Saturday, March 22, 2008

Egyptian Museum Cairo Egypt

Egyptian Museum (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) Cairo Egypt

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

The essence of all under one roof

The word Egypt creates a mosaic of images in a reader’s mind consisting of the gigantic pyramids guarded by fearsome Sphinx; never ending sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, the great River Nile and numerous monuments standing on its banks bathed in the desert sun; etc all grand and impressive. When all these monuments get stored beneath one roof what can that place be called? Well we can call it The Egyptian Museum! Because it contains at least even a fragment from every monument found in Egypt. There may be no Pharaoh who had not left at least a trace of his belongings to this museum; whether it is Queen Hatshepsut, Akhenaton, Thutmose, Ramesses of any number; all are represented.

A child of Ismail Pasha

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The Egyptian Museum was established in 1835 by the initiative of Ismail Pasha; the architect of modern Cairo. At first it was opened with the collections received from Augusto Mariette a French archaeologist engaged by Ismail Pasha. Its first location was at Azbakia Gardens at the Center of Cairo. It was then moved to Bulaq a nearby place in 1858. Damages to the building due to flood in Nile necessitated a change and a building of its own came to being. The present museum built in 1902 was designed by a French architect Marcel Dournon. It is a huge neoclassic building built in 1902 and located in Midan el Thahrir, Cairo. It has two floors (ground floor and the upper floor).

Auguste Mariette

The idea of Egyptian Museum actually belongs to Auguste Mariette who could convince Ismail Pasha of the necessity of such a set up to protect the monuments from looting and vandalizing. Mariette was a French scholar/explorer of the 19th century who had contributed in enriching ancient Egyptian history. It was he who excavated the Khafre’s Pyramid at Giza in 1853 – 58. Later in 1881 he brought forth the Pyramid Texts carved on the walls of the tomb in Pyramid of Pepi I at Saqqarah.

No parallel

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

Egyptian Museum is the richest display center of Egyptian antiquities in the world that houses about 16,000 artifacts of which less than half is displayed on the shelves and the rest kept in the stores. Certain items are taken out from the store and displayed as ‘the articles of the month’. In 2002 at the time of the 2nd centenary of the new building very special items that were never exhibited were on display. Most of these materials were collected from various sites like ancient temples, royal tombs, pyramids, and various locations that lie scattered all around Egypt.

Texts of archaeologists

The museum has two floors Ground Floor of the museum has 42 rooms and the upper floor has 47. Antiquities belonged to 4th, to the 25th dynasties, royal and private relieves, paintings, figurines, those retrieved from Giza, remains from the Middle and New Kingdoms like large sculptures, sarcophagi, statues etc are displayed. Other artifacts of historical importance are coins, papyrus, pieces of pottery and various artifacts most of them belonging to the New Kingdom (between 1550 and 1070 BC).

Chronological settings

The artifacts are arranged in chronological order and a visitor can be a time traveler while seeing the artifacts as they are arranged. One who follows the order will finally reach the ground floor where there are items from Thutmose III, IV, Amenophis, Queen Hatshepsut, and Meherpren are stored after a travel that lasted 5000 years!

Egyptian museum image

1 the first section and most valuable is the treasures of Tutankhamun.

2. Monuments pertaining to the Pre-dynasty Old Kingdom.

3. Fist Intermediate and Middle Kingdom.

4. Monuments pertaining to the Modern Kingdom.

5. Monuments from the Greco- Roman Period.

6. Coins and papyrus collections.

7. Sarcophagi (stone coffins generally adorned with a sculpture) of royal members).

1. The treasures of Tutankhamun; the son of King Akhenaton and his second wife Kiye; wore the crown at the age of eight/nine and dead at the age of 18. He was buried in The Valley of Kings in tomb number KV 62 along with all the materials he used while living. These remains include a mask and chest plate made of solid gold (that itself weighed 24 pounds, more over the weapons, rare ornaments, instruments, decorated chest for ivory and ornaments, four chariots for war and ride, vases, flasks, and various items altogether 3500 in number. Admission to this hall requires costly ticket.

2. The section for Monuments of Old Kingdom; The Old Kingdom spans from 3rd to 6th dynasties. The monuments like statues, potteries spoons etc pertain to this period as well as those belonging prehistoric times. The Old Kingdom is also known as the Kingdom of Pyramids as Pyramids were constructed at this time.

3. Section for the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom,

This period following the Old Kingdom was a time of disunity for Egypt; it is believed that most of the tomb robberies were made in this period when River Nile shrunk and agriculture was reduced. This period was marked by less construction activities. The monuments include numerous statues including one big statue of Hotep, statue of a Hippo, numerous figurines, Pillar of Senusret with bas relief, funerary masks, ornaments one beautiful female brewer engaged in making beer etc.

4. Section for the Modern Kingdom,

These are very rich times and the articles stored are too many; prominent items are, statues of Akhenaton, Amenhotep, Queen Tiye (broken), Thutmosis, a large vase with handle shaped as goat, Tomb deities retrieved from Deir el Medina, a vase used by Queen Hatshepsut, jewel chest, rare ornaments, chair of Sitamun, Bracelet belonging to Ramesses II etc

5. Section for the Greco Roman Period,

The Greeks entered Egypt to ward of the Persian Kings; later both cultures got amalgamated; even gods were shared in between! This period is dominated by the resurgence of animal worship. Sculptures Egyptian Gods. Falcon headed crocodile cat statues made of bronze, funeral mask of Amenemope etc are some of the exhibits of this time. Considerable numbers of the mummified animals stored in this museum belong to this era

Coins and papyrus

One of the world’s most ancient collections of coins, papyrus works etc are the real wealth of this museum. These coins were made of gold, silver bronze etc belong to ancient Egypt, Greek, Roman tell the trade partners of ancient Egypt and their progress in metallurgy, while minting tells much about the civilization that existed in their place of origin. These papyrus (made from a plant used as paper) with Greek, Roman, Arabic as well as hieroglyph that was used in ancient Egypt. Potsherds are real story tellers that last for ever.

From the Valley of Kings

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

The real crowd pullers are the remains of Pharaohs recovered from the tombs of the Valley of Kings (new kingdom), Dahshur (middle kingdom), Deirel Bahari, Amama, Tell el, Thebes (new name Luxor), Memphis, Karnak, Abu Simbel, Giza etc include altogether 27 royal mummies of Pharaohs belonged to various dynasties, grave materials kept in the tomb, statuettes, royal jewellery (all extremely rare and very precious), etc. In this aspect the treasures retrieved from the tomb of Tutankhamun is the superstar of the show; but hefty fee is levied for a look at it.

Sarcophagi (singular sarcophagus)

Egyptian museum image

Egyptians enclosed the mummified bodies in a box made of stone carved to make it most attractive; especially the Pharaohs had their dead members bodies enclosed in very exquisitely made sarcophagi. These sarcophagi being made of stone found worthless to the tomb robbers and let them there after emptying the valuables. For archeologists these sarcophagi were very conclusive evidences to determine the occupant of the tomb. In Egyptian Museum these stone sarcophagi with their beautiful engravings present a mysterious feeling among visitors and act as crowd pullers.

The Library

Egyptian museum image courtesy:

There is a grand library with 42,500 books magazines and periodicals attached to the museum this is managed by The Highest Council of Monuments. Here books of English, French, Latin, Dutch and Arabic etc about 20 periodicals are added every month. These collections of rare books are made with special stress on all branches of ancient civilization and culture like literature, mathematics, medicine etc. Admission to the library is restricted to research students and scholars only.

Each times some new things!

Egyptian museum image courtesy: Peter Brubacher

A visit to this museum requires a lot of time to appreciate each items; hiring the service of a guide is worth otherwise a visitor most probably may miss items of significance and bi pass it for some large and beautiful thing with less historical importance (it is said that one visitor noticed the statue of a female brewer making beer only on his third visit to the museum as he missed the beauty during his past two visits. It is facts that people who have made several visits finding new items. In 2002 the 2nd centenary of the museum was quite significant as very so far not displayed items were on the shelves.


Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi, interesting posts, mostly about Egypt these days? Brings back memories of my visit in 1989. I also made it into the Giza before they closed it for a while. When did you visit? You seem to have travelled a lot. I'm sorry to not have visited your blog for a while due to hectic work.

Stephina Suzzane said...

One travels long distances not solely for large gatherings, but for something more intangible. I have always gone out on a limb for love. A dangerous, romantic, disappointing way to live.