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Specimen of the Week 392: Hide of the Dragon: Achaemenid Scale Armour

Edwin CWood6 March 2020

Two sets of corroded iron scales laid out in ordered rows

UC74787 Some of the scales from the armour, each pierced by two holes. Copyright UCL Petrie Museum

Scale armour is a form of defensive garment that is made by attaching small scales to a fabric or leather undergarment in an overlapping pattern. The examples in the Petrie collection are all of metal, either copper alloy (Bronze or Brass) or iron. However, examples of rawhide scales are known from sites in Egypt, notably Tutankhamun’s tomb (Dean 2017). This type of armour is one of the earliest forms to be developed and provides a flexible but effective defence that can be easily repaired if it becomes damaged. The armour is effective against a range of attacks, protecting from projectiles, cuts and blunt force impact. When combined with a stiffened or padded undergarment the protective quality of the armour is increased.

While the ancient names for this armour have been lost we refer to it now as scale armour because of its resemblance to fish or snake scales, which overlap one another to cover the softer skin beneath. The armour depicted here is from the Achaemenid Persian period (525 – 404 BC), a time when Egypt had been conquered by the neighbouring Persian Empire. Conflict with its neighbours introduced a range of technologies to Egypt as the horse, chariot and composite bow were all adapted from enemies. This example was found in the Palace of Apries, Memphis. Some two thousand scales were found in a single room of the palace and Petrie believed them to represent different parts of garments, with the smaller scales coming from gauntlets, while the larger ones he postulates came from the upper arm, shoulder or hip (Petrie 1909, 13). It is possible that they simply represent multiple garments made from differing sized scales. They may even be parts of horse armours, whole examples of which, dating to the 3rd century AD, have been found at Dura-Europos, Syria (James 2004).

The earliest depiction of scale armour in Egypt is from the tomb of Kenamun, who died during the reign of the 18th Dynasty pharaoh, Amenhotep II (1436-1411 BC). It remained a popular armour until the medieval period in Egypt and the Middle East, long after it had fallen out of favour in Western Europe. A similar type of armour called lamellar, where small plates are attached to each other and not an under-lining, was likely developed at the same time as scale.

How to make your own!

  1. Cut out a scales to the desired size and quantity, a good size is 25mm long by 15mm wide. Remembering to curve the bottom edge. Historically these should be of iron, copper alloy or rawhide, but any material will do (unless you plan on battling the Achaemenid Empire).
  2. Punch the attachment holes through the scales, for this example use two at the top.
  3. Attach the scales to the backing garment either using a tough thread or wire. Remember to start at the bottom!
  4. Place the next row of scales above the first so that they overlap, covering the attachment point of the row below.
  5. Repeat until the garment is complete!
diagram of a scale template 25 millimetres long and 15 wide with a curved narrow end

Stage 1 of the armour, a scale template 25mm long by 15mm wide with a single curved narrow end.

The scale template now with two hole pierced  side-by-side through the squared narrow end

Stage 2 of the armour, the scale now has two hole punched through to allow its attachment to the lining.

diagram of the scales now laid overlapping and attached to a lining in the simplest fashion

Stage 3 of the armour, each scale laid overlapping so that it covers the top of the row below. The scales are then attached to the fabric garment

diagram of more advanced scale where the scales have 4 additional holes punched, two on each side to attach them to the neighbouring scale

Advanced scale with two more holes on each long side that allow the scale to be attached to the neighbouring scale increasing its rigidity and defensive property.

reproduction in brass of scale armour

Reproduction, made by the author, of scale armour produced in brass

 

 

References

Dean, R. 2017 Warfare and Weaponry in Dynastic Egypt Pen & Sword Archaeology: Barnsley

James, S. 2004 The excavations at Dura-Europos conducted by Yale University and the French academy of inscriptions and letters 1929-1937. Final report vii: the arms and armour and other military equipment Oxford: Oxbow Books

Petrie, W.M.F. 1909 Palace of Apries (Memphis II). UCL: London

Specimen of the Week 389: The Monarch Butterfly

LisaRandisi16 August 2019

This blog was written by UCL Culture volunteer Melissa Wooding.

Today’s specimen of the week highlights one of the world’s longest animal migrations at 6,000 miles1– completed by an insect!

This beautiful insect has an internal biology including a sundial 2 compass 3, and a gene enabling it to suppress its own ageing and increase its own lifespan 8 times4… all inside a brain the size of a single sesame seed5.

It’s time to give this mind-boggling butterfly its due moment in the spotlight:

Pair of monarch butterflies

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Object of the week 382: Isaac Cruikshank, French Happiness, English Misery (1793)

NinaPearlman24 May 2019

This blog post is written by Lisa Bull, UCL Museum Studies 2019-20

contrasted images of life in France and Britain during the French Revolution

Isaac Crukshank, French Happiness, English Misery, 1793, etching, hand coloured

UCL Art Museum is home to an impressive collection of French and British satires from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. This collection is the result of a generous gift by Professor David Bindman made possible through the Cultural Gift Scheme and it forms the basis for a series of exhibitions on visual satires chronicling the French Revolution. The new addition to this series will be Witnessing Terror: French Revolutionary Prints 1792-4 due to open at UCL Art Museum in January 2020.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries satire was the key means to spread news. Satire was and still is an effective means of stimulating debate due to its accessibility. Their intention to have a clear message and the relatively quick method of production meant they could be enjoyed by many. They are often aimed at ridiculing an individual, policy or group in society but while retaining an important moral message. Satires are still a key form of media utilised in most news forums, but here in the twenty-first century social media has filled this gap and is essential for us to keep in touch with current affairs.

My role is to help catalogue the works by British satirists in this collection, such as William Hogarth, James Gillray, Isaac Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson and Charles Jameson Grant. (more…)

Specimen of the Week 380: Malignant melanoma of the eye

SubhadraDas10 May 2019

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

In honour of Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May, today’s specimen of the week is a malignant melanoma of the eye.

Melanoma is a cancer — an uncontrolled growth of cells — that usually develops in the pigment-containing cells of the skin. The main cause of melanoma is over-exposure to ultra-violet light rays, either directly from sunlight or artificial sources like tanning beds.

Melanoma most commonly occurs in people with lighter skin, particularly white people living in tropical or subtropical climates. The highest instances of melanoma are in Australia and New Zealand.

If detected early, a melanoma can be surgically removed before it spreads to other parts of the body. Sadly, that wasn’t the case here.

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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

 

Preserving Whistler’s murals

Anna ECornelius8 April 2019

This blog is from Graeme McArthur, Conservator at UCL Culture.

UCL’s Whistler Room, located next to the Octagon Gallery, is so named because it contains murals painted by the artist Rex Whistler, who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and whose career was sadly cut short by the Second World War. These were originally completed in 1935 for a private residence on Gower Street; however by 1959 the house was due to be demolished. The murals were saved by literally cutting them out of the wall and removing them to their current location. They are part of  the UCL Art Museum collections and therefore come under the care of UCL Culture.

Two people crouch below a mural embedded in the wall

Removing a mural in the Whistler Room

The murals are painted in oil on top of house paint, supported by around 2cm of the original wall plaster with an auxiliary support of wood battens and plaster of Paris. Unfortunately the change in environment and support has caused severe stability issues. Ongoing conservation has been required since 1960 as the house paint layer keeps cracking and flaking away from the plaster beneath. Glazing was added in 1963 to try and alleviate these issues, but although it protects the surface from physical damage it has not improved the environment.

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Specimen of the week: Trichobezoar

KatieDavenport-Mackey29 March 2019

Our blog this week is from Subhadra Das, Curator of Science Collections at UCL Culture.

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

This week’s specimen is a trichobezoar — a mass of undigested hair from the stomach and large intestine of a young girl. As with most of the specimens in UCL Pathology Collections, we know little about the person the specimen comes from beyond their sex and their age, but this rare condition provides an interesting window into the practice of medicine, and its cultural significance extends into the realms of magic. (more…)

Specimen of the Week 376: Carcinoma of the breast

SubhadraDas8 March 2019

Today’s specimen of the week comes from UCL Pathology Collections. The Collections are displayed at the UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Campus of the UCL Medical School in Hampstead. The museum includes a medical teaching collection of nearly 3,000 specimens of human remains illustrating the history of disease. To open up these specialist medical displays to a wider audience, we’ve developed a trail of 10 specimens of well known diseases. As the museum only opens to the public for special events, we’re sharing the trail as part of the Specimen of the Week series.

All of the entries for the UCL Pathology Collections Top 10 Medical Trail have been written by Nazli Pulatmen, who worked with us for her MA Museum Studies placement in the summer of 2018.

Today’s specimen of the week is an advanced example of breast cancer. The specimen shows how the cancerous tissue has expanded to such an extent that it has completely misplaced and replaced the healthy tissue within the breast. The patient reported that the lump began at about the size of a pea and developed to this enormity over the course of 10 months.

Image of a cross-section of breast tissue showing malignant cancerous growth

Breast.25.1: Carcinoma of the breast. The cancerous tissue appears solid compared to the normal, fibrous breast tissue surrounding it.

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Object of the Week 375: Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951

22 February 2019

Today’s entry has been written by Emeline Kaddour, as part of her History of Art Material Studies (HAMS) placement at UCL Art Museum. During her placement Kaddour catalogued our Tomás Harris holdings in preparation for a pop-up exhibition and lecture by Inigo Jones, freelance writer, on ‘Who was Tomás Harris?’ The event was well-attended, and included Neil MacGregor, founding director of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin and former director of the National Gallery and British Museum.

Today’s object of the week is a self-portrait by the artist, art dealer, collector, writer and double-spy Tomás Harris (1908-1964). It is owned by the UCL Art Museum as part of a larger collection of Harris’ works which include an early drawing, 15 prints (8 of them were recently accessioned), 26 printing plates and an oil painting. The museum also holds Goya prints that were formerly part of Harris’ own print collection.

Tomás Harris, Self-Portrait, c.1951 (LDUCS-3008)

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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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