If you grew up in the Bay Area, there’s a good chance that you took a 6th grade field trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum. This lesser-known museum in San Jose houses over 4,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts, making it the largest such collection on public display in western North America. Items include real human and animal mummies, ancient jewelry and sculptures, fascinating tools, and much more. Not only is the museum’s collection impressive, but it also has several beautiful gardens, a labyrinth, and a walk-in tomb.
Perhaps the most interesting artifacts on display are several real human mummies. They include the mummy of a high-status female child between 4.5 to 6 years old, and a priest from the temple of Min. There is also a famous male mummy whose name is unknown, but whose body was found in the coffin of a priest named Usermontu. When the museum acquired the sealed coffin 1971, the mummy’s presence was a complete surprise, and his style of mummification does not match the coffin itself, leading the curators to believe he was placed there centuries after he died in the place of the real Usermontu.
Other notable artifacts include an ancient statue of Cleopatra, which is one of only seven remaining in the world; an Apis bull head mummy, which was mummified in the style of a pharaoh; a Babylonian spirit house from 2600 BCE; and a tablet listing known stars and planets from 2750 BCE.
The museum has a fascinating walk-in replica of a real Egyptian tomb, which is modeled after sketches and photographs of rock-cut tombs from Beni Hasan, a cemetery from the Middle Kingdom (2066 – 1650 BCE). Images found in the tomb are modeled after the tomb of Khnumhotep II, who was a monarch from the Twelfth Dynasty. Visitors can walk in to the tomb’s Offering Chamber and Burial Chamber, which are modeled to feel like an excavation site.
Take a walk around the surrounding Rosicrucian Park and you’ll discover even more treasures, which include a newly-added labyrinth authentic to the 18th Dynasty; a Peace Garden modeled after the city of Akhetaton, now called Amarna; a Grand Temple resembling the Temple of Dendera; and a planetarium, which was the fifth built in the United States (temporarily closed).
You’ll also find an authentic Alchemy Garden, which is an extension of the highly-anticipated Alchemy Museum. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum is in the process of creating a permanent version of its popular Alchemy exhibition, which takes visitors through the seven steps of the alchemical process. It currently includes a meditation chamber and a full-sized replica of an alchemist’s workshop, but at its full scale will one day be the nation’s first alchemy museum and the largest in the world.
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum dates back to 1928 when the Ancient Mystical Order Rosæ Crucis (AMORC) founded it in San Jose. It continues to be operated by the Rosicrucian Order and is world-famous for its extensive collection. Rosicrucianism is a movement dedicated to studying the “Natural Laws governing the Universe,” which include the nature of time and space, psychic consciousness, metaphysical healing, and more. Rosicrucians are part of a brotherhood centered on the belief that they possess sacred knowledge passed down from ancient times.
The museum is open on Fridays from 10am-5pm, and Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-6pm. Admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, students with ID, and children under 18; and free for children 6 and under. Find the museum at 1660 Park Avenue in San Jose, California.
Featured image: Courtesy of Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum