Saturday - March 25, 2012
Cleopatra at Milw Museum
Hosts: Tom & Cathie, and Tom & Mary Lynn

Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt (posted Apr 25, 2012)
by Cat Anderson

The intensive hunt for antiquity's most mythologized monarch was the subject of Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt. Just six of us BMC members took advantage of this world-class exhibition appearing in Milwaukee (one of only five cities in the U.S. to host the exhibit) and toured the exhibit and the Milwaukee Public Museum together on March 25th.

The impressive installation's sculptures, coinage, jewelry, religious objects and items of everyday use were retrieved from the sands of Cleopatra's temple complex at the site of Taposiris Magna and the Bay of Aboukir. In addition to the destruction of painted and sculptural images of Cleopatra by the victorious Romans after her death, the City of Alexandria, along with Egypt’s chief military and religious centers, were struck by earthquakes and tsunamis nearly 2,000 years ago—further shrouding the secrets of this queen. A recorded tour in the “voice” of Cleopatra (included with the admission fee) and hi-definition multimedia presentations immersed the visitor in the exciting discovery process as we learned about Cleopatra and her life and times in her own “words. “

The exhibition started with a four-minute movie that described the dual investigations of the two principal archaeologists whose finds were showcased. After the brief film, guests were immediately greeted by the Statue of a Ptolemaic Queen (305-30 B.C.), perhaps a representation of Cleopatra.

In the room devoted to Alexandrian ruins was a glass walkway. Its path ingeniously revealed 5th-century B.C. amphorae (ceramic vessels) and other artifacts from Cleopatra's age that were found under the Bay. The next two galleries highlighted the cities of Canopus and Heracleion. Statuary, gold coins and jewelry illustrated Canopus' religious role and reputation for indulgence. These were followed by what may arguably have been the highlight of the exhibition, two 16-foot-tall Colossi of a Ptolemaic King and Queen (305-30 B.C.) from Heracleion, where Cleopatra and her predecessors were traditionally invested with imperial power. It took the MPM three days to install the Colossi, which including emptying the porcelain exhibit in the floor below before hoisting the statues into place. Check out the MPM website to see a fast-forward clip of the statue installation.

The show climaxed with an examination of Cleopatra's alleged beauty, the search for the queen's final resting place and the ruler's enduring legend in Western art and cinema.

After completing the tour, we engaged in the ancient art of shopping, purchasing various Egyptian-themed bibelots. Oddly, no one bought a King Tut tissue holder with tissue cleverly (but scarily) erupting from Tut’s nose.

Early supper at Casablanca, a middle eastern restaurant, followed. Ron Carlson’s cousin is a belly dancer there, but, alas, was not working. Tom Cinealis impressed us by demonstrating a Turkish bath (ok, so his beer glass broke with predictable, wet, results) followed by walking like an Egyptian until his pants dried. Sampling food (and beer) similar to what Cleopatra may have enjoyed was a great way to wrap up our search for the last queen of Egypt.

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