Throwback Thursday – Exploring the birthplace of modern civilization

Throwback Thursday this week takes us across the globe to the birthplace of human society. This new Kentucky Museum exhibit opened earlier this year and was curated with help from the Western Kentucky University History department. Titled “The Ancient Near East in Kentucky,” this exhibit focuses on the importance of writing in two ancient early civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The world’s oldest civilizations were born between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Mesopotamia. It was here that many 19th century historians focused their studies. Museums and libraries across the globe made it their goal to discover and acquire artifacts from these ancient societies, as many believed these would connect their modern Victorian culture to the most ancient the earth had ever known. It gave them a sense of purpose and belonging. 

Most of the artifacts in this exhibit are between three and four thousand years old, some even older. Because this exhibit was curated with the help of the WKU History department, it is also considered a teaching pod, providing students unique opportunities for extracurricular events and supplemental materials for some history classes. Special thanks to David Serafini, Marc Eagle, and Jeffery Miner, the exhibit runs through May of 2024, giving several semesters’ worth of class opportunities for curious students.

Some historic artifacts in the exhibit are ancient cuneiform tablets, a cylinder seal, papyrus, and sarcophagus. Cuneiform is the world’s oldest known form of writing, found in Mesopotamia, made up of mostly characters and shapes on clay tablets. The cylinder seal is from ancient Babylon, written in Sumerian cuneiform. The papyrus found in the exhibit shows hieroglyphics from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, dated back to the 18th to 20th dynasty, sometime around 1500 to 1100 B.C. The sarcophagus belonged to a child, and dates back to about 1300 B.C. in ancient Egypt.

Catch these fascinating objects at the Kentucky Museum. Visit its website for operating hours and unique events.