"I am gazing at the skeleton of an Egyptian man, barely 5 feet tall. He is wrapped in brown linen only to his waist, above this is revealed his bare chest- the bones protruding outwards. His teeth are slightly revealed. It is a macabre scene. He is lying in a glass box- like an insect or a butterfly collected by a naturalist. People stand around me- looking closely at the remains. All around us are other wooden coffins- torn open to reveal their contents.
It occurs to me that we are invading his privacy. That somehow he has been disturbed from his resting place and robbed of his humanity. He is literally left bare in front of me and he is being dehumanised in the process of this ‘exhibition’.All the effort that was made to pass these souls into the after-world has been destroyed. It seems odd to me that despite all that we now know (and is being told here through the museum) about these people’s believes, their customs and their traditions; their concern for their dead and their respect for these ancestors, we have dug up their burial places, thrown hammers against their history and flown it thousands of miles away.
The fact that we can still stand comfortably with this disturbs me. We take pictures of the dead- photographs to take home as souvenirs. A mother jumps behind the Egyptian man, to frighten her young child. But he doesn’t stir. We are bereft of feeling and compassion. It is as if we are beyond feeling for these ancient people. It is as if they never lived or ever mattered. It re-affirms my fears for society. I am left with a prolonged, deep feeling of sadness."
What can we learn from other societies relationship with the non-human world? This is not just about ancient Eqypt and their complex society, but about the indigenous peoples, today, all over our world- which co-exist with the natural world and animals in a very different way to Western societies. What does human life mean in an increasingly rational, scientific, modern world?Note on photography: I have decided to include, here, several images that I photographed at the museum. I do so with some caution, I did not feel comfortable taking them. However, images are powerful and they can (at times) teach us a great deal more than words.