Egypt’s Sunken Treasures

by | Nov 25, 2020 | MUSEUM / GALLERY

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities, which is currently on view at the VMFA, provides a close-up look into the bygone history and culture of Ptolemaic Egypt.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities at VMFA offers a rare glimpse into the material culture of Ptolemaic Egypt, a golden age of human creativity and arts. It well worth the visit to see these accent artifacts rescued from the water in such pristine condition. VMFA is the only East Coast venue to have this exhibition, and a last stop before the objects return to their permanent home in Egypt. 

If you’re a fan of Egyptian history and artifacts, you will find a treasure trove of unique art — including the colossal statue of the fertility god Hapy, which is the largest discovered representation of an Egyptian god.

The exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see treasures recovered from two powerful ancient Egyptian cities that sank into the Mediterranean more than a thousand years ago. These civilizations were destroyed by a natural catastrophes in the 8th century AD. Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus were once mighty centers of trade, where Egyptian and Greek cultures merged. In the centuries since their demise, these two cities were known only by scattered mentions in ancient writings. No physical trace existed and there were few mentions in history, with even their true names growing obscured. Maritime archaeologist Franck Goddio and his European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) have given new life to these sunken cities. 

Visitors get to encounter these findings firsthand, including amazing film footage and photographs that illustrate underwater expeditions with dramatic rediscoveries. Visiting the exhibit, I was immediately stuck with the beauty and preservation of the ancient stone carvings. This period features a unique mix of Greek and Egyptian art and philosophy. These pictures from my visit capture some of the striking art and sculptures. A visit in person truly transports you into a world all its own, where you can discover ancient history like never before.  

Colossal Statue of God Hapy
Live surround video of underwater expeditions
The Black Stone Queen
Striking statue of Antinous, Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Lover, who drowned in the Nile, later to be deified by the Emperor.
Egyptian Pharaoh in headdress
Stele Decree by Pharaoh Nectanebo on Thonis-Heracleion
Top of the Stele with Religious markings
Egyptian Statue of Horus the Child
Black Striking Statue of Arsinoe
Amazing Bust of Neilos, the God of Nile, showing Geek influence during this time period.
Osiris and Isis Statues
Statue of Tawaret, “The Great One.” This hippo-like God protects infants and mothers.
Statue of Osiris dedicated by Nitokris, daughter of Psamtik, a late Egyptian King.
Osiris Hydreious Statue. Osiris the Watery was worshiped uniquely in Canopus and connected with the Nile.
The Apis Bull Statue standing full-sized. The bull was a manifestation of the God Ptah, one of the original gods of creation.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities is on view at the VMFA through January 18, 2021. Capacity is limited, due to social distancing needs, and the VMFA strongly recommends you make reservations in advance.

Photos by John Reinhold

John Reinhold

John Reinhold

John Reinhold is a CEO, shareholder, and President of Inkwell Ventures. Inkwell is the founding company of RVA Magazine, Inkwell also owns and RVA On Tap.

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