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World Museum – Ancient Egypt

image New Ancient Egypt Gallery now open

In the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum Liverpool you can journey back to the incredible world of the Pharaohs and discover the remarkable civilisation that built the Pyramids and the Sphinx.

There are over 1,300 objects from the world-class collections on display, including animal mummies, ancient musical instruments and a tomb reconstruction based on a 4,000-year-old burial place.

There are five complete human mummies on display and you can even ‘unwrap’ a mummy without touching it, using a fascinating computer interactive. A must-see of object is the vividly-coloured belt of the last great Pharaoh, Rameses III, on permanent display for the first time since before the Second World War.

Ancient Egypt features a section devoted to Death. It looks at curses and spells which were linked to the Afterlife – the Egyptians’ version of heaven.

There is a chilling collection of 200 spells which Pharaohs and other carried in their coffins to prevent all sorts of horrible things happening to them.

The process of mummification – invented by the Egyptians – is examined. Preserving the body was done to protect the dead – there were five spirits in the body including Ka, who represented the soul. Another – Ba – had wings and could fly out of the tomb.

It took 70 days to complete the process of embalming and mummification. Internal organs were removed and put into jars.

The body was cleaned with oils and spices including frankincense and perfumes which can still be smelt on mummies. After being wrapped, the mummy was placed in its coffin. It took hundreds of years to develop the skills needed to perfect the art of mummification.

Animals were also mummified so they could accompany the dead into the Afterlife. In Victorian times cat mummies were so common, they were sold by the ton. Around 400,000 were imported into Liverpool in the 1850s to be used as fertiliser.

Other animal mummies on display are a hawk and crocodile. There were animal gods to protect the Egyptians from bad spirits.

A tomb reconstruction is based on a 4,000-year-old burial place. People believed the dead could protect the living but could also be blamed for misfortunes. The myth of the Mummy’s Curse is also examined although curses were inscribed on the outside of tombs to prevent stone being stolen. The arrival of the New Kingdom from about 1100 BC saw Egypt in decline.

Probably the most important documents on display are papyri (papers) recording the trials of people accused of tomb robbing. They were discovered in the 1840s, probably at Thebes, and were divided up between collections in Liverpool, London and New York.

Other exciting features are a 4,000-year-old harp which may have soothed a Pharaoh, a mummified hand and a chattering wall about the language of the Ancient Egyptians.

Only between five and 10 per cent of people could read and write – even some Pharaohs may have been illiterate.

A section on tomb building reveals that the men who built the Pyramids were paid in beer and bread – so well that they were known for their drunkenness.

Ancient Egypt looks at the lasting legacy of this vanished culture as pioneers of democracy, libraries, mathematics, glass and building.

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