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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, houses one of the world’s finest collections of ancient Egyptian art. The first Egyptian antiquities, acquired in 1872, were some 4,800 items collected in Egypt by Robert Hay of Scotland and later donated to the museum by Bostonian C. Granville Way. In the years surrounding the turn of the twentieth century the museum welcomed objects from excavations carried out by such prominent names in the history of Egyptology as Sir William M. Flinders Petrie and Theodore Davis. The bulk of the collection, however, derives from the museum’s own excavations, conducted in association with Harvard University and directed by George A. Reisner. Beginning in 1905, Reisner and his team conducted four decades of fieldwork at more than twenty sites In Egypt and Sudan, most notably the Old Kingdom (2650-2100 B.C.) cemetery at Giza, home to the Great Pyramid. Because so much of it was scientifically excavated and documented, the museum’s collection is not only one of the most comprehensive in the world, but also one of the most archaeologically significant.
Drawing from this extensive collection, World of the Pharaohs features more than two hundred objects spanning some three thousand years of ancient Egyptian history. They include monumental sculptures of notable figures such as king Ramesses II and the female pharaoh Hatshepsut; funerary reliefs, stelae and false doors from the tombs of elite officials; temple offerings; burial goods; and exquisitely made jewelry, amulets and cosmetic vessels used in everyday life. In addition to presenting objects of beauty and superb craftsmanship, the rich variety of material offers visitors a window into ancient Egyptian beliefs about religion, kingship, the economy, the home and family, and life after death.