Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) was the French scholar who founded the study of Egyptology by being the first to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. He published his translation and analysis of the Rosetta Stone hieroglyphs in 1822 and 1824. Shortly thereafter he took on the task of establishing a new department of Egyptian antiquities in four rooms of the Louvre.
This department now fills thirty large rooms at the east end of the Louvre, in what is now called the Sully Wing. The seventeen rooms on the ground floor, plus two in the basement for particularly heavy exhibits, are organized into a “thematic circuit”, using authentic relics and artworks to illustrate and explain the topics of agriculture, hunting, fishing, animal husbandry, writing, arts and crafts, domestic life, temples, funeral rites and gods in ancient Egypt. Upstairs on the first floor there is a “chronological circuit” showing outstanding examples of Egyptian art from the earliest to the latest periods of ancient Egypt.
The Sphinx, in my first photo, is in the basement in room 1, at the beginning of the thematic circuit. From here a staircase (or an elevator) leads to the many thematic exhibits on the ground floor. You can easily spend a full day (as my wife and I did in January 2012) going through the thirty exhibition rooms with the help of the audio guide and the many text panels.
I was a bit disappointed with the audio guide at first, because it didn’t have much to say about the first few rooms. But soon more and more audio guide numbers started turning up on the displays, and finally I had to pick and choose because there wasn’t enough time in just one day to hear them all in full.
After several hours, somewhere up on the first floor, my audio guide suddenly stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. To trade it in for a new one I had to retrace my steps (there weren’t any shortcuts) to get back to the entrance to the Sully Wing, and in doing this I came to realize once again that the Louvre is a huge place, even if you are spending the day only in one department at one end of the museum. (They were very nice about giving me a new audio guide, of course.)
These models, in room 3, show people rowing on the Nile or poling through shallow water. The models were found in graves, perhaps intended to provide transportation in the afterlife for the person who had died.
This lovely swimming girl is holding a covered spoon in the shape of a duck. The duck’s wings are the cover of the spoon. Lots of these have been found, mostly from the New Empire (1400-1200 BC), but none of them have any trace of any contents so it is not clear what they were used for. One theory is that these might have been women’s make-up boxes. This particular one is on display in room 9, display case 3.
(By the way, there is a similar covered spoon upstairs in room 24, also with a swimming girl and a duck, but the upstairs girl is not nearly as lovely as this one and neither is the duck.)
Above the swimming girl holding the duck, in room 9, display case 3, there is a figurine labeled “Spoon in the form of a young girl carrying a vase”.
The poor girl is tiny compared to the huge vase she has to carry, and in her right hand she is also holding a bag. She seems to be standing on a barrel of some sort.
To her right and left are other fancy spoons or small bowls, some in the shape of ducks.
This statue of the god Horus, in the shape of a man with the head of a falcon, is on display in room 7 and is part of the thematic circuit about religious and funerary beliefs. Originally Horus seems to have been holding a vase in his hands, with ritual water to purify the king in ceremonies.
Room 11 contains a row of six of the sphinxes which were set up along the Allee leading to the temple Sérapéum de Saqqara in Egypt in the 4th or 3rd century BC. These were found and dug out of the sand by workers under the direction of the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette in 1851.
Room 12 on the ground floor shows the remains of temples from various sites and all epochs of ancient Egyptian history, to give an idea of the structure and function of a temple and the ceremonies that took place there.
Further on, in rooms 18 and 19, there is an alphabetical guide to the ancient Egyptian gods, including their appearance, their attributes, their roles, all illustrated with authentic figurines made of metal, ceramics or stone.
There is also an exhibit of mummified animals. The audio guide said there were various reasons for having animals mummified and placed in the tombs. First, they were the beloved pets of the person who had passed away. Second, they were intended as emergency rations, to be eaten by the dead person in case there was a famine in the afterlife. Third, the animals might be needed in the afterlife as sacrifices to the gods. Or the animals themselves might be worshiped as gods. In some eras, numerous animals seem to have been raised for the express purpose of being mummified.
Location and aerial view of the Louvre on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2021.