Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia

Penned upon the 2nd of May, 2012

I had the very good fortune to be treated to an advance preview of the Melbourne Museum’s next exhibition, The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. By good fortune, shortly before the exhibition was announced, I had been studying Mesopotamia – the cradle of civilisation; birthplace of writing, of cities, of government, of so much that makes society society.

The exhibition itself is both informative and charming, and, I was tickled to note, is thoroughly child-friendly – presentations for children in such environments are a mixed bag as a whole, but TWoAM provides a series of panels featuring a cartoon Gilgamesh, presenting solid historical insights simply and accessibly – thoroughly impressive! The artefacts and texts presented are divided up by the three prominent cultures featured – Sumer, Assyria and Babylon – whose relative sections are marked by reproductions of their own famous art and architecture.

It was particularly interesting to note which artefacts survived from each civilisation. Sumer, for instance, displays a number of small clay tablets and other personal items (including a stunning collection of jewellery,) while Assyria is marked by its massive stone carvings detailing the achievements of its kings and conquerors. I’m far from an expert, but pondering the environmental and social factors that led to such an archaeological haul is fascinating stuff – was stone easier to quarry or import in the north? I know the abundance of clay in the south has given us an insight into Sumerian bureaucratic practices not so apparent in, say, Egypt, where so many papyrus records have not survived…

In any case, you don’t need to hear me rabbit on. In short, this exhibition is unmissable for anyone with even the faintest interest in world history, ancient aesthetics, or any one of a hundred fields which had their origins in this period (constitutional law, division of labour, taxation, communications technology…) It opens on Friday the 4th and runs until the 7th of October. Absolutely check it out.

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