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Jan. 12, 2005 Press Contact: William Harms
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Artifacts provide insights on Fertile Crescent

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Artifacts Provide Insights on Fertile Crescent

There are about 1,000 objects in “Empires in the Fertile Crescent: Ancient Assyria, Anatolia, and Israel,” and each tells an important story of the development of this region. Here is a look at some of the particularly outstanding artifacts:

  050112.oi-1.jpgRelief of King Sargon II riding in his chariot
The walls of the palaces of Neo-Assyrian kings were lined with carved slabs of gypsum showing the king and his court. This example from the private chambers of the palace at Khorsabad (710-705 B.C.) shows the king, riding through a forest in his chariot, protected from the heat of the sun by a parasol-like sun shade held by an attendant.


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  050112.oi-2.jpgPrism of Sennacherib
Records of eight military campaigns of Assyrian King Sennacherib (704-681 B.C.) are incised in tiny cuneiform script on the six sides of this baked clay prism. The text documents the spread of the Assyrian empire, including campaigns against the Neo-Hittite states in Turkey, Sidon (Lebanon), and his siege and capture of Jerusalem, then under Hezeki'ah, recorded in II Kings in the Bible.


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Tell Judaidah bronze figurines
These figurines of men and women from Tell Judaidah, Turkey, are the oldest examples of true bronze (combination of copper and tin) known. They date to about 3000 B.C. The male figures were originally equipped as warriors, and the women were dressed with accessories of precious metal. They are the forerunners of later figurines of gods who were "dressed" in gold and silver. Recently, the ore content of the figurines was tested at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.


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Megiddo ivory
Some of the best examples of internationalism in art of the Fertile Crescent are the decorative ivories from Megiddo, Israel. A griffin figure on display from the 13th century B.C. shows a reclining composite figure with a lion’s body and a bird’s head and wings. The motif is borrowed from the Mycenaeans.


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  050112.oi-5.jpgStatue of the god El
The Canaanites of Israel worshipped many gods. The chief of the pantheon and the father of the gods was El, who is portrayed in this statue in gold-covered bronze. Such figurines were the idols whose worship was forbidden by the early Israelite prophets. The statuette was excavated at Megiddo, Israel, in 1935-1936.


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  050112.oi-6.jpgTell Tayinat column base
In the ninth century B.C., a number of small Neo-Hittite kingdoms was established in southeast Anatolia. One was centered at Tell Tayinat in southeast Turkey. Oriental Institute excavations recovered fragments of a palace of the local ruler. This basalt base once supported a wood column of the portico of the palace. It is decorated with floral designs that were used on other surfaces at the site.


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  050112.oi-7.jpgTell Tayinat Sphinx
Much of the art from the Fertile Crescent exhibits a mixture of styles drawn from different regions and peoples. The material used for this sculpture of a sphinx is the rough textured basalt found in southeastern Anatolia and favored by the Neo-Hittite states (ninth century B.C.), and the triangular face is common to the region, but the curled hair on the shoulders is drawn from Egyptian prototypes. The sphinx was part of a larger object, perhaps the arm of a stone throne.


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  050112.oi-3.jpgFragment of a Dead Sea Scroll
The Dead Sea scrolls are among the oldest copies of the texts of the Bible as well as other early documents. They were recovered from caves at Khirbet Qumran in Israel and written in ink on parchment. This example, written in Hebrew, is a non-Biblical text.


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Last modified at 03:27 PM CST on Monday, January 24, 2005.

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