Exhibitions and events around the globe are illuminating the Bible and archaeology.
The Walters Art Museum
The first chapters of Genesis feature a vision of paradise in an idyllic setting—a lush and peaceful garden full of flowing water and plenteous fruit. Perhaps out of a desire to return to that lost paradise, the ideal garden in both Christian and Muslim tradition has been based on that Edenic exemplar.
Through illuminated manuscripts and illustrated books from 15th-century France and 16th-century Iran, Paradise Imagined: The Garden in the Islamic and Christian World explores the art of the garden as an expression of religious devotion, kingly justice, poetic inspiration and carnal love. Despite the broad cultural gap, the Christian and Islamic illustrations similarly depict the garden as a place of learning and transformation.
For those more horticulturally inclined, the works on display also offer a glimpse of changing garden styles and layouts as can be seen above, where angelic beings present a flowering coat of arms in a geometric French garden in “Kings in a Garden” from the 15th-century Chronique des Rois de France (Chronicles of the Kings of France).
The Israel Museum
From cherubs to archangels, God’s divine messengers have inspired artists across cultures and centuries. The Israel Museum’s new exhibit Divine Messengers: Angels in Art features 30 works highlighting the evolution and diversity of angelic representations through depictions of these ubiquitous spirits across centuries of Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions.
Christian art has traditionally depicted angels as winged youths, a portrayal that likely developed from imagery of Hermes, the divine messenger of ancient Greek mythology. Divine Messengers displays this visual tradition of cupids, cherubs, seraphs and archangels through the works of Baroque painters Govaert Flinck, Pieter Lastman and Pedtro Orrente. Both awe-inspiring and familiar, these classical paintings primarily depict angelic tales from the New Testament. The exhibit also explores the influence of Christian angelic art in Jewish and Muslim traditions, displaying illuminated ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts) and Islamic manuscripts and miniatures.
The changing face of angelic iconography can also be seen in modern works, including Paul Klee’s famed Angelus Novus (1920), pictured above. Other contemporary works use cinema and new media to highlight a perspective shift: A new focus on angelic rebelliousness and loss reflects the crises of emotion and faith following World War II , and provides a stark contrast to earlier pieces.
The relationship between archaeology and the Bible is not always an easy one, but sometimes they come together in striking agreement as witnesses to history. Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered presents two such instances. BAR readers have already been introduced to these tiny but amazing finds in recent articles by Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar about her excavations in the City of David,* but now visitors to Edmond, Oklahoma, can see them at their world premiere at the Armstrong Auditorium.
These unassuming clay seal impressions, or bullae, bear the names of two of Jeremiah’s opponents described in the Book of Jeremiah—Yehuchal (or Jehucal) son of Shelemiah and Gedaliah son of Pashur—ministers of the king of Judah who had the prophet thrown into a cistern (or pit) because they did not like the message he was preaching to the people of Jerusalem about surrendering to the Babylonians (Jeremiah 38:1–13). The Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered exhibit features these two seal impressions (each about the size of a dime) as well as dozens of ceramic artifacts from Jerusalem during the First Temple period—including figurines, royal seal impressions, and one of the largest ancient vessels ever found in Jerusalem.
Herbert W. Armstrong College provided support for Eilat Mazar’s City of David excavations.
In July, the Israel Museum will reopen its main galleries after a three-year, $80-million renovation aimed at expanding and reorganizing the entire museum campus and its collections. Chief among the renovations was the redesign of the Bronfman Archaeological Wing, which houses more than 8,000 artifacts from the Biblical lands, including the newly installed and now largely restored 2,200-year-old Heliodorus Stela featured in the pages of BAR.*
In celebration of the museum’s new Archaeological Wing, a special exhibit, Breaking Ground: Pioneers of Biblical Archaeology, showcases the early history of professional archaeology in the Holy Land, exploring the life stories, discoveries and scientific contributions of such archaeological luminaries as Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, Felicien de Saulcy and Conrad Schick, as well as the foundational excavation and survey work of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund.
* See Hershel Shanks, “Inscription Reveals Roots of Maccabean Revolt,” BAR 34:06; Dorothy D. Resig, “Volunteers Find Missing Pieces to Looted Inscription,” BAR 36:03.
Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem
The newest exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages, opened on May 5th. Designed to explore the origins and development of magic within Judaism, the exhibit is comprised of items relating to folklore and superstition such as amulets, Khamsas, jewelry, manuscripts and books of spells. Beliefs, customs and the practical use of magical objects in Jewish life will be examined beginning as far back as the First Temple Period up until recent times. The exhibit also includes loaned artifacts from the Golan Archaeological Museum, the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and numerous private collectors.To learn more please visit the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem website.
This long-term exhibit on view at the Penn Museum highlights the extraordinarily rich finds from the 4,500-year-old royal tombs from the ancient city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq. Among the nearly 2,000 burials that were discovered at the site by the famed archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley was the intact tomb of the Sumerian queen Puabi. Her body was found adorned with an elaborate headdress (pictured above) consisting of gold leaves, gold ribbons, strands of lapis lazuli and carnelian beads, along with chokers, necklaces and large lunate-shaped earrings. She also wore an elaborately decorated pectoral covered by strands of beads made of precious metals and semiprecious stones.
In addition to showcasing the wealth of the Ur tombs, the exhibit also brings together rarely seen photographs and documents of Woolley’s expedition and examines how modern science is changing the way scholars understand ancient Sumerian culture and burial practices. The exhibit also explores continued international efforts to help preserve and conserve Iraq’s threatened cultural heritage.
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
This unique exhibit showcases declassified images taken by U.S. government spy satellites in the 1960s that are now being used by archaeologists to locate and better understand ancient sites in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Peru. Through these bird’s-eye-view photographs, which are both visually captivating and teeming with archaeological information, visitors can detect the well-formed irrigation canals around the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh in Iraq, or the ancient tracks and roadways that still radiate out from the Bronze Age mound of Tell Brak in Syria.
A private collection consisting of medals, certificates and awards from the days of the Ottoman Empire, the period of the British Mandate, the Anzac period and into the era of the modern State of Israel is on display in the Araane Library at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The exhibit Official Awards and Orders in Eretz Israel features objects with drastically different histories. What they all have in common, however, is that each was awarded for an act that involved the state of Israel.
The collection belongs to Shaul Ladany, a Ben Gurion University professor of Industrial Engineering. Ladany, a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II, says his collection began with a medal he was awarded in 1954 for marksmanship.
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
An ancient Biblical text with an extraordinary story of discovery is on display for the first time at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Two manuscript fragments that were separated by both oceans and centuries have been reunited and pieced back together to make up the Song of the Sea, which was the song sung by the Israelites after escaping from slavery in Egypt.
It was not until 2007 when one of the two fragments, which was on display in New York, caught the attention of someone who accurately identified it as part of a text fragment that was being exhibited in Jerusalem. The fragments have since been brought back together and are shedding light on a period of history know as the “Silent Period.” This period in history, which spans from the 2nd century to the 10th century A.D., is an era from which very few Biblical manuscripts survive.
In addition to the Song of the Sea fragments, other ancient Biblical texts will be on display as part of the exhibit, including a fragment of the book of Exodus from the late first century B.C. as well as Renaissance-era frescoes and paintings.
California Science Center
A new traveling exhibition titled Mummies of the World, which features more than 150 preserved objects, will kick off its U.S. tour in Los Angeles at the California Science Center this summer. The collection will include ancient mummies and artifacts from Asia, Oceania, South America and Europe as well as ancient Egypt. In addition, the exhibition will feature accidental mummies—those that were preserved via natural events such as ice. The display will also include a gallery devoted to Egyptian antiquity containing specimens up to 8,500 years old.Read more about the “Mummies of the World” exhibit on the Los Angeles Times website.
This spring, the Brooklyn Museum will be opening a new exhibit titled The Mummy Chamber, which will use ancient Egyptian artifacts from the museum’s holdings in order to showcase the ancient practice of mummification. The exhibit’s design is intended to demonstrate the various types of mummification practiced in ancient Egypt as well as how the socio-economic status of ancient Egyptians was reflected in their burial practices.
Items intended for display include human and animal mummies, coffins, canopic jars, burials goods and jewelry. A highlight of the exhibit will be a portion of the Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, a 26-foot-long papyrus inscribed with spells pertaining to the afterlife dating back 3,000 years. The papyrus, which has recently undergone a two-year restoration, will be displayed to the public for the first time since it was obtained in 1937. In addition, two of the mummies that are intended for display include Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet, a Royal Prince and Count of Thebes, as well as the mummy of Hor, believed to be a priest during the Third Intermediate Period.
Some of the mummies have undergone extensive analysis consisting of CT scans in order to discover information such as sex, age and living habits. The findings of some of these studies will be also included in the exhibit.More information can be found on the Brooklyn Museum’s website.
The Getty Villa
This exhibit features more than 180 beautiful glass objects from across the ancient world that were made using a variety of methods and techniques, including this 2,000-year-old multicolored cup from Greece . On display are exquisitely crafted juglets, bowls and beakers from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome, many formed in delicate shapes or decorated with brilliantly colored geometric designs. These vessels, which date from 2500 B.C. to the 11th century A.D., provide a vivid illustration of how glassmaking has evolved over the millennia.More information can be found on The Getty Villa website.
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
After a multi-million pound renovation, Britain’s oldest public museum—the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford—reopened on November 7, 2009. The revamped museum consists of 39 galleries that include 4 temporary exhibition galleries, an education center, state-of-the-art conservation studios and Oxford’s first rooftop restaurant, The Ashmolean Dining Room.
The museum’s curators have attempted a new strategy of displaying the museum’s collections as means demonstrating how civilizations from all over the world have been part of an interrelated world culture. The Crossing Cultures Crossing Time strategy explores connections between objects and activities common to different cultures, such as money, reading and writing, and the representation of the human image.
As a teaching and research department of the University of Oxford, The Ashmolean publishes research from the fields of art history, history, archaeology, numismatics and Oriental studies.For more information about the Asmolean Museum, please visit their website.
The Davidson Center (located between Dung Gate and the Western Wall plaza)
The Israel Antiquities Authority has created a new exhibit in the Davidson Center in Jerusalem that showcases a collection of coins discovered during excavations at the base of the Temple Mount. The presentation of the coins, many of which date back over 2,000 years, illuminates the expansive history of Jerusalem over the millennia as a location of pilgrimages and religious quests.
The difference between the Jewish coins and the other ancient coins will be a highlight of the exhibit. The Jewish prohibition against making a “graven image or likeness of anything...” is evident in the symbols used on the Jewish coins, which are contrasted with the human images on the other coins from antiquity.
A rare shekel, minted around the time of the Great Revolt (70 C.E.), will make its debut during this exhibit along with a large sarcophagus lid inscribed with references to the son of one of the Second Temple-period priests.To learn more about Davidson Center in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park, visit their website.
Ethiopian and Egyptian Art Exhibition in Baltimore, Maryland
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is the home of an impressive collection of Egyptian and Ethiopian art. The Ethiopian art, which is the largest collection of its type outside of Ethiopia, is displayed with other works of art from Byzantium and Russia in order to highlight the ancient Christian Church. The majority of the pieces throughout the exhibit are related to the Coptic Church and the Orthodox community.
Museum of the Good Samaritan Opens in Israel
Judean Desert, Israel
The Museum of the Good Samaritan in Israel has recently opened to the public. Located in the Judean Desert between Jerusalem and Jericho, the museum will display mosaics and artifacts relating to the ancient Christians, Jews and Samaritans who resided in Israel long ago. This new museum is considered to be one of the largest mosaic museums in the world.
The site of the museum is identified with the Biblical Ma’ale Adumim, which was located at the junction between the tribal lands of Benjamin and of Judah (Joshua 15:7; 18:17). In the Byzantine period it was identified with the inn mentioned in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25Ð37). Some inspiration for the items chosen to be displayed in the museum comes from this parable, and accordingly the museum’s displays include items from both Jewish and Samaritan synagogues, as well as from ancient Christian churches.
The museum will have an open-air display that will showcase many mosaics, some of which were brought there as means of preserving and protecting them from damage and destruction.
Near Eastern Seals Exhibition
The Morgan Library & Museum
A number of Near Eastern seals from the collection belonging to Pierpont Morgan will be part of an ongoing exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. The various seals, which date from 3500 B.C. to 330 B.C., will be displayed with an ancient Near Eastern statue in order to demonstrate the relationship between the seals and other artwork from the region.
The themed exhibit will follow the progress of the iconography of power represented by the seals throughout Mesopotamia, from the emergence of their existence in the fourth millennium B.C. through the first millennium B.C., when Mesopotamia became part of the Persian Empire.
Some of the items that will be on display include the “Nude Bearded Hero Wrestling with Water Buffalo; Bull-Man Fighting Lion” (ca. 2334–2154 B.C.), an Akkadian period seal depicting two heraldic pairs and emphasizing the concepts of force and power, and “A Winged Hero Pursuing Two Ostriches” (ca. 12th–11th century B.C.), one of the most striking of the Morgan’s Middle Assyrian seals.
Neither Man nor Beast
Depictions of animals pervaded the imagery on the gold, silver and bronze coinage of ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. Although they often appear in their natural state, animals sometimes share the features of humans or other beasts, taking the form of mythical creatures like centaurs and sphinxes. Ancient Greek and Roman coins also featured heroes, divinities and rulers depicted with animal attributes to emphasize their special powers or to promote a specific political identity. Minted in third-century B.C. Naples, the coin pictured depicts the nymph Parthenope on the obverse side; on the reverse a man-headed bull is crowned by Nike.
This exhibit examines ancient notions of mixed identity—the idea of being neither man nor beast, neither fully mortal nor fully divine but somehow both. The ancient concept of a hybrid self was a significant element in the development of both political and religious thought, which imagined God as a being of multiple identities and faces and, in some cases, of mixed lineage.
Temples, Tells and Tombs
Milwaukee Public Museum
Now showing at the Milwaukee Public Museum is an exhibition titled “Temples, Tells and Tombs.” The exhibition mixes the ancient and the modern to help visitors interpret the past.
The Biblical Archaeology Society is an educational non-profit 501c(3) organization. Make a tax-deductible gift today.
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