Sunday, May 20, 2012

Exhibition Review: The Dawn of Egyptian Art

California Literary Review  (Ed Voves)

With lovely photos.

Ancient Egypt, the world’s first nation-state, really was “the gift of the Nile.” But much of the form and content of Egypt’s art can be traced far back, beyond the time of pyramids and pharaohs, to a distant age when nomadic peoples migrated from what is now the Sahara Desert to create settled communities along the thin ribbon of fertile “black land” that bordered the northward flowing Nile.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting an exhibition of rare artifacts from what historians call the “Pre-dynastic” period of Egyptian history. This is a conventional, confusion-free way of describing Egypt before there was an Egypt.

Some of the treasures on display in The Dawn of Egyptian Art date back as far as 3800 BC, perhaps even to 4400 BC given an understandable margin of error in radiocarbon dating. It is a sobering thought that if Cleopatra, the last ruler of an independent Egypt, could somehow be restored to life and invited to view this very fine exhibition, she would be examining works of art more ancient to her, than the time she lived in, the 1st century BC, is to us today.

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