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Journey along the Nile
Explore ancient Egypt as a family!
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday
You are standing in one of the largest ancient Egyptian art collections in the world. This is the perfect opportunity to see what life was like under the Pharaohs! Above all, the ancient Egyptians believed in many divinities who were present in everyday life, represented in human or animal form. Because the ancient Egyptians believed they would enter the kingdom of the gods and goddesses after death, they filled their tombs with familiar objects to be able to use them in the afterlife. That is how things like furniture, games and jewellery from ancient Egypt have been perfectly preserved to this day. But we must not forget that these objects speak about the everyday lives of the wealthiest Egyptians. Most people could not afford to be mummified or buy a sarcophagus or tomb filled with precious objects and decorated with scenes of earthly life…
Start of trail
Enter through the Sully wing, show your ticket and continue straight ahead.
Go between the two staircases.
Restrooms are available to the left.
At the end of the passageway, head to your left to the Medieval Louvre.
Keep going until you get to the Great Sphinx made of pink granite at the entry to Egyptian Antiquities.
Under the protection of the Great Sphinx
Room 348 - Sully wing - Level -1
Take the stairs to the left.
At the top of the stairs, go straight on to the first room (336).
The next stop is the long display case in the centre of the room with small models of boats.
Great Sphinx of Tanis
Imagine you are an Egyptian living in the city of Tanis about four thousand years ago. You would have seen this enormous sphinx at the temple dedicated to the god Amun-Ra. The sphinx has the body of a lion, representing the god Horus, and a human’s head, that of the king. The sphinx shows that Pharaoh got his power from the gods, especially the Sun god Ra, creator of the universe, and therefore is his ‘son’. His huge paws and crouching body signal that the sphinx is ready to defend and protect. The statue was placed at the entrance to sacred places to prevent evil spirits from harming the gods.
Work in an Egyptian temple
If you lived in Tanis in the year 2600 BC, you may have worked at the temple of Amun-Ra. The most important religious sites were like cities, thousands of people worked there: priests, of course, but also peasants, butchers, florists, bakers, cooks, craftsmen, scribes and people who looked after the property of the temple.
The Nile, source of life
Room 336 - Sully wing - Level 0
Go through the door to the right of the display case opposite the windows.
Model of a boat, about 2000 BC
As an Egyptian, you would have adored not only a whole host of divinities, but also the river Nile, which brought life. Ancient maps clearly show that everyone wanted to live near the great river, in cities built on its banks. Thanks to annual flooding which fertilised fields with its silt, the Nile, running through the country from north to south, was a vital resource for Egypt. Boats have always been a part of everyday life in Egypt. Some were made of papyrus for fishing and hunting, while others, bigger and sturdier, were made of wood for transport and travel. At a time when roads were rare and hazardous, and no bridges linked the banks of the Nile, most people and goods got around on the river.
Images of it everywhere!
Artists and artisans never tired of representing the Nile through drawings, paintings or engravings on the walls of tombs and on objects, jewellery, etc. Thanks to those images, we see that the Nile was buzzing with all sorts of activity, not just fishing. We can also marvel at all the animals it was home to: fish but also other weird and wonderful creatures…
Work the land or keep track of grain
Room 333 - Sully wing - Level 0
Go on to the next room to your left.
Get up close to the display case with the scribe sitting cross-legged.
Paintings from the tomb of Wensu
If you had lived in ancient Egypt, you probably would have been a farmer, like most people. Farming was important in ancient Egypt thanks to - you guessed it! - the Nile, whose floodwaters irrigated the soil and made it the most fertile ground on earth. But if you were one of the rare people who could read and write, you might have been a scribe, like Wensu, who took inventories of the grain supply. His job was to keep track of grain for the temple of Amun in Thebes at a time when money had not yet been invented and people traded one type of good for another. The job of a scribe was therefore very important, and when he died, Wensu was laid to rest in a chapel decorated with scenes of his earthly life. Thanks to this tradition, we have a front-row view of the life of an ancient Egyptian family that lived more than three thousand years ago.
A biography in comic strips
The scenes painted on the walls of Wensu’s tomb tell the story of his life. The grain accountant supervised the harvest and transport of grain supplies by boat on the Nile. We can even read the conversations that went on between men and women working in the fields.
A prestigious profession
Room 335 - Sully wing - Level 0
Go on to the next room.
Turn right and go into the room with furniture.
Scribe sitting cross-legged
A scribe’s job was to record things in hieroglyphic writing on different documents, especially papyrus. Because scribes knew how to read and write, their job was very important and people had great respect for them. Preparing papyrus scrolls required skill, and two pigments were usually used: black, made from charcoal, for text and red ochre, made from iron oxides, for chapter headings. The scribe dipped his calamus, a very sharp reed pen, into a small well filled with water to create instant ink. Calami and a supply of ink cakes were stored in wooden or more fancy ivory boxes. Once his work was done, the scribe affixed his seal to the document.
Baboons, protectors of scribes
Scribes are often shown with a wooden box next to them containing the tools of their trade, but also sometimes a baboon. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be, because for the ancient Egyptians, the baboon was the animal form of Thoth, the god of knowledge and wisdom. It was he who brought writing to men. It was great to be an accountant scribe in the service of a temple, like Wensu, but even better to be a royal scribe, in direct contact with the Pharaoh, and therefore at the heart of state affairs!
Both beautiful and useful
Room 331 - Sully wing - Level 0
Go on to the next room.
On your left, take a look at the display cases with jewellery and accessories.
Chair, about 1550–1186 BC, painted and inlaid wood
In the West, people did not have chairs to sit on until the 15th century. The Egyptians, on the other hand, invented this piece of furniture more than three thousand years ago. And it’s easy to imagine some of their chairs in our modern homes! In wealthy households, everyday objects could be very refined, combining both the beautiful and the useful, as in every society. While the leather seat on this chair is a modern restoration, and the blue paint on the legs may not be entirely original, the cabinetry is 100% that of an ancient Egyptian craftsman. He used different types of wood in a range of tones and ivory inlay to create a checkerboard pattern and waterlilies on the back, and carved majestic lion paws for the feet.
Furniture for the afterlife
Because the ancient Egyptians furnished their tombs, we know what the furniture in their homes looked like. The lion paw feet of some pieces protected them on the dangerous journey in the afterlife. Head rests were placed under a mummy’s head to prevent it from getting chopped off in the land of the dead!
An ancient Egyptian beauty salon
Room 330 - Sully wing - Level 0
Go on to the next room.
Pass by the display case with musical instruments.
Stop before the display case to the right near the window with board games.
Necklace decorated with fish, gold, L. 49 cm
If you had been a rich woman in ancient Egypt, you would have taken great care of your appearance, applying ointments to your body and hair and wearing makeup and jewellery. And if you had been a rich ancient Egyptian man, it would have been no different! Makeup was used not only to enhance beauty, it also offered protection from the sun, and kohl applied on the eyelids was believed to ward off disease. There is much evidence that men as well as women took care of their appearance in ancient Egypt. Wigs, sometimes monumental, for instance, played a very important role in dress. Combs, razors, hair pins, pots for mixing mineral pigments used in makeup have been found in tombs, along with mirrors for checking out the final result! Very fine jewellery has also been found: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc. And amulets, little good-luck charms that were worn to heal disease or protect against evil spells.
Jewellery in ancient Egypt was more than just decoration for the body. Precious materials – gold, silver, lapis-lazuli, etc. – indicated a person’s social rank. Jewellery also had strong symbolic meaning related to sacred animals or the gods. This necklace features a lotus flower blossoming at dawn, recalling the rising of the sun. The fish also has special meaning, since this type, a tilapia, hatches the eggs of its young in its mouth… a spectacular way to give birth!
Board games, a favourite pastime
Room 329 - Sully wing - Level 0
Continue to the next room and pass by the sphinx in the middle.
Restrooms are located to the left of the Great Sphinx.
Pass through the narrow corridor lined with sphinxes.
Turn right and enter a large room.
Yuyu is waiting for you immediately to the left near the door with windows.
Hippopotamus-shaped playing board with 58 holes
If you had been born in ancient Egypt, you might not have played a musical instrument, but you definitely would have played board games! Because everyone did: children and adults, the upper classes and ordinary people. Like other objects of everyday life, board games could be very refined and made of precious materials. Some boards games are shaped like animals, like this hippopotamus (which has lost its head), and these board pieces, which are little sticks with the heads of jackals and dogs. That is why this game is called ‘the dog and jackal game’. The rules are similar to those of Snakes and Ladders, which already existed in ancient Egypt. Make no mistake, games were not child’s play, and surrendering to the whims of chance was a way to convoke the gods and get a sneak peek at what the future held…
Playing with the gods
In Thebes, in the tomb of Nefertari, wife of the Pharaoh Ramses II, a beautiful wall painting was found depicting the queen playing a game of senet with an invisible opponent. A little bit like chess, senet was the favourite game of Egyptian nobles. Imagine Nefertari taking on a god, who is about to decide her fate – favourable, rest assured - in the afterlife…
A house for the gods
Room 324 - Sully wing - Level 0
Cross the room.
Go down the stairs leading to the Crypt of Osiris.
Continue straight on after passing the central sarcophagus.
Go up the stairs.
Get up close to the large tub-like sarcophagus in white stone.
Statue of Yuyu, High Priest of Osiris, presenting a chapel
If you had been a member of the ancient Egyptian peasantry or middle class, you would not have had access to temples unless you worked in one. People could only enter the outer courtyards of temples on special occasions. Egyptian temples were the earthly homes of the divinities to whom they were dedicated, and the abode of the divine. They housed a statue of the god, the most precious and protected one in the temple. Images of the reigning Pharaoh, in reliefs and statuary, were essential to worship because, in theory, only the king could come face to face with the gods. The statue of Yuyu, High Priest of Osiris, tells us everything we need to know: he holds a chapel containing an image of the god Osiris before him, since he is High Priest. The names of the Pharaoh Ramses II whom he served are engraved on the statue which was placed in the temple of Osiris in Abydos. Whatever temple they come from, stelae and low-relief sculptures show the link between the gods and the reigning Pharaoh.
Ready for a long journey
Room 321 - Sully wing - Level 0
Turn back the way you came and walk along the row of sarcophagi.
Continue straight on.
The mummy will be on your left.
Sarcophagus of Abu Roash
As an ancient Egyptian, you would have believed in eternal life, and therefore the importance of preserving the body after death. Ancient Egyptians hoped to take part in the cyclical journey the sun makes, rising again from the darkness each morning. That is why they protected and preserved bodies so that they could endure the journey to the afterlife, and surrounded them with everything they would need there. Before being placed inside a tomb, bodies were laid to rest in a coffin which was itself put in a sarcophagus of wood, or, for the wealthy, of stone decorated with gold or inlaid coloured glass. A sarcophagus is a sort of tub with a lid and can be in the form of a human body. For Egyptians, sarcophagi were thought of like boats, the most favoured means of transport. And when sarcophagi are richly decorated on the outside with scenes from the life of the deceased, you can learn a lot about the person about to embark on a great journey…
The oldest sarcophagus in the Louvre
The sarcophagus of Abu Roash imitates the façade of a palace, like a sumptuous residence for a very important person. Archaeologists think that anyone who deserved such a funerary monument in stone must have been in the king’s inner circle.
Room 322 - Sully wing - Level 0
Next to the mummy in the display case you will find jars with the heads of animals on their lids.
Mummy covered in ‘cartonnage’
Nestled into its coffin and sarcophagus, a mummified body remains as physically intact as possible on its ‘journey’ to the land of the dead. To preserve the body, the organs are removed and the cavity filled with natron (salt). The body is then rubbed with ointments, resins and oils that allow it to dry out, and finally wrapped in up to 35 layers of thin strips of linen! Sometimes masks are placed over the mummy’s face made of papyrus or linen coated with plaster, or silver and gold for kings and queens.
It all begins with Osiris
Mummification is not only a way to preserve the body, it is also a re-enactment of the myth of the god Osiris. Jealous of his status as king, his brother Seth killed Osiris by locking him in a fancy box, a sort of sarcophagus before its time, and throwing him into the Nile. Osiris’ wife, Isis, managed to bring him back to life long enough to conceive an heir, Horus. With the help of Anubis, she then mummified her husband. Osiris is therefore the first mummy and served as a model for the embalming process. That is why Osiris, who became the god who reigns in the land of the dead and the one who presides over rebirth, is sometimes depicted as a mummy.
Keep your lid on…
Room 322 - Sully wing - Level 0
Retrace your steps back to the white stone sarcophagus.
Cross the next room.
Before the great staircase, look at the display cases to the right and proceed to the back.
Four ‘canopic’ jars of Horemsaf
There were several types of embalming, depending on what people could afford to pay for funeral services. The most elaborate – and therefore most expensive – included removing the brain and other organs, which would permanently damage the body once they started to rot. They were therefore mummified separately, in ‘canopic’ jars. Canopic jars always numbered four, and they were placed next to the mummy. Their lids represent the four sons of Horus who play a protective role, since they are the grandsons of the god Osiris.
Impossible to recognise them all!
Room 317 - Sully wing - Level 0
Retrace your steps and go up the grand staircase to your right.
At the top of the stairs, go past the columns and through the door to the left.
Go straight on and cross the rooms until you get to room 635.
Stop when you get to the ‘seated scribe’.
The god Bes
Did the ancient Egyptians know and recognise all their gods and goddesses? There are hundreds of them, and they could take on different names and forms! It was a challenge to be able to identify them and know what they were related to or what their powers were. They formed one big ‘family’, or more like a giant network: behind all the stories of wandering adventure, where they give the impression of forming couples with one child each, they are sometimes friends, sometimes enemies, sometimes on the same team, sometimes opponents, depending on the circumstances. But their ultimate goal is always the same: maintain order in the world they created in time immemorial…. Some are good, and some are bad! You have already met a few: Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, usually depicted with the body of a man and the head of a falcon, or his mother Isis, often shown nursing him, since she was an exemplary mum…Egyptian gods and goddesses, often half-human, half-animal, are a proud bunch.
How well do you know the Egyptian gods?
If you would like to learn more about the different Egyptian gods, you’re in the right place! Some, like Osiris, Horus and Isis, are well-known, but others less so. Have you met the strange little dwarf god at the back of this room? His name is Bes. He was very popular in ancient Egypt. With his funny faces, he scared off evil spirits and protected children and pregnant women.
End of journey!
Room 635 - Sully wing - Level 1
The ‘Seated Scribe’
Before completing your journey in ancient Egypt, let’s pay a visit to the most famous Egyptian at the Louvre, the Seated Scribe. It’s one of the most iconic works in the museum but we have no idea who it is meant to be! The base the scribe sat on, which would have indicated the figure’s name, was never found. The colours are remarkably well preserved. The eyes, made of rock crystal inlaid in copper, are incredibly lifelike and alert. Gaze into them for an experience you will never forget!
Way to exit
Continue straight on and follow the exit signs.