Blue tiles from Babylon

The Museumsinsel, the museum island, on the river Spree is home to a range of natural history, and art including old masters, sculptures and antiquities. Berlin’s cathedral is also on the island, although not a museum as such.

In the middle of the complex of museums, which are kindly interconnected these days, is the Pergamonmuseum. Named after the Pergamon Altar which it is home to, it was specifically constructed to house (re)constructions of ancient monuments in actual size. The altar unfortunately is not currently on view, it is undergoing restoration work. The two other full-size (re)constructions can be seen alongside a large collection of ancient artefacts.

I use the phrase (re)construction as individual stones and tiles were taken from their original locations and then rebuilt inside the Pergamon museum. Some missing or broken stones and tiles were replaced with replicas, however, all in all, most of what is displayed in full scale was shipped to Berlin by German explorers following negotiations with the Ottoman Empire.

The procession hall and gate were found during excavations in 1903 in Babylon. The distinctive blue glazed bricks caught the attention of one of the explorers. Initially, only fragments were found, yet they had created sufficient curiosity to encourage further digging. The construction phases below the blue bricks were the only evidence of a gate. Following detailed negotiations and agreements with the Iraqi directorate of antiquity, over 500 crates of bricks were shipped to Germany in 1927. The Ishtar gate of Nebuchadnezzar II (604 – 562 BC) was then painstakingly rebuilt in Berlin.

An impression of what the procession hall and gate would have looked like has been recreated as a model (enclosed in reflecting glass I’m afraid!)

The museum has been designed with a central hallway, along which the bricks from the procession hall have been placed

from which one enters into the large daylight-lit room which houses the gate and image-walls on either side. The gate itself and the walls on either side are spectacular and very difficult to capture as an amateur photographer.

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