It’s not often that you can see recent scientific discoveries first-hand, but in this exhibition at the British Museum, you can witness the uncovering of new findings. Over 1,200 years ago, two cities sunk into the Nile Delta, Thonis-Herakleion and Canopus. Now, thanks to a remarkable underwater excavation, we have the chance to get up close with some remarkable artefacts.
Over the last 20 years, world-renowned archaeologists have excavated spectacular underwater discoveries using the latest technologies. They are placed alongside fascinating objects from major Egyptian museums for the first time in the UK. At the exhibition, we can witness the story of these two sunken cities, and how they were places where Greek and Egyptian culture intertwined, so much so that Greek versions of Egyptian gods were added to the religious sphere.
Pristine monumental statues, fine metal-ware and gold jewellery reveal how Greece and Egypt interacted in the late first millennium BC. The jewellery has been preserved impeccably – all the details and small etchings into precious metals can still be clearly seen, protected by the ocean for hundreds of years. These artefacts offer a new insight into the quality and unique character of the art of this period and shows how the Greek kings and queens who ruled Egypt for 300 years adopted and adapted Egyptian beliefs and rituals to legitimise their reign.
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. The exhibition has helped us learn a lot from the form taken by the religious statues dug up from their watery grave. The statues were mainly of Ptolemaic gods with human features that represented the same qualities Egyptians prescribed to animals.
It’s astonishing how well preserved these items are. The underwater recovery is only 5% complete so we can’t wait to what else it uncovers.