Ancient Egyptians considered death to be the ultimate long trip. They were in the habit of taking things into the tomb to keep themselves happy. Amulets were attached to mummies, pictures of possessions were painted on the mural inside their tombs and the mummies were laid to rest alongside statues of servants to serve their needs in the next world.
The iPod-football-teddy bear-etc. exercise is part of a new kid-friendly exhibit titled "Lost Egypt" at the
"The exhibit not only shows the history of ancient
One interactive display lets kids lug huge brick-like chunks with a rope inside a wooden apparatus to get an idea of the methods pyramid builders used to transport enormous stones to the building site.
"The pyramid blocks were 20 tons, and these are just about 60 pounds, but you get the idea," Gruner said. "They figured out a way to haul these huge stones over a sandy surface. Imhotep was considered the first engineer." Small boys trying out the feature had no trouble moving the blocks.
Another interactive element has kids looking for the gods and the sun symbols in typical tomb murals. Another lets them decode hieroglyphics by matching symbols with words, and another lets kids use wooden blocks to build a pyramid, using a specific construction plan. "It's harder than it looks," Gruner said.
Some of the exhibit elements may creep the littlest ones out. The beautifully preserved sarcophagus inside a darkened gallery holds the mummified remains of an anonymous teenaged girl who died in the third century B.C. (she's called "Annie"). Interesting wall texts describe how different types of scientists pieced together bits of information about when Annie died and what life she might have lived.
"Apparently they found her body in the Nile. The Nile was considered a sacred river. When a body was thrown into the Nile it meant that the person deserved a respectful burial," Gruner said. "So even if they didn't know who she was they treated her body with respect."
Pretty statues and amulets, made from gold, faience, alabaster, stone and lapis lazuli, can be seen, along with shards of pottery used for daily life and for mummification. One interactive feature will entertain kids for a long time: a little wind-and-sand chamber that shows how artifacts get buried by shifting desert sands, and lets the users do it themselves. Videos of scientists talking about digging up archaeological sites are easily understandable to people of all ages, and a film tells how Egyptians' beliefs in the soul and the life force influenced how they buried their dead.
A map on the floor answers the question that Gruner calls "the biggest mystery": "Why is lower
Seeing visitors out of the gallery is a life-size camel statue. Few kids who visit the exhibit will pass on the chance to ride the camel and have their picture taken.
(c)2014 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services