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Department Collections

The Ancient World collections at the Fitzwilliam span the ancient civilisations and cultures of Greece and Rome, Cyprus, Egypt and North Sudan and the Ancient Near East. Amassed by gift, bequest and purchase over the last 200 years, these rare survivors from the past –  from pots to sculpture, textiles, statues, jewellery or inscriptions - offer vivid glimpses of the lost worlds where they were made, and of the people who offered them to their gods or laid them in family graves. At the same time the collections form a case study of collecting, of how, by whom and for what purposes collections such as this were formed, and how our understanding of them has evolved over the centuries.

The Ancient World collections are displayed in Galleries 19 – 24.



  • Being an Islander: Art and Identity of the large Mediterranean Islands

    Culminating in an ambitious exhibition to be held in 2023, this project will elucidate what defines island identity in the Mediterreanean and explore how insularity affects and shapes cultural identity, using the examples of Cyprus, Crete and Sardinia. 

  • Ancient Egyptian Coffins

    This project takes an integrated look at both the iconography and structure of Ancient Egyptian coffins, drawing together curatorial, conservation and scientific research, and experimental archaeology. This approach will result in a more complete history of each object. 

  • Cambridge Theban Tombs Project

    This project, underway since 1994, documents tomb contexts and burial practice at Thebes (ancient Luxor). Recent work has focussed on ritual and burial practice within the landscape of ancient Thebes; robbery and recycling of stolen funerary goods; publication of fieldwork.

Online Exhibitions

  • The Lewis Collection: From Corpus Christi to the Fitzwilliam Museum

    The Lewis Collection is currently housed in the Fitzwilliam Museum, on long term loan from Corpus Christi College.

    Here, we celebrate the man behind one of largest antiquarian collections to have remained in private ownership.

  • Origins of the Afro Comb

    In the 20th century 'afro' combs have taken on a wider political and cultural message, perhaps most notably in the form of the 'black fist' comb that references the Black power salute.

    This website aims to trace the history and the meaning of the African hair comb over nearly 6000 years in Africa, through to its re-emergence amongst the Diaspora in the Americas, Britain and the Caribbean.


Object in Focus