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... we found ourselves transported to a very different time and place. The decaying marble had given way to walls of glazed bricks which were colored a vivid blue. On the walls were designs which appeared to represent flowers and trees, and everywhere there were animals captured in mid-stride. We had just emerged from an archway covered with these animals, an archway which we discovered to be the reassembled Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, named for the Babylonian goddess of love, war and fertility.

Ishtar Gate
Ishtar Gate
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Ishtar Gate
Ishtar Gate
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Ishtar Gate and Façade of Throne Room

Ishtar Gate and Façade of Throne Room
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Its relatively good condition seemed to indicate that it was newer than the amazing but damaged Roman and Greek era structures we’d just seen, but in fact the Ishtar Gate is much older, having been built in 575 B.C., during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. The reconstruction is 47 feet high and 100 feet wide. On closer examination, the animals on the gate appeared to be of two types – one looked like some sort of horned livestock animal, and the other looked like a product of someone’s imagination. This creature, from Babylonian mythology, is called a mushussu (also known as a sirrush), and appears to be a scaly assemblage of parts from a lion, an eagle, a snake and a dragon. The livestock animal was a genuine animal known as an aurochs, and was the ancestor of modern-day domestic cattle. They are thought to have become extinct in the 17th Century.

Mushussus and Aurochses

Mushussus and Aurochses
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To the left of the archway is an inscription in Sumerian that commemorates the gate’s completion; this inscription is a source of information about the gate which is much more specific than that about most structures of similar age.

Commemorative Inscription

Commemorative Inscription
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As large as this gate is, it was only the outer gate of the Ishtar entrance to the city. There was also an inner gate which was larger (maybe 60-70 feet tall) and more fortified. This gate is actually also in the museum’s collection, but it’s too big to be displayed in the Pergamon Museum and is currently in storage. Back in the day, both gates were approached via a long processional street which was lined with similarly glazed blue bricks featuring a parade of lions. A section of the processional walls is also on display at the Pergamon.

Map of Babylon
Map of Babylon
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Model of Processional Street
Model of Processional Street
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Processional Street Segment
Processional Street Segment
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Wall, Processional Street
Wall, Processional Street
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Also on display are panels from the façade of the city’s throne room.

Panel, Throne Room Façade
Panel, Throne Room Façade
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Procession of Lions
Procession of Lions
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Façade Panel and Hammurabi Codex

Façade Panel and Hammurabi Codex
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Near one of them is a seven-foot-tall monument which bears a detailed inscription of the complete code of law originated by the Babylonian king Hammurabi. It’s actually a copy (the original is in the Louvre in Paris), and the original is much older than the gate (the law was enacted around 1772 B.C. – Babylonia was a very old kingdom by the time of the Ishtar Gate, having spent most of that time either subjugated by or in conflict with the neighboring kingdom of Assyria; both kingdoms were located in current-day Iraq).

Hammurabi Codex

Hammurabi Codex (copy)
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Wandering into side rooms off of Babylon’s processional street, we found many other artifacts from the same region. This is because the act of passing through the Ishtar Gate brought us into a museum within the museum, a museum called the Museum of the Ancient Near East. First we found pieces from the city of Uruk, which was the world’s most populous city in 2900 B.C., with 50,000-80,000 inhabitants. Uruk eventually found itself within the borders of Babylonia, but before that it was part of the region of Sumer. Uruk was established sometime around 4000 B.C., and gave its name to the Uruk Period, which extended from 4000 to 3200 B.C. Some of Uruk’s artifacts are in surprisingly good condition for such an old civilization. Particularly striking are its cone mosaics, which are made up of cone-shaped colored stones.

Segment from Inanna Temple
Segment from Inanna Temple, Uruk (ca. 1413 B.C.)
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Habuba Kabira Wall
Habuba Kabira Wall with Cone Mosaics (4th Millenium B.C.)
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Votive Statue, Mari

Votive Statue, Mari (ca. 1950 B.C.)
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Moving into other rooms we found trademark stone representations of Assyrian mythology. There were stone reliefs of beings known as genii. A genius is a winged creature with a human-like body and the head of a bearded human or of a bird. They can often be seen tending to trees or brandishing little handbags.

Two Genii with Magic Purses

Two Genii with Magic Purses
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Relief of Lion Hunt
Relief of Lion Hunt, Nimrud (883-859 B.C.)
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Connie and Reliefs
Connie and Reliefs
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Another Assyrian creature is the lamassu, a large animal with a lion’s body, a bearded human head and wings. Lamassu were considered to be protective deities, and were often found at entrances to cities and palaces.

Connie and Lamassu
Connie and Lamassu
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A Lamassu
A Lamassu
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Continuing through the near eastern collection, we came across numerous other artifacts from cities in the region.

Columnar Base, Supported by a Sphinx
Columnar Base, Supported by a Sphinx, Sam'al (8th C. B.C.)
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Funerary Stele of a Noble Lady
Funerary Stele of a Noble Lady, Sam'al (8th C. B.C.)
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Stele of Prince Kilamuwa
Stele of Prince Kilamuwa, Sam'al (9th C. B.C.)
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Relief of a Royal Bodyguard
Relief of a Royal Bodyguard, Palace of Darius I, Susa (521-486 B.C.)
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Stone Lions, Citadel of Zincirli
Stone Lions, Citadel of Zincirli (8th-9th C. B.C.)
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Inscription of King Menua
Inscription of King Menua (ca. 810-780 B.C.)
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Really Uncomfortable Chair?

Really Uncomfortable Chair?
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After completing our circuit through the rooms of the Ancient Near East Museum, we found a stairway that took us up to another museum that occupies part of the Pergamon Museum, this being the Museum of Islamic Art. This museum was begun in 1904 with a donation of woven carpets, and grew to include many Islamic art objects from the 8th through the 19th Centuries.

Connie with Rug
Connie with Rug
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Medallion Carpet with Animals
Medallion Carpet with Animals, Iran (16th C. A.D.)
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Shallow Bowl with Domed Building
Shallow Bowl with Domed Building, Iran (8th C. A.D.)
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Wall Decoration from a Private House
Wall Decoration from a Private House, Iraq (9th C. A.D.)
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Ivory Box
Ivory Box, Italian or Sicilian (11th-12th C. A.D.)
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Decoration with Artist's Inscription
Decoration with Artist's Inscription, Turkey (ca. 1242-43)
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Prayer Niche
Prayer Niche, Iran (13th C. A.D.)
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Vessel with Female Figures
Vessel with Female Figures, Iran (ca. 1200 A.D.)
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Prayer Niche with Koran Verse
Prayer Niche with Koran Verse (13th C. A.D.)
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Stalactite Niche
Stalactite Niche, Syria (15th-16th C. A.D.)
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Connie and Window
Connie and Window
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Stalactite Niche, Egypt
Stalactite Niche, Egypt (14th-15th C. A.D.)
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Cupola from the Alhambra
Cupola from the Alhambra, Granada (14th C. A.D.)
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Poet Nizami's Epics
Poet Nizami's Epics, Shiraz (1442-44 A.D.)
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Rock Crystal Ewer

Rock Crystal Ewer, Egypt (ca. 975-1025 A.D.)
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A highlight is the elaborately carved façade of the 8th Century Mshatta Palace. This palace was discovered and excavated in Jordan in the 19th Century, and the façade was a gift from Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Façade of the Mshatta Palace
Façade of the Mshatta Palace, Jordan (8th C. A.D.)
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Façade of the Mshatta Palace
Façade of the Mshatta Palace
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Palace Façade
Palace Façade
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Palace Façade
Palace Façade
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Another highlight is the 17th Century Aleppo Room, an elaborately decorated room that has been transported from Aleppo, Syria. The decorations are a combination of Christian and Islamic imagery, and were commissioned by a Christian citizen of Aleppo, to be used in his home’s entrance room. The room was acquired by the museum in 1912.

Connie and Aleppo Room
Connie and Aleppo Room
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Aleppo Room (detail)
Aleppo Room (detail)
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Aleppo Room (detail)
Aleppo Room (detail)
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Aleppo Room
Aleppo Room
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From the Pergamon Museum we retraced our steps to the S-Bahn station.

Alte Nationalgalerie and Fernsehturm
Alte Nationalgalerie and Fernsehturm
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Connie and Colonnade
Connie and Colonnade
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We took the train to Potsdamer Platz, where we found an American-style shopping mall a block to the south of the Platz. They sold food in the mall, and we stopped at an Asian place and had lunch.

Connie and Boba

Connie and Boba
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We got back on the train and then back off at a station near the KaDeWe department store. We’d earlier seen a market between KaDeWe and our hotel, and we wanted to stop and pick up some groceries.

Local Landmark
Local Landmark
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Candy
Candy
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We continued back to the hotel and rested for awhile, eventually emerging to have dinner at an Indian restaurant just up the street.

German Indian Food

German Indian Food
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We had big plans for the following day, plans that included a trip to the Berlin suburb of Potsdam.

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