The National Museum of Ireland's Egyptian collection comprises about 3,000 objects. The majority of these were acquired from excavations carried out in Egypt between the 1890s and the 1920s, and range in date from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages.
From the 1840s steamboat travel made the Eastern Mediterranean more accessible than it had been since the Roman Period, and Irish travellers such as Lady Harriet Kavanagh toured the Nile sites, returning with collections of antiquities, some of which now form part collection. Pioneers such as Flinders Petrie began archaeological excavation at sites throughout the Valley and Delta in the late 19th century.
The Museum received a share in several major divisions of finds from these excavations and the greater part of the collection derives from these relatively well-documented sources. The finest and most important objects in the collection are exhibited to provide an introduction to ancient Egypt within Ireland.
Among the most important is a red granite offering table of King Senwosret III, who reigned between around 1874 – 1855 BC. The collection also contains a beautiful model Nile boat, from Beni Hasan that dates to around 1900 BC and a wide range of jewellery made from gold, calcite, carnelian, amethyst, faience, shell and bone. The range of personal items includes cosmetic containers; mirrors; a variety of toilet implements such as tweezers and razors; and items used to prepare and store eye liner.
The funerary arts of Egypt at its peak, as practiced in Thebes during the early first millennium BC, is illustrated by the mummy and coffin of the lady Tentdinebu and there are later mummies present in the collection such as those of the Romano-Egyptian period from Hawara, which date to the second century AD. Mummies of cats and ibises are also present in the collection along with small figures of the dead made from pottery, wood, stone and faience, called shabtis. These were included in burials to perform any manual tasks that might be required of the deceased in the underworld.