At the beginning of the nineteenth century, little was known of the ancient Near East except for what was preserved in the Bible and classical literature. By the end of the nineteenth century, an amazing transformation had occurred: the basic outline of ancient Near Eastern history was understood and the material culture of the region was recognizable to the general public. This three-volume study explores the various ways that non-specialists would have encountered ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Holy Land and how they derived and constructed meaning from those discoveries. McGeough challenges the simplistic view that the experience of the ancient Near East was solely a matter of ‘othering’ and shows how different people claimed the Near East as their own space and how connections were drawn between the ancient and contemporary worlds. </p>
<p>Volume II examines the different ways that non-specialists encountered the materiality of the ancient Near East over the course of the nineteenth century. During this time, people collected artifacts while traveling in the region or paid to see the collections that others brought back. The public experienced the ancient world in museum exhibits that privileged ‘real’ artifacts in a new context or in hyper-real displays (like the Crystal Palace) where whole buildings from the ancient Near East were reconstructed. Men and women dressed as biblical characters in travelling fairs or spent an evening unwrapping a mummy. Individuals bought Assyriological souvenirs and employed Egyptian styles in their design, first in higher quality designer products and later in novelty items. Egyptian temples provided the architectural inspiration for buildings in London and the ancient use of colour was a strong argument for reimagining Victorian style. The adoption of Egypt, especially, in the world’s-fair phenomenon linked the ancient Near East with a global future in which change was naturalized and consumers were taught not to be afraid of the transformations brought by the industrial age.