GODS OF ANCIENT EGYPT at the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden

Why mummify crocodiles, cats, dung beetles, certain birds and other animals? Why do so many deities from Ancient Egypt have animal faces? Visit Leiden’s Museum of Antiquities (RMO) and its exhibition Gods of Ancient Egypt and you will learn more.

Unfortunately, English information about this exhibition is unavailable on the museum’s website at the moment. This important exhibition is located on the museum’s first floor. Not to worry: though the museum’s website currently only shows Dutch information; exhibition texts are available in English, as well as Dutch.

Gods of Ancient Egypt, is really fascinating. The exhibition gives an idea of the many, many deities which were worshiped over time. It shows how religious ideas evolved and caused roles of gods to somewhat change over centuries. It explains the various gods and their roles in Egyptian lives, over centuries.

Among the over five-hundred exhibits are loans from important international museums, including the Louvre and the British Museum. Of course, this exhibition contains a few mummies. Yet far more interesting are the many other objects which include statues, manuscripts, jewelry and much more.

Throughout the exhibition are plenty videos (in English and Dutch). These give more information about subjects like creation myths, what the most important gods were up to, the role of a pharaoh and priests, what Ancient Egyptians believed happened after death. These videos are very entertaining for young and old.

Exhibits are grouped around themes. Visitors walk through the various spaces clock-wise – starting left; going from early beginnings, creation, sunrise; from court to ordinary folks; towards night, death, darkness.

In one of the first spaces a video for instance explains there were at least four creation-myths. Display cases show various early examples of the very first god and items related to the creation-myths.

The exhibition ends with Ancient Egypt’s influence on Greek and Roman religions. There is even a room showing how many old gods now “live on” as heroes in computer games, comics, Hollywood films.

All those mummified cats and the occasional beetle? After visiting this exhibition you will know a lot more about goddesses Sekhmet and Bastet and their relations to wild lions and domestic cats. As for the dung beetle: he reminded people in Ancient Egypt of their sun-god rolling the sun across their sky – but why mummify a few and not all?

There is plenty more to learn and discover in this exhibition, or any of the other ones at the RMO in Leiden. During holiday periods and this exhibition, there are plenty interesting activities including lectures, workshops and guided tours. Visit the museum’s website for more information.   Kate Den   15th November 2018

Gods of Ancient Egypt continues until 31st of March 2019.

Photos: National Museum of Antiquities