Cleopatra rises from the sea and lands in Milwaukee
Everyone from Roman invaders to Hollywood film directors has told the story of Cleopatra.
And the story has fascinated the world for two millennia. How could it not? After all, it's got torrid love affairs, one of the world's most fabled seductresses, invading armies, political intrigue, a dramatic suicide, earthquakes, a tidal wave and, in the end, a glorious city trapped beneath the sea.
But thanks to "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt," which opened Friday and runs through April 29 at Milwaukee Public Museum, we can now get a closer look at the myths and realities of Cleopatra VII.
The exhibition, organized by National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), has visited three previous cities in the U.S.
The nearly 150 artifacts in the show, including statuary, jewelry, daily items, coins and religious, are making their American debut with this touring exhibition.
"I hope that the arrival of Cleopatra in Milwaukee will bring very good luck," said Franck Goddio, pulling out and donning a Brewers cap, as the exhibition prepared to open last week.
Goddio, French underwater archaeologist and director of IEASM, has been leading parallel expeditions – the other is helmed by pre-eminent Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass – that aim to uncover more and more of the history of Cleopatra.
While Hawass has been searching on land for Cleopatra's tomb, Goddio and his team have been working underwater.
"We were looking for three missing, very important sites: the city of Heracleion, which had never been discovered, the city of Canubis and the Greek port of Alexandria, which was once the glory of this fabulous civilization, capital of Egypt and capital of Cleopatra," Goddio said, noting that the exploration continues to this day.
"And we are now able to show what Alexandria looked like in antiquity with this beautiful Portus Magnus, which was the biggest port in antiquity. Every square meter we are excavating.
"We brought everything to the surface and now all those artifacts are (here in Milwaukee). Now above water, these artifacts speak about the glory of the time of Cleopatra."
While Goddio left on Saturday to return to exploring the waters off Egypt, Milwaukee gets to look at the artifacts Goddio left behind.
There is a pair of sphinxes, a wealth of gold jewelry, sculptures and even a document signed by Cleopatra (the original and a copy are being rotated to help preserve the fragile relic).
Most eye-catching is a pair of gargantuan 16-foot statues of a Ptolemaic king and queen from the 4th-3rd centuries B.C. that were brought up from the sea by Goddio's team. Each weighs about five tons and they are the heaviest objects ever to be displayed at the museum.
Especially interesting is a section near the end in which Hawass explains his theory of where he expects to find the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. A few dozen objects from the site are on display in the adjoining room and offer tangible evidence to support his theory.
The exhibition flows nicely and replaces the usual text-heavy panels with nearly 20 video screens. Music was composed specifically for each room and the lighting design is attractive, too, often with twinkling blues to remind visitors that most of the objects spent the past 2,000 years underwater.
"The aim of our work is to reveal traces of the past and bring history back to life," said Goddio. "We are delighted to present our underwater archaeological achievements and discoveries off the coast of Egypt to the American public."
Post a comment / write a review.
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.