Bird exhibit at Oriental Institute

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor

Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer, PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, is passionate about birds. It becomes clear upon receiving her business card — on which silhouetted birds are printed alongside her contact information — and even more so after hearing her discuss the new exhibit she curated at the Oriental Institute, “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt.”

The exhibit, which opened Oct. 16 in the museum, 1155 E. 58th St., documents the significance of birds to Egyptians alive from approximately 700 B.C.E. through the first centuries of the Common Era.

“Me being fascinated by nature and especially birds, I wanted to give people a chance to think of ancient Egyptians in a different way,” Bailleul-LeSuer explained.

Featuring 40 items, including mummies and ceramics, mostly from the Oriental Institute’s collection, the exhibit has been three years in the planning, according to Jack Green, chief curator at the Oriental Institute, who worked alongside the Bailleul-LeSeur to develop it.

Under the regular chirping of birds and a video projection against one wall of the kinds of birds that one would find in Egypt, the exhibit includes various curiosities, including a mummified eagle, another mummified bird offered as a meal to the afterlife, and a pot for clay that Bailleul LaSeur suspects was shaped to resemble a bird floating on water.

Visitors learn about the birds that migrated through Egypt, as well as about the ancient Egyptians’ polytheistic religion, in which gods Horus, a falcon, and Thoth, an ibis, played a significant role. Perhaps most stunning, one placard shows 65 of the most common hieroglyphs represented by birds that ancient Egyptians used.

For more information about the exhibit, visit oi.uchicago.edu, or call 773-702-9514. The exhibit runs through July 28, 2013.

j.bishku@hpherald.com