Babylonian artifacts provide a reminder of home, and hope, for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. (BBC)
Use our resources to learn more about contemporary migrants to Europe.
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.
- The terrific BBC article describes a program for recent immigrants to Germany. Why does Germany have a high population of refugees from the Middle East?
- Syria is engaged in a brutal civil war, with thousands of refugees fleeing to Germany and other countries in Europe.
- The Islamic State (ISIS) is engaged in a war across northern Syria and Iraq, and refugees are fleeing violence and persecution there.
- Refugees are seeking asylum in Germany in particular because Germany is Europe’s economic powerhouse, has a very stable democratic government, supports several cosmopolitan “global cities,” and has a relatively liberal immigration policy.
- Museums such as the Pergamon Museum in Berlin are home to Babylonian artifacts, which refugees are encouraged to visit and tour. What is Babylonia, and what does it have to do with refugees from Syria and Iraq?
- Babylonia was one of the earliest civilizations on Earth, developing in Mesopotamia in the 1700s BCE. For centuries, Babylonia’s capital city, Babylon, was one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of more than 200,000.
- Babylonia was located around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in what is today central and southern Iraq. The remains of Babylon are in the city of Hillah, about 85 kilometers (53 mi) south of Baghdad. The history of the Babylonian Empire is part of the region’s long, rich heritage.
- How did Babylonian artifacts from Iraq get to a museum in Berlin?
- When German and other western archaeologists excavated the Ishtar Gate site in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they simply took artifacts back to Europe with them. They then reconstructed the gate with the material (bricks) they brought back. (Archaeology was very different a hundred years ago. This would not happen today and Middle Eastern art experts have periodically called for repatriation of the Ishtar Gate and other artifacts to Iraq.)
- The Ishtar Gate was not rebuilt entirely in Berlin. In addition to the big structure in Germany, click below to see artifacts from the site displayed in:
- How are the Pergamon and other German museums working with refugees and other new immigrants?
- The asylum-seekers are being trained to work as museum guides. “They are paid the standard museum guide fee of €40 (£32; $46) per hour-long tour. The project aims to help them integrate into German society by easing them back into work and restoring a sense of self-worth.”
- In addition, working with German history has helped new immigrants learn about their adopted country’s cultural identity.
- In what unexpected ways is the project fostering integration and understanding among Germany’s newest immigrants?
- New refugees have taken a genuine interest in the history and documentation of the postwar German economy of the 1940s and 1950s. “How Germany has rebuilt its cities and economy since World War Two shows that a country can recover after war.”
- New refugees have also taken a renewed interest in their own cultural heritage. One refugee says “It’s like a rebirth. The whole world can view the Arab civilization here and see where it comes from. I can remember my country here through its civilization.” Another says “ For us these objects are a message that we are continuing our journey, our culture, our heritage.”
BBC: Berlin museum tours inspire Mid-East refugees
Nat Geo: Migrant Crisis Q&A
Pergamon Museum: Ancient Near Eastern Cultures