Friday, January 28, 2011

Berlin's Pergamon Museum exhibits Tell Halaf statues

StatueHow do you do a jig-saw puzzle of 27,000 pieces? In three dimensions?

That's the task a handful of archaeologists in Germany have just completed. It took them nine years, with all the pieces laid out in a room the size of a football field.

They claim to have enjoyed it.

The pieces were the shards of 3,000-year-old sculptures, smashed to smithereens as a result of the British bombing of Berlin in November 1943.

The result - 60 fantastical figures of people, scorpions, lions and birds - now stands in a series of rooms in the city's Pergamon Museum.

Before the war they were the private collection of Max Freiherr von Oppenheim, a member of the banking dynasty, and so rich beyond imagination.

He worked as a diplomat in Cairo, wandering the Middle East to keep his eye on the British who were also keen on a bit of empire-building in the region.

But he was also an archaeologist - a romantic figure comparable to Hollywood's Indiana Jones - and in 1899, near where the Berlin to Baghdad railway was being constructed, he came across the palace of an Aramaean king in what would now be north-east Syria, near the Turkish border.

He sought permission to excavate the site, known as Tell Halaf, between 1911 and 1913. Work started and then stopped because of World War I, but was completed in 1927.

What emerged were the stunning statues of gods and animals, sculpted in basalt.

The finds were divided between the national museum in Aleppo and Oppenheim himself, who took his share home to Berlin, where he created a private museum in an old iron-foundry....

via BBC News - Berlin's Pergamon Museum exhibits Tell Halaf statues.

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