Celebrating the rich cultural legacy of Iraq, this British Museum touring exhibition marks the first time that new Iraq field research will go on tour with key objects from the Museum collection.
Through 80 remarkable objects, the exhibition seeks to highlight the challenges of protecting Iraq's diverse cultural heritage following decades of conflict. It will also present the current work of the British Museum's Iraq Scheme to protect this legacy for future generations.
Star objects will highlight the scheme's two fieldwork projects in the Ancient Iraqi cities of Girsu and Qalatga Darband and the archaeological research into these cities, dating from around 4,000 years ago. One scheme project in southern Iraq focuses on the discovery of a major temple complex. On display in the exhibition for the first time outside of London will be a statue of Gudea, ruler of the ancient state of Lagash, which would have originally been erected within this temple complex.
The scheme's second project, in the north of modern Iraq, reveals excavations at a previously unexplored site at the very edge of the Roman Empire, a position challenged by the fearsome Parthians, who embraced Greek cultural traditions passed on by Alexander the Great. Greek-inspired statuettes, personal ornaments influenced by Greek mythology, as well as a statue of the hero Heracles, will also be on display.
The final section of the exhibition will address the recent destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage by Daesh (the so-called Islamic State), and the work of the scheme in response to it. Developed in 2014 at the height of this devastation, the scheme delivers hands-on training at excavation sites to Iraqi archaeologists, helping them to assess, document and stabilise cultural heritage sites that have been damaged or destroyed by Daesh. The many new discoveries made at both sites in the scheme show how much there is still to learn about Iraq's unique cultural heritage.
With the support of the Dorset Foundation, in memory of Harry M Weinrebe, A British Museum touring exhibition Ancient Iraq: new discoveries will tour to Newcastle and Nottingham between March and December 2020.