As I am a fan of fantasy literature, I am a big fan of history. I thank God for the History Channel, the Biblical Archaeology Review, the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, and many others.
Purists may say history should be as dry and tasty as mothballed book pages, but I say there should be a mass exodus of history from dusty libraries and museums. History should be as ubiquitous as a mobile app. The History Channel already ignited that kind of thinking and I say historians can take it even further.
My book, Seven Gates of the Kingdom: Fall of the Savior-King, is only inspired by history, but it’s not history. But, in some small way, I hope it triggers pop culture interest in the ancient world. When I read the stories about the ancient Near East while researching for my book, I was enthralled by the multi-dimensional atmosphere. Antiquity possessed all of the drama, passion and adventure that our world holds. We can learn from ambitious kings of Babylon, anxious farmers of the Fertile Crescent, and temple priests of Sumeria.
In our hyperpartisan culture, where so many problems are desperately unresolved, taking time to revisit history makes sense to me. An old-fashioned history lesson may be the first step to a turnaround. A broader understanding of the complex ancient world may give us a higher respect for each other and radically change our contemporary world.
With that in mind, may I make some suggestions? Here are five activities local museums could do to get people talking about Mesopotamia without yawning:
1. Host an all-night forum around a specific collection. Bring in lively historians who know ow to engage a crowd. Provide food.
2. Hire actors to read/perform passages from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Allow time for lots of Q&A afterward with experts. Again: Provide food.
3. Get fashionistas talking about the haute couture of ancient Babylon. Use models and a runway. Get Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn from Project Runway to host.
4. Show Hollywood films based on ancient Mesopotamia — identify where the films get the history right and where they bend it a bit.
5. Create a fun mobile app that ties Mesopotamia to our lives today.
Could these ideas work? You never know until you try…
Ancient Mesopotamia: Canal at Bassorah, courtesy of Karen’s Whimsy.