Category Archives: Egypt events

The Cult of Imhotep (Part 1)

In the first of two guest posts, Matt Szafran – independent scholar, palettologist and movie prop collector – examines the cult of the legendary Imhotep in ancient and modern times.

Imhotep is most commonly remembered as the architect of the Step Pyramid of the Third Dynasty (c. 2686-2610 BCE) king Djoser at Saqqara, which was the first known stone structure created. It is also worth remembering that Imhotep was responsible for the design and construction of an expansive mortuary complex of courts and chapels, the design of which was never replicated. The step pyramid is currently regarded as the first Egyptian pyramid, created from six layers of limestone mastaba style structures stacked atop each other. The pyramid was an enduring shape within Ancient Egyptian visual culture, which remained in use long after monumental pyramid building fell from favour. Perhaps this was, in part, the beginning of the cult of Imhotep, as the sculptor (referred to in later periods as a sankh or ‘one who gives life’) of such a revered design.

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The Step Pyramid complex, seen from the south west

The tomb of Imhotep is yet to be re-discovered, or at least remains unattributed, and so the contemporaneous accounts of him all come from inscriptions on other artefacts and monuments. For example, a statue of king Djoser was found at Saqqara with an inscription, exceptionally, naming Imhotep and a list of his epithets, such as ‘the builder, sculptor and maker of stone vases’, the ‘overseer of masons and painters’, ‘royal chancellor’, ‘ruler of the great mansion’ and the ‘greatest of seers’. However the most unusual title discovered is that of ‘The King of Lower Egypt, the two brothers’, whilst there is debate over the actual meaning of this title it appears to imply that Imhotep was somehow an equal to the King – something completely unparalleled in Egyptian history and unique to Imhotep.

The Search for Imhotep: Tomb of Architect-Turned-God Remains a Mystery

Statue base of Djoser with name and titles of Imhotep. Imhotep Museum, Saqqara

Imhotep’s reputation endured after his death, with the development of a funerary cult which venerated his literacy and his scribal and physician skills – something which must imply he was considerably talented in these areas. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri suggest that Imhotep became a medical demigod during the rule of the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2613-2494 BCE) king Menkaure – a mere 100 years after his death. We see this paralleled today, even in our modern disposable and ephemeral society, with scientists and engineers being remembered for their achievements decades or centuries after their death. Brunel for example continues to have monuments created and displayed all over the United Kingdom, in addition to giving his name to engineering universities, trains and being featured on modern coinage and in lists of the ‘Greatest Britons’.

Middle Kingdom (c. 1975-1640 BCE) tombs, such as that of king Intef, featured verses of the ‘Harper’s Song’. Some of these verses contained references to Imhotep and his teachings, illustrating that even royalty revered Imhotep’s work sufficiently to want it included in their funerary rituals.

This cult endured for centuries, with the ‘Turin Papyri’ illustrating that Imhotep’s epithets were increased during the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1077 BCE) where he gained the titles of ‘chief scribe’, ‘high priest’, ‘sage’ and the ‘son of Ptah’ – the latter essentially making Imhotep a demi-god. It was during this period that Imhotep also became the patron of scribes. Offering formulae on statuary include dedications that ‘the water in the cup of any scribe’ be offered as a libation for Imhotep’s Ka spirit. Perhaps scribes would have personal statues and dedications to Imhotep to offer prayers to in return for assistance in their work, just as they may have for Ptah and Thoth. In visual culture these depictions of Imhotep are always as a seated man, with a bald head or cap (similar to that of Ptah) and typically with a scroll opened on his lap.

Votive statuette of Imhotep. MMA 26.7.852a, b

Imhotep continued to be worshipped into the Saite Period (c. 664-525 BCE), over two millennia after his death, culminating in becoming one of the few non-royals in Ancient Egypt to be fully deified. He remained as the son of Ptah and his mother then became either Nut or Sekhmet, it was also around this time that Imhotep became associated with Thoth and was considered to be the god of medicine, wisdom and writing.

This association persisted into the Ptolemaic Period (c. 332–30 BCE) with the Greeks identifying Imhotep with Asclepius, their god of medicine. This association helped the cult rise out of the Memphis region and spread throughout Egypt. Imhotep’s main cult centre was, appropriately, established near to the Step Pyramid in Memphis, with other temples at Deir El Bahari, Deir El Medina, Karnak and Philae. His cultists would make pilgrimages to these sites to give offerings in return for curing health problems and for help and advice with difficulties in their daily lives. An inscription on a statue found in Upper Egypt lists six festivals created in honour of Imhotep each year, all of which would have involved music, dancing and banquets.

Retro del tempio di Ptah, gli immortali architetti Imhotep e ...

Figure of Imhotep, accompanied by Amenhotep son of Hapu to the right, at the temple of Ptah at Karnak

Imhotep’s cult waned with the Arab conquest of North Africa, with his medial writings surviving as long as the Christian era. However with the European re-discovery of Ancient Egyptian culture in the 19th Century reignited interest in Imhotep and his accomplishments. This renewed interest wasn’t solely by Egyptologists, and Imhotep took his place as a forefather of modern medicine. There are now medical papers and books written about Imhotep and the role he played in the history of medicine, the Faulty of Medicine building of the Paris Descartes University even has a carved relief of Imhotep.

The modern day cult of Imhotep may not make pilgrimages or hold festivals in his honour but it does still build monuments to him, it venerates his knowledge, wisdom and skill and it continues to writes about him. So really is the modern day cult all that different to that of millennia previous?

Part 2 – on the modern cultists of Imhotep – to follow… 

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Tutankhamun’s ‘Guardian’ Statues: Symbolism and Meaning

One of the most striking objects in the exhibition ‘Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh’, which recently opened to sell-out crowds at the Saatchi Gallery in London, is a life-sized striding statue of the king. One of a pair (its mate remains in Cairo), in many ways these statues exemplify many of our misapprehensions about Ancient Egypt in general and Tutankhamun in particular.

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In dramatic black and gold, the statues were said to be really ‘life-size’ because they represented the pharaoh at the same height as discoverer Howard Carter claimed the ‘boy king’ had been in life after measuring his mummified body.

The Tutankhamun exhibition – of which I was lucky to get a preview – emphasises the status of the king’s funerary assemblage as priceless, luxurious, consisting of one-of-a-kind treasures. In fact, it is clear from the broken remains of the contents of other tombs in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere that such statues were part of a standard set of funerary furniture that a king of Egypt’s New Kingdom could expect to be buried with. Tutankhamun’s was if anything a pared down version of the set.

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Tutankhamun’s statues, with remains of shrouds, in situ. Photo by Harry Burton. Griffith Institute

The closest parallels to Tutankhamen’s statues come from the tomb of Ramesses I (KV 16). Giovanni Belzoni describes their discovery in the burial chamber in 1817:

…in a corner a statue standing erect, six feet six inches high, and beautifully cut out of sycamore-wood: it is nearly perfect except the nose… in the chamber on our right hand we found another statue like the first, but not perfect. No doubt they had once been placed one on each side of the sarcophagus, holding a lamp or some offering in their hands, one hand being stretched out in the proper posture for this, and the other hanging down.

Two similar, though less well-preserved, statues come from the tomb of Horemheb (KV 57). Like those of Ramesses I, these are somewhat over-lifesize in scale. One other statue of this type originates from the tomb of Ramesses IX now in the British Museum, and is roughly lifesize. All of these are resin-coated, and seem to have originally been gilded. The presence of this statue type throughout the Eighteenth Dynasty is indicated by fragments: in KV 20, the tomb of Hatshepsut/Thutmose I, the excavators noted “a part of the face and foot of a large wooden statue covered with bitumen”; Amenhotep II was provided with a resin-coated example in the same pose as later statues but at only 80 cm in height and fragments of sculpture on the same scale come from the tombs of Thutmose III and IV. Parts including “two left ears and two right feet” for “lifesize wooden statues” were found in the cache tomb WV 25 but perhaps washed in from the neighbouring tomb of Ay (WV 23). Taken together, this evidence suggests that such royal images increased in scale over time. Depictions of statues exactly similar to Tutankhamun’s appear in a scene of sculpture being produced in the tomb of the vizier Rekhmire (temp. Tuthmose III/Amenhotep II) – suggesting a consistent iconography over time.

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Scene from the tomb of Rekhmire (TT 100)

In Tutankhamun’s pair, one wears the nemes headdress and the other a khat bag-wig. The same head coverings also occur on the pair of statues of Ramesses I, although other statues are insufficiently preserved to know if this pattern was standard. The khat-wearing statue of Tutankhamun has a text on the kilt apron labelling it as: “The Perfect God… royal Ka-spirit of (the) Horakhty, (the) Osiris… Nebkheperura, justified”. This favours the interpretation of the statue(s) as a home for the royal Ka-spirit.

The supposed function of these sculptures as “guardians” arises from the position at the doorway of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun’s (albeit truncated) tomb, the seemingly threatening maces they hold and especially the over-lifesize scale of the Horemheb and Ramesses I examples.

Carter initially coined the term “guardian statue” and the contemporary press accounts emphasised this apparently defensive function in descriptions; that is still how the statue is described in the Saatchi exhibition interpretation. However, in no simple way is the statue a ‘guardian.’ The root of this persistent misinterpretation – absolutely typical for Egyptology – may lie in a deep-seated anxiety that the tomb was not supposed to be entered – the same apprehension that has fuelled countless examples of mummy fiction.

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Fifth Dynasty falsedoor of Khainpu (Acc.no TN R4567/1937), showing the same iconography in two dimensions as Tutankhamun’s ‘guardian’ statues show in three-dimensions

One wonders if the statues actually represent a much more general freedom of movement and power for the deceased; spells from the Book of the Dead are illustrated by vignettes of the deceased holding a cane and sceptre and the same iconography notably occurs frequently on falsedoors from the Old Kingdom onwards. These images are not usually interpreted as ‘guardians’ of the tomb – although the precisely parallel in two-dimensions the ‘scene’ set up in front of the door to Tutankhamun’s burial chamber in three-dimensions.

As ever, Tutankhamun’s ‘treasures’ say more about our modern anxieties about looking inside the tomb than they do about the ancient functions of objects such as sculptures.

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‘Golden Mummies of Egypt’ – Manchester Museum’s First International Touring Exhibition

Glittering gold and mysterious mummies are among Ancient Egypt’s most enduring attractions – and the source of some of its most persistent cliches. Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, houses a world-class collection of such Egyptological ‘treasures’. For the first time, and opening in Buffalo NY in February, the museum is launching an international touring exhibition Golden Mummies of Egypt to share some of its Egyptian highlights and to ask questions about how we interpret them.

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Golden Mummies of Egypt examines hopes and fears about the afterlife when Egypt was part of the Greek and Roman worlds (c. 300 BC-200 AD). Wealthy members of this multicultural society still hoped for their dead to be transformed by the expensive process of mummification. By being covered in gold, the deceased might imitate the eternal radiance of the gods themselves. Blending Egyptian, Roman and Greek imagery, the strikingly lifelike painted mummy portraits are among the most haunting images from the Ancient World. Examining the meanings of these objects for their original viewers, the exhibition reflects on the diverse influences of identity formation.

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Gilded mummy of a woman. C. 100 BC. From Hawara, Egypt. Acc. no. 2120. Photo: Julia Thorne (@tetisheri)

Exhibition Curator Dr Campbell Price said: ‘Using our superb collection from Graeco-Roman Egypt, the exhibition is a wonderful chance to question why the Greeks and Romans were so fascinated with the Egyptian way of death, and why we are still spellbound today.’

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Painted mummy portrait of a woman. C. 150 AD. From Hawara, Egypt. Acc. no 2266

The University of Manchester has led research on Egyptian mummies for over a century, having acquired thousands of objects from archaeological excavations. The exhibition’s innovative visualisation technology brings CT-scans to life, but also questions why we are fascinated by mummies, what they might tell us about ourselves and the colonial context of their acquisition?

The need for such alternative perspectives is also inspiring Manchester Museum’s £13.5 million transformation hello future due to open in 2021, supported using public funding by Arts Council England and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

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Wooden openwork panel from a coffin, showing Isis and Osiris. C.100 AD. From Tuna el-Gebel, Egypt. Acc. no. 11254 Photo: Julia Thorne (@tetisheri)

Director of Manchester Museum Esme Ward said: ‘we are excited to be involved in this once in a lifetime opportunity to launch Golden Mummies of Egypt .The exhibition will bring together world class collections, University research and an exploration of both the current fascination and colonial context of Ancient Egypt. ’

In partnership with Nomad Exhibitions, the tour consists of over 100 key objects from the Manchester Museum collection, including eight mummies, as well as masks, coffins, jewellery and sculpture. Tim Pethick, CEO of Nomad, said: “Nomad Exhibitions are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the team at Manchester Museum to bring this outstanding collection to the world. It is particularly exciting for us to be able to create an Egyptian age exhibition that focuses on the rich, but often over-looked, Graeco-Roman period with its diverse multi-cultural society and cultures.”

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Terracotta figure of the Egyptian god Bes as a Greek soldier. C. 100 BC. From Egypt. Acc. no. 11244 Photo: Julia Thorne (@tetisheri)

The exhibition opens at the Buffalo Museum of Science, in New York State, on Saturday 8th February 2020. From there it will travel to North Carolina Museum of Art in the Autumn before continuing to other US venues. Golden Mummies of Egypt will return to Manchester Museum’s newly built Special Exhibition Hall in time for the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb in November 2022.

Presale tickets will be available at sciencebuff.org on December 2.

Follow #GoldenMummies #GoldenMummiesBuffalo for more

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Study Day – Saturday 16 Feb 2019: The Two Brothers

The Two Brothers: Kinship in Ancient Egypt – Manchester Museum Day School

Full Programme and Abstracts here

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The ‘Two Brothers’ tomb group has been an important part of the Egyptology display in the Manchester Museum for over a hundred years. It is one of the finest group of objects from a private burial of the Middle Kingdom and this year’s annual study day brings together experts to review this collection, examine the scientific investigations that have been carried out and the results of the latest DNA studies. The discussion will widen to consider kinship in general in ancient Egypt. Proceeds from this event will be donated to hellofuture – Manchester Museum’s new development project.

Venue – Lecture Theatre A, University Place (opposite Museum). Price – £35. Bookings can be made here: www.bit.ly/AEkinship.

Programme

9.15          Registration: tea/coffee

9.45          Welcome and Introduction

10.00          Interpreting the Two Brothers at Manchester Museum – Campbell Price

10.45          The Two Brothers: Health and disease Rosalie David

11.30           Tea/coffee break

12.00          Were they brothers? The DNA evidence – Roger Forshaw 

12.30          Picture perfect and bad blood: Funerary evidence of familial relationships from the Ancient Egyptian necropolis at Saqqara – Iwona Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin

1.15            – Lunch – (please make own arrangements)                         

2.15      So what did it mean to be brothers in ancient Egypt? – Leire Olabarria

3.15             – Tea/coffee break 

3.40            Gladden her heart as long as you live: wealth, death and divorce in non-royal close-kin marriages in ancient Egypt – Joanne Robinson

4.30            Conclusion

 

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Book Review – ‘Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon’ by Joyce Tyldesley

Joyce Tyldesley’s new book concerns Ancient Egypt’s most well-known poster-girl: Nefertiti, or – more accurately – a painted limestone and plaster bust of her now in the Neues Museum in Berlin. Tyldesley has already written an excellent biography of the lady herself, and uses this opportunity to discuss her most famous representation – and how it skews our entire impression of who she was. The book follows the successful format of the biography of a single object adopted by Laurence Berman, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in his accessible study of the Late Period ‘Boston Green Head’. As a fellow curator, the idea of spending a whole book on a sole museum object is particularly appealing to me.

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Now, I must confess personal bias here – Joyce is a friend and University of Manchester colleague, and we have discussed the content of the book extensively. Yet the finished product is one of the most important popular and accessible books now available in Egyptology. It chimes in with a welcome mood of reassessment of the history of Egyptology explored very provocatively – though sometimes in rather acerbic terms – in more academic works; the real value here is that, thanks to the popularity of her previous books and online courses at the University of Manchester, the general public are actually likely to read Joyce Tyldesley’s work.

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Joyce and the Manchester Museum replica of the bust.

The book is divided into two parts: the ancient context of the bust and the importance of image production in ancient Egypt (a personal research interest of my own); and the modern reception of the object. The ancient archaeological setting is an especially fascinating one: a sculptor’s workshop at the centre of the production of a vast and still-experimental series of royal images. Nefertiti’s bust is rarely considered in the context of contemporary sculptural practice, which is surprisingly well-attested at Amarna. Tyldesley packs a lot in: notably, the vexed question of how the bust actually left Egypt, a convincing rebuttal of theories that it’s a fake, and the intriguing history of official replicas of the bust. From Adolf Hitler’s fascination with her beauty to the unlikely appropriation of its imagery for Sci-Fi movies, the bust of Nefertiti has had a powerful effect on Twentieth and Twenty-First Century popular culture.

A description, attributed to Hitler, expresses a populist tone that has a sinister and familar ring to it today:

“Oh, these Egyptologists and these professors! I don’t attach any value to their appraisals. I know this famous bust. I have viewed it and admired it many times….”

Who needs an expert to know anything? This reminds us that an object can mean many things to different people, whether or not we like those people is a different matter.

Most importantly, Tyldesley eloquently argues against an exception status for the queen herself. The one-in-a-million chance that such a (seemingly) exceptional piece should be so exceptionally well-preserved has vastly inflated our expectations of her role. As Tyldesley points out, the best comparison is with Nefertiti’s mother-in-law, Queen Tiye (who was actually more ‘famous’ before the seductive bust was found).

Ancient culture in general, and the Nefertiti bust in particular, is so over-loaded with modern meanings and significations that it is a wonder the queen’s slender, elegant neck hasn’t snapped under the strain.

 

‘Nefertiti’s Face: The Creation of an Icon’ is launched at Manchester Museum on Thursday 25th January, and will be on sale in our shop thereafter.

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A review of ‘The Mummy’: sex, death and inaccuracy

Mummy movies play an undeniably powerful role in feeding (pre)conceptions about ancient Egypt among the general public, particularly for museum-goers. In my experience of working with school groups in the last ten years, a good deal of time was spent correcting misinformation gleaned from the swashbuckling Brendan Frasier/Rachel Weiss 1999 ‘Mummy’ franchise. To ignore the most recent re-boot, starring Tom Cruise and on general realise from today, would be churlish. Some Egyptologists will simply laugh it off while others will grumble about inaccuracies, perhaps assuming that Egyptology is in some way an exact science or that museums don’t construct their own ‘facts’ about the Egyptians all the time.

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Leaving aside the issue of the quality of the film (which I actually found quite enjoyable), ‘The Mummy’ tells us some interesting things about museums, archaeological research and the ancient Egyptians. The film’s opening exposition connects with very current issues – U.S. intervention in the Middle East and the iconoclastic tendencies of Daesh – and is jarringly candid about the Black Market in the antiquities trade. In this 2017 reboot, it’s the looters and traffickers (rather than the archaeologists) that get their comeuppance by unleashing an ancient evil. There is, of course, a vague but consistent sense of archaeological enquiry; as always, this is never research for the sake of it – this film perpetuates the myth of archaeologists (and researchers in general) as on the hunt for particular things, trying to fathom a specific ancient mystery. The pernicious subtext has always seemed clear to me: don’t trust anyone with a doctorate who isn’t a medic, because research that isn’t hard science is somehow frivolous and indulgent.

Ancient Egypt appears, as usual, much more boring than it actually was: a bland, overly-sandy wilderness as backdrop to some predictable palace-based intrigues. Although, unsurprisingly, no Egyptologists are credited (or would own up to being) among the ‘researchers’, there’s some passable vocalised Late Egyptian among the confused dialogue. One might charitably assume that the name of Princess ‘Ahmanet’ is a reference to Amunet, the female counterpart of the god Amun, representing ‘hiddenness’ – but this may simply be a coincidence. Researchers also seem to have picked up on the idea of (gilded) finger- and toe-stalls from genuine mummies (such as Tutankhamun and Third Intermediate Period royals from Tanis) to add an unusual detail to ‘other’ even further the ancient princess. The appearance of pseudo-hieratic tattoos indicate her possession by the evil forces of Seth, who is actually very rarely name-checked in mummy films as a bringer of chaos.

One intriguing twist in Ahmanet’s backstory is her stated role as the ambitious and capable heir of her father, resentful of being displaced in the succession by the arrival of a baby half-brother. It is easy to see this as a nod to the historical person of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (c. 1473-58 BCE); with ‘Ahmanet’ even suffering the same eventual fate, of being stricken from the historical record. More might have been made of this, but the opportunity was lost.

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Regarding the ‘horror’ of the film, perhaps most interesting is the fundamental premise of the eponymous Mummy as a sexual being. Ahmanet is a kohl-eyed seductress, who uses men to advance her position. In this, the story returns to early fictional treatments of the Egyptian mummy not as a shuffling (male) servant/lover of a princess, in 20th Century films, but as a beautiful princess herself ‘stripped’ of her bandages and – restored to life – able to tempt mortal men. This in some way misrepresents genuinely ancient sexualised images of the deceased woman as eternally young and fertile, to aid in her own rebirth. Perhaps the best cinematic example of these misinterpretations was Valerie Leon’s Queen Ta-ra in Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) – inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel Jewel of Seven Stars.

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A film critic for The Guardian was quite wrong that the ‘mummy’s curse’ has no basis in ancient Egyptian reality. Imprecations against those who would damage monuments are common in Pharaonic sources, and appeals to the spirits of the ‘bad’ dead to desist from bringing harm are relatively well-attested. The Demotic tale of ‘Setne Khaemwaset’ vividly describes the consequences of stealing secret knowledge from the tomb of a magician. The same trope of illicitly acquiring ancient, hidden knowledge from an ‘archive’ of papyrus scrolls still appears here, in 2017, attesting to its continuing fascination.

So, what will this film add to – or detract from – popular knowledge of ancient Egypt? Well, the impact of the movie will likely be lessened by the fact it is not a ‘family’ film; it is aimed at an older audience than the Abbott and Costello-style treatment of the 1999 franchise. It represents ancient Egypt (specifically the ‘New Kingdom’ – described variously as ‘5000’ or ‘3000’ years ago) as a place of sensual exoticism – but also of disquieting horror. There is little point in quibbling about individual points of inaccuracy – if anything, the overall effect was more ‘accurate’ to our present idea of ancient Egypt than many previous ‘Mummy’ movies.

Most people who enter Manchester Museum have some idea of Egyptian mummies from fiction. For many visitors, mummies are not real. Our other main attraction in Manchester – ‘Stan’ the T-Rex – is a cast; many people have no experience of seeing a real corpse; mummies exist in fiction, alongside werewolves and vampires – so can’t be real. Given that this new ‘Mummy’ launches Universal’s ‘Dark Universe’ series of such characters, this film will likely reinforce these assumptions.

Egyptian mummies exist in a strange dimension between desire and revulsion. This film exploits that quandary more than most of recent times. Although she is evil, there are moments when one feels sympathetic towards Ahmanet. In the end, the film proves that unlike many other subjects contained within – and created by – museum collections, ancient Egyptian material has a uniquely seductive mixture of glamour and horror – of sex and death – that people are drawn to time after time.

For museums, it is useful to have this ‘pop’ fantasy as a counterpoint to debunk.

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Zahed Taj-Eddin’s ‘Shabtis: Suspended Truth’, 1 April – 30th June 2017

Zahed Taj-Eddin’s ‘Shabtis: Suspended Truth’ to feature at Manchester Museum

Responding to the current political debate on the subject of migration, Manchester Museum has commissioned a gallery installation by Syrian-born artist Zahed Taj-Eddin, which reflects on the Museum’s world-class Egyptology collection. Zahed Taj-Eddin was inspired particularly by Manchester Museum’s extensive collection of shabti figurines, which were placed in large numbers in tombs to act as servants for the afterlife. He has previously created 99 faience ceramic ‘Nu’ Shabtis for popular shows at the V&A, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and elsewhere.

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Zahed’s new work places a multitude of his ‘Nu’ Shabti figures in new and unexpected contexts, many suspended as if floating in the main Ancient Worlds gallery space. The focus of the installation is to reflect the experience of migrants on a boat travelling across the Mediterranean towards a new existence.
Zahed said: “For this new installation I decided to suspend my ‘Nu’ Shabtis in the Museum
galleries. They are taking a new journey into time and space; suspended between the past and the present, searching for a new truth, different from the one they were made for. The display invites visitors to think about ancient and modern human issues such as the beliefs and actions that lead us to venture into the unknown and explore a better life beyond.”
Dr Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan, said: “Our aim in working with Zahed has been to address contentious social questions through the lens of archaeological collections; to use seemingly familiar objects and provoke discussion of big contemporary topics. Zahed’s sculptures are both serious political commentary and enthralling objects in their own right.”
Late Period shabti on white.jpgZahed’s installation is accompanied by a display of more than 250 ancient examples from one of the world’s most important private collections of shabtis, many never seen on public display before.

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Shabtis from the Kemehu Collection

‘Shabtis: Suspended Truth’ will be on view at in Manchester Museum’s Ancient Worlds galleries from the 1 st of April until the 30th of June 2017.

#MMShabtis

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