For those living in or visiting the northern hemisphere this winter, there are some unmissable temporary archaeology exhibitions to keep you in out of the cold. The following are just five that stand out for me. From Lascaux in Japan to Pompeii in the USA, from Chalcolithic gold to ancient Egyptian mummies of animals, and impressive look at what we know about the Middle Ages in Europe.
Lascaux: the Cave Paintings of the Ice Age
Since October 2012 the Lascaux 3 International Exhibition has been travelling the World and it has just arrived in Japan. For the next few months visitors to the National Museum of Nature and Science will get to see a handful of life-size reproductions from Lascaux, before the exhibition moves to Fukuoka and the Kyushu National Museum. So for the better part of 2017 Lascaux 3 will be in Japan.
Reproduced panels from the cave of Lascaux. © SPL Lascaux International Exhibition
Remember that Lascaux 4 opens to the public on 15 December 2016.
The World’s Oldest Gold – Treasures from Varna
In 1972 a Bulgarian workman digging the foundations of a canning factory in Varna came across a burial that had about 1.5 kgs of gold artefacts. At 6,000 years old these are the oldest known examples of worked gold in the World. And from the end of October they will be on show in the Dutch town of Dordrecht. The exhibition marks the 15th anniversary of the twinning of Dordrecht and Varna.
A special feature of the exhibition is a reconstruction of the extraordinary ‘tomb 43’. This is the grave of the 45 year old man and his very elaborate grave goods. Some of the objects he was buried with include a heavy gold necklace, gold bracelets, a number of gold rings, a gold penis sleeve, as well as a rod fitted with gold shells and rings. Although the collection travels quite frequently to exhibitions outside of Bulgaria, this is the first time it will be seen in the Netherlands.
Chalcolithic grave with grave-goods. © Varna Regional History Museum
Animal Mummies Revealed
In collaboration with the Manchester Museum and Glasgow Museums, the World Museum in Liverpool is hosting the first exhibition in the United Kingdom that looks specifically at ancient Egyptian animal mummies. On display are over 59 specimens, including mummified jackals, crocodiles, cats and birds, that are presented alongside rare cultural artefacts and archives not seen in public before. Visitors to the exhibition will see photographs and other, archaeological archives and travel journals that show how the animal mummies were excavated and selected by archaeologists and museum experts, and then distributed as curios and souvenirs around the World, including to Britain. Also, the exhibitions shows how X-ray and CT scanning technology has led to a much greater understanding of the mummification process and its significant to ancient Egyptians.
Mummies of cats. © National Museums, Liverpool
Pompeii – The Exhibition
The story of what happened to Pompeii is one that has been grabbing people’s attention for a long time. And this particular exhibition tells the extraordinary story with archaeological objects that rarely leave Italy. The lives of the doomed residents both before and after the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D are told in a powerful, multimedia experience that draws on over 200 authentic objects.
You will get to see mosaics and frescoes, gladiator armour and weapons, everyday items such as lamps, jugs, cups, plates, pots and pans, household furniture and jewellery, medical instruments and tools, and a ship’s anchor.
The scene is set in a theatre with dramatic reconstructions that allow visitors to experience the deathly impact that Mount Vesuvius had on this ancient city. The final reveal brings you to full body casts of twisted human forms, asphyxiated by extreme heat and noxious gases and forever frozen in time.
Artefacts on display in the Market Place gallery. © Union Station Kansas City Inc.
What’s New in the Middle Ages?
The Cité des sciences et de l’industrie, Europe’s biggest science museum, has joined forces with INRAP, the French National Research Institute for Rescue Archaeology, to bring this blockbuster exhibition that casts new light on the Medieval era in Europe. Our popular image of the Middle Ages is one of besieged castles and fortresses, brave and daring knights rescuing princesses in distress, all the while peasants dealt with repeated outbreaks of plagues and disease.
The exhibition is divided in two parts. The first gives an overview of the key events of 1,000 years that makes up the Middle Ages. The second, the bulk of the exhibition, uses recent research and reconstructions of archaeological excavations to show what is new in Medieval research. A series of hands on exhibits allows visitors as young as nine to get a different idea of this period of Europe’s history than is usually the case in traditional exhibitions.
The introduction to the Exhibition. © Ph Levy – EPPDCSI