When you visit the Sunken Cities exhibition at the British Museum, you feel as if you are diving beneath the waters of the Nile River. You pass through a corridor illuminated by blue light and into galleries painted in a navy blue. There are dappled lighting effects to imitate water – it’s a wonder they don’t hand out snorkels to complete the illusion. The idea works, however, and you feel just like the archaeologists whose work has formed the basis for this display. It is as if you are discovering a world that has been hidden for more than a thousand years.
Most, if not all, of our readership knows about the intentional destruction of ancient artifacts, buildings, mosques, shrines, and the contents of Mosul museum contents by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Governorate of Mosul in Iraq is the site of several ancient Assyrian cities (Nimrud, Kouyunjik, and Dur-Sharrukin), in addition to Hatra. The 3,000 year old ancient city of Kalhu (modern-day Nimrud; Biblical Calah) received the bulk of the blow, and a propaganda video issued by ISIS in April 2015 showed the dramatic and shocking explosion of the northwest palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II. The in situ artifacts of Nimrud were composed of palace wall reliefs, mainly from the northwest palace of Ashurnasirpal II,and few lamassu, which are mythical human-headed and winged bulls or lions. Thanks to the great work and excavations conducted by archaeologists from many parts of the world, in addition to Iraqis, artifacts from the Assyrian city of Nimrud are now displayed to the public in many museums and private collections all around the globe.
I was attending a neurology event in Erbil (the ancient city of Arbela also known as Hawler in Kurdish), which is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan. The last time I had visited the Erbil Civilization Museum (Kurdish: موزه خانه ي شاره ستاني هه ولير ; Arabic: متحف أربيل الحضاري) was in September 2014. In comparison to the Sulaymaniyah Museum (the other archaeological museum in Iraqi Kurdistan), this museum is much smaller in terms of size and number of displayed antiquities. However, it has a considerable collection of interesting artifacts to view. The following is a tour of some of the museum’s highlights, which are little-known outside of Iraq.
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is giving the public an unprecedented opportunity to explore ancient Egyptian relations with Canaan during the second millennium BCE in Pharaoh in Canaan: The Untold Story. This exhibition presents more than 680 objects, which reflect the rich cross-fertilization of ritual practices and aesthetic vocabularies between these two distinct cultures. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) discusses the exhibition and the countless ties that bound ancient Egypt to Canaan with Dr. Eran Arie, Curator of Iron Age and Persian Period Archaeology at the Israel Museum.
At the beginning of May an exciting initiative began by the IAA (Israeli Antiquities Authority) to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert in search of the remaining Dead Sea Scrolls. The catalyst for this was partially due to the area being a prime spot over the last few years for looters and antiquities thieves who have been selling their findings on the black market. Thats why the IAA along with the several other organisations have come together to begin a national plan to find the remaining Dead Sea Scrolls, before the looters do. The Dead Sea Scrolls (for those who do not know) were a collection of over 900 manuscripts from the Second Temple Period found in caves in Qumran, northwest of the Dead Sea. During this period, families and rebels were hiding from the Roman Empire in caves, hence why the scrolls were found hidden in caves. This excavation was south of that location in a place known as The Cave of Skulls in the Judean Desert.
Leiden, Netherlands is not exactly the first place that comes into mind when you think about ancient history. Even if you are in the city, you would most likely walk past the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) without noticing it. Hidden in an unremarkable building in the historic city center, it’s nothing like entering the magnificent building of the Louvre or the British Museum. Yet, judging the book by its cover would be a huge mistake. Once inside, right in the middle of the entrance hall, you are greeted with an actual Egyptian temple, built c. 2000 years ago, originally dedicated to Isis and later used as a Christian church, transported to the museum stone by stone from Taffeh, Egypt.
Enjoying a privileged and bucolic position on the eastern slopes of Mount Olympus, the ancient Greek city of Dion prospered for thousands of years as a sacred center for the cult of Zeus and as the gateway to Macedonia. Gods and Mortals at Olympus: Ancient Dion, City of Zeus, now on show at the Onassis Cultural Center in New York, N.Y., examines the development and trajectory of Dion, from a small rural settlement to a thriving Roman colony, through the presentation of remarkable archaeological artifacts not seen outside of Greece. In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Dimitrios Pandermalis about this exhibition and Dion’s importance in the wider Greco-Roman world.