Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mesopotamia, in between two rivers, at ROM, Royal Ontario Museum

Statue of Ashurnasirpal II
Smacked between Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the land currently Iraq and parts of Turkey, was the birthplace of the Mesopotamian culture more than 5000 years ago.

The area housed four empires, Sumarians, Akaadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians.  Telling the social, economical, and political story of this ancient time through the study of artifacts excavated in this area is an intricate task; disrupted many times by change of political power and point of view.

Through showcasing 170 artifacts of Sumerian, Assyrians and Babylonians, on loan from British Museum, "Mesopotamia: Inventing our World" at Royal Ontario Museum attempts to establish a parallel between the past and present.

Escape Across River, Nimrud 875-860 BCE
The exhibit opens with two glass boxes placed next to each other.  In one there is a clay tablet with cuneiform carved into them and in the other there is an electronic tablet.  Although the exhibit is organized by rise and fall of empires, Sumer, Assyria and Babylon (and some references to Akaad), but the subliminal message is to showcase the rich and advanced culture of the past and its influence on the present time.

There are keywords such as Justice, Globalization, Innovation, and etc. projected on the walls through out the exhibit. The script written on the wall describes topics such as irrigation, city building and architecture, law, agriculture, animal domestication, priests, gods, and kings.  In addition there are animation to bring the story written on the clays to life, like the one here showing the escape across the river; as well as the fact that they knew how to swim. There are clasped-hands posed men, and women statues; looking at these made one feel so calm.

We are lucky to have exhibits like this to show us the richness of the civilized world.  Sadly, however, the present day quality of life shows discontinuity between then and now.  There is regression in the quality of life 5000 years ago and today.

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