Friday, December 25, 2009

Exhibition: More re "Secrets of Tomb 10A"

A good overview of the exhibition. With some photos.

Flashing against a wall are the stark black-and-white images of ancient greed.

Inside a 4,000-year-old tomb in which a governor and his wife hoped to make the journey into the afterlife is calculated chaos wrought by robbers intent on stripping the burial site of its valuables.

In their frantic search for jewels and precious metals, looters had ransacked the small stone chamber, ripping apart wooden coffins, tossing objects deemed insignificant into heaps, and even tearing apart the two mummies, leaving the head of one on top of the governor's coffin and the torso of the other propped in a corner. Then they set fire to the plundered pyramid.

But in one telling photograph, a jumbled pile of carved figures attests to an enduring presence, one that survived fires, robbers and thousands of years underground. In fact, what archaeologists in the joint 1915 Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition unearthed while digging in Deir el-Bersha, a necropolis in central Egypt, was a treasure of previously unseen proportions.

The discovery led to nearly a century of work to reassemble the final resting place of an official named Djehutynakht and his wife, and piece together not only the funerary practices of a great bygone civilization but reconstruct daily life in an unheralded time of peace, prosperity and artistic achievement.

The dramatic result is "The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC," a comprehensive exhibit set to run through May 16, in the Gund Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. On view in its entirety for the first time, the contents of the tomb include elaborately carved and painted coffins, with spells designed to ferry the couple safely into a higher plane, as well as representations of food, drink, clothing and servants meant to magically serve and sustain them in their new existence.

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