In 1908, The Metropolitan Museum of Art began to excavate late-antique sites in the Kharga Oasis, located in Egypt's Western Desert. The Museum's archaeologists uncovered two-story houses, painted tombs, and a church. They also retrieved objects that reveal the multiple cultural and religious identities of the people who lived in the region. The finds represent a society between the third and seventh centuries A.D., a time of transition between the Roman and early Byzantine periods, which integrated Egyptian, Greek, and Roman culture and art.
This exhibition features some thirty works from these excavations. By grouping objects according to the archaeological context in which they were discovered, the exhibition explores the interpretation of ancient identities and artifacts and shows how archaeological documentation can assist in understanding an object's original function. On view are ceramics, ostraca (pottery shards used as writing surfaces), jewelry from burials, glassware, coins, copies of frescoes with early Christian images, and early twentieth-century site photography.