published Sunday, August 7th, 2011

'Egyptian Relics, Replicas and Revivals'

Treasures from Tutankhamun can be seen at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville

A three-part exhibition examining the art, history and culture of ancient Egypt and its influence on Tennessee is on view at the Tennessee State Museum through Sept. 4.

"Egyptian Relics, Replicas and Revivals: Treasures from Tutankhamun" features ancient artifacts from the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology of the University of Memphis and beautifully detailed replicas presented in the International Museum Institute of New York's traveling exhibition "Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things From the Pharaoh's Tomb."

Additionally, the exhibit also measures Egypt's surprisingly broad footprint in Tennessee as seen in Egyptian revival works from the collections of the State Museum, as well as objects loaned by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Vanderbilt University in Nashville. These works date from the mid-1800s to the present.

Visitors will begin with an introduction to the daily life and funerary culture of ancient Egypt told with actual ancient artifacts. Egyptian culture thrived along the Nile River in northeastern Africa for more than 3,000 years. This section of the exhibition provides insight about Egyptian geography, religion, economics and architecture, as well as the development of hieroglyphics -- a form of picture writing -- and other scripts that have aided scholars in interpreting Egypt's history and culture.

Also featured is a model of a boat from more than 3,600 years ago; bronze statues of the gods Amun-Re, Osiris and Isis; an ancient musical instrument called a sistrum; jewelry; an ancient stool; and a painted coffin head.

The exhibit narrative then proceeds to a discovery of King Tut's fabled treasures. On Nov. 26, 1922, British explorer Howard Carter made archaeological history by unearthing the first, nearly intact pharaonic tomb. More than 100 finely crafted replicas based on the treasures from this find were created by artisans from Chicago's Field Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pharaonic Village in Cairo, Egypt. Many are decorated with gold leaf, ivory and embellished with semiprecious stones. These reproductions highlight some of the most sacred and personal possessions found in the tomb and burial chamber of the king, including his golden funerary mask and sarcophagus -- all of which were intended to provide comfort for the "Boy King" in the afterlife.

The exhibit also includes replicas of the tomb's royal chariot, golden shrines, beds, thrones, jewelry, mummy case and the royal mummy. These are framed by replicas of other famous Egyptian pieces, such as the bust of Queen Nefertiti, mirroring the original now in the Agyptisches Museum in Germany. King Tut's original treasures are housed in the Cairo Museum.

Since the early 19th century, the interest in ancient Egyptian civilization has had an important influence on Tennessee culture. Egyptomania, as this fascination is often called, was spurred here by renewed interest in Napoleon's Egyptian campaign during 1798-1801. This is explored in the final section of the show.

Here are furnishings from Nashville's Downtown Presbyterian Church, which was designed in the Egyptian revival-style, 19th-century views of Egyptian antiquities from the Frank McClung Museum at UTK and Vanderbilt University, as well as Egyptian-themed art, toys and collectibles. Objects from the State Museum's collection include Tennessee artist Red Grooms' colorful satires.

An ancient Egyptian mummy, said to be about 3,300 years old, has long been a part of the State Museum's permanent collection. Donated to the Tennessee Historical Society in 1859 by Nashville Merchant Marine Jeremiah George Harris, the mummy and its history continue to captivate visitors, along with its mysterious tiny companion -- the ancient mummy of a cat.

As part of the exhibition, an explanation of the Egyptian art of preparing a mummy is included.

"The staff of the Tennessee State Museum has worked closely with several other cultural and academic institutions to create this unique and fascinating look at ancient Egypt," said Lois Riggins-Ezzell, executive director of the museum. "This exhibit will give many visitors a glimpse of the stunning treasures resembling those found in the legendary tomb of the boy pharaoh, Tutankhamun."

Admission to the Tennessee State Museum, 55 Deaderick St. in downtown Nashville, is free. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). Call 800-407-4324.

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