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Colossal statue of the god Hapi, Thonis-Heraklion, Bay of Abukir, Egypt (SCA 281). Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio, Hilti Foundation.

ZURICH.- After Paris and London for the first time in a German-speaking country: A fascinating exhibition at Museum Rietberg in Zurich shows the latest underwater archaeological finds. 

On 10 February 2017, the exhibition Osiris – Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries opened at Museum Rietberg in Zurich. The exhibition brings to light one of the founding myths of ancient Egypt: the Mysteries of Osiris. 

Osiris – Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries presents highlights of the excavations directed by Franck Goddio and his team from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in the western part of the Nile Delta. Some 300 artefacts are presented in a 1300 m2 display space. Most were discovered in the recent underwater excavations and are augmented by some forty splendid exhibits on loan from the museums of Cairo and Alexandria — rare objects which have never before been seen in a German-speaking country, and even some that have never been seen outside Egypt. 

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Statue of the wrapped, on The abdomen of Osiris, Egyptian Museum, Cairo  (CGC 38424). Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck 

The exhibition consists of three sections. The first presents the myth of Osiris and its protagonists. The second, most important section is devoted to the archaeological sites and the evidence for the ritual celebration of the Mysteries of Osiris. In the third and last section, visitors will discover how the ancient myth evolved and how the representation of the gods changed over time. 

The objects discovered by the archaeological divers at the bottom of the sea are set against a spectacular backdrop of changing mood, colours and lighting, featuring underwater photographs and videos. 

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Oil lamp, Thonis-Heraklion, Bay of Abukir, Egypt (SCA 1568). Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio, Hilti Foundation.

The Legend of Osiris 
Osiris, the son of the Earth and the Sky was killed by his brother Seth, who cut his body into 14 pieces and threw them into the Nile. Isis, sister and wife of Osiris, put the body of the god back together again using her magical powers, and conceived their son, Horus. Osiris then became the Lord of the Afterlife, and Horus, victorious against Seth, received Egypt as his heritage. 

We know from the so called “Decree of Canopus” (238 BC), one copy of which was discovered in 1881 at Kom el-Hisn, that in a town called Heracleion, as in most other towns of Egypt, the Mysteries of Osiris were celebrated in the great temple of AmunGereb. According to the text on the stela, in the delta the ritual culminated in a long nautical procession along the canals, which took Osiris from the temple of Amun-Gereb to his sanctuary in the town of Canopus.

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Osiris statuette of bronze and votive boat of lead at the sea bottom in Thonis-Heraklion, bay of Abukir, Egypt (SCA 1081, 1039). Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio, Hilti Foundation.

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Stele of Thonis-Heraklion, Bay of Abukir, Egypt (SCA 277). Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio, Hilti Foundation. 

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"Osiris, Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries” at the Rietberg Museum Zurich, from February 10 2017: Installation of the colossal statues in the forecourt of the museum. ©PPR/Manuel Lopez.