Putting it all together

The writers, photographers, and cameramen who showed up for a sneak peek at the Oriental Institute Museum’s new Robert F. Picken Family Nubian Gallery last Thursday got name tags inscribed with Nubian hieroglyphs, guided tours, and the chance to nibble on frog-shaped sugar cookies modeled on thedecorations on a painted-clay vessel from the first or second century AD. The vessel is on display in “Ancient Nubia,”an exhibit whose February 25 opening marked the conclusion of the museum’s 10-year, $15-million renovation and redesign.

Before there was an Oriental Institute, Chicago professor and OI founder James Henry Breasted led two expeditions to Nubia (now Sudan), where he was one of the first modern researchers to document the ancient civilization. Photographs taken during those early University expeditions, “Lost Nubia: Photographs of Egypt and the Sudan 1905-07,” can be seen in the museum’s Marshall and Doris Holleb Family Gallery for Special Exhibits, next-door to the Picken Gallery, until Sunday, May 7.

The 650 objects on display in the new gallery, however, are drawn from 15,000 objects brought back to Chicago far more recently. From 1960 to 1968, teams from the Oriental Institute excavated numerous archaeological sites in both Egypt and Sudan, sites in the Nile Valley that were destined for flooding as construction of the Aswan High Dam got under way.


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Photos (left to right): A photographer for the University of Chicago expedition to Nubia and Egypt focuses on an inscription on a stella of Egyptian King Thutmose; the photo was taken in 1907. Stephen Harvey, assistant professor in the Oriental Institute, is co-curator of “Ancient Nubia” (photo by Dan Dry) looks over the display cases in the new Robert F. Picken Family Gallery at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. This 1906 photograph shows Nubian pyramids, built from about 100 B.C. to 150 A.D. at Gebel Barkal.

March 3, 2006