Artefacts from ancient Mediterranean civilisation on show for first time in UK

The items have gone on loan to Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.
The items have gone on loan to Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.

More than 200 artefacts from Sardinia, Cyprus and Crete are to go on display in an exhibition looking at the Mediterranean islands.

Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum will host the loaned items, most of which are in the UK for the first time, including bronze figurines associated with Sardinia’s lost 4,000-year-old Nuragic civilisation.

No written records of this civilisation have been discovered, but its ancient burial grounds have yielded bronze figurines that shed some light on their mythological and religious identity.

Ancient Mediterranean artefacts UK show
A bronze figurine of an archer c1000-600 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari/University of Cambridge/PA)

Nuragic bronze figurines represented warriors with helmets with long curved horns, animal-headed ships, and imaginary entities belonging to a unique culture.

At the peak of its power, the Nuragic culture was defined by megalithic stone towers called nuraghi.

Archaeologists estimate that more than 10,000 nuraghi once existed across Sardinia, although now only a few thousand survive.

Ancient Mediterranean artefacts UK show
A model of a horse-drawn chariot and rider, 750-600 BCE, from the Sanctuary of Agia Eirini in Cyprus (National Archaeological Museum of Cagliari/University of Cambridge/PA)

The exhibition’s curator, Dr Anastasia Christophilopoulou, said: “This exhibition brings together three years of research, community engagement, and active archaeological and anthropological practice in the Mediterranean islands.

“We must picture ourselves in one of these islands, to better understand how these unique objects reveal self-perceptions, community identity and the islands’ long histories.”

The bronze figurines from Sardinia are being loaned from the National Archaeological Museum in , in Sardinia’s capital, Cagliari.

Ancient Mediterranean artefacts UK show
Finds at the sanctuary of Agia Eirini in Cyprus (The Varldskulturmuseerna Sweden/University of Cambridge/PA)

Dr Francesco Muscolino, the museum’s director, said: “For the Archaeological National Museum of Cagliari, the participation in the exhibition and in the connected research project is a great opportunity of underlining the richness and manifoldness of Sardinian Mediterranean connections throughout the ages.

“The inclusion of Cagliari Museum antiquities, most of which has never travelled to the UK or abroad, gives a substantial contribution in creating comparisons with similar objects belonging to coeval insular civilisations, thus vividly showing the links among some of the main Mediterranean islands.”

Other items in the exhibition will include figurines commonly referred to as being from the Cypriot Terracotta Army and a rare 3,500-year-old ox-hide-shaped ingot from the Heraklion Museum in Crete.

– Islanders: The Making Of The Mediterranean, will run at Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum from February 24 to June 4.