Ishtar Gate Lion, Babylon, Iraq

Reconstructed panel of bricks with a striding lion Neo-Babylonian Period; Processional Way, El-Kasr Mound, Babylon, Iraq; CC0 1.0 Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

CANCELLED: Construct and Control: Taming the Beast

Exhibition Lecture

Jill Weber

University of Pennsylvania Museum

Please Note: This event has been CANCELLED. We apologize for any inconvenience.

The Ishtar Gate and Processional Way are not just highly-decorated forms of functional control, limiting the movement of people, animals, and goods into- and out of- Babylon. Rather, they are narratives that tell a story through their construction and imagery; that story is one of control. 

The very construct of the gates demonstrates control over vast resources, including labor, by their ultimate “builder”, Nebuchadnezzar II. His role as a good ruler is further signaled through the protection afforded by their size and strength. Further, the imagery depicted on them invokes the gods, their protection, and their sanction.

In this vein, the depiction of the mušhuššu fits a trope found over millennia: control over hybrid, chimerical animals – from the Kunga to the winged horse, Pegasus – denotes the supernatural. By constructing has claimed control over the monster. He has linked himself to the gods and claimed semi-divinity by taming the beast.

Jill Weber is a professional archaeologist with over 25 years experience working in and around the Middle East, in Turkey, Syria, Armenia, Oman, and Iraq. Jill has served as project zooarchaeologist at many well-known sites in Syria, including Tell Brak, Umm el-Marra, Tell Banat, and Tell Sweyhat. At Umm el-Marra, Jill excavated and identified the long-lost “kunga” hybrid – the first known equid hybrid. Jill’s interests include the place of animals in the lives of people, ancient wine, and finding calm in chaos. Jill earned her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

This lecture is given in conjunction with ISAW's exhibition A Wonder to Behold: Craftsmanship and the Creation of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate. This exhibition along with its associated catalogue and programming are made possible by generous support from the Selz Foundation, The Achelis and Bodman Foundation, and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional funding provided by the Dennis and Diane Bennett Charitable Trust, Elizabeth Bartman, and Karen S. Rubinson.


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