Egyptian collection

 

Egyptian collection

The new permanent exhibition of the Egyptian collection was opened in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia, on March 21st. The collection is represented with 600 selected items from different periods of the Egyptian civilization from Middle Kingdom to the first centuries AD. The exhibition is divided according to several topics: bronze statues, sculpture, papyruses, stelae, coffins, tomb accessories, jewelry and amulets, cosmetics and vessels, shabtis. A separate room is dedicated to the Zagreb mummy and the famous Zagreb Linen Book - the longest known Etruscan text in the world. Each of these topics is covered with texts and pictorials. Two guides to the exhibition are published in Croatian and English. The layout of the Egyptian exhibition is designed by Mario Beusan, an architect, while the author of the conception is Igor Uranic, an Egyptologist and the curator of the Egyptian collection.
The Collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in Croatia began as a part of the project to establish the National Museum at the time of the Illyrian Movement during the nineteenth century. With its first purchase, this newly-established institution secured approximately two thirds of the total inventory of its current Collection, which has approximately 2,200 individual items. This was a purchase of the majority of the Egyptian collection belonging to Franz Koller, a field marshal of Czech descent in the Austrian army. His collection was housed in Prague in the mid-nineteenth century. The purchase was made in 1868, and Bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer deserves the most credit for this.
Fr. Sime Ljubic was the first curator involved in the registration and expert evaluation of these Egyptian antiquities in Zagreb. He did considerable work in classifying and taking inventory of the artifacts, and an important contribution to this work was made by respected German Egyptologist Henrich Brugsh, who visited Zagreb in 1869 and became familiar with the Collection.

 

 

Egyptian collection

After the first major acquisition, the Collection was supplemented by other purchases and donations. Among the most important was the donation of a sarcophagus and the mummy of Kaipamaw from the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt in 1970. This was actually an expression of gratitude for the participation of several enterprises from Croatia and other republics of the former Yugoslavia in the major UNESCO campaign to save monuments in Nubia that were threatened by the commencement of operation of the Aswan High Dam. This is a well-preserved anthropomorphic sarcophagus of Amun's priestess, which is now part of the Collection's permanent exhibition. Additionally, purchases of several smaller private collections were transacted over the past decade. In contrast to the most renowned international collections, such as those in London, Cairo and Paris, the Zagreb Collection does not cover all periods of Pharaonic and prehistoric Egypt, rather it generally emphasizes the later periods. Most of the artifacts are from the Third Intermediate period (1069-747 BC), the Late Dynastic period (747-332 BC) and the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC). There are a smaller number of artifacts from the New Kingdom (1552-1069 BC) and the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC).
Like most Egyptian collections, this one also largely presents tomb accessories and votive gifts. Their level of preservation and number dominate simply because these are items that were concealed in tombs over the course of many centuries of devastation of the remainder of Egyptian civilization. These include coffins, tomb stelae, canopic jars, tomb papyri, etc. Articles that can be associated with everyday life in Egypt, such as sandals, jewelry, pottery, writing utensils, bronze statuettes of deities from household altars or wooden cosmetic palettes and toys, can only be found in the Collection as secondary exhibits.

 

Among the most attractive exhibits in the Egyptian Collection are certainly the three anthropomorphic coffins - the already mentioned Kaipamaw sarcophagus from the Late Dynastic period, and two from the Ptolemaic period. The Collection also features a number of burial and votive stelae, approximately twenty, which are of great importance to understanding Egyptian burial customs. The Archeological Museum also holds about a dozen papyri, which contain all three Egyptian scripts: hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic. Besides the Books of the Dead, which are quite frequent in museums, the Zagreb Collection also has a shorter medical papyrus written in hieratic, which contains recipes for certain pain medications.
The bronze sculptures feature about twenty Egyptian deities in their authentic Egyptian and Hellenistic interpretation. There is also a rich assortment of canopic jars (named after a tributary of the Nile) which served to hold the organs removed from mummies. The lids to these canopic jars are rendered very imaginatively and they depict the heads of patron spirits known as the "four sons of Horus" who stand vigil over these remains of the body. The number of canopic jars is considerably larger than those on display, because only a small number of the jars could be definitively connected with the appropriate lid with any degree of certainty. Among the most numerous items in the Collection are shabtis. Theses are figurines made of ceramic, faience, wood or stone associated with beliefs in the afterlife. They were placed in tombs so that the spirit of those in them could invoke their help in any work required in the afterlife. As interpreted in the religion of the ancient Egyptians, the afterlife was like life on Earth, and they assumed that in the world of the afterlife jobs like digging canals for irrigation also had to be done. The ancient Egyptians thus gave shabtis to their deceased as gifts to do this work in their place. This is why the shabtis hold agricultural implements in their hands, and have baskets to carry sand on their backs. Almost all types of figurines can be seen in the Archeological Museum Zagreb.