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King Tut’s Cats


picture of Tut banner

Last week I told a little about our visit to the King Tut Exhibition in Atlanta, focusing mainly on the Atlanta part of the experience. I needed more time to gather my thoughts as to what to write about what we saw at the exhibition. Today I'm ready to share more about the exhibit itself, with a different focus yet. We were not permitted to take pictures in the exhibit, and so I had to do some searching to find some online that I could use in this post.

I enjoy learning about history, but I must admit that history classes or classes with a heavy emphasis on history were always among my least favorites in high school and college. I enjoyed learning about how life was, how people interacted, and about how historical events unfolded, but I simply could not get all the names and dates down and retain them for testing purposes. I guess my mind gravitated more to the social and cultural side of history.

That being said, you might imagine why I found the King Tut exhibition fascinating. To be sure, there were all kinds of names and dates for which I was thankful not to be held responsible - I even commented in front of a table of all the lineages how thankful I was not to be a professor of Egyptian history! But greater yet for me were the artifacts and the explanations of why those artifacts were there.

I was amazed to see how advanced they were, even hundreds of years B.C., although the use of B.C.E. ("Before the Common Era") was ubiquitous in the exhibit. They even had stone toilet seats! (Today's Chinese society could take some lessons from the ancient Egyptians!) Here is a picture of some of the artifacts found in King Tut's tomb:

picture of artifacts from King Tut's tomb

It was interesting to see simple things like stools, tables, and chests similar to what we might have today. The styles and ornamentation were different, of course, but still some of the basic forms and functions were the same as today's. In addition to common, everyday objects, though, we saw beautiful and intricate jewelry, like this pectoral with a scarab:

picture of pectoral with scarab

Many objects from King Tut's tomb are not allowed in displays outside of Egypt, like his mummy itself. Here's a picture of it:

picture of Tut mummy

picture of Tut coffinette

We saw an interesting object called the Canopic Coffinette of Tutankhamun. It's a miniature coffin (about 16 inches long) that was used to store Tut's liver. We saw the coffinette, but not the liver which undoubtedly had to stay in Egypt. A picture of the coffinette is on the right.

Those of you who know my wife Becka and me or who have been a reader for long know that we are cat people. (Ever wonder what the little =^..^= =^..^= is when I sign off my blog posts? It's to represent our two cats.) Something that we noticed in the Tut exhibit was how often we saw representations of members of the cat family, be it lions, panthers, or even house cats. Here's a picture of one of the chairs:

picture of Tut chair

If you look closely, you will see that the feet of the chair are feline feet, something common to many pieces of his furniture. Here's a picture of a bed where the cat motif is less subtle:

picture of Tut bed

Here's a picture of a statue of King Tut on the back of a panther:

picture of Tut on panther

picture of running black cat

From what I found online, Egyptians domesticated cats about 4,000 years ago. The first domesticated cats in Egypt were more than likely used for warding off snakes and chasing rodents. Egyptians treated cats very well, almost considering them as spiritual intermediaries. The Egyptian cat was considered a sacred animal, apparently having the run of the place. Actual mummies of cats were buried by the thousands in special cemeteries. Additionally mummified cats have been found in various Pharaohs' tombs. Here's a picture of some cat mummies:

picture of cat mummies

Ancient Egyptians used bronze statues of cats in their temples to communicate with the gods. Inscriptions surviving on some of these statues reveal the different types of requests made to the gods by the person dedicating the statue, such as a long life or good health.

In the exhibit there were many statues of sphinxes. According to Wikipedia, a sphinx is a zoomorphic mythological figure which is depicted as a recumbent lion with a human head, but occasionally as a lion with the head of a falcon, hawk, or ram. Here's a picture of a sphinx statue similar to the ones we saw at the Tut exhibit:

picture of sphinx statue

With their great love for morphs, the ancient Egyptians would just go crazy over what we can do today with images. Here are several pictures I received recently that are morphs of members of the feline family with other animals - puts a whole new twist on "what do you get when you cross an X with an X?"

a sphinx-like panther-ape

picture of morphed animals

a polar-tiger

picture of morphed animals

a kanga-lion

picture of morphed animals

a cat-squirrel

picture of morphed animals

That poor creature would have to be conflicted, knowing how much our cat Adelaide hates squirrels!

If you would like to learn more about the history of the finding of King Tut's tomb, here's a link to a site with lots of history and pictures - http://www.crystalinks.com/tutstomb.html

quotation...

"Don't put your eggs in the basket of temporal kingdoms." - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

Thousands of years ago, cats were worshiped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.


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10 Comments on “King Tut’s Cats”

  1. #1 Vikki
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    About 30 years ago, the Tut exhibit came to Chicago. My husband and I went and found it very interesting. The amount of gold and jewels was very impressive and so much of it connected with the Old Testament.

    I’m with you on history classes. The junior high and high schools I went to didn’t put too much relevance on history or government classes. The teachers were usually the football or basketball coach. Because the school had gym teachers, these coaches needed to also “teach” some classes to fulfill their employment contracts. Since teaching these classes didn’t require any skill in the subject, they were prefect for the job, even though they had no real interest in the subject. I remember my 9th grade government class. The teacher was a new, fresh out of college math teacher, but the school didn’t have enough open math classes for him to teach, so they stuck him with teaching government. I remember the first day of class when he announced, “I hate government and I know nothing about government. So, we’re all going to have to learn together.” Needless to say, I came out of that class at the end of the year and couldn’t tell you one thing I learned. The only thing good about the class was that my husband and I met there and still love to tell some of the stories of things that went on in there because the class was such a joke. He liked to have us read the chapter during class while he sat at his desk reading Peanut’s comic books. He would get so engrossed in them that he had no idea what was going on in the class. Several times people would walk up behind him, read some of his book over his shoulder, take the chalk eraser and fill it full of chalk and than whip it across the room at someone. This could go on for several minutes before he would look up and ask, “Did someone throw something?” He never seemed to notice the chalk dust blotches on the walls or on the people, so we would simply say that nothing was thrown and he would go back to reading.

    All that to say I always hated history class, as did everyone else in the school. The classes consisted of reading the chapter at home and answering the questions at the end of the chapter, reading through the chapter again in class and then memorize all the names and exact dates for the test. It wasn’t until adulthood that I discovered that history could be interesting if it was made to come alive as a series of stories and events.

    Love the squirrelly-cat!! That picture is amazing!!!! However, the panther-ape is a little on the scary side.

  2. #2 Terry E.
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    “From what I found online, Egyptians domesticated cats about 4,000 years ago. The first domesticated cats in Egypt were more than likely used for warding off snakes and chasing rodents.”

    I suspect that cats were domesticated at least as long ago as the Flood, if not beforehand. Noah’s family likely used them for the same purposes as the Egyptians. We just don’t have any historical records of such domestication or reverence for cats before that time.

  3. #3 Michael
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Must be open season on bad history teachers. I do agree that the teacher makes all the difference in how students respond to history. Although, I think that the teacher makes a big difference in pretty much any subject. Too many Christian schools especially treat social studies classes as an after thought. It’s something that can be taught by the coach or the pastor. Passion makes all the difference. If I’m passionate about history, the students very likely will be as well. Stephen Ambrose once said, “You don’t hate history. You hate the way it was taught to you in high school.” Thankfully, I had wonderful history teachers in junior high, high school, and college. Without their influence I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. Ambrose’s quote is motivational for me.

    Interesting stuff about the King Tut exhibit. I know the British Museum in London has some good exhibits on ancient Egypt.

    Rob, I trust King Tut’s Curse had no effect on you.

  4. #4 Carrie
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Wow! So fascinating. I wonder what kind of tools they had to fashion those intricate objects! I agree that the panther-ape is scarily weird!

  5. #5 Rob
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    @Vikki – what you described about your junior and senior high history classes matches what I experienced – coaches who knew how to thread projectors (long before video cassettes and DVD’s). I did have good history teachers in college, but any love I could have had for all things historical had long since been snuffed out during high school. It took me a while after college to rekindle an interest in history, and now I really like it. Just don’t ask me to keep a string of Louis’s, Friedrich Wilhelm’s, etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum straight, though! :-)

    @Terry – you may well be right concerning the domestication of cats in Noah’s day. I read somewhere that cats are the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible, so it’s impossible to know at this time. What I read about Egypt was that they had lots of feral cats running wild, but some were domesticated about 4,000 years ago. I didn’t see any claims that Egyptians were the first to domesticate cats, so I tried to word that very carefully in my post.

    @Michael – I would have loved to have you as a history teacher in high school. As I told Vikki in my reply to her comment, ours weren’t that great. You’re right that passion makes all the difference. My students know that I love what I’m teaching, and it is contagious. As far as King Tut’s curse is concerned, I have nothing to indicate that that’s the reason for what could be called a bad day…. :-D

  6. #6 Rob
    on Jan 15th, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    @Carrie – It really is fascinating. I couldn’t find a picture of one of the necklaces we saw, but the metal work was incredibly intricate and beautiful. And I agree about the panther-ape is scary. That was the function of the sphinxes – to scare off evil – so the panther-ape that is vaguely reminiscent of a sphinx is properly scary.

  7. #7 Amanda
    on Jan 16th, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    My senior year of high school I was able to see the King Tut exhibit with my Grandmother, my sister and a cousin of mine while it was in Philedelphia. However, the t-shirt I bought as a souvenier says Chicago on it…they had a sale on old t-shirts so I bought one of those instead! ^_^

  8. #8 Jae
    on Jan 16th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Rob, we visited the same Tut exhibit in Chicago and I too was impressed by how advanced they seemed to be for back then.

    Another place we have discovered in Chicago that is a great museum is the Oriental Insitute at the University of Chicago. It has some very impressive historical pieces. You can check it out on line http://www.oi.uchicago.edu/museum and should visit it if you’re ever in the Chicago area. Just be careful of how you get there some of the areas around the UoC are not safe.

  9. #9 Rob
    on Jan 16th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    @Amanda – I don’t blame you for wanting to save money, but I hasten to say, “Tut, tut!” Maybe you could send your t-shirt to Jae, the person who commented right after you. :-)

    @Jae – I have visited Chicago only once, and that was very brief, but I really would like to go there and explore sometime. I’ll have to explore the website you gave the link to. Thanks!

  10. #10 Sherry
    on Mar 1st, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    i also enjoyed 100% the king tut exibit in atlanta. yes, a cat person myself enjoyed the many “cat things” i particularly loved the burial box for king tut’s cat. can anyone tell me his cat’s name? the closest i can come is “keissie”. i know it was something like that. i know someone in blogworld know it…..


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