Ancient Egyptian artworks were typically stored in the tombs of the Pharaohs, who were kings, emperors, or gods. The titles were passed down through families, and each male would have a wife and son who would inherit the title. There were also female Pharaohs, including Hatshepsut and Sobekneferu. But what makes them so special?
Ancient Egyptians interpreted their world
Despite its rich cultural heritage, Egyptian art has often been accused of being crude and unrefined. Critics point to the lack of depth, perspective, and the interplay of light and shadow. The Egyptians viewed the world as two-dimensional, and believed that in the afterlife, people’s spirits needed representations to communicate with their ancestors. They used mummification as a means of providing such a ‘beacon’ for the spirits of their dead.
By the Middle Kingdom, the Ancient Egyptians had surveyed the entire country and made art to represent it. This included religious texts, treatises on mathematics, astronomy, medicine, magic, and the earliest metal statues. The earliest metal statue was a 4,000-year-old cast of Pharaoh Pepi I. The Queen Mother of Tiye, made of yew wood during the reign of Akenaten, features a pout and slanted eyes.
The first step in the process of preserving artwork is to understand how Memphite tombs work. This ancient Egyptian city is full of necropolis tombs, where the pharaohs were buried. During the Fifth Dynasty, the memphite tombs became adapted to this new cult, and King Weserkaf shifted the mortuary temple to the south side of Saqqara pyramid, and his successors returned to the traditional axial arrangement.
The Memphite tombs, which are located on the plateau of the Western Desert across from the capital of Memphis, are of a type adapted from Buto burial practices. The mud-brick superstructures have multi-layered exteriors and demonstrate the layout of a Lower Egyptian palace with articulated enclosure walls. It is a must-see for the art historian. The sarcophagus contains the remains of a pharaoh, and a king, like any other pharaoh, would have had an elaborate tomb of his own.
The Predynastic period spanned the 6th millennium bce to approximately 1100 bce, and was the era of Egypt’s emergence as a major civilization. Although some objects were purely sculptural in their origin, Egyptian culture was firmly rooted in these earliest periods. Using the archaeological evidence from Egypt, Sir Flinders Petrie was able to construct a sequence of these predynastic civilizations, with the earliest of these culture occurring at Al-Badari in Upper Egypt.
While early scholars had limited access to this material, recent research has provided evidence of an extensive artifact storage system that was crucial to the development of Egyptian culture. Artifacts were stored and displayed in a variety of ways, and this storage allowed archaeologists to reconstruct the culture’s history and social development. Several excavations at Upper Egypt’s Necropolis, known as Hierakonpolis, have revealed the enormous quantity of artifacts and materials.
Early Dynastic period
Before the emergence of centralized administration in the Early Dynastic period, Egypt was settled with autonomous villages. As new techniques for agriculture emerged, the villagers began to concentrate on other areas. Popular cities developed on the trade routes. As a result, administrative needs were also developed to protect the people living in urban settings. During this time, art storage became a necessity. Using the proper storage containers was vital to preserve ancient Egyptian art.
The Early Dynastic period is considered the foundation of Egyptian culture. This period included the First and Second Dynasties, as well as the Protodynastic Period. These dynasties ruled over much of Upper and Lower Egypt, and they established a standard art style that would persist throughout the history of the country. Art storage for Egyptian treasures can be difficult and expensive, but if you are dedicated to keeping your Ancient Egyptian art safe and well preserved, there are a few simple steps you can take.
Middle Kingdom art is an excellent choice for preserving treasured Egyptian artworks. The Middle Kingdom was a time of great social and political development in ancient Egypt. The 11th and 12th dynasties were ruled by Amenemhat I, whose family maintained an enduring country and interacted with neighboring lands. This period was characterized by many changes and innovations, which were only possible because of the stability of earlier dynasties.
Artworks from the Middle Kingdom are a fascinating part of history. This period was marked by the emergence of portrait and relief sculpture, with individual details inscribed on the pieces. The Middle Kingdom’s pharaohs achieved great success in these areas and the art of the time was among the best in the world. While these dynasties were short lived, their achievements continue to influence Egyptian art today. And while the culture may have remained the same for hundreds of years, many pieces of Middle Kingdom art have undergone significant changes.
In the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, excavations sponsored by Theodore M. Davis unearthed several jars containing artifacts inscribed with the name of Tutankhamun. In 1909, he donated several of the jars to the Metropolitan Museum. The jars are now on display in Gallery 122. The artworks are viewed from right to left. Originally, the walls were carved in a single direction, but tourists are damaging them rapidly.
During the excavation of the tomb, Howard Carter discovered a life-sized statue of Tutankhamun and two sentries guarding the burial chamber. The Ancient Egyptians believed that preserving a deceased body would preserve the soul, which is why the internal organs of the body were placed in canopic vessels. These were often jars, but occasionally they were also miniature golden coffins. King Tut’s liver, for example, was placed inside one of these jars.