Camosun Anthropology Class Stages Mock Egyptian Funeral at Royal BC Museum

Drawing inspiration from the elaborate funerary rituals of ancient Egypt, students in instructor Nicole Kilburn’s Anthropology of Death class are hosting a mock Egyptian funeral at the Egypt: Time of the Pharaohs feature exhibition at the Royal BC Museum on November 24.

“We’re examining something that is human inevitability but in our culture we feel is a very taboo topic,” says Kilburn. “Death is something that the ancient Egyptians thought a lot about. Having a very clear directive about the afterlife and the responsibilities of people to their families with respect to the afterlife, meant that it provided guidance in terms of mourning and grief.”

The event, Pathway to the Afterlife is family-friendly and interactive with the public invited to attend. It takes place on Saturday, November 24 from 1- 3pm and is free with the price of museum admission or membership.

“We’re inviting anybody that comes to the museum that afternoon to come and learn from our students,“ notes Kilburn. “We’ve got student teams demonstrating all the different and detailed components of Egyptian funerary ritual.” She explains that student teams will explore topics related to the mummification process, the important role of grave goods and recreate some of the elaborate ceremonies that helped prepare the human body for its journey into the afterlife, including a funeral procession.

“We’ll have mummy wrapping to show what that’s all about, and putting amulets into the wrappings,” says Kilburn. “Being able to use the actual tomb in the exhibit will bring a sense of reality and bridge the past and the present in an exciting way.” Other ceremonial aspects include the opening of the mummy’s eyes and the mouth by the priest so that it is able to see and hear on its journey into the afterlife. “We will be representing all of these things respectfully,” says Kilburn. “We’re not trying to pretend to be Egyptians, we’re very respectful of their culture and the ethics of examining and displaying death in a museum setting.”

After the formal portion, Kilburn’s students and museum staff will lead a facilitated discussion about the ethics of displaying death in museums and the public is invited to join in and ask questions.

Kilburn believes that the juxtaposition between cultures and the ancient and the modern provides an excellent opportunity for profound reflection and learning about death, and crucially—life. “Thinking about death, and different cultural approaches to death, actually helps you think a lot about life,” she notes. “Ultimately at the end of the semester, students in this class will have thought a lot about life, what’s important to them, and about how they want to live their lives.”

The course’s emphasis on ‘learning by doing’ is an example of Camosun’s strength in practical, experiential learning, which takes teaching and learning beyond the walls of the classroom. “One of the best things about applied learning is that students put a lot of effort into it and generate excitement because they are interested,” says Kilburn. “And with the mock funeral, they get to share what they’ve learned with the public. Especially with this topic—who hasn’t dreamt of being an Egyptologist sometime when they were a kid?”

Original article from Camosun College