By Ariane Thomas & Timothy Potts, editors
J. Paul Getty Museum
April 7, 2020
Non-fiction, art, history
This book is a lasting memorial and explanation of the exhibit scheduled at Getty Villa, Malibu, from March 18 to July 27, 2020.
MESOPOTAMIA: CIVILIZATION BEGINS is a collection of writings and images celebrating the exhibit. Many of the artifacts in this exhibit are from the Getty Museum but includes artifacts from art museums in France and New York. Editor Ariane Thomas wrote the foreword to the book with a brief history of Mesopotamia.
The name Mesopotamia came from the Greek word for ‘land between the rivers’ meaning the Tigris and the Euphrates in Iraq. Over five thousand years ago the Mesopotamians created one of the earliest urban environments, and even by today’s standards they formed the basis of an advanced culture. During Mesopotamia’s three thousand years of prominence, it had ethnic diversity which resulted in an evolving culture and belief system. Its inhabitants not only developed the first known form of writing (cuneiform) but also excelled in art, poetry, architecture, mathematics, and astronomy. They had schools, teachers, and libraries. They enhanced their agriculture with irrigation and began animal husbandry. Mesopotamia also has had a long-lasting effect on Middle Eastern and European literature, and the mythology given in its stories influenced many later civilizations’ beliefs.
Other authors explain more about Mesopotamia. Their essays cover aspects of the culture and include many illustrative historical drawings and documents. One essay is about the French and English who searched for the fabled sites in what must have been arduous excavations to discover these artifacts and send them to their homeland. Another writing covers the misconceptions developed through time about Mesopotamia.
The last half of the book catalogs the artifacts in the exhibit, each with information on its age, the museum that provided it for the exhibit, where it was found, and its original purpose or usage. The gorgeous patterns developed in the textures of clothes, hair, and beards in the sculptures of humans, deities, and mythic guardians only emphasizes the reality applied in the proportion, shape, and features used to create the sculpture. Astounding! Tablets and other objects covered with cuneiform writing include translations of the varying topics or literature.
This book is not only a marvelous tribute to the exhibit but also introduces and explains an important part of human history unfamiliar to many people.
Added information: Timothy Potts (editor) is director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Ariane Thomas (editor) is the curator of the Mesopotamian collections in the department of Ancient Near Eastern Antiquities at the Louvre. Artifacts are from: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée de Louvre, Paris; the Musée Auguste Grasset, Varzy; and the Bibliothèque National de France contributed artifacts to this exhibit.
I must admit I have a fascination with this civilization and time period and would like to see the exhibit but won’t be able to go, so I’m very glad to have a digital copy about what is know and what will be shown.