What is an artifact, and to what degree does it represent art? At what point in the evolution of ancient human society does art emerge? What does it express, what is its purpose, and who are the agents that create and propagate it? This course addresses these questions by examining artifacts from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age (15,000-300 BC). Students will learn to categorize works of ancient Near Eastern art using descriptive (materials, size, object type) as well as interpretive (iconography, style, themes) parameters, in order to engage critically with art-historical studies. Techniques of reading visual narratives will be exemplified by discussing selected examples in detail, showing ways of identifying a messenger and the message that they are trying to convey, the selective inclusion or omission of elements within a visual narrative, and the possible propagandistic intent in doing so.