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Metropolitan Museum: Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age

September 18, 2014, New York, NY

Opening this coming week at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a really fabulous show on the Assyrian Culture at the Dawn of the Classical Age. The Met is like the United States Army, a large bureaucracy that gets plenty of criticism when it does something wrong, but when it gets it right, it is pure shock and awe. This exhibition was six years in the planning and displays some 260 works on loan from the major collections of Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucuses, and the United States.


The landmark show traces the interaction of the Assyrian Empire astride the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and how that cross roads of culture influenced points west via the Phoenician sea kings to the Atlantic Ocean on the Iberian Peninsula.

There are too many works here for generalities, however the antiquities of Nimrud, Ninevah and Babylon are spellbinding, and even in the world class collection of the Met, this show comes across as one of seminal importance. The Met published a massive catalogue, Assyria to Iberia, Dawn of the Classical Age, which was instrumental for this writer/photographer to label this fine images correctly. It could be an anomaly, but it is curious that this show of ancestral Arabia skips the word "Arab." Despite that it is a show that demonstrates the dawn of civilization, and how much of the western world owes a debt to those first oasis of trade, commerce and learning situated on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, directly athwart the fastest trade route between the Black Sea and India.

Arabia 3Necklace with Spiral Beads, Gold, Euboia, Lefkandi, Toumba Cemetary, tomb 63 Late Protogeometric Period, 10th-9th century BC

Arabia 4Pendant, ?Gold, Eboia, Lefkandi, toumba Building (Female burial) Late Protogeometric Period, 10th-9th century BC

Arabia 5Statue of Ashurnasirpal II, Magnesite Nimrud, Ishatar Sharrat-Niphi Temple Neo-Assyrian, circa 875-860BC

Arabia 6Stone Cuneiform Tablet with Inscription of Ashurnasirpal II Gypsum alabaster, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), Fort shalmaneser ?Neo-Assyrian Circa 883-859BC

Arabia 7Assyrian Seals, Nimrud, 7th Century BC

Arabia 8Tile showing Assyrian King and Court, Glazed Ceramic, Nimrud, Northwest Palace, 9th Century BC

Arabia 9Phoenician Style Ivory Plaque Showing Winged Youth, Ivory, Originally inlaid with Colored glass Nimrud, Fort Shalmaneser, SW, 8th-7th Century BC

Arabia 10Relief with Winged Figure, Gypsum Alabaster, Nimrud, Northwest Palace Neo-Assyrian, 880 BC

Arabia 11Chairbacked Panel with Striding Man, ?Ivory, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), Fort shalmaneser Neo-Assyrian period, North Syrian Style, 9th-8th century BC

Arabia 12Banquet Relief of Ashurbunipal, Gypsum Alabaster, Ninevah, North Palace, Neo-Assyrian, Circa 645-635BC

Arabia 13Pierced Plaque with Atropaic Figures, Limestone, Susa, Neo-Elamite, 8th-7th Century BC

Arabia 14Relief Fragment with Spinner, Bitumen ?Susa, Neo-Elamite, 8th-7th Century BC

Arabia 15Pyxis Decorated with Griffins and Bulls, Faience w/monochrome glaze Susa, Tell of Apadna, West Parvis ?Neo-Elamite, 9th-8th Century BC

Arabia 16Relief with Depiction of a Ruler, Basalt, Zincirli (Sam'Al), Syro-Hittite, Second Half of 9th Century BC

Arabia 17Funerary Stele of Sin-Zer-Ibni, Priest of the Moon God, Basalt Neirab, Syro-Hittite, Circa 700BC

Arabia 18Stele of Tarhunpiyas, Basalt Probably Marash, Syro-Hittite, Circa 800-700BC

Arabia 19Statue of Scorpion Bird Man, Basalt Tell Halaf, Syro-Hittite, Early 9th Century BC

Arabia 20Statue of Seated Woman, Basalt, Tell Halaf, Syro-Hittite, Early 9th Century BC

Arabia 21Orthostat with Combat Scene, Basalt Tell Halaf, Syro-Hittite, Circa 9th Century BCArabia 22Statue of Seated Couple, Basalt, Tell Halaf, Syro-Hittite, Early 9th Century BC

Arabia 23Game Box with Chariot Hunt, Ivory Enkomi, Chamber tomb 58 Late Bronze Age, 1250-1100 BC

Arabia 24Wheeled Vessel Stand, Bronze Cyprus, Late Bronze Age, 1250-1100 BC

Arabia 25Head of a Worshiper, Ceramic and Paint, Pera-Frangissa (near Tamassos) Sanctuary of Apollo-Reshef ?Cypro-Archaic, 650-600BC

Arabia NEW26Tower of Babel, Flemish School, Oil on Panel Late 16th Century

Arabia 26Stele of Ashurbanipal, Marble ?Babylon, Esagil Temple, 668-655BC

Arabia 27Relief of a Striding Lion, Glazed and Molded Brick, Babylon, Processional Way Neo-Babylonian, 604-562BC

Arabia 28Relief of a Mushhushshu Dragon, Glazed and Molded Brick, Babylon, Ishtar Gate ?Neo-Babylonian, 604-562BC

The exhibition will be on display from September 22, 2014 until January 4,2015.

For more information go to the Met's website:

Arabia 29

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About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...