In the Steps of the Pharaohs: As the Mystery of Tutankhamen's Death Comes to a Close-Thanks to Modern CT Scanning-And Murder Is Discounted, There Is Still an Opportunity to Understand More about This Famous Pharaoh as Well as Pharaohs in General and Enjoy a Tantalising Insight into These Mystical Rulers

By Wells, Rhona | The Middle East, April 2005 | Go to article overview

In the Steps of the Pharaohs: As the Mystery of Tutankhamen's Death Comes to a Close-Thanks to Modern CT Scanning-And Murder Is Discounted, There Is Still an Opportunity to Understand More about This Famous Pharaoh as Well as Pharaohs in General and Enjoy a Tantalising Insight into These Mystical Rulers


Wells, Rhona, The Middle East


Rather than concentrating on one dynasty or one Pharaoh, the exciting exhibition Pharaoh at the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA) in Paris brings together several dynasties, thus giving a broad view of Pharaohs in general. Monumental works and a gallery of portraits introduce the visitor to the greatness of this ancient civilisation. Among the 230 items on display are not only a number of masterpieces from the Louvre Museum but also some 115 objects on loan from the Cairo Museum.

The most impressive of these is a colossal three-metre high painted quartzite statue of Tutankhamen weighing nearly four tons, whose grandeur and magnificence bear splendid witness to 2,000 years of Egyptian civilisation. This colossus and the majestic bust of Akhenaton epitomise the grandeur of the Pharaohs and set the scene.

Since the time of Herodotus, Pharaonic Egypt has fascinated the western world. With Napoleon Bonaparte's Egyptian campaign, the interest shifted from belief to science, and the start of the 'special relationship' between France and Egypt: French art historians and explorers, such as Champollion, Mariette Pacha and Gustave Maspero, made a tremendous contribution to the discovery and international promotion of Egyptian heritage.

Few sovereigns in history have exerted such fascination: Pharaohs were more than just sovereigns, they were the sons of the Gods and venerated long after their death. They were a priest-king, a mediator between man and god, a head of state and a victorious warrior, the guarantor of the equilibrium of the world, as well as man, husband and father. The exhibits follow the Pharaohs' journey on earth and in the afterlife as they imagined it.

The rituals surrounding the death of a Pharaoh have given us many of the treasures we enjoy today. The sumptuous treasures of the kings of Tanis are testament to the lavishness of royal burials. They are one of the most important finds ever excavated from Egyptian graves. Discovered in the East of the Delta in 1940, the collection counts 22 gold pieces, including the magnificent funeral mask of Psousennes I, as well as a large collection of jewels, with the most exquisite rings, necklaces, cosmetic spoons and gold objects ever found in a royal tomb.

Over the course of the history of Ancient Egypt there were about 500 Pharaohs. The exhibition features a small selection of them, each chosen because of his, or her, particular achievements in historical terms.

We owe to the "builder" Pharaoh, Kheops (2538-2516BC), our seventh wonder of the world, the pyramids. Very few objects relating to him have been found but a small ivory statue depicting him, found at Abydos, is on display. Following in his footsteps, his son, Khephen (2509-2484BC), built the most spectacular pyramid and the Sphinx, featuring his own face. He was extremely egotistic and an abundance of statues of him are to be found around the world.

The golden age of Ancient Egypt starts with Sesostris III (1878-1843BC), when the Egyptian frontiers expanded, followed by architecture and art hitting new heights. …

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In the Steps of the Pharaohs: As the Mystery of Tutankhamen's Death Comes to a Close-Thanks to Modern CT Scanning-And Murder Is Discounted, There Is Still an Opportunity to Understand More about This Famous Pharaoh as Well as Pharaohs in General and Enjoy a Tantalising Insight into These Mystical Rulers
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