Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Beyond Babylon

How can we relive the past? I do not mean fifty years ago, or even a hundred. I mean four thousand years! Most people wonder in awe about what life was like such a long time ago. Did humans look the same as they do now? What kind of activities did people engage in? What did they wear? With new and innovative technologies emerging at what seems like lightning speed, uncovering the past seems like a more and more feasible feat. Thanks in large part to Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman and The Hagop Kevorkian Fund, as well as other sponsors, a new exhibition titled “Beyond Babylon” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was made possible. This intriguing exhibit takes us on an adventure through the Mesopotamian region in the Second Millennium B.C, showcasing ancient jewelry, weapons, and texts.
Walking through the doorway of the exhibit, it feels like you enter into a whole new world. In stark contrast to the off-white walls of the rest of the museum, the walls at “Beyond Babylon” are colored a bold blue. It is a good recreation of the old world. The ceilings are high and the doorways are massive, being a good representation of the word Babylon itself, which when disassembled into its parts means “gateway of deities”. It was clear indeed that deities had a powerful influence on the people of the Mesopotamian region in those days. On exhibit were various religious figures. Also, uncovered from Egypt during the Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12-13, was a wand. It was decorated with fantastic creatures and deities. Supposedly, it had a protective function. Circular motions were made with it over children to protect them during the night. It was made from beautiful hippopotamus ivory, as were many of the artifacts from this time.
Besides wands and such, weapons are also a big part of the exhibit. One particularly beautiful weapon was an Axe inscribed with Ahmos. It is made of gold, electrum, copper alloy, semi-precious stones, and wood. This battle-axe exemplifies the ingenuity of the people in those days, as well as their artistic and creative ability. This battle-axe can be considered as much a weapon as an artistic piece. Probably one of the most revealing artifacts of the time is The Uluburun Shipwreck. This ship was carrying 17 tons of cargo and 15,000 artifacts from 12 different cultures, including the Canaanite, Mycenaean, Cypriot, Egyptian, Nubian, Baltic, northern Balkan, Kassite, and Assyrian. At the exhibit, inside a fake vessel, are housed horse training manuals, cups and vessels, helmets and armory, as well as glass and ceramics.
“Beyond Babylon” is an exciting and interactive exhibit. There is a ton of information available, including a short film. In a rather small space, the creators manage to display artifacts from over ten different cultures, and from over 4 thousand years ago. This exhibit is an educational experience where you can come pretty close to reliving the past.

1 comment

1 Keyana { 12.15.08 at 11:41 pm }

I only visited the exhibit I wrote about in my review, but wow what a description. Reading this definitely made me feel as though I missed out not seeing it. You seemed to have really enjoyed it. Nice!