Sunday, November 07, 2010

Coming Forth By Day

In a week in which the Queen had been pleased to appoint Mr Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum) to be a member of the Order of Merit, I went along to the exhibition Journey Through the Afterlife: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead at the institution that he heads yesterday.

Judgement, for the Ancient Egyptians, came after a lengthy expedition through the underworld when the supplicant's heart would be weighed on a set of scales against a feather. Fail the test and the too heavy heart would sink down and be swallowed by the Devourer (a crocodile-headed compound of a lion and a hippopotamus). Nice.

I also learned a little about hieratic, a cursive writing system that was used in the provenance of the pharaohs that developed alongside the hieroglyphic system. Being primarily written in ink with a reed brush on papyrus, and allowing scribes to write quickly it seemed familiar in a way that stone carved hieroglyphs never do.

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