Brooklyn Museum have sent us some of the first pictures from their brand new long-term exhibit The Mummy Chamber, an exploration of afterlife beliefs and rituals in ancient Egypt, which as we blogged opened to the public on Wednesday.
Featuring 170 pieces from the museums extensive Egyptian collection, it highlights the elaborate and often strange lengths sometimes gone to in the land of the pharaohs in order to ensure that a deceased individual had the most pleasant and trouble-free experience possible after passing on into the mysterious realm of the dead. That means displays of everything from mummies, coffins and sarcophagi to ritual treasures discovered in burial chambers including statuettes, shabti figurines and books of spells.
Peer Down the Book of the Dead Corridor
Taken at the press preview, the photos show some of the exhibits key artefacts. The first shot is of the Book of the Dead Corridor the section of the exhibit dedicated to highlighting the highly popular practice in ancient Egypt of placing papyrus scrolls in tombs bearing a collection of hymns, spells and instructions believed to be vital in overcoming whatever challenges might be faced on the other side.
Youll notice, laid-out in a long cabinet running the length of the corridor, one of the main attractions at The Mummy Chamber namely a large portion of The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose. Painted onto two sides of a nearly eight-metre long papyrus scroll, and aged well over 3,000 years, this highly impressive example of a version of the Book of the Dead is on display for the very first time. Having originally been acquired by the museum back in 1938, it was only brought out of the archives for vital restoration work two years ago. Other sections of the scroll are still being worked on, and will be added to the exhibition at later dates.
The next picture shows the mummy of Thothirdes, a 26th Dynasty priest at Thebes. One of the aims of The Mummy Chamber is to convey the fact that mummification in ancient Egypt wasnt a practice that was carried out just one way there were techniques of varying quality available, depending on what an ancient Egyptian could afford. The full and most expensive works purification, dehydration, internal organ-storage, cleansing, wrapping and all is outlined in this blog. Thothirdes was apparently on a tight budget.
He had a middle-of-the-road mummification, Edward Bleiberg, the Brooklyn Museums curator of Egyptian, Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern art told The New York Times in a recent interview. This is proven by the fact that his organs were stuffed back into his body rather than stored in costly stone jars. The unsophisticated hieroglyphs on Thothirdes coffin further confirms that this priest was a man of modest means. The handwriting is terrible, Bleiberg added.
A Stunning Sarcophagus
The final picture shows three coffins placed in a row, exemplifying how burial caskets could vary in quality significantly too particularly as building techniques and fashions in decoration changed over the centuries. All made from wood, one is small and simple, the next is larger and much more ornately decorated. The last at the back is the stunning outer sarcophagus of Pa-seba-khai-en-ipet. Dating from around 1075-945 BC, it reflects a major shift in burial practice in the 21st Dynasty, when the Egyptian elites stopped building elaborate tombs and instead transferred the scenes normally painted on tomb walls to the coffin.
Its not visible in the picture, but theres damage to the painted surface on the left side of the casket, which has been left unrepaired. This is intended to reveal how the sarcophagus was made by carpenters pinning smaller pieces of wood together with wooden pegs. Artists then plastered and painted the surface to make it appear smooth.
Got pictures of your own from The Mummy Chamber that youd like to share? Then add them to the Heritage Key Flickr group.