Last week, we took advantage of a special extra benefit of our San Jose Museum of Art membership and took Peter to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. I’ve been there a few times before, but I really enjoyed it this year, when Neil was happy to show off his knowledge of Egyptian history, and I could examine the artifacts with more leisure.
First of all, the Rosicrucian aspect of the museum is as intriguing as the Egyptian history inside it. The museum grounds are also the headquarters for this Rosicrucian order, and it has the sense of being a secret society, with its locked buildings and strange symbols (in a 1920s style, no less.) But the Rosicrucians (at least the San Jose-based order) aren’t that secret at all. For $360 a year, or thereabouts, you can enroll in a self-study course on the esoteric knowledge of the ages, and then discuss them with other Rosicrucians.
You can’t seem them in this picture, but rams line the side of the walkway up to the museum. Here are Peter, Neil and Kelly near them:
The museum is well done. Besides showcasing archaeological finds as well as having reproductions of the most significant of them (like the Rosetta Stone), it also has fascinating information on the cultures which touched and affected the Egyptians: the Assyrians, the Greek Ptolomies, and the Romans. I’m personally intrigued by the Rosicrucians’ assertion that the ancient Egyptian beliefs and language are incorporated into the Coptic Christian church. Thus the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is an effective ancient history and traditional Egyptian culture museum, not just an Egyptian museum. Neil and I also once went to their reading hieroglyphics class, and this day, they had a public class on Mesopotamia.
The reproduction of a looted tomb (which goes underground and connects one side of the museum with the other) has always frightened Neil, and it’s not that compelling. But on this day, we caught the tour of the tomb, which explained the significance of several carvings, and why some faces were hacked out on the burial chamber. Kelly was very concerned that the deceased’s ka would only have the same carved food to eat for eternity.
Among the many interesting things (and now that I am the parent of a TV-watching preschooler), I thought the dwarfish Egyptian god, Bes, protector of children, was oddly similar to some of the characters in children’s cartoons. Judge for yourself. Here is a little Bes jar:
Here is Wow Wow Wubbzy:
The grounds around the museum are an homage to the ancient Egyptians as well. There’s an obelix, several sphinxes, a large game of Senet (which no one bothers to play according the clearly posted rules of the game), and Egyptian fountains and gardens. I’m a sucker for Roman history, though, so I took a picture of their statue of Julius Caesar in front of an Egyptian balcony.
All in all, the museum and its grounds are a surprising treasure in San Jose.