Exhibition Unveils Mysteries, Explores Realities of Ancient Egypt
Photo by Tracy Doyle
Touted as the largest traveling collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, “Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs” recently made its U.S. debut at Cincinnati Museum Center, and the exhibition is fascinating visitors with its more than 350 original relics, the oldest of which dates back 4,500 years.
Of particular interest to exhibit-goers are such stunning items as the incredible sphinx head of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, the longest-ruling female pharaoh; the coffin of Nakht, offering insight into ancient Egyptian religious beliefs; the elaborately embalmed mummy of Ta-khar, a wealthy elderly woman from Thebes; a papyrus from the Book of the Dead; and – because Egyptians held felines in the highest esteem – a mummified cat.
“The ancient Egyptians had two great advantages over other ancient societies. First, the agriculture and the supply of the people were largely secured by the annual Nile flood and with it, the great fertility of the country. Second, the borders of the country were well-defendable and safe by the bordering deserts as well as the Mediterranean and Red seas,” explains exhibit curator Regine Schulz, Ph.D., director general of the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum in Hildesheim, Germany, and a professor of Egyptology and Coptology at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.
“Therefore, the people of Egypt were doing quite well in long phases of their ancient history, different than many other ancient cultures. There was enough wealth that material and immaterial art could develop, and we are lucky that, because of the dry climate, many works of art and testimonies of daily life have been preserved.”
Nevertheless, there are still many secrets to solve regarding the Egyptian culture, Schulz notes. “We are again and again astonished about new results coming up in excavations, as well as the analysis of texts and images.”
Schulz, whose specialty is Egyptian religion and society, is one of a team of curators involved with this amazing exhibit. The other team members and their specialties are Christian Tietze, Ph.D., development and reconstruction of ancient Egyptian architecture; Christian Bayer, Ph.D., Egyptian art history; and Oliver Gauert, mummification and burial customs.
“Personally, I am not only fascinated by the high aesthetics of the art, the wonderful literature as well as their unique architecture, I am also very much impressed by their methodologies and logistics, as well as their sophisticated approaches to explaining the development and existence of our world,” Schulz continues. “In addition, it’s great to have the chance to learn so much about the daily life of the people, their thoughts and ideas, their fears and desires. Many of the preserved texts – including letters, teachings and prayers – tell us much about the life of the people from different perspectives.”
“Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs” also features remarkably detailed models of once-forgotten cities and landscapes, including models of complex temples with a breathtaking array of rooms and corridors, each with its own use and function. Spectacular interactive multimedia events – including the world’s first full-size 3D hologram of a mummy – bring the time of the pharaohs to life in such a way that visitors feel they are right there in the Nile River Valley.
“Cincinnati Museum Center has an excellent reputation, and like our museum in Hildesheim, it links in an impressive way our natural, cultural, material and immaterial heritage,” Schulz says. “Therefore, it is an ideal place to tell people today the fascinating story of a culture which survived so long and had a huge impact on later cultures and generations, including ours.”
The exhibition features artifacts from the University of Aberdeen Museum in Aberdeen, Scotland; the Roemer- und-Pelizaeus Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim; the Berlin Egyptian Museum, and the Gustave-Lubcke-Museum in Hamm, Germany. According to Schulz, the exhibition combines the results of the newest Egyptological and natural science research with an excellent museum experience. One of the exhibition advisors, for example, is Dr. Waafa El-Saddik, former director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, who was here for the exhibition’s opening in mid-February. He was the very first Egyptian scholar who established museology – the science or practice of organizing, arranging and managing museums – in Egypt.
“Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs” was produced as a joint venture involving the Lokschuppen-Rosenheim- Museum, the University of Aberdeen Museums, the RPM, and Museum Partners in Austria.
“The exhibition offers exciting insights into the world of ancient Egyptians and has the potential to stimulate dialogues and discussions, not only about the ancient Egyptians but also about our own culture, values and objectives today,” Schulz says.
“Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs” runs through August 18.
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is located at 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45203. For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org