This is old

August 29, 2012

 

in collection National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden

This is old, very old. Yet it looks so young, so new,  just like something that has been newly created. But it is not. It is  from an ancient culture, a land far away, extremely fragile, and 32oo years old. Those years feel very near.

in collection British Museum, London

We can follow the craftsman’s hand: a big brush for applying the groundlayers and a rush pen for drawing the composition in tiny lines in red.

in collection Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The red is a heamitite or red ochre that has been quarried locally, washed and ground so it could be used as a pigment. It has a very orange-red colour, a result of the iron in the stone and water encapsulated in the molecule structure.

 

in collection National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden

The coffin was buried deep underground, in a tight chamber, with hardly any airflow or changes in the climate as the daily sun rays could not reach to heat and the night could not reach to cool. It was meant to serve as a private ‘house’ forever – it got discovered and excavated about a century ago. It would have been the best for the original owner of the coffin and the materiality of the house if it were still buried and protected. But now we can admire it and learn from it. It is in need of care now, and we do care, to save the forever-house for the original owner as well as for us and future generations.