We returned to the Cairo Egyptian Museum for another round of pharaonic madness. This time the museum was packed and yet not as overwhelming as the first visit. It helped having been there once before. This time we had a better sense of what we wanted to see and what was actually realistic in being able to see. There is just so much here.
We hung around the atrium area where Narmer’s palette is located. Sarcophagi of Hatshepsut and others dominate the main floor area. The swap meet feeling remains. Some of the items are presented front and center with piles of objects stacked along the walls. Some items are marked, some not. Treasures stashed in corners. Crazy. The colossus of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, his wife Tiy and their three daughters dominate the hall at the far end. It’s a kind of family portrait with Tiy’s arm around her husband. Unlike many Egyptian family portraits Tiy is sized the same as Amenhotep III. Other statues and engravings typically showed the wife as half size of the husband and children about quarter size. Kind of a ranking in importance. Tiy was one of the first pharaonic wives to hold official power. I barely come up to their knees and am about the same size as their children in the statue. I guess I know where I stand in importance! Under Amenhotep III a movement began in Egypt toward a monotheistic religion worshipping the god Aten and no others, and it was his successor Akhenaton who made this monotheistic belief the official religion of Egypt moving the capital and worship centers from Karnak to Amarna. All of this plays into an early Exodus theory I’m researching which I will try to explain in a future blog.
We also made it up to the Royal Mummy rooms. For yet another entry fee, more than the entry fee to the museum itself, you get to look at some of the most important pharaohs of the New Kingdom. Ramses II with his white hair is lying there, as are many of his children- grandchildren successors. His white hair was probably the result of the embalming salts bleaching his hair these past 3,000 years. My favorite was looking into the face of Amenhotep II. He’s my man. I believe he is the pharaoh of the Exodus. Just think of the things that he saw and experienced. A little ways from him lays Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, the Hornet, an incredible warrior king. Now just a shriveled old man. All of these mummies look like overly tan Florida beach retirees wrapped up in gauze. They are really recognizable.
We rounded out our time by visiting several less famous rooms. One was a room full of 3000-year-old models of everyday life activities: a carpentry shop, weavers, boating, baking. Each model looked like an ancient school diorama. I learned more about daily life in that room than in all the schoolbooks I’ve read. We also visited two rooms of nothing but jewelry. Everything was so delicate and intricate in design. They were incredibly skilled craftsmen. These people weren’t worried about basic life necessities; the Nile must have provided everything they needed in order for them to have the time to develop such amazing art. We also visited the animal mummy room. Dogs, cats, baboons, cows, snakes, and even crocodiles visited the embalmers.
We paid our final goodbyes by visiting Tut’s treasures one more time. Next week sometime we hope to visit his tomb down south in the Valley of the Kings.