This dazzling exhibition focuses on the Museum’s world-class collection of jewelry from Ancient Nubia (located in what is now Sudan). The Nubian adornments housed at the MFA constitute the most comprehensive collection outside Khartoum. As the conduit between the Mediterranean world and lands south of the Nile Valley, Nubia was known for its exotic luxury goods—especially gold. “Gold and the Gods” focuses on excavated ornaments from an early 20th-century expedition by the Museum with Harvard University, dating from 1700 BC to 300 AD, including both uniquely Nubian and foreign imports, prized for their materials, craftsmanship, symbolism, and rarity. “Gold and the Gods” includes more than one hundred treasures, including a gilt-silver mummy mask of Queen Malakaye and the famous Hathor-headed crystal pendant. The MFA is the only US museum able to mount an exhibition devoted solely to Nubian adornment drawing exclusively on its own collection.
Located at the intersection of trade routes from central Africa, the ancient Near East, and the Classical world, ancient Nubia ruled the entire Nile Valley at the height of its power in the eighth century B.C. Its neighbor and frequent rival Egypt called it “the gold lands” because its territories held such an abundance of the precious metal, and because its inhabitants produced some of the most finely crafted jewelry of the ancient world. This book features over 100 adornments and personal accessories from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which houses the finest collection of Nubian jewelry outside Khartoum. The first comprehensive introduction to the sophisticated jewels of this great empire, it reveals how Nubian artisans employed techniques that would not be reinvented in Europe for another thousand years, and how the original owners valued such possessions not only for their inherent beauty, but also because they were imbued with magical meanings. Exquisite photography and an authoritative history written by leading experts make this book essential for both jewelry aficionados and anyone interested in the great cultures of the ancient world.
Above: Winged Isis pectoral. Nubian, Napatan Period, reign of Amaninatakelebte, 538–519 B.C. Gold. Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition.