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Exhibition in Grenoble examines the powerful city of Thebes 3000 years ago
People look at an ancient Egyptian funerary statue part of the 'Serve the Gods of Egypt' exhibition showing at the Museum of Grenoble, southern eastern France. Based on the Grenoble collections and supplemented by 200 works from the Louvre Museum and others loaned by European museums, the exhibition offers an approach to Theban society during the Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BC), around the temple of Karnak, the main place of worship of the god Amon. JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP.


GRENOBLE.- The Musée de Grenoble is presenting an exhibition-cum-event devoted to ancient Egypt, organized with the Louvre. It proposes an archaeological plunge into the powerful city of Thebes 3000 years ago, by way of its necropolis and the monumental temple of Amun. Relying on the Grenoble collection, complemented by almost 200 works from the Musée du Louvre and other loans from European museums, the exhibition introduces visitors to the intimate life of Theban society in the Third Intermediate Period (1069 – 664 BCE). That society paying allegiance to the deity Amun-Ra in the temple at Karnak found itself, for those 500 years, at the heart of major political and economic challenges. In particular, the exhibition emphasizes the important role played by women at that time. A novel subject especially devised for Grenoble.

The clergy of Amun, king of the gods of Egypt
The Karnak temple complex, the largest in Egypt, dedicated to the cult of Amun-Ra, king of gods, is situated on the east bank of Thebes. During the Third Intermediate Period (1069-664 BCE), it was an extremely important political hub, a form of religious office countering the power of the Pharaohs, which was then relatively unstable.

In fact, during the 500 years which followed the empire of Ramses, the country was alternately governed from the Delta by dynasties which succeeded one another, or overlapped, then, starting from the south of Sudan, by the Cushite dynasty. In this context, the clergy of Amun appears to be the only long-lasting dynasty, especially in the south of the country. The sovereigns of each dynasty, but also powerful notables, put their daughters at the centre of this religious institution, the famous “Adoratrices of Amun” and their followers, who were singers and musicians. From dynasty to dynasty, these hallowed virgins adopted the daughters of the new ruling sovereigns and thus marked the continuity of power and of the cult of Amun, in which the Pharaoh was the high priest.

The collection of the Musée de Grenoble, starting point of the exhibition
The Egyptian collection of the Musée de Grenoble is one of France’s most important. Grenoble, incidentally, opened its arms to Jean-François and Jacques-Joseph Champollion, the fathers of modern Egyptology.

Twelve coffins and fragments of coffins discovered in the so-called Gourna necropolis in the 19th century (western Thebes), and brought back to France by Comte Louis de Saint-Ferriol in 1842, are among the jewels of the collection. They date from the 10th-7th centuries BCE and belonged either to priests of Amun, or to singers of Amun. It is based on this set of objects that the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the Musée du Louvre has devised the exhibition in collaboration with the Musée de Grenoble.

The exhibition has been organized in four parts designed to gradually penetrate the way the society of the temple of Karnak functioned. The first part, devoted to “first millennium Thebes rediscovered”, situates Thebes, at the geographical and historical level, in the Third Intermediate Period, and make it possible to describe the specific nature of the Grenoble collection, a major part of which hails from that city. The second part of the exhibition “From Amun to Osiris; priests in the necropolis”, re-situates visitors on the west bank where were found hundreds of tombs of the male and female clergy of Karnak, a veritable reflection of the society of the time. The third part, “The priests in the temple of Amun at Karnak”, takes us to the other side of the Nile into the temple, where the priests, complying with a highly organized hierarchy, held leading political, administrative and economic offices, supported by basic ritual activities, guaranteeing the order of the world around Amun. The fourth and last part, titled “Women in the domain of Amun”, sheds light, thus underpinning very recent studies, on the role of women in the temple, with at their head the adoratrices of the god Amun and their followers, the little known “singers of Amun”. Devoted to the cult of the king of the gods, they also had a special bond with the god Osiris, a renascent and fertile deity, whose chapel has been reconstructed in 3D based on photographs.





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January 2, 2019

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