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Stele of Baal with Thunderbolt

Stele of Baal with Thunderbolt 

Brief Identification Edit

This 1.42 m tall limestone stele depicts the storm-god Baal. This stele was made sometime during 14th-13th centuries BCE by the Canaanites. Stelae were most commonly created for religious or commemorative reasons.  This stele was created in order to honor Baal and is one of the most significant stelae discovered in Ugarit

Technical Evaluation Edit

This stele of Baal is made of limestone and is 1.42 meters tall and was discovered in Ugarit . During the Late Bronze Age there was a widespread production of stelae in the Near East. Stelae of this time and place were generally broader at the bottom and arched at the top, the bottom was either made to be sunk into the ground or had a base that allowed it to stand on it's own. Stelae were a major medium of artistic and religious expression [The Louvre]. The style of this stele is said to be a combination of Syrian, Egyptian and Hitittie styles that were typical of the Late Bronze Age [See Cornelius, 1994]. Canaanite artistry and craftsmanship was highly prized during this time [See Tubb 1998]. The horned helmet that Baal is wearing represents strength and power, the spear he is holding represents his control over nature. The stele as a whole represents the Canaanite belief that Baal protects humans from the destructive forces of nature [The Metropolitan Museum of Art]. This stele was discovered by French archeologist, Claude Schaeffer in 1929 and currently resides in The Louvre in Paris, France [Oxford Art Online]. 

Local Historical Context Edit

During the Late Bronze Age Canaan was under Egyptian control politically and economically with little military power being used. Even though there was military instability in Canaan, traditional religion still continued [See Richard 2003]. This was a time of recovery and regeneration for the Canaanites. [See Nakhai 2008]. At this time Ugarit had a centralized economy that emphasized trade by sea [See Weiss 1985]. Production of sacred and religious items increased greatly during this time because of the less oppressive Egyptian policies. As Canaan recovered, new sanctuaries were built in cities and along trade routes [See Richard 2003]. Canaanite culture flourished during the Late Bronze Age . Ugarit was at the height of it's prosperity during this period. In Ugarit there was a "stele temple" that contained many stele along it's walls [See Tubb 1998]. 

World-Historical Significance Edit

Stelae were often created and set up in sacred places throughout most of the world during most time periods. Stelae were usually made out of some type of stone, but other materials were used when it wasn't available. Many Canaanite products were traded to Egypt and they had a marked influence on material culture there [See Tubb 1998]. 

In Southern Mesopotamia boulders were used to create stelae because stone was not easily available. Many important texts have been written on stelae throughout the world. In Babylon the Code of Hammurabi was carved on stone stelae [Oxford Art Online].

In Egypt, stelae were usually used for funerals or commemorative reasons. Stelae were also a way to represent the deeds of a ruler in ancient Egypt. Commemorative stelae made for private individuals were also very common. In ancient Greece and Rome, stelae were usually used as grave markers [Oxford Art Online].

Stelae were usually rectangular and made of stone in China. Important texts, such as, the Confucian text Shijing and depictions of Buddha, were also a main use of stelae in China [Oxford Art Online].

Inscriptions on stelae gave information on social class, court procedures and sectarianism in Islamic Lands. Here stelae also gave important evidence about the development of writing. These stelae were usually rectangular at the top and made from marble, limestone, sandstone, and basalt. Stelae were usually used as headstones or grave markers and were inscribed with Arabic [Oxford Art Online.] 

Suggested Bibliography Edit

Cornelius, Izak. The Iconography of the Canaanite Gods Reshef and Baʻal: Late Bronze and Iron Age I Periods (C 1500-1000 BCE). Fribourg, Switzerland : Göttingen: University Press, 1994. 

Richard, Suzanne. Near Eastern Archaeology: A Reader. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2003. 

Nakhai, Beth Alpert. Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel. Boston, MA: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2001. 

Weiss, Harvey, Syria. Mudīrīyat al-Āthār wa-al-Matāḥif, Smithsonian Institution. Traveling Exhibition Service, and Md. Walters Art Gallery Baltimore. Ebla to Damascus: Art and Archaeology of Ancient Syria : An Exhibition From the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums, Syrian Arab Republic. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 1985. 

Tubb, Jonathan N. Canaanites. University of Oklahoma Press ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. 

The Louvre. “Stela Depicting the Storm God Baal”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “The Gods and Goddesses of Canaan”.

Oxford Art Online. “Ugarit”.

Oxford Art Online. “Stele”.