Friday, May 25, 2018

Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds

I recently saw this exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, the first city in America to host it. It will be in St. Louis through September 9. World-renowned underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team discovered  two lost cities of ancient Egypt, which were submerged under the Mediterranean Sea for over a thousand years.

The exhibit is quite well organized and provides ample room for a mass of people.  I went on one of the museum's free days, and every entrance time slot was full, yet, I never felt pushed or crowded. All in all, one of the best exhibits I've seen in some time.

I took several photos, and I hope you enjoy some of them.

While waiting to enter the exhibit, you can study a mural of what they believe the submerged city looked like. The temple looks a lot like Edfu to me, so it might just be their fantasy.

When I visited Egypt in 2006 and 2007, I saw some of artifacts in the exhibit. At the time, they were bringing them up and "stashing" them in a Roman amphitheater in Alexandria. I remember seeing statues resembling the ones shown here, although they were rather crusted in lichen so I can't be sure they were the same ones.

The first statue is of the goddess Isis, if memory serves.

The second statue is of Arsinoe II, which is a magnificent example of Graeco-Egyptian art. The drapery of her dress is amazing. This sculpture might have been a cult statue of Arsinoe in the Serapeum of Canopus

Now, let's get our steles on. It's almost impossible for me to say which one I liked best, although I'm tilted toward the young Horus standing on a crocodile (Set?) and holding snakes in each fist.

I found these statues, both of Osiris, remarkable because they are made of wood, not stone or marble. Only after I read the information and pressed my nose to the glass did I see the wood grain.

And speaking of Osiris. . . . the mysteries of Osiris supposedly became less mysterious based on these findings. I bought the exhibition catalog, which supposedly explains all this, but I have not yet read it. Nonetheless, there were plenty of Osirion pieces, and here are a few of them.

  1. This statue called the Awakening of Osiris has long been a favorite of mine and was not found in the Mediterranean.
  2. Osiris Vegetans Figure in a Falcon-headed Coffin (800-600 BC). This figure is also called a corn-mummy and was formed from earth, Nile flood water, and seeds and then swaddled in linen. They were sprinkled with water until the seeds grew, which symbolized both the rebirth of Osiris and the annual regeneration of Egypt. 
  3. Osiris on Funeral and Revival Bed (1773 -1650 BC) found at Abydos represents the moment when Isis in the form of a kite (bird of prey) revives him with the breath of her wings. The etching behind the statue shows the same story, which I believe is from a carving from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. 
  4. Osiris-Canopus (AD 100-200) is marble sculpture, which was produced after Egypt  became part of the Roman Empire. 

Horus, Taweret, and the Apis Bull represent the gods as sacred animals.

These beautiful fragments are the god Bes and a sacred ram of the god Amun.

And finally, the most whimsical piece in the exhibition, a commemorative column with a votive foot from the Temple of Ras el-Soda. The temple was dedicated to Osiris, Isis, and Horus. The Greek inscription reads "Flung from his carriage by his horses at the spot, Isidoros, restored to health by divine intervention, in exchange for  his feet." Isidoros dedicated this sculpture to the "Blessed," which was a name frequently used to describe Isis.

For the most recent article on the exhibition, see Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds in Antiquities and the Arts Weekly.

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