Erich Lessing

Floral and geometric designs ornament these ceramic vessels.The delicate objects—the tallest piece at center is only 5 inches high—are from the Ubaid period (5900–4300 B.C.) in southern Mesopotamia. Pottery painting in the Near East goes back at least as far as the seventh millennium B.C. For thousands of years, however, artisans painted pots simply with designs meant to be beautiful, or possibly symbolically meaningful, but not meant to tell stories.