The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, October 31, 2014


Exhibition at the British Museum Brings Ancient Book of the Dead to Life
A man looks at the coffin of Thebian priestess Henutmehyt, from the 19th Dynasty (around 1250 BC), at the British Museum in London, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. The exhibition brings together treasures from the museum's collection of Egyptian artifacts, including fragile papyrus scrolls that are rarely shown in public. AP Photo/Alastair Grant.

By: Jill Lawless, Associated Press

LONDON (AP).- As self-help manuals go, the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead has certainly stood the test of time.

For centuries, the 3,500-year-old guidebook offered Egyptians a step-by-step guide to the journey from this life to the next. It remains famous, if poorly understood — a spooky collection of arcane symbols, crocodile-jawed monsters and jackal-headed gods.

A major new exhibition at the British Museum hopes to shed new light on the book, which was not a single volume, but a series of spells and illustrations inked onto papyrus scrolls and designed to help the dead make the perilous journey to the afterlife.

The show seeks to dispel the modern notion — partly created by all the tombs, mummies and funeral masks — that ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death.

"They were not obsessed with death, as some people say — they were obsessed with life," the exhibition's curator, John Taylor, said Tuesday. "Most people would have died by 35, but they had quite a privileged life in many ways, and wanted to continue with it after death."

The show, which opens Thursday and runs to March 6, is the first of three British Museum exhibitions looking at death and spirituality through the ages. A show next year looking at devotion in Medieval Europe will be followed in 2012 by one about the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the hajj.

The Egyptian exhibition reveals a highly developed society with a complex theology — and an eye for commerce.

It winds, labyrinth-like, through the museum's circular Reading Room, mirroring the journey humans were thought to take after death.

It was a spiritual obstacle course that saw the soul leave the mummified body of the departed and travel through the nether world. There it could be waylaid by scorching fires, poisonous snakes, wild animals and worst of all the Devourer — a demon with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

The final obstacle was a trial, at which the heart was placed on a set of scales and weighed against a feather. A light heart meant successful passage to the afterlife. A heavy heart, weighed down with sin, meant being thrown to the Devourer.

The book's spells and illustrations, developed over centuries from about 1,500 B.C., were intended as a guide to overcoming these obstacles. There were 200 spells in all, from which wealthy Egyptians could pick and choose for their own custom-made Books of the Dead.

The exhibition brings together some of the treasures from the museum's world-famous collection of Egyptian artifacts. There are mummies, gilded funeral masks and cedar coffins colorfully decorated in red and blue.

The star objects are the scrolls themselves, long rolls of papyrus covered with neat black and red hieroglyphic columns and illustrated with scenes of the afterlife.

They were rolled up and placed alongside mummies in their coffins. Spells also were inscribed on coffin walls, mummies' shrouds and even their linen bandages.

Fragile and easily damaged by light, the scrolls are rarely displayed. The longest, a 120-foot (37-meter) scroll made for the daughter of a high priest about 3,000 years ago, has never been shown in public before.

The exhibition reveals the Egyptians' spirituality — but also their knack for commerce. Only the most powerful individuals could afford their own custom-made scrolls, and mass-market options were available to the less well-off.

Archeologists can tell that Ani, a senior civil servant — scribe to the king — who died about 1275 B.C, bought his scroll off the shelf because his name has been inserted into blanks spots in the text.

Another exhibit is a basalt and gold amulet in the shape of a scarab beetle, with a blank space on the back where the buyer's name could be written. It was one of a variety of objects that could be purchased as part of preparations for a good death.

"Over time, more things became essential," Taylor said. "Somebody had a business sense there."

Having completed the arduous journey, the successful person could spend the afterlife sailing with the sun god Ra in his boat across the sky, or dwelling with Osiris, god of the underworld. But the most favored option was to settle in the Field of Reeds, a fertile riverside land that resembled an idealized version of the Egypt the deceased had left behind.

"The ultimate goal was going home," Taylor said, "but without the illness, suffering and death."


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

British Museum | Egyptian Book of the Dead | London | John Taylor |




Today's News

November 3, 2010

Strong Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art at Sotheby's Brings $227.6 Million

The Giacometti Variations, an Original Project by John Baldessari, at the Prada Foundation

Exhibition at the British Museum Brings Ancient Book of the Dead to Life

Memorabilia Relating to Darth Vader, Marilyn Monroe, James Bond, Tommy Cooper, King Kong and More on Sale

Contemporary Artists Examine the Use and Role of Destruction in Contemporary Art

The Most Important Depiction of Henry VIII's "Lost" Palace to Be Offered at Christie's

Sotheby's London November Sale of Scandinavian Art to Include Major Works by Leading Artists

Cantor Arts Center Exhibition Features Chiaroscuro Technique: A First for Reproducing Color Images

The Strange Life of Objects: The Art of Annette Lemieux at the Krannert Art Museum

One of the Most Important Works of American Furniture to Come to Auction will Be Offered by Sotheby's

Poster Auctions International Announces Sale of Important and Rare Posters

Britain Halts Export of $48 Million Turner Painting "Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino"

Eloquent Presentation of New Work by the Renowned Belgian Painter Luc Tuymans

First New York City Museum Exhibition in All Media at American Folk Art Museum

Fifth Annual New York Art Book Fair Offers the Best in Contemporary Art-Book Publishing

A Selection of Works from the 1960s and 70s by American Artist Michael Heizer at David Zwirner

The Remarkable Journey of the Stansted Park Suite to be Offered at Christie's in New York

The Art Auction at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Raises $2.8 Million

MoMA to Present the Most Extensive Exhibition of Weimar Cinema Ever Mounted in the U.S.

Image Used in Classic British Anti-War Film for Sale at Bonhams

Wallpapers by Contemporary Artists and Designers at Musée de design et d'arts appliqués contemporains

Portraits of First World War Veterans Presented to The Queen Go on Display at Windsor Castle

Sir Norman Foster Designs Bodegas Portia: A New Winery for the Faustino Group

Christie's Presents Rare and Exceptional Works from Its Classical and Modern Chinese Paintings Sale

Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin's Premier Contemporary Art Center, Reopened to the Public

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Image of a Christ without a beard, short hair and wearing a toga unearthed in Spain

2.- Giant mosaic unearthed in mysterious tomb in Amphipolis in northern Macedonia

3.- Bonhams sale of 18th century French decorative arts to benefit Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

4.- Paris flustered by erection of 'sex-toy' sculpture; Paul McCarthy slapped by a passer-by

5.- High art or vile pornography? Marquis de Sade explored in Orsay museum exhibition

6.- 'Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection' opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

7.- Greek culture minister says Elgin Marbles return a matter of 'global heritage'

8.- Vandals deflate Paris 'sex-toy' sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy after outrage

9.- Exhibition at National Gallery in London explores Rembrandt's final years of painting

10.- 'Hans Memling: A Flemish Renaissance' opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome

Related Stories



Grayson Perry: "The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman" at the British Museum

The British Museum is the first UK arts organisation to publish its collection semantically

Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World at the British Museum Highlights Discoveries

British Museum to Manage Portable Antiquities Scheme, as Exciting New Finds Go on Display

Picasso to Julie Mehretu: Modern Drawings from the British Museum Collection

British Museum Gets $38 Million Gift from John Sainsbury

Cyrus the Great Artifact to Be Displayed in Iran's National Museum

British Museum Celebrates Success of Public Service Partnership and Looks to the Future

British Museum Announces "Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead" Exhibition

British Museum Opens Exhibition of The Printed Image in China



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site