Beasts of Mesopotamia

The Morgan Library and Museum also has a marvelous exhibition entitled Noah’s Beasts: Sculpted Animals From Ancient Mesopotamia. In the nookish Thaw Gallery until August 27th, the exhibition is gem-like. Like Thoreau, so well represented nearby, the unknown sculptors were profound observers of animals.

The lion’s gaze meets yours. (Not much bigger than a baseball, the weathered silver face hardly seems nearly 5000 years old.)

And then you recall that these first great human civilizations, between the life-giving and -taking rivers Tigris and Euphrates, were also the first to go. Recall that Gilgamesh slew the guardian of the cedar forest, and soon the cedars were no more. Yes, just push the dawn of the Anthropocene back to that first sin.

Certainly I’m a pessimist (well, come on, history!), but just as certainly I’m sustained by the beauty we can make.


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