Welcome to Unit 7: West and Central Asia, 500 BCE-1980 CE.
Unit 7 may be one of the shortest units in AP Art History at 11 required works, but it still packs a mighty punch! The works from West and Central Asia are incredibly diverse in media 🎨 (materials used to create a work), function, and pretty much every other identifier, which is why so many AP Art History students enjoy this part of the course.
So, now that you're all excited to take a look at this unit, let's begin with the history of it, and then briefly summarize the works you'll need to know.
Because of West and Central Asia's location along trade routes like the Silk Road (pictured below ⬇️), travelers from different areas could easily spread their religions, cultures, and traditions to the region 🗺️ during their journeys. The native people of West and Central Asia would combine what they had been exposed to by these travelers with their preexisting traditions in a process known as syncretism.
This fusion is evident in the art of this unit, which is influenced by the region's exposure to Islam, Mahayana (one of the branches of Buddhism), the Arabic language, and even ancient Greek culture. These concepts were no longer exclusive to a specific geographical area like the Arabian Peninsula, but could now be found in places like the Persian and Tibetan Empires in their own unique forms.
As a result of all these different influences, the art pieces we'll be studying in this unit will be quite different from each other in terms of religious influence, artistic influence, patron and context. The Court of Gayumars, for example, takes inspiration from Chinese art, while The Basin (Baptistière de Saint Louis) gets its name from the European court it was used in. The diversity of influences on this region also leads the works from this time to have a diverse range of media, or materials used to create an artwork. In this unit, we'll see everything from massive statues to woven carpets.
Study Tip: As you're looking at the works in this unit, try to keep in mind how they illustrate cultural exchange between different regions of the world.
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0). The extent of the Silk Road.
|c. 400 BCE-100 CE
|Buddhas of Bamiyan
|Cut rock with plaster and paint
|400-800, destroyed in 2001
|Mecca, Saudi Arabia
|Granite covered in silk, gold, and silver
|Gilt metal with stones and paint
|Dome of the Rock
|Stone and wood decorated with ceramic and mosaics
|Great Mosque (Masjid-e Jameh)
|Brick, plaster, wood, and ceramic tile
|Folio from a Qur'an
|Possibly Syria or Iraq
|Ink and gold on parchment
|Basin (Baptistière de Saint Louis)
|Either Syria or Egypt
|Brass inlaid with gold and silver
|Bahram Gur Fights the Karg
|Ink and watercolor
|The Court of Gayumars
|Ink, watercolor, and gold on paper
|The Ardabil Carpet
|Probably in Tabriz, Iran
|Silk on wood
And that's Unit 7! Hopefully, this guide will come in handy as you go through the AP Art History course, which, by the way, you're already 70% through 🎉. Happy studying, art historians!