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"Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" Headed to Cincinnati Museum Center
Sphinx (Ptolemy XII), Alexandria, 1st century BCE. Granodiorite. H. 2.3 ft / L. 4.9 ft © Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photo: Jerome Delafosse.
CINCINNATI, OH.- The world of Cleopatra VII, which has been lost to the sea and sand for nearly 2,000 years, will surface in Cincinnati on February 18, 2011 when “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt” opens its doors. Cincinnati Museum Center was selected as the second stop in the world for the exhibition tour. Tickets for the exhibition go on sale today. On view at Cincinnati Museum Center through September 5, 2011, the exhibition features nearly 150 artifacts from Cleopatra’s time and takes visitors inside the present-day search for the elusive queen, which extends from the sands of Egypt to the depths of the Bay of Aboukir near Alexandria.

The exhibition is organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM). It features statuary, jewelry, daily items, coins and religious tokens that archaeologists have uncovered from the time surrounding Cleopatra’s rule, all of which are visiting the U.S. for the first time. An original papyrus document from Cleopatra’s time containing an inscription that scientists believe was written in Cleopatra’s own hand will also be on display.

After Egypt succumbed to Roman forces and Cleopatra famously took her own life following the suicide of her lover Mark Antony, the Romans attempted to wipe her legacy from the pages of history. Cleopatra thus has remained one of history’s greatest enigmas, and her final resting place is one of Egypt’s great unsolved mysteries. The artifacts in this exhibition are woven into the story of her rule and life in ancient Egypt during her dynasty (Ptolemaic period). The story of her life and time unfolds in a dramatic setting with high-definition multimedia and original soundscapes. Each guest receives an audio tour with admission that provides a rich background to the featured artifacts.

Visitors to the exhibition follow the modern-day parallel stories of two ongoing expeditions being led in Egypt by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s pre-eminent archaeologist and secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Franck Goddio, French underwater archaeologist and director of IEASM. Goddio’s search has resulted in one of the most ambitious underwater expeditions ever undertaken, which has uncovered Cleopatra’s royal palace and the two ancient cities of Canopus and Heracleion, which until 10 years ago had been lost beneath the sea after a series of earthquakes and tidal waves nearly 2,000 years ago.

On land, Hawass and a team of archaeologists are searching for the tomb of the ill-fated lovers Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Never-before-seen artifacts referencing Cleopatra, excavated by Hawass’ team at the temple of Taposiris Magna, about 30 miles west of Alexandria, are featured.

“Queen Cleopatra has captured the hearts of people all over the world. Remembered as a beautiful, charismatic and powerful woman, many things about her life are still shrouded in mystery. In 2005, we began to search for the tomb where she was buried with her lover, Mark Antony, which we believe was in an ancient temple near Alexandria,” said Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. “So far, we have found coins, statues, and even shafts that are leading us closer to what would be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in history. This exhibition, which includes objects found in our current excavations, will give the American people the chance to learn about our search for Cleopatra, and will share with them the magic of this fascinating queen.”

The exhibition also showcases artifacts from Franck Goddio’s continuing underwater search off the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, begun in 1992 and sponsored by the Hilti Foundation. Goddio’s remarkable finds bring visitors inside his search for the lost world of Cleopatra, including remnants from the grand palace where she ruled. Visitors also see underwater footage and photos of Goddio’s team retrieving artifacts from the ocean and bringing them to the surface for the first time in centuries.

“The aim of our work is to reveal traces of the past and bring history back to life. We are delighted to present our underwater archaeological achievements and discoveries off the coast of Egypt to the American public,” said Franck Goddio.

“Cleopatra is one of the most fascinating figures of ancient Egypt,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president for Mission Programs. “This exhibition tells her remarkable story through rare artifacts excavated from two ongoing archaeological projects, bringing ancient Egypt’s famous last pharaoh back to life through modern-day exploration.”

“I am so proud that Cincinnati Museum Center is able to provide our community with this tremendous window on the world and Cleopatra’s remarkable story,” said Douglass W. McDonald, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center. “This is a MUST-SEE experience; one that tells the story of Cleopatra’s power, mystery, ambition, strategy, romance, glamour and economic success. This experience with its audio guide, incredible artifacts and videography shares deep insight into a ruler that protected her country, made strategic alliances for its independence and cultivated economic and intellectual prosperity.”

“It is an honor for Cincinnati to be chosen as the first city in the Midwest to host this amazing exhibit on the life of Cleopatra,” said Mark Mallory, mayor of the City of Cincinnati. “Hosting this unique exhibit at the Museum Center is another example of the national significance Cincinnati has as a premier arts destination.”

Cleopatra, the last great pharaoh before Egypt succumbed to Roman opposition, lived from 69 – 30 B.C., with a rule that was marked with political intrigue and challenges to her throne. She captivated two of the most powerful men of her day, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as she attempted to restore Egypt to its former superpower status.

The nearly 150 artifacts in the exhibition – from the smallest gold pieces and coins to colossal statues – provide a window into Cleopatra’s story as well as the daily lives of her contemporaries, both powerful and humble. The artifacts weigh in at about 30 tons in total, including two colossal 16-foot granite statues of a Ptolemaic king and queen from the 4th – 3rd centuries B.C., pulled from the sea by Goddio’s team.

“Cleopatra’s story of love, power, glamour and tragedy has intrigued us for centuries and has fueled archeologists to continue searching for greater understanding,” said John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International. “Visitors to this new exhibition will gain insight into her life by discovering objects from Cleopatra’s world, even as efforts continue today to piece together new insights into the life of one of history’s most remarkable leaders.”

Cincinnati Museum Center | "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" | Zahi Hawass |


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