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Egyptian Secrets Revealed

MFA’s tomb artifacts finally see the light of day

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This mummified head was among the artifacts found in a local governor’s tomb in Middle Egypt.

Nothing screams holiday fun like a mummified head and painted coffins.

Swing by the Museum of Fine Arts and shuttle back to Egypt some 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus. The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 B.C. is packed with funereal artifacts discovered in 1915 at a governor’s tomb at Deir-el-Bersha in Middle Egypt. Most have been in storage since.

Thought to be the largest burial assemblage of the Middle Kingdom (2040-1640 BC) ever discovered, the tomb contains four painted coffins, including the Bersha coffin (the outer coffin of the governor), considered Egypt’s finest painted coffin. Robbers got to the site before archaeologists and stole all the jewels, but left everything else, including the severed, wrapped, and painted head of the governor, Djehutynakht — or his wife (DNA analysis is being done to help answer that question). Also uncovered were walking sticks, pottery, a canopic jar, and wooden models that dramatize life on the governor’s estate, including miniature boats and shops for carpenters, weavers, brick-makers, bakers, and brewers.

The contents of Djehutynakht’s tomb were awarded to the MFA by the Egyptian government and transported to Boston in 1920. The museum put the Deir-el-Bersha coffin on view in the galleries, but most of the objects have never been displayed until now.

The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 B.C. is at the MFA, 465 Huntington Ave., until May 16, 2010. Admission is free with a BU student ID. Take the Green Line E train (accessible at Copley) outbound to the Museum of Fine Arts stop. More information is available here.

Caleb Daniloff can be reached at cdanilof@bu.edu.

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