Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Our Exhibitions Abroad, London: "Sunken Cities Egypt's Lost Worlds Exhibition" in The British Museum
Submerged under the sea for over a thousand years, two lost cities of ancient Egypt were rediscovered in the early 2000s. Excavation of them has yielded a wealth of astonishing archaeological treasures, rewriting history.
The cities of Heracleion and Canopus were situated near Alexandria, at the mouth of the Nile. Heracleion, named after the Greek hero Heracles, was one of Egypt’s most important hubs for Mediterranean trade. Canopus was a major religious centre, particularly for the worship of the Egyptian god of the afterlife, Osiris. Their discovery, by underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team, is transforming our understanding of the relationship between ancient Egypt and the Greek world.
Focusing mainly on the period from around 650 to 100 BC, the objects in the exhibition range from colossal stone statues and gold jewellery to intricate metalwork and objects related to the cult of Osiris. They tell stories of migration, power, religious beliefs and the exchange of ideas between two great cultures. Recent spectacular underwater discoveries will be seen for the first time in the UK. Major objects from Egyptian museums, rarely seen before outside Egypt, and objects from the British Museum’s own impressive collection help to tell this fascinating story.
Egypt and Greece had interacted since before the foundation of Heracleion in the 7th century BC. This relationship drastically changed with Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt in the 4th century BC – Egypt was ruled by a Greek dynasty until the death of Cleopatra in 31 BC and its conquest by Rome. The Greek rulers adopted and adapted Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign, while retaining their own customs. Later, the Roman emperor Hadrian reinvigorated the Egyptian cult of Osiris after his lover Antinous drowned in the Nile, and he was made into a god.
The significance of these lost cities is only just beginning to be understood – research is ongoing and continues to reveal new insights and discoveries. Supported by BP. Organised with the Hilti Foundation and Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine