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8

AramcoWorld

“How could this have happened?” she wondered

aloud as we studied the reunited artifacts. One sce-

nario, she proposed, is that Assyrians carried the

valuable set of luxury fittings back from Damascus

to their capital of Nimrud after defeating Hazael;

from there, Greek mercenaries who had fought for

the Assyrians brought them as gifts for the gods on

their return to their homeland. Or, she speculated,

perhaps there were sanctuary officials who traveled,

working a network—“the way we look for items on

eBay or the Internet”—to seek out valuable dedica-

tions for their temples.

“Both explanations may be true,” the curator

suggested. “It’s just mind-boggling to speculate where these

objects may have traveled.” Similarly, a 13-centimeter (5")

bronze figurine of a

mushushshu

, a mythical dragon-mon-

ster, also surfaced at Samos’s Heraion. Why a beast sacred to

the Babylonian deity Marduk, and likely crafted in Babylon,

ended up being presented to a Greek goddess more than 1500

kilometers west remains an enigma as well as a symbol of an

era of cultural cross-pollinations.

This theme of wide dispersal of similar objects ran

throughout the exhibition. A pair of bronze bowls, both a bit

more than 21 centimeters (8") in diameter and both bearing

finely wrought, standing sphinxes symbolizing Assyria, posed

with their paws atop the heads of defeated Asiatic enemies,

appear so nearly identical they might have come out of the

same Phoenician workshop. But one was unearthed on Crete,

and the other at a palace in Nimrud. Perhaps both did originate

in Phoenicia, or perhaps an itinerant Phoenician artisan made

his way to Crete: The only thing anyone knows for sure is that

they are still more evidence of a culturally interwoven world.

For the Assyrians, the bloody business of battle, conquest

From Assyria, Anatolia and Egypt to North Africa,

Greece, Italy and Spain came craft items whose eastern

motifs lead historians to refer to them as “Orientaliz-

ing” motifs, including this gold necklace,

above,

from

Carthage (now in Tunisia) with its Phoenician motifs

from mid-seventh to sixth century

bce

,

as well as a

conical fragment of a Greek vessel for perfumes found

in Italy, which is dated to about 700

bce

,

above right

.

Right:

From this same era, and also found in Italy, has

come this gilded silver bowl, embossed and engraved

with concentric friezes of “Egyptianizing motifs” that

combine a variety of Near Eastern themes.