First Royals of Europe: An epic journey tracing the rise of wealth and power in southeastern Europe

April 4, 2024


You know what kings and queens are. But how did European royalty emerge? Opening on April 5 at the Canadian Museum of History, First Royals of Europe takes visitors on an epic 6,500-year journey from the Neolithic Age to the end of the Iron Age, chronicling how some individuals expanded their power through wealth, trade, ritual, ceremony, and warfare to become the first royals.

Originally developed by the Field Museum in Chicago, this exhibition — adapted by the Museum of History for presentation in the National Capital Region — is its first and likely only venue in Canada. More than 700 rare and unique objects are on loan from 26 institutions in 11 countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

First Royals of Europe is an exceptional opportunity to see a large and unique collection of rare and beautiful objects from southeastern Europe, all under the same roof,” says Caroline Dromaguet, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Museum of History. “We hope that visitors come away from this exhibition with an understanding that questions of power — who has it, who doesn’t, and why — were as relevant in the past as they are today.”

First Royals of Europe is divided into zones exploring different chronological eras. As visitors make their way through the exhibition, they will discover extraordinary and unique objects from the Neolithic and Copper Ages (around 8,000 to 5,000 years ago) as well as the Bronze and Iron Ages (around 5,000 to 2,500 years ago). The objects on display range from stone blades and ceramic figurines to copper axe heads, bronze helmets, armour, and iron swords. The exhibition features the earliest evidence of gold objects, dating from the Copper Age, along with silver vessels, and amber, gold and glass jewellery from the Bronze and Iron Ages.

The exhibition also has a programmed activity area where visitors can play Metal Masters, a trivia game exploring the relationship between metalworking and the emergence of social hierarchies in southeastern Europe. The game includes reproductions of objects and materials found within the exhibition that visitors can touch and handle.

First Royals of Europe opens on April 5, 2024 and runs until January 19, 2025. For more information, please visit

The exhibition is a presentation of the First Kings of Europe project, organized by the Field Museum in Chicago, and 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.