Fascinating Egyptian Mummies

Tuesday Apr 21 2009

Egypt has captured the imagination of hundreds of generations, particularly for the mysterious and fascinating rituals surrounding the burial of its dead.

Egypt has captured the imagination of hundreds of generations, particularly for the mysterious and fascinating rituals surrounding the burial of its dead. From April 22, 2009 to April 4, 2010, Québec City's Musée de la civilisation invites you to journey into the captivating world of ancient Egyptian burial rituals. A coproduction of Musée de la civilisation and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands, presented by Sun Life Financial in collaboration with Bureau de la Capitale-Nationale, Tourisme Québec, Office du tourisme de Québec, Loews Le Concorde (official exhibition hotel) and Le Soleil newspaper.

This magnificent, one-of-a-kind exhibition unveils a wealth of information about the Egyptians' belief in the afterlife, the process of mummification, and the mummies' eternal resting place—the tomb. It also includes some 225 thrilling artifacts and an authentic reproduction of Sennedjem's funerary chamber. One of Musée de la civilisation's most treasured artifacts will also be taking center stage: Nen-Oun-Ef, a 3,500 year old mummy, was scanned especially for the exhibition, where the results will be displayed.

Although tombs and mummies have long been subject to pillaging and curiosity, their situation today has changed. Mummies have become valuable vehicles for discovery and scientific analysis thanks to new non-invasive technologies like tomography (CAT). The exhibition contains updated information on ancient Egypt, linking past and present. The mummies' secrets provide us with insight into Egypt's past, and shed light on a civilization that continues to captivate us today.

An eagerly awaited event
"Over the past 20 years, the Museum has explored great civilizations through the history of countries such as Tunisia, Syria, Turkey, Austria, China, Indonesia, and Peru—but never ancient Egypt. Now our visitors are getting exactly what they want!" announced the Museum's executive director, Claire Simard. "I am thrilled to be presenting a piece of this magnificent country that I have been visiting since 2005 as a member of the UNESCO executive committee for the International Campaign for the Establishment of the Nubia Museum in Aswan and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo," she continued. "To bring the exhibition to life, we joined forces with an institution with a great deal of experience in the field and that is home to one of the world's ten largest Egypt collections: the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands. With their help, we have created a stunning and modern exhibition that, immediately after the presentation in Québec, will begin a tour in Japan. Five stops are planned", concluded Ms. Simard.

Ankhhor: a 2,650 year old mummy at the heart of it all
At the heart of the exhibit you'll find the Ankhhor mummy wrapped in classic oversize bandages, wearing a superb string of pearls, and lying in three magnificently decorated coffins, ready to welcome visitors to this exquisite display of ancient Egyptian history.

Ankhhor, a high priest and VIP in ancient Egypt, lived in Thebes (now Luxor) in the time of the Pharaohs over 2,650 years ago. The style of his coffins and the hieroglyphs they bear are testaments to his status.

His mummified body, numerous artifacts linked to the era in which he lived, and film clips give visitors a sense of Ankhhor's life and life for other ancient Egyptians.

From death to rebirth
The ancient Egyptians saw a cycle of life and death in the nature that surrounded them. They believed that after death a new life began in the kingdom of the god Osiris. Visitors will have a chance to learn about the burial rituals that were carried out after death. One of the rituals includes—you guessed it!—the all-important mummification to preserve the body for all eternity before it was moved in magnificently decorated coffins to the tomb, its final resting place. Numerous artifacts are on display to illustrate the process: instruments used for mummification, protective amulets, canopic jars (which contain the viscera of the deceased), various decorations including a garland of flowers from the tomb of Ramses II, papyruses from the Book of the Dead, cartonnage, a coffin, and another mummy with a gorgeous string of pearls and a scarab beetle.

Visitors will also love the collection of other objects found in funerary chambers and chapels, such as funerary boats, dishes, jewels, grooming implements, a canopic box, statuettes and stunning Oushebetis (servants from the afterlife), offering tables, statues, and steles engraved with hieroglyphs.

There are even animal mummies! Millions of cats, ibises, crocodiles, and falcons were mummified in ancient Egypt. The exhibition is a great opportunity to see some of them first-hand, or even conduct a fascinating virtual exploration of a mummified ibis.

Mummies' secrets revealed!
The final part of the exhibition highlights the fact that even though they are supposed to remain in their tombs for all eternity, mummies have long been the victims of pillaging and surprising practices. Fortunately, archeological digs have enabled these witnesses to the past to share their stories with us today.

Contemporary research conducted using medical techniques such as tomographical (CAT) analysis provide us with invaluable information about the mummies without having to unwrap them like we did in the past.

As part of the preparation for the exhibition, the Museum decided to evaluate its own mummy, Nen-Oun-Ef, which provided an excellent opportunity to learn more about this piece of our collection and to enrich visitors' experience.

Color, Egypt-style
While the exhibition is first and foremost an opportunity to admire authentic, millennia-old artifacts surrounded by stunning ancient Egypt-inspired colors like red, green, and yellow, visitors will also get to see a number of film clips and photographs of the infamous pyramids and the discovery of Toutankhamon's treasure.

The Museum has also constructed a life-size reproduction of one of Egypt's most famous funerary chambers: the final resting place of Sennedjem, one of Ramses II's artisans.

Visitors can also try their hand at being an archeologist through an interactive exhibit that transports them to a dig in Saqqara alongside the Leiden museum's Egyptologist.

Other related activities
As an extension of the exhibition, the Museum is offering an educational family workshop in the exhibition hall. In another hall, it has created an interactive discovery space called A Day of Discovery in Ancient Egypt where, in addition to trying on a variety of costumes, visitors will discover the truth behind some mysteries surrounding mummification, canopic vases, the Final Judgment (the weighing of the heart), and offerings to the dead though interactive displays.

The Museum will also be hosting a number of exciting cultural activities (workshops, dance) both indoors and out, particularly over the summer months.

Finally, visit the Museum's website for access to a captivating minisite dedicated to the exhibition: www.mcq.org/momies.There are an overview and three games that will give you a first glimpse into ancient Egypt. Complete the three games to leave your mark in the sarcophagi chamber and earn a fantastic personalized wallpaper!

Fascinating Egyptian Mummies is a magnificent, must-see (and revisit!) exhibition on at Musée de la civilization in Québec City from April 22, 2009 to April 4, 2010. A coproduction of Musée de la civilisation and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands, presented by Sun Life Financial in collaboration with Bureau de la Capitale-Nationale, Tourisme Québec, Office du tourisme de Québec, Loews Le Concorde (official exhibition hotel) and Le Soleil newspaper.

Information and Reservations
Press relations : Serge Poulin, 418 528-2072 / Email

– Musée de la civilisation –

85, rue Dalhousie
Quebec City (Québec) G1K 8R2
T. 418 643-2158
Toll-free 1 866 710-8031

– Musée de l'Amérique –
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2, côte de la Fabrique
Quebec City (Québec) G1R 3V6
T. 418 643-2158
Toll-free 1 866 710-8031