Authors: Leslie Carmichael
Tags: #fantasy, #historical, #children's book, #Leslie Carmichael, #Amulet of Amon-Ra
The Amulet of Amon-Ra
Copyright Â© 2009 Leslie Carmichael
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission. For more information write to:
PO Box 92411
Austin, TX 78709
First Edition 2009
eBook ISBN: 978-1-933767-27-7
CIP data available.
Children's Brains are Yummy Books
For my parents:
Alice May “Maisie” Williams (Weightman)
February 17, 1923 - August 12, 1992
Samuel Henry “Harry” Williams
May 28, 1918 - May 10, 1990
The mummy lay on its back, partially wrapped in faded linen bands. Its dark skin had dried tight against the bones of its bald skull, which had a few wisps of gray hair still attached. The mummy's only jewelry was a thin gold bracelet.
“Cool,” said Jennifer Seeley. “Grandma, come look at this!”
“No, you have to come take a look at this!” said Grandma Jo.
Jennifer glanced at her grandmother, then back at the mummy. Despite its sunken cheeks and skeletal nose, it seemed familiar somehow, although she couldn't think why. Maybe she'd seen it in one of her books.
“Coming,” she said, trotting across the carpet to her grandmother's side.
“Look,” said Grandma Jo, pointing at a stone fragment fastened to the wall. “It says this is part of a tomb painting.”
“So, look closely.”
Jennifer leaned forward. The painting was protected by a thin sheet of plastic. Its colors were still bright, though peeling. A young girl in a white dress stood in the typical ancient Egyptian pose, with shoulders and upper body flat, but head and legs turned to the right, as if she was walking.
The young girl's face was finely drawn. Jennifer's eyes widened as she realized why Grandma Jo had wanted her to see it.
“That girl looks like you, doesn't she?” Grandma Jo said, smiling. “Except that her hair is black, not brown. Isn't that interesting?”
“Yes,” Jennifer whispered, reaching for the figure. She gasped as a spark of static electricity leapt from the plastic to her finger.
“They do say that everyone has a double somewhere,” Grandma Jo continued cheerfully. “It looks like yours is thousands of years old.”
Was that all it was? A double? Jennifer stared at the painting. Somehow, she wasn't sure.
“But how could I be in ancient Egypt?” she muttered, rubbing her finger.
“Eep!” said Jennifer.
She and her grandmother spun around, to see a gray-haired, dark-skinned man dressed in a three-piece suit.
“Oh!” said Grandma Jo. “You startled us!”
“I do beg your pardon,” said the man. “I only meant to find out if you needed any help. May I tell you anything about the collection?”
“This painting,” Jennifer began.
“Ah, yes. A fascinating example of tomb art. Quite unusual, actuallyânote the detailed features of the girl and woman. Most Egyptian art follows the traditional canon, but this has subtle differences. The artist must have been a master of his craft. The hieroglyphs are quite interesting as well. They tell the story ofâ”
“Daoud?” Grandma Jo interrupted. She was staring at the man. “Daoud, is that you?”
He squinted at Grandma Jo, then pulled a pair of glasses from his jacket pocket and slipped them on. His face brightened. “Miss Josephine!”
“Daoud, how wonderful to see you again, after all these years!” Grandma Jo laughed. “You haven't changed a bit.”
Daoud touched his gray hair. “My family is known for aging well,” he said, grinning. His white teeth gleamed against his dark skin. “You are still lovely.”
Grandma Jo giggled. Jennifer looked at her in astonishment. Grandma Jo, giggling?
“Who is this?” he asked, looking at Jennifer.
Grandma Jo gently prodded Jennifer forward. “My granddaughter, Jennifer. This is Daoud Elgabri. He was our tour guide, when I went on that trip to Egypt, long before you were born.”
“Jennifer?” Daoud tilted his head to one side. “Ah, yes, I can see a resemblance.”
“What are you doing in the United States?” asked Grandma Jo.
Daoud spread the fingers of his right hand over his chest and bowed slightly. “I am no longer a humble tour guide. You see before you a fully-trained Egyptologist.”
“How wonderful!” Grandma Jo exclaimed. “I told you education would help you get ahead. Are you with this exhibit, then?”
“I have the honor of being in charge. And it is all thanks to you.”
“Me?” Grandma Jo's eyebrows flew up.
“You and your friends' generous tips allowed me to begin my schooling,” said Daoud.
“I'm so glad! You deserved them. You were such a good guide.” She turned to Jennifer. “We saw things with him that we never would have even known existed.”
Daoud smiled. “Allow me to show you once again. I can give you a personal tour of this collection.”
“Just like you did in Egypt,” said Grandma Jo. “But without dragging me into every bazaar you can find, this time.”
“I seem to recall it was the other way around,” said Daoud, winking at Jennifer. “I would be happy to tell you about this small part of my country's great heritage.”
“That would be lovely. Wouldn't it, Jennifer?”
“Uh, sure,” said Jennifer.
“I bet you'll find out more now than you would on your field trip. Her eighth grade class is coming here in a couple of weeks,” Grandma Jo confided to Daoud.
“We have several school visits on the schedule,” said Daoud. “You couldn't wait?”
“We thought it would be quieter, especially on a Saturday morning,” said Grandma Jo.
This way, Jennifer could actually look at the artifacts, without Hannah and Ashley trying to hustle her through as quickly as possible, and without Tyler trying to trip her at every opportunity.
Daoud's eyes crinkled. “I understand. Have you been studying my country in your class?”
“We just started,” said Jennifer. “Mrs. Goodwin let us choose our own topics.”
“And yours is?”
“The Pharaohs,” said Jennifer. “Some of them, anyway.”
“All great men,” said Daoud. “All but one,” he added, with a smile.
“You mean Hatshepsut,” said Jennifer.
“Is there anything in this collection about them?” asked Grandma Jo.
“There is a little,” said Daoud, “but most of these artifacts are from Nubia, rescued from the rising waters of Lake Nasser, which flooded much of the area when the Aswan Dam was completed. These artifacts do not travel muchânot because they are rare or especially valuable, but because most people would rather see the more famous pieces.”
“Like Tutankhamen's gold mask,” said Jennifer.
“Precisely,” said Daoud. “But I prefer the simpler things. They are so much better at telling us how the ordinary people lived, day to day.”
He tucked Grandma Jo's arm in his and led her to a nearby display case. Jennifer, with a glance at the girl in the tomb painting, followed.
“These, for example,” said Daoud, pointing to a collection of pots, spoons, and small dishes. “They were found in the tomb with the mummy. Can you guess what they are?”
Jennifer peered at the delicate jars and plates, all made of a buttery-yellow substance. A bronze disk, propped up behind them, made a blurry reflection of three slim stone rods. A set of dishes? No, too small.
“Are they for make-up?” Jennifer asked.
“Well done!” said Daoud. “Yes, they are cosmetics containers. The stoppered vessels were probably for perfumes. Long gone by now, of course. They were for use in the afterlife.”
“I read they put food in the tombs for the mummies to eat and drink, too,” said Jennifer.
“Yes, indeed. We even have some of that here,” said Daoud. He pointed to another case that held small jugs with handles and pointed bottoms, and some round gray loaves. “They believed they needed the physical item or a representation to be comfortable. Of course, by now the bread is rock, the seeds petrified and wine only a stain in the amphorae.”
“I would have thought it would be all crumbled to dust by now,” said Grandma Jo.
“Dust, yes,” said Daoud. “There is always dust. Like the mummies, they have dried out in the desert heat.”
“Oh, it makes me thirsty just to think of it,” said Grandma Jo. “I remember it was so hot, but it was so dry that the sweat just evaporated off of us.”
Daoud chuckled. “I wish I could offer you a glass of ice-cold karkadeh.”
“Mmm,” said Grandma Jo. She answered Jennifer's unspoken question. “Hibiscus tea, cooled and sweetened. It's delicious.”
“Perhaps you will visit Egypt someday, and taste it for yourself,” said Daoud. “Meanwhile, let me show you the rest of this collection.”
He drew them into a second room, which held more display cases, filled with the small figurines called ushabti, which were supposed to take the place of the dead in the fields of the gods, so they could take their ease in the afterlife. There were also dozens of amulets in the shapes of scarab beetles, animals, eyes of Horus, and the looped crosses called ankhs.
“Hundreds of amulets have been found all over Egypt, most of them originally entombed with the mummies,” Daoud explained. “They were worn throughout life, and many more were wrapped in the layers of linen shrouds at the wearer's death, placed at throat, wrists and forehead. They were worn for protection and luck.”
Standing as if they were guarding the room were several mannequins dressed as the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt.
“I know these!” said Jennifer, recognizing them. “There's Isis, with the wings and half-moon headdress. That green-skinned guy is Osiris, her husband. He's wrapped in linen like a mummy, because he's Lord of the Dead. And there's Horus, their son, with the head of a hawk.”
“He is flanked by two goddesses,” Daoud said, smiling. “Hathor, the cow goddess; and lion-headed Sekhmet. Both were guardians of the young god.”
By itself in a corner of the room was another mannequin, next to a stone scarab the size of a dinner plate. Like Horus, he was bare-chested but for a pectoral of colored beads, and he also wore a white pleated skirt, the Egyptian kilt. His head was topped by a tall, split crown.
“Who's that?” asked Jennifer.
“Amon-Ra, city-god of Thebes,” said Daoud. “A handsome fellow, is he not?”
“At least he has a human head,” said Grandma Jo.
“Mm, yes,” said Daoud. “Now, let me show you the pride of our collection.”
“The mummy?” asked Jennifer.
“Oh, must we?” asked Grandma Jo. “I'm not too fond of them.”
“I thought you saw some when you went to Egypt,” said Jennifer.
“Yes, but only animals. Some crocodiles and a cat. They were bad enough. Harriet was the one who went into the mummy room at the museum in Cairo.” Grandma Jo shuddered. “They give me the willies.”
“Well, I'd like to know about it,” said Jennifer. “Was it found in the same tomb as the painting?”
“No, they are from separate tombs,” said Daoud. He gestured that Jennifer should lead them back to the other room. Grandma Jo followed, but stayed well behind.
“Who was she?” asked Jennifer, looking down at the mummy.
“Alas, we do not know,” said Daoud. “She was found, like so many others, in a cache of mummies, in an unmarked tomb. Mummies were often removed from their own tombs to save them from looting by grave robbers. We only know that she is from the Eighteenth Dynasty, and died sometime around 1500 B.C.”
“That's, let's see, about thirty-five hundred years ago,” said Jennifer, “right?”
“Absolutely right,” said Daoud. “Do you know much about mummies?”
“I know they removed the mummies' liver, lungs, stomach and intestines,” said Jennifer. She nodded at a collection of four stone jars in a display case some distance away. “They kept them in jars like those.”
“The canopic jars, yes. The heart, the seat of memory and thought, however, they left in the body cavity,” said Daoud.
“But they pulled the brains out through the noses and threw them away.”
“They thought the brains weren't worth anything,” Daoud said, with a smile.
“I know some people whose brains sure aren't,” said Jennifer, thinking of Tyler and his annoying practical jokes.
“So do I,” said Daoud, his eyes creasing. “So, tell me what came next, in the matter of mummification.”
“Um. After that, they packed the body in natron, a kind of salt, and then let it dry out for seventy days.”
“Quite correct. Then the mummy was wrapped in layers of linen and placed in its sarcophagus to begin the journey to the afterworld.” Daoud grinned. “Pickled and packaged, I remember one tourist saying, all for the sake of immortality.”
“You know your subject,” said Daoud. “Do you want to become an Egyptologist?”
“I don't know.” Jennifer shrugged. “I haven't really thought about it.”
“Of course. Well, that is the extent of this traveling collection,” said Daoud. “Wait a moment, though, please.” He strode into the other room.
Jennifer went to stand by Grandma Jo, who was carefully not looking at the mummy.
“Where did Daoud go?” she asked.
“I don't know,” said Jennifer. “He just said to wait. I wanted to ask him more about that tomb painting.” Jennifer started to walk over to it, but Daoud returned, carrying a small cloth bag.