Alexandra Fletcher, curator, British Museum
As the weather turns colder and the days shorter the Museum has been loaned a reminder of warmer, sunnier climes, which is helping to beat the mid-winter chill. The Department of the Middle East is preparing to display a panel of glazed bricks that has been generously loaned to us by the Vorderasiatisches Museum, part of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin group.
The panel shows a pacing, roaring lion and once was part of King Nebuchadnezzar II’s throne room in his palace in the ancient city of Babylon, Iraq. Nebuchadnezzar II reigned from 605-562 BC, and supposedly had the hanging gardens of Babylon built for his queen. Although there is little evidence to confirm his passion for gardening, it is certain that Nebuchadnezzar commissioned other major building projects in Babylon, to glorify the capital of his empire. Inscriptions stamped on bricks reveal the extent…
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Irving Finkel, curator, British Museum
I’ve just come from the press conference launching my new book, The Ark Before Noah. As I told the journalists, it all started with a fairly normal event for a museum curator: a member of the public bringing in an object that had long been in their family to have it identified. As often happens in my case, it was a cuneiform tablet. The visitor, Douglas Simmonds, had been given it by his father for passing his exams. It was part of a modest collection: a few tablets, some cylinder seals, a lamp or two and some pieces from China and Egypt. His father, an inveterate curio hunter, had picked them up after the War in the late 1940s.
This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the ancient Babylonian Story of the Flood
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(This is a fairly long piece about a war most people have never heard of, but there is a wonderful lesson of history here. For more on the sophists see Stuff from Way Back #20. The dates are BC.)
“Now we can see it clearly – like the light at the end of a tunnel.”
General Henri Navarre
commander of the French forces at Dien Bien Phu
History can often be hauntingly familiar, even across the 2500 year divide that separates classical Athens from America in the second half of the twentieth century. A case in point is the catastrophic Peloponnesian War (431-404) between the Athenian Empire and the Spartan controlled Peloponnesian League, a conflict that to a great extent ruined the Greek world.
The Athenian Empire was naval based, taking in virtually all the island and coastal city-states of the Aegean, and constituted a wealthy trading block. …
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