It came from Mesopotamia, more than 1500
kilometers to the east. In Tuscany, Italy, equally
fearsome lion heads, imported from the kingdom
of Urartu in what is now Armenia and eastern
Turkey, ring the tops of bronze cauldrons. In the
waters off southeastern Spain, a recently excavated
shipwreck yielded African elephant tusks inscribed
with the names of Phoenician gods. These prizes
likely came from a Phoenician colony near Seville
or Cádiz, some 4000 kilometers from the heartland
of the Phoenicians at the eastern end of the Medi-
terranean. And these same seafaring merchants can
be thanked for the very existence of Homer’s
which were written down from oral
tradition between the eighth and the sixth centuries
, after the Greeks had adopted the Phoenicians’
clever idea of writing by using an alphabet.
It was the start of the Iron Age, the first half of
the first millennium
, long before “globalization”
and the Internet came to define our own hyper-con-
nected era, and trade routes had already woven the
Near East, North Africa and the Mediterranean into
a highly complex, deeply symbiotic web of cultures.
By Homer’s time, around the beginning of the millen-
nium, there was a flourishing, intercontinental trade
in exquisite gold, jewelry and ivory, exotic cult objects,
intricately crafted furniture and polished silver bowls
masterfully incised with elaborate scenes of heroic
hunting and battle, as well as more ordinary wares.
Likely carved early in Ashurnasirpal
’s 24-year rule (probably in 880
winged figure was among the gypsum bas-relief frescoes that decorated the
Northwest Palace at Nimrud, the first Neo-Assyrian location in which such
frescoes are known to have been produced. The cuneiform script in the
middle records the ruler’s lineage and describes the city and palace.
Originally, it was brightly painted.
a speck of a Greek island off
the Turkish coast, one of the
oddest treasures on display in
the Archeological Museum is
a locally discovered, bronze
mace-head depicting the
frightful demon Pazuzu.