The Egyptian mummies
The museum's collection of antiquities includes Norway's oldest and largest collection of Egyptian artefacts.
Photo: The Museum of Cultural History , UiO / Lill-Ann Chepstow-Lusty and Ellen Holte
From different eras
Four mummy cases form a permanent exhibition in a dimly lit gallery reminiscent of an Egyptian burial chamber. The collection represent different historical eras, from the beginning of the 11th century BC to the 3rd century BC. The exhibition offers an insight into the ancient Egyptian burial practices, and their desire for eternal life in the realm of the dead.
Mummification was introduced in the early 4th millennium BC, when the first Pharaoh united Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom. The tradition was gradually abandoned when Egypt was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 30 BC.
In the Egyptian religion, death marked the beginning of a new, eternal life. The wealthy were buried along with their personal belongings, and their body was mummified. The priests carried out the mummification. First, the body was washed. Internal organs were removed to be mummified separately. The deceased was then covered in a natural salt (natron) for 40 days until dry. Priests wrapped the body in many layers of linen, held together with resin. Finally, the mummy was sealed with natural asphalt (bitumen).
How did the objects get here?
The Egyptian objects in the Museum of Cultural History arrived as donations. Most came during the 19th century, when European museums built large Egyptian collections. The last Egyptian artefact arrived in 1962.
The mummy Dismutenibtes came from Thebes. It was acquired by the Armenian Giovanni Anastasi, who was the consul general of Norway-Sweden in Alexandria. The mummy was donated to the Royal Frederick University (now the University of Oslo) in 1838.
The mummy we call "Nofret" came from Akhmin. In 1889, it was presented to King Oscar II by German Egyptologist Heinrich Karl Brugsch. The king gave the mummy to the University’s ethnographic collection.
The Museum's largest single collection from Egypt originates from a huge cache discovered in Deir el-Bahri in 1891. Over 150 priestly mummies had been hidden in ancient times. When they were discovered, it was impossible for the museum in Cairo to take care of such a large find. The artefacts were therefore distributed among several European countries, as gifts from Khediv Abbas II of Egypt. That is how two yellow sarcophagi from the 21st dynasty of Egypt came to be in Norway.
Today, the Museum of Cultural History does not actively acquire antiquities. The 1970 UNESCO Convention regulates the trade of cultural heritage. Norway ratified the convention in 2007, and Norwegian legislation complies with its recommendations.