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Arts & Entertainment

VMFA to exhibit “Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities” beginning July 4th

The exhibition features nearly 300 objects, mostly from underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion.



The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has announced the East Coast premiere of Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities.

The exhibition features nearly 300 objects, mostly from underwater excavations of the ancient Egyptian cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion. Sunken Cities is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to experience the grandeur and complexity of Ptolemaic Egypt, one of the wealthiest, most powerful and influential kingdoms of the ancient Mediterranean.

The exhibition was curated by Franck Goddio, the director of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) and organized for VMFA by Dr. Peter Schertz, VMFA’s Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art. Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities will open at the museum on July 4, 2020.

The exhibition highlights ancient artifacts retrieved from Aboukier Bay off the coast of Egypt by a team of underwater archaeologists led by Goddio. In addition to some 250 works recovered by IEASM, 40 additional works from museums in Egypt help tell the story of Ptolemaic Egypt and one of its most important cults, the annual celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris.

“We are thrilled to offer this unique experience to our visitors,” said VMFA Director and CEO Alex Nyerges. “VMFA brings the world to Richmond, and this exhibition explores the fascinating history of two lost cities of ancient Egypt. This is the last time this groundbreaking exhibition will be on view in North America, and we hope to attract a wide range of visitors.”

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities is presented by Dominion Energy. “We are delighted to be continuing our partnership with VMFA through this exciting exhibition,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, President of the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. “Promoting cultural diversity and community vitality is an important goal for us, and we are proud to help bring these rare pieces of art to our community.”

“When people come to this exhibition, they’re going to see amazing works of art that reveal the diversity of the ancient world and the ways that the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome interacted and influenced each other more than 2,000 years ago,” says VMFA’s Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art Dr. Peter Schertz.

Highlights of the exhibition include a nearly 18-foot-tall, 5.6-ton statue of the god Hapy, the largest stone statue of a god recovered from ancient Egypt, beautiful statues of other gods and rulers of that civilization, as well as fascinating objects used to celebrate the annual Mysteries of Osiris. Powerful photography, films, maps, graphics, and an audio guide provide context and background on how these cities were lost and rediscovered. Visitors to the exhibition will discover the cosmopolitan society that emerged from the blending of Greek and Egyptian cultures after the conquests of Alexander the Great. A key aspect of the exhibition is the exploration of the cult of Osiris, ruler of the underworld and god of new life, who was celebrated throughout Egypt. Goddio’s excavations have brought to light a wealth of implements used in the celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris, one of the great religious ceremonies of ancient Egypt, which involved a maritime procession through the canals that once connected the two cities.

The exhibition is free for VMFA members, children ages 6 and under, state employees and teachers, as well as active-duty military personnel and their immediate families; $20 for adults; $16 for seniors 65+; and $10 for youth 7–17 and college students with ID.

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