Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Ancient Land in Antiquities and Photographs at the Nelson-Atkins

KC Tribune (Steve Shapiro)

Before such superheroes as Iron Man and Batman crowded the imagination, truly super beings, bearing the names Osiris, Isis and Horus, strode tall and mighty—and why not? Ancient Egypt in its heyday was the equivalent of Russia under Catherine I, Britain under Queen Victoria or America under, well, Truman.

Tut, Ramses II, and Amenhotep III were deities; the pharaohs combined the powers of supreme rulers both in their lifetimes and afterwards (something Dick Cheney apparently hopes to achieve). Gods of fertility and of the afterworld were as common as celebrities nowadays, with the added emphasis on their magical link between the living and the dead.

The religious practices and everyday iconography of ancient Egypt still possess the aura of the ancient realm, as discoveries of tombs, hieroglyphics, funeral offerings and daily accessories over the last several hundred years have coalesced to attract the public’s fascination in a way that ancient Roman rarely has.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum, once known primarily for its ancient Chinese collection, has been developing its collections of art and artifacts of by-gone civilizations, from Native American to Colonial America. The recently unveiled Egyptian galleries, which lead into the Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, and European galleries, have an updated feel—and a priceless two thousand three hundred year-old coffin as a greeter.

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