The sarcophagus is beautiful – wooden, conformed to a woman’s shapely body, decorated with bright colors depicting a woman’s face and a multitude of small geometric shapes and mysterious symbols.

The sarcophagus is at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, one of the objects in the traveling British Museum exhibit of Egyptian art and funerary objects that will be in the capital until Nov. 26.

You don’t get buried in a casket like that today. You are put into a plain metal box with its adornment limited to the side carrying handles, and down you go.

With caskets like ours, it’s not worth getting excited about dying.

But from the amount of time the Egyptians devoted to death, they considered it a thing of importance.

Death is more of a nuisance to most of us than an adventure, generally because we don’t know where we’re going or don’t think we’re going anywhere.

The noteworthy thing about the Egyptian sarcophagus is that it wasn’t for a king or priest but someone of lesser social standing and according to the exhibit, would have been cranked out with many others – not exactly mass produced, but generically produced.

Our cash-quick economy is generically minded, but it doesn’t allow for much elaboration in life or death, which makes a person want to compare ourselves to the ancient Egyptians in other ways.

The United States has been a dominant world player for a little more than a hundred years. We’re the sole superpower now, but that probably won’t last long. On the other hand, the ancient Egyptians had a couple of millennia of economic, political and cultural supremacy.

That doesn’t mean life was easy in ancient Egypt. Many, or most, were slaves.

Of course, many people today feel like slaves as buying power and health and retirement benefits diminish. Still we have cable TV and a little extra money to gamble at casinos. And if we can avoid the caskets for a few more years, most of us will be able to afford HD television and other technological marvels.

The Egyptians were good at developing technological marvels, too. Marvels come at a price, though. Being a technological innovator takes great amounts of energy and wealth, and the demand for wealth gets nations involved sometimes in conflicts that turn out badly and not worth the costs of getting involved.

For instance, an ancient Egyptian intelligence estimate said the Pharaoh had gotten in too deep with a foreign group inside his country that he did not understand and sadly underestimated, and the best thing to do would be to let them go their way.

He didn’t, and you know the rest of the story — the frog invasion, the gnats, boils, rivers of blood and deaths of firstborn sons. Of course, the natural reaction for a ruler is to even things up. You don’t let somebody send frogs into your home or take your eldest child without trying to exact retribution.

So instead of listening to his advisors who said, “Let those people go,” he listened to those who said, “Get tough. You just have to expect things to get worse before they get better.”

So the Pharaoh stiffened his neck, and ancient Egyptians found themselves at the seashore picking up the bodies of the Pharoah and his soldiers. They put them in the wooden sarcophagi decorated with the colorful geometric shapes and mysterious sayings.

We don’t have caskets like that nowadays.

We drape our soldiers’ plain boxes with the flag — whether we understood what we were getting into or not.

You can reach Gerard at 684-2920 or

If you go

WHAT: Temples and Tombs: Treasures of Egyptian Art from The British Museum.

WHEN: Until Nov. 26.

WHERE: Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City.

INFO: (405) 236-3100.

COST: Adults, $9; seniors, students, children, $7; under 5 free. Check with museum for group rates.

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