front cover view of catalogue, showing a portion of a lion reliefIn the ancient Near East, expert craftspeople were more than technicians: they numbered among those special members of society who could access the divine. While the artisans' names are largely unknown today, their legacy remains in the form of spectacular artworks and monuments. One of the most celebrated works of antiquity—the Ishtar Gate and its affiliated Processional Way—featured a dazzling array of colorful beasts assembled from molded, baked, and glazed bricks. Such an awe-inspiring structure demanded the highest level of craft; each animal was created from dozens of bricks that interlocked like a jigsaw. Yet this display of technical and artistic skill also served a ritual purpose, since the Gate provided a divinely protected entrance to the sacred inner city of Babylon.

A Wonder to Behold explores ancient Middle Eastern ideas about the transformative power of materials and craftsmanship in relation to the Ishtar Gate. This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies an exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. Essays by archaeologists, art historians, curators, conservators, and text specialists examine a wide variety of artifacts from major American and European institutions.

Contributors include Anastasia Amrhein, Heather Baker, Jean-François de Lapérouse, Eduardo Escobar, Anja Fügert, Sarah Graff, Helen Gries, Elizabeth Knott, Katherine Larson, Beate Pongratz-Leisten, Shiyanthi Thavapalan, and May-Sarah Zeßin.

Published by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and distributed by Princeton University Press, it is available at the ISAW Gallery Shop and on the Princeton University Press website.

Hardcover | 2019 | 9" x 10 ½” | 186 pp. | $49.95 | ISBN 9780691200156