A free exhibition at Two Temple Place in London.
Visit a cemetery today and you might spot a teddy bear placed on a sad, tiny grave. Or perhaps a beer sitting by the headstone of someone who, in life, loved a laugh and loved his lager.
The ancient Egyptians would have understood the gesture. They too mourned their loved ones by providing the deceased with their favourite things from this life to enjoy in the next. In ancient Egypt you could take it with you when you died; your possessions, your status, and your looks.
A free exhibition at Two Temple Place in the heart of London shows us the depth of the ancient Egyptian conviction that death wasn't the end, it was simply the end of part one. The deceased could now be transformed into a glorious spirit, ready to spend eternity enjoying their earthly goods, and looking fabulous.
"Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt" shows how tombs were stocked with all the provisions one could afford for the afterlife. These funerary goods would remain with the deceased as they passed from this life into the next.
The Egyptian pharaohs have bequeathed to us grand statues, temples and pyramids as testaments to their earthly power and divine kingship. This exhibition however, shines a light on what was important to the ordinary (albeit wealthy) Egyptians. The artefacts paint a more intimate picture of the ancient Egyptians. From exquisite painted coffins and funerary masks together with clothing, jewellery, mirrors, hairpins and makeup, the collection will be surprisingly familiar to many of the people who visit.
The collection has been hand-picked from seven regional museums which benefitted from the 19th century aristocratic practice of bringing home some nice 'curiosities' from a trip to Egypt with which to impress their friends. The Egyptian Exploration Fund (now Society), also furnished local collections with artefacts in exchange for funding digs.
The wooden face with inlaid eyes, shown above, originally part of a coffin, is dated to Dynasty 22 (945–715 B.C.), during Egypt's Third Intermediate Period. This was a time when the country was ruled over by Libyan leaders based in the Nile Delta. Fine coffins made from imported wood spoke of the high status of the deceased, as well as provided protection for the body and, via magical texts painted inside and out, sustenance for the person's spirit, their 'ka'. The coffin fragment comes from the collection of the Baghshaw Museum in Batley, West Yorkshire.
"Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt" runs until April 24. Entry is free.
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