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Royal Ontario Museum opens Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World

Royal Ontario Museum presents Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World an exhibition on view June 22, 2013 until January 5, 2014.

Exploring over 3,000 years of accomplishments of this ancient civilization to reveal the significance many still have on our lives today, Mesopotamia features over 170 priceless objects from the esteemed holdings of the British Museum. These artifacts, most of which have never been seen in Canada, are augmented by iconic objects from the ROM’s own renowned collections and other leading institutions, including the University of Chicago Oriental Institute Museum, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum, Philadelphia), and Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mesopotamia is presented by the British Museum in collaboration with the ROM. The curator of the internationally touring exhibition is Sarah Collins, the British Museum’s curator for Early Mesopotamia. She says, “The British Museum is highly fortunate to have rich Mesopotamian collections as a result of British archaeological excavations undertaken in the past. As custodian of these ancient objects, it is a privilege to make them available to as wide an audience as possible – both in London and internationally. I am very happy to work with the ROM to present some of Mesopotamia’s many achievements. While it is challenging for us today to feel a connection to people of a civilization that existed thousands of years ago, I hope that exhibition visitors will discover aspects of Mesopotamian life and legacy that relate to their own lives.”

That the people of Mesopotamia were great innovators is established immediately on entering the exhibition. This assertion is effectively illustrated throughout the space, allowing visitors to discover their personal connections to the ancient civilization. First encountered in this Introduction area is a series of six installations or “cubes”. Interspersed throughout the exhibition and employing several media, each cube powerfully connects ancient Mesopotamian innovation to contemporary life. While Mesopotamia addresses numerous benchmarks of the society’s social and technological developments, including the Agricultural Revolution and the development of village economies, its main focus is on the emergence of cities and states in ancient Sumer (4000 – 2000 BCE); the Assyrian World Empire (1000 – 600 BCE); and the rise and fall of Babylon (600 – 540 BCE).

The engagement of Mesopotamia is complemented by Catastrophe! Ten Years Later: the Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past. Originally developed by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in 2008, the display looks at the devastation of Iraq’s cultural heritage during, and following, 2003’s Iraq War. Now, marking the tenth anniversary of the looting of Baghdad’s Iraq Museum and the destruction of numerous other sites, the award-winning, internationally touring display has been updated. The revised presentation makes its debut at the ROM from June 22, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

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