Who isn’t a little fascinated by ancient Egyptian culture? They built giant pyramids without the aid of modern machines, mummified the dead in pursuit of eternal life, and maintained a civilization for 3,000 years. They produced rock star royalty, including King Tut and Cleopatra, and their hieroglyphs were one of the first, and most artistic, forms of written communication. Lucky for Richmond, for the next few months we don’t have to travel 6,800 miles to see some relics of this super society for ourselves. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has brought mummies, masks, jewelry and jars across the pond from the British Museum for Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb, a temporary exhibit complemented by a 21-minute 3D movie. With a surprising mix of history and humor, the film shows the amazing technology used to uncover the secrets of a mummy without removing one precious layer of linen from his body. Then in the great hall of artifacts, the mummy itself is displayed in an elaborately decorated coffin, surrounded by other mummies – human and animal – as well as sculptures and necessities for the afterlife. It was mere coincidence that I read The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan’s teen novel based on Egyptian mythology, right before I saw the exhibit, but I appreciated having the background as I studied ancient artwork featuring Anubis, Horace, Osiris and other gods. I also recognized the shabtis, small servant figurines expected to do the manual labor for pharaohs in the land of the dead, and a large statue of the cat goddess, Bastet. From the palm-sized baboon amulet to the eight-foot-tall sarcophagus lid of Pakap, each spectacular discovery brings Egypt’s captivating world of burial rituals and magical practices back to life and right here to our doorstep.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb
Through March 11, 2012
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia USA 23220-4007
Carla Murray is Assistant Director of Marketing & PR for Maymont. She is a Richmond native and a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate. She lives in New Kent with her husband, two daughters, a dog, a cat and a turtle. Some of her favorite activities include letterboxing, long walks, Cirque du Soleil shows, wine tastings, reading novels, and spending time with family and friends.