Pharaoh: King of Egypt brings hidden truths to light at Newcastle's Great North Museum

By Nick Owen | 19 July 2011
Gold plaque showing the Pharaoh Amenemhat IV offering to the god Atum, 1786 – 1777 BC
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Exhibition: Pharaoh: King of Egypt, Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle, until September 25 2011

The flagship Great North Museum hosts the largest ever UK touring exhibition of ancient Egyptian artefacts this summer in a British Museum show which brings history to life through more than 130 objects exploring myth and reality.

Many of the objects display the images of the pharaohs they would have wanted us to see: the all-powerful military leaders descended from Ra, intermediaries between the gods and their people.   

Yet, as the exhibition seeks to uncover, the realities of Egyptian Kingship were often very different.

Furniture fitting in the form of a gold cobra, 664 BC - 332 BC
© The Trustees of the British Museum
The pharaohs were not always male, nor always Egyptian. At times, Egypt was divided by civil war, conquered by foreign powers or ruled by competing kings.

The exhibition also shows us that satire was rife millennia ago, with fun being poked at emperors in comical stories.

Some of the more unusual objects, such as diplomatic letters inscribed on clay tablets, expound these hitherto unknown truths.

Alongside monumental statues and beautifully carved stone reliefs from ancient temples, the exhibition also includes some wonderful examples of Egyptian jewellery, papyri and funerary objects.

Among these objects is the beautiful and tiny pendant of King Senusret II, which transforms the hieroglyphs that spell out his name into a decorative piece, delicately crafted from gold and colourful semi-precious stones.  

On the larger end of the scale is the towering two-metre statue of Ramses I, which would have stood guard protecting an inner chamber of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

The tour, which lasts until June 2013, represents the largest UK loan of Egyptian artefacts ever undertaken by the British Museum and is the first time most of the diverse objects have been seen outside of London.