Opening of the Semitic Museum.

The exercises yesterday at the Semitic Museum were opened by President Eliot who gave a short address describing the growth of the Semitic department and the importance of Mr. Schiff's present collection. The collection is not yet fully completed, for some specimens are on the way here, and some are still to be bought. President Eliot then introduced Professor Toy who spoke of the extent and use of the Museum, and the life of the Semitic people. Phoenicia was the first naval nation and the inventor of the alphabet. The Phoenicians left their traces on all the coast of the Mediterranean and planted many religious ideas in Greece.

Professor Lyon was then introduced and gave in substance the following address: Great museums exist already with Semitic departments, but none has hitherto been founded which collects objects directly or indirectly due to Semitic thought or which cast light on Semitic history. We have already many of the finest specimens of the more ancient art and literature, introducing the visitor to worlds of thought the existence of which he did not know before. The objects in the museum may be grouped into three classes, originals, photographs and plaster reproductions..

Of originals there is a case of about one hundred and fifty clay tablets containing records of various phases of the ancient life, the oldest being about 2200 B. C., though most of them are from the sixth century. There is an other case filled with Babylonian and Assyrian seals, cylindrical and conical in shape, used as charms against evil spirits and also for stamping written documents. They are carved with emblems of the gods, men, animals, etc. A unique object is a lapislazuli disc about an inch and a half in diameter, once the property of a temple. It was presented to a certain god for the life of the donor,-perhaps for his rescue from some danger.

Under originals come also the manuscripts, Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew. Among them is the so-called "Gezza," written in 1666, and another written in 1207 containing selections from the Gospels for church use. Of Hebrew manuscripts there is a large roll of the Prophets and one of the Book of Lamentations.

The photographs, nearly 1,000 in number, give an excellent view of Semitic scenes; the mountains, lakes and rivers of Palestine and North Syria, the cities of Jerusalem, Jericho, Samaria and Tyre, the ruins of Petra, etc.

The third class of objects, the casts, are hardly inferior to the originals except as a matter of sentiment. Assyria and Babylon furnish the largest share. Among the casts on the floor are bronze and stone weights in the shape of lious and ducks from the commercial system of the Babylonians and Assyrians. There are five clay books that deserve special mention; the sun god in his temple at Sepharvoim., a grant of land by a Babylonian king to his servant, the cuneiform account of the deluge, a record of Nebuchadnezzar's building operations and a sale of real estate at Babylon in the 6th century B. C. The most interesting cast is one facing the door, and is a book of Nebuchadnezzar, the original being brought from Babylon in the early part of this century.


Professor Lyon concluded by giving a description of the work now being done in completing the collection, and an outline of the kind and number of specimens in preparation.

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