A STUNNING collection of authentic Egyptian treasures is at the Denver Art Museum through Aug. 2. On loan from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, "Searching for Ancient Egypt: Art, Architecture and Artifacts" showcases nearly 140 objects spanning 4,500 years.
The artifacts - many of which have never been on public display - come from ancient town sites, temple sites, palaces, cemeteries, pyramid sites and provincial areas. On view are intriguing mummy cases, shrouds and masks, beautiful stone and ceramic vessels.There is also extraordinary sculpture in the form of humans and animals, glittering jewelry and ornaments, intricately carved tools, wooden figurines and an array of architectural fragments and reliefs, including an ancient doorway from the palace of Merenpath - the son and successor of the great pharaoh Ramses.
Visitors will not only see the one-of-a-kind objects but also experience ancient Egyptian lifestyles through touch, smell and sound.
According to Patty Williams, dean of education at the museum, "Egyptian artworks were not made for `art's sake' but rather for useful human purposes - to make a man or woman look more attractive, to impress the power of the king on his people, or most of all, to magically guarantee life after death."
Visitors will also see the massive west wall of the Chapel of Kaipura. At this 4,300-year-old Old Kingdom tomb chapel, priests and family members would perform rituals, recite spells and leave offerings to ensure that the deceased would prosper in the afterlife. The wall weighs 13 tons, measures 22 feet by 11 feet and is covered in colorful hieroglyphics and intricately carved scenes.
"Egypt was a land of great abundance," said curator David Silverman, who oversees the Egyptian collection at the University of Pennsylvania. "The elite classes lived very well - keeping lush gardens, entertaining themselves with plenty of food and drink, even clothing themselves in stylish fashion."
A fascinating part of "Searching for Ancient Egypt" is the Courtyard of Curiosities. Here, visitors participate in four interactive demonstration stations, experiencing what it was like to be a specialist in an array of interesting Egyptian practices.
Using volunteers to play the role of the "deceased" and the "embalmer," visitors can lay on an embalming table and discover what it was like to prepare the body for mummification, including organ removal, drying, stuffing and wrapping the body. Guests can also sample authentic Egyptian fragrances, including lotus, sweet rush, cassia and lily, and apply makeup to their eyes, simulating Cleopatra.
The Courtyard also shows guests how to make papyrus and handle tools used for stone carving and polishing.
Other highlights in the exhibition are: The "Statue of Amun" (1322-1292 B.C.), depicting the great state god of Thebes; the "Necklace with Sekhmet Amulet" (570-525 B.C.), featuring a solid gold pendant of a lion goddess; and the "Sarcophagus Lid of Pedibast" (381-30 B.C.), illustrating various chapters of the Book of the Dead, including a spell for "going forth by day and penetrating the underworld."
Advance tickets for "Searching for Ancient Egypt" are issued for a specific date and entry time and are non-refundable. Tickets are available at the Denver Art Museum box office or by calling toll-free 1-888-66-EGYPT (1-888-663-4978). Ticket prices are $9.50 for adults; $7.50 for seniors; $4 for children ages 6-18 and students with I.D. (prices include state-of-the-art CD-ROM self-directed audio tour with adult and children's versions and general admission to the museum). Group rates and guided tours of the exhibition are available.
The DAM is located at 13th Avenue and Acoma, just south of the civic center. Its hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesdays until 9 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays.
For more information, call (303) 640-4433 or visit the museum's Web site at http://www.denverartmuseum.org.