Snowing dogs and more dogs

BY MARLENE MICHELS GOLDSMITH, Volunteer Docent, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

Death Dogs poster (left) and lamppost banner outside the Kelsey Museum (right).

As I write this, it seems to be snowing dogs and more dogs inside and outside of the Kelsey Museum, all in preparation for our upcoming special exhibition Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt, opening Friday, February 6.

Let me tell you why.

Our docent class was cancelled today due to a morning snowstorm, but by afternoon I managed to trek to the museum. Death Dogs banners greeted me everywhere! Up on the second floor, I found exhibitions coordinator Scott Meier busy mounting some electrifying background art. Even though no artifacts yet graced the space, I definitely found myself in ancient Egypt. That’s when I pulled out my camera phone.

I’m not an academic, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ancient Egyptian exhibit on jackal gods. Exhibition curator Terry Wilfong, however, has been intrigued by them since childhood. I know this because I once audited his course on ancient Egyptian religion. Also, I know he is a longtime film buff (the original Mummy film with actor Boris Karloff tops his favorites list). At the Kelsey, Wilfong is curator of Graeco-Roman Egypt. At the University of Michigan, he is professor of Egyptology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

The exhibition will explore these mysterious jackal-headed gods associated with death and the afterlife in ancient Egypt. At the heart of the exhibition will be the three most important jackal gods:

  • Anubis, best-known of the Egyptian jackal dogs, embalmer, and guide to the dead;
  • Wepwawet, opener of the ways to the afterlife, frequently working with Anubis, and
  • Duamutef, son of Horus, protector of the canopic jar containing the stomach and protector of the East.

The exhibition will feature about 40 artifacts, some never before displayed and many coming from University of Michigan excavations in Egypt during the 1920s–30s. Alongside these, you’ll see archival photographs and explanatory graphics as well as an assemblage of modern toys, games, and other pop cultural manifestations of the Egyptian jackal gods.

And in the gift shop, you’ll find a special Death Dogs tee-shirt for sale, I’m told. Think concert tee-shirts with jackal gods on the back side.

Now, you know you have to go to this exhibition — right? Mark your calendar now — Death Dogs: The Jackal Gods of Ancient Egypt opens Friday, February 6, and runs through Sunday, May 3, 2015.

The Death Dogs exhibition includes banners inspired by (left) representations of dogs found on ancient stelae from Terenouthis, Egypt, and (right) an Egyptian hieroglyph of a jackal god.