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  • Archive for the 'Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology' Category

    Object of the Week 365: A Model Boat

    By Anna E Garnett, on 2 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

    By Nina Pearlman, on 25 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?

    (more…)

    Public Engagement with UCL Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre

    By Anna E Garnett, on 26 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

    By Anna E Garnett, on 7 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

    By Alice E Williams, on 3 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

    By Anna E Garnett, on 23 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 

    (more…)

    Getting the ‘Researcher Experience’ at the Petrie Museum

    By Anna E Garnett, on 21 May 2018

    Over the last six months, the Petrie Museum has hosted Amanda Ford Spora, an MA Student in Egyptian Archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, who has been using the collection for her Masters’ research. In this guest blog, Amanda discusses her project and some of the outcomes so far.

    Archaeologists and museum professionals develop a depth of experience working with objects, right from the trowel edge to the handling desk. It is this experience that is being explored with visitors at the Petrie Museum. One Saturday and two Wednesdays a month, visitors including: families (7 years+), tourists, undergraduate students, ancient Egyptian enthusiasts and the odd archaeologist and professor or two, have the chance to experience a fifteen minute ‘object-based, research-style’ visit at the museum, complete with all the ‘trimmings’, such as gloves, lamp-light, trays, padding and object-supports, in a cordoned-off section of the pottery gallery. (more…)

    UCL wins international awards for innovative work in museums

    By Anna E Cornelius, on 18 May 2018

    Colour photo of six people standing in a row in front of a glittery wall. The woman in the middle is holding a pink award.

    UCL Museums and Collections have won two Museums + Heritage Awards at a glittering ceremony in central London. Regarded as the Oscars of the museums and heritage industry, the awards recognise UCL’s collaborative work to improve the wellbeing of museum visitors and rebuild a giant-size whale skeleton.

    (more…)

    Egyptian Languages: Explained

    By Louise Bascombe, on 23 January 2018

    In our collection, we have representations of texts in all the major Egyptian languages.

    What, more than one? Yes! From ancient Egypt to historical Egypt to modern Egypt, there were many different scripts and languages used…

    Hieroglyphs:

    Limestone stela hieroglyph fragments with words from hymns (UC14583)

    Limestone stela fragments with words from hymns (UC14583)

     

    The script that is most recognisably Ancient Egyptian®. One of the oldest scripts used by the ancient Egyptians – and the script with the most longevity – its origins can be seen very early on in Egypt’s history, starting out life as single or small groups of signs that represented entire concepts or specific sounds. Already in the Early Dynastic Period (3100-2686BC), these signs were beginning to become standardised and by the 3rd Dynasty (2686-2613BC) were used in a wide range of contexts. They were, however, especially associated with religious texts, as it was believed that the beauty and monumental nature of hieroglyphs indicated that they were the ‘words of the gods’ (medu-netjer) and intended to be read by them.

     

    (more…)

    Ready, Steady, Conservation!

    By Louise Bascombe, on 5 December 2017

    An Update of Papyrus Conservation Using a Red Papyrus and a Green Papyrus

    Since the last blog for the Papyrus for the People project, the conservation work on the Petrie Museum’s papyri has been progressing steadily and strongly. So much so, that it is nearly over! In light of this, I would love to share with you two of my favourite fixes that have occurred during this work.

     Ready Steady Conservation

    (more…)