Program on Egypt will examine importance of birds
July 17, 2013 11:32AM
Updated: August 19, 2013 2:37PM
With mummies, pyramids and hieroglyphics, ancient Egypt captures the fascination and curiosity of many children, and adults, too.
The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is a wonderful place to feed that curiosity. This small museum has a large, world-class collection of artifacts from the ancient Middle East.
On Saturday the Oriental Institute will host Open Nest, a special family program in conjunction with the exhibit “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt” which closes July 28.
“This program will emphasize how birds affected Ancient Egypt and how they affect us today. Today we have birds in symbols, like the eagle on our quarters, and many sayings like ‘the early bird catches the worm’ and ‘eagle eye.’ ... Birds had a prominent place in ancient Egyptian culture. In ancient Egypt birds were symbols in hieroglyphics and symbols for some of the gods,” explained program coordinator Moriah Grooms-Garcia. There were tombs with thousands of bird mummies, and it was believed that the soul went to the afterlife on a bird. Birds were considered special messengers to the gods, occupying that space between heaven and earth.”
At Open Nest there will be family-focused tours of Between Heaven and Earth and docents available in the galleries, plus there will be a variety of special activities inside the museum and outside on the University of Chicago grounds.
“One iconic image in the exhibit is the tree of life, which shows quite a variety of different kinds of birds. One activity we’ll have is inspired by that. Visitors will create a bird version of themselves, showing what is unique about you,” Grooms-Garcia said.
“We’ll also have a hieroglyphics activity. There are over 60 hieroglyphs that use various images of birds. We’ll look at some of these and use them to make silly sentences.”
“Another activity is a staff parody of the history of the Chicken Dance. You’ll learn about where chickens came from and how they were thought to be magical. Another activity will have super hero bird versions of ancient Egyptian gods and small puppets will be created and used to tell stories.”
“We know that the ancient Egyptians made some art in an assembly-line process, where for example, one worker would create a grid, the next would fill in certain symbols, and another would shade or color. Similar to that we’re going to have a collaborative art project, done by many participants and then we’ll post the completed project online,” Grooms-Garcia said.
There will also be a bird scavenger hunt for kids throughout the Oriental Institute galleries from many ancient cultures and time periods.
“Bird images were pervasive in many other ancient cultures in the Middle East. One good example is that there are weights in the shape of ducks that we believe were used at markets to weigh goods. Why ducks were used we’re not sure, but this has been found in several cultures,” according to Grooms-Garcia.
Open Nest is a free event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago. To get there, take the Indiana Toll Road to the Stony Island exit north towards Lake Shore Drive. Follow Stony Island about 2 miles north to Midway Plaisance (at about 59th Street). Turn left, then go about a half mile and turn right onto Woodlawn Avenue. The museum is to the left on 58th Street; look for street parking along the route.
“Museum admission is always free to visitors, but there is a suggested donation of $10 for adults and $5 for kids (under age 12). We don’t turn anyone away because we want this type of learning to be available to all,” Grooms-Garcia said.