Last Updated on June 22, 2020 by Iris Sinilong
Cities. Writing. Law. Trade. And even beer. So many of today’s concepts have evolved from ancient Mesopotamia, the civilization dating back to 8000 BC. Derived from the Greek language, Mesopotamia means “between the rivers,” referring to the bordering Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The ancient Sumer (4000-2000 BC), Assyria (1000-600 BC), and Babylon (600-540 BC) societies have left a legacy of innovation that has significantly influenced modern-day life.
Archaeological discoveries have revealed human settlements dating back to around 8000 BC. Because of the society’s settlement by the rivers, the fertile land gave way to sustainable agriculture. By 3500 BC, an advanced civilization was established leaving remains of temples, mosaics, and stone carvings to be found. Two major innovations materialized during this time: the development of cities and the invention of writing. Cities gave rise to social and economic structures, law, and trade while writing emerged to compliment the city-structure as a means of documentation. The writing system began as pictograms and progressed into a type of script called cuneiform written on clay tablets. Many literary, artistic, intellectual, and scientific advancements can be attributed to this culture, as well as the notion of deities, attitudes towards women, and punishment. The Mesopotamian area now occupies present-day Iraq, north-eastern Syria, and south-eastern Turkey.
The British Museum in collaboration with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), presents Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World, an exhibit running from June 22 to January 5 at the ROM. This is the only Canadian stop on the international tour. Over 170 artifacts from this ancient culture are on display. “Mesopotamia was a true frontrunner, with great cities of sizes not achieved by Paris or London until the Industrial Revolution; empires that controlled most of the known world of that time; and technological achievements still shaping our lives,” said Dr. Clemens Reichel, the ROM’s curator and professor of Mesopotamian Archeology at the University of Toronto in a press release.
Some of the show’s highlights include gold jewellery, such as the “Headdress with gold leaves” from the King’s Grave (2500 BC), carefully carved statues of kings, such as “Ashurnasirpal ll (883-859 BC), and artifacts from Babylon, such as the “Striding Lion” (605-562 BC), a terracotta relief from the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar ll.
“With the ancient society reflecting some of mankind’s earliest ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, we are still able to learn from Mesopotamia,” said Dr. Reichel. Visit the ROM to witness artifacts from the earliest urban civilization and learn about the origins of ideas that we may overlook today.