|Priest holding Osiris|
There’s a bus that will drop me off directly in front of the museum, although it takes a very long time, given Paris traffic. We manage to find each other in spite of my lateness, have a bite of Middle Eastern food at the museum’s café... and then we step into the darkness (perhaps a bit too much darkness) of the netherworld.
|Pectoral of the sky, 10th c B.C.|
|goddess of the Nile|
That’s only one of the many thoughts I have while walking through this magnificent exhibit of the many wonders archaeologists have literally dredged up from the bottom of the Bay of Aboukir, where they’d lain for centuries. Luckily, the delta muck actually preserved the artworks somewhat from the corrosiveness of the salty Mediterranean water. But it took much painstaking work to remove all the algae, barnacles and other mollusks without damaging the artworks, as shown in several videos projected on the walls and in the small theater area complete with benches for those of us whose legs are getting tired.
The exhibition is made up of three sections. The first presents the myth of Osiris, and is guarded by a huge statue of Hapi, the god of the annual flooding of the Nile. The largest of the three parts is the second, which covers the archaeological sites and the ritual celebration of the mysteries of Osiris. The final section shows how the ancient myth evolved over time and space, how it was adapted at different sites, which explains the diversity of the myth’s representations.
In the footage taken underwater, you see how the artworks were discovered, then uncovered, and what difficult conditions the archaeologists had to work under. Murky doesn’t even come close to describing the visibility the divers “enjoyed” as they carried out their underwater excavation five miles offshore at the Magnus-Alexandria, Canope and Thonis-Heracleion sites. The last two of these sites stretched over an area of 7 x 6 miles (11 x 10 km), a gigantic undertaking when everything is covered by up to two millennia of sediment. But magnetic and bathymetric (underwater topography) exploration equipment proved up to the task.
|Apis, 2nd c A.D.|
|Hapi, 4th c B.C.|
All these works are on loan from various museums of Egypt. Seeing them together in one place is a gift, and also very powerful. As my friend and I left, we were blinded by the Paris sun - something hard to do at this season of the year - our heads filled with splendid images and our minds raring to find out more about this fascinating topic.
Mystères engloutis d’Egypte
Institut du Monde Arabe
1 rue des Fossés-Saint-Bernard; 5è
Métro: Sully-Morland, Jussieu, Cardinal Lemoine
Until January 31, 2016
T-Th 10-7 / F 10-9:30 / Sat & Sun 10-8
15.50 & 12.50 €
|Bérénice, 2nd c B.C.|
Here’s the link to the show’s website. http://www.exposition-osiris.com/index.php?lang=en
If it doesn’t come up in English, there’s a little US-UK flag you can click on to get it.
And here’s a link to an article on the discovery at Heracleion: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/archaeology/10022628/Lost-city-of-Heracleion-gives-up-its-secrets.html