My visit to the Mesopotamian Section at the Royal Ontario Museum

By: Ashur Sada

 

Recently, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) hosted an exhibition of hundreds of exceptional artifacts of Sumer, Assyria and Babylon

Babylon from the British Museum. For a limited time, people in Toronto and near-by cities had a historical opportunity to witness the innovations of ancient Mesopotamia. Innovations that truly changed and made our world what it is today.

As an Assyrian living in Toronto, and having never been to any of the world famous museums that host a lot of our ancient Assyrian treasures, I thought this was like winning the lottery. I mean, I already live in Toronto, I am Assyrian and are interested in my history: it would be crazy to miss it. Not to mention, the exhibition ran for months and there was no excuses to miss it. I actually made my visit a bit late, just a few days before this temporary section at the ROM was to close and its artifacts returned to the British museum again. Cameras weren’t allowed inside which was unfortunate but understandable.  Most of the items at the museums can be found online, though it is nothing like seeing it in person.

 

The Visit

We made our way to the ROM on a Sunday, right after Christmas. Though it had been running for a few months, there was still a significant number of people there to visit the Mesopotamian section. The section was divided into three parts, by chronological order:  Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonia. Interestingly, the Assyrian section, from my observation,  was the largest of all. The exhibition overall had some very interesting and priceless pieces,  including the Epic of Gilgamesh, a portrait of king Ashur Banipal hunting lions, replicas of the Code of Hammurabi, relief panels from king Ashur Banipal’s library, statue of King Ashurnasirpal II and so much more.  The museum did a good job of explaining things through text and audiovisuals. Another interesting feature the museum had in place was the ‘stitching’ of related bas-relief sculptures into one video to make it easier for people to understand what is exactly happening. One such illustration was king Ashur Banipal hunting lions. Originally, this is depicted in three different bas-relief sculptress. Using video illustration, the museum shows and makes it easier for people to understand what is happening.

 

Assyrian Pride and implications

I am please to report that a lot of Assyrians I know here in Toronto did go and visit the museum to witness the new Mesopotamian section.  It would be foolish to be proud of such a great civilization but not take the effort to witness it in person. . For the duration of this exhibit, close to a million people would have seen the Mesopotamian section or at least been exposed to it indirectly (ad, radio, web etc) . Imagine a lot of these people later searching for Assyrian related material online. And imagine their shock when they visit websites like Assyrian Voice and others and realize that Assyrians are actually still alive.  It is nice to remind these people that Assyrians exist beyond this museum and history books.  Some 2500+ years may have been passed since the fall of the Assyrian empire but as people, culture and language, we are still here.

The feeling of pride is priceless. The world is paying homage to our civilization. A civilization that has helped define and shape our world as we know it today.  But as always, as great as the past is, the present and future is what matters now.

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