"Iraq is the navel of the world", declared the 9th-century historian Yaqubi, "and Baghdad is at its centre". He wrote these words when the Abbasid caliphs ruled the Islamic world from North Africa to Central Asia, and Baghdad was their splendid capital. But this was not the first time that Iraq had lain at the centre of a major world culture. Just a few miles from Baghdad are the ruins of Babylon, imperial capital of king Nebuchadnezzar some one and a half thousand years before. And a stone's throw from Babylon is Jemdat Nasr - not a large and imposing city but a small l agricultural village which is important to archaeologists today for having yielded some of the world's oldest writing, recorded over five thousand years ago. This exhibition brings together some highlights of the Ashmolean Museum's collection of ancient and pre-modern Iraqi objects to illustrate some aspects of past lives in the land that has been called the cradle of civilisation.