Rolling in the Deep
Egypt’s sunken treasures on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
By: Natalia Poteryakhin
Standing in the central atrium of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, I looked up into the face of a god. There was something alien about the way light wrapped onto this massive block of stone, shadows pooling in his symmetrical features. When viewed from the side, however, his form became familiar: the shapes flattened out, coalescing into the two-dimensional figure we are used to seeing in hieroglyphics. This was the god Hapy, his stature rising all the way up to the second-floor balcony, his left leg striding forward in classic Egyptian fashion. For that alone, it may be worth paying the MIA a visit to get a free glimpse of this Egyptian relic.
Pay 20 dollars more, and you can get access to the full exhibit. “Egypt’s Sunken Treasures” is the result of 20 years of deep-sea exploration focused on two lost ancient cities. Their unique roles as ports in Aboukir Bay facilitated a cultural and religious exchange between the pharaohs and ancient Greece, resulting in a hotbed of temples, trinkets, and treasure. A clever nod hints at the artifacts’ origins: the gallery walls are painted blue, immersing you in the ocean depths from whence the pieces came. In the exhibit, I regarded a still-sealed box, its lead lining hiding a mystery impermeable by our x-rays. Egyptians believed lead held magic powers… did they somehow observe what only centuries of research had revealed for us? I saw stone slabs covered in scripture, used for rituals in which one poured water over the etched words. Egyptians believed water absorbed the power of the scripture it touched. Maybe we ought to give it a try, too; they were right about lead, after all. Why not more?
Looking back on the experience, I was left with a sense of dipping a toe into a vast world of knowledge and customs previously lost to the ocean depths. I’m glad it was dredged up for us Minnesotans to explore. Visit before it closes on April 14th, 2019.