Egyptian canopic jars assist in afterlife |

Egyptian canopic jars assist in afterlife


A handsome limestone baboon served as the cover for a canopic jar and now he helps explain early Egyptian customs in history and humanities classes at Lake Tahoe Community College. His name is Hapy and he is a great favorite of visiting school children. Egypt was his home perhaps 3,100 years ago, as early as Dynasty XIX when the Ramses were pharaohs and the Hebrews were wandering in the wilderness.

Hapy was created to hold the lungs during the mummification process. Originally he was part of a set of four such containers that preserved and separated the inner organs of the body during the body’s long mummification baths … and perhaps thereafter, too. Many practices and stories varied over the thousands of years of mummification. This jar stands nearly 8 inches high, which is typical. It is commonplace for the tops and bottoms of canopic containers to seem mismatched by our standards; the bottoms often seen to have been made by apprentices and this is no exception. Everyone asks about its contents, but there are no traces. Time and desert heat took care of those long ago.

Many also wonder whether he will be accompanied by a real mummy in some future displays. I strongly doubt it. For one thing, acquiring any antiquities requires some degree of opportunism: they must become available in the United States at reasonable prices, generally at international auctions. Importing antiquities can be complex. Mummies are not uncommon, but many laws and customs would pertain. Proper storage and display space would be serious problems for them and many other things for some period of time. As it is, only a tiny percentage of the Perry Foundation collections and loans can be exhibited at one time … probably about 5 percent. A mummy would complicate that seriously. Besides, they sometimes come complete with parasites or the diseases that originally killed the person. There is quite a history of that.

It was particularly in the 18th century when Moslem leaders in Egypt became contemptuous of the vast millions of pagan mummies. Many were stacked like cordwood and sold by the shipload. Their wrappings often were used in the manufacture of paper. During our own Revolutionary War, for instance, most Colonial news was printed on “broadside” posters made of such paper and horrible diseases were introduced to our country in the process. This lent credibility to stories about mummies’ curses. After salvaging the cloth wrappings for paper making the bodies themselves were usually used as sort of a bone meal fertilizer. Or worse, some were ground and ingested as “mummy powder,” a rather common headache remedy that could be purchased from most well stocked apothecaries during the so-called “Age of Enlightenment.” (Were you thinking history might be dull?)

Hapy and his friends will have to make way for other items soon, but you can still see them if you make an appointment with me at (530) 541-4660, ext. 252. Internet information is available at http//

All items exhibited by the Perry Foundation have been provided with private funds. Appropriate donations are welcome and should be tax deductible.

University Concert in Reno

University of Nevada, Reno’s marvelous violinist Phillip Ruder called to tell of a change in the Argenta Quartet concert in two weeks. Virginia Lenz, a wonderfully accomplished violist, has been injured in a tragic bicycle accident and will not be performing until January. She has performed a number of times for us here at Lake Tahoe Community College and is one of the kindest, most talented people I have ever met; this is invariably reflected in her excellent performances and charming manner. Let’s all hope that she can manage to play for us with the quartet in January.

Meanwhile, the concert scheduled for Dec. 4 at Nightengale Concert hall will have to proceed without Mrs. Lenz. Phillip Ruder, cellist John Lenz and pianist James Winn will present an elaborate, melodic piano trio by Mozart, and another celebrated one composed by Brahms at the very height of his career. That should be enough to attract anyone who loves spirited chamber music, but they also will present Henry Cowell’s “Set of Five for Violin, Piano and Percussion” with guest percussionist Daniel Kennedy from the music faculty at California State University, Sacramento. This is a melodic, exotic selection that includes Indian instruments and themes. Cowell was an American composer, pianist and teacher born about a century ago; he was noted for both conventional and innovative techniques. It should be exciting to hear how he mixed Eastern and Western music.

The Argenta performers are always good about discussing music with the audiences and that should make this unusual selection all the more intriguing. If you have not heard pianist John Winn perform with the other Argenta Quartet members, you are set for a fine treat. Dr. Winn came to the faculty of the University of Nevada, Reno straight from New York’s Lincoln Center a bit over a year ago and he is really a splendid artist. My suggestion is that you never miss an Argenta Quartet concert! There is plenty of free parking beside Nightengale Concert Hall. For ticket information, call (702) 784-6847.

As soon as I heard the Argenta Quartet, I wanted them for our Lake Tahoe Community College Classical Concert Series. They have performed for us several times and are preparing a fine Beethoven and Brahms concert for us on Jan. 24. Tickets for that concert will be available in the college bookstore starting Jan. 18.

John Perry is an emeritus faculty member at Lake Tahoe Community College.

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