First Kings of Europe

Category: Exhibitions

Exhibition Summary

Coming in 2023


Coming in 2023

About the Exhibit

First Kings of Europe is an unprecedented collaboration between museums in Southeast Europe and North America.

Organized by the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, USA, this collaboration enables scholars and the general public to explore the transition from egalitarian farming villages of the Early Neolithic Period to the world of rulers in the Iron Age, about 8,000 to 2,500 years ago. The archaeological record of southeastern Europe offers an exceptionally rich variety of objects and contexts to explore leadership strategies and techniques that emerged during these ancient times.

Curated by archaeologists Dr. William Parkinson of the Field Museum and Dr. Attila Gyucha of the University of Georgia, the exhibition’s further themes are ritual, technology, exchange, and warfare. In experiencing hundreds of artifacts from this region, exhibition visitors will come to understand the evolution of social inequality and the emergence of centralized leadership. Many of the objects have never before been presented outside of their own country, let alone in North America.

Image of gold breast plate. Kosmatkite, Bulgaria. Courtesy of National Museum of History, Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo by Todor Dimitrov.

gold lunula with etched design

Exhibition Partners

The artifacts appearing in the exhibition are on loan from twenty-six institutions in eleven countries of Southeast Europe. The Field Museum is grateful to the ministries, research institutes, and enthusiastic advocates for First Kings of Europe in the following countries and we give heartfelt thanks to our museum partners.

  • Archaeological Museum in Tirana/Institute of Archaeology
Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • National Museum of History
  • Rousse Regional Museum of History
  • Varna Regional Museum of History
  • Archaeological Museum in Zagreb
  • Budapest History Museum
  • Déri Museum
  • Hungarian National Museum
  • Koszta József Museum
  • Móra Ferenc Museum
  • Munkácsy Mihály Museum
  • Szent István Király Museum
  • National Museum of Kosovo
  • Museums and Galleries of Podgorica
North Macedonia
  • Institute for Protection of Cultural Heritage and Museum–Bitola
  • Institute for Protection of the Monuments of Culture and Museum–Prilep
  • National Institution Museum–Gevgelija
  • Buzău County Museum
  • Museum of Oltenia
  • National History Museum of Romania
  • National Museum of Transylvanian History
  • Neamț County Museum Complex
  • The Museum of Gumelnița Culture
  • National Museum of Serbia
  • National Museum of Slovenia

Exhibition Tour

The exhibition will be hosted by three museums in the United States and Canada.

A smaller version of the exhibition, Ritual and Memory: The Ancient Balkans and Beyond, will appear at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, from September 20, 2022 to February 19, 2023.

The full exhibition will debut at the Field Museum on March 31, 2023, and run through January 28, 2024. This full exhibition will travel to the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Canada, to be presented April 2024 to January 2025.

Exhibition Publications 

An illustrated catalog of the full First Kings of Europe exhibition will be published by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California, Los Angeles.

The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California, Los Angeles will publish a book of scholarly essays, titled First Kings of Europe: From Farmers to Rulers in Prehistoric Southeastern Europe

An affordable, photo-rich souvenir book based on the exhibition, titled First Kings of Europe, will be published by the Field Museum and the Canadian Museum of History.

Exhibition Programming

A three-day scholarly conference, titled First Kings of Europe: Leadership and Inequality in Prehistoric Southeast Europe, will take place November 7 - 9, 2022 in Budapest.  Hosted by the Hungarian National Museum, scholars from throughout Europe and the United States will be presenting their research related to the topics of the First Kings of Europe collaboration.

The Field Museum’s educational programming related to First Kings of Europe will reach a wide and diverse public, and generate discussion and deepen understanding of exhibition content. The museum will hold public and digital programs, such as lectures designed to be accessible to a general audience. The museum’s Learning Center will develop educational resources for middle and high school students and their teachers to complement the exhibition. And, importantly, curators and exhibition staff will train docents to lead tours of the exhibition and facilitate visiting school groups.

Please check here for future updates on public programming at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and at the Canadian Museum of History.