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Three paths to Egypt – The permanent Exhibit of the Egyptian Museum of the University Bonn

The pharaonic Egypt fascinates – not only researchers, but also children and adults, laymen and specialists, art lovers, mystics and collectors.  The permanent exhibit invites you to experience different approaches to Ancient Egypt through three paths.

Immediately right of the entrance is the historico-cultural panorama.  Here, the vitrines display the essential aspects of the pharaonic culture and invite you to let the objects tell their story.  The vitrine ceramic shows with a selection of examples, how the shape of jars changed through time, what they say about their usage and contents, and how the ceramic of different ethnicities in Egypt differs.  Tools and Weapons demonstrate that stone was an universal raw material in the Nile valley, but also that wood and metal were used.

The vitrine house and luxury shows that even the lower class had a minimal right to comfort.  As an early high culture, Egypt was one of only four regions in the world where a writing system was invented.  Examples for monumental inscriptions, cursive hieroglyphics, texts on rock fragments and ceramics shards (ostraca), papyrus as well as parchment give an oversight of the Egyptian writing technique.

Four vitrines are committed to the ideology and religion of the Egyptians: Pharaoh, Gods, Animal cult, Myth.  The path from the gods leads to a large-scale model of the temple of Medinet Habu, from the myth of the dying and reborn Osiris to the cult of the dead.  In three vitrines one can find objects from burial equipment, to mummification, and mourning.  A painted coffin draws one to the largest vitrine in the museum, in which art and craft can be admired at.  Three impressive portraits – from the Old Kingdom (around 2400 BCE), the Middle Kingdom (around 1900 BCE), and the New Kingdom (around 1400 BCE) – present the high standing of statuary.  The relief of a slaughtering scene from the Old Kingdom (around 2400 BCE) attests the possibilities for the Egyptian artist despite the standardized method for human portrayal to express perspective foreshortening and overlap.  A stela from the Ptolemaic era (around 100 BCE) illustrates how the principals of Egyptian painting and relief were also asserted under the Greek regime.

Across from the historico-cultural panorama is the area of the studie collection.  Here, in eight large vitrines as well as multiple collection cabinet, the inventory of the museum for academic lessons are kept and the visitor is invited, to go on their own expedition.  Sorted into groups according to object, one can admire for example the astounding accomplishments in ceramic art from the prehistoric (4th/3rd century BCE) to the Late period (first century BCE).  Stone objects, small bronzes, wood objects, ushabtis are represented with original examples from all periods.  Single vitrines display amulets, miniatures, and scarabs (with engraved bases) as well as written documents. A special emphasis of the collection of studies is the rich finds from Qubbet el-Hawa that date from the Old Kingdom to the Late Period.  Thereunder objects, which are unique in Europe, can be found, such as a large number of ceramic pots with old hieratic writings, two of the only in Qubbet el-Hawa used painted bowls, and the rests of an ancient cast bronze workshop.

The third area is conceived as the cabinett of collections.  No museum can completely display the pharaonic culture; the inventory is determined through chance of acquirement and the penchant of the collector.  In order to demonstrate this essential precondition of our knowledge of Ancient Egypt, the vitrines in this part of the exhibit show several convolutes out of private ownership in their context of the original collection. Next to the smaller objects such as ushabtis and amulets, one can find unique pieces time and again, which speak for the aesthetic pleasure that is caused by the preoccupation with Ancient Egypt. But even the simple pieces and memories allow an imaginary landscape to form for the collector, which he or she integrates into their environment.  Even imitations and fakes have thus their meaning and worth.  For this reason an important element of the European discussion about the Orient is broached: that the occupation with these things from a far off and past culture still has a great meaning today, not only for academics, but also for collectors, visitors, travellers, and natives.

Because the Egyptian Museum of the University Bonn understands itself as a vital place of discussion, as a laboratory of appropriation, the three areas of the collection at not fixed constructions.  Through courses, academic projects, and new acquisitions, the vitrines are altered and interesting objects are pulled into focus.  Adding to this are the regular special exhibits that have different aspects of the discussion about Ancient Egypt as themes.

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