Last week my spouse and I spent a couple of days in Dallas and soaked up a little culture. We have a friend who is a docent in the Meadows Museum at SMU and is an expert on art history. She gave us a personal tour of an exhibit at the museum featuring the tombs and temples of the Etruscans. The Etruscans lived in northern Italy before the Romans and were an advanced civilization. They made many things from bronze and made all sorts of pottery, jewelry, weapons and utensils. They even invented the safety pin. They made elaborate statuary and sarcophagi, which depicted their culture and beliefs. Most of the things were recovered from their tombs that have been excavated from under the rolling hills of northern Italy. These folks were obsessed with death and the afterlife. Their main form of burial was cremation but latter resorted to mummification when they perfected this art. The Etruscans were finally assimilated into the Roman Empire and helped establish Rome. They were also greatly influenced by the Greeks and were a very artistic and sophisticated civilization. They put my ancestors to shame who were hillbillies and rednecks up until recent times. I’m still trying to shed the hillbilly image and that’s one of the reasons I go to art museums and places like that.
We then visited the King Tut Exhibit that was a little like going to Disney World. The crowds were enormous. It will be a miracle if I don’t get the swine flu from all the exposure. The exhibit was at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. It’s like entering the tomb of a pharaoh with a huge crowd. Visitors move and shove each other from one display case to another with a little audio listening device that explains everything. The Egyptian Pharaohs lived to die. They were totally obsessed with the afterlife. They filled their tombs with everything imaginable to accompany them on their journey to the afterlife. They even had boats to carry them on their journey down the Nile to eternity. The tombs contained many statues, games for entertainment, weapons and everything that might be needed to make them comfortable and completely satisfied in the afterlife. Most of the objects in the tombs were either covered or made of gold. The Egyptians had mastered the art of mummification. The mummies faces were covered with a gold mask. Their organs were removed and placed in miniature gold canopic coffins. The problem is that grave robbers found the burial sites and carried away most of the valuables. Archeologists have now removed the rest and are sending it around the world for exhibits that make a ton of money for someone.
We haven’t changed much since the time of the Etruscans or Egyptians. We are still obsessed with the afterlife. It dominates our religious experience and occupies our mind, more and more, as we age. As for me, I’m looking for a big hole to bury the porch that will contain my remains. I have just about everything I need for the afterlife at my fingertips on the porch. The TV reception may not be so good but at least I have my books. Who knows, the deer will probably follow me right into the hole.