This little goddess from 1st century BC BabylonWith Burmese rubies showing the extent of trade
Portrait of a woman (50-150 CA) from Palmyra
Incense burner with man riding camel 3rd AD- calcite alabaster From Shabwa
Rearing house, 2nd century, South Western Arabia probably Ghayman
Lion: South Western Arabia, copper alloy 1st Millennium BC
From Timna, ancient capital of Qataban
From Khirbet all Tannur
From the sanctuary at Khirbet all Tannur
Har which carried the Dead Sea Scrolls
Quintan cave 1
Aphrodite from Baalbek
Heaf of a Sphinx from Baalbek
More from Palmyra
2BC -2AD alabaster from Ctesiphon
2BC -2AD alabaster from Ctesiphon
1-2century Calcite alabaster From Borsippa
The rise of the Sasanian Empire
Mirror with case from Judea desert
Gallery Text :
The landmark exhibition The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, which opens March 18, 2019, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will focus on the remarkable cultural, religious, and commercial exchange that took place in cities including Petra, Baalbek, Palmyra, and Hatra between 100 B.C. and A.D. 250. During this transformative period, the Middle East was the center of global commerce and the meeting point of two powerful empires—Parthian Iran in the east and Rome in the west—that struggled for regional control. The exhibition will focus on the diverse and distinctive cities and people that flourished in this environment by featuring some 190 outstanding examples of stone and bronze sculpture, wall paintings, jewelry, and other objects from museums in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Among the highlights will be a Nabataean religious shrine, reconstructed from architectural elements in collections in the United States and Jordan; the unique Magdala Stone, discovered in a first-century synagogue at Migdal (ancient Magdala) and whose imagery refers to the Temple in Jerusalem; and wall paintings from a church in Dura-Europos that are the earliest securely dated images of Jesus. Sculptures from Baalbek illuminate religious traditions at one of the greatest sanctuaries in the ancient Middle East, and funerary portraits from Palmyra bring visitors face to face with ancient people. The exhibition will also examine important contemporary issues—above all, the deliberate destruction and looting of sites including Palmyra, Dura-Europos, and Hatra.
“The compelling works of art in this exhibition offer a view into how people in the ancient Middle East sought to define themselves during a time of tremendous religious, creative, and political activity, revealing aspects of their lives and communities that resonate some two millennia later,” said Max Hollein, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Further, in focusing on an area of the world that has been deeply affected by recent conflicts and the destruction of sites, monuments, and objects, this show also engages with complex questions about the preservation of cultural heritage.”
The exhibition is made possible by Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman.
Additional support is provided by the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund and the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.
The exhibition evokes a journey along ancient trade routes, beginning in the southwestern Arabian kingdoms that grew rich from the caravan trade in frankincense and myrrh harvested there and used throughout the ancient world. Camel caravans crossed the desert to the Nabataean kingdom, with its spectacular capital city of Petra. From here, goods traveled west to the Mediterranean and north and east through regions including Judaea and the Phoenician coast and across the Syrian desert, where the oasis city of Palmyra controlled trade routes that connected the Mediterranean world to Mesopotamia and Iran and ultimately China. In Mesopotamia, merchants transported cargoes down the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to the Persian Gulf, where they joined maritime trade routes to India. These connections transcended the borders of empires, forming networks that linked cities and individuals over vast distances.
Across the entire region, diverse local political and religious identities were expressed in art. Artifacts from Judaea give a powerful sense of ancient Jewish identity during a critical period of struggle with Roman rule. Architectural sculptures from the colossal sanctuary at Baalbek and statuettes of its deities reveal the intertwined nature of Roman and ancient Middle Eastern religious practices. Funerary portraits from Palmyra represent the elite of an important hub of global trade. Wall paintings and sculptures from Dura-Europos on the River Euphrates illustrate the striking religious diversity of a settlement at the imperial frontier. And in Mesopotamia, texts from the last Babylonian cuneiform libraries show how ancient temple institutions waned and finally disappeared during this transformative period.
A key topic within the exhibition will be the impact of recent armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen on archaeological sites, monuments, and museums, including deliberate destruction and looting. Some of the most iconic sites affected—Palmyra, Hatra, and Dura-Europos—feature in the exhibition, which will discuss this damage and raise questions regarding current and future responses to the destruction of heritage.