From Palaeolithic axes to Christian silver crosses, the extensive range of Ancient Egyptian items in the Auckland Museum collection provides fascinating insights into the greatest of all ancient civilisations.
Egypt before, during and after the Pharaohs
The Auckland Museum is fortunate to have a collection which illustrates Ancient Egypt from the period of the Pharaohs and before. This includes a mummy, Palaeolithic hand-axes tens of thousands of years old and painted pots of the 5500–3100 BC pre-dynastic era.
At the other end of the story of pre-Islamic Egypt are silver crosses and textiles from the Christian period.
Auckland Museum's mummy is the body of a young woman Souser-iret-binet dating from 800-500 BC. This means that she lived 2000 years after the construction of the famous pyramids at Giza.
From the period of Pharaonic Egypt covering 3000 years, Auckland Museum has examples of ceramics, jewellery, small sculptures and amulets in materials such as stone, faience and bronze, as well as some tools, cosmetic jars, mixing palettes and other items.
The wonder of the greatest ancient civilisation
The appeal of Egypt is understandable. Egypt is the best-known, longest-lasting and greatest civilisation of the ancient world. The first Pharaoh, Narmer, dates from ca 3100 BC. Thirty dynasties then took up nearly 3,000 years before Alexander the Great in 332 BC ushered in 300 years of Greek rule, followed by the Romans who ruled from 30 BC to 395 AD.
Throughout this immense period there was remarkable continuity in the Egyptian economy and way of life, in their arts and beliefs. Among the brilliant achievements of Ancient Egypt are pyramids, temples, sculptures and other monumental architecture. Rich grave goods recovered from royal and other tombs show the importance of ritual relating to death and the afterlife. Written hieroglyphics record the beliefs and stories of people and their rulers.
Illustrating the lives of ordinary ancient Egyptians
The Egyptian material in the Auckland Museum tells mostly of the lives of ordinary people. Most ancient Egyptians were farmers on the banks of the Nile. Their fields were watered by annual flooding after rain in the distant Ethiopian highlands and enriched by the deposited silt. In the towns lived labourers, traders, craftspeople and bureaucrats. Their domestic possessions were practical and their grave goods produced in vast numbers to a standard they could afford.
Cite this article
Ancient Egypt at Auckland Museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 4 June 2015. Updated: 14 March 2023.
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