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Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

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Past Exhibitions

Portable-sundial-sm.jpgTIME AND COSMOS IN GRECO-ROMAN ANTIQUITY

October 19, 2016 - April 23, 2017

The Ancient Greeks and Romans contributed more than any other past civilization to the rise of time's dominion over individual and public life. Adapting ideas from Egypt and Babylonia, they divided the day into hours, and invented sophisticated instruments and devices to mark their passage. This exhibition aims to explore the ways that time was organized and kept track of in the Greco-Roman world, and how it was conceived in relation to the Cosmos.
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Bust of Spring (small)DESIGNING IDENTITY

The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity

February 25 - May 22, 2016

Designing Identity: The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity, offered intimate glimpses into the lives of those who commissioned and used textiles and more sweeping views across Late Antique society (roughly third to seventh century CE). The exhibition brought together over fifty textiles of diverse materials, techniques, and motifs to explore how clothing and cloth furnishings expressed ideals of self, society, and culture.
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Mozaffar-al-din Shah QajarTHE EYE OF THE SHAH

Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past

October 22, 2015-January 17, 2016

The Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past presented some 200 photographic prints, a number of vintage photographic albums, and memorabilia that utilized formal portraiture of the shah. The exhibition shows how photographers—many of them engaged by Naser al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848-1896), the longest reigning Shah of the Qajar Dynasty (1785-1925)— ultimately created a portrait of the country's ancient and recent past. Most of the photographs in the exhibition had never been publicly displayed.
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Octadrachm. Obverse: Bust of Ptolemy III. Gold, Minted in Alexandria. 221-205 BCE. Gift of Martin A. Ryerson. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.FROM ANCIENT TO MODERN

Archaeology and Aesthetics

February 12, 2015 - June 7, 2015

From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics displayed a series of spectacular early Mesopotamian objects alongside rich documentation, opening a window onto the ways in which archaeological finds of the 1920s and 1930s were transformed from artifacts into works of art. This process raises fundamental and critical questions: What biographies were initially given to these objects by their discoverers? How were these objects filtered through the eyes and voice of the press before they were seen by the public? How were the objects' biographies affected by or reflective of the tastes of the time? How were the items presented in museums and received by artists of the period? And finally, how do they continue to influence artistic practice today?
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Octadrachm. Obverse: Bust of Ptolemy III. Gold, Minted in Alexandria. 221-205 BCE. Gift of Martin A. Ryerson. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.WHEN THE GREEKS RULED EGYPT

From Alexander the Great to Cleopatra

October 8, 2014 - January 4, 2015

When the Greeks Ruled Egypt: From Alexander the Great to Cleopatraexamined the interactions between Greek and Egyptian cultures during the nearly 300-year period when Egypt was under Greek rule. With some 150 objects, the exhibition revealed the many and diverse ways in which cultural tropes were strategically used by Egypt’s Ptolemaic rulers as a means of asserting power and provoking loyalty among the conquered population. In the process, it also revealed the intense familial intrigue and jockeying for position that characterized the Ptolemies as they sought to maintain their position.
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Copper, H. 17.5 cm; Diam. 16.8 cm, Naḥal Mishmar, 4500–3600 BCE. Israel Antiquities Authority: 1961-177, exhibited at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photography by Clara Amit © Israel Antiquities AuthorityMASTERS OF FIRE

Copper Age Art from Israel

February 13, 2014 - June 8, 2014

In 1961 Israeli archaeologists discovered over 400 copper objects at Naḥal Mishmar in what was to become known as the Cave of the Treasure. These copper objects were so spectacular that they define an era in Southern Levantine history now known as the Copper Age (4500–3600 bce). Masters of Fire: Copper Age Art from Israel explores this “metallurgical revolution” and the accompanying social and cultural changes through a series of unprecedented loans from one of the greatest hoards of antiquity. It also presents the first comprehensive U.S. exhibition of other archaeological discoveries from this period—anthropomorphic and zoomorphic ossuaries, technically elaborate wool and linen textiles, and exceptionally rendered figurines. When viewed together, these objects reveal a dynamic world whose technological advancements revolutionized art and society.
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Mapping

MEASURING AND MAPPING SPACE
Geographic Knowledge in Greco-Roman Antiquity

October 4, 2013 - January 5, 2014

Measuring and Mapping Space explored the ways in which ancient Greek and Roman societies understood, perceived, and visualized both the known and the unknown areas of their world. It brought together more than forty objects, combining ancient artifacts with Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and printed books that draw upon ancient geographic treatises. Together, they provided a fascinating overview of Greco-Roman theories of the shape and size of the Earth, ancient methods of surveying and measuring land, and the ways in which geography was used in Roman political propaganda. A specially designed multimedia display examined the increasing importance of modern technologies in mapping the ancient world.
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The Venus of MaltaTEMPLE AND TOMB
Prehistoric Malta, 3600-2500 BCE

March 21 - July 7, 2013

Located between southern Italy and the northern coast of Africa, the Maltese archipelago was home to an astonishing and artistically rich prehistoric culture. During the later Temple Period (ca. 3600–2500 bce), the early Maltese constructed extraordinary megalithic complexes to house cultic and funerary rituals, and produced an outstanding range of aesthetically refined representations of the human form...
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Seated BuddhaECHOES OF THE PAST

The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

September 11, 2012 - January 6, 2013

Echoes of the Past unites a group of imposing sculptures from the Northern Qi period (550-577 CE) Buddhist cave temple complex at Xiangtangshan in northern China with a full-scale, digital, 3-D reconstruction of the interior of one of the site’s impressive caves. This innovative installation provides an unprecedented insight into the original setting for these remarkable sculptures by marrying twenty-first-century digital techniques and ancient objects. The sculptures are extraordinarily accomplished...
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Wood, and Tin and Gold Foil, H. 9.0; W. 6.0; D. 1.6 cm Berel, Kurgan 11, late 4th–early 3rd century bce Presidential Center of Culture, Astana: 5581

NOMADS AND NETWORKS

The Ancient Art and Culture of Kazakhstan

March 7 - June 3, 2012

Nomads and Networks is the first U.S. exhibition to provide a comprehensive overview of the fascinating nomadic culture of the peoples of eastern Kazakhstan’s Altai and Tianshan regions from roughly the eighth to first centuries bce. With over 250 objects on loan from Kazakhstan’s four national museums, the exhibition provides a compelling portrait that challenges the traditional view of these nomadic societies as less developed than sedentary ones...
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Clay, with a Layer of Painted Plaster, H. 30.5 cm, W. 44.0 cm, D. 6.7 cm From the House of the Scribes, Dura-Europos, 200–256 CE Yale University Art Gallery, Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos: 1933.292 Photography © 2011 Yale University Art Gallery

Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos

September 23, 2011 — January 8, 2012

This exhibition vividly illustrated the international, pluralistic character of Dura-Europos, a city strategically located high above the Euphrates River, between Syria and Mesopotamia. The exhibition focused on its final phase, in the third century CE, when Dura-Europos served as an important Roman stronghold on the empire’s eastern edge. Many of the objects included demonstrate the coexistence of multiple religions—including polytheistic cults, Judaism, and Christianity—the great variety of languages employed by its population, and its role as an international military garrison.
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Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa

March 11 — June 12, 2011

This exhibition featured over 120 objects illustrating the remarkable and distinctive aesthetics of Nubian art. The exhibition traced Nubia’s rich culture, which flourished in present day Sudan and southern Egypt, from its earliest kingdoms (3200–3000 BC) to the Kushite period (900–400 BC) during which Nubians rose to conquer Egypt and fought against the Assyrian empire.
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Before Pythagoras: The Culture of Old Babylonian Mathematics

November 12, 2010 — January 23, 2011

This exhibition is the first to explore the world of Old Babylonian mathematics through cuneiform tablets covering the full spectrum of mathematical activity, from arithmetical tables to sophisticated work on number theory and algebra.
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Old Europe

The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000 - 3500 BC

November 11, 2009 - April 25, 2010

In 4500 BC, before the invention of writing and before the first cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt were established, Old Europe was among the most sophisticated and technologically advanced regions in the world. This exhibition presented extraordinary finds from the three countries with the richest Old European archaeological heritage—Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova, and Romania.
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Wine, Worship and Sacrifice: The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani

March 12 - June 1, 2008

Spectacular finds from two sanctuaries and four tombs illustrate that ancient Colchis was at the crossroads for many different peoples from the early fifth to the first centuries B.C.
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