Mellemøsten, Cypern, Etrurien og Palmyra på Glyptoteket

The Middle East, Cyprus, Etruria and Palmyra


Palmyra expected to open in 2025.

With his sculpture collection, Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Glyptotek, wished to present the finest art from human history. The focus was primarily on Egypt, Greece and Rome, but also included other cultures bordering on these in time and place. The exhibition The Middle East, Cyprus, Etruria and Palmyra showcases the Glyptotek’s collections of ancient artefacts from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures (6000 BCE – 300 CE). Through a series of highlights, the exhibition offers insights into the material characteristics unique to the respective cultures and presents a diverse range of objects, from architectural remnants of historical buildings to votive offerings placed in sanctuaries and tombs.

Ancient Cultures of The Middle East

The Middle East has always been the meeting point between East and West, and it is for good reason that the region is also known as the cradle of civilisation, for this is where agriculture, written language and complex societies were first developed. The exhibited artefacts originate from the ancient Middle Eastern cultures in Anatolia (Türkiye), Syria, Phoenicia (Lebanon), Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Persia (Iran). These regions were home to various cultures over time and are today known to us through both archaeological finds and written sources. The Glyptotek’s collection features tools, jars and small figurines of animals and humans dating back to the earliest period spanning 6500-2500 BCE, alongside larger sculptures and impressive palace reliefs from the last millennia BCE. Highlights include reliefs from Ashurnasirpal II’s palace in Nimrud (ancient Kalkhu) depicting magical creatures with wings and horned helmets and finely decorated blue tiles from Babylon.


The island of Cyprus’s central location in the eastern Mediterranean and its abundant natural resources, such as copper, have historically made it attractive to various great powers. Throughout antiquity, the kingdoms of Cyprus were alternately ruled by Assyrian kings and Egyptian pharaohs, Greek military leaders and Roman emperors. The exhibition presents a collection of artefacts which illustrates the island’s history and the varied influences on Cypriot craftsmanship and culture. Highlights include Bronze Age vessels from the 3rd millennium BCE, life-size statues of priests carved from limestone and mouth-blown glass bottles which once contained precious perfumes produced on the island.


Before the expansion of the Roman Empire across the Mediterranean, the Etruscans were one of its central Italian neighbours. In the region between the Arno and Tiber rivers, now known as Tuscany, lay the Etruscans’ cities, sanctuaries and burial sites. It is primarily from these burial sites that the Glyptotek’s extensive collection of Etruscan artefacts originates. The exhibition includes portraits of the Etruscans erected in sanctuaries and tombs, along with terracotta decorations from Etruscan buildings. Additionally, the exhibition presents grave monuments and urns, as well as a wealth of gifts that accompanied the deceased in their graves, testifying to various beliefs and rituals, such as the funerary banquet, which played a significant role in Etruscan culture. The banquet and other scenes from the grave and afterlife are also depicted on the exhibition’s walls in the Glyptotek’s unique collection of Etruscan tomb painting replicas (facsimiles), created by Italian painters in the late 19th and early 20th century at the behest of Carl Jacobsen, founder of the Glyptotek.

Palmyra (Opening in summer 2025)

In the Syrian desert, along the ancient trade route connecting the Mediterranean region with the Middle East lay the oasis city of Palmyra. Its water made the city a necessary stop for travelling caravans, and Palmyra became a wealthy metropolis before it was destroyed following a rebellion against the Roman Empire in the 3rd century CE. The Glyptotek holds a large collection of Palmyrene sculptures, primarily stemming from tombs, which the Palmyrenes referred to as houses for eternity. These large tomb structures lay outside the city and could house entire families who erected images of each other to honour and commemorate the deceased. Together, these artefacts offer a glimpse into Palmyrene society and the beliefs surrounding the afterlife and remembrance of family members.

The collection presentation is generously supported by:

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