Two thousand years ago, artworks of astonishing variety were being created in far-flung regions of the world. Although some of the cultures flourishing in the Year One, such as that of Rome, are well known, others may be less familiar. In Europe, Celtic peoples excelled in intricate metalwork, and in Egypt a fascinating hybrid combining Greco-Roman and age-old Egyptian styles predominated. East of the Mediterranean, such wealthy centers of trade as Palmyra, Petra, the kingdoms of southern Arabia, and the mighty Parthian Empire produced a wide range of sculpture, ceramics, and precious objects that served both religious and luxury purposes as well as everyday uses. Continuing eastward from Parthia to what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India, a traveler in the Year One would have discovered the eclectic arts of the Kushan Empire, where a distinctive early Buddhist art sometimes incorporated influences from Greece and Rome.
In East Asia, China's great empire under the Han dynasty was home to sophisticated arts in every medium; semi-nomadic peoples in northern China made metalwork ornaments, often to adorn the gear for their horses; and characteristic arts had begun to develop in Korea and Japan. The elegant bronzework produced in Southeast Asia testifies to a fertile artistic interchange in that region. Finally, in cultures across the Pacific Ocean in South America and Mesoamerica, powerful and expressive objects were made of stone, ceramic, and gold.
More than 150 works of art that exemplify all these societies at the Year One are illustrated in color and fully explained in this volume. Historical summaries accompanied by maps briefly describe the nature of each culture and the flow of power and peoples during the period centering around the Year One. An introductory essay offers both an overview and an account of the startling degree to which the ancient world was an interconnected one, crisscrossed by intrepid traders and adventurers who journeyed both east and west to bring back coveted goods and tantalizing scraps of information about exotic lands.
The works of art included here are almost all in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the book's authors are members of the museum's curatorial staff representing seven different departments. The catalogue is published to accompany the exhibition "The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West," held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from October 3, 2000, to January 14, 2001.