Exhibition at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to Unlock the Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC

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They survived two fires, the onslaught of robbers, and the effects of four thousand years underground. Now, these masterworks from an Egyptian tomb of the Middle Kingdom (2040–1640 BC) will be on view in a special exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from October 18, 2009, through May 16, 2010. The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC showcases funerary objects discovered in Deir el-Bersha, a necropolis in central Egypt, by the joint Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition in 1915. It includes the famous painted "Bersha coffin," the mummified head of one of the tomb’s two occupants, and hundreds of items deemed necessary for a comfortable afterlife in ancient Egypt. This find represents the largest Middle Kingdom burial assemblage ever discovered and sheds light on the grand lifestyle enjoyed by local governor and priest Djehutynakht and his wife, Lady Djehutynakht. The conservation and reconstruction of many of the items—damaged by grave robbers in antiquity—have taken almost a century to complete. For the first time since they were placed in the tomb, the assemblage will be displayed in its entirety.

The Secrets of Tomb 10A examines the mysteries surrounding the Djehutynakhts: their lifestyle, the fate of their possessions after they were buried, and whether the mummified head is male or female. It also offers an engaging introduction to evolving funerary practices in Egypt from the 11th through 13th dynasties and provides insights into daily life of the high officials of the time. Featured are more than 250 objects, many of which have never before been on view. These include four painted coffins, cult objects, vessels for food and drink, furniture, jewelry, walking sticks, and sealed beer jars (one of which will be opened and examined), as well as the largest known collection of wooden models from the Middle Kingdom representing—in miniature form—a range of activities and items that would have been found on the couple’s estate.

"This exploration of ancient Egypt provides a window into one of the most fascinating civilizations in history," said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. "The artistic and historical treasures found in Tomb 10A bring to life the world of 2000 BC—a time of glorious artistic achievements. By revealing what the Djehutynakhts considered most important for their journey to the afterlife, the exhibition offers a better understanding of the Middle Kingdom, the least known of Egypt’s major eras."

Objects throughout the gallery highlight the historical significance of the Middle Kingdom, a period when the relationship between the pharaoh and his provincial governors characterized the politics of the day. Other key themes of the exhibition include an exploration of the nature and meaning of the grave goods discovered in the Djehutynakhts’ tomb, the evolving interest in the Deir el-Bersha tombs over the course of almost two centuries, and a comparative look at other funerary practices of Dynasties 12 and 13 (1991–1642 BC). Also on view is a section devoted to the expedition that unearthed the treasures of Tomb 10A and more recent discoveries made at Deir el-Bersha...

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