The latest in a series of blockbuster exhibitions from the British Museum, Sunken Cities is a spectacular display of ancient Egyptian artefacts uncovered from the Mediterranean Sea, as well as objects from the British Museum’s collection and leading Egyptian museums. The artefacts were discovered during the underwater excavation of two long-lost Egyptian cities, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which were once at the mouth of the Nile before being submerged by the sea.
When you walk into the exhibition the first thing you see is an enormously tall sculpture of the Egyptian god Hapy that was raised from the sea off Egypt’s coast. It’s jaw dropping and hard to wrap your head around the fact that until recently it had spent thousands of years, forgotten, under the Mediterranean Sea. Remarkably, 95% of the two submerged cities have yet to be excavated, so who knows what awe-inducing treasures are waiting to be discovered.
Many of the objects are perfectly preserved and if you’d told me they’d been manufactured a week ago, I probably would have believed you. They include pieces of pottery, the giant sculptures alluded to above, teensy delicate items of jewellery, gleaming coins and scarabs (turns out they’re not only beetle shaped). The other thing that struck me was how intricate some of the carving on the artefacts is, the fineness of the images etched into these objects is incredible.
I also learned an awful lot about ancient Egyptian culture from the exhibition, including the fascinating myths around Osiris, Isis and Seth. In a nutshell, Osiris was murdered by his brother Seth, then his wife Isis scooped up his body parts and had him mummified, making Osiris the first mummy. Osiris was then resurrected, becoming the god of the underworld.
All in all, a superb exhibition and highly recommended.
Sunken Cities, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG
Until 27 November 2016
Adults £16.50, under-16s free