What happens after death?

The ancient Egyptians asked, and answered, this universal question in their own rituals, art and illustrations designed to explain the otherwise inexplicable. Thanks to the preserved artworks and tombs, modern people are able to understand a little better the mystical history of the Egyptians.

Sphinx statue from Egypt

At the Quest for Immortality exhibition held in National Museum of Singapore, we can feed our fascination even further. It is not everyday that an exhibition on ancient Egypt comes to town, so this is a rare opportunity where we get to see actual relics, artifacts and mummies, some as old as 6000 years, up close.

Sphinx statue from Egypt

In all, 230 artifacts, including 3 mummified bodies, are being exhibited. One of the most valuable exhibits is the Sphinx of Amenhotep III statue (picture above), valued at about $1.4m.

Sphinx statue from Egypt

Statues from Egypt

This limestone statue from 1323-1295BC depicts the god Horus seated side by side with King Horemhab, who was believed to be the earthly incarnation of the god.

Egyptian papyrus

This papyrus fragment with hieroglyphic writing was placed in tombs to guide the dead into the afterlife.

Cat mummy from Egypt

Aside from humans, the Egyptians mummified animals as well, including the cat. Can you spot the tip of its nose?

Of all the exhibits, the cat mummy makes me feel the saddest, especially after learning that kittens were mummified as well.

Egyptian wall painting

Egyptian bead necklace

Exhibits also include varied pieces of ancient Egyptian jewellery, including ear studs as big as 50-cent coins! Surely that would result in enlarged earlobes, not unlike the modern body modification.

Mummy coffin from Egypt

For the dead to be recognised in the afterlife, their bodies were fitted with cartonnage mummy masks. These masks show the idealised features of the deceased, and are often gilded in gold to achieve a godlike form.

Mummy coffin from Egypt

The mummy coffins are pieces of art in their own right!

Mummy coffin from Egypt

Mummy from Egypt

Canopic jars from Egypt

These four canopic jars bear the shapes of the god Horus’ four sons – falcon, human, jackal and baboon. Can you guess what these containers are for? The answer is in the following write-up.

Mummy from Egypt

Click to enlarge

The exhibition features many information boards that provide useful explanations and elaborations on the Egyptian rituals and legends. This one elaborates on the details behind the process of mummification.

Mummy of Nekhet-iset-aru from Egypt

This is the mummy of Nekhet-iset-aru wrapped in pink linen cloth and strips of bandages. A blue beaded net design was placed on it. It represents the sky and places her under the protection of the sky goddess Nut.

Winged scarab from Egypt

The winged scarab, placed on top of the beaded nut, served to protect the heart.

Mummy of Nekhet-iset-aru from Egypt

This is the cartonnage coffin of the mummy of Nekhet-iset-aru, seen here being prepared for the exhibition by art handlers. Special prayers had to be carried out before the mummies were placed.

The exhibition ends April 4, 2010. Be sure to catch it here while you still can!

Event: Quest for Immortality – The World of Ancient Egypt
Ends April 4, 2010
Time: 10am – 6pm
Venue: National Museum of Singapore
Admission fee: S$15 for adults, free for students and Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents above the age of 60