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Previous exhibitions

Explore the museum's previous exhibitions:

Hajnóczi 100

4 September 2020 – 31 October 2020.

Curator: Katalin Lengyelné Kurucz

The Hajnóczi 100 exhibition of the Budapest History Museum’s Aquincum Museum commemorates Dr Gyula Hajnóczi, who was born 100 years ago. A professor of the Technical University of Budapest, Hajnóczi was not only an excellent archaeologist, but also a world-renowned architect and monument protection specialist. He was also the leader of the monument conservation programme at the Aquincum Museum in the second half of the 20th century. The exhibition presents his rich professional career as well as the monument protection of the age in which he lived and worked.

Meanwhile – Simultaneous events on the banks of the Tiber and the Danube

6 February 2018 – 4 November 2019

Curator: Tibor Budai Balogh

It is worth dwelling on history; and on the history of Rome all the more so. From this rich and edifying source of knowledge the exhibition presents ten stories. To make it even more interesting, for every event on the banks of the Tiber, we present a contemporaneous story from the area that we now know (and love) as Budapest. So: 20 good reasons to dwell a bit on history. From the colourful panels you’ll find answer to questions like: can the sky fall on the heads of the Gauls? Was a left-handed gladiator valuable? What was the “Cadaver Synod”? And since Shakespeare forgot to explain you can find the answer here to the question that’s been keeping everyone up at night: why did the families of Romeo and Juliet hate each other so much? Also, is Rome’s secret name already known? What were the Emperor Domitian’s two favourite pastimes? And who is this Pasquino anyway?

The people of birds and dragons – The Celts of Csepel Island

26 April 2019 – 31 October 2019

Curator: Attila M. Horváth

Between 2004 and 2008, the Budapest History Museum’s Department of Prehistory and the Migration Period, carried out preventive excavations on the entire site of the Sewage Treatment Plant to be constructed at the northern tip of Csepel Island. In the area of some 13 hectares, archaeologists found 900 features containing archaeological finds. These included finds belonging to well-known prehistoric cultures as well as a Late Iron Age (4th-2nd century BC) Celtic cemetery.

The populous and warlike Celts from beyond the Rhine came to inhabit almost the entirety of Europe. They owed their victories primarily to their iron weapons. No cemetery from this period has been unearthed before in Budapest.

The exhibition presents the funerary customs of the Celts, the changing rites, as well as the dress and tools of the age.

125 years of the Aquincum Museum

10 May 2019 – 31 October 2019 

Curator: Katalin Lengyelné Kurucz

The systematic archaeological exploration of the Roman provincial seat, the Aquincum Civil Town, began at the end of the nineteenth century. The Aquincum Museum opened on the site of the excavations in 1894 and now forms part of the Budapest History Museum.

The Municipality of Budapest established the museum not only to house, but also to promote the research and exhibition of the internationally-significant archaeological finds.

In the past 125 years our knowledge has increased significantly through the discovery of countless new Roman remains and finds, and the museum too has grown continuously. Meanwhile, archaeology and the exhibition of finds have developed exponentially. With this exhibition, we look back at key periods in the history of the museum.

Kuzsinszky 80

24 August 2018 – 31 October 2018

Curator: Katalin Lengyelné Kurucz

Archaeologist Bálint Kuzsinszky, the first director of the Aquincum Museum and founder of Budapest’s Metropolitan Museum died on 23 August 1938. Kuzsinszky is also known for launching and supervising the systematic excavations of Aquincum and for starting the research on the Roman limes in Hungary. He worked on both theoretical and practical aspects of museology and as a result of his international contacts and exhibitions abroad, museology in Hungary reached European standards. As a pioneer of monument protection, Kuzsinszky played an important role in the preservation of endangered archaeological remains.

On the 80th anniversary of his death, we honour the memory of the great scholar with an exhibition that presents Kuzsinszky the person and the age in which he worked. The exhibition takes visitors to the heroic age of Aquincum excavations, exploring Aquincum at the turn of the century and during the interwar years in the wider cultural history of the period.

Stop.Shop – The world of workshops and shops in Roman Aquincum

4 May 2018 – 31 October 2018

Curator: Orsolya Láng

In Roman towns like Aquincum shops and workshops along the streets were defining features of the cityscape. “The audacious shopkeepers had seized Rome” wrote the poet Martial, implying that there once was a time when shops, taverns and workshops completely overran the Eternal City. Fortunately there are many visual as well as written sources and of course a vast number of archaeological remains and ruins (primarily from Rome and Pompeii) to tell us about Roman commerce and crafts.

It was no different in the Aquincum Civil Town, where – as precursors of modern shopping centres – endless rows of shops lined the main roads. Shops and workshops also operated on the ground floor of houses facing the street and the town even had a dedicated market hall. The exhibition introduces visitors to these buildings and the archaeological finds from them. Visitors can also browse the wares of a Roman vendor.

What did they sell in such shops? What was it like to be a Roman tanner or money changer? What laws regulated commerce in the Roman Empire? Were there customs duties and taxes? How did Aquincum residents cope with the often unpleasant odours emanating from the workshops in the crowded town? The exhibition answers these questions and more, evoking daily life in Aquincum with colourful visual reconstructions, furnished shops and archaeological finds.

Click here to view the exhibition catalogue.

Hadrian MCM – The story of an ancient career

26 May 2017 – 31 October 2017

Curator: József Beszédes

This year, the Aquincum Museum pays tribute with an exhibition to the Emperor Hadrian, who ascended the throne 1900 years ago. The exhibition in the old museum building presents the main stages in the life of the Emperor, who played a significant role in Pannonia and Aquincum. At the exhibition – with several artefacts never previously seen by the public (weapons, coins, everyday household items, and even a bust of Hadrian) – we can find answers to questions like: did Hadrian actually have a connection with the governor’s palace on Hajógyári Island? And how did that famous episode of a soldier who swam across the Danube in the Emperor’s presence play out? We can also find out how Hadrian’s famed villa in Tivoli – often compared to ‘Disneyland’ – looked like.  The exhibition is open until the end of October.

On secret paths – Dark spells in Aquincum

3 December 2016 – 31 December 2017

Curator: Gábor Lassányi

“There is no one, too, who does not dread being spell-bound by means of evil imprecations”, wrote Pliny the Elder almost two thousand years ago. That the Romans were not free from evil spells in Pannonia either is clear from three engraved lead curse tablets found recently around Roman graves in Óbuda.

From 3 December 2016, the exhibition at the Aquincum Museum presents a special and forbidden part of Roman magic – malefic spells – and the magical amulets and other tools people used to protect themselves from evil forces.

Curse tablets, like the three lead tablets from Aquincum exhibited now for the first time, were essential tools of destructive magic. These could be used to communicate with the gods and the forces of the underworld and to ask their help to exact satisfaction for injuries and wrongs, or to crush the will of another person. All segments of Roman society – from the imperial family to slaves – could make use of dark magic, if they felt they had no other options left.

The curse texts were written usually by sorcerers steeped in secret knowledge, likely following the instructions of magical handbooks. The tablets were often hidden near temples or other places – e.g. cemeteries or lakes – thought to have a connection with the afterlife. Making and commissioning curses was considered to be a serious crime, punishable even by death according to Roman law.

There were also numerous magical protections against natural or supernatural threats in the Roman period. The exhibition also presents these in detail, including jewellery made from gold, bronze, bones, stone and amber as well as small capsules for holding amulets into which metal sheets or pieces of papyri with magical signs and mysterious formulae were placed.

The exhibition includes a reconstructed workshop of a Roman sorcerer, complete with the full toolkit: mysterious materials, magical devices and collection of spells.

The exhibition also features illustrations by one of the most famous Hungarian cartoonists, Dávid Cserkuti. The illustrations tell the story of a partly imaginary conflict based on one of the Aquincum curse tablets. According to the text a group of free men and slaves had a sorcerer write a curse on a lead tablet ahead of a court case at the turn of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, to silence and incapacitate their enemies.

Supported by Graphisoft Park

With or without ice? – Climate change and humans from Prehistory to the Middle Ages

15 April 2016 – 30 October 2016

Curator: Farkas Márton Tóth 

Were the mammoths cold? When did wolverines live in the Pilis forests? How do we know what the weather was like at the end of the Copper Age? What tools do archaeologists, geologists and climate scientists use? What messages from the past do melting glaciers carry? Visitors to the temporary exhibition opening in mid-April at the Budapest History Museum’s Aquincum Museum can find answers to these questions and more.

With the help of finds from excavations in Budapest, the exhibition aims to shed light on the changes in weather and climate during human history, the lives of our ancestors, as well as the complex relationship between nature and humans and their effects on each other.

The exhibition presents for the first time the oldest – 350,000-year-old – manmade object from Budapest. Visitors can view the remains of extinct animals and the traces of prehistoric meals and rituals. They can find out how Bronze Age humans shaped their environment, how a New Zealand volcano and changes in Roman army fashion are connected, and how big the ‘Little Ice Age’ actually was. Younger visitors can test their skills in a game comparing the different periods of climate history.

Click here to view the exhibition catalogue.

Wellness in Antiquity – Bathing culture in Aquincum

17 November 2015 – 16 November 2016

Curator:  Gabriella Fényes

It (water) is of infinite importance, for the purposes of life, for pleasure, and for our daily use,” wrote Vitruvius 2000 years ago. In this sentence he summarised all that water meant to the Romans. To this belongs the ‘Roman baths’, the building type created by the Romans, and the ‘bathing culture’ which the Romans gave to the world. It was most likely the same in Aquincum, rich in waters. What remains are stones, bricks, mortar, as well as metal and pottery fragments, but with the help of ancient eyewitnesses, they can come to life once again filled with hubbub and buzz. The exhibition at the Aquincum Museum aims to showcase the bathing customs of the Romans. Baths were not only about daily hygiene, but also about ‘being well’ and ‘feeling good’; they were the place of recreation for both body and spirit.

In Aquincum we know of twenty-three baths so far. According to our literary sources, Romans went to the baths after work, usually in the early afternoon. Those who went to the baths first did some sports, and then could switch between hot and cold baths at will and reinvigorate their bodies in various saunas; they likely did not skip massage either. If needed, they could also get medical or cosmetic treatments there. If they were thirsty or hungry, they could go to the refreshment stalls by the baths’ entrance. That this really was the case is also supported by the remains of baths unearthed in Aquincum. In addition to these baths that dotted the towns, the Romans also had famous thermal baths, to which visitors came from far away, and which may have been used by the military for the purposes of recreation. In today’s renaissance of thermals baths and spa tourism, we probably do not think about how the healing power of springs had already been used in a similar way 2000 years ago. The famous doctors of antiquity e.g. Celsus and Galen all agreed that exercise, massage and bathing had an important role in maintaining and improving good health.

While we cannot invite visitors to a real Roman baths, we would still like to help them experience the past in a tangible way. The museum’s conservators have therefore made copies and reconstructions of typical bathing utensils, which visitors can try out and also take a sniff of the perfume-jars. A 3D animated film presents how the Roman baths were operated. To make the exhibition enjoyable also for families with small children, we made a model waterwheel and a hidden picture book, which presents the Romans’ reverence for springs and their bathing culture. Come with us then to the baths of Aquincum and experience wellness in antiquity.

Supported by: Budapest Waterworks

Trowel, brush, laser scanner – Old and new technologies in archaeology from Óbuda to Újpest

17 April 2015 – 31 October 2015

Curators: Orsolya Láng, Farkas Márton Tóth 

The methods and technologies used in archaeological excavations are constantly changing and developing, as in the case of other sciences. Our possibilities have significantly increased in the recent decades: we no longer rely only on pickaxes, shovels and brushes, but also have for instance laser scanners, georadars and underwater sonar at our disposal. We can also use DNA technology, or pollen analysis. These new methods and technologies are playing an increasingly important role in the preliminary survey and mapping of sites and in the evaluation of finds. They help our work by refining, supplementing, or even modifying our knowledge and they open up new possibilities for us to find out more about our past.

With our exhibition, we would like to present an accessible yet thorough overview of these new methods and technologies and the development and expansion of the tools of archaeology using examples from archaeological excavations in Óbuda and elsewhere in the Hungarian capital.

There is No Other! – Three unique treasures from the Budapest earth

22 October 2014 – 11 October 2015

Curator: Gábor Lassányi

Two-thousand-year-old human figures on a Celtic vessel, an exquisite Roman bronze oil lamp, and the masterpiece of an Italian potter from the time of King Matthias; the exhibition presents in detail three truly unique objects, which have been discovered in recent excavations in Budapest. The exhibition seeks to reinterpret these ancient artefacts with the help of modern graphic art and literary associations.

Click here to view the video reconstruction of the bronze oil lamp.

From ruin garden to archaeological park – Aquincum Museum 1894-2014

9 May 2014 – 31 October 2014

Curator: Paula Zsidi

The Aquincum Museum opened its gates to the public in 1894. Its main sights were the excavated and displayed central area of the Civil Town, and the building designed by Gyula Orczy to fit the Roman surroundings, which exhibited the discovered artefacts. The museum’s character – as a place of excursion at the edge of the city – changed significantly following the large-scale conservation of the ruins between 1968 and 1973 (according to plans by Ágnes H. Vladár, Gyula Hajnóczi and Gyula Istvánfi, and with the assistance of Klára Póczy). With the preservative and interpretive restoration, what was once an archaeological site received a new profile that met the requirements of the time. In the forty years since, expectations concerning museums and cultural heritage presentation have changed, as have the needs of visitors. In the last 20 years, the ‘classic’ ruin garden has expended, several new tourist attractions that fit the surroundings have opened, which have turned the area into an archaeological park. The exhibition follows the transformations of the ruin garden – according to the ever changing needs – around the 120-year-old Aquincum Museum and introduces possible paths of renewal through proposals submitted for a design contest. The design contest was organised in partnership with the Doctoral School of the Department of the History of Architecture and the Department of Public Building Design at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.

“St Florian, the patron saint” (guest exhibition)

29 April 2014 – 31 October 2014

Curator: Paula Zsidi

St Florian, or Florianus, was a real historical figure. He was born around 240 and died a martyr on 4 May 304. He served as a centurion in the Roman army, where he converted to Christianity. During his service, he acted as a brave fire-fighter. In 303 under the Emperor Diocletian the persecution of Christians began once again, and since Florian openly confessed his Christian faith he was arrested, tried and sentenced to a painful death. With the exhibition we return to the roots of St Florian (Floranius) and the time when his legend began: the Roman period. We also visit Aquincum, where the first remains in the history of the fire-fighting in Hungary have been found.

The currents of the past – in pursuit of our underwater heritage (guest exhibition)

5 April 2014 – 27 April 2014

Curator: Paula Zsidi

The exhibition presents the most intriguing discoveries by river archaeologists of the Argonauts Research Team: hundreds of years old shipwrecks and other special finds. Our aim is to give some insights into the methods and secrets of the research and to show just how significant an impact the rivers had on the lives of the people who lived along them. The exhibition also showcases some of the results of marine archaeology with a Hungarian connection, highlighting the search for Austro-Hungarian shipwrecks in the Adriatic. The exhibition is all the more special given that the Hungarian Parliament passed Act IX of 2014, ratifying the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Tales of finds – Archaeological finds from a different perspective

12 October 2012 – 28 September 2014

Curator: Orsolya Láng

This exhibition may seem unusual at first sight since this time researchers at the museum – including archaeologists and conservators – put their favourite finds on display, some of which were still lying hidden in the museum stores. There are even some pieces where the function has only recently been worked out by archaeologists. The main goal of this rather subjective exhibition is to bring archaeology closer to the public through the finds and personal experiences of our colleagues. This time, 35 archaeologists and conservators from the museum will exhibit their favourite artefacts together with personal descriptions to shed light, not only on the history of the object, but also to give visitors a glimpse behind the scenes at the museum to learn why and how a certain object becomes a “favourite”. The exhibition will also hopefully demonstrate that working in a museum is not a hobby played in an ivory tower, but an exciting job that requires patience, is sometimes hard but always value-creating. This exhibition does not follow the usual chronological pattern: finds are grouped according to their function or topic. Thus, objects from both Prehistoric and Roman time periods connected to burials, religious cults, cosmetology, clothing or industry and commerce have been placed next to each other. Special finds on display include a Roman board game, a funerary inscription of an imperial litter-bearer, parts of a wagon, a Roman chamber pot, a nozzle from a Prehistoric furnace and a 5000-year old idol with a removable head. Several reconstruction drawings and portraits of the researchers with their favourite finds complete the exhibition. Last but not least Dear Visitor, we are really interested in Your Opinion: which is your favourite find and story in this selection? Let us know what you think in the “Top 10” game…

There is something new under the ground…A selection of the most beautiful finds of 2010” – Old sites, new results

15 April 2011 – 25 March 2012

Curators: Orsolya Láng, Gábor Szilas

The Budapest History Museum’s Aquincum Museum puts on display for the 15th time the most beautiful and most significant archaeological finds from the previous year. Archaeological excavations in the Hungarian capital have a history of over 120 years of unearthing the remains of Budapest’s past, providing a growing body of sources for a more complete understanding of the history of the city and its environs. This was no different in 2010, when – in spite of the recession – we were able to increase our knowledge of not only the city’s historical centre but also large parts of the outskirts as well, building on the results of previous research. We unearthed new parts of the Aquincum Civil Town’s so-called ‘House of the painter’, the southern town wall and a cemetery (at the former Gasworks). We also found the third – previously unknown – member of the 4th century network of watchtowers along the Danube in Óbuda that belonged to Pannonia’s border defences. In 2010 we gained new information concerning the prehistoric, Roman, Migration period and mediaeval settlement history of the Danube bank by Budatétény and Szigetszentmiklós and the northern slope of Csúcshegy-Harsánylejtő. The new finds include fragments of a 7000-year-old face pot and a clay figurine (idol), glass vessels, jewellery, brooches (fibulae), coins, lamps and two mediaeval bronze headdresses. Providing glimpses into architectural skills and dwelling habits of the time are the reconstructions of Neolithic and Avar-period houses based on building remains unearthed in Növény Street (District XI.). One of the highlights of the exhibition is an entrance mosaic of a braid pattern from the governor’s palace in Óbuda. It had been discovered during the middle of the previous century, but it was restored last year: so after 40 years the general public can see the mosaic for the first time. Our Museum will in all likelihood continue expanding the knowledge concerning the history of Budapest in 2012, as it has every year since its founding.

There is something new under the ground…A selection of the most beautiful finds of 2009”

16 April 2010 – 31 March 2011

Curator: Orsolya Láng

“The novel of Aquincum’s archaeology”

15 April 2010 – 31 October 2010

Curator: Katalin Lengyelné Kurucz

There is something new under the ground…A selection of the most beautiful finds of 2008”

15 April 2009 – 31 March 2010

Curator: Orsolya Láng

The Budapest History Museum carried out nearly 50 excavations and more than 100 field surveys during 2008 connected to construction works throughout the territory of Budapest. The artefacts of the exhibition – now organised for the 14th time – cover 7000 years of history in the city from prehistoric times through Roman occupation down to the Migration period. The objects on display were selected by museum archaeologists from the more than 180,000 objects discovered in 2008 alone. Parts of a prehistoric settlement and cemetery were found on the Óbuda Danube bank; ceramic vessels, jewellery and other everyday objects from the site are on display. The fully excavated foundation of one of the settlement’s ancient dwellings is a true sensation that will also enable us to reconstruct the 7000-year-old building. Ongoing archaeological excavation by the museum connected to the construction of M0 orbital motorway around the Hungarian capital also continued in 2008. Beautiful vessels and dress objects from the Migration period cemetery as well as finds from the prehistoric settlement and cemetery are also on display this year. The most amazing find of the exhibition is a detail from a colourful mosaic pavement, the likes of which have not been found in the last 25 years of archaeological research in the city. In addition, visitors can also see newly-discovered and already-conserved wall paintings and other furniture from the Aquincum Military Town. This exhibition not only bears witness to the archaeologists’ efficient and professionally ambitious work that also takes into consideration the schedules of construction projects. In the display cases there is many a find that had lain unknown in the ground just a few months before the exhibition opened. It has taken the concerted efforts of our team of excavation assistants, draughtsmen, cameramen, conservators and museologists to transform the finds into the artefacts now on display. Their coordinated and effective work helped these records of Budapest’s past reach the city’s modern inhabitants. The unique archaeological finds discovered in 2008 demonstrate once again that there is always “something new under the ground”: the archaeological heritage of Budapest is particularly rich and surprises always await researchers and the public alike.

“Culture of plants – Plants of culture” – Plants and culture in the history of Europe

21 May 2009 – 31 October 2009

Curator: Alice M. Choyke

That plants have always held an essential value for human life may be obvious, but nevertheless it is true. Despite this, in the IT- and technology-oriented societies of 21st century Europe, plants are largely disregarded. Most people are unaware of the role plant derivatives play in a number of their everyday activities, whether it’s baking a mouth-watering cake, sipping a favourite brandy, relaxing in a chair, or slipping on a pair of jeans. Nowadays, though, a great deal of ancient botanical ingredients has been replaced by artificial chemical products. We select our fruits unknowing whether they come from tall exotic trees or common low-lying shrubs; for this information is of no matter to us, modern-day hunter-gatherers, when we are searching for food in supermarkets as our ancestors once did in forests. Because of the decline in farming in many countries, and likewise the perception of seasonal rhythms (largely marked by plant life cycles), relative popular traditions are gradually disappearing. The outcome of this general loss of plant knowledge is that most people are no longer aware of the importance of plant use in their lives. Plants are generally perceived as limited to the realms of either ecologists or intellectuals and therefore any consideration of plant issues today is implicitly viewed as superfluous. Nevertheless, even today, plants provide for primary needs, such as food, medicine, clothing, tools, furniture and homewares, as well as social needs, such as body painting, make-up and ornaments, and are also common symbols and emblems. They have also always been employed in ceremonies and religious rites, thereby fulfilling transcendental needs. The aim of this pan-European exhibition, ‘Plants and Culture in the history of Europe’, is to show the importance of plants in building a European identity. As part of the European Culture Programme (2007-2013), a network containing dozens of researchers has been involved in a complex joint project to present a new and unique set of stories. These cover botany, archaeology, plant use throughout history, and popular traditions from eleven European countries, offering also a brief glance at European botanical history. The exhibition is based on the concept of Europe portrayed through plants, in the hope that the roots of our past become the seeds of our future.

“There is something new under the ground…A selection of the most beautiful finds of 2007”

15 April 2008 – 30 November 2008

Curator: Orsolya Láng

The Budapest History Museum’s Aquincum Museum organises this traditional exhibition for the 12th time between 15 April and 30 November 2008. The exhibition in the main museum building presents the largest display yet of the archaeological finds unearthed in the previous year. The museum’s archaeologists have carried out 70 excavations in Budapest, from the Roman riverbank to the site of the former Skála shopping centre. The selection from the 200,000 discovered finds covers over 10,000 years of history from Prehistoric times through Roman occupation down to the Migration period.  This year’s exhibition puts human depictions centre stage, displaying, among others, a prehistoric idol, face depictions on pottery, and Roman face pots. The highlight of the exhibition is a rare, life-size statue of a Roman solider with ornamental armour, unearthed in the western cemetery of the Aquincum Military Town. Furthermore, prehistoric and Roman pottery, glass vessels, metal objects and jewellery as well as ornate gravestone fragments are also on display. A games corner for children and a display with photographs from the excavations complete the exhibition. The excavations of 2007 have proven once again there is always “something new under the ground”: the archaeological heritage of Budapest is particularly rich and surprises always await researchers and the public alike.

The empire of Venus and Hygieia – Beauty care in the Roman period

21 June 2008 – 31 October 2008

The ‘jurisdiction’ of the two ancient deities mentioned in the exhibition’s title gives it away that the Aquincum Museum once again puts the spotlight on the Roman private sphere. Literary sources and archaeological finds prove that both men and women placed great importance on their appearance and neatness. Visiting the baths was part of daily life, and the frequent use of perfumes is reflected in the large number of perfume flasks unearthed during excavations. Facial care, face painting, epilation and shaving were not unknown for the men and women of the Roman period. Beauty care also included the hair – fashionable hairstyles always followed the coiffure of the incumbent empress. The temporary exhibition aims to provide a glimpse into Roman beauty care with the help of finds discovered in Aquincum. In addition to bathing culture, personal hygiene, facial and hair care, the exhibition also introduces the world of jewelleries and fragrances, which enhanced the beauty of the wearer.