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The Egyptian Galleries

The Mummy Room and Pharaonic Obsessions
In the 19th century, an obsession with ancient Egypt began to spread throughout the world. Discover why scientists, scholars and tourists continue to be drawn to this enigmatic culture.

Two new exhibitions take you on a journey, through the modern history of Egyptomania and archaeological discovery to the cutting-edge science revealing the lives and afterlives of four unique individuals from the land of the pharaohs.

O living ones upon the land who will come to this cemetery, All who will come to offer things upon this burial site: May you speak my name while presenting offerings! It is a gift to act for one who cannot act. I am a person whose name shall be said!
Inscription on the doorway of the tomb of Petosiris at Tuna el-Gebel, 300 BC

The Mummy Room

CT Scan of the boy mummy Horus

CT image of the mummy of the boy Horus, Nicholson Collection, NMR.26. Images by Simon Bird and John Magnussen, courtesy of MMI, Macquarie University Hospital.


Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, but only if their body was preserved in a life-like form. Mummification was a practical response to this spiritual problem.

The Mummy Room contains the coffins and mummies of four people who lived in Egypt between 1200 BC and 100 AD. Their names are Meruah, Padiashaikhet, Horus and Mer-Neith-it-es and they have much to tell us. CT technology has allowed us to respectfully learn about their daily lives, including nutrition, health and disease.

Egyptians often wrote appeals to the living on the walls of their tombs, imploring visitors to speak their name and make offerings on their behalf. These acts of continued remembrance sustained the dead in the afterlife.

By studying the coffins and mummies of Meruah, Padiashaikhet, Horus and Mer-Neith-it-es, we speak their names again.

Pharaonic obsessions: Ancient Egypt, an Australian story

Viewbook  'Souvenir of Cairo

'Souvenir of Cairo' Cairo Postcard Trust, Egypt, c. 1929, HP91.1.19


Ancient Egypt and modern Australia are worlds apart, but we have been influenced by the land of the Pharaohs in many ways. In the 19th century, a wave of Egyptomania spread throughout the western world, spurring a generation of scientists, scholars and tourists to dig deeper into this enigmatic culture.

Each new discovery tantalised the public. Australians, deployed through Egypt during the World Wars or migrating via the Suez Canal, found themselves uniquely placed to explore the sites and wonders.

Since then, the style and secrets of ancient Egypt have reverberated through many aspects of our culture, from art to architecture and film. This exhibition examines Australia’s continuing fascination with the land of the Pharaohs, through the enigmatic artifacts collected by Australians and the archaeological sites that ignited our imagination.


Featured image (top of the page): Coffin of the scribe Padiashaikhet, circa 725BC, Thebes, Egypt.

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