Gardens of the Pharaohs

27 April until 9 September 2012

Exhibition 'Gardens of the Pharaohs'Exhibition 'Gardens of the Pharaohs'
Faience dish of a woman playing the lute (probably a courtesan) in an arbour with grapesFaience dish of a woman playing the lute (probably a courtesan) in an arbour with grapes
Glazed tile with plantsGlazed tile with plants
Dried plant remains found on the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses IIDried plant remains found on the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses II
Shabti box in the form of a temple, with a picture of a tree goddessShabti box in the form of a temple, with a picture of a tree goddess

The exhibition Gardens of the Pharaohs will showcase the flora of ancient Egypt. Visitors will find out what plants, trees, flowers, and crops grew in the age of the pharaohs. The museum's collection includes not only dried plant remains from thousands of years ago, but also pictures of plants and trees on a huge variety of objects: wall reliefs, mummy cases, jewellery, amulets, and drinking bowls.

Cultural landscape

The flora of ancient Egypt was highly diverse. Over the centuries, the natural environment was replaced by a cultural landscape in which all kinds of exotic species were cultivated. Some were grown for food, of course, and many were used to treat diseases and other medical conditions: trees, bushes, produce, fibre crops, herbs (medicinal or otherwise), and ornamental flowers could all serve medical purposes. Agriculture was central to Egyptian life. Farmers made up a large part of the population, and canals, basins, and dikes provided permanent irrigation.

Gardens of the elite

The wealthy Egyptian elite related to nature in a very different way from the impoverished farmers. In their circles, it was important to flaunt your status. Their ideal was to own an estate surrounded by a shady walled garden full of palms, sycamores, figs, perseas, Christ-thorns, willows, and other trees. There was almost always a pergola covered with grape vines, and a pond full of water plants formed the centre of these orderly, geometric gardens. Gardens of this kind could also be found surrounding the temples of the gods, and sometimes in front of the monumental tombs cut into the rocks. One site that vividly illustrates the Egyptians' fascination with plants and flowers is the 'botanical garden' in the Temple of Karnak. In a series of chambers, artists carved wall reliefs depicting exotic plants and animals that the pharaohs had brought back to Egypt from their foreign campaigns.

< Click on the photographs for enlarged versions

Group tours

Group tours of Gardens of the Pharaohs with an English-speaking guide are available every day that the museum is open. The price is €75 per hour (max. 25 participants, museum admission not included). You can reserve a group tour online (webpages in Dutch) or by calling the museum's Service Desk: +31 71 5163 163.