Nin­eveh: Heart of an an­cient em­pire

Ri­jksmu­seum van Oud­he­den, Rapen­burg 28, Lei­den, the Nether­lands Show­ing from: 20 Oc­to­ber 2017 – 25 March 2018

Timeless Travels Magazine - - EXHIBITION FOCUS -

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

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