Sunday, February 28, 2010

That Egyptian Dude with all that stuff on Tour

I believe the punishment for taking photos in the King Tut exhibit is dismemberment, death or being forced to watch 8 straight hours of CSPAN 2... something along those lines. So any pictures included here were stolen from google searches.

When I go to popular exhibits like this I often wonder what it is they've expected the public to find exciting. I tend to judge the museum's expectations on what they're selling in the gift shop and what information they have plastered in repetition inside the gallery. Museums never seem to sell the pictures I want to own so it's sad when I cannot take any photos (or make any sketches) of my own. I spent an hour and a half inside, reading every plaque and observing fronts and backs of everything. I took textual notes (thus getting through the "no sketching" loophole). I did get the feeling however that the people who put the exhibit together were not interested in the same things that I am. The major themes to the exhibit seemed to be; 1.Look at the shiny stuff 2. Here's the sociology and genealogy of ancient Egypt. 3. This stuff is really, and we mean REALLY Old! (and well preserved)

On the one hand there is a lot to see and the whole exhibit could get overwhelming easily. However anyone who has seen a TV special on this goes in knowing a lot about it. I felt like there could have been more information provided in addition to what there was because a lot of it was review anyway.

As for the look at the shiny stuff aspect of the display, the shiny stuff was even more impressive than I had anticipated. As an artisan, I was rather blown away by the craftsmanship put into almost every item. Compared to every other culture on Earth at the time (including China) their art was thousands of years ahead of its time. The intricacy of portraiture was amazing. They did have the representational style like most cultures in 14thC BCE did as well, but the items that were meant to be exact were. There were two cow's heads that I'd never seen in photos before that caught my eye... and were not being sold as postcards either.

(oh side note, the exhibit explained that "Amun" was Lower Egypt... but What does Tut Ankh mean?)

What I found most interesting were many large photos of the way Tut's tomb looked upon discovery. Google only provided me with one of them... but the exhibit had a lot. The mere thought of discovering a room that has been undisturbed for 3000 years (give or take) is exciting. The story goes that the first time the tomb was discovered Howard Carter's companions asked him if he could see anything. In what I can only hear in my head as delivered in a dry understated British accent Carter answered "Yes wonderful things". Pip pip I say.

One of Carter's photos showed a stack of wreaked chariots. "Where are the chariots?" I thought, no mention of them in the exhibit at all. Another thing that I kept wondering throughout was "Where are all of the body parts?". There were vessels and sarcophag(i?) all over the place that used to contain this body or that liver but I kept thinking... so where's the liver now? Did they put it in a mason jar somewhere in Egypt? A docent told me that all of the human parts and mummies are still in the Valley of the Kings. I didn't ask what kind of receptacle the livers and lungs went into... let's just imagine mason jars anyway.


Anonymous said...

The 'no sketching' rule seems severe. What is the real harm? I can see no 'flash' photos because of degradation, but the rest isn't like copyright infringement. Good thing I don't run a museum I guess. I like your analysis and agree that what they sell postcards about never seems to agree with my interests either. Again, probably a good thing... Glad you got to see it all. Mom

Stringfellow said...

Tutankhamen as three words. And spelled differently. Suddenly it sounds nothing like the way I learned it.

al'xae said...

Stringfellow, I hate to tell you this online and all but Pluto is not a planet anymore and Dinosaurs might have had feathers. The world is falling asunder!