University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Cultures in the Crossfire

Cultures in the Crossfire was open from April 8, 2017 through November 25, 2018

Nimrud. Aleppo. Palmyra. Ebla. These ancient sites and many others in Iraq and Syria have found their way to the top of international news today, as the destruction of cultural heritage becomes both a by-product and a tactic of ongoing war.

This new exhibition, created in conjunction with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, sheds light on the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East by showing what’s at stake—the rich history of the region and the diversity of its people—and what’s being done to prevent the loss of this history and cultural identity. Fascinating ancient art and artifacts from the Penn Museum’s extensive Near East collection tell stories of the cultures of Syria and Iraq through time. Contemporary artwork from Issam Kourbaj, a Syrian artist based in Cambridge, UK, provides an art intervention—a modern-day response to the artifacts and themes. The exhibition features the important work being done by the University of Pennsylvania and Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with individuals and groups in the Middle East to help combat the loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage.

Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories From Syria and Iraq is made possible with support from Frederick J. Manning, W69, and the Manning Family; the Susan Drossman Sokoloff and Adam D. Sokoloff Exhibitions Fund; and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In Cultures in the Crossfire you will discover:

Egyptian Canopic jar

Contemporary art juxtaposed with ancient artifacts

Serpent Pendant

Early reliefs with evidence they were once painted


The important connection between Middle Eastern identity and religion

Rx Symbol

The importance of family in Syrian and Iraqi culture

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