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Pergamon Museum: Ancient Art on the Museum Island in Berlin


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Pergamon Museum: Ancient Art on the Museum Island in Berlin


The Pergamon Museum appeared on the Museum Island of Berlin at the end of the 19th century, and received its first visitors in 1901. The Pergamon Museum was originally built for 1 exhibit, which did not fit in existing pavilions. This exhibit is an altar dedicated to Zeus, built in the 2nd century BC. in the city of Pergamum in Mysia, on the territory of modern Turkey.

In 1930, the new Pergamonmuseum building was opened on the site of the former one, destroyed due to mistakes of builders. In addition to the altar of Zeus, the museum exhibited antique sculptures, vases, and other objects of art from the collections of Prussian Kaisers. Now there are 3 museums in the building:

  1. Antique collection
  2. Central Asian Museum
  3. Museum of Islamic Art.

Antique collection: the richest collection of art objects shared the fate of Germany itself

The antique collection is currently kept in 2 museums: in the Old and Pergamon. For several centuries, the monarchs of the kingdom of Brandenburg-Prussia used every opportunity to purchase objects of ancient art, bought whole collections. Antique statues and vases were kept in palaces, on terraces and in castle parks. On the territory of the Sanssouci Palace, Frederick II ordered the construction of the Ancient Temple pavilion, where he posted a significant part of his collection.

With the advent of museums in the 19th century, most of the Kaiser collections moved to museum halls. Marble and bronze sculptures, fragments of mosaics and bas-reliefs from ancient buildings, a huge number of all kinds of vases were exhibited there. But the main exhibits of the Antique collection were already bought by the museum.

A lot of “legends” appear on the Internet, and one of them - the Pergamon altar was accidentally found during road construction, led by German engineer Karl Human. Karl Human was indeed a railway engineer, lived and worked in Turkey, but archeology was his main passion. Before the excavations of Pergamum, he already participated in other expeditions, and came here to save what was left of the ancient city. Thanks to Human, many ancient artifacts were saved, which they were going to destroy, clearing the area for the construction of a new settlement.

Pergamon Museum is a unique museum: several of its exhibits occupy a huge area and look like buildings inside the building. The Pergamon Altar under the roof of the museum seems to be a whole temple: a huge staircase, tall columns, a frieze (the encircling part of the building with bas-reliefs, sculptures) is decorated with battle scenes on the theme of the battle of the gods with the titans. An altar was built in gratitude to Zeus for the victory over the enemy. Having acquired the altar of Zeus, the German Museum Island reached a new level: before them, such a valuable exhibit was only in the British Museum, and the Prussian monarchy constantly competed with the British crown.

Another antique exhibit - the gates of the Miletus market (Ancient Rome, II century BC) still could not fit into the museum building. The restored gates with a height of almost 17 m are located on the territory of the museum island.

After the end of World War II, the antique collection, like Germany itself, was divided. Part of the collection, which was exhibited in the western part of Germany before the war, was taken out by the Americans. Exhibits that were in the Pergamon Museum in 1945 (except for architectural structures) were taken to the USSR. Then, the winning countries returned most of the collection: USA - Germany, Soviet Union - GDR. The antique collection was exhibited in 2 countries before the unification of Germany, after this historical event the collection was also united.

The Central Asian Museum: solemn procession to the great Ishtar

The Central Asian Museum exhibits found in excavations initiated by the German Oriental Society. This society was engaged in the search and study of antiquities in the Middle East. The Asia Museum is run by artifacts that relate to the Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian civilizations.

The pearl of the collection is the monumental gate of the goddess Ishtar and part of the Procession Road to it, decorated with images of the goddess, ritual animals. This is a fragment of the wall of ancient Babylon, dedicated to the goddess revered by them.

No less valuable exhibits are fragments of the Tower of Babel, Sumerian temples, the throne room of the Babylonian king. The oldest civilizations that existed thousands of years before our era, amaze with their art. Ancient writing on clay tablets and seals is represented in the extensive collection of the Museum of Near East Asia.

Museum of Islamic Art: walls of the palace of the Caliphs, carpets, Quran

The “youngest” exhibits of the Pergamon Museum are exhibited in the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art: their history begins in the 7th century AD. The basis of the museum’s exposition was a gift from the Turkish Sultan to the Prussian Kaiser - a collection of carpets and the remains of the walls of the Caliph’s palace from the Umayyad family in Mshatta (Yemen). Museum staff restored the frieze of the wall, and now museum visitors can admire the skillful stone lace walls of the VIII century.

In addition to the frieze of the palace from Mshatta, other fragments of Muslim architecture are exhibited here: the dome of the Alhambra, the richest mihrabs from mosques (niches indicating the direction to Mecca), wooden architecture of the 17th century.

A constant representative of Muslim art is the oriental carpet. The museum owns a large collection of carpets from different countries and times, which partially suffered during the Second World War.

The ban in Islam on the depiction of people and animals gave rise to the originality of Islamic fine art. One of the types of this art is the decoration of the holy book of Muslims, the Koran. Each nation has its own traditions of decorating the covers of the Koran, coasters under it and other items related to it. The Museum of Islamic Art exhibited samples of this type of Muslim culture.

* Museum

Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Kuban State University, Russia (World Economics); Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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