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Thursday, 30 June 2016

Mummymania Exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art

Mummymania was a recent exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. I was invited along to the openning night and enjoyed talks given by experts in the fields of Archaeology, Materials Conservation, Curatorship, Film Studies and Literature. Not too mention some nice cheese and wine afterwards. The exhibition showcased a variety of things from the collection and other items on loan related to ancient Egyptian mummies, and the "mummymania" which has swept the popular imagination, especially over the 20th century. I've been back a number of times since, prioer to the exhibition winding up last April.

Some of my highlights were a mummified falcon, a mummified cat, the collection of vintage mummy horror film posters, canopic jars and more. I have to say my personal favourite was seeing the little blue faiance shabtis! I did my first ever Archaeology assesment task on some of the shabtis in the Ian Potter Museum of Art's collection. I even have some replica ones myself.

A shabti/shawabtis/ushabti is a small figurine of a person usually made of faiance or clay. The name derives from the Ancient Egyptian "Ushab" to answer - and thus there name means - the answerer. Shabtis were inscribed with heiroglyphic spells, so that in the safterlife, an Egyptian elite could summon them ("call them" so to speak) and they would come to life and "answer" the call, usually to do work. As the Ancient Egyptian afterlife was thought to be much like the present world, though far more exclusive and a bit nicer, work still needed to be done to cultivate and irriagate. For this reason shabtis usually carried tools, some were even overseer shabtis with flails. Some tombs even had sets of shabtis, with a different one to work each day of the year, so the deceased could relax. Shabtis were usually made of glistening light blue faiance or stone, such as alabaster.

You can see some examples in the promotional picture for the exhibition here:
http://www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/exhib-date/2015-09-29/exhib/mummymania

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