The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in the heart of Toronto is celebrating its 100 year Centennial this year. What grand celebrations they are indeed. As a student here at UofT, we have the privilege of having some of our classes take place at that ROM. It is wonderful to be learning about ancient Egypt first-hand with genuine artifacts. Objects you normally only see in beautifully bound books can be viewed at with your very own eyes! Now, the ROM has Canada’s largest Egyptian collection by a mile and more, numbering nearly 30,000 objects. Its “Galleries of Africa: Egypt” contains artifacts from all periods and is also arranged thematically in parts.
Yet, what are some of my favourites on display in the Galleries? Here, I only list three:
1. Relief of Donkeys from the Tomb of Metjeti (Saqqara – 5th Dyn.)
Located within the Old Kingdom section of the Gallery, a relief from the tomb of the private official, Metjeti, shows several donkeys in quick succession, who are carrying sacks of grain. Even though the relief is carved in typical Egyptian fashion, the way the artist renders one donkey’s position different to his companions gives it a lively sentiment. Of course, Egyptians believed that whatever you depict on the walls of a tomb or temple is magically potent, that is, it can take on a life of its own. Agricultural scenes were very common in ancient Egypt and we have several fine examples from exactly this period. These donkeys here were carrying sacks of grain, an important aspect in the maintenance of daily life in the tomb owner’s afterlife.
2. Predynastic Stone Palettes
These marvellous examples are among my favourite objects from the Predynastic Period, a time when all aspects of Egyptian arts and culture were still developing. Originally, these palettes were used to grind pigment, such as malachite for make up. Over the centuries, they became more and more elaborate and eventually were used in larger palettes that were incised and inscribed with intricate scenes. Of course, they then were only used commemoratively. The display here shows you rhomboidal shapes and you can even make out one that looks like a turtle!
3. Cast of Reliefs from Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple (18th Dyn.)
Okay, this is only a plaster cast made in 1905 from the original scenes as they are from the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari Luxor’s West Bank. The scenes depict the grand expedition, which Hatshepsut mounted to the mythical land of Punt in the ninth year of her reign.
We can imagine a busy port that is bustling with activity. Baboons that were brought back from Punt hop and climb all over the boat. Fish are depicted in clear detail, swimming below the water. Then, another scene shows, what the landscape in Punt must have looked like. Huts stand on stilts with ladders leading onto the ground below. Birds flap their wings relaxedly from tree to tree.
Egyptologists, of course, have to this day yet to figure out, where exactly Punt is located. Several guesses have been put forth and the most likely location may be on the coast in Eritrea. Scenes of the huts above are a good example to show, what the kind of lifestyle and the vegetation must have been like. Also, the cast is very important as it is not subject to any severe climatic changes unlike its original in Luxor. It is a truly a treasure that is in the hands of the ROM.
The collection at the ROM is truly magnificent. It is a proud testament to why the museum is celebrating its Centennial. And here, there is to a 100 more!
All photos are © Royal Ontario Museum and were taken by Thomas H. Greiner.