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    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.

     

    Teaching in the Grant Museum

    By Tannis Davidson, on 15 October 2018

    Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

    Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

    At UCL, Term 1 is now fully underway – ID cards have been issued, classrooms have been located and routines have been established. Object-based teaching has also begun at the Grant Museum where students from UCL and throughout the London area will have the opportunity to use museum specimens in their practicals.

    During a typical academic year, around 2500 university students use the Grant Museum collection as part of their formal coursework on a wide range of courses including zoology, palaeontology, the history of art, geography, museum studies, communication and even dance. The Museum and its collection is also used by students for project work and postgraduate research or as a testing ground for museum engagement, new technologies and visitor research.

    The Grant Museum invites use of its collection for teaching to any faculty at UCL. We’re pretty good at what we do (if we do say so ourselves), because we’ve had 190 years of practice… (more…)

    Specimen of the week 359: The Infant Elephant Molar

    By Christopher J Wearden, on 21 September 2018

    If you were to look inside your mouth (I hope) you would see four different types of teeth: the incisors, canines, premolars and molars. As omnivores with varied diets, humans need these different types of teeth to eat. Our molars are used for chewing, crushing and grinding the food which has been gripped, torn and sliced by the incisors, canines and premolars. Like the animal kingdom itself animal teeth are incredibly varied in their shape and size, making them a fascinating topic of study. Today’s specimen comes from an animal with fewer types of teeth than humans, but considerable size to make up for it. Without further ado let’s get our teeth into this week’s Specimen of the Week…

    Infant elephant molar, Elephas maximus LDUCZ-Z250

    (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…)

    Splicing Time. Rome and the Roman Campagna at UCL Art Museum

    By Martine Rouleau, on 2 March 2017

    Blog post written by Liz Rideal, Leverhume artist in residence at UCL Art Museum and Reader in Fine Art at the Slade School of Fine Art. She also lectures and writes educational material for the National Portrait Gallery.

    Being invited to take up the role of artist in residence at UCL Art Museum was an unexpected outcome of Splicing Time, Rome and the Roman Campagna, my 2016-17 Leverhulme Fellowship.

    Liz Rideal, Splicing Time: Rome and the Roman Campagna, 2016

    Liz Rideal, Splicing Time: Rome and the Roman Campagna, 2016

    One theme was to study Claude Lorraine’s Liber Veritatis drawings, in the British Museum’s collection and attempt to plot their contemporary locations, to study his concept of real, imagined and invented landscape and relate this imagery to my own work in the Roman Campagna today. However, it occurred to me that UCL Art Museum might also be a fruitful venue for my quest and I decided to approach curator Andrea Fredericksen to investigate this further. Coincidentally the museum’s upcoming Legacy exhibition was to concentrate on Richard Cooper Jnr, eighteenth century Grand Tour printmaker, an artist who followed the footsteps of Claude Lorraine and who was thus perfectly suited to my own theme. So, in this synchronous and surprising manner I started to consider Cooper Jnr’s work.

    (more…)

    Meanderings in the Vault

    By Martine Rouleau, on 24 November 2016

    Vault artist in residence Kara Chin and Dr Martin Zaltz Austwick from the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis introduce a screening of Magnetic Rose, a Japanese animé that follows four space travelers who are drawn into an abandoned spaceship that contains a world created by one woman’s memories, alongside It’s a Good Life, an episode of the Twilight Zone television series.

    h - Version 2

    This double programme started with an exchange between Kara and Martin about themes found in science, urban planning, art, films and other cultural productions. The essence of this discussion can be found here. Kara Chin is hosting a screening of the Japanese animé Paprika, also discussed here, on the evening of the 29th of November.

    (more…)

    UCL GeoBus at the Grant Museum

    By Nicholas J Booth, on 2 June 2016

    For one day during the Easter holidays, the Grant Museum was taken over by the GeoBus, a new and exciting outreach project from UCL Earth Sciences and coming to schools all across London soon.

    Making fossil casts for visitors to take home with them.

    Making fossil casts for visitors to take home with them.

    GeoBus as a concept started out at St Andrews University back in 2011, the brainchild of Dr Ruth Robinson. The main idea behind the project was to create a bridge between schools, higher education institutes and industry, to show how Earth Science is cross curricular and to include current research in fun and exciting workshops visiting schools. GeoBus UCL is about to launch and we decided to give the public a taster of what might be on offer. (more…)

    A Honey Pot for Springtime!

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 31 March 2016

    As a Conservator, I often think of how privileged I am to be able to handle and examine museum objects, up close and personal. Not all objects move me, but at the moment I am very pleased to be working on this one:

    UC65361, Ceramic bowl from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL. Height 7cm, diameter 10.5cm.

    UC65361, Ceramic bowl from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL. Height 7cm, diameter 10.5cm.

    (more…)

    Conservation of Public Art in the UCL Wilkins Building

    By Susi Pancaldo, on 11 March 2016

    Have you ever noticed – as you hurry off to class, the library or an event – that UCL’s campus is filled with works of art?

    The Wilkins Building, at the heart of the UCL Bloomsbury campus’ main quad, is particularly rich in sculpture. Outside the building, of course, are the iconic lead athletes on the steps below the dome.

    Lead statues of the Capitoline Antinous and the Discophorus, Wilkings Building

    Lead statues: Capitoline Antinous and Discophorus, Wilkins Building

    These figures have a fascinating history and I will write more about them another time.

    Inside the Wilkins Building, there is an abundance of works on permanent display too. Adjacent to the Jeremy Bentham auto-icon are two large, ancient Egyptian limestone lions in excavated by Sir Wm.M.F. Petrie. There are a number of 19th and early 20th century sculptures on either side of the Octagon Gallery; wall paintings in the Whistler Room (soon to be opened to the public); and upstairs, within the library, a myriad of sculpture in and around the 1st floor Flaxman Gallery. (more…)

    Ah! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira!

    By Jenny M Wedgbury, on 1 March 2016

    Anonymous Bon, nous voila d’accord (Good, now we are in tune), 1789 Coloured etching, UCL Art Museum

    Anonymous
    Bon, nous voila d’accord (Good, now we are in tune), 1789
    Coloured etching, UCL Art Museum

    Ah! Ça ira, ça ira, ça ira! (Oh! it will go well today, it will go well, it will go well!)

    On Thursday 25th February, UCL Chamber Music Club performed a special concert of French Revolutionary music for a public audience in UCL Art Museum. The concert was part of the public programme for the exhibition Revolution under a King: French Prints 1789-92. The repertoire comprised pieces by contemporary composers such as François-Joseph Gossec, J. Rouget de Lisle and Th. Desorgues amongst others.

    We wanted to bring the prints in the exhibition to life through music. The responsiveness of music for public spectacle and as a tool to reflect sentiment mirrored the use of print as propaganda during the years of the French Revolution. In the print above, The Three Estates are shown playing the same tune, symbolising their agreement. The member of the clergy (First Estate), playing an instrument known as a serpent (whose implication of duplicity would have been clear to contemporary viewers), faces the oboe-playing aristocrat (Second Estate), while the man in the centre representing the Third Estate, playing his violin, eyes him cautiously. All three types are in keeping with what were, at this point, becoming established ways of representing the Three Estates. Despite the theme of consensus, the clergyman is fat and smug, the noble gaunt and haughty, and the Third Estate watchful and wise; soon, as related prints made clear, they would all dance to his tune.

    (more…)