This week: Ancient Egypt

The death of Cleopatra, by Juan Luna (1857-1899). IMAGE: Museo del Prado/Wikimedia Commons.

This year sees the marking of two significant anniversaries: the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by the British archaeologist Howard Carter, in excavations funded by Lord Carnarvon; and the bicentenary of the use of the Rosetta Stone by the French philologist Jean-François Champollion to decipher Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Both, of course, were landmark events in the history of Western Egyptology, but they also had a powerful effect on the wider culture – sparking popular crazes (known as ‘Tutmania’ and ‘Egyptomania’ respectively), influencing fashion, and demonstrating once again the enduring appeal of pharaonic motifs and imagery to artists from the Roman era to the present day.

With all this in mind, what better time than now to look at the continuing relationship between Ancient Egypt and the worlds of art and design? Or to unpick some of the constructed and often troublesome fantasies it has inspired?

In the latest issue of Minerva magazine, Benjamin Hinson and Anna Ferrari, curators of Visions of Ancient Egypt, a new exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, reflect on a complicated cultural legacy.

Elsewhere this week on The Past, we have also been searching the archives for more about the influence of Ancient Egypt: we examined how the beguiling goddess Isis attracted a cult following in Rome; we looked at how Victorian artists used a passion for archaeology to conjure up spectacular visions of the past; and we even investigated how a painted limestone bust of Queen Nefertiti came to be copied around the world.

And finally, if all that simply whets your appetite, don’t forget to have a go at our latest Quiz, which this week is also themed around Ancient Egypt. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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