Object 1: The Mummy of Hornedjitef

May 27, 2021

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The prompt I have selected is, “How is current knowledge shaped by its historical development?” This exhibition explores this prompt by analysing religious, linguistic, anthropological and technological knowledge. This encourages reflection on the extent to which our current knowledge has been shaped throughout history.

Hornedjitef was a priest in Egypt 2,250 years ago. Like all Egyptians, he believed that if his body was preserved, he would live beyond death. It was said that before reaching the afterlife, one’s soul would have to undergo a perilous journey; his sarcophagus was designed for this purpose. This gives us insight into Ancient Egypt’s religion, which was a system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals that formed an integral part of their culture. Nonetheless, their religion has changed through time. 2Currently, the main religious group in Egypt is Islam with 85% identifying as Muslim.

A map of the heavens was featured in his coffin as an aid of navigation. The meticulous preparation of his sarcophagus has allowed us to understand Ancient Egyptian life and beliefs. Within his coffin, the hieroglyphic inscriptions tell us who he was, and offer some insight into his religious background, his place in society, and what they believed about the afterlife. Most of the writing on the coffin was incomprehensible in the 1820s, but with our current grasp of hieroglyphic script, deciphering it has become possible. Hieroglyphics were the foundation for the Latin alphabet, as the majority of letters are derived from them. Thus, our current understanding of linguistics has been shaped by the historical development of hieroglyphics.

This object further contributes to this exhibition as it allows us to understand the nature of religious knowledge in Ancient Egypt. The mummy reflects the advancement in religious knowledge, which developed from polytheism into monotheism. This reinforces the fact that, in the history of religion, a general shift from one religion to another tends to happen. This was the case in Egypt, and this object serves as evidence of their polytheistic practices. Hence, this sarcophagus demonstrates how historical development has shaped the religious knowledge of our time.

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