Wednesday, July 12, 2006

tut job

king tut tissue
Originally uploaded by suttonhoo.
Disappointment presupposes high expectations. Knowing that, I’ve made a pact with myself not to care, not to want, and not to hope about anything having anything to do with Tut.

Because the hype has been too big, and the run is going to be too long (through January 1 at the Field Museum), and too many people who don’t care about desiccation on an ordinary day care are going nuts over this kid’s canopic jars.

As if.

But the Anthropology Alliance generally puts on a good show, so I had high hopes for last night’s private viewing of the King Tut exhibit.

The Anthro Alliance is a satellite group of Field Museum members who care about things anthropological. Recent past events have catered the geek in me: There was a viewing and lecture and book signing about some of the best remaining examples of Madagascar textiles (“remaining” because the museum housing the best burned down in Madagascar a few years ago, and took the textiles with it); and a presentation by Bob Martin regarding the paper he was getting ready to publish in Science on the Flores Man.

Besides: The food's always good, and the bar's usually open.

But last night was pretty tepid. Big crowd, meager spread, and a lecture that tried to cover way too much old ground (yep – thanks – picked up that bit about the cyclical flooding of the Nile in 5th grade world history – got anything fresh?).

The exhibit, on the other hand – the thing I was prepared to be unimpressed by – was pretty dang cool. Of course the pieces that grabbed me the most didn't show up in the catalog (at least in the little mini-catalog that was the only one I was interested in forking over the cash for) and my darlin’ companion was hovering close by and pointing to the “no photography” sign, so I came away without any pictures to show.

So you’ll have to believe me when I tell you that there are some pieces that really are worth seeing:

  • There’s a wonderful obsidian bust cracked down one side – the contrast of the glassy unfinished obsidian against the finished surface is alone worth the price of admission

  • A leather dog collar. Very cool. And very big. (For a big dog, apparently.)

  • A child’s seat with the woven reed seat still intact

  • The gold base of a fan that used to hold ostrich plumes (as a matter of fact ostrich are indigenous to Egypt, as we learned later that night [okay -- so the lecture wasn't a total wash]) – and if you peek into one of the holes where the plumes were mounted you can see where one busted off and left the nib behind

  • A beaten gold covered sarcophagus lid that on which bits of the linen shroud, soaked in resin, is still stuck to the gold (I love it when the organic stuff survives. I’ll take fibers and seeds over gold and silver any day.)

  • And the simple inlaid wreath that served Tut as a crown – the one he wore on his head under all those layers and layers and layers that they entombed him in

  • The crown is delicate and intricate and divine, and the expressiveness of the cobra and the vulture that peer out from the front of it had me ogling for much longer than was polite.

    One of my favorite pieces of the show was a wooden carving of a symbol that I learned about for the first time last night – cousin to the Ankh, it was a Djed, and there seemed not only to be an importance to the number of bars that crossed it at the crown, but also the way it was colored – and maybe even the sequence of that coloration. With the dc keeping me honest I had to resort to sketching (in a hurry) a rough outline of what I saw:

    In the same way the Ankh represents life, the Djed represents stability, and it appeared repeatedly in the pieces that peppered the show -- pulled, of course, from a period of turbulent history, emerging from the religious upheaval that Akhnaten wrought and trying desperately to set things right again.

    The symbol usually showed up as an object that was clutched and held aloft -- almost as if a wooden staff, were it beautiful enough and crafted out of enough precious metals and semi-precious stones -- could possess the power to settle the upsurges of a violent world.

    As if.

    (But wouldn’t that be something if it could?)

    No comments:

    Related Posts with Thumbnails