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Art and life in ancient Egypt
Art and life in ancient Egypt

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Week 1 The influence of Egyptian art

Introduction

It is hard to imagine anyone with an interest in human history and human culture who has not been fascinated by ancient Egypt. Books and films on Egypt abound, ranging from painstaking science to wild fantasy, and the legacy of Egypt can be felt in fields as diverse as jewellery, architecture (Figure 1) and film.

Carlton cinema, Islington, London 1930
Courtesy of Paul Wood (The Open University)
Figure 1 Carlton cinema, Islington, London 1930

Yet there is a kind of instability to this fame. On the one hand there is a profound body of knowledge about Egyptian society, its religion, its art, even the conditions of daily life. But most popular culture revolves around clichés about mummies, pyramids, the tomb of Tutankhamun (Figure 2), and not much more.

Tutankhamun cereal packet and cut-price travel advertisement
Courtesy of Kellogg’s
Figure 2 Tutankhamun cereal packet and cut-price travel advertisement

In the first week of this course about art and life in ancient Egypt, you will begin with a brief look at European exploration of Egypt and its history. You will then examine how Egyptian art has influenced the various phases of European art.