Museum of Fine Arts Boston



Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Catalog Entry

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has taken up many different excavations in many places in the world that hold historical significance. The location I would like to talk about is one of the more well-known historical cultures of the past, the Egyptians. This history-rich culture is known for some of the most large-scale excavations that have revealed countless famous artifacts from an ancient time.

The one I am bringing to attention today is the sculpture of King Ptahkhenuwy and his wife
and the connection it has with my idea concerning museums. At first glance, the sculpture itself seemed to have no extraordinary meaning besides the outstanding condition it was found in preserved under one of the three Pyramids of Giza. That quickly changed once I dug a little deeper and expanded my research into how exactly the Museum of Fine Arts Boston interacted with the Egyptian government when handling these important excavations. The sheer amount of relics that were being uncovered in these digs is unbelievable, and when culturally-important artifacts were found the excavation group had some talks with the Egyptian government about what they wished to take back for display purposes and what should remain to allow local researchers and museums an opportunity to restore some of the more untouched pieces. This interaction between peoples gave me some positive feedback into the artifacts I had been looking to research for this project.

My whole dilemma with museums and excavation teams going into these sites was the amount of artifacts and relics found and the amount made available to the people and culture they belonged to. So when I heard about the widespread sharing of resources and restoration plans of these relics under the care of both the Egyptian government and the many museums who had formed the excavation teams, it gave me some peace of mind that it was a positive and equal exchange. In recent years it has been hard enough for people of our own country to get along with our governing bodies and even each other, so to see such positive and successful relations dating back to 1906 and continuing to present day sparks hope.

The statue of King Ptahkhenuwy and his wife
holds importance to Egyptian history and the royal families who built up the empire that went on to be buried in the Pyramids of Giza. The statue was found in the third Pyramid of Giza, which was dedicated to Ptahkhenuwy himself. There were many sculptures and pieces of art depicting him in similar forms throughout his burial chambers, but I chose this artifact for a few different reasons. This statue in particular is one of the few artifacts that have defied time and remained almost fully painted throughout the thousands of years that separate its creation to its discovery. Although it was restored with a fresh coat and protective layers to preserve the piece the condition must have been a true sight to behold for the excavators. Lovely condition aside, I also chose this artifact because I found it to be important to Egyptian culture but also not one of a kind; the statue itself had multiple depictions on many different slabs of stone, limestone, etc. It both carried weight as a valuable and cherished Egpytian artifact and as a piece that could be put on display to show the wonders of Egypt to those worlds away. This is the kind of artifact I would love to see more of in museums; to put a item of religious worship behind a glass panel could be seen as pretty unethical by a variety of groups of people while putting historical relics on display is much more appropriate.

After even the most basic research and knowledge of how these excavations even got to happen I know there were countless talks with the government representatives and many back and forth negotiations on what can be kept, what should be put under care of the government run facilities, and so on. I hope I do show some sign of understanding in this discussion as I bring up the many questions and thoughts that come with my choice of exhibition. One of my bigger questions that first drew me to this artifact is how do the excavators go about the actual excavation and who sets the terms of what they can and can’t do while exploring the many tombs of Giza. Again after some quick research, I found the basic guidelines for excavating in government-protected sites and it all seemed simple enough. There is a large amount of qualifications; you need to even ask permission to mount an exploration team, and once you get to that point you have to meet with a party who controls and looks over the site and discuss the methods of excavation. So I just wonder how safe the Egyptian officials thought dynamite mining was when the Boston team showed up with plenty of explosives to face the many deep underground sections of Giza and its vast underground network of tombs and burial chambers?


"Pair Statue of Ptahkhenuwy and His Wife – Works – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston Museum of Fine Arts." Museum of Fine Arts Boston. e72069ed-27c2-4c69-ac68-a84fb40db086&idx=8.

Trader, Patrick. "Guidelines for Phase I, II, and III Archaeological Investigations and Technical Report Preparation, West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office." WVCulture.

Artifact Owner

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Dominic Malo, Student, Fitchburg State University

ALFA Mentor

Veda Ross


“Museum of Fine Arts Boston,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed September 27, 2022,

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