Find ‘Egypt’s Lost Worlds’ at Saint Louis Art Museum’s newest Exhibit

Saturday March 10, 2018

Each year our community welcomes new experiences.  This year is also no exception when it comes to fascinating exhibits.  One must-see exhibit for 2018 is the Saint Louis Art Museum Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds, Mar. 25-Sept. 9. When you think of Egypt’s history, you may think of pyramids and mummies, but this is a different story. More than 1,000 years ago the port cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus were bustling metropolitan cities along the Nile, on the coast similar to a city like Venice today. Unfortunately, these two ancient Egyptian cities and their antiquities were lost in the Mediterranean Sea until Franck Goddio, president of the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology and his team made an amazing excavation in recent years. Now this exhibition will arrive in St. Louis for the North American premiere after visiting London, Paris, and Zurich. This exhibit is a huge investment and rare acquisition for the museum, culminating research from over the last seven years. For the Saint Louis Art Museum, this is the first exhibition of antiquities from ancient Egypt in more than 50 years.

Saint Louis Art Museum Sunken Cities

Sunken Cities is co-curated by Lisa Çakmak, associate curator of ancient art at the Saint Louis Art Museum.  “This exhibition tells a story that you can’t find anywhere else in the U.S. There’s a unique story and narrative,” Çakmak explained. Even as a scholar she never read about this side of Egypt.  She says her favorite thing about archaeology is that there is no end to data because there are always discoveries. “The scale and scope are beyond anything we’ve ever seen in our Western cannon of history. It’s archaeology at its finest. Beautiful works of art were found after being under the sea for over 1,000 years.  You’ll learn about the context of religion, the infrastructure of the cities and ceremonies that took place.”

Beyond the desert, the people of Egypt’s lost worlds used boats to navigate along the Nile. Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus were ports, and major cross-cultural influences are seen from countries such as Italy and Greece because they were also trading posts. Çakmak’s favorite object is the sculpture of a queen dressed in a Grecian style gown in beautiful condition made of black stone. “It’s a stunning piece of art,” she said. She also mentioned an inscription with hieroglyphics carved into it.  “The writing is very high level and aesthetic pleasing. You could see that it was buried with care to preserve it as it was wrapped face down and deposited.” Due to the large size of the exhibit, there are multiple dedications to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, in the collection and you’ll get a special opportunity to see many examples which helped scholars uncover more about the Mysteries of Osiris.

SLAM is excited to put a unique spin on the show with the new layouts and original casework that have been built. For repeat visitors to the Art Museum, you’ll find a reversed flow. You will enter where you would normally exit. The museum has utilized more space for the show. Three sculptures between 16 and 18- feet tall are too large to fit in the exhibit space so they will be lifted with cranes through the front door and installed in Sculpture Hall.

The logistics are being worked out, and we are fortunate that the exhibit coming to St. Louis. SLAM officials hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised finding that Egypt’s history consists of more than mummies. But if you want to see mummies, you can always visit the museum’s permanent Egyptian gallery.

We encourage you to make some fun plans and learn more about what there is to see and do in St. Louis with the help of our events calendar.

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