03 April 2024

Egypt II

It's odd but there's not one but two major exhibitions of Egyptiana in Australia this year: one from the mecca, the Cairo Museum, on display in Sydney; the other, from the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (Dutch National Museum of Antiquities).  I wrote of the Sydney exhibition and I was overwhelmed.  Our Canberra collection was less but still worthy.  I am coming to realise that Egyptian displays all cover a similar field: the mummies and statues of stone and wood and ushabti and models and writing and beads and the Rosetta stone and more stone.  Stone lasts, as do beads and even mummified bodies.  Timber and parchment is more problematic, but Egypt is dry so lends itself to preservation.  (There's even a loaf of bread in the Cairo museum).  I've seen lots of this before, but it's still a great pleasure to revisit these eras that are so well represented overseas but little here and so much in our cultural history.  My faves this time may have been the five mummies, all still wrapped in linen, so the precision and neatness of the linen wrapping is obvious.  Mummification is a stange process to us (not least the hook for removing the brain through the nose; one was on display here) but an act of respect for them.  And the remains of paint on timber and stone that's just a hint of vibrant colours that we fail to appreciate.  (Roman and other remains suffer the same predicament).  And a mere C19th print of statues showing how deeply they were buried in sand until recent researches and tourism (Ramese II at Marnack??).  And the footwear that's just a modern thong, if not in modern rubber.  So I've mostly seen this all before but I never tire of the revisits.

Discovering Ancient Egypt is an exhibition of Egyptiana from the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden at the National Museum of Australia.

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