In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East

April 8, 2014 – January 4, 2015

This fascinating exhibition demonstrates how the living cared for the dead and how the ancients conceptualised the idea of the human soul in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Levant.

The show is built around two themes: the offering of food and drink on regular occasions to nourish the dead in the afterlife and the use of two or three-dimensional effigies of the dead, often made of stone, to preserve their memory and to provide a means of interaction between the living and the dead.

The exhibition was inspired by the discovery of an inscribed funerary monument by the Oriental Institute’s Neubauer Expedition to Zincirli, Turkey in 2008. The monument, dating to about 735 BC, is carved with an image of a man named Katumuwa seated before a table heaped with offerings and with a lengthy inscription in Aramaic. The text reveals the until then unknown practice of enacting annual sacrifices for the soul of the deceased and that Katumuwa’s spirit was believed to reside in the monument itself. The stela itself is in the Gaziantep Archaeological Museum, but a precise facsimile has been produced for the exhibit.

A video produced by Travis Saul in collaboration with Dr Virginia Herrmann, part of the team that discovered the stela and the co-curator of the exhibition and her colleague and co-curator, Oriental Institute Associate Professor David Schloen, provides background on the site of Zincirli, the discovery of the stela, a recreation of the rituals enacted to commemorate the soul of Katumuwa and a recitation of the text in Aramaic and English.

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