience the architectural grandeur at the heart of Sumerian daily life. While wars, climate, and looting have wrought their damage on the ziggurat at Ur, enough remains to tell a fascinating story....

32 min
Victory Stela of Naram-Sin of Akkad
7: Victory Stela of Naram-Sin of Akkad

What makes a king a god? Ponder the visual propaganda behind Naram-Sin's victory stela. After learning the story of this Akkadian king, you'll study this monument's artistic innovation-its realism, its unified composition, and its new approach to narrative. Additional Akkadian art provides perspective on this era's radical artistic changes....

31 min
Neo-Assyrian Palace Reliefs
8: Neo-Assyrian Palace Reliefs

Jump to the 1st millennium B.C. and the mighty Assyrian Empire. The palace reliefs reveal a warlike society in which the king reinforces order, as revealed in the famous Lion Hunt scenes. As he battles the lions, the king proves he is greater in power than the threatening beast and all that it represents. The reliefs demonstrate the apogee of artistic skill in the Assyrian court....

29 min
"Queen of the Night"-Babylonian Goddess
9: "Queen of the Night"-Babylonian Goddess

Cursed in the Bible as "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," Babylon is much more fascinating and strange than you might think. Examine the "Queen of the Night," a nude woman who is part animal and part human. This curious mixture of the erotic and the terrifying creates a mesmerizing masterpiece filled with mystery....

29 min
Ishtar Gate and Processional Way
10: Ishtar Gate and Processional Way

Continue your study of ancient Babylon by reflecting on Nebuchadnezzar's city gates and processional way. These impressive feats of architecture and engineering inspire awe through their sheer size. The animals on the gate-lions, bulls, and the snake-dragon-were meant to protect the city by intimidating those who would bring harm to the community....

30 min
The Ancient City of Persepolis
11: The Ancient City of Persepolis

Turn to the Persian Empire, one of the grandest civilizations in the ancient world. Survey the history of Persia from King Cyrus to Alexander the Great, then study the city of Persepolis. Its construction, its palaces, and its many relief sculptures all showed the breadth and power of the king....

33 min
Palette of Narmer-The Conquering King
12: Palette of Narmer-The Conquering King

To maintain social cohesion, ancient kings had to justify their power through ideological control, and no culture was better than Egypt at creating art to establish the underpinnings of kingship. This first lecture on Egypt considers the Palette of Narmer, a superb carving that embodies the unification of the state and established an ideology of kingship for the next 3,000 years....

33 min
Statue of Khafre-Rebirth of a King
13: Statue of Khafre-Rebirth of a King

Why did the Egyptians go to such great lengths to prepare bodies after death? They loved life, and the grand tombs and sculptures were a way to capture the soul for eternal life. Reflect on the statue of King Khafre, which communicates strength and power-and signifies so much more than what is first evident....

33 min
Tutankhamun's Mask
14: Tutankhamun's Mask

You've no doubt seen images of King Tut's mask, but what does it represent? Why is it such a magnificent work of art? Unpack the secrets of Egypt's famous boy king and find out why the treasures of his tomb survived....

31 min
Tomb Painting of Nefertari
15: Tomb Painting of Nefertari

Look at a masterpiece of painting that lay hidden for more than 3,000 years and was never meant to be seen by human eyes again. Queen Nefertari was one of the most loved and celebrated women in the history of Egypt, and this lecture takes you on a tour through the chambers of her grand tomb....

33 min
Kritios Boy-Idealized Athletic Youth
16: Kritios Boy-Idealized Athletic Youth

Travel to ancient Greece and trace the development of realism in sculpture through the Archaic period. The "Kritios Boy" represents a leap forward and seems more "alive" than Egyptian sculptures, partly because of the development of contrapposto and partly due to cultural differences in artistic taste between the Greeks and the Egyptians....

28 min
Discobolus-Motion in Sculpture
17: Discobolus-Motion in Sculpture

Go back to a time when the Olympic Games were a sacred event. The famous discus thrower represents a new development in the history of sculpture because of the way it shows motion. This lecture delves into the sports culture of ancient Greece and reveals the technique behind the drama of Myron's sculpture....

31 min
Parthenon Marbles-Metopes and Frieze
18: Parthenon Marbles-Metopes and Frieze

Plunge into the mythological battles of the Parthenon in Athens. The metopes, pediment sculptures, and frieze dramatize Greek myths, narrate battles, and are sublimely beautiful examples of Greek sculpture. Professor McDonald explains the context for these works and offers insight into the glory and pride of ancient Greece....

31 min
Greek Vase Painting-"Death of Sarpedon"
19: Greek Vase Painting-"Death of Sarpedon"

Visit the fields of Troy as phalanxes of Greeks advance upon the Trojans. There, according to the Iliad, Sarpedon was killed by Patroclus, a scene memorialized in Euphronios's red-figure vase painting. Learn how artists represented death and what techniques artists used to tell a coherent story on a round vase....

28 min
Aphrodite of Knidos
20: Aphrodite of Knidos

The Greeks offered more than just action and warfare in their art. This lecture examines the first female nude in the tradition, a sculpture of Aphrodite, the femme fatale of Mount Olympus. Whereas Greeks would have considered it unseemly to represent a nude woman, Aphrodite was a goddess and could be portrayed as sensuous, beautiful, and alluring....

27 min
Laocoon-Three-Dimensional Narrative
21: Laocoon-Three-Dimensional Narrative

Contemplate one of the most mesmerizing sculptures in the world. Beyond the emotional expressiveness, the writhing snakes, and the doomed children, "Laocoön" has a complicated history that reflects its importance and its genius. As a hallmark of Hellenistic art, the beauty of this piece lies not only in its composition, but in its many interpretations....

32 min
Column of Trajan
22: Column of Trajan

This stunning 125-foot-high monument is truly a marvel, combining a feat of engineering with the skill of sculptors who crafted a 650-foot-long story that spirals upward from the base. The column commemorates the successful military campaigns of the Roman emperor Trajan and offers a wealth of information about Roman warfare, religious rites, and even building techniques....

32 min
Bronzes of Ancient China
23: Bronzes of Ancient China

Move east to the Shang and Chou dynasties in ancient China, where bronze vessels cast with astonishing technical skill and artistry are the defining artifact. Excavated in 1976, the royal tomb of Fu Hao revealed a trove of precious bronze vessels, which would have been used in ancestor worship, for ceremonial meals, and to support the authority of kings....

32 min
Great Stupa at Sanchi
24: Great Stupa at Sanchi

Delve into the world of Buddhism and the Great Stupa at Sanchi, the most ancient stone structure in India and the only one that supposedly houses the ashes of Buddha. Take a tour of a spiritual monument, protected by impressive gates, and see how the sculptural reliefs and pilgrimage instruct visitors in the teachings of the Buddha....

32 min
Borobudur-Ancient Buddhist Stupa
25: Borobudur-Ancient Buddhist Stupa

Continue your investigation of Buddhism by turning to the largest Buddhist monument in the world, Borobudur. As you study the terraces of this "cosmic mountain," you'll see superb carved reliefs that tell stories about the Buddha's life, humanity's place in the cosmos, and the path to nirvana....

30 min
Colossal Olmec Heads
26: Colossal Olmec Heads

Next, your journey takes you halfway around the world to Mesoamerica to explore the unusual Olmec culture. Here in the low-lying Gulf Coast of Mexico, 17 colossal heads offer a startling look at a fascinating and intricate culture-what anthropologists call a "pristine civilization" for its emergence in isolation from the rest of the world....

32 min
Sarcophagus Cover of Pakal at Palenque
27: Sarcophagus Cover of Pakal at Palenque

Nestled in the foothills of southern Mexico is one of the most magical and hauntingly beautiful archaeological sites in the world. Here, one of the richest tombs in the New World was discovered, and its marvelous artifacts-particularly King Pakal's sarcophagus cover-provide insights into the myths and religion of the ancient Maya....

34 min
Carved Stone Lintels of Yaxchilan
28: Carved Stone Lintels of Yaxchilan

Blood sacrifices. Sacred visions. Poisonous animals. Artwork from the Maya kingdom of Yaxchilan may shock us, but the visceral and expressive detail carved into these stones is unlike anything in Western art. This riveting lecture takes you into a truly different world of self-sacrifice and hallucinogenic trances, but a world that has important lessons for our own....

32 min
Teotihuacan-Temple of the Feathered Serpent
29: Teotihuacan-Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Venture north to the city of Teotihuacan, the "place of the gods." Here, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent is a mysterious pyramid that may contain a royal grave. You'll analyze the pyramid's repeating carved serpents and investigate one of the most enigmatic cultures in the Americas....

30 min
Colossal Stone Statue of Coatlicue
30: Colossal Stone Statue of Coatlicue

Aztec art has some of the most skilled, complex stone carvings in the world, yet it is difficult to understand. Professor McDonald explains the significance of the colossal sculpture of Coatlicue, the goddess known as Serpent Skirt. Find out what art historians think this terrifying sculpture means and how it fits into the myths of Aztec civilization....

31 min
Aztec Calendar Stone
31: Aztec Calendar Stone

Many people are familiar with the iconic Aztec calendar stone, but few understand what it means. Discover the story of one of the most famous excavated objects from the ancient world. Why is it a masterpiece? What does it tell us about the Aztecs? What cataclysms does it portray?...

32 min
Moche Earspools-Miniature Masterpieces
32: Moche Earspools-Miniature Masterpieces

Go inside the Moche society in ancient Peru and marvel at the beautiful metal jewelry discovered in the Sipan tombs. Beyond the beauty and the sophisticated metalwork of the Moche earspools, the tomb of Sipan gives us a window into Moche society-including sacrificial ceremonies once believed to be purely mythical....

30 min
Ancient Andean Ceramics
33: Ancient Andean Ceramics

Many societies in this course have used art to communicate ideas, especially state propaganda. But Andean elites took a different approach. Rather than creating massive stone sculptures, artists made usable, practical objects. This lecture shows you some of the beautiful pots created in a culture isolated from the Western tradition....

31 min
Ancient Andean Textiles
34: Ancient Andean Textiles

Shift your attention to Andean textiles. These masterpieces combined amazing technical virtuosity with supreme aesthetic taste. You'll be amazed by the labor that went into these luxurious pieces, yet what's most striking here is that abstract art-a modern innovation in Western art-was developed in the Andes more than 1,000 years ago....

33 min
What Can We Learn from Ancient Art?
35: What Can We Learn from Ancient Art?

What can ancient art teach us about our place in the cosmos? What do we find so beautiful about ancient art? And how does it compare to contemporary art? Does art need to have a function? Ponder these questions and more as you reflect on your journey through the world of ancient art....

31 min
How Ancient Art Reverberates
36: How Ancient Art Reverberates

Revisit some of the masterpieces you have seen in this course, compare them to contemporary works that draw from ancient sources, and review some of the universal themes you have explored-especially animals, fertility, death, and rulership. These themes bind humans in nearly every civilization, and the themes are reflected in its art....

34 min
Diana K. McDonald

Many, if not most, of our great works of art from classical, modern, and contemporary times have roots in the earliest art that was created.


Columbia University


Boston College

About Diana K. McDonald

Dr. Diana Krumholz McDonald is an art historian and lecturer at Boston College. She earned her B.A. in Fine Arts from Harvard University and Ph.D. from Columbia University, where she concentrated in ancient Near Eastern and Pre-Columbian art. At Boston College, she teaches courses on the art of ancient America (Pre-Columbian) and of the ancient Mediterranean. She frequently lectures at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and she worked at The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Indonesian National Museum in Jakarta, and other preeminent organizations. She wrote nine essays in the book The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia in 2005, and she is the author of numerous articles and reviews. Professor McDonald was a Henry Luce Scholar in Indonesia and a Presidential Scholar at Columbia University, and she received a Fulbright Scholarship, which she declined in order to go to Asia. While completing her dissertation, she was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard. She is on the Visiting Committee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the Art of the Ancient World Department; and the Collections Committee of the Harvard Art Museums. She has visited the museums and archaeological sites of over 40 countries.

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