Middle East Exhibit Pointedly Civilized
November 11, 2004 4:03 PM
SF State’s Museum Studies new exhibit, ‘Civilized Lands,’ a collection of beautiful and colorful pieces from the ancient Middle East is now on display.
Artifacts range from pottery, coinage and clay tablets during the time of the Badarian Culture of Egypt in 5500 B.C., up through Tunisian clay lamps from the fourth through the sixth centuries, A.D.
“We want to present to the public something different than what they see on television,” said the museum's program director, Linda Ellis. “Some of the artifacts on display come from the very first cities and civilizations known and it is important that we correctly understand the culture.”
The Sumerian culture, one of many cultures vibrantly displayed in the museum, is the oldest organized civilization that we know of. The Sumerians became fully developed in Mesopotamia about 5000 B.C., and farmed as early as 9000 B.C. The Sumerians noted themselves as the Kengir, which literally translates into English as, the ‘civilized land.’
The Sumerians are responsible for giving us our time chart, in which we count 60 seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour and 360 degrees to a perfect circle. The Sumerians are also credited in 3000 B.C. with the domestication of plants and animals.
In addition, Mesopotamia is considered to be the "birthplace of beer," in which, according to the museum studies students, both men and women drank as far back as 6,000 years ago.
While some objects on display are from the Museum Studies Sutro Egyptian collection (displayed in the Spring), many are on loan from the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
“At the beginning of the semester, we all (as a class) brainstorm what will be covered, while trying to give a broad history to the small pieces,” DeVere said.
The exhibit’s oldest piece comes from the Neolithic Stone Age (around 5500 B.C.) in the form of a large clay vase. The vase is predominantly a reddish-brown while the entrance to the vase is black.
“The vase was created, fired upside-down,” said museum studies graduate student Katrina Jones. “The top part is black because it was sitting in ashes where oxygen could not get to it. The rest of the vase remained red where it could get oxygen.”
Jones said that she is amazed at the durability of the artifacts that have lasted through the centuries as well as they have. Fine detailing on many of the clay bowls and lamps are still prominently seen, even after thousands of years of aging.
The museum is located in Humanities 510 and is open Monday through Friday, 11-4.
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