Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Mummies galore

Meresamun, the singer

A couple of days ago Eddie and I were browsing the shelves of the "pre-loved" DVDs in Poundland, our favourite place to shop for snacks and plastic tat treasures. I have spotted all three The Mummy movies (the original ones, not the latest film with Tom Cruise which I haven't seen).
I couldn't resist buying them, to revisit my youth and introduce my child to the pleasures of the trashy horror.

We have watched all the Goosebumps on Netflix, and of course, the Goosebumps film. While enjoying the scary parts, Eddie tends to sit next to me, just in case, and if I need to pop in to the kitchen to brew a cup of tea, he would pause the film and wait for me.

We watched The Mummy, hiding behind the big cushions when the scarabs were taking over, but quite often giggled too and said Eww, that's gross!
Eddie thought it was the best film ever.

After watching this masterpiece, I thought it might be a good idea to visit The Ashmolean and see the real Egyptian mummies. Earlier this year we went to the National History Museum and saw some of the glorious sarcophagi.

The Ashmolean Museum, the mummies
Temple singer Meresamun, The Ashmolean Musuem

Sasha had a day of activities with Barnardo's, so Eddie and I hopped on the bus to Oxford and enjoyed our time together, just the two of us.

The Ashmolean Museum is a splendid place to visit, and there is so much to see and learn. It is the most visited British museum outside London. Several years ago, it has reopened its Ancient Egyptian collections.

Egyptian mummies

You can argue that displaying the human remains to the public is not ethical, but at the same time the museums spend vast sums of money to preserve them for the eternity. I'm in two minds about seeing mummies in the museums.

They are, of course, an incredible study of culture and history, but they are also dead bodies.
In one of the rooms, you can see a mummy of a two-year-old child. Though it happened thousands of years ago, the death of a child is a tragedy.
Next to it there is a glass installation created by Angela Palmer. The scans made on the little mummy have revealed that the child had a twisted hip and a deformed skull. The artist was so touched by these facts that she visited Hawara, the place where the little mite lived his short life. She brought back with her a handful of sand to place next to the mummified remains.
It feels poignant but also reverential.

The mummy of the 2-year-old boy from Hawara

We loved the Pharaoh Taharqa's shrine, which was once a huge temple. There is a statue of Taharqa inside. We looked for his name written in hieroglyphs outside the shrine, inside the frame called a cartouche.

Pharaoh Taharqa
Pharaoh Taharqa
As canopic jars with preserved organs feature quite prominently in the Mummy film, I pointed them out to Eddie in the museum.

This is the Ram of Amun, he is keeping Pharaoh Taharq safe.

If you've seen The Mummy, you might remember how scared The Mummy was of the cat. Ancient Egyptians revered cats and mummified them as well, so that they could live in the afterlife too.
Seeing this mummy of the cat brought back memories of my childhood and visits to the Pushkin Musuem of Fine Arts in Moscow, where you can find a mummified cat as well.

cat mummy
mummified cat
This is a sarcophagus of Ptahhotep, steward of the treasury.

Egyptian mummies
Ptahhotep, steward of the treasury

We only studied the Ancient Egypt collections and didn't venture beyond that.
I wanted Eddie to learn something from ancient history, while his memory is still fresh after watching the film.

As you enter the Egyptian rooms, you can find a little chest of drawers with activities for children. We picked two of them - Ancient Egyptian Survival Guide (what you need to know to journey safely through life and into the afterlife) and Ancient Egyptian Animal Adventure (which invites you to find amazing and magical animals in ancient Egypt). They are cleverly done, and make a visit to the museum more fun.

One of my favourite pieces in the Ancient Egypt collections is this delicate spoon.

I also admired the Mummy with perky boobs, which is on display as you leave the Egyptian collections and move onto the Fayum mummies of the Coptic period.

It was better not to cram as much as possible in one day, and not visit the other ancient worlds. We came home and looked at the book An Egyptian Pyramid.
And that was our foray into culture for the moment. We are ready to watch The Mummy Returns.

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