4,000 lb Ancient Persian artifact “Persepolis” returns to the Oriental Institute at UChicago

Institute excavated Persepolis between 1931 and 1939,
and this was really the first scientific
excavation of the site. This relief comes from one of
the monumental buildings, one of the palaces of
Persepolis, and it depicts a lion and bull in combat. It’s very beautifully engraved. This motif is a very
ancient and long tradition in the ancient Middle East. These are two noble and
very powerful animals, and they reflect the power and
the prestige of the empire. The ancient city of
Persepolis, which was one of the capitals
of the Achaemenid Empire, is in the cradle
of civilization. It’s where domestication
first occurred, where the first villages,
and the first cities, and the first empires
grew up, so it’s an early data set
in understanding the civilization of humanity. It’s a very special
area for understanding what our founder called the
story of the human career. When you look at this Achaemenid
art, what really draws your attention is the
very careful attention to detail and the
intricate carving, and then just the beauty and
the majesty of the artwork. It gives you insights into
the imperial ideology, and how they conceived
of themselves, and the type of
propaganda that they wanted to present as an empire. Moving artifacts of this kind
is always a major undertaking, and it actually
takes a few months to lay the logistical groundwork
for moving a piece like this. It’s delivered here
to our storage area. And then we hired a company
that deals specifically with the movement of
artwork, and they move it under very controlled
conditions. And so to have it here
after all these decades– and our colleagues at the Museum
of Fine Arts agreed with us that it was time to bring
this important piece back to Chicago– and for it to come
back for the centennial really gave it
special significance. The Oriental Institute will
celebrate its centennial in the 2019-2020 academic
year, and this really is an opportunity, of
course, to look back over our long, illustrious
history of excavation and research in the
ancient Middle East, to look to the future
and our current projects, to attract greater
engagement, and really raise the visibility of
the Oriental Institute on campus, in the
city, nationally, and even internationally. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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