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The Assyrian Empire revisited A passage in time

Shanghai Daily
Wang Jie
2006-06-30

Travel back in time with the Shanghai Museum's "Art and Empire" exhibition of artifacts from the ancient and historically important Assyrian Civilization, writes Wang Jie.

The Assyrian Civilization is one of the most famous ancient civilizations. It existed in what is modern day Iraq 3,000 years ago.

"Art and Empire," an exhibition featuring treasures from the ancient civilization provides Shanghainese with an opportunity to learn more about Assyria.

Throne room

View of the Throne Room of the Northwest Palace of King Ashur-nasir-pal II at
Nimrud (ancient Kalhu, Assyria, present-day Iraq) as it may have looked in the 9th c. BCE during the height of the Assyrian Empire; the view is extracted from the virtual reality model of the Palace by Learning Sites; copyright 2006 by Learning Sites. To see more views of the Palace reconstruction go to:
www.learningsites.com.

On loan from the British Museum, some of the 251 relics showcased in the Shanghai Museum have never traveled outside of the British Museum except when they were displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York a decade ago.

"It is a rare chance to appreciate them in Shanghai, many representative works have been selected to present a comprehensive picture of this important ancient civilization," says Chen Xiejun, curator at Shanghai Museum.

The objects on view include major stone reliefs and sculptures, daily ornaments and vessels, cuneiform records in clay and historical materials about the discovery of Assyria.

Surrounded by a series of bygone images like the gallant king engaged a war or a lion shot by an arrow, visitors seem to be led into a time tunnel where a past historical chapter is revealed.

Iraq, the cradle of ancient civilization, has always been a place contested by many military campaigns. The fertile land between the two renowned rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, has experienced continual epic struggles for thousands of years.

Assyria was originally a small state in northern Mesopotamia, and it later had developed into an immense empire by the 8th century BC. Its borders reached the Mediterranean in the west and Iran in the east. Influenced by Sumerian and Babylonian culture, it rapidly spread the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia to its surrounding territory through its military power.

Assyrian Civilization reached its climax before the 7th century BC. It had established a huge empire, the Assyrian Empire, but it was later destroyed by the Babylon men in 612 BC.

"The highlight of the show are the 30 stone reliefs," says Li Feng, a spokesman at the museum.

The biggest stone relief weighs 4.3 tons. According to Li, the artistic achievement of the Assyrian Empire was well reflected through these sculptures and reliefs featuring realistic scenes of royal expeditions, hunting and other activities.

However, the Assyrians were sometimes perceived as cruel and tyrannical, partly due to the disparaging references to them in the Bible and partly due to their harsh treatment of prisoners as shown on those stone reliefs.

"It is clear now that they merely followed the normal standards of the day," Li explains.

The contents of the cuneiform texts, the sophisticated art and the quality of craftsmanship all manifest a highly developed civilization. In particular, the stone wall reliefs with their intricately carved narrative scenes were directly copied in the later reliefs of Persia and Greece.

In 1999, the Shanghai Museum held an Egyptian relics show also on loan from the British Museum. The exhibition attracted nearly 630,000 visitors during two months.

"We are looking forward to the same fever from the public this summer," Li says with a smile.

Date: July 1-October 7, 9am-5pm

Address: 201 People's Ave

Admission: 20 yuan

Tel: 6372-3500


 


 



 

 





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Who are the Christians of Iraq? 

June = Khzeeran

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A Preliminary Investigation into Assyrian Identity March 3, 06

Firodil Institute Meets The Christian Fair Trade Group March 2, 06 

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