Dr. Kritsky's Pocket Guide to Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs

View of the start of the Pharaohs’ Hall

Tracy Doyle


If you haven’t had a chance to take in the amazing “Egypt: The Time of  Pharaohs” exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC), you still have time.

Heralded as the largest traveling collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, the exhibition – consisting of 350 original relics (the oldest dating back 4,500 years) – will be on display through August 18.

Granted, that’s a lot of Egyptian relics, each one wonderous in its own way.

Fortunately, Gene Kritsky, Ph.D., adjunct curator at CMC, is happy to point out a half dozen of what he considers to be some of the most spectacular items on display. And you can be sure he knows a spectacular Egyptian relic when he sees one – Kritsky, dean of Behavioral and Natural Sciences and a professor in the Department of Biology at Mount St. Joseph University here in Cincinnati, lived in Egypt for a year as a Fulbright Scholar, and he has published several papers on Egyptology. But what truly gives him street cred when it comes to all things historically Egyptian is his last book, titled “The Tears of Re – Beekeeping in Ancient Egypt,” published by Oxford University Press.

Thus, the following is a pocket guide, if you will, of Kritsky’s “Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs” exhibition “must sees” – not in any particular order of spectacularity, mind you.

“They are all things you really don’t want to miss,” he says.

Karnak Temple Battle Scene Plaster Cast

“If you visit the Karnak Temple today, you will see that the battle scene has deteriorated over the last three millennia,” Kritsky says. “The original relief was brightly painted and, by using a digital projection system, visitors can view the original painted relief, and then watch the colors slowly fade away revealing the relief that was cast over a century ago. Specialists who wish to study this scene prefer to examine this plaster cast rather than the original at Karnak Temple because the cast is more detailed.”

Bust of Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Egypt, ruling for 20-plus years in the 15th century B.C. Considered one of Egypt’s most successful pharaohs, Hatshepsut – a daughter of King Thutmose I – became queen of Egypt when she became the wife of her half-brother, Thutmose II. When Thutmose II passed away he was succeeded by his son, Thutmose III, who was only three years old. “So, Hatshepsut stepped in and ruled as pharaoh. After all, she was the daughter, sister, and wife of a pharaoh. Her reign was a peaceful time, one of prosperity. A time when Egypt was approaching its Zenith,” Kritsky explains. After Hatshepsut died, Thutmose III became the sole ruler of Egypt, and late in his reign he began removing and destroying the statues of Hatshepsut. This bust of Hatshepsut, however, survived.

The Chronology Room

This is a room for people who are fascinated by ancient Egypt and want to more fully appreciate its history. “The room is extremely well organized – we’re talking about 3,000 plus years of history,” notes Kritsky. It dates from pre-dynastic times to the Roman Era. A Kritsky Fun Fact: “Many people consider the pyramids as Egypt’s greatest accomplishment. As impressive as the pyramids are, it was their ability to organize people that is more impressive. They needed people to cut the blocks, to transport the blocks, to feed the people cutting and moving the blocks, to house the people, and to provide medical care of any injuries – which had to be many. Without that organizational skill the pyramids would never have been built.”

Life-Size Reproduction of the Burial Chamber of Sennedjem 

An artisan, Sennedjem lived during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II of Egypt’s 19th Dynasty, and he was buried in the Valley of the Workers. Considered one of the most impressive non-royal tombs of Egypt, this colorful tomb of Sennedjem was found by Italian archaeologists in 1886. “When you stand within the space facing the tomb walls, you really get a feeling for what the burial chamber was like,” Kritsky says. “It’s a very intimate experience.”

On A Smaller, But Nonetheless Spectacular Note

Slate Ivory Carving of Thutmose II

It’s probably no more than 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide, Kritsky observes. “But it’s just amazing, the intricacy of this particular carving.” It’s located in the Pharaohs’ Hall, in a case all by itself. “It’s beautifully lit so all the details stand out,” he adds. “The carving dates from 1479 to 1425 BCE.”

Statue of a Scribe, Reading

“It’s beautiful – small, probably 2 feet tall – and located in the Everyday Life section,” Kritsky notes. He goes on to explain that Ancient Egyptian art was created based on a grid system, and there were rules on how things had to be carved. Stability in Egyptian art reflects stability in government – that was the philosophy behind the grid system. “What makes this piece stand out is the scribe has his head tilted just a little bit, which makes him seem more lifelike,” Kritsky adds. The piece dates back to 2200 BCE.

All artifacts included in “Egypt: Time of Pharaohs” are from the University of Aberdeen Museum in Aberdeen, Scotland; the Roemer-und-Pelizaeus-Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim, Germany; the Berlin Egyptian Museum, and the Gustave-Lubke-Museum in Hamm, Germany. The exhibition was produced as a joint venture involving the Lokschuppen-Rosenheim-Museum; the University of Aberdeen Museums, RPM, and MuseumsPartner in Austria.


Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is located at 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45203. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.