An Audience with a King

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be able to go see the King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs exhibit at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario (aka The AGO). I have been in love with Ancient Egypt since I was a young girl.  I remember first becoming interested back in grade 4 or 5, when a friend of mine was studying it in class.  For some reason, my class didn’t do that unit, but she shared with me what she learned and a love affair began.  A year or two later, I did an extra credit project on Ancient Egypt, writing a journal about my fictitious trip down the Nile. Even today, I read history books about Ancient Egypt and watch any documentary that is released.  And, I hate to fess up to it, but I’m a big fan of Dr. Zahi Hawass and Dr. Bob Brier.  (I do detest those mummy movies, though.)

The exhibit was amazing.  Every time I get a chance to see artifacts from Ancient Egypt, I can’t help but feel awe.  The statues are breathtakingly beautiful, the jewelry is stunning, and the religious objects demonstrate a piety all but unseen today.  You can see a few of the object here, but the pictures do not do them any justice at all.

The items that stopped me in my tracks were relativity simple.  Yes, the golden mask of Psusennes I is fabulous beyond words.  But it was the simple white chair from Tut’s tomb that I loved, and the gold finger and toe coverings that protected the digits of the king’s mummy.  I was also so impressed by the alabaster vase that once held unguents long ago taken by thieves.

Really, I can’t find the words to describe what I saw or how it made me feel.  The best I can say is that it was wonderful to see objects in person that I have only seen on TV or in books.  It has made me even more determined to get to Egypt one day to see more.

I’ve actually had a very special year when it comes to seeing ancient artifacts.  I was able to see the Book of the Dead exhibit that the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) had earlier this year, and along with that revisit their permanent Ancient Egypt exhibit.  (It features the most complete copy of the mural from Queen Hatshepsut mortuary temple, detailing the expedition she sent to Punt, among many other wonderful things.)  I was also able to see the ROM’s Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, which was very moving even though I don’t follow that particular religious path.

Book of the Dead of Amen-em-hat

Book of the Dead of Amen-em-hat

Sometimes, when I am at a museum, I wonder if we aren’t being a bit odd collecting and viewing these pieces of flotsam and jetsam from lives and times long past.  There was a latrine seat in the Tut exhibit, something left behind at Amarna when everyone moved one.  It brought some titters of laughter from the high school students drifting through the exhibit.  And, yes, I will admit I found it a bit off too.  But it was also humanizing; reminding us 21st-century viewers that these ancient people we put on a pedestal (literally) were actually the same as us.

I wonder what of our civilization will be deemed worth exhibiting in a museum in the centuries to come.

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