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“Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins” Review: Where Credits Are Required

About 4,500 years ago, the statue of Ninurta, the god of the Sumerian storm, was engraved on the silver vessel exhibited at the Getty Villa Museum exhibition “Mesopotamia: The Beginning of Civilization”.

He is a lion-headed eagle, a wild master, and grabs a lion and an ibex with his curled claws. Known as the “Entemena Vase” after the king of that era, the ship seems to have been filled with offerings aimed at calming Ningirsu. I would have provided a second aid.

Cult ship (“Entemena vase”) (Early Dynastic Period, c. 2,420 BC)


Elve Lewandowski

Greek gods may be trivial and jealous. However, the gods of this region, born much earlier and reigning in various incarnations in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, are more like barbaric animals than defective humans. The exhibition-related Devil’s Pazuzu appears here as a terrifying bronze statuette (934-610 BC), along with “the bad wind that caused the plague and other illnesses.” He has raptor claws, a scorpion tail, and a head that combines a dog and a lion. “I scaled a powerful mountain,” reads his cuneiform inscription. “They trembled.”

Mesopotamia: Civilization begins

Getty Villa Museum

Until August 16, 2021

But these horrifying arousals also reflect the conceptual and aesthetic profound human power that provides a more memorable presence in this extraordinarily extensive and detailed exhibition. This is a collaboration between the Getty Museum and the Louvre, which provided almost all of the 122 relics from its extraordinary Mesopotamian collection. It is said that this was the beginning of civilization. In this area, the first recorded city was formed in the 4th millennium BC. The first concept of “descending from heaven” kingship (as the original text states) was established. And the first form of non-painterly writing was developed, which allows for the transfer and expansion of knowledge and tradition. These are also the themes of three of the five galleries: the first city, the first king, and the first writing.

Some of this can be qualified, and despite the timeline graphics covering thousands of years, the exhibition would have benefited from a more detailed and systematic historical story. We must work hard to shape the 3,000-year-old relic into a consistent chronicle that has the potential to reveal changing patterns of sand. But in a valuable catalog, Ariane Thomas, curator of the Louvre’s Mesopotamian collection, cites the scholar (and popular) Samuel Noah Kramer (1897-1990). — List 39 different “firsts” that have left a lasting mark on subsequent cultures. Even today, we convey time in the Mesopotamian way by dividing hours and minutes into 60 parts. At the exhibition, you can also feel the power of cuneiform, from pictograms to wedge-shaped marks that enabled the city’s bureaucracy, legislation, and literary development.

The largest of the ancient cities before 3000 BC was Uruk (now Iraqi Warka), the hometown of King Gilgamesh, where the great epic developed. Decoding the surviving sections of the 19th century added it to a short list of the world’s basic stories, foreseeing both the Hebrew Scriptures (including the Flood) and Greek mythology (including visits to the underworld). did. At this exhibition, the voice tour number of the GettyGuide app and Link For reading by Antoine Cavigno of School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Uruk is said to have had a 5.5-mile long wall surrounding 100,000 inhabitants. But its spectacular scale is only suggested here by the now-lost miniature artifacts, such as terracotta cones that were once inserted into patterned holes in the wall, and colored bases that create mosaic images.

Since its early days, we have also seen graceful and graceful limestone at foot height, with its combined hands clasped on his belly (4,000 years later). Like a monk). He was identified as a “priest-king statue” around 3300 BC. More than a thousand years later, the classic sculptures of Prince Gudea, who reigned around 2120 BC, now have an exquisite calm. The image seems to embody a stone nobleman (he had a cast of Gudea’s head in the studio because he fascinated the sculptor Alberto Giacometti).

Priest-King statue (late Uruk, c. 3,300 BC)


RaphaIl Chipault / MusEe du Louvre

Statue of Prince Gudea as an architect (Neo-Smeria era, c. 2,120 BC)


Thierry Olivier / Louvre Museum

But how sharp some contrasts are is amazing. From the image of touching humanity to the demon gods, from worshiping humility to the trampling of those defeated in the “Stele of the Victory of King Rimush” (2278-2270 BC), we change direction. Again, there are lion wall panels roaming from the time of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned between 605 and 562 BC). You will be asked to imagine the terrifying grandeur of the Babylonian procession road, lined with the pride of such creatures.

As the exhibition points out, “the tension between civilization and chaos is the underlying theme of many Mesopotamian myths and literature.” That seems to apply to that image as well. The Sumerian myth is that mankind itself was molded from clay. Due to the lack of stones and trees in the area, clay was also used in architecture and writing, which are important components of civilization. Therefore, both humanity and civilization have the same essence, which can be sustained, but can also be washed away by floods and destroyed in combat under the influence of the whims of the devil. One of the reasons we are the heirs of Mesopotamian culture is that we take pride in the potential of civilization, but so that the tension between civilization and chaos does not diminish after 5,000 years. It may seem.

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“Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins” Review: Where Credits Are Required

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