Nineveh: Heart of an ancient empire
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Rapenburg 28, Leiden, the Netherlands Showing from: 20 October 2017 – 25 March 2018
This autumn, Nineveh – the capital of the powerful Assyrian Empire 2,700 years ago and the world’s largest city at that time – will be brought back to life in Leiden. While the city’s ancient ruins in Northern Iraq are currently under fire, the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (the National Museum of Antiquities) in the Netherlands is reuniting 250 of Nineveh’s top pieces from international museums for the first time since they were discovered more than 180 years ago. Prime exhibits will include the largest decorated reliefs from Nineveh’s palaces and reconstructions of them. The story of the exhibition covers nine thousand years: from the first settlement to the adventurous archaeological excavations and the recent destruction of the ruins.
Long before the days of Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire, a powerful empire arose in the Near East: the Assyrian Empire. It stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Iranian interior and from Turkey to Egypt. Around 700 BC, its capital was Nineveh, in present-day Iraq. With more than 100,000 residents, Nineveh was the largest and most important city in the world.
The city was already famous in ancient times for its impressive palaces, awe-inspiring temples and colossal golden statues. Nineveh: Heart of an
ancient empire introduces visitors to the city, its history, its residents and the many gods that they worshipped. It also covers the biblical prophet Jonah, and what happened to the city after it was sacked in 612 BC.
Visitors will be able to admire dozens of reliefs from Nineveh’s palaces, ornaments and a golden death mask, clay tablets from the library of Ashurbanipal – the oldest library in the world – statues of gods and winged creatures, glazed pottery and rare ivory inlay. The stories of the archaeologists who worked in Nineveh – including tales of greed, disaster and espionage – are illustrated with original films, photos and prints of the excavations from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The exhibition also pays particular attention to heritage in crisis regions and ways to preserve the past for the future. Visitors to Leiden will be able to see computer animations of the ancient city, and with the aid of an international team of researchers, a palace room from Nineveh has been reconstructed precisely in 3D and colour. The original in Iraq was recently completely destroyed.
See www.rmo.nl/english/exhibitions/ nineveh for more information.
Top: Relief showing Assyrian soldier escorting two women, thought to be Babylonian or Aramean prisoners. (Image: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden)
Middle: Reconstruction of the Sennacherib’s throne room
Left: Austin Henry Layard, excavator of the Palace of Sennacherib and Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh