This department will be closed for renovation from Friday 22 March 2013. It will be reopened to the public on Saturday 27 April 2013.
With its unprecedented cultural and intellectual achievements, the ancient Near East had a crucial influence on the development of many civilizations in our part of the world. The Ancient Near East galleries feature beautiful sculptures, jewellery, and household objects from an array of countries and periods. Some are more than five thousand years old. The techniques used to make them now seem incredibly advanced for their time.
Inventors who changed the world
The ancient Near East was an enormous region with a turbulent history, extending roughly from modern-day Turkey in the northwest to Afghanistan in the east. Over the millennia, countless civilizations, large and small, rose and fell there, such as those of the Sumerians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Hittites, the Phoenicians, and the Sasanians.
The ancient Near East gave rise to breakthroughs that changed the world. Not only was writing invented there, but long before Christianity, people in the region began founding cities, farming, and applying scientific discoveries. Cuneiform writing on cylinders, age-old stone tools, and sums on clay tablets bear witness to these major cultural advances.
Praying to the gods
Every people, every state, and every city in the ancient world had its own gods, demons, rituals, and myths. The Ancient Near East galleries offer compelling illustrations of religious life, such as a Sumerian statue of a man at prayer from more than four thousand years ago. You will also find many clay figures of household gods. In times of trouble, the people of the ancient Near East turned to the gods for support, hoping that their libations and magic amulets would ward off disease, drought, and ill fortune.
Royal reliefs, golden jewellery, and funerary sculpture
The unquestionable highlights of these galleries include magnificent royal reliefs from Iraq, a large collection of golden jewellery, and the splendid carved head of King Gudea of Mesopotamia. Visitors can also admire a beautifully decorated giant clam shell made in Phoenicia and pause before a row of monumental funerary sculptures from the Syrian city of Palmyra. Although only six centimetres in size, an ornamental lion's head from 600 BC is a triumph of the goldsmith's art. And a realistic sculpture of a mother and her daughter tells the sad tale of a family that died much too young, in the third century AD.
Reserve a tour online
You can reserve a tour of the Ancient Near East galleries (for up to 25 people) online or by calling +31 (0)71 516 3163.
Arrange a group visit online
You can arrange a group visit to the Ancient Near East galleries (for at least ten people, excluding visitors with a Museumkaart) online or by calling +31 (0)71 516 3163.