Hidden beneath the grand staircase on the main floor, this gallery is easy to miss. But that might be intended as part of the exhibition. The raw, cave-like alcove gives a sense of ruin and discovery to your exploration of artifacts from forgotten settlements dug up by the Met's own archeological expedition in 1908. The purpose of the expedition was to study the Kharga Oasis. In Egyptian Arabic, Kharga means "outer": this was the southern-most oasis along a 40-day trade route linking the Nile Valley and the Sudan. As a cross-section of cultures and tribes, the archeologists found fascinating artifacts linking the site to Egyptians, Romans, and Early Christians.
And these, O Lord, and all those we have recited...who have fallen asleep...
What You Will See
The story of the discovery and excavation of the various sites may be more compelling than the artifacts you will see. There is, of course, pottery. Cleverly mounted on the bare brick walls of the gallery are the architectural remnants of homes, churches, and fortresses. Adding a dash of color to the carved stone and mud pottery are facsimiles of paintings and mosaics, as well as simple pieces of jewelry. Like the Temple of Dendur, Kharga is a mix of the Egyptian and the Greco-Roman, leading into a vibrant and historic Christian settlement. Spend as little or as much time as you like without fear of missing a particular highlight.
Why You Should Go
During its run, the gallery hosts a few pieces from Heavenly Bodies so you may encounter larger crowds than normal. Once the exhibit leaves, you will have more space to explore to corners and recesses of the space. Indeed, while the archaeological story of this exhibit is interesting, the best thing about visiting is the gallery space itself--a stark contrast to the gleaming white walls or polished stone of other areas of the museum. Archaeologists, students of Byzantium and Met-completists will enjoy this exhibit most. Others should plan on taking a quick look at a unique space, reading a couple placards, and moving on.