Culture, Exhibitions

July 2016 Museum Listings

By popular demand, Ancient History Encyclopedia will share news, on a monthly basis, 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 July 2016:

The Americas

Boston, MA

Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia

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.)

Bozeman, Montana

The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii: Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero

More than 2,000 years ago, extremely wealthy Romans lived and played on the sunny shores of the Bay of Naples at Pompeii and in luxury villas nearby, unconcerned about Mount Vesuvius in the distance. One of the most luxurious of these retreats, Oplontis, set on a cliff 40 feet above the Mediterranean shoreline, was rumored to be the summer villa of Emperor Nero’s second wife, Poppaea. For whatever reason, the villa itself had been abandoned by the time of Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption in 79 ce, but a commercial wine distribution center next door was thriving. Falling ash and pyroclastic flows buried empty dining rooms that had seated more than a hundred people, an 80-meter swimming pool, private rooms adorned with spectacular frescos, and marble columns resting on mosaic floors ready for re-sale. The Villas at Oplontis, now a World Heritage Site at present-day Torre Annunziata, eight kilometers from Pompeii, have been under archaeological excavation for many years and large parts of the villa and the wine center have been uncovered. These artifacts that have never left Italy before.
Museum of the Rockies, Montana State University
Until December 31, 2016.

Cambridge, MA

Ocarinas of the Americas: Music Made in Clay

This bilingual exhibit (English and Español) features nearly 80 spectacular examples of ocarinas from the Peabody Museum’s vast collection. Uncovered at archaeological sites in Central America and Mexico, these musical instruments were crafted from local low-fired clay and carefully fashioned, incised, and painted into a variety of human and animal forms. Visitors to this multi-sensory exhibit will hear soundscapes that feature the varied tones and melodies produced by ocarinas, from the whimsical to the deeply haunting. Ocarinas of the Americas: Music Made in Clay also explores the history and cultural significance of these extraordinary works of art and sound that have inspired invention and captured the modern imagination.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University
Until early 2017.

Chicago, IL

A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts

An exceptionally beautiful Greek youth, Antinous was a favorite of Roman Emperor Hadrian. Following the young man’s mysterious death by drowning in the Nile River, Antinous was proclaimed a god, and portraits of him appeared across the Roman Empire. This focused exhibition unites two marbles portraying Antinous—which recent discoveries reveal were originally one. After years of careful study, an international collaboration among the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome, and the University of Chicago determined that the Art Institute’s fragment of a portrait of Antinous was originally the face of the Altemps’s bust. (That bust received a replacement face by the mid-18th century.)
Art Institute of Chicago
Until August 28, 2016.

Persepolis: Images of an Empire

This exhibition explores some of the 3700 black-and-white archival photographs of the Achaemenid Persepolis taken during the Oriental Insitute of Chicago’s expedition. The site was excavated between 1931 and 1939 by Ernst Herzfeld and Erich Schmidt, with Hans-Wichart von Busse and Boris Dubensky documenting both the monuments and the surrounding landscape in photographs. The photographs displayed show numerous columns, grand halls, ornate staircases, and carvings of people from across the Achaemenid Persian Empire, while a multimedia presentation examines the results of the aerial surveys.
Oriental Institute of Chicago, University of Chicago
Until September 11, 2016.

Cincinnati, OH

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt

From domesticated cats to mythic symbols of divinity, felines played an important role in ancient Egyptian imagery for thousands of years. Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt explores the role of cats, lions, and other feline creatures in Egyptian mythology, kingship, and everyday life through approximately 80 different representations of cats from the Brooklyn Museum’s world-famous Egyptian collection.
Cincinnati Art Museum
Until September 11, 2016.

Los Angeles, CA

Roman Mosaics Across the Empire

Roman decor was unique for the elaborate mosaic floors that transformed entire rooms into spectacular settings of vibrant color, figural imagery, and geometric design. Scenes from mythology, daily life, the natural world, and spectacles in the arena enlivened interior spaces and reflected the cultural ambitions of wealthy patrons. Drawn primarily from the Getty Museum’s collection, this exhibition presents the artistry of mosaics as well as the contexts of their discovery across Rome’s expanding empire–from its center in Italy to provinces in North Africa, southern Gaul, and ancient Syria.
Getty Villa
Until September 12, 2016.

Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Ali‘i

For centuries on the Hawaiian Islands, vividly colored feathers gathered from native birds were valuable cultural resources, ornamenting spectacular garments painstakingly constructed by hand. Long cloaks and short capes (‘ahu ‘ula), helmets (mahiole), and leis (lei hulu) bore rainbows of feathers to signify the divinity and power of chiefs (ali‘i), who wore them for spiritual protection and to proclaim their identity and status. These unique valuables also found use as objects of diplomacy, helping to secure political alliances and agreements. Today, fewer than 300 examples of historic featherwork exist to shape our knowledge of the art form known as nā hulu ali‘i (royal feathers). This presentation highlights a remarkable collection of objects rarely exhibited outside Hawai‘i. While the art form dates back many centuries, this exhibition focuses on pieces made for Hawaiian royals beginning in the late 18th century and ending just before the 20th — a period that saw the arrival of European explorers, the unification of the islands, wide-scale conversion to Christianity, the overthrow of the Hawaiian government, and annexation by the U.S.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Until August 7, 2016.

Montréal, QC

Fragments of Humanity: Archaeology in Québec

This is the first major exhibition dedicated entirely to Québec archaeology. Some 350 significant pieces will be featured, celebrating 50 years of archaeological discovery in Québec. The exhibition looks back at the events and ways of life behind fragments of humanity that, each in their own way, reveal various facets of our heritage. Taken out of the ground, these objects summon up stories and, when placed end-to-end, are invaluable material evidence that ultimately tells us about our history. Highlighting the richness and diversity of Québec’s archaeological collections, the exhibition is divided into four thematic sections relating to archaeology: ancient history or prehistoric archaeology, a land of trade and commerce, chronicles of daily life, and marine archaeology.
Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History
Until January 8, 2017.


Soak up the splendor and opulence of Pompeii in a spectacular exhibition that features over 220 archaeological artifacts in a unique environment. Mosaics, frescoes, bronze and marble statues, decorative art objects, as well as utensils and personal accessories, will bring to life this small provincial colony of the Roman Empire that was frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The largest exhibition on Pompeii ever presented in Québec, it drew 273,000 visitors during its presentation in Toronto in 2015.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Until September 5, 2016.
(Please see our interview with a curator of this exhibition from when it was at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada.)

New York, NY

Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed

For thousands of years, Central America has been home to vibrant civilizations, each with unique, sophisticated ways of life, value systems, and arts. The ceramics these peoples left behind, combined with recent archaeological discoveries, help tell the stories of these dynamic cultures and their achievements. Cerámica de los Ancestros: Central America’s Past Revealed is a bilingual (English/Español) exhibition that illuminates Central America’s diverse and dynamic ancestral heritage. It examines seven regions representing distinct Central American cultural areas that are today part of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Spanning the period from 1000 BCE to the present, the ceramics featured, selected from the National Museum of the American Indian’s collection of more than 12,000 pieces from the region, are augmented with significant examples of work in gold, jade, shell, and stone. These objects illustrate the richness, complexity, and dynamic qualities of the Central American civilizations that were connected to peoples in South America, Mesoamerica, and the Caribbean through social and trade networks sharing knowledge, technology, artworks, and systems of status and political organization.
National Museum of the American Indian — New York
Until January 2017.
(Please see our interview with a curator from this exhibition, which was published in 2013.)

City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics

City of the Soul examines the evolving image of Rome in art and literature with a display of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and drawings. This groundbreaking exhibition considers the ever-evolving identities of Rome during a pivotal period in the city’s history, 1770-1870 CE, when it was transformed from a papal state to the capital of a unified, modern nation. The exhibition juxtaposes a century of artistic impressions of Rome through a superb selection of prints and drawings by recognized masters such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778 CE), J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851 CE), and Edward Lear (1812-1888 CE) along with lesser known artists whose work deserves greater attention. The invention of photography also influenced the image of the city. Photographers consciously played on the compositions of Piranesi and earlier masters of the veduta tradition, while at the same time exploiting the expressive potential of this new medium. As the meditative, measured pace of the Grand Tour gave way to the demands of organized tourism, they supplied their new clientele with nostalgia as well as novelty in their views of the Eternal City.
The Morgan Library & Museum
Until September 11, 2016.

Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas

From the first millennium B.C. until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, artists from the ancient Americas created small-scale architectural models to be placed in the tombs of important individuals. These works in stone, ceramic, wood, and metal range from highly abstracted, minimalist representations of temples and houses to elaborate architectural complexes populated with figures. These miniature structures were critical components in funerary practice and beliefs about an afterlife, and they convey a rich sense of ancient ritual and as well as the daily lives of the Aztecs, the Incas, and their predecessors. Design for Eternity: Architectural Models from the Ancient Americas — the first of its kind in the United States — will shed light on the role of these objects in mediating relationships between the living, the dead, and the divine. It will also provide a rare look at ancient American architecture, much of which did not survive to the present day. Some 30 remarkable loans from museums in the United States and Peru will join works from the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Until September 18, 2016.

Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual

Featuring almost fifty objects from the Rubin Museum’s premiere collection of Nepalese art and select loans, Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual illustrates the enduring manifestation of rituals, agrarian festivals, and the natural environment in the art of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. This is the first exhibition connecting well-known deities represented in Nepalese art to rituals and festivals surrounding the rainy season, or monsoon, and highlighting the importance of the seasons to the culture and everyday life of Nepalese people. Through this lens, the exhibition will offer visitors a new understanding of the region and its art, which is already renowned for its high quality and aesthetic appeal. As life in Nepal faces ongoing threats from natural disasters and climatic changes, “Nepalese Seasons” poignantly illustrates how the country’s dependence on monsoon rain continues to play an important role in its agriculture, spirituality, social culture, and art.
Rubin Museum
Until March 27, 2017.

Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World

This exhibition will bring together some 264 artworks that were created through the patronage of the royal courts of the Hellenistic kingdoms, with an emphasis on the ancient city of Pergamon. Examples in diverse media—from marble, bronze, and terracotta sculptures to gold jewelry, vessels of glass and engraved gems, and precious metals and coins—reveal the enduring legacy of Hellenistic artists and their profound influence on Roman art. The ancient city of Pergamon (now known as Bergama, in present-day Turkey) was the capital of the Attalid Dynasty that ruled over large parts of Asia Minor.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Until July 17, 2016.

The Vikings Exhibition

Explore the rich, often-misunderstood Viking culture like never before with the largest collection of Viking artifacts ever displayed in North America. Featuring more than 500 treasures, some never before seen outside of Scandinavia, The Vikings Exhibition shows us why — even 1,000 years later — Viking culture still captivates our imagination.
Discovery Times Square Museum
Until September 5, 2016.

Palo Alto, CA

An Oasis in Glass

This exhibition showcases 4th-century mosaics, beads, flasks, and other glass objects created during the Roman occupation of Syria and Egypt. Displayed in a space that replicates the desert’s dunes and wide expanses, each object serves as a kind of tiny experiential oasis what with light boxes amplifying the works’ sparkle and transparency. The show also incorporates themes from classical Arabic poetry.
Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
Until August 8, 2016.

Philadelphia, PA

Creative Africa

From contemporary photography, fashion, and architecture to centuries-old sculpture, Creative Africa presents the visionary work of artists throughout Africa. At the heart of the season is Look Again: Contemporary Perspectives on African Art, a major exhibition drawn from the Penn Museum’s distinguished African collection.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Until September 25, 2016.

The Golden Age of King Midas

The historical King Midas lived in the prosperous city of Gordion, the political and cultural capital of the Phrygians nearly 3,000 years ago. In 1957, Penn Museum archaeologists excavated a spectacular royal tomb believed to be the final resting place of King Midas’ father Gordios. Dating to c. 740 BCE, the tomb contained a treasure trove of magnificent objects from the time of Midas. This world-exclusive exhibition, developed by the Penn Museum in partnership with the Republic of Turkey, is your chance to view more than 120 dazzling objects, including those from the royal tomb, on special loan from Turkish museums in Ankara, Istanbul, Anatalya, and Gordion.
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
Until November 27, 2016.

Santa Barbara, CA

Puja and Piety: Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist Art from the Indian Subcontinent

This exhibition celebrates the complexity of South Asian representation and iconography by examining the relationship between aesthetic expression and the devotional practice, or puja, in the three native religions of the Indian subcontinent. Drawn from SBMA’s collection and augmented by loans, the exhibition presents some 160 objects of diverse medium created over the past two millennia for temples, home worship, festivals, and roadside shrines. From monumental painted temple hangings to meditation diagrams and portable pictures for pilgrims, from stone sculptures to processional bronzes and wooden chariots, from ancient terracottas to various devotional objects for domestic shrines, this exhibition aims to examine and provide contextualized insights for both classical and popular works of art.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Until August 28, 2016.

Toronto, ON

Marvellous Creatures: Animals in Islamic Art

They roam the pages of countless legends, tales and fables, and have inspired artists for centuries. Magical creatures — from dragons, unicorns, and composite creatures to rainbow-colored simurghs and shape-shifting demons — take center stage in artworks at the Aga Khan Museum this summer. Through an astonishing variety of media — including manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, glass, and metalwork from the 7th to the 21st centuries CE — Marvellous Creatures celebrates these real and mythical animals, and illuminates the knowledge contained in classic fables and epics from the Middle East, North Africa, and Indian Subcontinent. An intriguing installation by Lebanese artist Mohamad-Said Baalbaki adjacent to the exhibition explores the human-headed winged stallion al-buraq.
Aga Khan Museum
Until September 11, 2016.

Washington, DC

Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D

Like all Buddhas (fully enlightened beings), the Cosmic Buddha, a life-size limestone figure of Vairochana, is wrapped in the simple robe of a monk. What makes this sixth-century CE Chinese object exceptional are the detailed narrative scenes that cover its surface, representing moments in the life of the Historical Buddha as well as the Realms of Existence, a symbolic map of the Buddhist world. With help from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, the Cosmic Buddha also exists as a 3D model, enabling scholars to study the work as never before and providing worldwide access to this masterpiece of Buddhist sculpture. Body of Devotion is an interactive installation that explores not only the work itself, but also the evolving means and methods of studying sculpture, from rubbings and photographs to the technological possibilities of today.
Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
Until December 2016.

The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire

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.

The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great

The Greeks: Agamemnon to Alexander the Great is an exceptional journey through 5,000 years of Greek history and culture. This exhibition features more than 500 priceless treasures — many of which have never been on display outside of Greece. Washington, D.C. is the only east coast museum to host the exhibit. Featuring collections from 22 national museums in Greece, this exhibition tells the unique story of one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations. Visitors will encounter the early origins of Greek writing and art from the Cycladic and Minoan cultures of the Aegean, meet the Mycenaean rulers and priestesses, the warriors of Sparta, the heroes, athletes and philosophers of Classical Greece and Alexander, the king that would spread Greek culture throughout the world — giving rise to civilization as we know it. The exhibition explores pivotal moments that led to the birth of Western democracy, modern art, science, medicine, theater and sports. This is the largest and most comprehensive survey of Greek culture in a generation.
National Geographic Museum
Until October 10, 2016.

Heart of an Empire: Herzfeld’s Discovery of Pasargadae

Located in the dasht-i murghab, or “plain of the water bird,” in southwestern Iran, Pasargadae was the first capital of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire (circa 540 BCE) and the last resting place of Cyrus the Great. Impressed with its ruins, German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879-1948 CE) briefly surveyed the site for the first time in 1905. Having completed his PhD thesis on Pasargadae in 1907, he returned in 1923 and 1928 to conduct more extensive excavations. The result was the first map of the site and the identification of its major extant structures. Featuring selections from the Freer|Sackler Archives’ rich holdings of Herzfeld’s drawings, notes, and photographs—among the world’s largest collections of archival materials on Pasargadae–this exhibition illuminates one of the most important sites of the ancient world.
Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
Until July 31, 2016.

Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan

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 at 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 January 29, 2017.

United Kingdom

Cardiff, Wales

Treasures: Adventures in Archaeology

The exhibition will tell the stories behind great archaeological discoveries from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Rome, Pre-Columbian America and Rapa Nui (Easter Island), some of which have never been seen in Wales before. It will include a whole host of fascinating objects and treasures from ancient worlds as well as more recent examples uncovered in Wales. The archaeological investigations of individuals such as Giovanni Belzoni (Italian explorer and pioneer archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities), Flinders Petrie (Egyptologist) and Adela Breton (archaeological artist and explorer) will be explored. This will be contrasted with adventure today and the impact of archaeological discoveries on popular culture, fiction and film, from Tintin and Indiana Jones to Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle.
National Museum Cardiff
Until October 30, 2016.

Edinburgh, Scotland

The Celts

Discover magnificent Iron Age treasures adorned with intricate patterns and fantastic animals, rich with hidden meanings, which were used for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare. Learn how these distinctive art styles were transformed and took on new influences in response to the expanding Roman world and the spread of Christianity. Then examine how the decorative arts of the late 19th century were inspired by different ideas about Europe’s past, and played a key role in defining what it meant to be Irish, Welsh, Scottish and British. Featuring more than 300 treasured objects from across the UK and Europe, assembled together in Scotland for the first time, this is a unique opportunity to explore the idea of “Celts” as one of the fundamental building blocks of European history.
National Museum of Scotland
Until September 25, 2016.

Falmouth, England

Viking Voyagers

Take a look behind the popular myth of Vikings as brutal invaders and discover what they were really like at Viking Voyagers. This exhibition, which includes significant loans from the British Museum and the National Museum of Denmark among other institutions, humanizes the Vikings. Visitors will learn that they took pride in their appearance, that they wore jewellery and combed their hair, and that their mastery of maritime technology was the secret of their success. Many were entrepreneurs who used smaller boats and ships to seek new trading opportunities far from their Scandinavian homelands.
National Maritime Museum, Falmouth
Until 22 February 2017.

London, England

Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne’s Watercolours of Rome

British artist Francis Towne (1739-1816 CE) made a remarkable group of watercolors during a visit to Rome in 1780-1781 CE. They include famous monuments such as the Colosseum, the Palatine Hill, ancient baths and temples, and the Forum. These watercolors were Towne’s way of delivering a moral warning to 18th-century Britain not to make the same mistakes — and suffer the same fate — as ancient Rome. 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of their bequest to the museum.
British Museum
Until August 14, 2016.

Sicily: Culture and Conquest

Sicily has been shaped by waves of conquest and settlement by different peoples over 4,000 years. Since the 8th century BCE, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans all settled or invaded the island, lured by its fertile lands and strategic location. Over time, this series of conquests forged a cultural identity unlike any other. This exhibition tells Sicily’s fascinating stories — from the arrival of the Greeks and their encounters with the Phoenicians and other settlers, to the extraordinary period of enlightenment under Norman rule in the 11th to 13th centuries. For much of its history, Sicily was admired and envied for its wealth, cultural patronage and architecture. In the exhibition, ancient Greek sculpture, architectural decorations from temples, churches and palaces, early coinage, stunning gold jewellery, and Norman mosaics and textiles demonstrate Sicily’s diversity, prosperity and significance over hundreds of years.
British Museum
Until August 14, 2016.

Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

Vanished beneath the waters of the Mediterranean, the lost cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus lay at the mouth of the Nile. Named after the Greek hero Heracles, Thonis-Heracleion was one of Egypt’s most important commercial centers for trade with the Mediterranean world and, with Canopus, was a major center for the worship of the Egyptian gods. Their amazing discovery is transforming our understanding of the deep connections between the great ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece. Preserved and buried under the sea for over a thousand years, the stunning objects in the exhibition range from magnificent colossal statues to intricate gold jewellery. Sacred offerings and ritual objects reveal the cult of Osiris – the god of the underworld who held the promise of eternal life. They tell stories of political power and popular belief, myth and migration, gods and kings. Journey through centuries of encounters between two celebrated cultures, meeting iconic historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Hadrian and Antinous on the way. Over the last 20 years, world-renowned archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team have excavated spectacular underwater discoveries using the latest technologies. They will be seen alongside fascinating objects from major Egyptian museums for the first time in the UK.
British Museum
Until November 27, 2016.

Oxford, England

Monkey Tales: Apes and Monkeys in Asia Art

To celebrate the Year of the Monkey in 2016 this special display showcases images of adventurous and mischievous monkeys in works on paper from Iran to Japan. The display features papercuts, woodblock prints and lithographs of monkeys in the wild, monkeys as gods, and scenes from the famous 16th-century CE Chinese novel Journey to the West.
Ashmolean Museum
Until October 30, 2016.

Pure Land: Images of Immortals in Chinese Art

“Pure Land” is the name for the realm of the Buddha and other deities depicted in paintings since the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). Pure Land Buddhism is particularly associated with the cave temples at Dunhuang in northwest China, near the eastern end of the Silk Route. During China’s war with Japan in the 1940s, many artists took refuge in Sichuan province, and from there some journeyed to Dunhuang and painted copies of the famous cave temple murals. This display shows rare examples of their work alongside other images of popular deities, particularly Guanyin, in paintings, textiles and porcelain.
Ashmolean Museum
Until October 2, 2016.

Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas

Storms, War and Shipwrecks tells the extraordinary story of the island at the crossroads of the Mediterranean through the discoveries made by underwater archaeologists. For 2,500 years, Sicily was the place where great ancient civilizations met and fought. Its rich and varied island culture has been marked by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans. This major summer exhibition explores the roots of this multi-cultural heritage through objects rescued from the bottom of the sea – from chance finds to excavated shipwrecks, from the pioneering Phoenician traders to the Emperors of Byzantium.
Ashmolean Museum
Until September 25, 2016.

Salisbury, England

Writing for Eternity: Decoding Ancient Egypt

This exhibition, developed in partnership with Wrexham Museum tells the story of 4,000 years of writing in ancient Egypt featuring a fantastic range of hieroglyph and cursive writing on a wide range of materials. It is an interactive and family friendly exhibition designed help decode ancient Egypt. It would be unthinkable even to try to sketch the history of writing without taking into consideration the wealth of written sources from ancient Egypt. No other culture has yielded such a rich variety of inscribed objects. Nowhere else have they been so well preserved. aAncient Egypt has provided us with literature, letters, songs, biographies and stories written in hieroglyphic and cursive scripts representing four millennia of language evolution. Moreover, a vast amount of written evidence from ancient Egypt has survived in the dry conditions of North Africa, to be excavated by archaeologists and studied by researchers in museums and universities.
The Salisbury Museum
Until September 3, 2016.

Europe & Middle East

Athens, Greece

A Dream Among Splendid Ruins: Strolling Through the Athens of Travellers, 17th-19th century

This lovely exhibition was designed to provide an imaginary stroll through monumental Athens between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries CE, during the age of the “Grand Tour.” 22 illustrated travel publications and 24 original works of art — oil paintings, watercolors, and engravings from the Library collections of the Hellenic Parliament — offer landscapes, images, monuments, and specific moments from the Athens of travelers, feeding our imagination and setting starting-points for our own, personal readings. 35 marble sculptures from the National Archaeological Museum, many of them exhibited for the first time, converse with the travelers’ works, complementing their charming narrative of the city’s monumental topography.
National Archaeological Museum
Until October 8, 2016.

Berlin, Germany

The Maya – Language of Beauty

The Maya are one of the oldest cultures in the world. This exhibition is all about the magnificent artistic forms of expression of the Maya. With a collection of around 300 works of art, including many Mexican national treasures, it displays the fundamental aspects of pre-Hispanic art: the body and the physique are central to this exhibition. The Maya present their vision of life using various materials and techniques from their daily life, splendid buildings and works of art. They describe their relationship with gods, their everyday existence, their literature, their astronomy, their music and their dances. What often dominates these works is an idealized notion of humanity, which the Maya retained not only in their conception of humans and the ideal of beauty, but also in the location of mankind in the cosmos.
Until August 7, 2016.

One God — Abraham’s Descendants on the Nile: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Egypt from the Ancient World to the Middle Ages 

The exhibition takes its name from Abraham, the original father and archetype for monotheistic faith and a powerful common thread linking Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Also presented in the exhibition are other figures that appear across all three religions, such as Daniel, Joseph, or the Archangel Gabriel, who were popular figures in Egypt. Based on evidence found in Egypt of the holy scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, visitors are given a brief introduction to the essential characteristics of the three world religions. The display also reveals the different types of sacred buildings — synagogue, church, and mosque — and explains their architectural history and dissemination in Egypt.
Until December 31, 2016.

Bologna, Italy

Egypt: Millennial Splendor

This exhibition includes over 600 objects from Dutch and Italian museum, and showcases the splendor of ancient Egypt from the Pre-dynastic Period through the Roman era.
Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna
Until July 17, 2016.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Crustumerium: Death and Afterlife at the Gates of Rome

The ancient city of Crustumerium was a centre for cultural exchange and played a significant role in the early history of Rome. For some 2,500 years Crustumerium was merely a recurrent reference in historical sources. When in 1975 archaeologists located the city, some 15 km north-east of the Italian capital, it was an archaeological breakthrough of the first order. Since then Crustumerium has been the object of numerous successful excavations. The exhibition focuses on ideas about life and death in antiquity. The many objects testify to the customs, mindsets and beliefs found in a culturally hybrid society. As such, the exhibition shows how various cultural impulses from antiquity have affected humanity’s ideas about death and afterlife, and how such ideas continue to affect and offer perspectives on our present time.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket
Until October 23, 2016.

Geneva, Switzerland

Amazonia: The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest

The MEG – Musée d’ethnographie de Genève – curates one of the most important Amazonian ethnographic collections in Europe, remarkable as much for the quality, provenance and cultural diversity of the objects as for their number (nearly 6,000 in total). For the first time in decades, the museum is exhibiting a wide range of objects from this region. “Amazonia: The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest” is a testimony to the history and plight of the indigenous peoples, who, since the first settlers set foot on their soil, have survived the encroachment of pioneer fronts, exogenous diseases, “pacification” programs, sedentarization, and missionary activities.
Musée d’ethnographie de Genève
Until January 8, 2017.

Jerusalem, Israel

Pharaoh in Canaan: The Untold Story

Pharaoh in Canaan tells the untold story of the rich cross-cultural ties between Egypt and Canaan during the second millennium BCE. Most commonly known from the biblical narratives of Joseph and Moses in Egypt, this historical chapter took place during a time of great political flux in both regions, due to two central developments: settlement of the Canaanites in the eastern part of the Egyptian Delta during the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1800-1550 BCE); and the consequent period of Egyptian rule over Canaan that saw the establishment of an Egyptian military and administrative presence in Canaan during the Late Bronze Age (c. 1500-1150 BCE). The exhibition presents more than 680 objects demonstrating the cross-fertilization of ritual practices and aesthetic vocabularies between these two distinct ancient cultures. This exhibition has significant loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre and Turin’s famed Egyptian Museum.
Israel Museum
Until October 25, 2016.

Leiden, The Netherlands

Egypt: Land of Immortality

With magnificent sculptures, bronze figures of the gods, colorful mummy cases, and age-old mummies, Egypt: Land of Immortality shows how the ancient Egyptians prepared for eternal life in the next world. The exhibition also includes many luxurious grave goods, such as magical scarabs, jewellery, cosmetics, and ritual spells on papyrus scrolls. More than 150 objects all come from the museum’s own collection. Some have never been on public display before.
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Until October 2, 2016.

The Roman Coast

Travel the Roman coast from north to south and discover how Romans and other groups lived and worked there some two thousand years ago. You will see their weapons, valuables, household objects, and trade goods, along with models of forts, temples, and a ship. The northern frontier of the Roman Empire, the “Limes,” ran straight across the present-day Netherlands, following the Rhine River. In the west, this river flowed into another major expanse of water: the North Sea. All this made the Dutch coastal area especially important to the Romans, for both trade and military strategy. These exhibits tell of the tumult of battle, of navigating the seas, of commerce, religion, and everyday life. For children, the exhibition includes a game in which Roman boats search the coast.
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
Until September 4, 2016.

Madrid, Spain

Roman Lusitania: The Origin of Two Cultures

El Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid examines the history of Roman Lusitania for the first time. This Roman province, created 2000 years ago at the “finis terrarum,” is today occupied by Portugal, Estremadura and the western part of Andalusia. Its capital, Augusta Emerita, was transformed into the most important settlement in Iberia and the first effective capital of the Iberian Peninsula after the administrative reform of Diocletian. Structured into nine areas, the exhibition goes through five centuries of history; society, culture, economy, and religion are reflected in the more than 200 objects exhibited. Roman Lusitania will show works of a great importance form what is present-day Portugal and Spain, including the following: the “arúla” (small altar) of Endovellicus; the Arronches stela (a unique case of inscription in Lusitanian language); the fresco paintings of the Casa de Medusa from Alter do Chão; the arm from the monumental bronze statue of Campo Maior; and two intaglios found in the Medellin excavations.
El Museo Arqueológico Nacional
Until October 16, 2016.

Naples, Italy

Myths and Nature: From Greece to Pompeii

This exhibition encompasses a fascinating, little-known facet of our classical roots: the representation of nature in its various aspects and the impact of human beings on the natural world. The 100 archaeological finds exhibited at the Sala della Meridiana in the Naples Archaeological Museum instead focus on landscapes, enchanted gardens, nature as a “gift from the gods,” and nature as a sign. Works on display from museums in Italy and abroad, including the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Louvre in Paris.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Until September 30, 2016.

Paris, France

Gardens of the East: From the Alhambra to the Taj Mahal

Western appreciation for gardens is a product of the East. Well before becoming a national emblem of the Netherlands, for example, the tulip was highly prized by Ottoman sultans who lavished countless tulips on foreign dignitaries and allies. No less is the concept behind the modern park in Western cities an import from the East. The very word “paradise” was born from the Persian pairi-daeza — meaning “enclosure.” This exhibition serves as a modern interpretation of the Eastern garden, incorporating the many facets of its ancient art, including a promenade of pink and orange trees, palms and jasmine that lead to the discovery of variegated vegetation, as imagined by Francois Abelanet. Tracing the history of Eastern gardens from ancient times to the most contemporary innovations, from the Iberian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, the exhibition garden is accompanied by some 300 works or art on loan by major international and private collections that recall the ingenuity and talent behind the horticulturists of the past.
Institut Du Monde Arabe
Until September 25, 2016.

Matahoata: Arts and Society in the Marquesas Islands

From Gauguin to Brel, and from Stevenson to Melville, the Marquesas Islands fascinated the greatest artists. The exhibition pays tribute to them through 300 pieces and works that reflect the strength of a culture that has transcended the ages and harnessed history. A sophisticated and complex aesthetic characterized the arts of the Marquesas Islands, marked by the force of the human figure (“mata” in the Marquesan language), and particularly the large eyes that decorate the sculptures and tattoos. Although the traditional culture suffered the incursions of history on contact with Westerners at the end of the 19th century, it managed to preserve its main codes, using ingenuity to incorporate and adapt the outside perspective. The resulting deep cultural mixing, particularly visible in commercial handicrafts which flourished during this period, ensured the survival of the Marquesan arts. A remarkable feat that not only enabled the traditional culture to be preserved but which also paved the way for the current revival of dance festivals, traditional arts, and the resurgence of tattooing.
Musée du Quai Branly
Until July 24, 2016.

Tel Aviv, Israel

It is the Land of Honey

Tel Rehov in the Beth Shean Valley, one of the largest tells in Israel, was excavated between 1997-2012 by archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, headed by Professor Amihai Mazar. The site was continually occupied from the beginning of the Late Bronze Age until the end of the Iron Age II, with traces of an Early Bronze II-III fortified city as well. The most extensive remains uncovered date to the 10th-9th century BCE, the Iron Age IIA, corresponding with the biblical period of the United Monarchy and the northern kingdom of Israel, until the rise of Jehu’s dynasty. The finds from this period comprise the focus of It is the Land of Honey. Numerous aspects of the rich material culture dating to this period that were revealed at this major site are presented, with an emphasis on the Canaanite background of the population, the cultural and political affiliation with the Israelite kingdom, and unique aspects of the local architecture and cultic practices.
Eretz Israel Museum
Until October 30, 2016.

Trier, Germany

Nero: Caesar, Artist and Tyrant

Hardly a Roman emperor arouses so much interest as Emperor Nero (r. 54-68 CE). For the first time in Germany, a major exhibition examines his life and the consequences of his rule. The exhibition shows his ascent to throne, his reign, his violent end, and why the image of Nero is still marked by negative characteristics. For a long time, Nero enjoyed great popularity — he inspired the masses through “bread and circuses” like no other emperor before him. With age, he lost touch with reality. Surprising research results show Nero, whose name is often associated with boundless extravagance, megalomania and cruelty, in a whole new light.
Rheinisches Landesmuseum
Until October 16, 2016.

Castlebar, Ireland

The Hoard and the Sword: Echoes of the Vikings in Mayo

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 June 2017.

Vienna, Austria

From Alexandria to Abu Simbel: Egypt in Early Photographs 1849–1875

This exhibition at the Kunsthistoriches Museum’s famed Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection showcases some 60 vintage prints that offer insights into the era of early photographs, 1849-1875. Soon after the invention of photography in 1839, the first photographers traveled down the Nile to make images of Egyptian monuments. Most of them were artists fascinated by this new medium who showed their work at exhibitions. In addition to Egypt, many of them also visited other sites throughout the Levant. In Egypt, they traveled by boat to Abu Simbel in the far south, and some even continued up the Nile through Nubia and what is present-day Sudan.
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Until September 25, 2016.

Ystad, Sweden


Archaeomusica is an exhibit that takes visitors to the music’s origins and explores how our oldest history of music sounded – from the Stone Age through Pompeii to the Middle Ages. It is an exhibition for all the senses and with the help of modern technology and hundreds of restored instruments, visitors can try out, listen, and experience Europe’s earliest soundscapes. (More information and a virtual tour of the exhibition in English can be accessed here.)
Ystad Abbey
Until January 8, 2017.

East Asia/Oceania

Singapore, Singapore

Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour

Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour presents fascinating and beautiful objects that are the result of the spread of the Christian faith across Asia. This is the first, large-scale exhibition in the world dedicated to the theme of Christianity in Asia. Many of the objects were made by artists who were not themselves Christian, and some of the patrons for this art were not Christian either. In this exhibition, you will see art that combines East and West. Asian materials and techniques were used to create paintings, carved ivory figures, ceramics, furniture, altarpieces, and shrines that aided the spread of Christianity. Working with museums and private collections in Portugal, France, Italy, the Philippines, and Hong Kong, the Asian Civilisations Museum brings many of these stunning works to Singapore for the first time.
Asian Civilisations Museum
Until September 11, 2016.

Sydney, Australia

Tang 唐: Treasures from the Silk Road Capital

Never before seen in Australia, this exhibition showcases some 130 spectacular objects from the Chinese province of Shaanxi, which demonstrate the high artistic achievements of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). It also includes an immersive digital installation using pioneering augmented-reality technology. Around the 7th century CE, while London was just a market town of a few thousand people, a city called Chang’an rose to be the capital of the powerful and influential Tang Empire, which stretched from today’s Korea in the north, Vietnam in the south and far into Central Asia. Home of a million people, it was the biggest, most advanced city in the world. Being the start and terminus of the Silk Road, it fostered an outward-looking society with great wealth and tolerance.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Until July 10, 2016.

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!


Filed under: Culture, Exhibitions


James Blake Wiener is the Communications Director at Ancient History Encyclopedia. Trained as a historian and researcher, and previously a professor, James is chiefly interested in cross-cultural exchange, world history, and international relations. Aside from his work at AHE, James is an avid Arabist, devotee of romance languages (French, Portuguese, and Spanish), reggaetoñero, and fan of ice hockey.