Boston museum lets you spend ‘A Day in Pompeii’


Few sites in the world hold as much of a morbid fascination as does Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Pompeii is one of the most popular places in southern Italy for tourists, who come to view the city’s ruins and relics, in particular the preserved bodies of the victims whose last moments were captured in ash. This fall, visitors to Boston will get a chance to learn more about the ancient Roman town and see some of its artifacts thanks to the exhibit “A Day in Pompeii” at the Museum of Science.

Organized in conjunction with the Superintendent for Archeological Heritage of Naples and Pompeii, the exhibit will feature hundreds of relics from ancient Pompeii, ranging from earthenware and coins to jewelry and fragments of frescoes. The museum will also have live demonstrations explaining the science behind Mount Vesuvius’ most deadly eruption. And then, there are the plaster body casts of Vesuvius’ victims, which will undoubtedly be the star attractions of the exhibit. No fewer than 16 body casts will be on display, including a family of four, a man in shackles, a guard dog, and a pig.

“A Day in Pompeii” opens at the Museum of Science on October 2, 2011, and runs through February 12, 2012. Advanced tickets are highly recommended and you can purchase them from the Museum of Science’s online store.

Photo screen grab from the Museum of Science

From myth to Empire: Heracles to Alexander the Great

Alexander the great
Today’s royals have nothing on the ancients.

Alexander the Great and his predecessors enjoyed a sumptuous lifestyle that beats anything William and Kate will ever enjoy, not to mention real power as opposed to lots of TV time. Now an amazing new exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, gives an insight into the life of the royal family of Macedon.

Alexander the Great conquered much of the known world before his death in 323 BC, but he didn’t come out of nowhere. He was the second-to-last king of a proud royal lineage that traced its roots to the legendary Herakles. Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures of the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy looks at the development of one of the ancient world’s greatest royal families. Their palace was almost as big as Buckingham Palace and what remains shows it was much more luxurious. There was gold, silver, ivory, and jewels everywhere, and plenty has made it into this exhibition. There’s everything from ornate golden wreaths to tiny ivory figurines like this one, which graced a couch on which a king once quaffed wine and consorted with maidens. It’s good to be the king.

The displays focus on more than 500 treasures from the royal tombs at the ancient capital of Aegae (modern Vergina in northern Greece). Three rooms show the role of the king, the role of the queen, and the famous banquets that took place in the palace.

%Gallery-122395%Especially interesting is the gallery about the role of the royal women, who are often overlooked in all the accounts of manly battles and assassinations. Women had a big role to play in religious life and presided at holy festivals and rites alongside men. They also wore heaps of heavy jewelry that, while impressive, couldn’t have been very comfortable.

The banqueting room shows what it was like to party in ancient times. Apparently the master of the banquet diluted the wine with varying proportions of water to “control the time and degree of drunkenness”!

There are even items from the tomb of Alexander IV, Alexander the Great’s son with princess Roxana of Bactria. Alex Jr had some pretty big shoes to fill, what with dad conquering most of the known world and all, but he didn’t get a chance to prove himself because he was poisoned when he was only thirteen. At least he went out in style, with lots of silver and gold thrown into his tomb with him.

This is the first major exhibition in the temporary galleries of the recently redesigned Ashmolean. Expect plenty of interesting shows from this world-class museum in coming years.

Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures of the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy runs until August 29, 2011. Oxford makes an easy and enjoyable day trip from London.

[Image © The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism – Archaeological Receipts Fund]

Oxford’s Ashmolean museum improving its world-class Egyptian galleries

Oxford, Egypt, Ashmolean
The famous Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, England, reopened in 2009 after a £61 million ($101 million) makeover. The redesigned space is more open and airy, with more natural light and windows between exhibitions. Floorspace was doubled in size and the exhibits were made more informative and user firendly. A museum worker explained to me that part of the plan was to make it so you can always see your way out. This is to combat museum fatique. Personally I’m a museum junkie and I don’t get museum fatigue, but it sounds like a good idea.

Despite three years of work and the high price tag, the Ashmolean’s famous Egyptian galleries got left behind. There was no money to redo them at the time but after collecting another £5 million ($8.3), the galleries are now shut and going through a major overhaul. The four old Egyptian galleries were crowded and poorly lit, and will now be redesigned along the lines of the rest of the musuem. They’ll also expand into a fifth gallery to give the collection more room.

The Ashmolean Museum has been collecting Egyptian artifacts since 1683, when it was founded as the oldest public museum in the world. Its displays tell the story of one of the world’s greatest civilizations from its prehistoric beginnings until it became part of the Greek and Roman empires. Its collection of predynatic artifacts is the best outside of Egypt and show how Egypt developed into a superpower.

The Egyptian galleries will reopen in November 2011 and Gadling plans to be there to cover it.

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Indiana Jones exhibit whips up international tour

He’s everyone’s favorite fictional archaeologist. Even real archaeologists, once they’re done nitpicking his lack of scientific technique, usually admit that they love the guy. Now Indiana Jones is the subject of a new international exhibition.

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition will open at the Montreal Science Centre on April 28, 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of the release of the first movie in the series. Tickets are already selling fast.

The exhibition will include clips and memorabilia from the movies, as well as an educational component to show the public that archaeologists don’t generally carry bullwhips and get into fights with evil cults. My own Masters program offered no classes on bullwhip technique, but that lecture I attended on Aztec human sacrifice certainly convinced me that not all religions are created equal. On one excavation I got too close for comfort to a Palestinian viper and nearly had a 3,000 year-old wall fall on me, so it’s not all libraries and dusty museums.

The educational portion of the exhibit is being planned by Frank Hiebert, the Archaeology Fellow for National Geographic. Real archaeological artifacts from Quebec and around the world will be on display and visitors will learn the painstaking processes archaeologists use to piece together the past. It’s not as exciting as being chased over a rope bridge by sword-wielding cultists, but it’s still pretty cool.

Interactive displays will explain some of the myths behind the movies such as the stories of the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology: The Exhibition will run from April 28 to September 18 before going on an international tour. Not all dates and locations are set, so check the official website for updates, and stayed tuned here to Gadling.

[Photo courtesy user Insomniacpuppy via Wikimedia Commons]

The other pyramids of Africa


This desert land was once home to a great empire that built giant temples in honor of strange, animal-headed gods and memorialized their rulers with pyramids. It had one of the most advanced civilizations of its time and was known throughout the ancient world.

Egypt? No, Sudan.

The Kingdom of Kush in what is now Sudan built great cities and traded the products of its large and expert iron industry as far away as India and China. It lasted from about 1000 BC to 350 AD before finally being conquered by the Empire of Axum in Ethiopia. For almost a hundred years from 747-656 BC, the Kushites ruled Egypt as the twenty-fifth dynasty.

A new exhibit at the Louvre in Paris is the first to focus on Meroë, the capital of Kush in its later period and home to more than two hundred pyramids, some of which are shown in this photo. Meroe: Empire on the Nile showcases works of Meroitic art that help us understand the daily life, religion, and social structure of this often-overlooked empire.

Meroe: Empire on the Nile runs until September 6, 2010. Many of the objects are loans from the Museum of Khartoum, so if you can’t make it to Paris before September, you can always go to Sudan and the see the objects, and the pyramids, for yourself. Last year The Wall Street Journal listed the country as one of the top five destinations for the super adventurous.

Image courtesy Sven-steffenarndt via Wikimedia Commons