Discover the origins of power and inequity in ancient southeastern Europe

June 26, 2024
Crown made of gold leaves

Gold Wreath, Iron Age, 372-325 BCE. Photo © Field Museum, Ádám Vágó. Courtesy of the National Museum of History, Sofia, Bulgaria

We’re all familiar with the idea of kings and queens, but do you know their origins? You are hereby invited to embark on an epic journey spanning 6,500 years and discover the answer!

First Royals of Europe, the newest exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, will take you from the Neolithic Age to the dawn of empires. This is a time when precious metals were first smelted into copper axes, bronze swords, and silver and gold jewellery, and when warriors built armies to rule the masses.

This exhibition will take you on a voyage that starts with a simple way of living, in farming villages surrounded by trees, where everyone was fairly equal. From there, you’ll move toward a dark and worrying world, the Iron Age, a period when a warrior class emerged and became increasingly powerful. This elite controlled wealth, forging their own armies attached to kingdoms. It was a time of spectacular riches.

On view are more than 700 rare and exquisite objects from 26 institutions across southeastern Europe, brought together in Canada for the first time. These include a ceramic figurine, representing how the people of the Neolithic Age recognized a supernatural world; a gold wreath from the Iron Age, with a figure of the Greek goddess of Victory; and so much more.

While visiting the exhibition, test your knowledge of metalworking by playing a round of Metal Masters, a trivia game exploring the relationship between metalworking and the emergence of social hierarchies in southeastern Europe. As you play, you’ll level up through the Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron ages in Europe. And during the game, you’ll interact with and even handle reproduction objects and materials found in the exhibition.

If you’re a member of the Museums, watch your email inbox for invitations to members-only tours!

The exhibition runs until January 19, 2025.

For more details, or to explore the exhibition online, please visit

First Royals of Europe is a presentation of the First Kings of Europe project, organized by the Field Museum in Chicago. This exhibition has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.