Egyptian treasures made in preparing for life after death : Exhibit displays ancient artifacts, tools used in mummification process

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Egyptian treasures made in preparing for life after death : Exhibit displays ancient artifacts, tools used in mummification process

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1. The inner cartonnage of Gautseshenu (700-650 BC) 2. A coffin of an ibis (305-30 BC) 3. A sculpture of Osiris (595-525 BC) 4. A stela of an offering ceremony (2065-2000 BC) 5. A depiction of Horus with animals (3rd century BC) [NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA]

It’s hard to talk about Egypt’s treasures without discussing mummies.

And it’s just as hard to talk about Egyptian mummies without deliberating about the afterlife.

The new exhibition at the National Museum of Korea in Yongsan District, central Seoul, looks into ancient Egyptian culture’s concept of the afterlife.

“Whereas most exhibitions on Egypt focus on high culture and precious artifacts, this exhibition took a broader approach, delving into how people of all classes viewed the afterlife,” Gu Mun-gyeong, the museum’s researcher who curated the exhibition, told reporters at the press event on Monday.

The 229 artifacts are part of the collection of Brooklyn Museum, with which the National Museum of Korea has close ties. According to Gu, Brooklyn Museum’s collection of Egyptian artifacts cover a wide range of Egyptian history and thus are often displayed at major exhibitions on mummies.

The exhibition, titled “Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum,” starts by looking into just how Egyptians came to believe in the afterlife through the myth of the god Osiris. Here, a statue of Osiris from 595-525 BC is one of the highlights.

It’s in the second section where a mummy and various coffins and jars for the hearts can be seen. The mummy, wrapped in linen, certainly leaves room for imagination. It would have been better if the museum provided a video of medical imaging alongside the mummy so that visitors can learn more information about the artifact.

The next part focuses on tools used in burial, like mummy masks and coffins. “It wasn’t just rich people that were into mummification. The people in lower income brackets also mummified the dead and the materials used clearly show the division of the rich and the poor,” Gu said.

For instance, a coffin for a baby, evidently humble with no decorations, is displayed alongside a shiny, gold mummy mask, also for a baby. Gu added that although mummies as old as 65 can be found, average Egyptians in ancient times lived until their 30s and that meant that many died as infants or children.

In fact, the fourth section is dedicated to show just that: how their economic standing affected burial procedures. Although many are used to the images of gold, glittering masks like that for King Tutankhamun, gold, according to Gu, was actually not that readily available in ancient Egypt.

“Those that couldn’t afford gold had to settle for gilt or paint that’s similar to gold,” Gu said.

Mummies of various animals are another must-see of the exhibition. Egyptians believed that animals were created along with humans and even worshipped because of the belief that they would protect humans the same way that gods do.

Animal mummies, according to researchers, are a cultural heritage that is unique to Egypt, stemming from this very thought. However, this doesn’t mean that they didn’t eat meat.

BY KIM HYUNG-EUN
[hkim@joongang.co.kr]



“Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum” runs until April 9. Admission is 13,000 won ($10.84) for those aged over 24; 11,000 won for middle school, high school and college students aged under 24; 8,000 won for elementary school students; and 6,000 won for those aged over 65.

Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, but the hours are extended until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays to encourage nighttime visits.

Opening hours on Sundays and holidays are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The venue is close to Ichon Station (lines No. 1 and 4), exit 2.

For more information, call 1688-9891 or visit http://www.egypt2017.com.
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