For those who like museums but find large collections such as that of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo both bewildering and tiring then Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art is the place to see. The museum was opened in 1975 and contains a modest collection of the highest quality artworks dating from the Predynastic Period right through to the Islamic era. The modern building is extremely spacious with plenty of room to move around and view beautifully displayed objects and sculpture in peaceful low-lit surroundings. The perfect place to spend a hot morning in Luxor.
1 Colossal head of Amenhotep III, from his funerary temple in Thebes, Dynasty XVIII
2 Head of a cow goddess, From the tomb of Tutankamun, Thebes, Dynasty XVIII
3 Amenhotep III with Sobek, from Dahamsha, Dynasty XVIII
The museum is built on two levels with a ramp leading from the ground floor to the upper floor and contains artefacts from around the Theban area. Many of the free-standing granite statues depict kings, queens, and high-status officials who left their images in the Theban temples. Tutankhamun of course is well-represented by some of the objects from his tomb in the Valley of the Kings which are not currently on display in the Cairo Museum. Included among these is the famous majestic head of a cow goddess, of resin and gilded wood, which is one of the first items the visitor will see when entering the museum. There are exhibits of funerary stelae, offering tables, papyri, tomb furniture, a cartonage mummy-case and many small statuettes and shabtis. In glass cases in the centre of the upper floor are smaller objects such as jewellery, funerary and ritual items and artefacts from daily life.
One of the main features on the upper floor is a reconstructed wall from a temple of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). The small decorated sandstone blocks (talatat) were discovered when the ninth pylon at Karnak Temple was dismantled for reconstruction work, where they had been used as infill in the original building of the pylon. Individual talatat blocks on which the famous reliefs were carved can be seen in many museums, but here the ‘Talatat Wall’ represents the only successful attempt at reconstructing a whole wall of the blocks. Over 40,000 decorated blocks from Amenhotep IV’s early Karnak building works have been found, but only those from the ninth pylon are well-preserved enough to allow their accurate reconstruction. Next to the talatat, mounted on the wall, is a sandstone head from a colossal Osirid statue of Amenhotep IV from Karnak.
1 Akhenaten statue, from Karnak, Dynasty XVIII
2 Amenhotep, son of Hapu, from Thebes, Dynasty XVIII
3 Statue of Rameses III, from Karnak, Dynasty XX
An extension built a few years ago houses a collection of statues found in the ‘Luxor Cachette’. These beautiful sculptures were unearthed when a colonnade at Luxor Temple was dismantled for reconstruction in 1989. They had been buried (for reasons unknown) in the floor of the courtyard where they lay forgotten for over 2000 years. Many of these statues today look as though they have just come out of a sculptor’s workshop.
1 Statue of the goddess Iunyt, from Luxor Temple, Dynasty XVIII
2 Statue of Amenhotep III, from Luxor Temple, Dynasty XVIII
3 Horemheb before Amun, from Luxor Temple, Dynasty XIX
Another long-awaited new annex to Luxor Museum has now been completed and this spacious addition houses many artefacts new to the museum, as well as some of the artworks from the original galleries. The main section of the extension has a military theme and is partly devoted to Egypt’s glorious empire. The long hall has two glass-covered niches which are the new resting places for the mummies of two great warrior kings – Ahmose, founder of the New Kingdom and the recently repatriated Rameses I. The main gallery also includes weaponry and a hunting chariot of Tutankhamun. The upper level contains some superb statues, several old favourites relocated from other areas of the museum, as well as many fascinating objects related to technology and the arts. The new facilities include a visitor centre, bookshop and cafeteria. Set in a beautifully lit and temperature-controlled environment, Luxor Museum is a dramatic showpiece for ancient Egyptian cultural heritage for which the people of Egypt should be very proud.
How to get there
Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art is on the Corniche, a few hundred metres north of the tourist bazaar and the Etap Hotel. It is open daily from 9.00am to 1.00pm and 4.00pm to 9.00pm in winter. Hours may change in summer.
The Luxor Museum of Mummification
The Luxor Museum of Mummification which opened in May 1997 is the first in the world dedicated to this subject.
The modern purpose built museum consists of only one room, but the visitor is guided around well-lit and beautifully displayed exhibits and story boards which describe the process of mummification from beginning to end, as well as the religious customs associated with burials.
The purpose of mummification in ancient Egypt was to preserve the body of the deceased so that they could dwell in the afterlife, in the realm of the gods. The process began naturally when the ancient people discovered that bodies buried in the hot dry sand of Egypt would be preserved almost intact. Techniques were enhanced from very early times, using natron to dry out the body, removing certain organs and wrapping the remains tightly in bandages of linen, often covered with a thick resin. The peak of the art was reached by the end of the New Kingdom Period.
A collection of well-preserved mummy-cases, mostly from the dryer climate of Upper Egypt, is displayed in the entrance to the museum along with a statue of Anubis, the jackal-headed god who leads the dead into the underworld.
In glass cases inside the museum, many artefacts associated with the process are displayed with detailed descriptions of their use, including model funerary boats, amulets, wooden statuettes and a fine set of canopic jars. There are also animal mummies including a crocodile, a cat and a ram of Khnum with its gilded case from Elephantine.
How to get there
The Mummification Museum is opposite the Mercure Etap Hotel on the Corniche at Luxor. It is open from 9.00am to 1.00pm and 4.00pm to 9.00pm in winter (with different hours in summer).