At the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto is an exhibit of King Tutankhamen and some of the other great pharaohs of ancient Egypt – rather, their stuff. After having waited in a long, winding line in the AGO’s brightly lit, 3-story atrium of stone and wood for nearly an hour, I have to admit I was initially disappointed to learn that I wasn’t going to see any mummies or the famed death mask of the young pharaoh Tut. Those, apparently, are on permanent display in Cairo, Egypt. Not that it matters because photos are strictly verboten and I intend to plan a trip to Cairo at some point in my future anyway.
My disappointment quickly retreated as my eyes set upon massive, bas-relief stone tablets, dozens of statues in every conceivable size and material alongside busts of the great rulers of the Nile – the gods and goddesses themselves. They were exquisite, lavish artifacts wrought from gold, stone, wood and reed from thousands of years ago, stowed away to serve each ruler in the afterlife. (Apparently you can take it with you!)
Adorned with spells from the Book of the Dead to protect their living gods from manual labor in the life after, each handcrafted piece – whether painted, wrought, or chiseled – spoke of each artist’s mastery of their skill and trade as they forged an eternal record of their pharaohs’ legacies.
It was easy to forget the slow moving, almost claustrophobic line of other patrons vying to see each item in the exhibit – hell, the it was downright forgivable once we got past first couple turns of the exhibit. At each bend we were treated to even greater examples of the divinely-inspired ingenuity and the sheer master craftsmanship of these ancients. At one turn, massive calcite and granite statues, at another, a casket for a dead cat –equally beautiful in its extravagant detail. At the next turn, an ornately bejeweled necklace and sandals made of pure gold.
When taken out of our modern context of smartphones, wifi, or bad driving habits, I am filled with a sense of wonder at our extensive human history and, when put into perspective, it’s really hard to believe that beer (at least in one form) has been with us since the time of these great and powerful pharaohs.
The exhibit is on display until April 2010. All the information you could need to see the exhibit can be found here on AGO’s site.
[techtags:ANCIENT EGYPT, KING TUT EXHIBIT]