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Archive for the 'Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology' Category

From Gurob to the Getty: The Voyages of an Ancient Egyptian Ship-Cart Model

Anna EGarnett18 June 2019

‘Put simply, if Helen of Troy’s face launched a thousand ships, then at present the Gurob model is the nearest we can approach to that ship type’ (Shelley Wachsmann, 2018)

A new exhibition at the Petrie Museum explores the ancient and modern contexts of a unique object excavated from the site of Gurob in the Faiyum. In this exhibition, a Mycenaean-style painted wooden ship-cart model (UC16044) sits alongside a group of objects from the Petrie Museum collection that illustrate the story of the ancient inhabitants of Gurob. This unusual object has been the subject of much scholarly debate since its excavation.

The ship-cart model (Image courtesy the J. Paul Getty Museum)

Excavation card for Tomb 611

In 1920, Flinders Petrie assigned two of his assistants, Guy Brunton and Reginald Engelbach, to work at Gurob. This work focused on the excavation of tombs at the site, which they believed still held promise in spite of continuing illicit excavations at that time. With their Egyptian workforce, Brunton and Engelbach found a remarkable painted wooden ship model and fragments of a wheeled cart in a tomb (no. 611). This was the only object found in the tomb, described on the tomb card simply as ‘Frags of painted wooden boat on wheels’.

During the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BC), when the ship-cart model was made, an increase in royal military campaigns saw the Egyptian empire extend significantly across the Near East and south into Nubia (modern day Sudan). Merchants travelled to the Egyptian border to trade the products of their lands with Egypt. As a Mycenaean-style vessel deposited in a tomb in Egypt, this model tells an important story about the ancient migration of ideas and objects from the Greek mainland to Egypt during the Late Bronze Age.

The importance of this object lies in its highly unusual form and decoration: it appears to be a model of a ‘galley’ type of ship first used in Mycenaean Greece.  The wheels on the cart show that the model, and the ship it represents, may have been intended to travel overland, possibly during ritual activity. As such, scholars have interpreted this model as a cultic object. However, when interpreting this object it is important to remember that there may have been differences between the model and the ship that remain to be established.

Digital Reconstruction of the ship-cart model by Prof. Shelley Wachsmann (Image courtesy of the Institute for the Visualisation of History)

Prof. Shelley Wachsmann (Texas A&M University) studied the ship-cart model in detail, producing a comprehensive publication of the model in 2013 and an associated online resource with 3D reconstructions. This important publication also includes the results of scientific analysis undertaken on the ship-cart model including pigment analysis, radiocarbon dating and wood identification. Wachsmann’s painstaking work on the digital reconstruction of the original form of the object helps to shed light on the functions of the different sections of the ship-cart, which was invaluable when the time came for the model to be conserved and reconstructed in 2018.

Image courtesy Prof. Shelley Wachsmann/Texas A+M Press

Due to its fragility and difficulties of displaying it, the ship-cart model has remained in storage for much of the time it has been part of the Petrie Museum collection. While well documented and accessible online, visitors were not able to enjoy the model on display. In 2018, it was loaned to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles for their major exhibition ‘Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World’. Here the ship-cart model took centre stage as one of the most important objects in the exhibition.

Months of preparation went into making the ship-cart model ready for its journey across the Atlantic, including painstaking conservation by Philip Kevin and three weeks of dedicated work by Getty mountmaker Richard Hards to construct a bespoke mount for the object. Susi Pancaldo coordinated this work and accompanied the ship-cart model, and a group of other objects from the Petrie Museum, to the J. Paul Getty Museum. We are grateful that their skilled work and commitment means that we can now safely display the model at the Petrie Museum for visitors to enjoy.

‘From Gurob to the Getty: The Voyages of an Ancient Egyptian Ship-Cart Model’ is open at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL, from June 18th – October 26th 2019.

Anna Garnett is the Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL.

Petrie and Edwards: Gateway to the World of Egyptology

Anna EGarnett16 April 2019

In January 2019, we were delighted to receive a grant of £110,000 from the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund for our project proposal: ‘Petrie and Edwards: Gateway to the World of Egyptology’. The aim of this project is to completely redesign the Petrie Museum’s entrance gallery to create a much more welcoming entrance to the Museum. The current entrance is somewhat cramped and cluttered, with much of the space occupied by an office. There is very little room for visitors to dwell and, more importantly, the layout is completely inaccessible to wheelchair users. The scope of this project is to remove the office infrastructure and use the expanded gallery space to make the entrance more accessible. While our access route for visitors will remain available via the DMS Watson Science Library next door to the Petrie Museum, this project will create a much clearer pathway through the Museum for visitors to reach the entrance gallery.

The Petrie Museum’s current entrance gallery

Here, visitors will find a clear introduction to the Petrie Museum’s world-class collection that will celebrate the life and work of the Museum’s founders, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie and Amelia Blanford Edwards, as well as other lesser-known characters who are integral to the history of the Petrie Museum. These new displays will also promote critical engagement with the collections, and the history of the Museum, through the presentation of new research. Modern, conservation-standard cases will provide opportunities for expanded, fresh interpretation and allow us to develop new object displays.

These displays will integrate images and documents from the Petrie Museum’s internationally important archive and personal items that have never been displayed before, including Petrie’s excavation satchel and tools. The space will continue to incorporate our Audio Described guide to the Museum, made in collaboration with VocalEyes and available for free download, so the new displays will also be accessible for our visually impaired visitors.

Petrie’s satchel

With this project, visitors will have the opportunity to explore a new ‘gateway’ space where they will acquaint themselves with Petrie, Edwards, and other characters from the history of the Museum, before moving into the main galleries to see the stunning results of Petrie’s excavations. We will also enhance visitor orientation as part of this project, including new signage, which we hope will make finding the Museum much more straightforward.

Over the coming year we will present more information on the project in the Museum, which will include new temporary panels in the entrance stairwell to make visitors aware of the upcoming changes to the space. During the period when the major entrance refit will be happening later in 2019, we will be closing the Petrie Museum for a short time to allow this work to happen safely. We will post updates on this closure period in due course, to support visitors planning their visit around this time.

We hope that this project will significantly improve the overall visitor experience by offering an accessible introduction to the collection that explores historical and contemporary issues and facilitates engagement for all. So watch this space!

Anna Garnett is the Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL

 

Object of the Week 372: 3 Meteorite Beads

GrahamIsted4 January 2019

Hello and welcome to the next installment of Object of the Week: Petrie Museum Edition. I am delighted to say that my first UCL Culture blog post will also be the first of 2019. I have chosen a set of 3 objects which are truly out of this world. Something ‘extra-terrestrial’!

The contemplation of space and the cosmos would not have been an ‘alien concept’ by Ancient Egyptians who painted, carved and wrote about the sun, moon, stars and planets. They even went so far as to work with material which had travelled through space. This isn’t science fiction, this is science fact.

I would like to introduce you to three Meteorite Beads (UC10738, UC10739 and UC10740).

Fig.1 Meteorite bead UC10738.

 

 

Fig.2 Meteorite bead UC10739.

Fig. 3 Meteorite bead UC10740.

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Object of the Week 369: Figurine of a hippopotamus

Christopher JWearden30 November 2018

Our blog this week is from Katie Davenport-Mackey, Museum Visitor Services Assistant at UCL Culture.

This week’s blog focuses on a figurine of a hippopotamus (UC16780) on display in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology. This is one of several figurines excavated by Sir William Mathew Flinders Petrie in 1889-1890 at the town associated with the pyramid of King Senwosret II. This figurine was treated with some attention and carefully honed into the shape of a hippopotamus but its original function is a matter of debate…

Figurine of a hippopotamus (UC16780) illustrated by Antonio Barcellona

 

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Object of the Week 365: A Model Boat

Anna EGarnett2 November 2018

Over the last year, Olivia Foster (MA student in the Institute of Archaeology, UCL) worked as a valued member of the Petrie Museum team as collections volunteer. During this time, Olivia has undertaken a range of work on collections care, documentation and object loans, and in this blog she discusses one of her favourite objects in the Petrie Museum collection.

This small and unassuming model boat in the Petrie Museum collection (UC10805) was recovered from a tomb in Abadiyeh during Flinders Petrie’s excavations in the late 1890s. The decorated pottery object has been dated to the Naqada I period and the original function of the item is unclear.

UC10805

Objects such as this are important when it comes to understanding Predynastic Egypt, as they represent technology that has not survived in the archaeological record. Despite the important economic and symbolic role that boats are thought to have played in the Predynastic, no complete vessels have been found and archaeologists must instead rely on the art of the period to learn about their construction, size and function. This object and others like it also played a pivotal role in the heated debates between Petrie and his contemporaries as they discussed what exactly was being depicted in the decorated pottery of the era.

The model is striking in its similarity to the shape of modern-day boats and the simple painted line decorations may hold clues as to how the boat was constructed. The narrow vertical lines on the sides of the object may be interpreted as lashing, with bundles of reeds or perhaps even wood forming longitudinal ribs to form a small canoe-type vessel. In addition to functional canoe vessels which may have been used for fishing or transport along the Nile, large watercraft with rows of oars are believed to have played an important symbolic and religious role in Predynastic Egypt.

Vessel decorated with a boat motif (British Museum EA30920)

Boats are a common motif on decorated pottery, however these illustrations are abstract in nature and in the 1890s there was some dispute over what exactly they represented. It was Flinders Petrie who first interpreted the decoration on Predynastic Egyptian ceramics as a ‘galley’ in the mid-1890s, Cecil Torr however proposed that the illustrations represented enclosures with two towers at the entrance. Model boats such as this example were used to dismiss these claims, as Petrie remained absolute in his interpretation of the motif as a boat and his assertion that vessels played an important symbolic role in early Egypt.

The exact purpose of the model boat remains unclear and it may have had a decorative, functional or symbolic purpose or perhaps may even have been a child’s toy. The model boat clearly depicts a very different type of vessel from those commonly depicted and associated with Predynastic Egypt and offers a unique insight into more functional boats used by ancient people.

Olivia was an MA student in the Institute of Archaeology, UCL from 2017-2018

Further Reading

Petrie, W. M. F. 1920. Prehistoric Egypt. London: Bernard Quaritch.

Petrie, W. M. F. Corpus of Prehistoric Pottery and Palettes. pl. XXXVII, D 81D. London: Bernard Quaritch.

Uildrinks, M. 2018. Building a Predynastic: The Construction of Predynastic Galleys. Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections. Vol. 17. Pp. 156-172.

 

Object of the Week 364: Cast of rickets

NinaPearlman25 October 2018

Dr Nina Pearlman is Head of UCL Art Collections and curator of  Disrupters and Innovators: Journeys in gender equality at UCL (UCL Octagon Gallery till February 2019)

My object of the week is a plaster cast of a child’s leg deformed by the disease rickets (UCL Pathology Collection P59b), included in the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition in the display case that features UCL women scientists. Amongst these scientists is Dame Harriette Chick (1875-1977) who is credited with finding the cause and cure for rickets. Her many contributions to preventative medicine were recognised with both a CBE and a DBE.

This object gives me pause to ask, how were women scientists perceived in the early twentieth century? What anti-feminist sentiments did they have to contend with and how did they go on to make groundbreaking and lasting discoveries despite the persistence of the anti-feminist agenda, at the time labelled anti-suffragist?

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Public Engagement with UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre

Anna EGarnett26 September 2018

Rebecca Lambert is a long-time volunteer of the Petrie Museum, and in this guest blog Rebecca reports on a recent engagement session which she led with UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre. 

As a volunteer at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology I am very keen to engage with people from all walks of life and to help make the museum collection accessible to all. Earlier this summer I was asked to assist with the preparation and delivery of offsite activity for the UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre as part of the UCL Discover Summer School for potential UCL undergraduates.

Pyramid Text fragment of Pepy I (UC14540)

The brief was to create an Ancient Egyptian based activity which would be suitable for young adults with an age range of approximately 16-18 years of age. There were to be twelve participants who each had differing levels of hearing loss. Some of the students communicated solely through British Sign Language (BSL), whilst others would use a combination of sign language and lip reading. Some of the students could communicate verbally, whilst some could not. To create an activity which would be accessible, challenging, but most of all, fun, I had to decide on a format which would enable the students to explore Ancient Egypt. I decided that the session should primarily focus on the visual and not rely on convoluted descriptive narratives which can appear wearisome, especially to teenagers. This being the case, I opted to download three different empty cartouche designs. I also brought copies of images of particularly striking inscribed objects in the Petrie Museum collection, which are illustrated here.

Calcite vessel with the names of Tutankhamun and his wife Ankhesenamun (UC16021)

After a brief introduction to Egyptian hieroglyphs, which was translated by BSL interpreters, I asked the students to create their own cartouches using either hieroglyphs from the ancient Egyptian period or by creating their own individual hieroglyphs. The key element was that the students had to create a visual representation of themselves which would be accessible to others. The brief suggested that the simpler the images, the easier it would be for others to understand the message being conveyed. However, it was ultimately up to the students to decide how simply, or elaborately, they wished to depict themselves.

The end results were fantastic. Some of the cartouches were very elaborate and highly detailed, whilst others were produced along simpler lines. All, however, showed real thought and a good understanding of the activity brief. I was particularly struck by the use of very similar images being used by different students to convey their perception of themselves in the larger world. The subject of hearing loss was addressed by several the participants. For myself, seeing how young people wish to present themselves to, not only their peers, but the larger world was really refreshing and exciting.

Limestone stela of the sistrum-player Khereduankh (UC14357)

The session lasted for ninety minutes and I enjoyed every moment of it. The students were really engaging and seem to really enjoy the activity. They were very keen to learn more about so many aspects of the ancient past and did not only restrict their questions to the subject of Egypt. Being able to effectively communicate with the students, through the assistance of the BSL interpreters, really opened up the session for everyone involved, myself included. Previously I have undertaken training with VocalEyes to enable me to assist visitors with sight loss. After taking part in this session for UCL Discover I am aiming to begin BSL interpretation training this autumn to help further widen collection accessibility for future visitors to the museum.

Object of the Week 357: A Sudanese Tulip in Bloomsbury

Anna EGarnett7 September 2018

The Petrie Museum Manager, Maria Ragan, is leaving us next week to head to pastures new as the new Director of the St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery. As a small token of our great affection for everything Maria has done for the Petrie Museum over the past (almost) four years she has been in post, I’d like to offer this beautiful vessel for our Object of the Week – her favourite object in the collection (UC13214). (more…)

Object of the Week: A child’s toy pig

Alice EWilliams3 August 2018

UC7205: A child’s toy pig

We have some exciting news about Specimen of the Week! We’re expanding the scope of SOTW to include more UCL Museums and collections. Here’s the first blog from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, and keep your eyes peeled for blogs about specimens and objects from UCL Art Museum, UCL Pathology Museum and more as well as your favourites from the Grant Museum.

In a display case in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology stands a little mud figure of a pig. At least it is thought to be a pig. It is so small, no bigger than a thumb nail, that you would be excused for not noticing it among the dense displays of archaeological objects. This figurine was originally thought to be a toy made by a child, but is that really true? (more…)

A new look for Papyrus and Shabtis at the Petrie Museum

Anna EGarnett23 May 2018

If you come down to the Petrie Museum, you will see some new changes in the exhibition space. In April 2018, we formally opened three new display cases in the Pottery Gallery as part of our successful Arts Council England-funded Papyrus for the People project, which has recently ended. These modern cases look somewhat different to the antique wooden cases which you are used to seeing at the Petrie Museum, but importantly they are conservation-grade and offer the opportunity to safely display a range of objects including examples from our world-class papyrus collection.

Of the three new showcases, two are to display different themes which have emerged from new translations of our written material by language specialists during the Papyrus Project. These displays will rotate every 6-8 months, partly so that we are able to offer fresh interpretations of the texts on a more regular basis, but also to preserve the fragile papyrus fragments from being exposed to too much light, as this can be damaging to the papyrus and the inscriptions.

Case 1: Working Women in Ancient Egypt 

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