Every month, Ancient History Encyclopedia will share news about select museum exhibitions and events of interest to our global audience via AHetc. Exhibitions are arranged in alphabetical order by geographical location and region within this post: the Americas, United Kingdom, Europe/Middle East, and East Asia/Oceania. Here is a taste of what is on show at major museums around the world in May 2017:
This dazzling exhibition focuses on the Museum’s world-class collection of jewelry from Ancient Nubia (located in what is now Sudan). The Nubian adornments housed at the MFA constitute the most comprehensive collection outside Khartoum. As the conduit between the Mediterranean world and lands south of the Nile Valley, Nubia was known for its exotic luxury goods–especially gold. Gold and the Gods focuses on excavated ornaments from an early 20th-century expedition by the Museum with Harvard University, dating from 1700 BCE to 300 CE, including both uniquely Nubian and foreign imports, prized for their materials, craftsmanship, symbolism, and rarity. The MFA is the only US museum able to mount an exhibition devoted solely to Nubian adornment drawing exclusively on its own collection.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Until May 14, 2017.
(Please see our interview with a curator from this exhibition, which was published in 2014.)
An interdisciplinary collaboration at Harvard University has created a full-scale reproduction of an ancient Egyptian throne belonging to Queen Hetepheres (about 2550 BCE). The chair’s materials are based on the ancient original: cedar, bright blue faience tiles, gold foil, gesso, cordage seating, and copper. This experiment in archaeological visualization is a triumph of reconstruction because the only guidance came from thousands of tiny, jumbled fragments and 90-year old expedition records. The reproduction chair is the centerpiece of the new exhibit, Recreating the Throne of Egyptian Queen Hetepheres. In 1925, the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition discovered a small, unfinished chamber almost 100 feet underground at the famous site of Giza. It contained the deteriorated burial equipment, sarcophagus, and other objects belonging to Queen Hetepheres, mother of King Khufu, the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid nearby. The Giza Project team created a 3D digital model of the tomb and its contents, and then used a computer-controlled, five-axis milling machine, plus lots of human labor, to fabricate the chair. The goal of this new museum display object and research/teaching tool was to reconstruct the chair’s iconography and to document the ancient workflow that the Egyptians used to construct such a masterpiece from the Pyramid Age.
Harvard Semitic Museum
Until January 1, 2018.
Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will present works from the museum’s Chinese art collection at the Vincent Price Art Museum in a special exhibition. Chinese Ceramics from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present 50 ceramic masterpieces with examples from the Neolithic period to the 19th century that exhibit a variety of styles and techniques, including works made of low-fired earthenware and high-fired stoneware and porcelain. These magnificent specimens can be seen at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
Vincent Price Art Museum
Until July 22, 2017.
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes
For more than a millennium following the fall of Rome, antiquity was evoked and preserved through visual arts, ceremony, and manuscript culture. Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes explores the constant and varied engagement of medieval people with the classical past. In many ways the classical world never really died, but just receded under layers of subsequent culture. For authors and artists alike, the process of historical remembering in the centuries before the Renaissance often involved embellishment or invention, as stories of ancient rulers and mythological heroes were frequently employed and adapted for inclusion in Christian texts. Bringing together objects from the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection with works from the manuscripts collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections. Section one explores the fluidity of artistic forms across antiquity and the Middle Ages. The second focuses on the classical knowledge base that was preserved by and transmitted through the work of medieval scribes and artisans. The last section explores medieval understanding of, and approaches to, the past.
J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center
Until May 28, 2017.
New York, NY
The ancient Egyptians believed that to make rebirth possible for a deceased woman, she briefly had to turn into a man. Guided by new research inspired in part by feminist scholarship, the exhibition A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt tells this remarkable story of gender transformation in the ancient world, exploring the differences between male and female access to the afterlife. This exhibition showcases 27 objects from our renowned collection of ancient Egyptian art. It includes the painted coffin box and mask of Weretwahset, which represents a deceased woman with red skin, the magical intervention that gave her the male power to create a fetus for her own rebirth. There is also a small, finely carved statuette of a woman; her elaborate wig and close-fitting dress indicate that she has returned to the female state after recreating herself for rebirth.
Until December 31, 2017.
Bringing to vivid life the emotions of the people of ancient Greece, and prompting questions about how we express, control, manipulate, or simulate feelings in our own society, the Onassis Cultural Center New York presents the path-breaking exhibition A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC-200 AD. On view exclusively at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, the exhibition brings together more than 130 masterpieces from some of the finest museums in the world including the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum Athens, the Louvre, the British Museum, the Vatican Museums, among many others, to explore the ideas and attitudes of people in classical antiquity toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted, revealing how some are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien. Although ancient Greece is often said to have been flooded with the light of reason, A World of Emotions lays bare the far different reality addressed in the Iliad, whose very first word is menis: wrath.
The Onassis Cultural Center New York
Until June 24, 2017.
Featuring more than 160 objects of ancient Chinese art, this major international loan exhibition explores the unprecedented role of art in creating a new and lasting Chinese cultural identity. Synthesizing new archaeological discoveries with in-depth research performed over the last 50 years, Age of Empires introduces a transformational era of Chinese civilization to a global audience. The works in the exhibition—extremely rare ceramics, metalwork, textiles, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and architectural models—are drawn exclusively from 32 museums and archaeological institutions in the People’s Republic of China, and a majority of the works have never before been seen in the West. Highlights include renowned terracotta army warriors and a striking statue of a seminude performer whose anatomical accuracy, unheard of in Chinese art, brings to mind Greco-Roman sculpture first introduced to Asia by Alexander the Great.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Until July 16, 2017.
In 201 BCE, the first emperor of the Han Dynasty knighted his younger brother as the first king of the Chu Kingdom, which was centered in Peng Cheng, today’s Xuzhou, in northern Jiangsu Province. Ruling under the emperor’s protection, and given special exemption from imperial taxes, elites in this Kingdom enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. Twelve generations of kings lived, died, and were buried in sumptuous tombs carved into the nearby rocky hills. Since the mid 20th Century, nearly hundred tombs were excavated, revealing contents that testify to the Chu kings’ affluence, as well as their beliefs in immortality and the afterlife. One of the most stunning finds was an elaborate jade sarcophagi burial suit, assembled from thousands of pieces of jade, the precious stone adored by Chinese people since the Neolithic period as an auspicious material that could ensure immortality. This exhibition will feature the jade suit, and other tomb contents that highlight how these powerful and wealthy kings prepared for death and envisioned their afterlife to come.
China Institute Gallery
Runs May 25, 2017 until November 12, 2017.
For thousands of years, peoples around the world practiced mummification as a way of preserving and honoring their dead. Mummies brings you face to face with some of these ancient individuals and reveals how scientists are using modern technology to glean stunning details about them and their cultures.Discover when, how, and why ancient Egyptians and Peruvians were mummified and find out who they were in life. This show features an up-close look at rarely-exhibited mummies as well as interactive touch tables, rare artifacts, and cutting-edge imaging.
American Museum of National History
Until January 7, 2018.
Animal representations in the sculptural arts of the ancient Near East are remarkable for their evocative expressive power. Beautiful and durable, these artworks have withstood the millennia and preserve the record of humanity, its concerns and beliefs, for all subsequent generations. This exhibition presents Mesopotamian sculptural works from c. 3300–2250 BCE, bringing together for the first time pieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Babylonian Collection, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Cylinder seals relating to each of the sculptures are also presented, including a remarkable seal from the Morgan’s collection showing animals acting as human. Through a focused consideration of these Near Eastern artworks, the rare objects emphasize the importance of the elements of the natural world that the ancients experienced and, by extension, the interdependence of the natural and the spiritual world. Inspiring the exhibition, the Morgan’s famous 1646 BCE clay tablet will also be on view; it is inscribed with the “The Deluge Story” — an early version of the familiar tale of Noah.
The Morgan Library and Museum
Runs May 26, 2017 until August 27, 2017.
Asia Society Museum in New York presents a selection of 76 artifacts from a thousand-year-old shipwreck discovered in 1998 in Southeast Asian waters. On view for the first time in the United States, the objects are evidence of the robust exchange of goods, ideas, and culture between far-flung kingdoms in Asia during the ninth century. Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia features precious cargo — bound for the Abbasid Caliphate, an empire that included present-day Iran and Iraq, and produced in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) — including ceramics, gold and silver vessels, bronze mirrors, and other artifacts. Discovered in 1998 off of Belitung Island, Indonesia, the ship’s contents were miraculously protected from erosion and breakage by tight and ingenious packing as well as the conditions of the silty floor of the Java Sea. Highlights in the exhibition include a magnificent ewer and other glazed stoneware objects with copper green splashes over white slip, which were highly desirable in the Middle East, also known as West Asia, from the largest cache of this type of ware recorded to date. A Chinese blue-and-white stoneware dish, with a lozenge motif that was common in West Asia, is one of three from the shipwreck.
Asia Society Museum
Until June 4, 2017.
This year-long presentation brings to The Met masterpieces from the National Museum of Korea. The exhibition offers stellar examples of Korean art in areas not often represented in American collections as well as treasured highlights from The Met collection. Organized chronologically from the Late Bronze Age to the 21st century, the exhibition conveys the broad framework of Korean art history. Among the objects reflecting key genres and themes of Korean art are strikingly modern-looking pots and glittering jewelry from ancient burial sites; exquisite gilded Buddhist sculpture from the seventh through the seventeenth century CE; sophisticated celadon and metalwork of the Goryeo dynasty; porcelain with delightful and distinctively Korean designs; and paintings on diverse subjects from the Joseon and early modern periods.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Until September 17, 2017.
This new exhibition, created in conjunction with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center, sheds light on the ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East by showing what’s at stake—the rich history of the region and the diversity of its people—and what’s being done to prevent the loss of this history and cultural identity. Fascinating ancient art and artifacts from the Penn Museum’s extensive Near East collection tell stories of the cultures of Syria and Iraq through time. Contemporary artwork from Issam Kourbaj, a Syrian artist based in Cambridge, UK, provides an art intervention—a modern-day response to the artifacts and themes. The exhibition features the important work being done by the University of Pennsylvania and Smithsonian Institution in conjunction with individuals and groups in the Middle East to help combat the loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage.
Until November 26, 2017.
Protective amulets, incantation bowls, curse tablets, powerful rings, magical stones, and anatomical votives–these objects and more, once used by ancient peoples seeking to fulfill desires through supernatural means, are featured in Magic in the Ancient World. Deeply entwined with science and religion, magic was a real and everyday part of life for many ancient peoples around the world. Ancient magic addressed many of the dreams, hopes, and passions humans grapple with today: desire for health and well being, protection from evil—even revenge. Magic in the Ancient World takes a survey approach, featuring 81 artifacts from the Penn Museum’s collections. The exhibition explores some of the magical objects, words, and rituals used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.
Until September 4, 2017.
The Berlin Painter and His World is a celebration of ancient Greece and of the ideals of reason, proportion, and human dignity that are its legacy. Focusing on the extraordinary work of a single anonymous master artisan, the exhibition provides a window onto ancient Athenian society at a time of economic growth and cultural flourishing through the art of vase-painting, the largest body of pictorial imagery to have survived from antiquity. Depictions of myths, cult, and daily life on red-figure vases posit questions on love and war, life and death, that still resonate today. Though the artist’s elegant style has long been appreciated, this is the first exhibition devoted to the Berlin Painter. The exhibition features eighty-four vessels and statuettes of the early fifth century BCE, gathered from museums and private collections around the globe, and examines the elements of this artist’s style that allow the attribution of objects to his hand while affording unique insights into life 2,500 years ago.
Princeton University Art Museum
Until June 11, 2017.
San Francisco, CA
On view for the first time in the U.S., 160 rare selections from recent excavations — including a jade coffin, rare bronze bells, elaborate crafts and much more — share the extravagance, artistry and elegance of Han royal clans. One of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world, China’s Han dynasty achieved profound cultural and artistic influence, technological advancements and military might. Two thousand years later, discoveries of royal tombs allow us to glimpse these extraordinary accomplishments firsthand. Emulating their grand palaces, Han royals built lavishly furnished tombs so that, in the afterlife, no need would go unmet. Daily utensils, kitchen vessels, royal symbols, weaponry and even toiletries were all accounted for. And the nobility spared no expense preserving the tools of earthly pleasures — food, music, wine, sex — in anticipation of an afterlife to surpass this world. The Asian Art Museum is the only venue for this exhibition.
The Asian Art Museum
Until May 28, 2017.
The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures, technologies that made building the road possible, the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world, and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.
National Museum of the American Indian — Washington, DC
Until June 1, 2018.
Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan converts the Smithsonian’s International Gallery into a space that evokes the vibrant marketplace of Old Kabul with artisans demonstrating their skills in jewelry making, woodworking, calligraphy, ceramics, carpet weaving and other crafts. Afghanistan is located in the heart of ancient Silk Road trade routes, and for more than 3,500 years it blended traditions from India, Persia and Central Asia into a distinct artistic culture. Decades of civil unrest that began in the 1970s nearly destroyed this vital heritage. Artisans were often forced to leave their country or give up their craft. The Old City of Kabul — Murad Khani, the once bustling center of craft and commerce in Afghanistan’s largest metropolis — fell into ruin. To tell this transformative story of culture and heritage in Murad Khani, Afghan woodworkers have created magnificent wood arcades, screens, and a pavilion, all carved by hand from Himalayan cedar. Wander among these arcades and explore spectacular contemporary carpets, jewelry, and calligraphy, all complemented by videos and large-scale photographs of the Afghan artisans who made them. Artisans from Murad Khani are bringing the exhibition to life by demonstrating their art, sharing their experiences, and allowing visitors to encounter Afghanistan’s art and culture firsthand.
Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
Until October 29, 2017.
This fascinating exhibition tells the story of 1000 years of use and reuse of one ancient Egyptian tomb in Thebes. Built c. 1290 BCE for the chief of police and his wife, it was looted and reused a number of times over the centuries until the early 1st century CE when it was sealed when an entire family was interred in it. The tomb then remained intact until it was excavated in the 19th century, preserving an array of stunning finds from various eras in ancient Egypt, all reflecting the wish to remember the deceased, to protect their bodies and to provide for their spirits in the Underworld.
National Museum of Scotland
Until September 3, 2017.
The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, will go on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a major new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The construction of London’s newest railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth line when services begin in 2018, has given archaeologists a unique chance to explore some of the city’s most historically important sites. Since work began in 2009, the project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programs ever in the UK, with over 10,000 artifacts shining a light on almost every important period of the Capital’s history. The wide variety of items on display will explore 8,000 years of human history, revealing the stories of Londoners ranging from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.
Museum of London Docklands
Until September 3, 2017.
The British landscape has been a continual inspiration to artists across the centuries and particularly the landscapes shaped and marked by our distant ancestors. The megaliths, stone circles and chalk-cut hill figures that survive from Neolithic and Bronze Age times have stimulated many artists to make a response. In this major new exhibition curated by Professor Sam Smiles, these unique artistic responses have been brought together to create a new discussion. Featuring the work of some of the greatest names in British art from the last 250 years, see John Constable, JMW Turner, Eric Ravilious, John Piper, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Richard Long, Derek Jarman and more, as their work records and reflects on some of our most treasured ancient landscapes.
The Salisbury Museum
Until September 3, 2017.
Europe & Middle East
Dangerous Perfection: Ancient Funerary Vases from Apulia
The focal point of the exhibition is a group of 13 large, elaborately decorated vases from Ceglie del Campo near Bari in Apulia (southern Italy). As grave goods, they provide insight into the funerary customs of the indigenous population’s upper classes 2,500 years ago. The vessels are painted with a variety of scenes from Greek mythology, from sudden death in battle and war to a life of ease in Dionysian pastures. Damaged during the war and postwar period, they are now being exhibited again thanks to a six-year collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The project included careful conservation of the vessels — some in Los Angeles, others in Berlin — as well as research into the modern history of the group, which joined the holdings of the Berlin museums in 1828. In addition to offering exciting archaeological insights, the exhibition also sheds light on the first restoration treatment of the vases in the workshop of Raffaele Gargiulo, a Neapolitan restorer who added missing scenes with such mastery that contemporaries spoke of a “dangerous perfection” in his style: Gargiulo’s additions could no longer be distinguished from the ancient originals. (Nota Bene: The exhibition was shown at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from November 19, 2014 to May 11, 2015.)
Until June 18, 2017.
This exhibition explores the discovery of a hoard of silver bracelets from Cushalogurt, Kilmeena, and a Viking sword found in the River Moy at Coolcronaun. This is the largest hoard of silver arm-rings found in Ireland. Find out about their discovery, their use as jewellery and currency and who might have buried them. The Viking sword, although corroded from over a millennium in the Moy, is a fine example of late 10th century craftsmanship and its conservation is revealing more details of its past. These objects give evidence of County Mayo’s rich Viking heritage.
National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough
Until December 31, 2017.
The exhibition will be presenting a wide selection of treasures from shipwrecks, ranging across exclusive bronze wares, vases and weapons reflecting the many facets of Antiquity. With a time frame of almost 3000 years the exhibition also sheds light on the significance of the Mediterranean for trade, cultural encounters and perilous journeys and demonstrates that the ancient world was also globalized. War and Storm. Treasures from the Sea Around Sicily shows how the sea shaped Antiquity’s world picture, while, at the same time demonstrating that global links and cultural encounters are anything but a purely modern phenomenon. On the contrary: the sea formed the basis for a large part of the modern world, and mariners and merchants of Antiquity can be seen today as the forerunners of the European economic community.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Until August 20, 2017.
The Museum Rietberg’s exhibition, Osiris: Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries, consists of three sections. The first presents the myth of Osiris and its protagonists. The second section is the most important and consists of the archaeological sites and evidence for the ritual of celebration of the mysteries of Osiris. In the third and last section, the visitor discovers how this ancient myth has evolved over time and space and how it was adapted at different sites, which explains the diversity of its representations. A spectacular display of changing mood, colors and lighting, underwater photographs and videos, the splendor of the objects discovered by the archaeologists and divers at the bottom of the sea is reflected in the masterpieces on loan from the museums of Egypt. Osiris: Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries is one of the highlights of the excavations directed by Franck Goddio in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in the western part of the Nile delta. Some 300 objects are presented, all of which have traveled from Egypt. Most were discovered in the recent underwater excavations carried out by the IEASM, but they are augmented by some 40 splendid exhibits on loan from the museums of Cairo and Alexandria — rare objects which have never before been seen in a German-speaking country, and even some that have never been seen outside Egypt before.
Until July 16, 2017.
Hong Kong, China
Illustrious Illuminations II: Armenian and Georgian Manuscripts from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century
Armenian illustrated manuscripts are some of the most lavishly decorated codices of the Christian churches from the Middle East. The Gospels are paramount among these, primarily because of the Armenian community’s respect for the sacred texts, revering them in the same way that Greek and Russian Christians regard holy icons. Such texts were carried into war by Armenian rulers and individual copies of the Gospels were often given sacred names and believed to hold miraculous powers. Few Armenian manuscripts predate the Middle Ages. Individual examples of manuscripts from the seventh century are among the earliest known. Since the eighth century, Arab domination within Armenia largely suppressed Christian artistic expression, and no work is known prior to the end of the Caliphate in the mid-ninth century. Although a few manuscripts survive from the later ninth and tenth centuries, extant Armenian illustrated manuscripts are not common until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Examples from these early periods begin the exhibition’s chronological display, introducing the tradition of teaching the Gospel through both word and image. The show is then complemented by a set of Georgian Gospel leaves illustrating the Evangelists.
University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU)
Until June 11, 2017.
Nota Bene: Are you a museum press professional or curator that would like your exhibition to be included in Ancient History Encyclopedia’s monthly listing? If so, please contact our Communications/PR Team via email with the subject line “Museum Listings.” We would love to hear from you and include your show next month!