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Culture

Expo of Greatest Babylon Treasures Opens in Berlin

A touring exhibition of the greatest surviving treasures of ancient Babylon opens Thursday in the German capital Berlin at the Pergamon Museum, which already has one of the world's richest Babylonian collections.

A visitor walks past the Street of Procession which is part of the exhibit Babylon: Myth and Truth at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

The so-called Street of Procession (pictured) connected Babylon's temple and palace

The Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London have contributed artefacts to the show, which has already been seen in the French capital, but without many of the German treasures.

Pergamon officials said an extra 300,000 people were expected to see the spectacular "Babylon: Myth and Reality" show, which opens on June 26, before it leaves for London on October 5. In an average year, the museum has 1.2 million visitors.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a sponsor of the show, said Babylon in modern-day Iraq had been the world's first urban culture. The exhibition includes statues, writing tablets, grave goods, stone reliefs, weapons, coins and scale models.

The Ishtar Gate in Berlin's Pergamon Museum

Babylon's Ishtar Gate is on display at the Pergamon

The lofty Pergamon Museum keeps two Babylonian monuments indoors: the Ishtar Gate and the Street of Processions. The short tiled street used to connect the city's Temple of Marduk with the royal palace.

German archaeologist Robert Koldewey dug up the brightly colored tiles a century ago to be reassembled in the Berlin museum.

Reclaiming Babylon's reputation

Exhibition designers said the 1,000 items on display illustrated the vast cultural heritage of Iraq and would explore why western culture falsely associated Babylonian civilization with evil, with a Biblical tradition describing the city as the "Whore of Babylon."

The same cultural tradition has regarded the city as a failure, because it failed to complete its lofty Tower of Babel.

Babylon was a center of power for about 500 years until the conquests in 322 BC by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Much of the site 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Baghdad has been stripped. Iraq built a modern replica of Babylon's wall and other buildings on the site in the 1980s.

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