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This article discusses the functions of images in ancient Near Eastern societies. It points out the continuities as well as the discontinuities in the development of iconic systems from the 10th to the 1st millennium B. C. The function of images in different social contexts is considered as a starting point for a better understanding of the diversity of cultural techniques in relation to the use of images. Such considerations question the teleological character of the iconic evolution, which has largely been taken for granted in ancient Near Eastern art history. Instead it will be argued that a closer look at the adaptation, inclusion or exclusion on the part of the producers and users of images is necessary. This approach may also help to reshape the methodology of art history in ancient Near Eastern archaeology, and to comprehend the history behind the images, which exposes the cultural context in which visual practice developed.