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Isis meets Quetzalcoatl

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Thu, Mar 6, 2008 at 1:15 PM

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Is Isis, the ancient Egyptian mother-god, related in some mystical way with Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent of Mesoamerican mythology? That's the central theme behind a new temporary exhibit at Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. It is one of those "mega-shows" that have been sorta trendy in museums lately: separate entrances, heavy security, sound effects in the gallery spaces, a glossy temporary giftshop. Distractions aside, the show is pretty exciting, particularly the rooms dedicated to Pharoahonic Egypt because they bring to Mexico some never-before-seen antiquities from several Egyptian collections. There are also lots of depictions of Isis from the Roman Empire.

The most provocative comparisons are made between serpent relics that remain from both societies, but otherwise the parallels offered between the cult of Isis and the cult of Quetzalcoatl are at best tenuous. Yet there is something, I don't know, ethereal about being in the same room with such sacred objects from ancient history, from two of the greatest civilizations the planet has ever known, side by side. (There are considerably less artifacts in the show from Mexico.)

The general connections offered by the museum are interesting as well. Early in the exhibit, an introductory video shows Mayan pyramids alongside Egyptian pyramids, and the profile of a modern Mexican man facing the profile of a modern Egyptian woman. Then, the video morphs the two profiles into artifact busts from their respective ancient worlds. Neat.

Here is an article in Spanish from El Universal about the show, and a prepared speech by Mexican president Felipe Calderon from the inauguration.

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