Guardian statue of Tutankhamun
Cairo Museum. Height 190cm; width 56 cm.
Life-size statue found by Howard Carter at the entrance to the Burial Chamber of the tomb of Tutankhamun, King of the Eighteenth Dynasty. Next to it, on the other side of the sealed entrance, another Guardian was found, twin to this one, both represented the King with his Ka protecting the tomb and his grave goods.
Presentation of the exposition
With the exhibition Treasures of Egypt we celebrate the Year of Egyptology, since we commemorate both the 200th anniversary of the deciphering of the Rosetta stone and with it, of hieroglyphic writing, carried out by Jean Françoise Champollion, and the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun´s tomb by Howard Carter.
With this exhibition, we want to bring the civilization of Ancient Egypt closer to the general public in a visual, entertaining and educational way. Through a detailed composition of ritual, artistic and architectural elements, the exhibition presents a careful selection of the most representative scenes, elements and works of art of Ancient Egypt. All the recreations that we can see today in the exhibition have been created by volunteers from the Department of Egyptology and the Fine Arts Workshop of the Fundación Sophia in Palma de Mallorca.
This exhibition has been created entirely by the Fundación Sophia and its realisation has been possible thanks to the joint work of a multidisciplinary team led by Prof. Javier Vilar, curator of the exhibition, Egyptologist and president of the Fundación Sophia; Mónica Gutiérrez, Art History graduate, artistic director of the exhibition and head of the Fundación Sophia’s Fine Arts workshop; Herminia Gisbert, Egyptologist and supervisor of the educational content and educational image of the exhibition and Antonio Marí, technical director, responsible for the installation and assembly of the exhibition and coordinator of the cultural volunteers of the Fundación Sophia in Palma de Mallorca.
The archaeological exhibition of The Treasures of Egypt allows us to delve into the fascinating world of ancient Egypt through its works of art, its traditions and religious beliefs, its everyday objects and belongings, and its elements of funerary worship. In fact, although the quality of all its pieces has been carefully taken care of and great efforts have been made to be faithful to the iconography of Egyptian art, our objective was not to create a purely museum exhibition, but rather to offer the public an entertaining vision, didactic and a natural sense of how the ancient Egyptians understood life and death.
Napoleon and the rediscovery of Ancient Egypt
The Western fascination with the great civilization of Ancient Egypt goes back a long way. Many ancient Greek sages and philosophers visited Egypt, it even became part of the Roman Empire. But what made Egypt become a fashionable destination was paradoxically, a military expedition. In the 18th century a French expedition took place with the intention of invading Egypt and Palestine and closing Britain’s path to India. The curious thing about this trip is that, alongside the military, travelled a large group of scholars specialising in various branches of science.
This campaign was led by Napoleon Bonaparte and it was he who solicited the presence of scholars so that, in this way, the expedition could also be a scientific and cultural conquest, in accordance with the enlightenment ideals of the era. He would thus form a Commission of Sciences and Arts. This Commission was made up of 153 of the best scientists and artists in France, including 21 mathematicians, 17 engineers, 13 naturalists, 10 writers, 8 draughtsmen, 4 architects and 3 astronomers, in addition to 22 printers equipped with presses in Latin characters , Greek and Arabic. All of them unaware of the true dimension of the expedition, Napoleon’s enigmatic words he addressed to them were: «I cannot tell you where we are going, but it is a place to conquer glory and knowledge».
Napoleon landed in Egypt on July 2, 1798. During the three years that the French spent in Egyptian lands, not only were numerous objects and monuments that lay half-buried in the desert sands brought to light, but many pieces were also stolen, they went on to swell the artistic collections of France. An Anglo-Turkish alliance defeated the French army, which had to leave the country before being able to take the famous Rosetta stone, which explains why it is now in the British Museum.
On July 21, 1798, the Battle of the Pyramids took place. Napoleon, before engaging in combat, roused his men with a speech that would become famous: “From the top of these pyramids, forty centuries contemplate you.” Another famous anecdote, one of the moments of amazement and wonder experienced by Napoleon and the rational scientists who accompanied him, is narrated by Javier Serra in La Pirámide Inmortal. Napoleon’s Egyptian Secret: “When the French arrived in Egypt in 1798, filled with the dream of the East, they marvel at what they saw. In fact, there is an anecdote that occurred in the Karnak temple, that the French, when they laid eyes on it, stuck their swords in the sand and, out of admiration, broke into applause».
The expedition led by Napoleon Bonaparte was a military failure, but a real success from the scientific point of view. For two years they travelled the country carrying out archaeological explorations, copying texts, drawing old buildings, carrying out ethnological, geological, zoological and botanical studies. All these works were included in the Description de l’Égipte, published in twenty volumes between 1809 and 1822, it became the maximum reference in Egyptology for decades. It is a collaborative work in which around 160 researchers and scientists participated. They were part of the Commission together with artists and technicians, including draughtsmen and engravers, who later compiled the result of their labours in this work.
About a third of the Commission’s scholars formed the Egypt Institute, founded in 1798 by Napoleon, based in the Hassan-Kashif palace on the then outskirts of Cairo. The institute had a library, laboratories, workshops, as well as the various Egyptian collections.
It was after the publication of the book “Journey to Upper and Lower Egypt”, published by Dominique Vivant Denon, a member of the expedition, that Egypt became the preferred destination for Western travellers.
Napoleon’s campaign (1798-1801), and more specifically the extensive scientific study of the remains of Ancient Egypt, revived the world’s interest in the land of the Nile. From that moment on, a good number of adventurers, travellers and explorers, followed by painters and writers, covered the country with a mantle of mystery, exoticism and mysticism. All this caused the birth of an idealised orientalism, which fuelled the passion for the land of the Nile.
To this was added the deciphering of the Rosetta stone by Champollion (1832), the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the creation by Thomas Cook of the London-Cairo line, which made Egypt a fashionable destination, giving rise to tourism as we know it today; what’s more, the first printed tourist guide in the world was from Egypt. Little by little, the tourist fervour increased and travel was made easier thanks to the development of steamboats and the creation of printed tickets. The first hotels in Luxor and Cairo also date from this period. At the end of the 19th century, there were an average of 742 cruises to Egypt throughout the tourist season.
The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter marked the definitive establishment of travel to Egypt, prompting wealthy tourists to travel en masse to the land of the Nile. However, this fascination with Egypt did not stop with the event of travel, it affected other aspects of life. For example, in architecture, it went from including Egyptian motifs in decoration to reproducing buildings and entire rooms; Egyptian obelisks and statues were moved to different parts of the world and Egyptian motifs became a very important part of decoration and furniture. But its maximum expression occurred in the decorative arts such as jewellery. At the end of the 19th century the great jewellers of the time, such as Cartier, included scarabs, Pharaohs, sphinxes, hieroglyphs, serpents and lotus flowers as the main motifs of their works; including gold-smithing, painting and sculpture, when the Art Decó movement reached its definitive peak.
Little by little, this Egyptian influence reached all aspects of the arts, such as literature, ballet or opera, inspiring great works such as the opera Aída (performed for the first time in 1867 at the opening of the great opera in Cairo); or fashion, with the introduction of harem pants by Paul Poiret or the explosion in the twenties of colourful and striking Egyptian-inspired women’s fashion.
Dominique Vivant, Baron Denon (1747-1825), was a French artist, draughtsman and engraver, writer, diplomat, traveller and art collector, first director of the Musée central de la République, future Louvre Museum.
He would travel with Bonaparte’s army on the expedition to Egypt, being one of the first European Egyptologists to view and draw the monuments of Ancient Egypt. The thousands of his plates show what the land of the Nile was like for the travellers of that time. They were discovering wonder upon wonder, with the added value that some of the wonders drawn by Denon no longer exist. One of his most famous drawings is that of the magnificent zodiac found in the temple of Hathor at Dendera.
Returning to France he published Voyage dans la Basse et Haute Egypte (1802), an account of his experience in Egypt accompanied by many of his drawings, which caused a great sensation.
David Roberts (1796-1864), was a British Romantic painter known for his watercolours and engravings of Egyptian and Spanish monuments.
Fascinated by the wonders described in the monumental work Description of Egypt, Roberts embarked for the land of the Nile in 1838. Once there, he immortalised monuments as magnificent as the temple of Isis on the island of Philae, the temples of Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna; the sanctuary of the god Amun in Karnak or the pyramids of Giza. In his work it is easy to see how he enhanced what he saw by altering the scale or adding touches of vegetation and other elements that provided that dreamy touch so typical of romanticism.
The set of his 248 lithographs is arranged in six volumes, the first three dedicated to Egypt and Nubia. The enormous success of his work led Roberts to be appointed academician at the Royal Academy in London in 1841. Thanks to his work today we can contemplate the landscape, the state of the monuments and the way of life of the land of the Nile almost two hundred years ago.
Clock decorated with Egyptian motifs.
Piece decorated with two Anubis (divinity of the underworld and guardian of the Necropolis) and two winged goddesses, a possible reference to the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith or Selkit.
Recreation of an obelisk.
Obelisks are monolithic pillars crowned by a small pyramid, they symbolise the process by which the sun’s rays, which give life, fall to the earth and fertilise it.
Obelisks were erected in temples as a way of marking a “sacred” place. They used to be arranged in pairs in front of the pillars that flanked the doors of the sacred precincts.
Jewellery box in the form of Khepri.
A beetle-shaped divinity, Khepri represents the constant transformation of existence and eternal life. His name means “He who comes (by himself) into existence”. Due to his relation with the sun he is closely associated with Ra and Atum.
Recreation of a canopic jar.
The canopic vessels were where the embalmed viscera of the deceased were deposited during the mummification ceremony. Four vessels were used, each one of them dedicated to one of the sons of Horus, in this case Amset is represented.
Daggers decorated with Egyptian motifs.
These daggers are lavishly decorated with Egyptian motifs. The cross on the adornment of one of the daggers is in the shape of a winged Khepri while the hilt seems to allude to the god Osiris. In the sheath we can see papyrus sheets and hieroglyphics.
CHAMPOLLION AND THE DECIPHERING OF THE HIEROGLYPH
Jean-François Champollion’s destiny was linked to Egypt before he was born. It is said that his mother, while pregnant with Champollion, received a visit from a healer who told her that her future child would be the one who would shed light on past centuries. And so it was, because in the beautiful temple dedicated to the goddess Isis on the small island of Philae, on August 24, 394 B.C. the last inscription in hieroglyphic language was recorded. The triumph of Christianity and the prohibition of pagan rites throughout the Roman Empire consigned an entire civilization to oblivion for fifteen hundred years, until Champollion managed to decipher the enigma of the hieroglyphic language.
Champollion (Figeac, December 23, 1790-Paris, March 4, 1832), was a French historian, linguist and Egyptologist, considered the father of Egyptology for having managed to decipher hieroglyphic writing thanks mainly to the study of the Rosetta stone . He received his doctorate in Ancient History from the University of Grenoble.
At the age of twelve, Jean-François met Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, who had not only participated in Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt and worked at the Egypt Institute in Cairo, but was also in charge of writing the preface to the monumental Description de l’Egypte. Fourier, impressed by the young linguist’s knowledge of Egypt, invited him to visit his collection of antiquities. When Champollion beheld the hieroglyphics he promised himself that one day he would decipher them. And so, when he finished his studies at the Institute of Grenoble, he took with him a copy of the Rosetta stone that Fourier himself had given him.
When Jean-François sets out to decipher the hieroglyphs, he learns all the ancient languages he thinks necessary: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian, Chaldean, Sanskrit, various Chinese dialects, and Spanish. He studied Eastern languages, especially Coptic, the language spoken by Egyptian Christians and written in Greek characters, as he was convinced that Coptic was derived from the ancient language of the Pharaohs. He intuited that through Coptic he could understand the inscriptions in demotic and, from there, decipher the hieroglyphic writing. His intense study of the Rosetta stone led him to discover that some Coptic spellings corresponded to some of the signs that appeared on it, in this way he was able to take a fundamental first step: correct and phonetically transliterate a real name in the edict, that of Ptolemy.
By the end of 1821 Champollion had made important discoveries. He succeeded in showing that hieratic writing was a simpler and more abbreviated form of hieroglyphic writing and that demotic was later and more simplified than hieratic. That same year he managed to compose a table of 300 hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic signs, which allowed him to make transcriptions between the three languages. Thus, thanks to his profound knowledge of Coptic, he found the key that allowed him to start reading a language that had been silent for dozens of centuries.
On September 14, 1822, Jean-François ran into his brother’s office shouting Je tiens l’ affaire! (Got it!), immediately falling to the ground in a swoon overwhelmed by enthusiasm and exhaustion. He had received Egyptian texts thousands of years old and discovered, to his amazement, that he was able to recognise the names of Egyptian kings that had previously been found in Greco-Roman works.
When Champollion presents the results of his research to the Academy of Inscriptions in Paris, he writes “It is a writing that is at the same time pictorial, symbolic and phonetic within the same text, the same sentence, and I would dare to say even within the same word. ”.
After this discovery, the secrets of Egypt could finally be revealed. In 1826 he achieved recognition for his life’s work. He was appointed curator of the Egyptian collection at the Louvre museum. However, despite his achievements and his fame, he was still missing the most important thing: to travel to Egypt and see with his own eyes the country and the monuments that had enveloped his entire existence. In 1828 he finally travelled to the land of the Nile. It was the first and only time that he was able to set foot on Egyptian land.
For eighteen months he lived his dream life as an archaeologist until his already failing health caused him to return to France exhausted. A heart attack ended his life at the age of 41. He was unable to finish his work, but his legacy was the creation of the modern science of Egyptology. In 1836, as a posthumous tribute, Jacques-Joseph managed to finish and publish his brother’s last work, Egyptian Grammar.
The hieroglyph, the magic of the image linked to the word
The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is one of the oldest of humanity, along with the Sumerian cuneiform writing. The ancient Egyptians used three types of writing; hieroglyphic, hieratic (with simpler spelling) and demotic (simplification of hieratic). The first hieroglyphic inscriptions date back to 3100 B.C. and the last from 394 A.D. According to Egyptian mythology, the “divine words” (mdw nTr) had been transmitted to men by the god Thoth, patron of wisdom and of scribes.
During its 3,500 years of life, the foundations of this writing remain stable. Hieroglyphic writing does not separate words from each other nor does it use punctuation between sentences and, as far as possible, the signs are grouped inside an imaginary square that segments the available surface.
Regarding their directionality, hieroglyphs adapt to the support on which they are written: walls, ceilings, stairs, papyrus…, so they can be written horizontally or vertically and be oriented indistinctly from right to left or from left to right. The direction the sign’s face indicates where the text begins.
There are three types of signs: phonograms represent sounds, ideograms words, and determiners are signs without phonetic value that indicate the semantic class of the word after which they appear. For example, the name of a person was followed by a determinative of man, woman or child. As for the pronunciation, the hieroglyphic writing is consonantal, it lacks vowels. Therefore, in addition to using certain consonants as if they were vowels, Egyptologists have adopted by convention the use of “e” between the rest of the consonants in order to be able to pronounce the words.
The hieroglyph, the magic of the image linked to the word
Did you know…
…the meaning of the hieroglyphic language was unknown for more than 1400 years? The last Egyptian temple, that of Isis at Philae, was closed in 551 AD, at which point hieroglyphics became not only a dead language but also an unknown one. Since then, the hieroglyph became a mystery that challenged the investigator and captivated travellers.
…thanks to the fortuitous discovery of the Rosetta Stone, it was possible to decipher the hieroglyph? In 1799, an engineer officer from General Bonaparte’s expeditionary force unearthed a stone covered with inscriptions in the town of Rosetta. The stone contained three writing systems: Greek, demotic and hieroglyphic. At that time it was rightly thought that it was the same text in three different languages, so it could become the key to solving the enigma of the hieroglyph.
…it was Jean François Champollion (1790-1832), considered the father of Egyptology, the one who managed to reveal the key to the hieroglyph? In 1822, after more than ten years of enormous effort, he cracked the mystery. Thanks to him, Egypt once again had a voice.
…the number of signs increased over time? Originally there were around 700, reaching more than 5,000 at the time of the Roman occupation. The Egyptologist Alan Gardiner (1879-1963), author of one of the most elaborate Egyptian grammars, catalogued the 743 most frequently used signs.
The scribes and hieroglyphic writing
Egyptian tradition attributes the invention of writing to the god Thoth, being the protector of the arts, sciences and letters. Thanks to writing, the Egyptian sages perpetuated much of their knowledge by recording it on stone, papyrus, wood, bronze, ceramics or plaster, thus contributing to the greatness and longevity of their civilization.
Throughout its more than five thousand years of history, the language used in ancient Egypt was written with four different writing systems: hieroglyphic, hieratic, demotic and Coptic. The first two are the oldest, since they were used from the very appearance of writing, around 3200 BC. Demotic writing is dated between 650 and 400 BC, and the first evidence of Coptic writing dates back to the 2nd century BC.
Hieroglyphic writing was used to make inscriptions on monuments, pyramids, sarcophagi, tombs, and sculptures. It had a sacred value, since it was known as the “language of the gods”. It is characterised by representing words by means of symbols instead of phonetic or alphabetic signs. Each of these symbols can be seen as a pictogram, an ideogram, or a phonogram. A bird, for example, as a pictogram would be a bird, as an ideogram it could mean “fly” and as a phonogram it could be the phonetic representation of the sound “v”. We also find determiners, signs that are used to clarify meanings that can also express gender, number and tense.
The most frequent orientation is from right to left, however, there are some examples where the orientation is from left to right. It is a recurring fact that the pictograms tend to be oriented in the same direction as the writing. For example, in a pictogram in which an animal is represented, its head would “look” in the direction of the writing. On the other hand, writing can be linear (horizontal layout) or in columns (vertical layout).
During the Old, Middle and New Kingdom it is estimated that there were around 750 hieroglyphic symbols, while in the Greco-Roman era their number increased to more than 5000. As we can imagine, reading and writing in ancient Egypt was an arduous task that required training, and effort. Due to its difficulty, most of the inhabitants did not know how to read hieroglyphics, only the priests, the army officers, the civil servants, the scribes and the Pharaohs.
The training system in Egypt far transcends the art of reading and writing and is located in the so-called Houses of Life. The Houses of Life were a set of buildings that included classrooms, residences for students and teachers, dining rooms and auxiliary rooms. This complex was always associated with a great temple or the Pharaoh’s palace.
The management of all the elements that made up the State, as well as the maintenance of the cults and possessions of the temples, were left in charge of those who were trained in the Houses of Life. Therefore, there were lay scribes at the service of the Pharaoh and priestly scribes, among all of them came the great administrators, judges and priests who played a key role throughout the long Egyptian history.
We know that in the houses of life there was a special type of scribes called Sesh-Medyaut-em-Per-Anj, or “Scribe of the Holy Books of the House of Life”, who were responsible for copying, transmitting and preserving the “venerable writings of wisdom”.
Applicants began reading and writing at an early age, around the age of six, and the learning system was based on repetition and copying of texts, as well as the execution of dictations. We know that on many occasions the classes were taught in the open air and the young people learned to write on supports made of cheap materials, such as ostraca and waxed tablets. Hieroglyphic writing was assimilated once hieratic was mastered. Students copied moral books over and over again, since the goal was not only agility and training in writing, but education within a strict moral code.
Statue of Jean-Francois Champollion
Original: Monumental statue of Champollion, the work of Bartholdi, located in the courtyard of honour of the Collège de France.
Resting his left foot on the head of a statue of a pharaoh.
Thoth in feldspar
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 5.5 cm made in feldspar.
Thoth is the god of wisdom and divine scribe. Inventor of writing, arts and sciences and architect who knew the paths and trajectories of all things. He recorded the events and wrote down the intentions that men had in life, during the rite of the weighing of the heart in the scales of the judgement of Osiris.
Thoth in glazed ceramic
The God Thoth, considered Vizier of the Creator God, divine Scribe, Lord of the calendar and Patron of the Houses of Life, was the main god of Hermopolis in Middle Egypt. On this occasion we see him represented in the form of a human figure with the head of an ibis, the animal with which he is most frequently associated.
Sample of the three scriptures
Hieroglyphic, hieratic and demotic writing
Egyptian hieroglyphic writing was used from 3200 B.C. on eponymous tablets, ritual objects and monuments.
Parallel to hieroglyphic writing, hieratic writing was developed, simpler and more stylised, it allowed scribes to write quickly on papyrus and ostraca.
Demotic writing emerged in the last stage of Ancient Egypt and was a derivation of hieratic. The term was first used by the Greek historian Herodotus, to distinguish it from hieratic and hieroglyphic writing.
Papyrus Fragment of Ani
The Papyrus of Ani is the best known and most extensive version of the Book of the Dead. Written in the Eighteenth Dynasty (1300 BC), in its almost 26 meters long, the book details the steps that the Ka of the deceased has to go through until reaching Immortality. Here we expose a replica of the funeral procession and the rites of spiritual rebirth.
Date: ca. 2030-1550 BC Middle Kingdom-Second Intermediate Period
Original: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The scribe’s palettes were objects mostly made of wood, which contained from two to six spaces where the inks (red, black, white, yellow, blue and green) were placed, they were the mixture of various minerals with a liquid that helped it become like a paste. They also had a container to hold the “brushes” made mostly of reed stems.
The Egyptian scribe used different objects to properly carry out his profession. They used a small leather bag to carry the wooden palette, the tablets to make the coloured inks, a small mortar to pulverise a piece of the tablet and dilute it to write, and the calamus or reed or cane punches, sharpened in a special way. (they could also be made of ostrich feathers).
The scribe carried his leather bag slung over his shoulder by means of a rope or strap and his image configured the hieroglyph that represents the writing or the scribe.
Gray and pink granodiorite stele fragment.
Measurements: 112.30 x 75.70 x 28.40 cm. Its weight is estimated at approximately 760 kilograms.
Date: Ptolemaic period. 196 BC.
Geographical and archaeological provenance: Lower Egypt, Nile Delta, Rashid (Rosetta)
Original: British Museum, London
The Rosetta Stone is the most important object that the men of Napoleon’s expedition found in Egypt. The stele was made after the coronation of Ptolemy V and a decree was inscribed on it establishing the divine worship of the new ruler. The decree is written in hieroglyphics, demotic and classical Greek. Being the same text in these three languages, it made it possible to decipher the enigmatic hieroglyphic writing.
Limestone ostracon with school exercise
Date: approx. 1270 BC
Original: Royal Museum, Ontario.
The ostracon, plural ostraca, is a piece of pottery. These are fragments of broken ceramic vessels or stones such as limestone or slate that were used as writing material. The ostraca were an inexpensive material for writings of an ephemeral nature, such as a school exercise.
Seated Scribe Statue
Limestone statue covered in stucco, polychrome and with appliqués on the eyes.
Date: Dynasty IV, Memphite Period. Carved between 2489 and 2350 BC.
Original: Louvre Museum, Paris. Size: 53.7 cm.
It is a statue belonging to funerary architecture, it was found in the Saqqara necropolis. It shows a high official of the Old Kingdom and its function was to represent the double of the deceased and thus ensure his survival in the Afterlife. His hieratic nature, his subtle smile and his eyes made of rock crystal, white quartz and ebony, make him seem very real.
Introduction to the world of ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt has left a deep mark on the history of mankind. In fact, many of the cultural, political and religious institutions of Western society and of the values, beliefs and customs that make up our current way of life have their ethical and metaphysical roots in the ancient civilization of the Nile. There is no doubt that Egypt is the spiritual cradle of the West, since we know that the most famous sages of the classical world, such as Pythagoras, Plato, Plutarch, Thales of Miletus, Anaxagoras, Anaximander, Democritus, Heraclitus, Solon, Lycurgus, Eratosthenes, Ammonius Sacas, Plotinus, Hypatia, Theon of Alexandria, Hecataeus of Miletus, Strabo, Apollonius of Tyana, Iamblichus and Diodorus of Sicily, acquired much of their knowledge in the Wisdom schools of Ancient Egypt, called in Egyptian Per-Ankh, which means the House of Life.
The truth is that it is hard to believe that in the remote dawn of history, when the Mediterranean culture did not yet reach the Bronze Age and in the rest of Europe we were hunting bears with sticks and stones, in the Houses of Life of ancient Egypt doctors, jurists, administrators, scribes, theologians, moralists, educators, leaders, officials, musicians, painters, sculptors, jewellers, master craftsmen, surveyors, mathematicians, astronomers, engineers and architects, who were capable of building colossal pyramids, statues and obelisks; elaborate complex treatises on mathematics and geometry; building a sophisticated hydraulic network with 900 km of navigable canals on the Nile, erecting magnificent polychrome stone temples and excavating beautiful tombs and hypogea whose walls, ceilings, statues, columns and sarcophagi are full of sacred texts, magical symbols, ritual scenes and astronomical images.
But Egypt is not only the ancestral cradle of Wisdom, but also a country of magic and mystery; because even today the term Ancient Egypt evokes the image of a fascinating and legendary world inhabited by great Pharaohs, powerful magicians and mysterious builders, whose science transcended the knowledge of the material and the perishable to rise towards the contemplation of the divine and the eternal . Thanks to them, the Egyptian people participated in a magical and sacred world-view integrated into the natural order of existence (Maat), which turned its own terrestrial geography into a mirror of divine celestial harmony.
Goddess of the most important and popular triad of gods in Egypt, Osiris-Isis-Horus she is the Lady of Life. In the Osiriac myth, it was she who magically brought her husband Osiris back to life. She carries in her hand the Ankh key which grants Eternal Life and as a protective goddess of the deceased, she was represented at the head of the sarcophagi, in one of its corners together with Nephthys, Selkit and Neith, or covering the sarcophagi with her protective wings.
Horus of the Louvre
Life-size statuette of the god Horus. Twenty-first dynasty (1069-664 BC). Louvre Museum. Paris
In relation to the mysteries of death, we find Horus accompanying the deceased before Osiris after having passed the Judgement of the Heart. In this beautiful representation we find him with his hands in a sign of offering. He probably had the Udyat or Eye of Light decorated on them.
Life-size bronze statuette. 26th Dynasty (664-525 BC) Louvre Museum, Paris.
In this representation we see him with the Atef crown, the staff and the whip in his hands.
Statuette of Osiris attached to the pillar. In this representation, we find Osiris with the white crown Hedyet, iconographically supporting its meaning, as the backbone of Egypt or the pillar of Stability.
Soul of Pe
These are anthropomorphic falcon-headed deities, who together with the souls of Nehen, anthropomorphic jackal-headed deities, represented the sacred ancestors of Egypt. Monarchs of pre-dynastic times in the North (Buto) and the South of Egypt (Hieracómpolis), elevated to the category of gods. Also known as the Shemesu Hor or “Followers of Horus”, these images are generally found prostrate with one knee on the ground, with one arm raised at a right angle and the fist clenched.
The famous archaeologist Howard Carter was born on May 9, 1873 in London. Very soon he discovered his passion for Egypt and despite the many difficulties he had to face throughout his career, his enthusiastic and enterprising spirit allowed him to make one of the most important discoveries in Egyptology of all time.
Thanks to his drawing skills and his knowledge of restoration, at the age of seventeen he began his Egyptological adventure with the help of the Egypt Exploration Foundation together with Petrie, Maspéro and other great Egyptologists who discovered his innate qualities. After several difficult years in which he would consolidate his prestige as an excavator, in 1899 at only 26 years old, he was appointed chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities service.
Before discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb, the most important finds from him were the tombs of Pharaoh Tutmosis IV and Queen Hatshepsut. But it is in 1907 when he finally meets the one person who was to be his great patron, friend and protector. Lord Carnavon, a cultured and enthusiastic English nobleman, fond of archaeology who, after learning of Carter’s plans, was willing to finance his project in the Valley of the Kings. At that time, the common opinion of Egyptologists was that everything that could be found in the Valley of the Kings had already been discovered and exhumed.
However, Howard Carter was convinced that at least one royal tomb remained to be discovered, that of the young King Tutankhamun. In fact, Carter reinforced his hunch based on the discovery of Theodore Davis, who the previous year had brought to light a faience glass vessel with the name of King Nebkheperura (Tutankhamun). It was the first object that appeared in the Valley of the Kings with the name of the young monarch, found a short distance from where years later the first step of tomb KV62 would be found.
Finally, in 1914 Howard Carter obtained the rights to excavate the Valley of the Kings and in November 1922, after eight years of intense searching, his perseverance was finally rewarded with success in finding the tomb of King Tutankhamun KV62, with all its treasures intact.
1873 – May 9. Born in London.
1892 – First job in Egypt as a restorer in Deir El Bahari (Luxor). He is patronised by W.F. Petrie.
1899 – he is appointed Chief Inspector of Antiquities of Upper Egypt, and later, also of Lower Egypt.
1907 – he meets Lord Carnavon, with whom he begins a professional relationship and a great friendship.
1914 – They obtain the excavation rights in the Valley of the Kings.
1922 – After eight years of intense searching, his dream of finding Tutankhamun’s tomb comes true.
1939 – March 2. He dies in London at the age of 65.
The Valley of the Kings
In front of the sacred city of Thebes, on the western bank of the Nile, there is an area of almost 10 km in length, chosen by the kings of the dynasties of the New Kingdom as the place of eternal rest: ASeth Maat «The place of Maat” or “Place of Silence”. Nestled between rocks and hills, the valley of Biban el Muluk (Arabic name) known as the Valley of the Kings, opens in the shadow of a majestic summit in the shape of a natural pyramid, it is the “Mountain of the West”, symbol of the royal necropolis.
Within the Valley of the Kings, 63 hypogea have been found to date. The entrance of each tomb is hidden in the mountain and a long corridor of dozens of meters, with stairs and ramps, finally leads to the sarcophagus room. Unless the tomb was unfinished or had been moved, practically all the walls, ceilings and columns are covered with sacred symbols, ritual scenes, divine images and funerary texts, whose function was to accompany and protect the deceased, guiding their soul along the mysterious paths of the Beyond.
Some Pharaohs like Sethi I, Ramses II or Tutmosis III rested in peace for centuries. However, despite the vigilance of the royal guardians of the necropolis, the hermetic sealing of the tombs and the secret concealment of their location, their looting could not be prevented: only one of the 63 royal tombs found in the valley was found perfectly preserved with all its treasures intact, it is tomb KV-62, belonging to the young King Tutankhamun, the last Pharaoh of royal blood of the XIX dynasty. This tomb is believed to have been destined for a high-ranking non-royal character, as it is one of the smallest in the Valley and does not follow the general pattern of royal tombs. Probably, the sudden death of the young monarch was the reason that this small tomb was assigned to him because, although its style is somewhat different, it met the necessary conditions to allow the celebration of the funerary ritual.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings on November 4, 1922 by Howard Carter after eight years of excavation. The discovery had a great repercussion in the press worldwide, and the beaten gold mask that represents with amazing perfection the face of the young King, has since become the most popular and well-known image of Ancient Egypt. After the death of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, the young Tutankhamun ascended the throne of Egypt in the year 1332 B.C. at only 12 years old. After having inherited the problems arising from the so-called “Amarnian heresy”, in the fourth year of his reign Tutankhamun, whose name means the living image of Amun, moved the royal court back to Thebes and restored the traditional worship of the god Amun and the rest of the other gods of Egypt, proclaiming the «Edict of restoration», in which it is stated that: He (King) has made everything that was ruined flourish as a monument of eternity; he has expelled the deception from the «Two Lands». When his majesty rose as a king, the temples of the gods and goddesses from Elephantine to the Delta had fallen into disrepair, their tabernacles dilapidated, had become fields full of grass; the country was in disorder… He put order (Maat) instead of Chaos (Isefet).
The grave goods
From the early pre-dynastic age, in the primitive tombs excavated in a simple hole in the desert, such as the tomb of Gebelein, we find the grave goods of the deceased as a permanent element of the funerary ritual, which lasted until the end of the Egyptian world because for the ancient Egyptians, Life in the Hereafter was a continuation of life in this world. On the other hand, the objects that make up the funerary trousseau and their quality has always been a valuable indicator of the rank and importance that the deceased had within the society of his time.
In any case, the function of the funerary trousseau lies in the belief that the deceased would have the same needs in the afterlife that they had in life and that therefore they would need their furniture, jewellery, clothing, footwear, utensils and other personal belongings, along with with the provision of food, drinks and offerings presented to the gods, to guarantee life beyond life. To all this were added the protective and propitiatory amulets, along with the Ushabtis, mummified figurines whose magical function was to help the deceased in their tasks and work that he had to carry out in the afterlife. Likewise, within the funerary trousseau one could also find some organic objects such as crowns, bouquets of flowers, fruits, seeds, offerings, cakes, etc., although they have not been able to be studied due to their fragile and perishable nature.
All the pieces and elements that make up the funerary trousseau were carried by his relatives and friends in the funeral procession that accompanied the deceased, until they were finally deposited inside his tomb. Likewise, through the symbolic function of art, which transcended the ornamental to become an instrument in the service of Magic, all these same pieces were artistically represented in the tomb with polychrome paintings and bas-reliefs of great beauty. In this way, the deceased ensured a full and happy life in the afterlife, disposing of everything he had owned on earth.
This explains why in numerous tombs we see representations of scenes of offerings to the gods where the deceased himself, along with his relatives, present various objects, votive offerings, food, drinks, etc., listing them in detail. Made with a refined technique and vivid realism, these scenes guaranteed the offerings of the deceased for all eternity. Without forgetting the banquets, celebrations and family parties, magically represented to be enjoyed in the afterlife.
To reinforce its magical efficacy, the colours with which the rooms, statues and ritual utensils were painted were very important: gold-gilt symbolises the incorruptible and eternal flesh of the gods; the silver, its bones; black and green were the colours of spiritual regeneration, the flourishing of vegetation and the renewal of life; red, the blood of the gods, etc. In addition, many of these objects, like the sarcophagus and the funerary boat, had two eyes carefully drawn, as an unequivocal sign of their ability to continue fulfilling their function in the Afterlife.
In the Middle Kingdom, the funerary models that appear as substitutes for the paintings and mural bas-reliefs of the tombs call our attention. Made with surprising realism and detail, these models have been of great help in understanding and interpreting the daily life of the ancient Egyptians. Different trades and professions are reproduced in them: scribe schools, art workshops, butchers, bakers, brewers, fishing scenes, river funeral processions, houses and gardens, etc. so that through iconographic magic and funerary texts, the deceased could live that reality again in the afterlife. Some of them can be seen in the attached showcases.
Chest with fretwork decoration.
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun.
Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 42.5 cm; width 44’4; length 48.2 cm.
Wooden chest with fretwork decoration, with ivory rods inlaid with hieroglyphics filled with black pigments, with the names and titles of Tutankhamun and his wife Ankhesenamun. The decoration is formed by the symbols of the ankh, was and neb (lord of power and life).
Temple of canopic jars
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 198cm; length 153cm; width 122cm.
This chest contained the four Canopic Vessels that protected the embalmed internal organs of the pharaoh. In the four corners we can see the four protective goddesses: Isis, Nephthys, Selkit and Neit.
Tutankhamun’s gold mask
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Weight 11kg; height 54 cm, width 39.3 cm.
Made of pure solid gold, weighing 11 kilos, the mask has features of the god Osiris mixed with the sad but calm features of the young king looking towards eternity, with the idealised face of Tut-ankh-amun, ‘Living image of Amun».
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The headrest is another of the funerary trousseau pieces designed for the future comfort of the deceased (it was also used in life for night rest).
Decorated with the figure of the god Shu, the mediator god between heaven and earth, with two lions on each side of Aker or the two Eastern and Western horizons, symbolically representing yesterday and tomorrow, light and darkness, life and death.
Ceramic enamel headrest
with the seal of Tut-ankh-amun, as “Living Image of Amun” on its base, surrounded by symbols of royalty.
Two scribe palettes
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Adorned with different symbols and different finishes, several sets of scribe’s palettes were found in Tutankhamun’s grave goods. In the inscriptions the coronation names of the Pharaoh can be read.
Head of Tutankhamun
Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 30cm.
Masterpiece of carved wood decorated in stucco, where Tutankhamun is identified with Nefertum, the young God born from the Lotus at the beginning of time. In three dimensions, we see represented the miracle of the metamorphosis of Tutankhamun in a lotus flower, to pass from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality.
Small Cobra Netcher-ankh
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 56.5 cm.
This figure of an upright cobra, Nether-Ankh “the living god”, appears as the guardian of the entrance to one of the sections of the Underworld, through which the deceased king must pass.
Tutankhamun with harpoon
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The king with the crown of Lower Egypt on a reed barge launching a harpoon, illustrates the mythical passage where the God Horus enters the marshes in search of the evil God Seth to avenge his father Osiris. In this way the Pharaoh is assimilated with Horus in his fight against the forces of evil.
Wadjet Cobra Banner
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Banner of Nome 10 of Upper Egypt, called Wadjet, which the Greeks called Aphroditopolis. A nome was a territorial subdivision of Ancient Egypt, in the style of a province. In Pharaonic times there were 42 nomes throughout Egypt, of which 20 were in Lower Egypt and 22 in Upper Egypt.
Anthropomorphic sarcophagus of Senbi
Middle Kingdom, painted wood, 63 cm high by 212 cm long. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Senbi, was a scribe and had the titles of nomarch and Overseer of Priests. On the east side of the sarcophagus, at head height, a false door and two large Udyats (Eyes of Horus) are depicted to allow Senbi to look towards the rising sun, communicate with the world of the living and receive the offerings of these.
Selection of seven ushabtis
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
These figurines had a very important function in the funeral rite, since they had to assist the Pharaoh in a magical way in his tasks in the Hereafter. Some are made of wood covered with gold leaf, ceramic with enamel, calcite or limestone.
Heka and Nekhakha
Belonging to the funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Commonly called “The Whip and the Staff”, these items are attributes of the Pharaoh’s Royalty as symbols of his ruling role. They are associated with Osiris and represent the condition of shepherd of the flock (human) and the fertility of the earth. Generally the kings and the Gods position them across their chest.
Jewel winged scarab beetle
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The scarab, symbol of Khepri, god of transformation and rebirth. The figure forms the monarch’s enthronement name, Neb-kheperu-ra, neb (lower basket), kheper (beetle), u (three vertical strokes) and ra (sun disk), which translates as “Lord of the transformations of Ra.”
The Sejem scepter is a symbol of authority that grants its bearer the strength and magical power to govern with sovereignty. In this scepter belonging to Tutankhamun, we find the inscription that says: “Good god, the beloved, whose face shines like the Atun, the son of Amun, Neb-kheperu-ra, who lives forever.”
This military musical instrument appeared in the antechamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb. A small silver plate presents a symbolic martial scene. In it, the god Ptah receives homage of Amun-Ra and Ra-Horakhty, gods who, in their warrior aspect, grant him power for his military campaigns.
Curiously, today we can hear the sound of this trumpet, thanks to the fact that it was recorded by the BBC in 1939.
Tutankhamun’s treasure. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 104cm; width 53cm; depth 54 cm.
This precious throne must have belonged to and been used in life by the King. The artistic style in which it is made is typical of the Amarna period, with figures with bulging bellies, stylised necks, elongated skulls and prominent jaws. On the back of the throne, we find the typical Amarna family scene, where Tutankhamun is anointed with perfumed oils by his Great Royal Wife, Queen Ankhesenamun. While in the upper part of the scene appears the solar disk, Atón with rays of light emitting from his hands, so characteristic of this artistic period. His legs are shaped like lion claws as is the front. The arms show symbols of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, such as the double crown and the two patron goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nekhbet and Wadjet (with the head of a vulture and a cobra).
The magical-ritual function of the sarcophagi
Within the magical conception that the ancient Egyptians had of life and death, the sarcophagus is more than just a hermetically sealed container, designed to maintain and preserve the body of the deceased in perfect condition. It is like a spiritual ship equipped to cross the subtle spaces of the beyond. A virtual boat equipped to navigate successfully through the fantastic geography of the underworld, whose function is to guide the soul of the deceased safely and soundly to the heavenly abode of Ra-Osiris, his divine father.
Whether it is one, or several pieces embedded one inside the other, (such as King Tutankhamun‘s stone sarcophagus containing three overlapping anthropomorphic coffins), the main function of the sarcophagus and coffins is to keep the body intact, once purified through the ritual of osirification, and protect it from any damage, accident or aggression, both physical and metaphysical, that the mummy may suffer, because according to ancient Egyptian belief, the integrity of the physical body is essential for the deceased to be able to appear in the court of the other world and obtain a verdict of not guilty.
Generally, since the first Tinite dynasties, the sarcophagus itself used to be sculpted in stones such as calcite, basalt, diorite, yellow quartzite or red granite from Aswan (like the sarcophagus of the Great Pyramid), since, for the ancient Egyptians, stone was the “substance of eternity”. On the other hand, the coffins that went inside the sarcophagus could be made of very diverse materials, from precious metals such as gold and silver, noble woods such as the cedar of Lebanon, the palm tree and the sycamore, or the varnished cartonnage, beautifully polychrome. In any case, both the coffin and the sarcophagi are usually decorated inside and out with a multitude of hieroglyphic texts, images of protective deities, magical symbols, protective amulets, sacred texts and words of power, since the essential function of Egyptian Magic (Heka) was to protect life, both physically and spiritually.
Thus, the floor on which the mummy rests represents the god of the earth, Geb. The interior of the lid usually bears the polychrome image of Nut, the goddess of the starry sky with her arms outstretched as a sign of divine protection, along with other deities, while, on the exterior, the lid of the sarcophagus, in addition to certain symbolic elements that reinforce its power of magical protection, it is usually painted and/or engraved in relief with the image of the face of the deceased and also the goddess Isis with her wings lovingly embracing the entire sarcophagus.
This also explains why various amulets and magical symbols of protection were placed among the mummy’s bandages, such as the Ankh or key of life, the Djed pillar of stability, the Udjat or eye of Horus, the papyrus stem Uadj, the Tyet or knot of Isis and the winged scarab Khepri, which was inserted in the place of the heart. The function of all these magical symbols of protection, which were part of the funerary trousseau, was to safeguard the spiritual integrity of the deceased, allowing him to have a safe journey to the Gardens of Eternity.
Likewise, from the Middle Kingdom on, funerary priests began to write inside the sarcophagi, as they had previously done inside the pyramids of the V and VI dynasties, various recitations, spells, instructions for the journey of the soul through the Beyond, spells that allowed to open the doors of the invisible world and magical protection formulas, which together constitute the so-called Sarcophagus Texts, whose oldest antecedents can be found in the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom.
Anthropomorphic coffin of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun’s treasure. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 51cm, original length 187.5 cm; width 51.3 cm.
Anthropomorphic coffin that held the pharaoh’s mummy and which in turn was placed inside a red quartzite sarcophagus (in the previous room). Made of solid pure gold, it is a masterpiece of Egyptian goldsmithing, where we find the regent goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nejbet and Wadjet protecting the King’s chest with their outstretched wings. And below them, the two sister goddesses, Isis and Nephthys embracing the body of the Pharaoh with their crossed wings. The pharaoh held the Heka and the Nekhakha (the crook and the whip) in his hands, symbols of the spiritual and temporal power of the monarch.
Necklace with Udyat in enameled ceramic
This pendant is an Udyat made of blue glazed ceramic, which incorporates the Ureus or serpent, royal protective symbol, and under the eye, the sa sign, also protective. The text of the eye says: “Khepri, who is in his ship, the great god, the most important of the great house.”
Inlaid Udyat Necklace
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 5.7cm; width 9.5cm; length 33cm.
Symbol of inner vision, the eye of Horus is accompanied by the two protective goddesses, Wadjet, the serpent of Buto, a city in the Delta, and Nekhbet, the vulture of Elkab, in upper Egypt.
Tutankhamun’s treasure. Cairo Egyptian Museum
Replica of a mirror covered in gold, belonging to the funerary trousseau of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. It has the shape of an Ankh or “Key of Life”, and is decorated with inscriptions in high relief with the enthronement name of Pharaoh Tutankhamun: Neb-Kheperu-Ra, Lord of Ra’s manifestations.
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
The image represents Tutankhamun as “beloved of Weret-hekau”, the Great in magic, and illustrates a mythological episode in which the king is absorbed by the goddess Isis, who appears here in a transformation phase: a serpent with a human head, breasts and arms.
Funeral necklaces (Menat and Usej)
The Menat is a necklace for ritual use closely related to the goddess Hathor, which in addition to its protective nature in relation to fertility and rebirth, was also worn by the priestesses of Hathor in festivities and rites as a percussion instrument, as a rattle. Its sound was believed to drive away evil spirits while being pleasing to the gods.
The Usej Also related to the Goddess Hathor, it was another type of protective pectoral necklace whose origin is related to an ancient vegetable necklace with nine lines as an offering to each of the nine divinities of the Ennead of Heliopolis: Atum, Shu, Tefnut , Nut, Geb, Isis, Osiris, Nephthys and Sethh.
Bracelet with birds
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
This figure was found among the bandages of Tutankhamun’s mummy by the left elbow. It is associated with the incantation of the Book of the Dead: “Spell to transform into a swift”, and thus fly back to the heavens.
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Traditional Egyptian game, origin of the current backgammon. In the funerary ritual it acquired a complex symbolic character. The deceased, or sometimes his wife, played a game against the denizens of the Beyond with the intention of winning the game, and thus crossing the thresholds that led to the court of Osiris.
Furniture from the funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun
Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Height 58.4cm
Tutankhamun’s treasure contains a large number of tables made of different woods, for the protection and conservation of the funerary trousseau. Numerous hieroglyphic symbols adorn the legs and fronts of the furniture, highlighting the open relief-work with the hieroglyphs of the ankh (life), was (power) and neb (lord), together means “Lord of power and life”, a name given to the pharaoh.
Funerary model Ship
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Length 110cm.
The treasure room included a very considerable number of funerary models of different types of boats. From small feluccas for fishing, to transport boats, and vessels with ceremonial purpose that served the deceased to complete his journey in the Hereafter, along with his parents the gods.
Funerary models of Meketre
Belonging to the funerary trousseau of the Vizier Meketre of the XI Dynasty. Cairo Egyptian Museum
The funerary models served as substitutes for the mural iconography of the tombs, representing scenes of daily life that, thanks to the magical power of art and the artist, could come to life in the Hereafter.
Livestock: scene of daily life in a stable. The foreman stands at the gate with a cane in his hand, while the cattle are being fed.
Bakery and brewery: it shows us how to make bread and beer. Two of the most consumed foods in Ancient Egypt, made with the same ingredients and method with which they are made today in rural Egypt.
Photographic exhibition Egypt 1930
“I am today, I am yesterday, I am tomorrow. Enter slowly and enter in silence… because you enter my Kingdom». Anubis, guardian of the underworld.
Predynastic burial. Gebelein Man
Before the ritual of mummification was fully developed, around 3600 B.C. the custom in Predynastic Egypt was to bury the dead in small oval pits dug out of the desert sand. The body was wrapped in furs, linen fabrics or hemp mats and buried in the fetal position along with its grave goods, such as necklaces, jewellery, stone palettes, ceramic vessels, amulets and ivory or stone spoons, along with some foods such as bread, wheat, barley, etc. The aridity of the Egyptian desert dissected the corpse by absorbing the water from the organic tissues and mummified the body in a natural way. This is how the desert produced the first mummies, establishing the natural model of the ritual process of mummification, which would be perfected over time.
Predynastic necropolises were generally located on the western shore, separated from populated areas. They placed the body of the deceased lying laterally in a fetal position, in oval or circular pits, with the head oriented towards the South and his gaze directed towards the West. The symbolic reason for this orientation is because the waters of the Nile flood come from the south and fertilise the Egyptian land, bringing abundance and life; and his eyes look west because the west bank of the Nile was identified with the Kingdom of the dead, since it was the bank where the sun set.
In these predynastic tombs we already see reflected the ancestral beliefs about life and death that later shaped the magical and religious thought of ancient Pharaonic Egypt. For example, it was important to keep the body of the deceased (mummy) intact to be able to safely access the spiritual world of the Beyond. For this reason, the fact that the identity and physiognomy of the corpse continued to be recognisable after the passage of time, guaranteed them their eternity, a concept that was key to the entire sacred world-view of Ancient Egypt.
The Gebelein Man, whose tomb we partially reproduce here, is one of the oldest and most popular mummies in the British Museum, (mummy 32751). According to radiocarbon dating 14 he must have lived between 3351 and 3017 BC. before the unification of Egypt by Narmer in 3200 BC. He was buried in a fetal position in an oval pit in the Gebelein area, 40 km south of Thebes, and is known by the name of Ginger, due to the reddish color of his hair. Next to him we see some pieces of his grave goods, such as ceramic vessels and utensils, which confirm the early Egyptian belief in life after death.
The investigations carried out by high-resolution X-ray photography at the Bupa Cromwell Hospital in London have allowed us to know that it belonged to a young man between the ages of 18 and 21, who died after being stabbed in the back with a sharp object, such as a sharp copper or flint dagger. Infra-red analysis also revealed the existence of two figurative tattoos on the mummy’s right arm, these are two horned animals: a wild bull and a sheep, well-known animals in Egyptian predynastic art.
The nobleman Mereruka (2300 BC) was a very important character in his time. He was Vizier (Tchaty) of the first King of the sixth dynasty, called Teti. He was Governor of Memphis, Minister of Justice, High Priest of Anubis and “chief of all reader priests”, among other positions. The Mereruka mastaba, located in the Saqqara necropolis, very close to the funerary complex of King Djoser, was discovered in 1893 by Jacques de Morgan and is the largest mastaba of the Old Kingdom. It measures 40 meters long, 24 meters wide and consists of 32 chambers, most of which are dedicated to Mereruka himself, his wife and son.
All the rooms were decorated with polychrome scenes from the daily life of the deceased: reliefs of hunting, metal working, farming, parties, dances, etc. On the north wall, in a raised niche, is the statue of the Ka of the deceased. The outline of the niche is decorated with the official titles of the Vizier Mereruka and with various magic formulas and protection spells that were recited in honor of the soul of the deceased.
THE STATUE OF THE KA
It is one of the most significant elements of the funerary ritual, since the Statue of the Ka was the physical support that replaced, if necessary, the mummified body of the deceased during the magical ritual of opening the mouth, in which they woke up his inner senses (mouth, ears, nose, eyes etc.) so that the deceased could see, hear, breathe and speak in the afterlife. For if not, he would not be able to pronounce the words of power and appear before the gods, to be recognised by them and achieve immortality.
THE FALSE DOOR
As its name suggests, the false door is not a real, physical door, but a symbolic and metaphysical one. It is one of the most relevant funerary architecture elements in Egypt dating back to the Old Kingdom. It was normally placed on the western wall of the tombs, since they served as a channel or communication passage between the world of the living and the world of the dead. In this way, the deceased’s Ba or bird soul could pass through to interact with his family and friends.
For this reason, on front of the false door there could also be a small offering table or stone altar on which relatives and friends used to deposit their funeral offerings and their letters addressed to the deceased, since the ancient Egyptians frequently wrote letters to their dead relatives, convinced not only that they would receive and read them, but that they would magically respond to them through dreams, daydreams, visions, premonitions or oracles.
The burial chamber
The burial chamber was the only room with decorated walls. It contained four superimposed chapels of gilded wood, inside which was the large red quartzite sarcophagus that we see recreated here. One inside the other, three coffins were kept with the idealised image of the pharaoh. The last of them, made of solid gold, contained the pharaoh’s mummy and his famous gold mask with dark glass eyes, lapis lazuli, carnelian, quartz and faience. (recreation in the next room)
On the golden background of the walls, a symbol of the flesh of the gods, we can see seven figures in three scenes on the north wall. From right to left: ceremony of the opening of the mouth performed on the mummy of Tutankhamun by Ay (successor to the throne), represented as a priest Sem. In the center Nut, goddess of the starry sky, welcomes Tutankhamun carrying in her hand the Ankh or key of life. And finally the God Osiris hugs Tutankhamun, who appears followed by his Ka or luminous double. In this way the young dead pharaoh is assimilated to the God Osiris, Lord of the Hereafter.
The scenes on the West wall are related to the Book of Amduat which describes the journey of the God Ra in his Barque of Millions of Years during the twelve hours of the night. In the two upper registers appears the solar barque with the Sun in the form of a Khepri beetle, and five divinities. In the registers below, twelve baboons, representing the twelve night hours that Tutankhamun must spend on his transit to the Beyond, welcome the pharaoh. On the South wall we see represented the part that remains of the welcome to the king in the Underworld. In it we find the king between Anubis and Hathor, in her form as the lady of the West, who with her Ankh gives him eternal Life.
The mummification ritual
Mummification is a magical-ritual process inspired by the main Myth of the Egyptian Religion: the Myth of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. The first requirement that the ancient Egyptians had to fulfil in order to achieve eternal life was that their body be embalmed according to the ritual of osirification. In this way, the deceased was assimilated to the god Osiris, who was the first mummified being and the first to be reborn after death and achieve immortality. As we see in the Myth of Osiris, the function of the bandages was to keep the corpse intact and incorruptible, because according to Egyptian belief, the body contains the spiritual essence of the person, and therefore, the presence of the mummy, further reinforced by the statue of the Ka, which had the same physiognomy as the deceased when he was alive, it was necessary to be able to celebrate the magical funerary rites that would lead the spirit of the deceased to the fields of the blessed.
The oldest ritual mummification that we know of belongs to the site of Hieracómpolis, a predynastic city near Thebes and dates from 3,600 BC. But what we know about the ritual process of mummification is thanks to certain Greek authors such as Plutarch, Herodotus, etc., to certain papyri such as No. 1,158 of the Louvre Museum or “Bulaq Papyrus 3” and to the scientific studies carried out on mummies during the last 180 years. Thanks to these we know that, when the deceased died, his relatives took his body in the boat to the western shore where the embalming priests who belonged to the clergy of the god Anubis waited. They were in charge of preserving the body of the deceased intact and carrying out the entire long and complex process of purifying and embalming, while the priests serving Osiris recited the spells and magic formulas of protection. From there, for 70 days the embalmers would be in charge of completing the entire magical ritual of osirification.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, there were three kinds of embalming, depending on the economic resources of the person. The most expensive was also the most elaborate and began by extracting the brain matter through the nostrils using a hook. Later, with a knife, usually obsidian, a cut was made on the left side of the stomach of about 7-10 cm. to extract all the viscera and organs. The extracted organs were placed in 4 canopic vessels that symbolise the 4 sons of Horus. The heart was the only organ left in the body, on which an amulet in the form of a Khepri beetle was placed as a symbol of resurrection. These vessels were later placed in a wooden chest that was transported on a sledge in the funeral procession.
Afterwards, the interior of the body was cleaned with wine, dry alcohol, and palm oil, sprinkled with perfume, and filled with myrrh, cinnamon, and other fragrant spices, along with linen cloths, the purpose of which was to maintain the volume of the body. Then the hole was sewn up and in order to absorb moisture from the body, it was covered entirely with Natron salt (sodium carbonate) for 70 days, which was the time it took to complete the journey of the star Sirius (symbol of Isis) through the sky. After that time they took the body out of the natron and once dry, it was anointed with oils, bandaged with linen bandages smeared with scented ointments glued with resins, the magical amulets that would protect the deceased in their journey through the afterlife and was returned to the family so that they could complete all the rest of the funerary ritual.
The second type of embalming was simpler and less expensive. It involved injecting compounds of cedar oil and acid through the rectum so that all the organs and entrails would dissolve. All the holes were sewn up and the body was covered for seventy days with natron. At the end of that period, the oil, which had dissolved the viscera was allowed to drain and dragged all the remains with it. After the stipulated time, it was uncovered and handed over to the relatives.
The third way of carrying out mummification, typical of the humblest classes, was simply limited to cleaning the intestines with enemas and depositing the body of the deceased in a bath of natron salt, so that it would dry out completely during the seventy predetermined days. Lastly, the poorer classes limited themselves to wrapping their deceased in a mat and burying them in the sand. Over time, the dryness of the climate mummified the corpse.
The Egyptians also mummified some animals. At the beginning there were only certain species related to those divinities that shared their divine essence, such as the Ox Apis in Memphis or the Ibis in Hermopolis. Later, already in the Late Period (664 until 332B.C.) , we find a large number of mummified animals for different reasons. The truth is that there are thousands of mummies of different species found such as ibis, dogs, cats, hawks, crocodiles, etc. Herodotus even comments that some Egyptians performed a ritual similar to that of humans and kept solemn mourning when their most beloved animals died.
The Judgment of the Heart
Psychostasia is the name given to one of the most important parts of the Funeral Ritual in ancient civilizations. In the case of Ancient Egypt, Psychostasia illustrates the Judgement of the heart, where the actions of the deceased are weighed on the scales of Maat, the goddess of Truth and Justice, to assess their moral quality as a person, judge the intentions that led the deceased to carry out his acts throughout his life and decide the future destiny of his soul. Its oldest literary antecedent is found in the so-called Egyptian Book of the Dead, whose original Egyptian name is Peret em Heru, which means “The exit of the soul towards the light of day”.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead is a compilation of much older texts that were written inside the pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (the Pyramid Texts) on the inside and outside of sarcophagi during the Middle Kingdom (the Sarcophagi Texts). Taken together, these metaphysical texts constitute the oldest known religious corpus. Specifically, the Egyptian Book of the Dead is a collection of spells, invocations, rituals, prayers and magical formulas, compiled in 190 chapters that were written between the XI and XXVI dynasties. Its protagonist is the deceased himself who always speaks in the first person, identifying himself with the god Osiris, the king of the dead.
There are also other versions with slight variations such as the Book of Amduat, the Book of Breaths, the Book of Doors, the Book of Caverns, the Book of Hours, etc. However, we can say that the main function of the Book of the Dead is to be an effective travel guide for the deceased and give him a whole series of instructions and teachings so that he can successfully complete his journey of transformation through to the Beyond. That is why chapter I begins by saying: Here begin the chapters that recount the journey of the soul towards daylight, its resurrection in the spirit, its entry and transit tests in the regions of the beyond. Here are the words of power that must be pronounced on the day of the funeral ritual, at the moment when, separating from his body, the soul enters the world beyond: Hail Osiris! Behold, it is the words of Thoth, prince of eternity, that speak through my mouth.
The Hunefer Papyrus (1275 B.C.), belongs to the XIX dynasty and is one of the best known versions of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. This papyrus illustrates chapter 125, in which the Psychostasia presided over by the God Osiris is represented. Its protagonist is the nobleman Hunefer, who bears the titles of “Royal Scribe”, “Scribe of Divine Offerings”, “Supervisor of the Royal Cattle” and steward of King Sethi I. In this particular scene, we can see the late Hunefer ( on the left of the image), accompanied by Anubis, who is the god who guides souls in the afterlife, entering the courtroom of Maat, the goddess of Truth, Justice and universal Harmony, to present himself before the gods and justify his actions and conduct during his life.
In the upper register Hunefer appears greeting the 42 divine judges, who are the protective gods of the 42 Nomes or provinces of ancient Egypt. In the lower register, the scene is divided into 2 parts: On the left the spirit of the deceased (Saju), dressed in white and guided by Anubis, the Guardian of the Underworld, attends the judgment of his own heart, where his actions and very especially his intentions, are weighed in the scales of Maat that Anubis himself regulates. On one of the saucers is the heart ib , seat of consciousness, and on the other is the feather of Maat, while the divine scribe Thoth takes note of the result. If the deceased obtains a guilty verdict, his heart is given to Ammyt, a hybrid creature, a mixture of a crocodile, a hippopotamus and a lion, who will devour his heart, preventing him from achieving immortality.
But if he obtains a verdict of not guilty, the deceased then becomes a Righteous of Voice or “True Speech” (Maa-Heru), a being whose existence is in harmony with the rule of Maat. So as we see on the right of the papyrus, Hunefer is presented by Horus to his father Osiris, who appears flanked by the two sister goddesses Isis and Nephthys in a protective gesture. In this way, the god Osiris welcomes Hunefer as immortal and opens the way for him from heaven to the gardens of Eternity. That is why, upon arriving here, the deceased exclaims: Oh you Divine Spirits, look! Here is my soul that goes to meet you, it speaks to you. Like you, she is sanctified, she is also she, because the balance of Judgment has pronounced in her favor. Truly I live a new life after death, similar to Ra being reborn every day. I sail in the boat of the goddess Maat. Here I am alive after the death of all the days of my life. I feel vigorous and refreshed. ¡
The god Osiris
Osiris is the most important god in the Egyptian pantheon along with Ra, the sun. In fact, both divinities merged almost from the beginning, leaving Osiris as the nocturnal aspect of Ra, although retaining his own identity. His main cult was in Abydos, capital of Nome VIII of Upper Egypt, which is where his temple is located, built by Sethi I and finished by his son Ramses II. Outside the temple there is a mysterious place called the Osirion: it is the tomb of Osiris, a spectacular cenotaph built with cyclopean stone blocks that is half submerged in water. That is why Osiris is called The Lord of Eternity who presides over Abydos. That he dwells in the necropolis. He whose name endures in the mouths of the people.
He is usually represented with a human body and face, wrapped in a white shroud with both feet together and an expression of great kindness, sweetness and beauty on his face. His hands, crossed on his chest, carry the Heka hook and the Nekhakha whip. His skin, green or black, symbolizes the power of renewal, regeneration and flowering of nature. He wears a false beard, an attribute of royalty, the Menat necklace and wears the Atef crown on his head, a variant of the white crown of Upper Egypt, but with two ostrich feathers on both sides and its main symbol is the pillar of the DJed stability. In the celestial world, Osiris is identified with the planet Venus and with the constellation of Orion (Saju).
God of multiple names, sacred manifestations and a secret figure in the temples, Osiris is the Lord of Maat because he was the first civilising King, legislator and arbiter of Justice. He the Lord of Eternity because he was the first to die and the first to be reborn and conquer immortality. The Lord of the Dwat because he is King of the underworld, Sovereign of the beyond and supreme judge of souls in the court of Maat. Finally, as “Lord of grain and vegetation”, Osiris personifies the germinal power of the seed, the flourishing of vegetation and the fertile land of Egypt, as opposed to his evil half-brother Seth, who symbolises aridity, drought and the scorching desert fire that annihilates life. The mystery of Osiris can be summed up in Auguste Mariette’s famous phrase: Everything in nature lives to die… and dies to be reborn.
An exemplary model of king, husband and father, Osiris was undoubtedly the god most loved and revered by the ancient Egyptians. Whether he was a peasant, a craftsman, a soldier, a scribe, a doctor, a priest, a nobleman, a prince, or a Pharaoh, all loved Osiris Unnefer, the god of perfect goodness and beauty. That is why the Hymn to Osiris exclaims: All the world is exultant with joy. Hearts are happy, breasts are happy, and all peoples rejoice. All extol his goodness. How pleasant is his love for us! Your benevolence towards him fills our hearts and great is the love we feel for him! A sign of the popular fervor that the cult of Osiris aroused, was the sacred pilgrimage that the Egyptians made every year from all corners of Egypt to the great sanctuary of Abydos, in order to attend the celebration of the Mysteries of the death and resurrection of Osiris, which was the most secret and sacred festival in which the Egyptian people could participate. The party lasted several days and was celebrated during the month of Joiak (November).
Son of the earth (Geb) and the starry sky (Nut), Osiris rules the earth by divine right and symbolises the perfect model of the Egyptian King, who ruled the world with justice, wisdom and goodness during the Golden Age of Humanity, leaving the memory of a beautiful happy era of prosperity and abundance. He taught men the principles that regulate the natural order of existence through the periodic movement of the stars in the sky and the cycles of vegetation, sowing and harvesting on earth. He taught them the principles of astronomy, the calendar, agriculture, geography, navigation, to make pottery, tools, musical instruments, farming utensils; to carve stones and wood, to assemble boats, to build dams and canals, etc.; he instructed them in the science of dictating human laws as a reflection of divine laws. He taught them the principles of conduct that bring man’s life into harmony with the natural order of existence.
THE OSIRIS MYTH
Osiris was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by his evil stepbrother Seth, who gave him for his 28th anniversary a custom-made sarcophagus made of noble metals and precious stones, which could only belong to whoever it fitted perfectly. All the guests tried it and when Osiris entered it, Seth and his accomplices closed the lid and threw the sarcophagus into the Tanitic arm of the Nile, considered cursed ever since. The assassination took place on the 17th day of the month of Hathor (September) when Osiris turned 28 years old. With this first assassination, the golden age ended and evil and injustice made their appearance under the government of the evil and envious Seth. Then Isis heartbroken, went in search of him, found him and brought him back to Egypt, but when Seth found out he was furious, he tore Osiris’s corpse into 14 pieces and scattered them all over the country.
Each nome housed a fragment of the divine body, but with the help of her sister Nephthys, the goddess Isis found them one by one and reassembled them, continuing to water the corpse of her beloved with her tears. Later, with the help of Anubis, she embalmed him, rejoining all the pieces with bandages (Osirification Ritual) and thanks to the magic (Heka) that she had learned from Thoth, she revived Osiris and became pregnant with the child Horus.
Osiris rose from the dead, being the first to achieve immortality. Ultimately, Horus avenged his father’s murder and defeated Seth, re-establishing Maat. From then on, Osiris became the archetype of the dead king, who lives eternally in the heaven of the gods, and Horus the model of the living king who rules over the land of the living, the legitimate heir to the divine throne and the royal successor by law. In this way, the god Osiris, together with his wife Isis and his son Horus, make up the “Divine Triad” or “Holy Family” of the Egyptian religion, whose cult lasted until the end of Egyptian history. .
Amulets and magical symbols
The study of the religious literature of ancient Egypt reveals a deep belief in the reality of magic and how it flourished closely linked to the development of their religion. Taking into account that for them art was an instrument at the service of magic, since they thought that everything that is represented came to life, amulets were part not only of religious rituals but also of the daily life of the Egyptians.
An Egyptian amulet is an object that has been made to protect the human being -living or dead-, from all evil and from any aggression, both physical and ultra-physical. The MacGregor papyrus gives us a list of up to 75 different amulets, each with its specific function. Following Petrie´s classification we can differentiate amulets of divinities (gods and sacred animals), similar amulets (parts of the human body such as the heart ib), magical power, property and magical protection.
In the funeral ritual, each part of the body of the deceased is protected with a magical amulet placed between the bandages that wrap the mummy. Every detail is important when making an amulet: The image has to be perfectly represented; the material with which it is made has to be a good transmitter of magical power; the sacred invocations and the words of power that served to activate or “awaken” the magical power of the amulet, had to be pronounced in the correct way, with the appropriate rhythm and cadence; the magical ritual with which the amulet was deposited in the body of the deceased had to be executed with exact precision, as well as the incantations and magical formulas that were inscribed on them.
The ancient Egyptians attached great importance to Heka, the magical power that the gods had given to men at the beginning of time so that they could protect their lives and their world from any attack by the dark forces of evil. Therefore, the words of power, correctly pronounced, were not only what gave the amulet its magical efficacy, but, thanks to them, if the deceased knew the appropriate formulas of power, he could successfully pass through the different tests and thresholds that he would find on his journey through the fantastic geography of the Underworld. For this reason, in chapter 164 of the Book of the Dead, we can read the following magical incantation: The demon Nebt will not be able to approach me; and the guardians of the Arrits will not reject me, because my body is magically protected by the amulets.
Among the innumerable amulets found in the excavations, perhaps the most frequent is the Udjad, considered the Eye of Horus or Eye of Light, the one that allows one to see clearly in the dark. According to the Osirian myth, the god Horus fought against his evil uncle Seth to avenge the death of his father Osiris. In the battle, Horus was wounded in one eye, but the divine Thoth, with his magic and his wisdom, managed to completely restore and recompose it. Since then, the Udjad has become the most popular symbol, even being reproduced as jewellery today. Its magical power is associated with concepts of wholeness, vision, light, health and healing. Promoter of good health and luck, the Udjad protected the Egyptian against the evil eye and against any other being or hostile force that could threaten, both the living and the dead. Other representative amulets related to the funeral ritual are:
Ib: The heart. Seat of Consciousness, discernment and intentions.
Ankh: The magical “key of Life” both physical and ultra physical.
Khepri – The Scarab that has the power of Regeneration, Transformation and Resurrection.
Pilar Dyed: The backbone of Osiris that ensures stability, balance and eternity
Uadj: The papyrus flower, symbol of renewal, flourishing, joy and youth.
Sa: Symbol that magically protects from all harmful influences, both in life and in death.
Shen Symbol of Eternity. Everything that is inscribed in the circle will be eternal.
Tyet Knot of Isis. Symbol of life that has the power to bind the visible with the invisible and the earth with the sky
Uas: The forked base cane symbolises the magical power of walking steadily in the dark.
Finally, the ushabti had a very important function in the funerary ritual, because as its name indicates, the word Ushabti means “the one who responds”. These magical figurines with Osiríac form were the assistants of the deceased in the life of the Beyond, and they were in charge of carrying out the tasks that the deceased had to complete in the kingdom of Osiris. Thus, in chap. 6 of the Book of the Dead, we find a “Formula for an ushabti to perform the works for someone in the Hereafter”, which goes like this: Oh you magic figurine, listen to me! I have been summoned, I have been condemned to carry out work of all kinds, those that force the spirits of the dead to do in the afterlife; know then, Oh magic figurine: that you must obey the man in need of him… (The figurine answers) Here I am… I await your orders!.
Jackal-headed god, already mentioned in the Fifth Dynasty Pyramid Texts.
As Isis, he is considered the “Lord of the kingdoms of silence”, the one who guides the souls of the deceased in the Beyond to lead them to the chamber of Maat, where the Judgment of the Weight of the Heart will take place.
Gebelein man predynastic burial
The Gebelein Man, whose tomb we partially reproduce here, is one of the oldest and most popular mummies in the British Museum, (mummy 32751). According to radiocarbon dating 14 he must have lived between 3351 and 3017 BC. before the unification of Egypt by Narmer in 3200 BC. He was buried in a fetal position in an oval pit in the Gebelein area, 40 km south of Thebes, and is known by the name of Ginger, due to the reddish colour of his hair.
Infrared analysis also revealed the existence of two figurative tattoos on the mummy’s right arm, these are two horned animals: a wild bull and a sheep, well-known animals in Egyptian predynastic art.
Stone sarcophagus of Tutankhamun
Burial chamber of tomb KV62.
Recreation of the red quartzite sarcophagus found inside the funerary chamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the only decorated room in the entire tomb. Guarded in its corners by the four winged goddesses, Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selkit, this sarcophagus contained in its interior a series of three anthropomorphic coffins, in the last of which was the famous gold mask of the young king, which protected the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Recreation of the north wall of the Mereruka mastaba with niche and statue of the Ka
The Mereruka Mastaba is the largest and most luxurious tomb of the late Old Kingdom. In this recreation, the statue of the Ka of Mereruka is flanked by two panels with his same effigy, accompanied in both cases by his mother and his wife, who inhales a Lotus flower, as a symbol of immortality. Around it we can read in hieroglyphics some of more than eighty titles that Mereruka held.
Instruments of mummification
Natron: was known as “divine salt” It is the most important element in the mummification process, as it is the mineral used to dry the bodies.
Other materials: incense; common salt to dry; various varieties of resins for filling body cavities; palm wine, oil of cedar, juniper, cassia and cinnamon as fragrances; straw, rags or sand fill material to maintain the volume of the body. Bandages, amulets and the four Canopic Vessels to preserve the viscera.
Instrumental: various rods and for the Rite of the opening of the mouth: peseshekef knife, the ur-Hekau, and the ceremonial hoe called mesjetyu.
Re-creation of a mummified statue of Osiris, human-sized in black with the attributes of the Heka and the Nekhakha (staff and whip) and the white Hedyet crown.
In this representation it is black because of its relation to the very name of Egypt: Kemet, the black Earth; colour of the fields when the waters of the flood receded, just before the grain fructify and abundance arrives in the Land of the Nile.
Votive offerings to divinities
The votive offerings are offerings made to the Gods that were deposited in sanctuaries, places of worship or tombs as a sign of devotion, as a propitiatory offering for good influences or to win the favor of the different gods.
Here we can admire a set of divine votive offerings from different periods and styles. Hathor, Goddess of beauty and joy; Tueris in the shape of a hippopotamus, as the goddess of pregnant women and fertility: Bess, a bandit-legged beneficent genius who protects children, pregnant women and women in labor; Isis as Goddess of motherhood; Horus in his Falcon form, Lord of the sky and protector of royalty; Thoth in his guise as a cynocephalus, or dog-headed monkey.
Collection of scarab beetles
The scarab is one of the most representative elements of ancient Egypt. Linked to the god Khepri, in the form of Ra as the Rising Sun, it was a symbol of transformation, being widely used as amulets, seals, as a support to inscribe important events, or as a substitute for the heart in the mummification rite.
Two cat mummies
The cat was one of the sacred animals associated with the Goddess Bastet, as goddess of fertility, motherhood, protection and the benevolent aspects of the sun.
Hence many of them were mummified. At his death, the family would be in mourning and shaved their eyebrows as a sign of respect, mourning seventy days during the period of his mummification.
Mummy of priest Nefperennub
A key piece in the study of Egyptian mummies, this priest from the Karnak temple consecrated to the cult of Khonsu (Theban triad Amon-Mut-Khonsu), after his death around the age of 40, was carefully embalmed and transferred to a tomb in the Valley of the Kings where it remained silent until its discovery in 1890.
Generally made of faience, the mesh was part of the funerary trousseau of high-ranking people. This was placed on the mummy’s bandages and some protective amulets were attached to it. The winged scarab, the ib, the Tyet, or the four sons of the God Horus, were the most frequent. Faience, in addition to imitating turquoise, which was the stone of Hathor, evoked the celestial light with which the deceased would be protected.
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Among the bandages of the royal mummy were these small amulets charged with magic and power, which safeguarded the immortality of the deceased. Depending on the shape of the amulet, it gave the pharaoh power or protection in the afterlife.
- Udjad: “he who is complete.” The Eye of Horus that sees in the dark.
- Ib: The heart. Seat of Consciousness, discernment and intentions
- Ankh amulet, with polychromy. “key of Life” both physical and ultra physical. This symbol acquires an enormous role in the funeral rite, as it represents eternal life or immortality.
- Khepri: the Scarab that has the power of Regeneration, Transformation and Resurrection.
- Partially gilded Djed amulet. The backbone of Osiris that ensures stability, balance and eternity. It is inscribed with the words of incantation 155 from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, “Not to die a second time.”
- Wadj Amulet in Faience and Wadj Amulet in gold. The papyrus flower, symbol of renewal, flourishing, joy and youth.
- Tyet amulet in red glass. It was called the “Isis Knot”. She was the female counterpart of the Djed pillar. Symbol of life that has the power to bind the visible with the invisible and the earth with the sky
- Was scepter in glazed ceramic. Symbol of “mastery” and the magical power of walking steadily in the dark.
- Knot amulet. Relating its shape to the hieroglyph Tjes, which means “to unite or tie”, this amulet had the function of uniting the deceased with the Divinity.
Ib heart amulets
The Egyptians had two words for the heart: haty and ib. Haty designated the heart in its physical aspect and ib was considered not only as the seat of vital energy, but also as the seat of consciousness. Therefore, one of the most spiritual parts of the human being would be weighed in the scales of Maat, on the day of judgment before Osiris. Among the bandages of the mummies we count them by the hundreds.
Vulture-shaped protective amulet that was placed on the neck of the deceased, symbolising the goddess Nejbet, goddess of Upper Egypt and also as a symbol of the mother goddess Mut, of the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Jonsu.
Amulets in the shape of Ureus
Protective amulet in the form of a cobra that was placed on the neck of the deceased. The cobra is the emblem of the goddess Wadjey, protector goddess of Lower Egypt and protector of the young Horus in the marshes of the delta. Next to the goddess Nekhbet are the Two Ladies, Nebty.
Nebjet shaped necklace
Belonging to the funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Chiseled Gold Foil Original
It depicts the goddess Nekhbet in her winged form holding in her claws the symbol of eternity shen. The vulture goddess covers her son, her beloved, as a symbol of Mut in her protective Mother condition.
Pectoral pendant in the shape of a falcon
Belonging to the funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Original chiselled gold foil.
This was one of the seventeen amulets that the young Pharaoh Tutankhamun wore around his neck and chest to ensure his protection in the Afterlife. In the form of a Falcon Horus and with the symbol of eternity shen in its claws.
Anubis on the ark
Funerary trousseau of Tutankhamun. Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Overall height 118cm; overall length 270cm; width 52cm.
This mummification-related form of Anubis, called Jentisehnether, is named “He Who Presiders Over the Pavilion of God” or “He Who Stands Over the Secrets of Mummification.” He is a divinity who guarded the papyri and the sacred instruments used in mummification and in the ritual of the “Opening of the Mouth and the Senses”.
Four canopic jars.
Egyptian Museum of Turin
The canopic vessels are the containers used to deposit the embalmed viscera of the deceased during the mummification ceremony.
Each glass has on the lid the representation of one of the Sons of Horus who act as protective geniuses of the four cardinal points, the four elements or the four forces of nature: Amseth (human head), Hapy (cynocephalus head), Kebeshenuef (falcon head) and Duamutef (jackal head).