Met Exhibition to Offer Insights into Early Byzantine Life
In 1908, The Metropolitan Museum of Art began to excavate late-antique sites in the Kharga Oasis, located in Egypt's Western Desert. The Museum's archaeologists uncovered two-story houses, painted tombs, and a church and retrieved objects that reveal the multiple cultural and religious identities of people who had lived in the region between the third and seventh centuries A.D., a time of transition between the Roman and early Byzantine periods. The finds represent a society that integrated Egyptian, Greek, and Roman culture and art. Opening October 11 at The Met, the exhibition Art and Peoples of Kharga Oasis will feature some 30 works from these excavations.
By grouping objects according to the archaeological context in which they were discovered, the exhibition will explore the interpretation of ancient identities and artifacts and show how archaeological documentation can aid in understanding an object's original function.
On view will be copies of frescoes with Early Christian images, ceramics, ostraca (pottery shards that were used as writing surfaces), jewelry from burials, glassware, and early 20th-century site photography. An excerpt from the 1989 documentary film Merchants and Masterpieces will feature footage of the landscape and monuments of Kharga Oasis.
Students and scholars wishing to do further research may consult "Excavations of the Late Roman and Early Byzantine Sites in the Kharga Oasis," an online resource available through the Digital Collection portal of the Museum's Thomas J. Watson Library.
The exhibition is organized by Helen Evans, the Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, and Andrea Myers Achi. Exhibition, graphic, and lighting design is by The Met Design Department.
Photo credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York