When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally.
BY DAWN JOHNSON, Associate Director, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan.
Favorite Artifact: Hawk mummy. Ptolemaic period (332 BC–AD 100). Egypt (Bayview Collection). KM 1971.2.182
Why. “I saw this hawk mummy on my first tour of the museum’s collections in storage. A different hawk mummy is on display in our permanent collections that I also like. But I’m a very visual person, so this hawk mummy’s distinctive beak profile and vigilant turn of head formed a beautiful line that caught my eye immediately. The linen bandages seem to wrap around its head like a cloak.
The hawk’s intelligence and keen visual ability equip it to be a kind of ‘avian foodie!’ As a ‘foodie’ myself, I admire its skillful and intelligent approach to hunting at night for exactly the perfect meal, not settling for just any sustenance. Really, I think of them as the sophisticated diners of the avian world.”
Although currently not on public exhibit, this hawk mummy last appeared in the Kelsey’s Conserving Antiquity special exhibition from November 2, 2012 to February 10, 2013. A picture of it appears in the Kelsey publication Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt: The Djehutymose Coffin in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology by T. G. Wilfong (figure 12).
Background. One distinctive feature of Egyptian religion is the association of gods with animals. Temples often featured animal cults, in which an animal was revered as a symbol of a particular god. Animal cult centers, such as the temples of crocodile gods at Karanis and Soknopaiou Nesos, became pilgrimage and tourist destinations, with cemeteries where cult animals would be mummified and buried as offerings. Greek and Roman visitors were baffled by what they saw as animal worship in Egypt but failed to understand the complex relationship between god and animal in Egyptian thought. Animal cults had roots in Egyptian prehistory and survived well after the introduction of Christianity into Egypt; the last known animal cult in Egypt was active up to AD 340, and others may have persisted longer.
Find It. Currently, this particular hawk mummy is not on public exhibit. Scholars may inquire for more information from Museum Collections Coordinator Sebastián Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, another hawk mummy is on exhibit on the first floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing. To find it, look for the statue of the seated priest near the stairway to the second floor. From there, go left one exhibit case. Then turn right to face the case. It’s in the lower third of the exhibit.
Learn More. Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt: The Djehutymose Coffin in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, by T. G. Wilfong.