Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs
29 October 2015 – 7 February 2016
Exploring religious history in Egypt over 12 centuries, as the land was transformed by the practices of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
The death of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony in 30 BC sparked an enormous transition in Egypt that saw its subsumption by the Roman Empire and the removal of pharaonic rule. Throughout the 1,200 years that followed this traditionally polytheist country underwent periods of Christian and Muslim majorities, as well as encompassing prominent Jewish communities.
The British Museum’s major exhibition is the first to closely analyse this fascinating period of history, which saw the iconography and architecture of these differing faiths reappropriated, adapted and amalgamated.
To underline the founding principles of these religions, three significant artefacts form the core of this show. The Hebrew Bible and the Islamic Qu’ran are displayed alongside the New Testament section of the Codex Sinaiticus – the world’s oldest surviving Bible.
There are also an enormous variety of scriptures, letters and legal documents on display, including over 200,000 texts from Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo from 11th-13th century. These more commonplace items reveal the everyday reality of religious practice and individual experience in relation to the better-known stories of institutionalised faith.
An incredible statue of the falcon-headed Egyptian god Horus wearing Roman armour, articulating both ancient and contemporary authority through appropriation.