The Amizing Ancient Gold Collections Exhibition











The Driwan’s  Cybermuseum



Medallion with Bust of Alexander the Great (ca. 218-235 CE) gold. Roman (probably struck in Macedonia), diameter 5.4 cm.


et les masterpieces de la collection




Mumienmaske eines Mannes, Römisch, 1. Hälfte des 1. Jh. n. Chr, Hawara; Temperamalerei auf Leinwand, Gips,


Among the works in the new galleries are a pair of Greek serpentine armbands in gold (about 200 B.C.).


Schildring mit Löwenkopf, Meroitisch, 1. Jhrd. v. Chr., Meroë, Pyramide der Amanishakheto; Gold © SMB,













Trésor. Argenterie


Cigale en cristal de roche


Le collier d’Assiut, 400-600



Gold Turtle Necklace, AD 1400-1521, Mexico. Copyright Dumbarton Oaks, Pre-Columbian Collection, Washington, DC.


Gold finger ring, 1200 – 1521, gold pendant of human face and warrior-ruler figurine with ritual regalia. Copyright the Trustees of the British Museum.


Pendant, c. 1200-1521, Mixtec-Zapotec. Gold with silver and copper. © The Trustees of the British Museum.


Finger ring made of cast gold with a feline head, 1300-1521, Mixtec


Headdress Ornament with Animals and Birds, Colchian, 350–300 B.C. Gold. Greatest extent: H: 6.6 x W: 6.5 x D: 2.7 cm (2 5/8 x 2 9/16 x 1 1/16 in.) Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia, 1-2005/1. Photo: Amiran Kiladze.VEX.2009.4.106

LOS ANGELES, CA.- In a spectacular display of archaeological finds, The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani, on view from July 16–October 5, 2009, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, presents more than 140 objects from one of the most celebrated archaeological sites in the Republic of Georgia, including four recently excavated bronze lamps, shown together for the first time.

Vani was an important settlement in the ancient kingdom of Colchis, a region best known as the destination of Jason and the Argonauts in their mythical quest for the Golden Fleece. Even in antiquity, Colchis was renowned as a region rich in gold, and excavations at Vani have confirmed this reputation. Prompted by reports of jewelry that came to the surface following heavy rainfall in the area, archaeologists in the late 1930s began to systematically explore Vani. Their excavations have uncovered a series of burials in which the deceased were laid to rest wearing a sumptuous array of ornaments, and have revealed that Vani was a major political and religious center.

The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani features an extraordinary array of objects, dating from the mid-fifth to mid-first centuries B.C. From an impressive variety of locally-made gold jewelry to imports from the Persian Empire and the Greek world, the ancient treasures in the exhibition reveal both the region’s rich material resources and a complex and fruitful network of interactions with neighboring peoples.

“This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of this ancient temple city and give visitors a view into the complex interrelations of ancient cultures,” says Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are delighted to have these objects together here in Los Angeles for the very first time.”

David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgian National Museum, adds, “We are delighted that these exquisite objects from one of Georgia’s most important archeological sites are serving as the cultural bridge between Georgian museums and American institutions such as the Getty Museum, the Smithsonian, and the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. We are equally pleased to see the Getty Villa bejeweled by the magnificent Georgian treasures of Vani, providing audiences a glimpse into our country, its history, and rich culture. We hope this collaboration with the Getty Museum is only the beginning of a long lasting relationship between our institutions. ”

Although The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani, organized by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, has toured the United States and Europe, the Getty presentation includes four elaborate bronze lamps that were discovered during excavations at the site in 2007. Part of a hoard of precious bronzes, they may have been deposited during a time of crisis. The discovery of this well-preserved cache of ancient metalwork is significant for the light it sheds on the manufacture and use of bronze in ancient Colchis. Furthermore, the artistry of the lamps is difficult to parallel—for example, the careful rendering of the Indian elephant heads that serve as nozzles for an Incense Burner (250–100 B.C.), or the elaborate composition of the Lamp with Elephant Heads and Human Figures (250–100 B.C.). Two of the lamps—the Lamp with Zeus and Ganymede and Lamp with Erotes (250–100 B.C.)—have never been displayed before, and were brought to the Getty for cleaning and analysis as part of a collaborative project with Georgian archaeologists and conservators.

“This is the first time we’ve brought objects directly from an archaeological site to the Museum for treatment and conservation, which carries with it great responsibility. We have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and expertise with our Georgian colleagues and were delighted to have Dr. Nino Kalandadze, a visiting conservator morefrom the Georgian National Museum, at the Villa for several weeks working on the lamps with our conservation team,” says Jerry Podany, the Getty Museum’s senior conservator of antiquities.

The exhibition focuses on a treasure trove of objects from five of the 28 graves that have been excavated at the site so far. They date to 450–250 B.C, when Vani was at the height of its prosperity. Among them, Grave 11 is the earliest and perhaps the richest burial. Dating to the mid-fifth century B.C., it contains four bodies laid inside a wooden structure and, outside it, a horse. Although all four bodies wore jewelry, one—a woman—was much more elaborately adorned, indicating her elite status.

The Necklace with Turtle Pendants (about 450 B.C.), a stunning example of Colchian goldwork, is one of the five necklaces discovered in this grave. The shells of the turtles are intricately decorated with granulation—the application of numerous tiny gold spheres—and are indicative of the advanced skill of Colchian goldworkers.

Another burial, Grave 24, excavated in 2004, exemplifies the cultural contacts enjoyed by the local aristocracy, for alongside another assemblage of gold jewelry and adornments are vessels imported from—or inspired by—both the Greek world and the Persian Empire. Of particular interest is the Silver Belt (350–300 B.C.) that depicts a banqueter attended by servants, testifying to the cultural importance of feasting.

The other three burials featured in the exhibition include a grave of a woman (Grave 6), which contained a striking polychrome pendant, manufactured in the Persian Empire but imported and adapted for local use at Vani; the grave of a warrior (Grave 9), whose gold ring bears an inscription in Greek, Dedatos, which may be his name; and the grave of an infant girl (Grave 4), who was adorned with gold jewelry just like her elders.

“The archaeological finds not only demonstrate the highly refined craftsmanship of local goldworkers, but also testify to contacts with both the Greek world and the Persian Empire,” says Karol Wight, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of antiquities. “Through our presentation, we hope to introduce visitors to an ancient heritage that expands our knowledge of an important civilization in this region. Many of the objects unearthed at Vani are without parallel in the ancient Mediterranean world.”

After the mid-third century B.C., evidence of rich burials ceases at the site. Most of the structures—such as altars and cult buildings—seem to have a religious or ritual function and, according to some scholars, Vani served thereafter as a sanctuary-city. Among the treasures from this period is the Torso of a Youth (200–100 B.C.), a well-proportioned bronze in a style that recalls Greek sculptures dating to 490–460 B.C., but that seems to have been made locally. It was discovered in an archaeological context that indicates it was a victim of the military destruction sustained at Vani around 50 B.C., which brought activity at the site to an abrupt end.


Gold Phiale Mesomphalos, Vani, Achaemenid influence, 400-350 B.C


Pendentif à deux passants en forme de grenouille chamanique. Diquis-Veraguas, Costa Rica ou Panama (700-1.500 ap. J.-C.) 

décoré d’un serpent s’échappant de la gueule de l’animal. Ses quatre pieds sont terminés par des têtes d’alligators. Or jaune, fonte à la cire perdue. Hauteur : 8 cm / longueur : 6 cm / Poids : 62,9g . Estimation : 10 000/12 000 €


Pendentif à un passant arrière en forme de faon ou de cerf. Costa Rica ou Panama (700-1.500 ap. J.-C.)


Diadem, Late 4th c. B.C., Gold. From Populonia. Florence, National Archaeological Museum


Pair of “bauletto” Earrings, Middle of 6th c. B.C., Gold.




Gold necklace elements, with turquoise, gray chalcedony, glass. Iran, late 14th to early 15th century C.E. Photograph © 1989 The Metropolitan Museum of Art




Gold pendant with pair of birds, Greater Iran, 11th to 12th century C.E.


The Garden of Eden plays an important part in Islamic jewelry, with birds being the central theme. Here we see a pair of birds touching at their beaks and chests as they stand on their tiny feet in the middle of this pendant.




Carnelian and gold necklace, Deir el-Balah, 13th century B.C.E.


This necklace consists of 244 carnelian and gold beads and wedjat eye amulets. The center gold spacer is decorated in the repoussé technique; it depicts an image of the goddess Hathor, the goddess of love and joy


Pair of Earrings with Dangling Bells, Parthian, 3rd to 2nd century B.C.E. Gold, H: 6.5 cm. Private Collection

NEW YORK, NY.- The National Jewelry Institute (NJI), the world’s first institute devoted to jewelry and precious objects, announced that Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization is on view at The Forbes Galleries, located at 62 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY through December 31, 2008.

Cited by experts as the most unique and profound show of its kind, the exhibition brings together 135 jewelry objects and accessories from the far reaches of history and the birthplace of civilization. Culled from the world’s greatest museums, the collection includes breathtaking pieces from the Louvre in Paris, Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

As Christopher Forbes, Vice Chairman, Forbes, Inc. stated, “Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry offers a window into ancient life and society. This is the sixth in a series of exhibitions organized by the National Jewelry Institute for which The FORBES Galleries have been privileged to provide a setting. It is also the most ambitious exhibition undertaken to date. Bringing almost 150 pieces for a show is a daunting task under any circumstances, but when the works in question include priceless treasures thousands of years old coming from museums and private collections around the world, the effort involved is Herculean.”

Some of the gems and jewels showcased are more than 7,000 years old and derive from the Ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia, the region that is believed by many historians to be the location of the Garden of Eden, revered by the world’s major religions.

“Jewelry is much more than simply personal adornment,” said Price. “Like all true art, it can be a remarkable expression of a culture and way of life. This collection offers a glimpse of an ancient civilization—one that lies at the very foundation of the modern Western world.”

Following its run at The Forbes Galleries, the exhibition will travel to the Field Museum in Chicago where it will be on display from February 13, 2009 through July 5, 2009.

The corporate partners for Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry are: Christian Dior Couture and AXA Art Insurance Corporation. NJI has also produced a book titled Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization, published by Running Press (ISBN 978-0-7624-3386-5).



Deux magnifiques exemples de la joaillerie égyptienne


















Collier. Art hellénistique. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Bandeau tressé composé de six rangs de fins maillons, dont les extrémités forment un cœur serti d’un grenat. 47,5 cm. Estimation : 10 000 / 12 000 €

Paire de bracelets en or. Iran, 17e siècle. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Anneaux articulés creux, dont les extrémités jointes sont en forme de polyèdres bulbeux. Le décor, repoussé et ciselé, se compose de bandes obliques, de motifs floraux et végétaux en frises et de listels ponctués. Diam. 9,5 cm. Estimation : 7 000 / 8 000 €


Cast-Gold Composite Animal Effigy Pendant (detail)

Emerging from the soaring cloud forests, rushing rivers, and dancing waterfalls of Central Panama, a celestial hero of ancient myth, arrayed in supernatural golden clothing, revealed himself to the modern world when, in the early 1900s, stories began to circulate of children playing marbles with gold beads found in the great Coclé River.

The first Cuna San Blas Indians believed their gods, heroes, and other mythic men and women could turn into animals at will to accomplish special purposes. At the time of a great flood or other cosmic disaster, gods transformed people into animals to allow them to survive or to punish them. It was in the late 1920s that news of a veritable “river of gold” began to spread as large quantities of fabled golden animals and sacred ornaments were discovered, attracting the attention of archaeologists.

River of Gold: Precolumbian Treasures from Sitio Conte tells the story of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s (whose collection was the source of the incredible exhibition Searching for Ancient Egypt, which drew 134,578 visitors to Joslyn in 1999) excavations at the Precolumbian cemetery of Sitio Conte, Panama, and, for the first time, presents these archaeological treasures within their cultural context.


Cast-Gold Bat Effigy Pendant (detail)

The cemeteries of Sitio Conte — about 100 miles west of Panama City — were overlooked by gold-seeking Spaniards in the 16th century, a fortunate circumstance when, at the turn of the 19th century, the Rio Grande de Coclé shifted its bed yet again and partially exposed the burials and their contents. In the 1940s a Penn Museum expedition undertook an excavation that uncovered rich and remarkable evidence that a thriving Precolumbian civilization had inhabited the region more than a thousand years previously. Great quantities of gold artifacts and jewelry were found especially in the grave of one high-status individual. Like the sun emerging from the underworld, gold objects removed from the burial mounds conveyed highly symbolic images of the creation myth and personifications of nature’s animal and human forces. The gold work from the site, which is almost entirely body ornamentation, is famous for its extraordinary beauty and sophisticated technology. Goldsmiths of the New World were consummate artisans, and those who created the objects found in the Sitio Conte cemetery were no exception. Working with the simplest of tools, they utilized technologies such as embossing, lost-wax casting, and depletion gilding to achieve extraordinary aesthetic effects. Plaques and cuffs were crafted from hammered gold sheet; cast pendants were exquisitely detailed, one-of-a-kind items.

The exhibition presents the gold from Sitio Conte in its unique archaeological and cultural context. Included are more than 150 gold objects dating from 700 to 1100 AD — hammered repoussé plaques, nose ornaments, gold-sheathed ear rods, pendants, bells, bangles, and beads — as well as richly detailed, painted ceramics and objects of precious and semi-precious stone, ivory, and bone.

Very little is known about the ancient societies of Central America, which have long been overshadowed by the more famous Precolumbian civilizations of Mesoamerica and the Andes. River of Gold is not only a visually stunning exhibition, it also gives viewers an invaluable glimpse into a Panamanian society as it was a thousand years ago and promotes an understanding of the culture of these enigmatic people who left such sophisticated art in their elite burials.


Gold Nose Clip (detail)

Parements cloisonnés. 5e-6e siècle


Parements cloisonnés. 5e-6e siècle. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Six boucles et boutons, dont trois en forme de fleurs écloses, sertis de grenats ou de turquoises. Quelques lacunes. Estimation : 50 000 / 60 000 €

Provenance : Collection L. Grenacs, Belgique. (1975).

 à l’antilope. Art sino-sibérien des Steppes, 1er millénaire av. J.C.


Plaque à l’antilope. Art sino-sibérien des Steppes, 1er millénaire av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Plaque discoïde en fer recouverte d’une feuille d’or repoussée, décorée d’une antilope couchée, tête de trois-quarts tournée en arrière. 4,8 cm – Estimation : 12 000 / 14 000 €

Provenance : Hôtel Drouot (Me Boisgirard – A. Kevorkian), 15 Décembre 1995 : n° 9B.

Vase libatoire.Bactriane, 3e-2e millénaire av. J.C.


Vase libatoire.Bactriane, 3e-2e millénaire av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Vase à panse arrondie et bec en gouttière horizontale, fendu au sommet. A l’opposé, une anse coudée tubulaire, appliquée au récipient, comme le bec, par une plaque discoïde percée de trous formant passoire, se prolonge par une tête de chameau à robe ponctuée et crinière en mèches. Haut. 10 ; Long. 33 ; Diam. 14 cm – Estimation sur demande

Un rapport d’analyse effectué à Los Angeles par Pieter Meyers confirmant l’ancienneté de l’objet sera remis à l’acquéreur.


Broche aux animaux. Art grec, vers le 5e siècle av. J.C.


Broche aux animaux. Art grec, vers le 5e siècle av. J.C. photo Boisgirard et Associés

Plaque rectangulaire, décorée de rosettes et fleurs écloses et garnie dans les angles de quatre figurines de taureaux couchés, tête tournée en direction d’un lion accroupi. Plaque : 7 x 4,5 cm – Estimation : 28 000 / 32 000 €





Bague romaine en or et intaille du 3e siècle.

Lourde bague romaine en or fin. L’anneau est formé d’une large bande plate qui va en s’élargissant du pied aux épaules. Les épaules sont incisées de deux nervures profondes et une plus fine au centre. Les bords du chaton sont découpés de volutes. L’intaille est en agate onyx à trois bandes, en forme de cône tronqué, ce qui, vue de dessus, lui donne l’apparence d’un œil. Ce type d’agate était très recherché pour ses vertus prophylactiques. Une inscription de trois caractères romains est gravée sur le sommet de l’intaille : M A P, sans doute pour représenter les initiales du nom du propriétaire (Marcus Antonius Publius, par exemple). Le serti de l’intaille est « en cuvette ».


A Hellenistic gold oak wreath, Circa 4th-3rd Century B.C. Estimate: £100,000 – 120,000. photo Bonhams

A delicate wreath made of fine gold oak leaves with acorns, of the type worn by Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, is one of the highlights of Bonhams sale of Antiquities on April 28 in New Bond Street.

This stunning artefact, estimate £100,000-120,000, may once have graced the head of a ruler or dignitary over 2,000 years ago. “The fact that this delicate collection of fine gold leaves and acorns formed into a wreath has survived the centuries is almost miraculous,” says Madeleine Perridge, Antiquities Specialist at Bonhams. Previously in a private collection since the 1930s, “it is a beautiful example of a type that is rare to the market.”



A Hellenistic gold oak wreath (details), Circa 4th-3rd Century B.C. Estimate: £100,000 – 120,000. photo Bonhams

Composed of numerous projecting sprays of sheet gold oak leaves with serrated edges and veins, miniature acorns nestling amongst them, each spray attached by twisted gold wire to a circular gold tube, the overlapping ends bound together to form a crown, 17in (43cm) diam, 5½in (14cm) deep, mounted on a perspex stand. 

Provenance: Private Swiss collection acquired between the 1930s-60s.
Acquired by the present owner at Sotheby’s London, July 11th, 1988, lot 83. Accompanied by a metallurgical/condition report.

Literature: The most famous of these types of wreaths is that found at Vergina in the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father Philip II of Macedon: M. Andronicos, Vergina: The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City, (Athens 1984), figs.137 & 184. However, such gold wreaths have been found in burials all over the Hellenistic world including Asia Minor, the North Pontic, and Magna Graecia. This is a very ornate and detailed example; for a similar oak leaf wreath with acorns, cf. D. Williams & J. Ogden, Greek Gold: Jewellery of the Classical World, (London 1994), pp.106-7, no.60; Also cf. Exhibition Catalogue, The Search for Alexander, (New York 1980), pl.36, p.187, no.173.

The sale also boasts a private English Collection of finely-painted Greek vases of exceptional condition. Previously exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, they are painted by leading artists from Classical Athens. They include:

An Attic red-figure stemless kylix by Douris, circa 480 B.C. showing a draped youth with defined musculature, standing in an Athenian wine-shop amongst large amphorae, (estimate £30,000-40,000). Exhibited in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard from 1937, this drinking cup is a fascinating image of Athenian life in the Classical period.


Pyramid mounts and an inscribed strip from the Anglo-Saxon gold Staffordshire hoard which has now received a £1.3m Heritage grant to meet the £3.3m total required for it to remain in Midlands museums. Photograph: Staffordshire hoard website/PA

LONDRES (ROYAUME-UNI) [25.03.10] – Le Trésor de Staffordshire, un des plus importants trésors anglo-saxons, a été sauvé de la dispersion grâce à une subvention d’environ 1,3 millions de livres du National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF).

La NHMF qui fait pourtant face à d’importants problèmes financiers – son budget ayant été réduit de moitié – a contribué à hauteur d’environ 1,3 millions de livres à la sauvegarde du trésor de Staffordshire. Cette contribution met fin à neuf mois de campagne pour conserver le Trésor sur le territoire britannique, plus précisément dans deux musées du West Midlands, région de sa découverte.

Trouvé en juin 2009 par un amateur dans la région du Staffordshire, le dépôt daté des VIIe VIIIe siècles qui se compose de 1500 objets à caractère guerrier en or (5 kg) et en argent (1,3 kg) est le plus important trésor anglo-saxon découvert à ce jour.

Déclaré trésor en septembre 2009 par le coroner – fonctionnaire chargé entre autres, de mettre en application le Treasure Act, c’est-à-dire l’ensemble de lois relatives à la découverte d’un trésor –, il devient un bien de la couronne britannique. Récupéré pour des études par le Burningham Archeology, il fait depuis, l’objet d’expositions, d’abord au Burningham Museum & Art Gallery puis au British Museum –jusqu’au 17 avril 2010.

En novembre 2009, le comité chargé d’évaluer le prix du Trésor a estimé celui-ci à plus de 3 millions de livres, somme qui devait être réunie par les musées locaux avant le 17 avril sans quoi le trésor serait alors vendu à des acheteurs privés.

Dame Jenny Abramsky s’est félicité de cette initiative en précisant au Guardian que « c’est exactement pour ce genre de chose que NHMF a été créé » et qu’il répondait ainsi à sa mission première de préservation du patrimoine national d’importance exceptionnelle en danger. La ministre de la Culture britannique, Margaret Hodge, a également salué ce geste.

Néanmoins, une somme supplémentaire d’environ 1,7 millions de livres est nécessaire pour pouvoir étudier et conserver correctement le trésor qui est loin d’avoir livré tous ses secrets.

Les 3,3 millions de livres seront partagées entre le découvreur et le propriétaire du terrain sur lequel le trésor a été découvert. 


Amateur metal detector unearths largest haul of gold from the period ever found – 1,500 pieces including weapons, helmet decorations, coins and Christian crosses. Photograph: PR


A dagger hilt found in the Staffordshire hoard. Photograph: PR


A detail of a fish and eagles. The first scraps of gold were found in a field by Terry Herbert, an amateur metal detector, in July. He could now be in line to share £1m with the landowner. Photograph: PR


A folded cross. Photograph: PR


A gold helmet cheekpiece. Photograph: PR


A gold hilt fitting with inlaid garnets. One expert has described the hoard as being as significant as the Book of Kells. Photograph: PR


A gold plaque with entwined and stylised arms. Photograph: PR


A gold scabbard boss with inlaid garnets. Photograph: PR


A gold strip with a biblical inscription. Photograph: PR


A pair of pyramid sword fittings. Photograph: PR


A figure of an animal, possibly from the crest of a helmet. Photograph: PR


A gold sword fitting with an inlaid garnet. Photograph: PR


A cheekpiece, fittings and zoomorphic mount. Photograph: PR


Fish and eagles. Photograph: PR


A glass chequerboard stud with a gold and garnet surround


“Byzanz: Splendour and Everyday Life” @ the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn




Perfume brazier, 12th century, San Marco, Venice; © Procuratoria della Basilica di San Marco, Venezia


BONN.- Presenting more than 600 magnificent and historically meaningful exhibits and important artefacts from collections and archaeological excavations the exhibition shed light on many aspects of the history, archaeology and art of the Byzantine Empire.

It will offer an overview of the “Byzantine Millenium” (from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 A.D. to the conquest by the Ottomans in 1453), but will concentrate above all on the prospering of the Empire from the time of Justinian I (527–565 A.D.) until the plundering of Constantinople by western crusaders in 1204. Preciosous ivories, spectacular icons and manuscripts, architectural fragments, sculptures and everyday objects are presented in their original contexts. The main questions of the Byzantine state, Byzantine art and culture, society, economy, the Byzantine military, as well as daily life, etc., are to be discussed on the basis of “scenes”, by means of which these themes can be made highly accessible. The “scenes” will be reconstructed and animated with the help of computer graphics; archaeological finds will thus “speak”. Animated films will introduce the respective sections of the exhibition.


The exhibition will also illustrate the achievements of the various disciplines that have contributed to our understanding of Byzantine culture, and thus have enabled an understanding of the present: above all Byzantine studies, art history and archaeology, along with few other related fields.




Medaillon with St. Theodore, 12th century, Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kiev; © Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine, Kiev


Antiquity has left its mark on Europe. In which way this happened clearly distinguishes Western from Eastern Europe. The upheavals of the Migration Period with the subsequent foundation of the barbarian kingdoms largely brought the development of the Mediterranean civilisation to a standstill in the Roman West. It was the church that managed the inheritance of the Greeks and Romans. Both the Carolingeans and agents of the powerful 14th century Renaissance consciously reached back to the time of Constantine the Great and carried the achievements of Antiquity forward.

The situation in the East was different: In Constantinople, the Greco-Roman world in its Christian version remained vibrant for centuries. The members of ruling circles regarded themselves as the heirs of Greece and Rome; they were conscious of the ancient past and could draw from it. Naturally, over the course of centuries adaptations were made to meet new conditions as they arose. Almost parallel to the rise of the Ottonian kings, Byzantium became a medieval state. Yet, substantial elements of Roman civilisation endured: The literary and scientific inheritance of Rome was preserved in scholarly circles and monastic scriptoria; the Empire likewise remained urban and centralised in its structure. Even in difficult periods of Byzantine history, the uniform system of taxation and finance continued to function and interregional trade ensured the supply for the cities. High-quality goods like silk textiles and masterful enamelled works were appreciated internationally.

The contribution of the Byzantine Empire to modern Europe is far more important than we are aware of. Because Constantinople resisted Arab expansion, the medieval West could continue developing. The christianisation of all of Southeastern and Eastern Europe, the Balkan countries, Ukraine and Russia was conducted by Byzantium; Cyrillic script was developed by Byzantine missionaries. The European legal system is based on the Corpus iuris civilis promulgated in Byzantium under the emperor Justinian I. The Italian Renaissance received substantial impulses from Byzantine erudition, not least from the classical Byzantine painting. Even Turkish culture is likewise partly based on Byzantine antecedents: for example, the typical architecture of the mosques developed from the Byzantine domed churches.




Necklace, Constantinople (?), around 600, RGZM, Mainz, © RGZM, Mainz


I. The problem of the sources
The extant sources from the Byzantine Empire are modest in comparison with their significance for European history. Historians must do with relatively few written sources since only fragments of the once rich archives survived today. Of the magnificent palaces and public buildings almost nothing remains. In essence, a few churches and their furnishings inform us about the size of the last ancient state in the Middle Ages. For this reason archaeological research is even more important, since its potential is nearly unlimited and its methods, in part due to the contributions of natural sciences, continue to develop. Only in the last decades special attention has been given to daily life of the general population of Byzantium, and there are new results from all regions of the Byzantine Empire that can be placed in a larger context. German and Austrian institutions are leading or involved in many of these undertakings.

II. The planned exhibition
The exhibition will make use of magnificent and historically meaningful exhibits and important artefacts from collections and archaeological excavations to shed light on many aspects of the history, archaeology and art of the Byzantine Empire. It will offer an overview of the “Byzantine Millenium” (from the foundation of Constantinople by Constantine the Great in 324 A.D. to the conquest by the Ottomans in 1453), but will concentrate above all on the prospering of the Empire from the time of Justinian I (527–565 A.D.) until the plundering of Constantinople by western crusaders in 1204. The main questions of the Byzantine state, Byzantine art and culture, society, economy, the Byzantine military, as well as daily life, etc., are to be discussed on the basis of “scenes”, by means of which these themes can be made highly accessible. The “scenes” will be reconstructed and animated with the help of computer graphics; archaeological finds will thus “speak”. Animated films will introduce the respective sections of the exhibition. The planned exhibition will also illustrate the achievements of the various disciplines that have contributed to our understanding of Byzantine culture, and thus have enabled an understanding of the present: above all Byzantine studies, art history and archaeology, along with few other related issues.




Portrait of Constantine I, 325–330,



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