Through January 5, 2014
Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Mesopotamia, the cradle of Western civilization, included the great ancient empires of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon. Encompassing present-day Iraq, northeast Syria and southeast Turkey, here the origins of agriculture, writing, codified laws and urban planning emerged.
Now on display at the Royal Ontario Museum, Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World showcases hundreds of artifacts illustrating the achievements of these ancient empires. Highlights include a lyre with a bearded bull’s head and inlaid panel from the Royal Cemetery at Ur,* a rare surviving Assyrian sculpture in the round depicting King Ashurnasirpal II, and a terracotta relief of a striding lion that once adorned the palace of Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar II, who famously conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and exiled the Jews to Babylon.
The objects in the exhibition come from the British Museum’s rich collection as well as from the Royal Ontario Museum, the University of Chicago Oriental Institute Museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Also included are presentations of archaeological excavations conducted in the region in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the impact of the 2003 looting of Baghdad’s Iraq Museum and the destruction of several archaeological sites in Iraq. The visitor’s experience at Mesopotamia is augmented by audio-visual installments and a 3D fly-through of Babylon, highlighting the Tower of Babel and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
* See Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt, “Abraham’s Ur: Did Woolley Excavate the Wrong Place?” BAR, January/ February 2000.