COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibition


Video: Installation Walkthrough by COSI
May 12, 2009, 4:19 pm
Filed under: Exhibit Installation | Tags:

Join Josh as he walks you through the ongoing installation of the Lost Egypt exhibition at COSI:

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Meeting Annie by COSI
May 5, 2009, 10:27 am
Filed under: Mummy Restoration | Tags: , ,

Author: Kate

Our conservator, Mimi Leveque, and I met at the Academy of Natural Sciences on Monday to finish conservation of the mummy for Lost Egypt, nicknamed “Annie.” The Academy staff was very helpful, and set us up behind their traveling exhibit gallery – turn right at the hadrosaur, you can’t miss it.

Mummy on table

Mummy on table

This was the first time I’ve been face to face with our mummy. I’m struck right away by how tiny she is. I knew she was four feet 11 inches, but that didn’t convey how delicate her bones were. Her shoulders are thin, like a child’s, even though she’s estimated to be 16-18 years old. Her bandages are torn in places – she is, after all, about 2,300 years old. Her mask is off at the moment, so I can see her bandaged face, covered in layers of carefully wound linen wrappings. She is incredible.

It was amazing just to sit near her, aware that this was a person who breathed and walked and laughed and died in ancient Egypt, long before I existed. She smells sweet, either from the embalming oils or perhaps the smell of the linen. It’s a rich sweetness, like something you’d find in your grandmother’s attic that speaks of a different time.

Academy team moving coffin

Academy team moving coffin

The Academy team got Annie’s coffin and lid from the display case where they have been exhibited, and brought them to us for a final cleaning before we pack them up for the show. Moving objects as large as a coffin is challenging under the best of circumstances, and here you can see the Academy team having to carefully negotiate past another mummy and coffin also in the case. Just after they got it onto the transport (an old hospital gurney), school children started arriving at the museum. They kept peering around the temporary walls, excited to see the coffin out of its case, and perhaps thinking that the mummy had come to life at last.

The Academy is a magical place, very “Night at the Museum.” It’s easy to imagine the animals and dinosaur bones and statues and mummies all coming to life when the last visitor leaves for the evening. Great museum – very cool objects everywhere – even a cannon from a shipwreck. I wish I had more time to explore!

Cartonnage boot

Cartonnage boot

Mimi has the difficult job of conserving the cartonnage “boot” that goes over Annie’s feet. While a large portion of it is still intact, the toes are gone, broken into pieces smaller than a fingernail. Mimi gets to put the puzzle back again, reconstructing the top of the foot from paper, paint, and other materials. It’s very beautiful – with intricate patterns and pictures painted all over it. There is a tiny checkerboard pattern on the bottom of the foot, and a white pattern that represents a sandal strap runs across the top. The colors are extraordinary – deep red-brown, black and white, an intense dark green. I wonder how long it took artists to paint Annie’s mask, chest plate, and boot. They are in traditional patterns, yet they were clearly made specifically for her.

Mimi is able to match the colors and feel of the paint on the cartonnage. It is similar to a gouche paint, although she uses acrylics as the modern equivalent for the conservation work. She is both an artist and a scientist, understanding the techniques and chemistry that went into creating the colors, yet with the sensitive eye of an artist, who gently re-creates what has been lost. Watching her work, I am in awe at her patience. She says conservation is “creating order out of chaos.” It is like watching someone do the world’s most difficult jigsaw puzzle, with no clue where the pieces go.

Kate working on mummy

Kate working on mummy

Kate working on mummy

Kate working on mummy

Mimi, Jonathan and team did an incredible job with the conservation efforts – the coffin, lid and mummy look so beautiful. Cracks have been filled in, coverings readjusted. Mimi put me to work on the binding strips. Annie is wrapped in bandages, then covered with a cartonnage plate that goes from her chest to her ankles. Over both of those are thin strips of linen that wrapped her tight. Those have worn out and gotten torn off over time. It’s my job to take new linen, tear it into strips the same size as those on Annie (about 1 1/4 inches), and carefully sew them in, rebinding her back together. Is the place I am standing now in relation to the mummy the same place a priest stood to tear the bandages for Annie when she was embalmed?

The old linen reminds me of the color of the Egyptian rocks – gold-brown. It’s so beautiful up close – the carefully woven linen is made up of such tiny rows. I doubt we make anything so delicate and fine today. It must have taken so long to create. Mimi showed me how to attach the strips with tiny stitches, overlapping the old and new for reinforcement. My mother taught me to sew when I was a kid, and I practiced on old pieces of linen, my hands making wobbly, inconsistent lines as I tried to master a row of stitches like my mother’s perfectly even ones. What would she have thought, had she known that the skill she so patiently taught me would eventually be used to sew a mummy’s bandages?

Mummy

Mummy

I’m happy to be here, grateful to have this experience. It’s good to see Annie being conserved, returning more to the way she was earlier in history. At the end of this first day, we surveyed our progress, and Mimi said “It’s like we’re giving her back her afterlife.”

To see a few more photos from Kate’s visit, check out this set of photos on COSI’s Flickr account.



Sarah and the Satellites by COSI
April 30, 2009, 1:11 pm
Filed under: From the Field | Tags: , , , ,

Author: Kate

Here’s a slide show that goes through the process used by our project advisor Sarah Parcak, to find archaeological sites in ancient Egypt. We’ll talk about this process in Lost Egypt as well. You can hear Sarah talk about how she uses satellites to find archaeological sites, check out a ground-penetrating radar unit, and try your hand at some remote sensing!

Josh and I are excited that we’re going to get to see Sarah again, when she’s here for the opening of Lost Egypt, in just a few weeks!

Cairo Satellite Image

Cairo Satellite Image

This is a satellite image of modern Cairo. The city appears as a large gray-brown area near the center of the image. The bright green areas are farms along the Nile River. All the lighter areas are the harsh Sahara Desert. This really gives you an idea of how much the ancient Egyptians must have depended on the Nile River, with nothing but the desert surrounding them. The image was taken by NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite, which has been instrumental in tracking land use and changes. On July 23rd, the Landsat program will have been recording satellite images of our planet for 37 years. How much has the city where you live changed in 37 years?



Digital Karnak by COSI
April 28, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: From the Field | Tags: , , ,

Author: Josh

Just heard about a very cool tool that’s been developed by UCLA’s Experiential Technologies Center (ETC) in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design: Digital Karnak.

We had the opportunity to visit Karnak when we were in Egypt, and it is amazing. Forgive me if I sound like a guide book, but the Great Hypostyle Hall is absolutely breathtaking: 12 seven-story columns and 122 four-story columns. Walking through the hall, it felt like it went on forever. We got some wonderful pictures of our guide’s niece and nephew inside the hall, some of my favorites from the trip.

Karnak

Karnak

But the part of Karnak that’s open to the public is only a portion of the entire temple complex. Digital Karnak walks visitors through a stage-by-stage recreation of the entire temple complex, from the original two acre temple to the final 69 acre temple complex. The additions to Karnak took place over a period of almost 2,000 years during the reigns of such pharaohs as Hatshepsut, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ramesses II. Digital Karnak helps to give a better picture of how those changes affected the layout and function of the site, and its creators hope it will be an incredibly useful tool for Egyptologists.

Plus, it’s just a very cool site. Be sure to check out the virtual flythroughs!

Karnak

Karnak



Anubis and the Hounds of Giza by COSI

Author: Kate

AERA Dog Mummies

AERA Dog Mummies

The osteology team at the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders came across a Late Period (747-525 BC) burial with five well-preserved canines, better preserved than many of the Late Period human burials. Brian Hunt of the AERA team says on their blog “These dogs were possibly buried in the Late Period cemetery as votives to the god Anubis. Like most ancient funerary material, they were a device to ensure the everlasting peace of the dead.” To see more pictures and find out more about this story, read the AERA blog.

Anubis #1

Anubis #1

Anubis #2

Anubis #2

Dr. Salima Ikram

Dr. Salima Ikram

The relationship between humans and canines goes back a long time, and in ancient Egypt, the god Anubis is seen with a jackal’s head. Our project advisor Dr. Salima Ikram says “Dogs are associated with Anubis. Anubis is one of my favorite gods. He’s the god of embalming, of mummification. Anubis is sort of a super-canid, so he’s a mixture of a dog, a fox, a wolf, and a jackal. One of the reasons they chose him is because if you go to a cemetery, what kind of animals do you see most? You see jackals. So, this is a way to keep you safe against the jackals. Anubis took the dead—he led their spirits–from the world of the living to the world of the dead. So he’s known as the “opener of the ways.” And of course dogs (and other canids) know their way through the desert paths, for hunting and tracking.”

AERA Dogs #1

AERA Dogs #1

AERA Dogs #2

AERA Dogs #2



How to Make a Camel by COSI

Author: Kate

Our exhibit fabricator for Lost Egypt was the Science Museum of Minnesota. The camel was subcontracted out to Blue Rhino Studio, who create amazing animal and architectural models.

The first step was to research what camels look like. While in Egypt, COSI photographer Brad Feinknopf paid a guard to let us photograph his guard camel while it was lying down, from all angles.

Camel Research #1

Camel Research #1

Camel Research #2

Camel Research #2

These photos and other research provided Blue Rhino Studio with front, side and back views of a camel, which they scaled to an average camel height, width and length based upon project advisor Jonathan Elias’ recollections and other photo research. From there, artist Jim Burt at Blue Rhino amalgamated the information, started sculpting and gave Sarah the Camel her personality.

Jim Burt was the main artist and had 2 to 3 people helping him. 2’ x 4’ x 8’ urethane foam blocks were glued and then carved and sanded to get the basic shape.

Sculpting #1

Sculpting #1

Sculpting #2

Sculpting #2

Sculpting #3

Sculpting #3

Sculpting #4

Sculpting #4

This was then covered with water-based fiberglass cloth similar to a paper mache’ process.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass

Then a water-based epoxy was applied over the fiberglass. The hair and detailing were added in the epoxy layer while it was in a soft putty state. The epoxy was then color-stained with base pigment colors and acrylic paint highlights were added after that.

Fiberglass and Paint

Fiberglass and Paint

The project from start to finish was estimated at 12 weeks, including the photo research, back-and-forth discussion, sculpting, modeling, painting, etc. The discussions were about things such as the camel’s size; whether it should be made of soft or hard material (in order to last the 6+ years that Lost Egypt will be touring, the camel needed to be sturdy); the angle of the head in order to make it more appealing and photogenic; the color of the fur; how to give the impression of those long eyelashes that camels have; and whether we could add an interactive feature to make the camel spit or grunt (unfortunately, the budget didn’t allow this!).

Face

Face

Body

Body

The neck and tail were reinforced with metal tubing and fiberglassed into the foam substructure. This made Sarah the Camel very durable.

The camels ears are bent metal covered with epoxy. The teeth are epoxy. The stirrups are metal – painted to look like leather straps and act as a step up to the camel.

Ears

Ears

Ears Finished

Ears Finished

Teeth

Teeth

The saddle is modeled upon photo research of camel saddles, with wood and metal frame construction. We added foam padding for comfort, a real middle eastern blanket and an underblanket replicated from pictures.

Blue Rhino Guys on Camel

Blue Rhino Guys on Camel

The materials used are all high quality and fire-rated, giving us a unique and sturdy ambassador for the Lost Egypt exhibit.

Finished Camel

Finished Camel

Blue Rhino on Camel

Blue Rhino on Camel

Camel at ASTC

Camel at ASTC



A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words by COSI
March 20, 2009, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Construction News | Tags: , , ,

Author: Josh

We just received some pictures of the artifacts that are going to be featured in the exhibit, and they look gorgeous! A big thanks to the Brooklyn Museum, both for loaning us the artifacts for Lost Egypt and for the beautiful pictures.

One of the aspects of this show that I’m most excited about is how these artifacts are being used as a part of the show. For example, be sure to check out the image of the stele. At our hieroglyphics station guests will have the opportunity to both translate a portion of the text and to hear what it may have sounded like in ancient Egyptian. We’ll also have x-rays of some animal mummies and CT scans that encourage guests to search for amulets such as those included in the show. It’s a really unique way for guests to interact with these objects as both pieces of art and scientific tools. Plus, I just think it’s really cool.