CUR8 at the British Museum
On Wednesday October 26, CUR8 visited the British Museum to learn more about life and death in Ancient Egypt at the time of Maidstone Museum’s own mummy, Ta-Kush. The tour began by exploring the main Egyptian galleries, researching life as a woman during the 25th Dynasty, including jewellery, hairstyles and more. CUR8 later spilt themselves into pairs and took a selection of their key questions and went through the crowds to find the information.
During the afternoon, Marcel and John, two of the British Museum’s key Egyptian specialists, provided insight into life and death. A visit to the stores to look at coffins, funeral finery, and grave goods followed, while Marcel gave us a fun hour or two of information, and John was able to identify strong links between Ta-Kush’s coffin and one kept in their own collection.
On Wednesday, October 26, we CUR8-ers chatted excitedly in the minibus en-route to the British Museum. After squeezing through crowded doorways, we were in, and what a sight it was – the glass ceiling splitting the sunlight into bright rays filtering into the wide atrium. But our trip wasn’t simply to marvel at the architecture. A few doorways and staircases later, we reached our first destination: one of the Ancient Egyptian galleries. And was it large!
We set off in pairs and looked around the exhibits, scanning for information relevant to Ta-Kush’s own time, the 25th Dynasty (760 BC–656 BC). There were many sarcophagi on display, and we were able to map the changes in style across the dynasties. This was exceptionally interesting.
Another gallery that we looked in, meanwhile, was extremely impressive to say the least. This one displayed much larger objects; the Rosetta Stone was there, an incredible sight, along with several stone coffins. In the tomb, these would’ve encased several other coffins, and so they were massive, like miniature stone swimming pools! There were also columns dating back to the time of Rameses II (some 3,200 years ago), displays of parts of tomb paintings or walls, and lots of large statues. All of these artefacts were in stunningly good condition, some of them having stood the test of time for 4,000 years.
After looking in the galleries (and following lunch somewhere in between!) we met our behind-the-scenes guide, Marcel. He took us to the first stop on our tour: one of the many storerooms. This particular one was massive, with metal racks holding sarcophagi and bodies of Ancient Egyptians. Here we saw a coffin that, incredibly, was painted by the same person as Ta-Kush’s at Maidstone Museum! This was an amazing insight into the production of coffins back in 25th Dynasty, and we could compare them with photos of Ta-Kush’s to compare the similar styles.
Next we went into some other storerooms. One held pieces of pottery – from kohl pots to large vase-like pots. Another held parchments – an early arithmetic maths script (perfectly copied up, according to its author, although it wasn’t!), and an entire, still-perfect page of the Book of the Dead. This really was incredible, both because of its amazing condition and the scenes and writing – spells for the afterlife.
The last thing we saw was, in my opinion, the best. We opened a drawer full of jewellery, and inside lay a gold falcon. On the front, it was beautifully carved and preserved very well, but even this wasn’t the best bit. On the back, the wings were carved into feathers, with individually cut precious stone pieces inlaid in the gaps. Wow!
Unfortunately after this, it was time to leave. We’d had a great time and learned a lot. Begrudgingly, we climbed back onto the minibus, but the fun didn’t end there. On the way home, we played a couple of entertaining games: ‘I Went to the Shop’ (changed to ‘I Went to the British Museum’), followed by one where you name a place – fictional or real – and the next person names one beginning with the last letter of yours. Some real brainstorming was required!
This was, once again, an amazing experience and one to remember. Thanks to Roz and Vicky for arranging the trips and taking us, it was a definite highlight of my half-term.
Charlotte Pettett, 12, Invicta Grammar School
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