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The Month Ahead: Exhibits, Part 2

A Berlin museum showcases relics from the world's first metropolis

A “high priest” statuette, discovered in a vessel in Uruk (©Deutsches Archäologisches Institut)

There’s a tendency among city dwellers to indulge in snobbery. People in Paris, Tokyo, New York and London all like to think that their grand avenues, monumental buildings and cultural institutions have defined urban life. In truth, that distinction goes to Uruk, an ancient Mesopotamian city about 150 miles south of present-day Baghdad.

A hundred years ago this month, German archaeologists unearthed the ruins of the world’s first true metropolis, which dates back five millennia. To mark the anniversary, Berlin’s Pergamonmuseum is hosting "Uruk: 5,000 Years of the Megacity," an exhibit of Uruk’s architecture, art and everyday objects, which includes fragments believed to have come from the first-ever Pottery Barn.

OK, they didn’t have home goods franchises in Uruk, but they did have large municipal buildings, well-ordered streets, public art, schools, temples and all the other things that make a major urban center tick. There’s even evidence that writing had its origins in and around the city—which, let’s face it, kind of trumps Big Ben. APRIL 25

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