A couple of weekends ago, we went to the WA Museum to check out Secrets of the Afterlife: Magic, Mummies & Immortality in Ancient Egypt.
We picked what was probably the busiest day to go (Father’s Day) and I spent the first 10 or 15 minutes trying to see over the shoulders of people who were so busy taking photos they were unaware of anyone else around them. At this point, I really was wondering what the big deal was – it was just a bunch of old stuff, right?
It wasn’t until the bottleneck thinned out a bit and we were able to really look at, and read about, things that I started getting chills. When we came across the writing pallets and pens, something finally clicked and I realised just how fascinating this ‘stuff’ was.
The ‘ink’ was made from carbon (black) and iron oxide (ochre).
This exhibition was all about the preparations made by the Ancient Egyptians in their quest for eternal life. The rituals, prayers and processes were absolutely fascinating. The exhibit featured more than 100 items from painting and spells for the dead to jewellery, amulets and intricately patterned coffins – including two intact, never unwrapped mummies.
The first mummy is that of Irthorru, a priest of the god Min, from the 26th Dynasty (about 600 BC). He is believed to have died in middle age, although the causes of his death have not been discerned.
This guy is pretty unique because his face mask is not separate from the rest of his wrappings – it was actually moulded over his bandaged head. His limbs were covered in coloured bead work featuring images of the gods in mosaic. It was incredibly eerie but also quite humbling to think of the life he must have led, and all the places he has been since death.
The second mummy is an unknown woman, who was found in the coffin of the priest Horaawesheb. It is believed that 19th century antique dealers may have substituted his body for this woman’s.
The exhibition is on for one more week (until 22 September) and I highly recommend you go check it out. The photos are interesting to look at, but actually being there in the presence of these ancient artefacts is just amazing. It was until we noticed the thermometers and trays of crystals (for moisture absorption) in the display cases that we really got a sense of just how delicate these items are.
PS – Try to avoid stealth farters if you do go to see the exhibit. We seemed to be stuck behind one for a good while and although it lent a certain kind of stinky authenticity to the really old dead bodies, it just wasn’t that pleasant.