Prepare to step back in time — way back in time.
“Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life” will immerse visitors in the world of ancient Greece and its Mediterranean neighbors.
The exhibition at Joslyn Art Museum will provide a rare opportunity for Omaha to see such an impressive array of antiquities. The exhibit, which opens Saturday, is having its national premiere at Joslyn.
The Tampa (Fla.) Museum of Art, the show's organizer, has built off its own collection for the 125 items in the exhibit. They come from several private collections and 20 institutions, including the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton University in the United States, plus museums in Switzerland and Italy.
The Greek god Poseidon was the brother of Zeus and Hades. The exhibition is divided into three sections. Myth and cult look at the stories that surround the ancient Greek gods, and how Poseidon, god of the sea, and his fellow gods were worshiped. The third category, daily life, gives us clues on how the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean lived and what they used as everyday necessities.
And what is interesting, said Erin Averett, Joslyn's adjunct curator of antiquities, is that we find out people haven't changed that much in more than 2,000 years.
There are many of the same themes and issues — family, religion, the environment — as today, said Averett, an assistant professor of archaeology at Creighton University. “The human element speaks across the centuries.”
We see it here, from storage jars for shipments of goods to specially patterned dinnerware to small bottles for perfume or cosmetics to funeral decorations. There was a concern for natural disasters and for war. We find out that the ancient civilizations loved fish and garum (a fish sauce). A shipping container for garum with an inscription saying it was made by Scaurus shows us a man proud to put his name on his product.
The ancients also worshiped their gods by building temples for them and creating sculptures and paintings in their images. Averett's favorite piece in the exhibition is a huge bronze trident from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. This massive piece is nearly 14 feet long and weighs about 200 pounds. If the trident were part of a bronze sculpture of Poseidon, which was its most likely function, the god statue would have been at least twice life-size.
One of the oldest pieces in the show is a tiny bronze horse figurine that dates back to the eighth century B.C.
The earliest actual Poseidon object is a small ceramic vessel for perfume or oil that shows the god riding a hippocamp (creature that is half-horse and half-sea creature), which dates from the sixth century B.C. It is an early representation of black-figure painting. And the many pieces of black- and red-figure painted vessels are what gives this show its Greek identity. Many of the ceramic pieces can be attributed to specific artists from the sixth through fourth centuries B.C.
“People like looking at objects that are actually that old,” Averett said. “It's amazing to see something that old in person.”
The Joslyn show will be the only chance to see this exhibition outside of Tampa. Officials at the Tampa museum approached Jack Becker, Joslyn's executive director and CEO, about hosting the show. They thought it would be a good fit for Omaha; Becker agreed.
While admission to Joslyn remains free, “Poseidon”will be the first special exhibition at the museum that will require visitors to purchase tickets — $10 for nonmember adults 18 and older, unless they are a college student with I.D. However, from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, tickets will be $5.
Visitors who bring a web-enabled device (or borrow one free of charge) will have access to the exhibition's mobile tour.