Thursday, October 30, 2014

Roads of Arabia

Earlier this week the Asian Art Museum held a media event for Roads of Arabia. This is a major show of archaeological finds & historical artifacts from the Arabian Peninsula, telling the story of human civilization in the region, starting with stone tools over 1 million years old & culminating in the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 20th century.

An informative gallery tour was led by the ebullient Dr. Ali Al Ghabban, Vice President of Antiquities and Museums at the Saudi Commission of Tourism and Antiquities, & Dany Chan, assistant curator at the Asian Art Museum. The bulk of the exhibit covers the pre-Islamic period & features objects from crossroads sites that reflect a range of cultural influences.

The show opens with plaintive 6,000-year-old steles & contains many provocative items, such as a neolithic carving of a horse suggesting a much earlier date for the domestication of horses than previously thought.

This cube-shaped pedestal intricately mixes Egyptian & Mesopotamian imagery & is fun to look at.

I liked seeing examples of several different writing systems. This funerary slab from the 1st millennium BCE bears the oldest known use of Arabic.

A gallery about the pilgrimage roads contains an absurdly huge pair of candlestick holders, a gift to Mecca from a eunuch of the Ottoman court.

I especially enjoyed viewing the collection of tombstones from Mecca, boasting fine, flowery calligraphy.

2 camera crews recorded the event.

Falafel were included in the pre-event buffet.

§ Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Asian Art Museum
Oct 24, 2014 - Jan 18, 2015


Michael Strickland said...

I thought it the best exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in years. I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more publicity. And it was a pleasure sharing a falafel with you.

Axel Feldheim said...

I agree. It's a tremendous show. It feels like it should be a blockbuster. Was great to see you that morning as well. I guess we're the publicity!

nancy namaste said...

Hi Axel - it was great to meet you. There is an excellent review in the Chronicle by Stephen Winn. I will be going again next week so that I can look at the exhibits again = too much to see and think about the first time.

Axel Feldheim said...

Nancy: Good to meet you as well. I went back for another look this past weekend on the museum's free day.