Ancient Egypt Essay Research Paper The term

Ancient Egypt Essay, Research Paper The term culture is one that can be defined in many ways. Culture is defined as: the ideas, activities, and ways of behaving that are special to a country, people, or region. Museums

Ancient Egypt Essay, Research Paper

The term culture is one that can be defined

in many ways. Culture is defined as: the ideas, activities, and ways

of behaving that are special to a country, people, or region. Museums

such as the Field Museum attempt to give its visitors a sense of the culture

and history of different countries, as well as a sense of US culture and

history. In this quest however, museums often focus on one specific

nature of the culture [of a country] and lose sight of the whole picture

- the entire culture. After all, the US culture is primarily a capitalistic

one, and museums – in addition to their quest to educate the American public

- overemphasize what they feel is the most intriguing aspect of a specific

culture. In this manner, museum officials are looking to attract

more people and consequently bring in more money. Capitalistically

speaking, it is in their best interest to overstress the parts of an exhibit

to which the public will be attracted. In doing so, however, the

museum visitor does not get an objective view of the culture of a country.

The Field Museum’s approach to Ancient Egyptian culture attempts to cover

all bases of the culture, but falls seriously short of doing just this.

The Museum focuses too much on the Ancient Egyptian approach to death and

the afterlife in a serious, informative aspect. This is done by the

sheer location of the exhibit, providing numerous historical plaques, and

by the mysterious, alluring atmosphere of the pyramid exhibit that the

Museum gives to the visitor. Yet the Museum downplays the daily life

of the Ancient Egyptians by pushing this less intriguing exhibit behind

the afterlife exhibit, by providing few informative historical plaques,

and by filling the exhibit with cartoons of the everyday life of the Ancient

Egyptian, thereby simplifying the exhibit. Therefore, although the

Ancient Egypt exhibit preserves a good sense of the preparation of death

and afterlife aspect of the ancient Egyptian culture, it lacks in providing

such a sound exhibit for the daily life of the ancient Egyptians, thereby

portraying a false impression of Egyptian culture to the public.

Located on the first floor of the museum,

the Ancient Egyptian exhibit attracts visitors immediately; the ominous

immense pyramid creates a dark, mysterious presence, and invites visitors

to step inside. The first impression of the exhibit is of a focus

on death and the afterlife. This may lead to the false impression

that the Ancient Egyptian culture was driven around embalming and entombing

dead bodies. As one makes its way through the labyrinth of the pyramid,

one is surrounded by recovered organ jars, tombs, mummified Egyptians and

the artifacts that they were buried with. The walls of the pyramid

are authentic limestone taken from actual sites in Egypt. Large woven

tapestries hang from one of such walls and describe the afterlife and the

gods involved. Gods are all represented as having animal heads, and

bodies of humans. Wooden cases that would be placed inside the immense

stone tombs, stand upright and are open for public viewing: hieroglyphics

on the inside of the wooden encasing describe the procedure of the afterlife

for the person entombed inside. The pyramid houses many mummies,

some of whose wrappings have come undone and allow the visitor to see the

actual body of the mummy. The pyramid is a very captivating exhibit,

and it’s location – its proximity to the entrance of the museum creates

a false sense of the Ancient Egyptian culture. A visitor who knows

nothing about the culture is lead to assume that the majority of Egyptian

life was used to prepare for the after life.

At the end of the pyramid, the visitor

is lead to a small exhibit whose purpose is to portray a sense of the daily

life of the ancient Egyptian. The location of this exhibit, behind

the pyramid, gives the impression of being a less important and less frequent

aspect of Egyptian culture. The visitor is lead through a less cramped

exhibit of the every day live of an ancient Egyptian. There is a

display in which one can “envision himself as an Egyptian”: the visitor

can put his face up to a pane of glass, behind which is a model of an Egyptian

face. The visitor is shown how he would look as a typical ancient

Egyptian. This exhibit, while interesting and entertaining, has very

little to do with every day life of the ancient Egyptian. Through out the

exhibit, there are few artifacts, and even less information on the daily

events of an ancient Egyptian. Two to three small, five-foot tall

walls are painted with cartoon images of different scenarios that were

“typical” of ancient Egyptian culture. This exhibit pales in comparison

to the pyramid exhibit of ancient Egyptian life. In an attempt to

give a complete view of ancient Egyptian culture, the Field Museum falls

short. The impression that the museum gives to an uninformed visitor

is that Ancient Egyptians spent most of their life preparing themselves

for death and the afterlife. This is due to the set up of the Ancient

Egyptian exhibit; the after life exhibit is put before the daily life exhibit,

thereby making the afterlife more important and prominent.

In addition to the difference in location,

another aspect of the Ancient Egypt exhibit promotes the emphasis on the

afterlife and gives a biased view of the entire culture of the Ancient

Egyptians. As one enters the pyramids, there are numerous informative

historical plaques that give detailed information about the artifact or

aspect of Egyptian life it is explaining. In contrast, the daily

life exhibit gives little or no information on the daily life of the ancient

Egyptians. As the visitor walks into the pyramid, he is presented

with a plaque describing the hieroglyphics on the wall. The visitor

is given a sense of the significance of the hieroglyphics, the meaning

of them and the era in which they were written. Farther into the

exhibit, there were plaques describing the significance and the role of

the jars which contained the organs of the person being mummified.

Some plaques described the hieroglyphics inside of the wooden cases that

the mummies were placed, before being buried in the large stone tombs.

This kind of informative plaques was given for several, if not all, of

the exhibits in the pyramid. On the contrary, in the daily life exhibit

of the ancient Egyptians, there were no plaques having as extensive information

as in the pyramid. Of the few plaques that were in the daily life

exhibit, they consisted of only the name of the object and the date that

it was presumed to come from. Information maybe have been extracted

from the five feet tall walls that were scattered through out the small

exhibit: one of such walls shows a cartoon like scene of a man kneeling

and holding up a cup. In front of him was a man holding a pitcher

filled with some liquid. In between the men was a little description

of the scene that said something to the extent of: ‘the man kneeling

is at a bar and has been drinking. He is drunk and is thirsty for more!

The bartender is going to pour him another drink.’ The purpose of

this exhibit in the daily life exhibit seems fairly trivial and is not

portrayed in the serious and informative manner as exhibits are portrayed

in the pyramid. There are no plaques giving any further information

such as the kinds of drinks served, the way a typical bar may have looked,

or even the utensils used to serve the alcohol (i.e.: what the pitcher

may have looked like), perhaps. Therefore, although the museum attempts

to give the visitors an overview of ancient Egyptian culture, it gives

numerous detailed descriptions of the procedures, significance, and roles

that the artifacts in the pyramids played in ancient Egyptian life, yet

gives very little or no information as to the daily life of the ancient

Egyptian. The historical plaques in the pyramid are far more extensive

than the few historical plaques in the daily life of an ancient Egyptian

exhibit. This lack of sufficient information in the daily life exhibit

further fosters a bias towards the importance of the ancient Egyptian techniques

for preparing themselves for the afterlife, rather than giving the visitor

a balanced view of Egyptian culture.

Another aspect of the exhibit that gives

the false impression of an Egyptian culture that is infatuated with death

is the atmosphere of each exhibit. In the pyramid, the artifacts

and exhibit are displayed in an orderly, informative manner. There

is information about each artifact, and the majority of the artifacts are

enclosed in cases so that they are not destroyed. The mummies are

enclosed in a special airtight chamber that ensures the preservation of

the body and it’s wrapping. Artifacts found inside the tombs are

displayed behind the glass cases to ensure that they are not broken.

The pyramid has a grave and mysterious atmosphere; this mysterious atmosphere

instigates curiosity. The artifacts are similar to a Pandora’s box

that as visitors, we would like to open and find out what’s inside.

The jars filled with organs are sealed; the plaques describe its contents,

but it is natural to be curious to want see the actual contents.

The tombs are comparable to Russian dolls which have many different layers

within it; as soon as one doll is opened, there is another doll in side

of that, and so on. There are many layers to the tomb, like the doll:

the initial stone covering, the wooden casing, the wrapped mummy, and finally

the body of the dead person. Some tombs have been dissected and taken

apart, while others remain as is, in their wooden cases. This also

evokes a sense of curiosity for the visitor. Along with the mysterious

aspect which visitors fall prey to, there is also a lot of historical information

provided with the after life exhibit. The historical plaques add

to the more informative atmosphere of this exhibit, while the daily life

exhibit lacks the educational and informative nature of the after life

exhibit. The daily life exhibit consists of cartoon scenarios and

“fun” activities, rather than the artifacts and information of the afterlife

exhibit. As mentioned before, the scene with the bartender and the

drunk Egyptian man gives very little information about the Egyptian culture:

they knew about the effects of alcohol, and bars may have been an established

part of their culture. The exhibit that allowed visitors to envision

themselves as an Egyptian does not give any further insight to the Egyptian

culture other than what the Egyptians may have typically looked like; rather,

the exhibit is placed there for entertainment than information. In

contrast to the pyramid exhibit, the daily life of an ancient Egyptian

was more well lit (since it was separate from the pyramid), and gave the

impression of being less mysterious and therefore less intriguing.

The pyramid exhibit was more informative and stimulated more curiosity

than the daily life exhibit, which seemed to be placed as an exhibit primarily

for entertainment than an actual informative exhibit. The exhibits

in the daily life exhibit were more tangible than the ones in the pyramid.

This lended the exhibit to be less mysterious and evoked little curiosity

- thereby being less captivating than its enigmatic counterpart.

Therefore, the atmosphere of the pyramid and the daily life exhibit created

an impression of the preparation of the after life as being the primal

function of the Ancient Egyptians. The light, less informative, and

“fun” atmosphere of the daily life exhibit does not give a sound background

of the entire Egyptian culture; instead, it allows the visitor to focus

on the more informative aspect of the entire exhibit, and they walk away

with understanding that the Ancient Egyptians spent the majority of their

life preparing themselves for death and the after life.

In its attempt to inform the public of

ancient Egyptian culture, the Field Museum fails to paint a complete and

informative picture. The Field Museum concentrates heavily on Ancient

Egyptian methods and purposes of the preparation of the body for the afterlife,

yet does not give much information on the daily life of the Egyptian.

The Museum does this through their specific location of the after life

and daily life exhibits, the historical plaques (or lack there of), and

the strikingly different atmospheres of the two exhibits. This gives

a false impression to uninformed; these visitors are not informed of the

complete culture of the Egyptian. Thus, the Field Museum preserves

a good sense of the preparation and preservation of the afterlife aspect

of Ancient Egypt while lacking in having a such a thorough exhibit for

the daily life of the Ancient Egyptians.