In war against ISIL, a fine line between facts and artifacts

22 Oct 2014 11:57 AM | Anonymous

In war against ISIL, a fine line between facts and artifacts

How John Kerry used the Met’s new exhibition to argue for airstrikes in Syria

October 22, 20142:00AM ET

On Sept. 22, a few hours before U.S. airstrikes began against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was the opening of an exhibition of Middle Eastern treasures dating back to the early Iron Age, when the Assyrian empire had spread from the banks of the Tigris to become the region’s superpower and Phoenician sailors were hawking commodities like tin and cedar all over the Mediterranean.

Now softly lit in glass cases, the figures of kings, goddesses, lions, sphinxes, griffins, sirens and something listed as a “scorpion bird man” were sculpted long before Jesus or Muhammad came onto the scene. Many of the relics function as reminders that the old conceptual dividing line between East and West didn’t always exist. A piece of Philistine pottery that borrows from Greek, Egyptian and Canaanite traditions shows the creative cross-pollination of the time, and pieces of Babylonian and Phoenician history are explained with references to Bible stories and Homeric verse