Temples, Tombs, and the Egyptian Universe
The Museum's westernmost Egyptian galleries, called "Temples, Tombs, and the Egyptian Universe," explore the religious purposes for which most Egyptian art was created and the archaeological contexts that help us understand its meaning.
The exhibits in the small stairwell gallery begin this exploration with material relating to the divinity of Egyptian kingship, symbolized by a small alabaster figure of the late Old Kingdom king Pepy I (circa 2338–2298 B.C.E.) in full royal regalia with Horus, the royal falcon god, behind him. The recumbent lion in a nearby case also symbolized the king's superhuman power.
The right side of the adjacent gallery displays statues and other objects made to be dedicated in the temples of gods or goddesses, as well as a model of a temple façade derived from an ancient model base. A map and photographs provide information about the Brooklyn Museum's excavations at Karnak, in the temple area of the goddess Mut, the wife of the god Amun.
The left side of the gallery features objects that were either made specifically for funerary use or, like the small stool in one case, used in life and then deposited in the owner's tomb after his or her death. The same case contains an example of a "false door," which was believed to provide a means for the deceased's spirit to communicate with the world of the living. A large wooden sarcophagus and a set of mummiform coffins occupy much of the floor space in this gallery.
The final gallery displays large sections of relief panels from the tomb of Nespeqashuty, a high official of the seventh century B.C.E., depicting male and female mourners, a symbolic boat trip, and rows of people carrying food and other provisions into the tomb. These unfinished works enable visitors to see how the scenes were first drawn and then carved. The small figures on the floor of the case, known as shawabtis, were placed in tombs to function as surrogate laborers for the deceased in the afterlife. The coffin with its lid lifted contains the only mummy on view in the Egyptian galleries.
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