A little piece of Egypt in Hyde Park

The other weekend, I attended a panel discussion titled, “A Mummy Comes to Life,” as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival (which is still going on, by the way). I was excited that the event was bringing me to the University of Chicago’s beautiful campus, but more specifically, it brought me to the Oriental Institute.

The institute is actually home to a museum that includes various artifacts from the Ancient Middle East. So, not only does it contain an Ancient Egypt exhibit (complete with mummies, a huge statue of King Tut and other artifacts), but it also features exhibits about Assyria, Mesopotamia, Persia and other Middle Eastern ancient civilizations. It’s a very cool resource for anyone interested in these cultures!

King Tut Statue at the Oriental Institute (photo from Oriental Institute website)

You know my love for gift shops – I have to especially recommend this one. It has a very impressive collection of books on Ancient Egypt available for purchase. And let me tell you, good books on Ancient Egypt are not as easy to find as you might think – Borders and Barnes & Noble don’t cut it.

To whet your appetite for the museum, here are some interesting facts I learned from the “A Mummy Comes to Life” discussion I attended:

  • Women in Ancient Egypt received their inheritance when they got married, whereas men didn’t get theirs until their father died. So, it was the women in the family that had the financial advantage first.
  • Mummification is all about desiccation: the reason they removed all the organs and followed the rituals was to get all the moisture out of the body to slow decay.
  • Ancient Egypt was not a monastic society – priestesses were not isolated from society. Rather, they were very integrated into society and even had their own families. As such, the work schedule was rotating, so a priestess would work at the temple for a few months then go home to her family for the rest of the year while other priestesses took over for their shifts.


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