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  • Petrie Pottery Project Guest Blog: Reinventing the (Potter’s) Wheel

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 10 June 2014

    Guest blog by Sarah Doherty

    In the seventh in our series of thoughts about the Petrie pottery collction, Dr. Sarah K. Doherty, Ceramicist & Archaeologist for the Gurob Harem Palace Project, Fayoum and Gebel el Silsila Epigraphic Project, near Kom Ombo, Egypt, discusses some dinky little pots dating to the time of the earliest true Egyptian pyramids.

    After you step through the doorway from the UCL’s Science Library into the Petrie Museum you would be forgiven for missing the little pots that I am going to tell you about in this blog. However, bear with me, pots UC17625, 17630, 17632, and 17631 in pottery case P16 may not look like much, but they hold the secret for a new technological revolution that was going on during Egypt’s Old Kingdom (c.2600 B.C.). Each of these miniature vessels is made of Nile Silt, they date to the 4th dynasty (2600-2450 B.C.) and come from the Old Kingdom pyramid site of Meydum (c. 100km south of Cairo). In fact, some of these vessels were part of the foundation deposit of the pyramid temple of Sneferu at Meydum; others are from similar deposits in the mastabas of his courtiers.

    Left to right: UC17630, UC17625, UC17631. Photos: S. Doherty © Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

    Left to right: UC17630, UC17625, UC17631. Photos: S. Doherty © Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology


    Pondering Petrie’s Pots

    By Alice E Stevenson, on 4 February 2014

    When you think about ancient Egypt what comes to mind? Plenty of things beginning with the letter ‘P’ no doubt: Pyramids! Pharaohs! Papyrus! Maybe even Petrie. But Pottery?…

    Grumpy pots in the Petrie

    Grumpy po[u]ts in the Petrie


    From the Field to the Museum and Back Again

    By Edmund Connolly, on 1 November 2013

    by guest blogger: Alice Stevenson
    What are the chances? Two teams of archaeologists separated by a more than century stumbling across small fragments of the same object while working across a wide expanse of desert? Quite high as it happens.

    At the turn of the 19th century Flinders Petrie’s teams were trawling through the debris of the tombs of the first rulers of Egypt at a site called Abydos.

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013

    Reconstruction of First Dynasty royal tomb of Den at Abydos, February 2013


    The great zombie apocalypse

    By Rachael Sparks, on 8 October 2013

    Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

    Curatorial dilemma no 1: how to defend against zombie attack

    On September 18th, UCL Museums and Collections participated in a worldwide event on Twitter: Ask a Curator day.  The plan was to have a handful of curators on call to deal with questions as they flooded in from a curious public. The reality was that we didn’t have many queries sent directly to our feed, so we went out into the Twittersphere to seek out interesting questions to answer. As Keeper of the Institute of Archaeology Collections, I spent an hour manning the virtual desk, and found it an interesting experience. (more…)

    A passage from India

    By Rachael Sparks, on 12 January 2012

    The mysterious ‘Saxon’ pot

    Let me introduce you to one of the more unusual pieces in the Institute of Archaeology Collections. I first met it last year, when it was returned to us from the Museum of London from an extended and unintentionally long period of loan. It has a convoluted history with an unexpected punch line. (more…)

    Relight my fire

    By Rachael Sparks, on 2 December 2011

    Ancient vessels have usually gone through a lot before making their way into a comfortable museum store. First they have to survive the dangerous business of production and come out of the kiln intact and as intended. If they pass muster, they then have to make it through being packed up and shipped off to market, near or far. Then there are the ministrations of their new owners to be borne, with all the risks of having chips come off here and there through rough handling. Sooner or later, every amphora knows some clumsy owner is going to end up knocking its handles off. And then into a pit with it, where its carcass suffers further indignities as rubbish is thrown in on top, or into a tomb where the ceiling might fall in and inflict yet more distress. Only to be in danger once more from the swing of the excavator’s pick. (more…)

    Meet the moufflon

    By Rachael Sparks, on 15 August 2011

    UCL 844 moufflonNever mind the Grant Museum’s much publicised quagga – the Institute of Archaeology has got its own menagerie of strange and rare beasts to enjoy. There isn’t time to explore them all here, so I thought I would introduce you to one of my favourites – a vase in the shape of a moufflon (UCL 844).

    A moufflon, I’ve been reliably informed, is a type of wild sheep. In Cyprus, which is where this vessel comes from, it has become a powerful and widely used national image, appearing in a range of contexts from coinage to airline branding. Immortalised in clay, and far less endangered than the real thing, ours looks rather well-fed and sedate, more suited to a gentle amble over the hills than energetically leaping from crag to crag.