X Close

Events

Home

UCL events news and reviews

Menu

Papyrus for the People – engaging the public through storytelling

ucypndo28 July 2017

pencil-iconWritten by Natasha Downes, Media Relations Manager, UCL

Divorce papers, tax documents, and a gentlemen that listed his days and whether they were good, bad or both – these are a few examples of the fascinating papyri that are on display at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, part of UCL Culture.

Detail from a Fragmentary papyrus scroll bearing on one side columns of cursive hieroglyphs and vignettes giving a selection of formulae from the Book of the Dead for a man named Tjaymesu or Paymesu (initial sign unclear).

Detail from a fragmentary papyrus scroll.

This week I attended a Papyrus Storytelling event held at the museum, where families and adults were invited to explore fragments of stories from ancient Egypt preserved on papyrus.

Helping to bring the stories of ancient Egypt to life, professional puppeteer Allison DeFrees from Puppet Story led a puppet making workshop for the kids, and parents, to delve deeper into the museums artefacts.

Popular amongst parents looking for something a bit different to do in the school holidays, one family explained that Egypt has become a kind of passion project after they visited the Swansea Egypt Centre.

The Petrie museum is located at the heart of the UCL campus and the artefacts on display, most of which were excavated by English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, illustrate life in the Nile valley from prehistory through the time of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic, Roman and Coptic periods to the Islamic period.

I was fortunate enough to have Louise Bascombe, curatorial assistant at the museum, who used to work at the Horniman Museum in South London, talk me through their collection. Some 80,000 objects in total, including over 500 papyri (a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient Egypt as writing surface) and 1600 ostraca (historic fragments of pottery or small pieces of stone that have writing scratched into them).

What makes the Petrie special is the access that you get to wonderful experts and passionate Egyptologists that you wouldn’t often find at a larger museum. There were plenty of opportunities for the families involved in the workshop to ask questions about life in ancient Egypt.

The storytelling workshop forms part of a major push to improve understanding and accessibility of the Petrie collection. Supported by a grant from the Arts Council England, the collection of written texts are set to get the special attention they deserve, both in terms of preservation and how they are displayed. The project will also include an upgrade of its online catalogue, a searchable database with all 80,000 of its artefacts on it.

The Petrie may be small but it houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese artefacts anywhere in the world. For anyone interested in exploring ancient history and archaeology, the Petrie is definitely worth a visit.

 

Why Classical Studies is important

news editor9 May 2012

Annette Mitchell writes about Professor Miriam Leonard’s inaugural lecture.

Is Classics important today? After studying ancient history for more than 10 years, many people ask me what can you do with it? And it is a question I often asked myself until I started reading Freud and got curious about all the references he made to antiquity. By sheer coincidence, when I was accepted for a PhD on this subject in 2007 Miriam Leonard was joining the Greek and Latin Department and she became my supervisor.

I had heard of her before, but I thought it would be a good move to read more of her work and rooted out a copy of Athens in Paris: Ancient Greece and the Political in Post-War French Thought (2005). This was the first time I really got a sense of ‘Reception Studies’.

‘Reception Studies’, as a sub-discipline of Classical Studies, not only covers how antiquity is received in future times, but also considers how antiquity is used to express important political, social, cultural questions in future times.

Professor Leonard’s inaugural lecture on 1 May, entitled ‘Tragedy and Modernity’, squarely honed in on this latter aspect. She explained how specific German philosophers have used Greek tragedy, in particular Sophocles’ play Oedipus Tyrannos, to express certain conditions, since the mid-1700s.

Professor Leonard mainly concentrated on Hegel and Freud, explaining how both used Oedipus Tyrannos to encapsulate what they believed to be the modern condition.

(more…)