The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt

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Statue of Osiris Statue of Osiris
Twenty-sixth Dynasty, reign of Psamtik I,
664-610 BC
The Egyptian Museum, Cairo

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DAVID O'CONNOR: This is a representation of the god Osiris. He is the ruler of the dead, he guarantees that the netherworld is accessible to those Egyptians who die and he then is the generative force that actually brings new life to them as he does to the sun god in the afterlife.

ALAN SHESTACK: Every day, when the sun sets, Re descends into the world of death and darkness and encounters the mummified Osiris. These deities draw power from each other, giving them strength to rise again.

DO: Gods always have that long plaited beard to indicate their divine status. That tall crown is a royal crown, because he was believed to be once a king of the living who was murdered and then regenerated to become the ruler of the dead. And he is holding the crook and the flail that are the symbols of kingship. The crook of course is used by the shepherd to guide his flock, and so that represents his capacity to bring order and peace to his subjects. The flail is used to coerce animals into moving, and to break up grain. So that symbolizes the fact that he has authority over the Egyptians, that he can punish them if they have somehow broken the law or broken the order of the cosmos. The rest of the figure, however, represents a mummified body, because Osiris is someone who died and was mummified before he was regenerated.