"The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East"

(Mar. 18-Jun. 23) — "Nothing short of spectacular" — The Wall Street Journal.

An exhibit including 190 works from ancient Israel and other locations along the the great incense and silk routes. Many of the works are presented through the Israel Antiquities Authority, and have been exhibited at The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

For over three centuries, the territories and trading networks of the Middle East were contested between the Roman and Parthian Empires (ca. 100 B.C.–A.D. 250), yet across the region life was not defined by these two superpowers alone. Local cultural and religious traditions flourished, and sculptures, wall paintings, jewelry and other objects reveal how ancient identities were expressed through art. Featuring 190 works from museums in the Middle East, Europe and the United States, this exhibition follows a journey along the great incense and silk routes that connected cities in southwestern Arabia, Nabataea, Judaea, Syria and Mesopotamia, making the region a center of global trade. Several of the archaeological sites featured, including Palmyra, Dura-Europos and Hatra, have been damaged in recent years by deliberate destruction and looting, and the exhibition also examines these events and responses to them.

Objects on loan from the Israel Antiquities Authority, include a "Head and Torso of Cuirassed Statue of Hadrian" (ca. 117–138) from Israel, Camp of Legio VI Ferrata, near Tel Shalem. The unique carved "Magdala Stone" was found in a first-century synagogue that was discovered during salvage excavations at Migdal (ancient Magdala) on the Sea of Galilee in 2009. The stone, whose exact function is uncertain, dates to a time when the Temple in Jerusalem still stood. One short side features a seven-branched menorah — the earliest such image known in a synagogue — flanked by amphorae and columns. Both long sides depict rows of arches and a circular object that may be a censer. Rosettes appear on the other short side and the top, which additionally features two palm trees and other imagery. The Migdal synagogue is also remarkable because it was in use during the lifetime of Jesus, whom the Gospels describe as preaching in synagogues throughout Galilee.

Also from the Israel Antiquities Authority are works from the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–35 CE), when rebels and civilians sought refuge in caves in the Judaean Desert. One of these caves, now known as the Cave of Letters, was found to contain letters written by Simon bar Kokhba, the leader of the revolt, as well as numerous documents and possessions of the people who sheltered there. Intact "Glass Bowls," cast, cut, polished and wrapped in palm fibers were an astonishing find. A "Mirror with Case" is a disc of tinned copper nailed into a wood case that is covered with red painted parchment. The bronze "Incense Shovel," "Jug" and "Bowl" were likely taken as booty by the rebels from Roman soldiers. Several of the bronzes, including the two jugs here, had some of their decoration erased, probably in accordance with Jewish prohibitions on the use of figural imagery. A first-century iron and wood "Knife" was also found in the Cave of Letters.  The "Elbow Key" reflects a hope of returning home.

Sunday–Thursday: 10 am–5:30 pm
Friday and Saturday: 10 am–9 pm

Zoom Kobe XIII ZK13


Saturday, June 22, 2019 (All day)


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10028




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