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  • Archive for January, 2012

    Luxor: Places and People

    By Debbie J Challis, on 13 January 2012

    On Saturday 7 January artist Adele Wagstaff hung her exhibition Luxor: People and Places at the Petrie Museum and, having just returned from Luxor a few days before the hang, I thought I’d write a post with a similar name. It was my first time in Upper Egypt and Luxor,  having previously visited Cairo and Alexandria, and I was a tourist on holiday rather than doing work.

    A pharoah smiting people on Medinet Habu Temple, Thebes. Petrie took casts from the prisoner heads as ‘racial types’.

    Although I did visit many sites that Flinders Petrie worked on 100 years ago, excavating, surveying or taking casts for his Racial Photographs project.

    The week my husband and I went to Luxor was meant to be one of the busiest of the European tourist season, though the sites and Luxor itself was fairly quiet due to both a recession in Europe and concerns about continued demonstrations in Cairo. It was great, however, to see so many Egyptian people visiting the sites, particularly in Abydos.

    Omar in his ‘Reis’ clothes

    Visiting these places was sorted out for us by Omar Farouk Said and his cousin Alla. Omar is a descendent of one of Petrie’s Qufti workers, who still excavates today! He was currently working with an excavation organised by Memphis University in Dra abu el Naga.

    I think Deir el Medina – the town where the artisans lived who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings – was my favourite site in Thebes. Although I also loved the Rammesseum complete with Belzoni’s graffiti on the column.

    Belzoni at Rammesseum

    There is a myth that you go to Egypt today and see the ‘unchanged’ scenes from antiquity in the countryside and driving through the villages of Upper Egypt can seem like that. However, Belzoni’s name along with those of other European travellers dotting the monuments give the lie to this ‘unchanging myth’ and are a reminder of the politics that always surrounds ancient heritage.

    On our last day I had a sherry in colonial mansion that is the Winter Palace Hotel; a place that seemed incongruously older than the ancient sites, even down to the picture of Tony and Cherie Blair on the wall of the corridor outside the bar.

    It was an exciting time to be in Egypt. In the last few days we were there, elections were taking place in the

    Drinking sherry in the Winter Palace bar

    Drinking sherry in the Winter Palace bar

    provinces. Many of the candidates for Qena, the capital city of the province Luxor belongs to, were staying in our hotel which made for chaotic scenes with TV crews and taxis when we left for Dendera early on 3 January.

    There were election posters everywhere.  It was a completely different situation and feel to the atmosphere when I visited Egypt in 2008 where restaurants and roadsides had countless pictures of the former President Hosni Mubarak. The political graffitiand stencils were particularly moving. Stencils of ‘Egyptian martyrs’ who died in the cause of freedom dotted the streets of Luxor.  From Khaled Said, who died at the hands of the

    Mina Daniel: 'We are all Martyr Mina Daniel'. Luxor Street

    Mina Daniel: ‘We are all Martyr Mina Daniel’. Luxor Street

    security forces in 2010 and was one of the first martyrs of the revolution, to this one of Mina Daniel, a young Copt who died when the military opened fire on a protest in October 2011; these images kept the continuing struggle for the election and free speech in public view.

    I came home to Britain reflecting on the connections and differences between our own protests and riots over the past year and those that happened and are continuing in Egypt, and felt humbled.

    There will be a screening of a documentary about how a cross section of Egyptian people in Upper Egypt were affected by the revolution, followed by a discussion on Wednesday 25 January in the Petrie Museum.

    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…)

    Why we’ve put a thousand specimens on the floor

    By Jack Ashby, on 9 January 2012

    If you come down to the Museum today you’re sure of a big surprise.

    1000 specimens on the floor

    1000 specimens on the floor

    Ever since we moved into our new venue last March we’ve been waiting for the time that we could undertake a very exciting construction project. The room we now occupy was built as a library, and the 39 book cases that run along the bottom row of the Museum’s walls didn’t have any doors on them. We were unable to commission new glass doors in time for the opening so we went with the temporary measure of screwing sheets of perspex in to protect the specimens on display. (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Thirteen

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 9 January 2012

    Scary Monkey: Week ThirteenFor Christmas, besides a cuddly vulture with bright pink feet and a fantastic variety of different species of chocolate boxes, more than one family member demonstrated how well they know me as I received not one, but two copies of Frozen Planet- hoorah! I am now debating whether to swap one for something else or put two tvs side-by-side and see if I can watch it in stereo? Eitherway, inspired by this fantastic series (coincidentally mentioned in fact in a recent blog about the validity of such documentaries), this week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)

    Specimen of the Week: Week Twelve

    By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 2 January 2012

    Scary Monkey: Week TwelveWELCOME TO 2012! Happy New Year to one and all from everyone here at the Grant Museum. We are going to kick the year off with a request from one of our readers. This week’s specimen of the week, the first for the new year, is a mammal but it has large scales. This week’s specimen of the week is… (more…)