April 2009 Issue
Mysteries of Egypt
Experience life in an ancient world at COSI Columbus.
A 6,000-square-foot space is bursting with the excitement of kids running from one display to another. The source of all this energy? A remarkable collection of antiquities and related hands-on activities at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus. Through Sept. 7, “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science” gives history buffs of all ages the experience of traveling back in time.
“Lost Egypt” includes art and artifacts from the daily life and funerary culture of ancient Egypt, including a human mummy and several animal mummies. The focus is on non-royal ancient Egyptians, such as artists and priests, as well as the archaeologists working to uncover artifacts in Egypt today. And, since the exhibit is geared toward children ages 9–13, a variety of family-friendly activities are available, ranging from decoding hieroglyphics to pyramid building. Kids and adults, for example, get a better idea of the labor involved in building the pyramids by dragging heavy blocks (approximately 60 pounds each).
Organizing the exhibit took five years, a period during which Kate Storm, director of experience development for COSI, and her colleagues traveled to Egypt to interview and film archaeologists and photograph tombs, monuments and artwork. They worked closely with the Egyptian government to get clearance on entering,
filming and photographing archaeological sites.
“It was a challenging process,” says Storm. “At each new archaeological site, we had to meet with the supervisor and show our permission form from the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Without [their] permission, we could only have visited as tourists, without our cameras, and even then certain places we visited would have been closed to us.”
A highlight of the trip, Storm recalls, was when Egyptian officials unlocked two tombstones for the COSI contingent.
“They actually broke the seals so that we could photograph [the tombs],” she says. At COSI, the photographs cover hallway walls and give visitors the impression they are walking through a narrow passage and into a tomb.
Upon her return from Egypt, Storm visited the Brooklyn Museum of Art with Egyptologist Jonathan Elias, COSI’s Lost Egypt project consultant, and Janet Kamien, a project advisor at the Science Museum of Minnesota, which built the exhibit that was created and produced by COSI. The three selected artifacts for the exhibit, including offering tables, amulets and ostraka — broken pieces of pottery or stone with writing on them. Other artifacts, including the human mummy, are on loan from The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
While the artifacts are a major part of the exhibit, visitors also get a glimpse of how archaeologists and other scientists work. At the “Field Site,” museumgoers can explore tools and techniques used at the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders on the Giza Plateau; in the “Laboratory” section, they can examine X-rays and CT scans of human and animal mummies, facial reconstructions and rapid prototypes of ancient Egyptians.
“The everyday people of ancient Egypt were very much like us; they had [similar] health issues, they cared about their families, community and religion. They worked for a living to get food, clothing, shelter and a few luxuries.” Storm says. “Even though we live in a very different world, by looking at the ancient Egyptians we can see ourselves.”
333 W. Broad St., Columbus, 614/228-2674, www.cosi.org
Hours: Daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. 12–6 p.m.
Admission: Adults $13.75, seniors $12.75, youth (2–12) $8.75, ages 2 and under free