Major exhibition of University treasures opens in Germany

Almost 150 of the University of Aberdeen's internationally important collection of artefacts from ancient Egypt will take centre stage in a major new exhibition 'PHARAOH: living in ancient Egypt' at the Lokschuppen Exhibition Centre in Rosenheim, Germany

This is the largest loan of museum items in the University’s history.

The exhibition, opening on March 24, includes 400 exhibits from international, prestigious lenders, with 11 models of ancient Egyptian temples and 22 media stations to take visitors on a journey along the Nile.

Among the highlights are a 4,000 year-old wooden coffin of Nakht and the mummy of the lady Ta Cheru and a fine statue of the scribe Rahotep – all on loan from Aberdeen. There are also many fine items from German museums in Berlin, Hildesheim and Hamm, aided by Austrian logistics company MuseumPartners.

The Aberdeen collection spans all periods of Egyptian archaeology, from prehistoric flint tools and pre-Dynastic pottery through tomb assemblages and sculptures from Dynastic Egypt to Coptic textiles. The most important material was collected by Robert Wilson (1787-1871), who graduated in Medicine from Marischal College in 1805 and another Aberdeen doctor, James Grant (1840-1896), gained a high reputation in Cairo as a physician, where he had the title of 'Bey' conferred upon him by the Khedive of Egypt.

Building on this collection, further material was acquired from the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, the Egypt Exploration Fund and the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft.

Neil Curtis, Head of Museums at the University of Aberdeen, said: “This is a high profile exhibition which is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors so we are delighted these important artefacts from the University of Aberdeen will be among the highlights for visitors to enjoy.

“As this is the largest loan in the history of the University’s museums, it has taken some logistical planning but has been a very successful operation with our German and Austrian partners. The exhibition has also been very valuable, with the project paying for items to be conserved and researched as part of the preparation for the exhibition.”

The exhibition’s curator Dr Christian Tietze, added: “As well as finding out about the power of the pharaoh, the exhibition has been designed so that visitors can explore the temple, bakeries and houses, with sculptures of people who have lived and loved, worked, suffered and celebrated.

“The exhibition culminates in the display of beautifully decorated coffins, and an impressive reconstruction of a burial chamber.”

Almost €2.5 million has been invested in the exhibition. Last year’s exhibition, ‘Vikings!’ was the second-most visited exhibition in Bavaria. “Previous exhibitions have been visited by an average of 180,000 visitors and this year we hope to attract over 200,000 people”, said Peter Lutz, managing Director of Veranstaltungs und Kongress GmbH, Rosenheim which runs the exhibition centre.

The University of Aberdeen’s collection of 6000 Egyptian archaeology items is the largest collection in Scotland after that of National Museums Scotland. The exhibition ‘Pharaoh: Life in Ancient Egypt runs from 24 March to 17 December 2017.