April 21, 2003

'Royal resident' is ready for prime time

By Allison Germaneso Dixon

Is it possible that a famed Egyptian pharaoh is holding court in Atlanta? Visitors can decide for themselves when “Ramesses I: The Search for the Lost Pharaoh” opens at the Carlos Museum on April 26.

The mummy believed to be that of Ramesses I, founder of one of Egypt’s most powerful dynasties and ruler of Egypt from 1292–90 B.C., will be the centerpiece of the exhibition, on view through Sept. 14. The historical, archaeological and scientific evidence of the mummy’s identity will be presented, along with art and artifacts from Ramesses I’s reign.

Since acquiring the mummy in 1999, the museum’s intention has been to return it to its rightful place in Egypt. With the Egyptian government’s recent acceptance of that offer, upon conclusion of this exhibition the transfer will be made with all appropriate celebration and fanfare. The Carlos Museum is the only U.S. venue for this exhibition before “the mummy returns.”

“This exhibition has been one amazing journey, and we are thrilled it is finally a reality,” said Carlos Director Bonnie Speed. “The circumstances surrounding the mummy’s appearance in this country in the 1860s, the 1999 Carlos Museum purchase made possible with the assistance of the Atlanta community, and the research conducted to determine the mummy’s identity reveal an extraordinary story.”

Indeed, the mummy’s route to Atlanta has been a scenic one. It was purchased by a broker for the Niagara Falls Museum in the 1860s in Luxor, Egypt, at about the time a famous cache of royal mummies at Deir el-Bahri was discovered by the Abed el-Rassul family and partially sold off without the knowledge that it was the burial place of Egypt’s most fabled pharaohs.

In the 1980s, German Egyptologist Arne Eggebrecht examined the mummy in Niagara Falls and was the first to suggest it could be one of the missing royal mummies. The position of its arms, crossed over the chest, was reserved for royal mummies until the Late Dynas-tic Period (525–343 B.C.).

The careful treatment of the body and other details of the mummification, however, suggest an early date, as does radiocarbon dating of the mummy, which places it in the New Kingdom (1570–1070 B.C.), the era of Ramesses I. Perhaps the most compelling of all the evidence is the physical resemblance of this mummy to the features of Seti I and Ramesses II (“The Great”), son and grandson of Ramesses I.

The mummy was acquired by the Carlos in 1999 as part of a historic purchase of the Niagara Falls Museum’s entire collection of Egyptian art and artifacts. Already the leading Southeastern museum of ancient art, the Carlos’ purchase served as the impetus for a major renovation of its Egyptian art galleries, where most of those materials are now exhibited and well visited.

The Ramesses mummy, however, will be on view for the first time when the exhibition opens in April.

Utilizing the resources of Emory to contribute to the existing knowledge about the mummy, museum scholars collaborated with Emory Hospital’s Department of Radiology to conduct CT-scanning, revealing elaborate mummification techniques, including copious amounts of resin in the skull, a practice usually lavished only on royal mummies.

Visiting scholars included James Harris, a physician who has investigated dentition and conducted a series of cranio-facial measurements on all the royal mummies in the Cairo Museum, and mummification expert Salima Ikram, professor at American University in Cairo and a renowned authority on mummification. Each has found the evidence compelling.

Included in the exhibition will be tomb objects and embalming equipment, portrait sculpture, reliefs, archival photographs and papyri. Videos of local ABC affiliate WSB-TV Channel 2’s primetime specials “The Mystery of the Lost Mummy” and “Secrets of the Missing Mummies” will run continuously.

Four computer stations will present a special interactive website devoted to Ramesses and the evidence collected toward proving the mummy’s identity. This website can be found at http://carlos.emory.edu/RAMESSES.

“This shows that amazing discoveries in the most unlikely of places are still to be made,” said Curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art Peter Lacovara (see First Person). “It is exciting to now be collaborating more closely with our colleagues in Egypt, to be moving closer to the moment when we return the mummy to the people of Egypt, and to have an opportunity to share an exhibition with visitors before its departure.”

The Carlos Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday evenings until 9 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. There is a $5 suggested donation for admission to the museum’s galleries.


ARCE to host Egypt conference

The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), whose U.S. offices are housed on the Emory campus, will host a panel discussion sponsored by the U.S. State Department on Thursday, April 24, from 7–9 p.m. in the Carter Center’s Day Chapel.

The panel will discuss Egypt’s view of its own past. Modern Egyptians have struggled to establish their own special claim on the pharaohs of old, and their ongoing discussion—both scholarly and popular—of that proud legacy remains a critical element in their sense of modern identity.

The panel will feature Jere Bacharach, ARCE director and professor of history at the University of Washington, along with Fayza Haikal of the American University in Cairo; Cary Petry of Northwestern University; and Donald Reid of Georgia State University.

Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.ARCE.org or call 404-712-9854.