Visited on 29th September 2017
Museum of ancient Egyptian culture, housing jewellery, sarcophagi & artwork exhibits.
Address: Calle Valencia, 284, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Monday to Friday: 10am–2pm, 4–8pm, Saturday:10am–8pm Sunday 10am–2pm
Telephone: +34 934 88 01 88
Photography is allowed without flash
Ticket Prices are Adult 11 Euros, Concessions 8 Euros, Children 5 Euros.
The Egyptian Collection is on two floors. A Basement floor holds special exhibitions.
The first room in the museum is developed around the figure of the pharaoh and the royal family. It has various royal representations, a number of majestic ushabtis and several pieces with the names of regions.
The Egyptian state, which sprang up along the banks of the Nile, was governed and led by individuals with great power: the pharaohs. The pharaoh was at the top of the social order: being of divine blood, he was the highest priest who had to build temples and ensure the continued worship of the gods, the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army, the highest judge, etc. In short, he was the guarantor of the cosmic order that ensured that the universe functioned in the correct manner. The pharaoh had certain attributes that were characteristic of his position and role.
The most notable of these included the pschent crown, an emblem of the union of the two kingdoms into which Egypt was divided, and the cobra (ureu), the protector of royalty.
Even to write his name a special protocol was used, made up of five elements at the pinnacle, with specific symbols such as the serekh, or cartridge. Of the more than 300 pharaohs recorded, there were those about whom little is known other than their name.
Limestone Stele. The Ptolemaic Period, reign of Cleopatra VII (51-30 B.C.)
The queen and king made offerings to the divinities Heqa and Sacmis. Based on the study carried out by Dr. Jean Yoyotte, the queen has been identified as Cleopatra VII and the king as Ptolemy XIII or Ptolemy XIV.
Head of statue of the pharaoh Nectaneb I. Wacke. The 30th Dynasty, (380-362 B.C.).
Nectaneb I was the founder of the 30th Dynasty, the last “native” dynasty of Egypt. Egypt would not experience independence under indigenous leaders again until the 20th century.
The identification with Nectaneb is based on the comparison with statues that bear the name of this pharaoh.
Ushabti of Taharqa. Granite. The 35th Dynasty, reign of Taharqa (690-664 B.C.).
Taharqa was the most important of the “black pharaohs”. His ushabtis, which have been found in the necropolis of Nuri, reveal a special version of chapter VI of the Book of the Dead.
Statue of the pharaoh Rameses III. Granite. Reign of Rameses III (1194-1163 B.C.).
Rameses III is considered the last great pharaoh of the New Kingdom. Early in his reign, he led victorious military campaigns against the Libyans and the fearsome Sea Peoples.
Later, the internal situation in Egypt would deteriorate as shown in the strike by workers at Deir el-Medina and the famous Harem Conspiracy, which ended the life of the monarch.
Rameses III hung a divine standard on this beautiful statue, which could have been completed with the ram Amon. Hieroglyphic texts show the different names of the king.
Wall relief with king Akhenaton making floral offerings to Aton.
Sandstone. The 18th Dynasty, reign of Akhenaton (1353-1335 B.C.).
Akhenaton was the main protagonist of the most suggestive period in the history of Egypt: the Amarna Period. Considered a revolutionary period, the arts, religion and, above all, politics were affected by changes that were as profound as they were ephemeral.
POSITIONS AND CHARACTERS
Statues of officials, priests and nobles help complete the vision of part of the complex and varied society that existed under the pharaohs.
Egypt was one of the oldest models of a state in humanity. Centred on the figure of the pharaoh, the the model of the State operated based on a strict division of basic functions (administrative, religious and military) and the existence of a large number of strictly prioritised positions.
The role of the vizier, or prime minister, was to ensure compliance with the will of the King throughout Egypt. Supervisors of the king, nomarchs (or provincial governors) and other high priests and military figures also had great power and influence. Real armies of officials and writers made up the majority of the state bureaucratic apparatus.
Artisans, peasants and soldiers, under the organisation and direct orders of their administrators, were responsible for the production, maintenance and protection of the essence of their civilisation.
Cartonnage belonging to the Lady of the House Djed-Montu-iues-ankh, the wife of Pamiu (the cat). The Third Intermediate Period, 22nd Dynasty (945-715 B.C.).
From the Middle Kingdom onwards, the title of Lady of the House was one of the most common titles used to refer to women of the elite.
In noble households, the Lady of the House was responsible for most domestic activities such as making bread and beer, cooking, weaving, sorting grain, looking after the animals and artisanal production.
Their cartonnage features representations of a number of protector divinities, as well as the hieroglyphic texts that set out a characteristic form for petitioning offerings and provide her name and the name of her husband.
Statue of the Guard of the Room and Inspector of the Gardens of Amon, also known as Amenhotep. Sandstone. 18th Dynasty (1550-1307 B.C.).
Amenhotep, kneeling, holds a stele with a hymn addressed to Re-Haractes. Behind him, another stele has a hymn addressed to Osiris and to Amon. Such
statues were located in an open niche above the door of the private tebana tombs.
These works, which are of high technical quality, were incorporated into the tombs as material representations of their owner. They could be on their own of form part of scenes of everyday life, in which they usually appear as supervisors of various works.
A beautiful and complete representation of Huy, whose titles are unknown. It is a highly emotive piece: the hieroglyphic texts indicate with the expressive phrase “… Of his son, which shall ensure that his name lives on…” which was dedicated by a son (the scribe Huy) to his deceased father. In addition, the platform bears the name of another son, the scribe Iny.
Amulets, collars, breastplates and rings made from gold and precious stones… beautiful, luxurious creations whose magical powers must have benefited the persons wearing them.
Egyptian civilization is notable for its many material creations left to posterity. Labourers, artisans and artists used all of their expertise to create architectural constructions and objects that now arouse widespread interest and admiration. In creative activities such as jewellery making and stonework the quality of Egyptian products was without equal, with these products the clearest indication of their sophisticated culture and mastery of the different techniques used.
With the magical nature of jewellery, the design of which was inspired by divine symbols and entities, the Egyptians hoped to improve or correctly resolve issues relating to life on Earth and the afterlife.
Collar. Glazed dough. 18th Dynasty (1550-1307 B.C.).
A collar made using various plant items (flowers, various fruits and leaves). Terminals in the shape of a lotus. One of the Egyptians’ favourite items of jewellery was a necklace made from denes. Jewels were a clear indicator of the status of the wearer. Thus, the most privileged people could wear jewellery made from gold, silver, carnelian, lapis lazuli, etc., while the less privileged had to be content with items made from glazed dough in colours that imitated more luxurious materials.
Head of the god Osiris. Gold. Late Period (715-332 B.C.).
Gold, silver and electrum were the metals of choice for making jewellery. Due to its brilliance and incorruptibility, gold was associated with the Sun and the concept of immortality (hence the decision to make the bodies of gods from gold).
Silver was associated with the Moon, and was used for the bones of the gods. In its natural state or when produced artificially, electrum is a composite of gold and silver. As a result, it assumed symbolic functions.
Collar. Glazed dough. The Second Intermediate Period (1640-1532 B.C.).
Made with various types of denes and amulets, with one of the jewels located in the tomb of princess Senebtisi in Lisht, dating from the 12th Dynasty and kept at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Originally, this piece to which the texts refer as a chart, was one of the insignias associated with the pharaoh, although it was later widely used in particular by women in the royal family (such as Senebtisi and Neferuptah, another princess from the 12th Dynasty who had a similar piece among her items with which she was buried).
Ring belonging to a person call Sa-Neith. Gold. 26th Dynasty (664-525 B.C.).
Sa-Neith held the following titles: ‘Prophet and Divine Father’, ‘Director of Chapels (of the goddess Neith)’, ‘Priest of Horus’, ‘He whose two Diademas are Great’, ‘The Esteemed Priest wen-ra of Ptah’, ‘Sir of the City of Letopolis (in the delta; possibly the city of origin of the owner of the ring)’.
It was in the production of stone cups where the ancient Egyptians learned and practised the techniques that would enable them to create large sculptures and architectural works.
STONE AND EARTHENWARE
The Egyptians made tableware mainly from mud, stone and metal. The tableware embodies a very wide range of forms and functions, and was used in contexts relating to everyday life and funerals.
During the pre-Dynastic Period, the processing of stone and ceramics reached such a high technical and aesthetic level that it would be barely surpassed during the pharaonic period.
In general, it can be said that stone products feature as deluxe tableware par excellence, relegating ceramics to a secondary role. These creations were made in all types of stone (in particular harder types of stone), in which the Egyptians learned and practised techniques that they would apply on a large scale and with a unique mastery to their sculptures and architectural works.
Storage pitcher. 18th Dynasty, circa 1350 B.C. Painted earthenware.
Food was usually placed in receptacles made from stone or earthenware, or in baskets or boxes. In the tomb of Tutankhamen there is a pitcher that is virtually identical to this one.
Glass for cosmetics. Alabaster. The New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty (1550-1307 B.C.).
Alabaster, a relatively soft material and therefore easy to fashion, was the most widely-used raw material used in the production of stone tableware from the Ancient Kingdom onwards.
COSMETICS AND EROTICISM
Vessels for ointments, pots of kohol, pallets for preparing cosmetics, etc. are some of the items that demonstrate the attention and care the Egyptians took of their bodies.
The attention and care the Egyptians paid to their bodies is clear from the large number of objects and products related to cosmetics that they used. This sense of aesthetics, which was essentially aimed at increasing the attractiveness of men and women, was not totally devoid of a certain sense of eroticism.
The erotic-sexual representations depicted and texts written are not common in Egyptian art and literature, but rather a direct form of mass art. The most explicit examples have no place in what is considered official art, where allusions to this subject were made through graphic metaphors or very subtle plays on words.
As was the case with humans, gods were also affected by this power, both in relation to sex as a pleasurable and enjoyable activity and its merely reproductive function.
Bed. Wood and leather. 1st-2nd Dynasties (2920-2649 B.C.).
One sign of this is the feminine figurines lying on a bed that from the New Kingdom onwards would be part of the tomb in order to bring about the regeneration of the deceased.
Strips of leather are interweaved to form the sleeping base.
Egyptian mirrors have metal surfaces, generally made from copper, bronze or silver. Due to their shape and brightness, they were associated with the Sun. Many of these pieces were given to female divinities for worship purposes.
Headrests. Alabaster (the Middle Kingdom, 2040-1640 B.C.).
There are some objects, such as headrests, that are surprising, and it can even be hard to understand that they were used as pillows to make rest more comfortable. Under the headboard of the headrest there is the representation of two hands open to receive the head.
Erotic figurines. Faience and stone. The Ptolemaic Period (304-30 B.C.).
During the Ptolemaic Period, erotic representations in Egypt were affected by substantial changes. There are abundant figures of men with hypertrophic genitals, either on their own or engaged in sexual activity together.
The persons represented could be identified with Harpocrates, the patec dwarf, or sem priests, had roles relating to fertility.
FUNERARY BELIEFS AND PRACTICES
This interesting space contains the main protagonists in the myth of Osiris, the mummy of the Lady of Kemet, canopic jars and some mummified animals.
The Egyptians considered death on Earth a temporary interruption, since human beings could live forever. This privilege, which initially applied only to the most important members of society, was gradually extended to everyone in the country.
From a ritual perspective, mummification was the process that most influenced the possibility of eternal life. Similarly, the individual had to have a tomb or home for eternity that would hold their mummy, sufficient equipment for their subsistence and an area of worship. However, all of these preparations were for nothing if the soul of the deceased did not receive a favourable judgement from a tribunal presided over by Osiris, the lord of the dead. This judgement assessed the rectitude and virtue of the person. If the decision was favourable, access to immortality was guaranteed. If not, the deceased was guaranteed to die.
The main protagonists in the myth of Osiris: Isis and Osiris. Bronze. Late Period (715-332 B.C.).
Osiris, who was assassinated by his brother Set, would come back to life thanks to his wife Isis, resuscitating the world of the dead. Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, became their hero. The possibility of life after death embodied in Osiris was the main basis for religious beliefs and funerary practices.
Mummy with portrait of El Fayum. Bandages, stucco and wood. Roman period (150-200 A.D.).
The bandages contain references (in the form of divine representations) to the cycle of death-resurrection-eternal life, the ultimate objective for this mummy.
Set of canopic jars. Limestone. 26th Dynasty (664-525 B.C.).
Canopic jars were used to hold the internal organs of the deceased extracted during the mummification process.
They represented the four sons of Horus and were associated with an organ, a protector divinity and a specific cardinal point. 1. Amset (man) / South / liver / Isis. 2. Hapy (baboon) / North / lungs / Neftis. 3. Duamutef (jackal) / East / stomach / Neith. 4. Quebehsenuf (falcon) / West / intestines / Selquis.
Wooden box used to hold internal organs during the Ptolemaic Period (302-30 B.C.).
Richly decorated with religious scenes and motifs, the most notable include various amulets (Udjat eyes, the Djed pillar, the knot of Isis, the Ankh sign of life and the Was sceptre). One can also see a ‘false door’ scene with the owner of the box in front of the four sons of Horus and another with the goddesses Isis and Neftis flank the fetish of Abido, the symbol of the god Osiris.
Cat mummy. The Late Period-Ptolemaic Period (715-30 B.C.).
As is the case with humans, certain animals were also mummified as they were considered earthly manifestations of gods. In this case, the cat was the sacred animal of the goddess Bastis.
Within funeral chambers, sarcophagi, canopic jars and amulets remained in direct contact with the mummy. Around them, there could be figures of divinities, ushabtis or funeral models.
Egyptian tombs can be considered veritable permanent homes for the deceased. The form and size of pyramids, mastabas, rock tombs, etc. varied as a function of the status of their owners and of the evolution of structures over time. One characteristic that is shared by virtually all funeral facilities is the existence of two areas that are perfectly differentiated from a functional and topographic perspective: the area containing funeral facilities and the area for worship.
The mummy is the most important item in the funeral facilities area. It was protected by sarcophagi made using different materials and in different shapes. The possessions that accompanied the deceased included amulets of all types to guarantee the well-being of the deceased in the afterlife. Canopic jars, ushabtis, representations of funerary divinities, models of events on Earth, food, etc. are the objects most commonly found in the sepulchral equipment of pharaonic tombs.
Coffin of the priest Cnumhotep. Wood. 12th Dynasty (1991-1783 B.C.).
The coffin in a parallel position is characteristic of the Ancient and Middle Kingdoms and of the royal tombs of the New Kingdom. This example contains hieroglyphic text addressed to Osiris and Anubis that require a complete complement of offerings from the priest Cnumhotep. The eyes on one side allowed the deceased to observe what was happening in the outside world.
Gilded Cartonnage Coffin (Roman Period 1st Century).
In view of its size and the absence of a false beard, it could be the coffin of a young woman. It was made of bandages made rigid with plaster and stuccoes and applied with gold leaf and funerary iconography. The Egyptians thought that the body of Re, and by extension all the gods were made of gold. Covering the coffin with gold was thought to identify the deceased to the gods and therefore to eternal life.
Funeral mask. Cartonnage. 1st century B.C.
The funeral mask covered the head and torso of the mummy. Its main purpose was to facilitate the identification of the deceased using the reproduction of their facial features. Above them there are also various ornamental elements and protective divinities.
The ushabti is a small human representation of various styles and shapes made using a variety of materials. It was placed in the tomb so that in the Afterlife, the work for which the deceased was required could be completed. The word “ushabti” means “he who responds”. Thus, when the deceased was called to work the ushabti was supposed to answer “Present” and, therefore, could replace them. In order for the figure to be able to return to fulfil their obligations, some examples contain a version of chapter six of the “Book of the Dead”.
Funerary model. Painted wood. The Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 B.C.).
Its sole aim was to perpetuate the most notable aspects of life on Earth for the deceased. The contents of the tombs include different types of model ships.
THE CHAPEL FOR RITUALS
The basic elements of the chapel for funerary rituals are complemented with the life-sized replica of part of the chapel of Nakht and the restoration of a figure known as Iny using original components of the chapel.
Unlike sepulchral chambers, the area of Egyptian tombs for funerary rituals was accessible to parents or persons responsible for making the offerings necessary to ensure the subsistence of the deceased.
In the case of managed tombs and the tombs of certain high-ranking individuals, activities related to funerary rituals occurred in areas of great monumental importance, such as the High and Low Temples of the pyramid complexes (the Old and Middle Kingdoms) or the mortuary temples of the New Kingdom.
For private tombs the area of worship is significantly smaller, either in chapels located within funeral structures (the Ancient Kingdom) or excavated in full or in part from rock (the Middle and New Kingdoms). Replacement statues, false door steles, offering tables and wall representations of all types are some of the items most commonly found in this area of worship.
Chapel for the worship of Iny. The 6th Dynasty (the reigns of Pepi I, Merenra and Pepi II, 2289-2152 B.C.).
Iny was an important person who served three different pharaohs (Pepi I, Merenra and Pepi II). He held honorific, religious and, above all, administrative and military titles in relation to its main role: the execution of expeditions to secure minerals. Iny led six commercial expeditions: four during the reign of Pepi I (in search of silver), one during the reign of Merenre (lapis lazuli, lead, wood and sefetj oil) and another at the start of the reign of Pepi II (silver and wood). The place names referred to as destinations (Biblos, Lebanon) constitute important evidence for learning about Egypt’s commercial ties with the Levant.
False door stele of the scribe Sebekemheb. Sandstone. The 38th Dynasty, reign of Amenofis III (1391-1353 B.C.).
The false door stele was conceived as a pathway between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The eyes allow the dead to see what happens inside the offering chapel and, when necessary, can lead out from the concealed sepulchral area. The scenes from this piece show Sebekemheb with his wife before the gods Osiris and Anubis. Beaneath them, various family members provide offerings for the dead.
WORSHIP IN TEMPLES
In ancient Egypt temples were conceived as the home of the gods, the most suitable place for worship. Temples contained wall reliefs from temples, steles, votive figures and liturgical instruments.
The Egyptian temple was conceived as the home of the gods, a suitable place for worship. Through worship humans had to maintain the cosmic order, showing their appreciation for this order allowing them to inhabit the Earth. Originally, the pharaoh was the only being who could be considered akin to God but the laboriousness of rituals (which had to be performed daily) and the large number of temples in Egypt led to these tasks being delegated to priests. God had to be fed several times a day and was washed, dressed and purified, and chants and litanies were proferred by priests.
The different areas of the temple constitute a metaphor for the universe and the process of creation. Starting in the profound sanctuary, small and made from wood, spaces become larger and better illuminated (avant-chamber, hypostyle, patio) until one reaches the exterior, where two monumental pile-ons mark the entry to the temple as symbols of the horizon where the sun rises and sets.
Wall relief with representation of the god Amon.The New Kingdom (1550-1070 B.C.).
Amon was the god of the invisible, hence his pseudonym “the hidden one”. In this bas-relief he appears on the throne and his characteristic hairstyle, created by two large feathers, shines brightly. During the New and Middle Kingdoms, Amon was the god that gave the pharaonic state legitimacy, protecting the royal authority of the empire.
Worshippers could also demonstrate their personal piety by donating private statues or divine images to temples. In this case, human statues in themselves represent the act of offering.
The Egyptian sphinx could be interpreted as the result of the integration of two powers: strength and vigour (provided by the body of the lion) and divine or regal status (provided by the head of the pharaoh or of a divinity). This type of piece was used as an item of worship.
Sistrum (reconstructed upper section). Bronze. Late Period (715-332 B.C.).
Of the most popular musical instruments in ancient Egypt, special mention must be made of the sistrum. The sistrum was more than a musical instrument: it was mainly used at the liturgy of temples, in particular those dedicated to the goddess Hathor, since the sound of this instrument have her such great pleasure. With the subsequent assimilation of this goddess with Isis, the sistrum was also used in the liturgy of the latter and was used across the Mediterranean, just as Isis was worshipped across the Mediterranean.
This piece was probably used to crown a baton that was part of the sacred furniture. Bes was one of the most popular divinities in Egypt. Representations of Bes appear in contexts related to sexual activity. Bes was also considered a protector of women during childbirth, newborns and children.
GODS OF EGYPT
A broad sample of divinities, grouped together according to holy trinities or production technique or presented individually for their aesthetic and technical quality, complete the journey through the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona.
Thousands of gods were worshipped in Egypt under the pharaohs. These cannot be structured in an all-encompassing genealogy, since theological systems grouped together a small number of divinities. The most common formula was the triad. Triads consisted of a main god, his wife and their child. However, the Egyptians also configured complex theologies onto which they transposed their concept of the cosmos and of creation. The most notable of these include those prepared by priests in Heliopolis, Hermopolis, Memphis and Tebes.
One of the most characteristic facets of the religious worship of the ancient Egyptians was their worship of certain animals, which is clearly reflected in their art. These divinities were always related to some process of observation of nature, transforming these beings into the incarnation of God. Thus, the hippopotamus, with its large stomach, was associated with pregnant women, while the falcon, with its powerful flight that took it close to the Sun, was worshipped as a celestial and solar being.
The most characteristic attribute of this goddess, who was from the city of Sais, was the red crown of Lower Egypt. Considered one of the few female creators, she was also the inventor of fabric and, in her funerary role, provided the deceased with the possessions and shroud for their mummy. The Greeks referred to this goddess as Athena.
This curious divinity with the body of a hippopotamus, the feet and arms of a lion, human breasts and the hide of a crocodile was the patron saint of women during pregnancy and childbirth. With its fierce appearance, it protected women and children from malign beings.
While various Egyptian gods could adopt the form of a bull, Apis would become the most powerful and famous. Each year priests selected the animal they considered to be the incarnation of God, which would be mummified and buried with great opulence. This divinity of fertility and strength was worshipped with particular devotion in later periods.
Full Collection of photos can be viewed at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127735911@N08/albums/72157687537112244