Pimp my Coffin

Ancient Egyptians might not’ve had a 401(k), but they were very, very confident that their version of “retirement” would be a glorious one.

Talk about a transformational experience!

The Secret of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC has opened at the MFA.

It’s all about the shtuff

Let’s say you were living in Egypt about 4,000 years ago, and were one of that culture’s Masters of the Universe.

You got the bling, baby, and lots of it; you got many many many people working for you, making your life (but not theirs) really comfortable; you want for not one single thing.

And then, in spite of all the wishing and, thinging, to the contrary, you and your lovely wife die.

How do you let the folks of the nether world know who you are and where to put you once you get to your post-mortem place?

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
(All images courtesy of Wan Chi Lau)

You bring examples of your here-and-now to the here-after, that’s what you do.

You bring examples of your larger-than-life-ness to show that you can take your place at the table of the gods.

It’s not enough to be called Djehutynakht (Jeh-HOO-dee-nacht)—the “other” name for Thoth—you gots to got the godly goods.

Like a flotilla of boats to match the boat that the sun god Ra uses to cross the sky every day. Dinghies just won’t cut it, dude.

This IS the Nile, right?

Of course, the boats are models, but which is more impressive, one big boat or SIXTY models, each easily over a foot in length, with upwards of a dozen hand-made figures on them?

You go for the quantity, natch.

Each boat and each figure is hand-made, and each arm goes on only one figure and each figure goes in only one place on only one boat.

That’s a lot of workers working to secure your place in heaven (or wherever).

This would be easier with oars...
We could go a lot faster if we just had some oars…

Darling, you look marvelous

Of course, you would want to re-inhabit your body once you make the move, but if some ancient grave robbers robbed your grave of not only your jewelry but of your body, can you still get revived post-repose?

We cannot say what golden goodies those f*ckers may have taken, but they left a head atop one of the coffins.

At the mo’ nobody knows if the ‘huty Head is his or hers, but the CSI-ers in New York are working on that.

I have a headache like you wouldn’t believe!

Like any good AE (Ancient Egyptian), you had your lungs, stomach, and intestines removed and stored in the special “guts jar” to have re-put-in; however, the brain and the heart apparently were not considered necessities in the after-life and were not saved.


It’s taken a loooong time, and the MFA had to go to the FBI, but they’ve figured out Who’s ‘Huty Head it is!

I’m not telling you, you have to let the New York Times tell you:

Your Window to the Nether World

In order to be stylin’ you need to deck out your vehicle, which in your 4,000 year old case is your coffin.

Inside and out, your coffin’s coffin’s coffin (yes, you have three) is designed and painted to the max.

Can you see anything? It's kinda dark in here, isn't it?
Are we there yet?

You would also want a gazillion hand-carved inscriptions written in hieroglyphics describing what you will and will not do (“I will not eat feces”), how much stuff you’ve brought, and how to re-establish/animate yourself (it’s either “You put the lime in the coconut” or “The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone,” I forget which).

I think he spelled that wrong...
I think he spelled that wrong…

And now, a word from our sponsor

So how cool is this, your coffin is the finest, the very finest, of its type in the whole wide world. Today, I mean. Your coffin is THE Middle Kingdom coffin, anywhere. And it’s the MFA’s, and has been since Harvard/MFA excavated it in 1915.

The coolness of the exhibition is that everything in it, from the teeny-tiny mirror in the priest’s hand to the linen-wrapped mummy head comes from one single collection, the MFA’s, and finally, after 10,000 (ten thousand) hours of painstaking reconstruction and conservation (you wouldn’t believe the mess the grave robbers left), the MFA is justifiably proud of this exhibition.

The exhibition space is beautifully presented, and I highly recommend reading the fabulous explanations on the walls: you will miss the amazingness of what’s in it if you don’t, because this is a much more nuanced presentation of ye olde Egyptionality than say, Tut’s ever was.

Oh, so THAT’s what it means!

The MFA has two audio tours, one designed especially for kids. The interactive website is great, and there’s lots of things to buy at the MFA shop. The museum is even including Middle Eastern fare to its menus at Bravo and Galleria Cafe. Falafel for everyone!

The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC

Now through May 16, 2010 in the Gund Gallery.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

MFA members FREE
Adults $20
Seniors and students 18 and older $18
Youths 17 and under FREE
Youths 7-17, school days
until 3 pm

Admission prices include this exhibition and the MFA collections, plus a repeat visit within ten days.

RainyDayMagazine has a great review of the exhibition, which you can read here.

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