Advent: December 18th

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This is a badly taken photograph again from my trip to the British Museum but it interests me because it combines both textiles and ceramics but not in a conventional form.

These beaded nets are in the so-called Mummy Room. Because I was walking around without a map I came upon the popular Egyptian exhibits without realising it until I was in the midst of the mummies. Part of me was almost shocked by the suddenness and trying to process the fact they were “real” bodies. Because they are a draw for visitors the room was quite full of people and I think that’s what unnerved me the most. There is something disconcerting to the point of being distasteful to see grinning tourists taking “selfies” with the embalmed bodies of people from a different millennia, culture and place.

I refrained from taking many photos in here, confining myself to inanimate objects and animals. They may “just” be the earthly remnants of people long gone but the impact of what embalming a body meant to the Ancient Egyptians was apparently totally lost on these unthinking visitors. Their whole belief structure centered around the Afterlife – the gods, their judgement and the need to preserve their human remains so the deceased could live happily in the Afterlife. The higher status the person, the more elaborate the burial and mummification process could be.

The mummies in the British Museum may not be pharaohs but nevertheless, they were people of rank and importance and presumably accorded great dignity both in their lifetimes and after their death. Whilst several thousand years has diluted the impact, I still feel that all human remains should be treated with a measure of respect and I felt uncomfortable with some of the behaviour I saw in this part of the museum.

Beaded nets placed on the mummy were part of high status burials from around three millennia ago. The notes next to this exhibit suggest that deitiesΒ were often depicted wearing bead net garments and to place one on the mummy was to more closely ally the dead person with a god.

The large net with the collar is constructed of blue Egyptian faience beads which is a silica ceramic – a forerunner of both glass and other glazed ceramics – so neither glass nor pottery. I like that this article signifies so many things; both human and divine, creative and scientific, aesthetic and devout.

And as a craftsperson it most strongly resonated that it was something so painstakingly crafted in this life so as to be fit to be buried for eternity.

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