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October 15,2009

This past Tuesday, RainyDayMagazine got a first-hand look at MFA's soon-to-be-open exhibition, The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC. The artifacts of this exhibit were discoverd by a joint Harvard/MFA expedition in 1915, but it took almost another century before all the pieces were brought back together and reassembled for display. We won't spoil the story, but the exhibit (secret spells, mysterious mummies, etc...) is as exciting as any Indiana Jones movie.

Like many other the Egyptian tombs, this find (Tomb 10A) had been raided by robbers looking for gold and other valuables. When the Harvard-MFA team uncovered the site, they found objects the robbers deemed worthless piled up in jumbles all about the tomb. Fortunately, there were a LOT of objects!  Unfortunately, the robbers had set the tomb on fire, so soot covered many of them, with much of them just pushed into a pile. 

The Tomb10A find actually represents the largest Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) burial assemblage ever discovered. The dedicated staff at the MFA have spent more than 10,000 hours painstakingly preserving and restoring the objects in this exhibit. The results are spectacular.

The first thing we noticed were the models, lots of models. Over 60 different ones were on display. They were outfitted to anticipate the needs in the afterlife. We have presented a small sample of what is on display in this exhibit. There was much too much for us to even attempt to be comprehensive. However, do click on any of the images for a closer look.

Many of these models were found with pieces broken off and jumbled together. Putting all of the pieces together was a test of skill, patience, and dedication. We imagined it as doing a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle with thousands of pieces, but first one must clean, restore, and preserve each piece lest it falls apart during the reassembly.

Tombs have coffins. Unearthed in this tomb is the finest example of a Middle Kingdom coffin (and we mean, theee finest; everybody says so). The outer coffin is beautifully crafted from cedar planks complete with painted images of food, drink, clothing, and other provisions for the afterlife.

One item worthy of extra-special mention is the model of the Procession of offering bearers. We were completely awestruck by the quality and details of these carved figures. The hands of the artisans who created these objects lived over 4000 years ago, yet they would be considered masters by any standard today.  We may not be able to read hieroglyphs or understand the ancient's cultural beliefs, but we can't help to think that when we looked at these figures today, we are appreciating them much the same way they were appreciated four millennia hence.

So that everyone can appreciate this exhibit, the MFA is making all kinds of special educational programs (lectures, courses, gallery talks, and an artist demo) available during the run of this exhibition.

The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC will be open to the public on October 18. In order to make this show accessible to as many museum goers as possible, the MFA is introducing "family-friendly" pricing. This means that the Gund Gallery exhibit is now included in the general admission. Also, admission is free to everyone after 4PM on Wednesdays. If you are under 17, the MFA is free to you anytime the museum is open.  So be one of the first to discover the secret to Tomb 10A for yourself!!!   [Permalink] - Secrets of Tomb 10A

NOTE: Readers interested in the conservation and preservation methods used to restore the artifacts in this exhibit should check out this paper at the JAIC.  Readers can also get Carolyn's unique take on the Tomb 10A exhibit here.


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