Monday,19 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1400, (5 - 11 July 2018)
Monday,19 November, 2018
Issue 1400, (5 - 11 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The Pharaohs in Monaco

The gold of the Pharaohs will be shining on the Mediterranean Côte d’Azur this summer, writes Nevine El-Aref 

The Pharaohs in Monaco

“The gold in your land is like the dust. I have begun a new palace: send me as much gold as is required for its decoration and for what is needed. If it is your intention that a sincere friendship should exist, send much gold and you will receive whatever you need,” wrote the Assyrian king Ashur-Uballit to the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III in a document called the Amarna letter.


The Pharaohs in Monaco

Gold was highly prized among the Ancient Egyptians and used to play a key role as it was seen as signifying eternity. It was a symbol of the dazzling light of the sun deity Re and a sign of the gods as it was believed that their skin was made of gold and their bones were composed of silver. As the Pharaohs themselves were also considered to be divine, gold was used for royal coffins and funerary equipment to help preserve their mortal remains for eternity.

Gold was also an important material in social, economic and diplomatic relations. It lay at the core of international trade, and it was used as a reward to courtiers and military leaders, as well as a vital diplomatic tool for Egypt’s allies and vassal monarchs to keep them happy and helping to fight to maintain the country’s borders.


The Pharaohs in Monaco

In order to highlight such notions and explore the creativity of the Ancient Egyptian goldsmiths who worked so skilfully on this shining metal, combining it with silver and other precious and semi-precious stones to produce masterpieces of art, an exhibition, “The Golden Treasures of the Pharaohs”, is lighting up the Mediterranean city-state of Monaco this summer. 

Under the auspices of the Monegasque government, the Municipality of Monaco and the Compagnie Monégasque de Banque, the Grimaldi Forum Museum will play host to this wonderful exhibition, being put on 10 years after another entitled “Queens of Ancient Egypt” which gathered together a collection of 250 artefacts revealing different facets of these queens. Many of them were mothers, wives and daughters who epitomised the grandeur of their people, playing a predominant role in religion and social and political life and inspiring the artists of their times.


The Pharaohs in Monaco

“The Golden Treasures of the Pharaohs,” said Elham Salah Head of the Museums Sector, is scheduled to be inaugurated by Monaco’s head of state Prince Albert II and Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany along with top officials from both countries. It will last for two months and will bring together a collection of 150 masterpieces carefully selected from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square that show a series of prestigious ensembles discovered in the royal tombs. These feature jewellery, vases, pendants, bracelets, belts, necklaces, golden mirrors, sarcophagi, gilded furniture and funerary masks from the First Dynasty right through to the New Kingdom.


The Pharaohs in Monaco

Among the objects on display are the winged scarab bracelet and the golden funerary mask of the 11th-Dynasty king Pseusenne I, the butterfly silhouette silver bangle of queen Hetepheres, mother of king Khufu, and the gold jewellery of king Sekhemkhet, uncovered inside his pyramid at Saqqara. There is also the funerary collection of queen Ahhotep, mother of king Ahmose, discovered in the Draa Abul-Naga Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor.

However, the most important artefacts on show are those of Yuya and Tuya, the grandparents of the monotheistic king Akhenaten, found in the Valley of the Kings, and artefacts from the Tanis Treasure discovered in 1939 by French Egyptologist Pierre Montet in Tanis in the Delta.


The Pharaohs in Monaco

In a press conference held early in June, Director of the Grimaldi Forum Sylvie Biancheri said it had been working on the preparation of the exhibition for more than two years in close cooperation with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities to host artefacts that will be put on show for the first time in Europe. 

El-Enany told Al-Ahram Weekly that the exhibition included several artefacts, among them the Yuya and Tuya funerary collection and the Tanis Treasure, which will make up the core display of the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and replace the Tutankhamun collection that will be transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum overlooking the Giza Plateau. 


The Pharaohs in Monaco

“We approved the travelling of these objects in order to explain to the world that the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square will not be dead, as some have said, after the transfer of the boy-king’s treasure,” El-Enany said. He added that the museum’s 116th anniversary in 2018 will be the occasion of its rebirth and second inauguration with a new display of its collection and the development of its halls.

El-Enany described the Monaco exhibition as one of the best ways to promote Egypt as a unique cultural and tourist destination. He said American visitors were fascinated by the Tutankhamun collection now on display in Los Angeles, and added that the Monaco exhibition would attract not only the Monegasque but also visitors from Nice and Cannes in France as well as from Italy.

French Egyptologist and curator of the exhibition Christiane Ziegler said it would take visitors way beyond the emotions its collection elicits by focusing on the bonds which connected the Ancient Egyptians to gold.

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