Winter 2009: Of Note

Tutankhamun coffinette

Sandro Vannini/Special

Trinket, or Ticket to Immortality?

Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

To learn more, visit www.carlos.emory.edu/tut.

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By Paige P. Parvin 96G

If you’re wearing jewelry right now, consider its meaning. Is it a wedding ring? An expensive watch? More important, can it help guarantee your place in heaven?

Most of us enjoy and value precious things, but they’re just baubles compared to the ancient Egyptians’ treasures, which were invested with tremendous significance. Although the wealthiest of Egyptians might appear ostentatious by today’s standards, each item was designed with a special purpose to give its owner every advantage in the afterlife.

“These were not just beautiful objects,” says Peter Lacovara, curator of ancient Egyptian arts and artifacts at Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. “All those things had layers and layers of meaning that we do not have today. They all had political and religious significance.”

Gold, for example, was thought to be the flesh of the gods, which was why high-ranking Egyptians were entombed wearing golden mummy masks and finger and toe covers. Sculptures adorned with jewels and precious metals served as substitute bodies to provide the spirit a home if misfortune befell the real-life flesh. And the organs of pharaohs were stored in exquisitely decorated canopic jars and coffinettes.

Examples of these and dozens of other ancient objects are on view through May 17 in Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, the landmark exhibition brought to Atlanta in partnership with the Carlos Museum. The Carlos is hosting a companion exhibition of Harry Burton’s remarkable excavation photographs.

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