Stunning antiquities from Ancient Iraq to go on display in Nottingham as part of new British Museum touring exhibition at Lakeside Arts

Monday, 21 March 2022

Stunning ancient artefacts from the ‘cradle of civilisation’ are due to go on display at Lakeside Arts at the University of Nottingham as part of a new exhibition being held in partnership with the British Museum.

Ancient Iraq: new discoveries marks the first time that the British Museum has toured new Iraq field research alongside key objects from the museum’s collection and the first time that some artefacts have been displayed outside London.

The exhibition will run at Lakeside’s Djanogly Gallery from Saturday 26 March to Sunday 19 June. It will offer people in the East Midlands the chance to learn more about the cultural significance of Ancient Iraq and the challenges around protecting Iraq’s archaeological treasures. For Iraqi communities in the region, the exhibition offers a rare opportunity to connect with their ancient cultural heritage through 80 remarkable objects from some of the earliest cities in the world.

We look forward to welcoming a wide range of visitors to the exhibition and especially those with connections to the region.
Shona Powell, Director of Lakeside Arts

She added: "It’s wonderful to be able to welcome the British Museum back to Lakeside Arts and the University of Nottingham following the fabulous Viking exhibition in 2017/18. This promises to be a fascinating exhibition – allowing visitors to learn about a period of history that was so crucial for humankind."

The people of Ancient Iraq developed and devised many things that we take for granted today, from the wheel to schools. They invented irrigation systems to water crops, divided time into 60-second minutes and 60-minute hours, and created writing – one of the most important developments in human history.

The exhibition will showcase excavations at the site of Tello in southern Iraq, with one section focusing on the discovery and excavation of a major Sumerian temple complex dating back to c.3000–2000 BC. On display in the exhibition for the first time outside of London will be a statue of Gudea, ruler of the ancient state of Lagash, which would have originally been erected within this very temple complex.

Stunning artefacts from the ‘Royal Tombs’ of Ur in present-day Iraq will provide a fascinating insight into life and death in these early cities. Luxurious grave goods crafted from gold, silver and lapis-lazuli demonstrate how the ruling elite displayed power through spectacular burial customs.

Statue of King Gudea; dolerite; Tello, Iraq; 2130BC

Key objects will also be linked with current excavations at the previously unexplored site of Qalatga Darband which have revealed a fortified settlement located at the frontline between the Roman and Parthian empires (dating to the second and first centuries BC). On display in the exhibition will be Greek-inspired statuettes, personal ornaments influenced by Greek mythology and gold burial masks, as well as a statue of Heracles.

The final section of the exhibition will address the appalling destruction of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage over the past thirty years. Today, new cultural heritage initiatives focused on research, training and site conservation are being launched throughout Iraq. At Girsu, a new British Museum programme developed with the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage started in autumn 2021. This project – a continuation of the Iraq Scheme – aims to develop new ideas for safeguarding, preserving and promoting the rich cultural heritage of one of Iraq’s great ancient cities. It offers a chance for Iraqi and international curators to explore new ways of presenting Sumerian civilisation in the Iraq Museum, British Museum and museums worldwide. The Girsu project’s on-site training programme offers students from universities across Iraq training in techniques of rescue excavation, conservation, and heritage management.

Figure of a horseman; fired clay; Kouyunjik, Iraq, 100 – 300BC

Nancy Highcock, British Museum Curator says, “Ancient Iraq: new discoveries celebrates the rich past and exciting future of Iraq and its people by bringing together ancient objects and the latest findings from ongoing excavations. Audiences will not only experience the wonder of viewing art and artefacts from some of the world’s first cities, but also learn about the British Museum’s current collaborations with our Iraqi colleagues to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage. We are thrilled that visitors in Nottingham will be able to directly engage with a diverse range of human stories as told through these incredible objects and our national and international partnerships.”

 To accompany the exhibition, the University of Nottingham Museum is running an exciting public engagement programme to encourage members of the local community to dig deeper behind the tales of Ancient Iraq. It includes talks from colleagues in Iraq and the UK; exhibition tours; music; videos; and activities for children.

 A public talk on Tuesday 12 April, Discovering the Sumerians, will reveal how the secrets of the world’s earliest civilisation in in the region of southern Iraq between about 3500 and 2000 BC have come to light over the past 150 years.

 Dr Sebastien Rey, Curator for Ancient Mesopotamia at the British Museum, will visit the university on Tuesday 24 May to talk about a new collaborative project launched last year between the British Museum and the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, to carry out important field research at the Sumerian site of Girsu.

And during the Easter holidays, children will be able to take part in two workshops creating their own treasures out of clay and exploring what makes them unique, the things they love and the places that surround them through their own artworks. Further events on the programme are due to be announced shortly and more information can be found at

Professor Jeremy Gregory, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts at the university, said: “Having the chance to view these incredible ancient artefacts, which would normally be held at the British Museum, on our doorstep is a huge coup for Nottingham and a fantastic opportunity the people in the city and beyond.

“We are looking forward to welcoming our local communities on to campus to explore the rich, cultural heritage of Iraq and to enjoy the range of engaging events that we have planned to complement the exhibition.”

The exhibition at Lakeside is the second of two locations of the tour, the first being held at the Great North Museum in Newcastle in 2020 and the final chance to see the exhibition.

Emma Thorne - Head of News
Phone: 0115 846 8092

Notes to editors:

About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

The university is a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally - and our graduates are the second most targeted by the UK's top employers, according to The Graduate Market in 2022 report by High Fliers Research.

We lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, a pioneering collaboration between the city’s two world-class institutions to improve levels of prosperity, opportunity, sustainability, health and wellbeing for residents in the city and region we are proud to call home.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
YANG Fujia Building
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798