The change of seasons offers a rich cultural bounty to be partaken by those enthused with ancient history. Four times a year, the Ancient History Encyclopedia likes to present a selection of phenomenal exhibitions that we believe our users and readers would enjoy. For the fall 2012 season, Andean Peru, Greece, China, Mesoamerica, Central Asia, and Arabia are well represented. Please take a moment and check out these listings in order to see if anything of these interest you!
We wish you all a very happy fall or spring (for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere)!
Gods on Swings and Dancers in Trance: Bronze Art from Tribal India displays extraordinarily powerful stylized bronzes from Bastar, a region in central India that is home to a majority of tribal people. The artworks show mighty gods, processions and possessed dancers that are the products of a living, complex but little-known culture. See this show before it closes at the Museum Rietberg, in Zürich, Switzerland, until November 4, 2012.
Nomads and Networks: The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan provides a comprehensive overview of the nomadic culture of the peoples of eastern Kazakhstan’s Altai and Tianshan regions from roughly the eighth to the first century BCE. With more than 250 objects on loan from Kazakhstan’s four national museums, the exhibition provides a compelling portrait that challenges the traditional view of these nomadic societies as less developed than sedentary ones. Artifacts on view in the exhibition range from bronze openwork offering stands, superbly decorated with animal and human figures; to petroglyphs that marked important places in the landscape; to dazzling gold adornments that signaled the social status of those who wore them. Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington, DC, through November 12, 2012.
The Arrival of the Gods in the Andes: Peruvian culture is one of the oldest in the world. Recent archaeological discoveries show that societies in the central Andes erected monumental ceremonial buildings as early as the fourth century BCE. Chavín is regarded as the mother culture of the Andes and shaped life there in the second and first centuries BCE. In close collaboration with Peru and with leading archaeologists from across the globe, the Museum Rietberg, in Zürich, Switzerland, presents the latest discoveries from Peru and the first Chavín exhibition in the world: The Arrival of the Gods in the Andes. This show begins on November 23, 2012 and will conclude March 10, 2013.
Jewels, Gems, and Treasures: Ancient to Modern examines the various roles and meanings associated with a wide range of gem materials. While today in the West, diamond, pearl, emerald, sapphire, and ruby are regarded as the most precious of materials, such other substances as feathers, claws, mica appliqués, coral, and rock crystal have commanded equal attention in other times and places–sometimes believed to guard their wearers from danger or malevolent forces. The 75 objects are drawn mostly from the museum’s gem collection, including a dozen pieces acquired on archeological expeditions in Egypt and the Sudan in the early 1900s. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, through November 25, 2012.
The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico is the first large-scale exploration of the ancient kingdoms of southern Mexico and their patron deity, Quetzalcoatl, an incarnation of the spirit force of wind and rain that combined the attributes of a serpent with those of the quetzal bird, thus the name “Plumed Serpent.” On view at the The Dallas Museum of Art, in Dallas, TX, through November 25, 2012, this groundbreaking exhibition features 150 objects–including painted codices, turquoise mosaics, gold, and textiles–loaned from museums and private collections in Mexico, Europe, and the United States. These rare artworks trace the development of an extensive trade network that resulted in a period of international entrepreneurship and innovation that spread across ancient Mexico, the American Southwest, the Mississippi River Valley, and Central America during the Postclassic (AD 900-1521) and early colonial periods.
Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt features nearly 150 artifacts from the time of Queen Cleopatra VII, taking visitors inside the modern-day search for the elusive queen, a search that reached from the desert sands of Egypt to the depths of the Bay of Aboukir near Alexandria. The exhibition includes statuary, jewelry, everyday artifacts, coins, and religious tokens from the time around Cleopatra’s rule. On view at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, CA, through December 1, 2012.
Amarna 2012: 100 Years of Nefertiti is an extensive special exhibition on the Amarna period, allows Nefertiti’s time to be understood within its sociocultural-historical context. All aspects of this fascinating period are illuminated and explained–not only the period’s theology and art, but also everyday life in the city, ancient Akhetaton. Founded by the monotheist Pharaoh Akhenaton (Amenhotep IV) to establish a new capital with places of worship for his own ‘religion of light,’ the city was built within three years and populated in the year 1343 BCE. At the beginning of the 20th century, extremely successful excavations took place there under the direction of Ludwig Borchardt, and the finds were shared between Cairo and Berlin. The exhibition illuminates the context of the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti in the workshop of the Egyptian sculptor Thutmose, along with numerous related objects, including even the pigments and tools used by the sculptors. Along with the exhibition’s main focus on archeology, it also critically examines the history of the depiction of the bust of Nefertiti both as an archeological object and as a widely marketed ideal of beauty. Visitors can experience the Amarna period as a social, cultural-historical, and religious phenomenon. Will be shown at the Neues Museum, Berlin, Germany, beginning December 7, 2012 and lasting through April 13, 2013.
Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gilliéron & Son has only a few weeks left at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY. This exhibition focuses on the work of Swiss-born Emile Gilliéron (1850-1924) and his son, Emile (1885-1939), who were among the foremost art restorers of their time. Gilliéron père worked alongside Schliemann, and both he and his son would later spend a large part of their careers assisting Evans at Knossos, where they witnessed firsthand the discovery of tantalizingly fragmentary wall paintings of exquisite quality and helped realize Evans’s vision of their original appearance. The Gilliérons also established a thriving business that catered to the popular demand for reproductions of antiquities from the newly identified Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. Their work influenced the study of Aegean art and was integral to its widespread introduction throughout Europe and North America, where the art of prehistoric Greece would inspire a generation of writers, intellectuals, and artists, from James Joyce and Sigmund Freud to Pablo Picasso and Giorgio de Chirico, who studied drawing under the elder Gilliéron.
Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs features more than 100 artworks, most of which have never been shown in the United States before this tour. These spectacular treasures–more than half of which come from the tomb of King Tutankhamun–include the golden sandals found on the boy king’s mummy; a gold coffinette that held his stomach; golden statues of the gods; in addition to his collection of rings, ear ornaments, and gold collar. Also showcased are objects associated with the most important rulers of the 30 dynasties that reigned in Egypt over a 2000-year span. The exhibition explores the splendor of the pharaohs, their function in both the earthly and divine worlds, and what “kingship” meant to the Egyptian people. On show at the the Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA, through January 6, 2013.
Echoes of the Past unites a group of imposing sculptures from the Northern Qi period (550-577 CE) Buddhist cave temple complex at Xiangtangshan, in northern China, with a full-scale, digital, 3-D reconstruction of the interior of one of the site’s impressive caves. This innovative installation provides an unprecedented insight into the original setting for these remarkable sculptures by marrying twenty-first-century digital techniques and ancient objects. The sculptures are extraordinarily accomplished, their refinement seen in facial expressions, hand gestures, and adornment. These statues are among the finest embodiments of the essence of Chinese Buddhist sculpture as we now know it, and are seminal to our understanding of the history of Chinese Buddhist style and iconography. See this show at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU, in New York, NY, through January 6, 2013.
The Body Beautiful In Ancient Greece brings the most beautiful and erotic objects of ancient Greece to the United States. This exhibition features more than 120 priceless objects from the British Museum’s famed collection of Greek and Roman art. Iconic marble and bronze sculptures, vessels, funerary objects, and jewelry are among the treasures that explore the human form, some dating back to the second century BCE. The Portland Art Museum, in Porland, OR, will be the first venue in the United States to present this exhibition until January 6, 2013.
Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes is the first exhibition of its kind in North America, opens up this exciting yet virtually unknown episode in ancient Latin American history through 150 startlingly beautiful art works in all major Wari media: masterful ceramics; precious ornaments made of inlays or gold and silver; sculpture; and sumptuous garments from one of the world’s most distinguished textile traditions. Between 600 and 1000 CE, long before the rise of the powerful Inca, the Wari forged a complex society widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art, in Cleveland, OH, where it be on show until January 6, 2013. The exhibition will then travel to the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, FL and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX.
The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection offers a different look at the famed Roman city. Pompeii and the other cities destroyed and paradoxically preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE are usually considered the places where we can best and most directly experience the daily lives of ancient Romans. Rather than presenting these sites as windows on the past, this exhibition explores them as a modern obsession. Over the three hundred years since their discovery in the early 1700s, the Vesuvian sites have functioned as shifting mirrors of the present, inspiring foremost artists–from Piranesi, Fragonard, Ingres, and Alma-Tadema, to Duchamp, Dalí, Rothko, and Warhol–to engage with contemporary concerns in diverse media. This international loan exhibition is co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art in association with the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. This show will be on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Villa, in Los Angeles, CA, through January 7, 2013.
The Cultural Grandeur of the Western Zhou Dynasty at the National Palace Museum, in Taipei, Taiwan, showcases rare artifacts from ancient China that shed light on rituals from 3,000 years ago. Bronze vessels with long engravings, jade artifacts, oracle bones, gold ornaments, glassware, pottery, and porcelain from the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BCE) will all be on display for visitors. Translations of the artifacts’ engravings aim to give visitors insight into the ritual and musical lives of Chinese people during a formative period in ancient history. Among the 176 exhibited items, 54 are “grade-one cultural relics” from China, presenting a rare opportunity for visitors to see precious and large collections of artifacts from China in Taiwan. This exhibition will be on show through January 7, 2013.
Gods, Myths And Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece transports visitors to the bedrock of western civilization. Created by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, this show invites families and children to embark upon an interactive journey through the world of ancient Greece. Visitors of all ages can meet the gods, experience ancient Greek daily life, and interact with the epic poem “The Odyssey,” through more than 25 engaging interactive components, including climbing into a 13-foot tall Trojan Horse. Gods, Myths And Mortals: Discover Ancient Greece will run through January 14, 2013 at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore, MD.
China’s Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor’s Legacy brings the most remarkable artifacts of ancient China to the United States. The Minneapolis Institute of Art invites the visitor to discover the life and legacy of Qin Shi Huang, first Chinese Emperor (221-210 BCE) through 120 items, including eight terracotta soldiers and two horses found in his tomb, as well as other equally rare artifacts. This unique event will enable the public to get to know more about one of the major archaeological discoveries of our times. All these objects–jade artifacts, bronze ritual objects, and other gold and silver ornaments–illustrate the advent of the Qin dynasty, over 2,000 years ago. The exhibition will be on show in Minneapolis, MN through January 20, 2013.
City of Gold: Tomb and Temple in Ancient Cyprus examines the unique and compelling art and archaeology of early Cyprus, as seen in a single site, Polis Chrysochous–a place rich in history, architecture, and art, and a meeting place of cultures and religions from the Iron Age through the Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and medieval periods. Featuring 110 objects lent by the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the British Museum, and the Musée du Louvre, including splendid gold jewelry and a rare marble statue of a “kouros” (a nude male youth), this is a show not to be missed. The exhibition is held exclusively at the Princeton University Art Museum, in Princeton, NJ, until January 20, 2013.
Buddhism along the Silk Road illuminates a remarkable moment of artistic exchange, drawing together objects from China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the western reaches of Central Asia–regions connected in the sixth century CE through trade, military conquest, and the diffusion of Buddhism. At the root of this transnational connection is the empire established at the end of the fifth century by the Huns, which extended from Afghanistan to the northern plains of India and Iran. Over the next century, trade routes connecting India to the western reaches of the Central Asian Silk Road continued to link these distant communities, facilitating a splendid ideological exchange. On view now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, through February 10, 2013.
Dancing into Dreams: Maya Vase Painting of the Ik’ Kingdom offers an intimate glimpse at the exceptionally painted chocolate-drinking cups of a single Maya center located in modern-day Guatemala. Ik’ vases are acknowledged particularly for their naturalistic color, veristic portraiture, skillful rendition of graceful movement, and elegantly fluid, calligraphic line. Several Ik’ vases were also signed by their painters–a convention attested in the ancient Americas only among the Maya of this region. Complementing our important holdings of Ik’ vessels with loans of select masterpieces from other museum collections, the exhibition will both elucidate the courtly politics and dynastic history of the Ik’ kingdom and reveal the vital role of master artists in these intrigues. Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ, through February 17, 2013.
Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presents a study of archeological remains only really began in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, yet brought–and is still bringing–a wealth of unsuspected treasures to light: temples, palaces adorned with frescoes, monumental sculpture, silver dishes, and precious jewelry left in tombs. The exhibition, organized as a series of points along trade and pilgrimage routes, focuses on the region’s rich history as a major center of commercial and cultural exchange, provides both chronological and geographical information about the discoveries made during recent excavations, and emphasizes the important role played by this region as a trading center during the past 6,000 years. Elegant alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings, and Hellenistic bronze statues testify to a lively mercantile and cultural interchange among distant civilizations. More than 300 works–sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, and frescoes–are on display, dating from antiquity to the beginning of the modern period. the majority never before exhibited. On view now at the Sackler Gallery, Washington, DC, through February 20, 2013.
Petra: Wonder in the Desert is currently on show at the Antikenmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. Two hundred years ago this year, the Swiss-born explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, alias “Sheikh Ibrahim,” rediscovered the city of Petra in the Jordanian desert that had been forgotten by the outside world for centuries. Burckhardt’s rediscovery laid the cornerstone for the exploration of the mysterious city, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Petra was once the capital of the Nabataeans: an ancient nomadic people settled the desert more than 2,000 years ago and turned a remote valley into a vibrant city with impressive monuments and a well-developed irrigation system. The show presents loaned artifacts from various museums in Jordan, accompanied by video and 3D presentations. Together they showcase the trading and cultural connections of the Nabataeans, and how they managed to build and irrigate a flourishing city in what is today one of the most arid locations in the world. The exhibition also features stunning works of art from Petra that are characterized by a variety of styles, including the well-known Greek and Roman pieces as well as more abstract forms. This show lasts until March 17, 2013.
Maya 2012: Prophecy becomes History: the Maya civilization was one of the longest-lived in the Americas. A Stone Age culture, the ancient Maya developed the most advanced writing system in the New World and domesticated plants we all still enjoy eating, for example corn. They thrived in environments ranging from the high altitude mountains in Guatemala, down to the hot and humid rainforest of the Petén and into the parched, shrub-covered plains of the Yucatán Peninsula. Wherever they lived, they left behind monumental architecture, beautiful pottery, and “eccentric” flint objects. They also excelled in measuring time and did so in a ways similar to ours and in others that appear as very exotic to us. Maya calendrics are at the heart of this exhibition, as we count down to the end of an incredibly long Maya calendrical cycle. This exhibition presents the story of the real Maya which spans over three millennia. Topics include the evolution of kingship, the development of writing and mathematics, as well as astronomy and timekeeping. Information on the latest discoveries, such as a mural showing calendrical computations of a Maya priest, and the uncovering of a second inscription marking the December 21, 2012 date are also included. Now on show at the the Houston Museum of Natural Science, in Houston, TX, until March 31, 2013.
The Antikythera Shipwreck: The Ship, the Treasures, the Mechanism presents the objects recovered in 1900-1901 and 1976 from the legendary shipwreck off the islet of Antikythera, the focus of the first major underwater archeological expedition. The wreck dates from c. 60 to 50 BCE, thoughcertain items in its cargo date from the fourth century BCE. The luxury glassware, the statue of Hermes, and other items shed light on trade in the eastern Mediterranean and the taste of the rising Roman elite near the end of the Hellenistic Era. Most exciting, however, is the so-called “Antikythera Mechanism,” a device that comprised at least 30 gearwheels as well as dials, scales, axles, and pointers. It is the earliest preserved portable astronomical calculator, and displayed the positions of the Sun, the Moon, and most probably the five planets known in antiquity. Used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, it showed an accurate multi-year calendar and displayed the dates of the recurring Pan-Hellenic games that took place at Nemea, Isthmia, Delphi, Dodona, and Olympia. Now on show at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece, through April 28, 2013.