What is it about Ancient Egypt that has captivated our imaginations for centuries?
We have asked the public that question with the opening of the exhibition, Shadow of the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt and its Influence. Since we first asked, I have found myself looking for the answer.
Let’s look at some possible reasons:
Exotic land: True, but so are the lands of the Far East, why don’t we have the same fascination with places like China or Japan? A little too exotic, perhaps? Okay, then why not the fascination with the other Middle Eastern civilizations like the Neo-Assyrians or the Ottoman Empire?
Rich treasures of gold and jewels: Sure, but the civilizations of Mesopotamia were just as ornate, as were India and Turkey. Look at this first century gold crown from Afghanistan that was discovered in 1978. Let’s bring it closer to our own time and take a look at the crown jewels of the European empires.
Mysterious, complex religions: Again, Egypt hardly had the lion’s share of that. Many civilizations had that, India, the Greeks, the Romans, the Norse, the Basques, the Celts, the . . . well, you get the picture.
The promise of eternal life: Okay, okay, that one doesn’t even come close, just about every civilization has had that. Even mummification wasn’t unique to Egypt. Civilizations in China, South America, Greenland and Scotland were among the many who mummified their dead.
Grand monuments that still stand: Good one, but the Barnenez in France, the Knap of Howar in Scotland and Newgrange in Ireland are all older than the Great Pyramid of Giza. Let’s also throw in Stonehenge (where the Beatles performed in the movie Help) and the Parthenon.
A vast, powerful empire: No one can argue that. But so were the empires of Alexander, the Huns, the Romans, the Mongols and the Han.
Trying to figure this out can be as complex as the secrets of the pyramids themselves.
As I was pondering this puzzle, someone suggested to me the concept of marketing and how Egyptian culture, unlike others, has been promoted since the days of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Other cultures have certainly been the subject of scholarly attention but that research never transcended to creating the same popular interest. This theory goes back to the original question. Why has Ancient Egypt been promoted where the other civilizations haven’t?
Maybe it’s something as simple as Pharoah Amenhotep III hired a great PR man.
I guess the answer to the question is, “I don’t know.”
I am completely biased, but that doesn’t change the fact that Shadow of the Sphinx is a great exhibition!
There really is something for everyone. The show includes ancient coffins on loan from Emory University, oil paintings from the Dahesh Museum of Art, and glittering jewelry from Tiffany’s. There are objects that can be described as intriguing, kitschy, or possessing a high fabulous quotient.
The exhibition is a travel through time, a history lesson, a pop culture extravaganza. Do I exaggerate? Perhaps a bit, but it is certainly beautiful and interesting, not to mention way fun.
Check out the MWP website to learn about the many programs that are planned around the
Shadow of the Sphinx is generously supported by Adirondack Financial Services, Corp. and The Arthur Foundation, Inc.