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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Making time for Predynastic Egypt

By Debbie J Challis, on 5 September 2013

Predynastic pottery in gallery of Petrie Museum

Predynastic pottery in gallery of Petrie Museum

Written by Alice Stevenson

Flinders Petrie was good with numbers. He liked nothing better than to measure, calculate and plan. These were the skills that allowed Petrie in 1899 to create the first detailed timeline for the period just before the First Dynasty of Egypt.

He did this by comparing assemblages of hundreds of Predynastic pottery vessels unearthed by his teams in prehistoric cemeteries of Upper Egypt. Many of these beautiful pots are on display in the Petrie Museum. The Petrie Museum also holds in its archives his Sequence Dating slips, each of which records the different types of pottery that were found in individual tombs. (more…)

In the Shadow of the Pyramids – Flinders Petrie exhibition in Copenhagen

By Debbie J Challis, on 18 November 2011

Some readers may remember that I visited Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek at Copenhagen in June to see curator Tine Bagh’s preparation for an exhibition of material excavated by Flinders Petrie. The exhibition opened last week and I asked Jan Picton, Secretary of the Friends, to give me some feedback on the exhibition. Jan writes:

View of the exhibition showing the excavation site showcases.

View of the exhibition showing the excavation site showcases.

“Twenty eager Friends of the Petrie Museum let loose to explore the Egyptian collections of Copenhagen– best not to get in their way! It helps when the Curator of the exhibition ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’ at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Tine Bagh, is both a fan of Petrie and a Friend of the Petrie Museum. Tine invited us to the Private View of the exhibition and the Reception in the fabulous Winter Garden and then gave us a guided tour of the exhibition and the collection the following day. She also facilitated our visits to the National Museum and to Thorvaldsen’s Museum. We are very grateful for her kindness when she was so busy with the exhibition. (more…)

In the Shadow of the Pyramids: Exhibition Sneak Preview

By Debbie J Challis, on 21 June 2011

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

I have just returned from Copenhagen where I was work-shadowing my colleague Tine Bagh at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek on an Erasmus grant while she is working on the exhibition In the Shadow of the Pyramids.  Tine’s work studying the excavation records of objects in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek for The Petrie Project is the research underpinning The Shadow of the Pyramids exhibition, opening in November 2011.

Palm leaf column capital.

Palm leaf column capital from Palace of Apries, Memphis.

The exhibition will be situated in one of the temporary exhibition galleries in a skylit long thin room. Opposite the entrance will be a large photograph of Flinders Petrie, roughly contemporary to the time he was working at Memphis, and information about him, his wife Hilda and his archaeological methods. Pylon shaped display cases will divide the room into sections for each excavation site. The objects will be placed in those cases with a contemporary image of the site on the wall within each section. Tine wants the audience to feel that they come to Egypt and find these objects with Petrie.

The sites are mainly in the Fayuum and include Meydum, Naqada, Lahun, Sedment, Hawara, Abydos and Tarkhan. The area at the end of the exhibition concentrates on Memphis and will display the sphinx paw,  fragment of a beard, reliefs from the Ptah temple (one of which I saw being conserved), stele of Amon-Min and the palm column capital from Apries’ Palace. The smaller room at the back of the exhibition will display smaller objects, giving evidence of craft production and the factories at Memphis, as well as glass production from Amarna and a pottery wheel. The exhibition finishes with a section on sequence dating with examples of pre-dynastic ceramics from the Danish National Museum.

Tina showed me how each case was drawn out with the positioning of the objects in the case all to the exact dimensions. We discussed how Petrie spoke about objects as being ‘nice and handy’ for a museum and who, even when he was excavating, thought about what objects could go to what collections. We then went and looked at the space for the exhibition  and the objects currently on display in the main museum and those in the store-rooms.

Tine at work in her office

Tine at work in her office

Many of the antiquities in the Glyptotek were bought by Carl Jacobsen and his advisers at auction. The difference with the objects for In the Shadow of the Pyramids is that they were excavated by Flinders Petrie and thus have an archaeological and personal context.  There is much more to say, but this exhibition will shed new light on Petrie’s work and his relationship with sponsors, such as the Ny Glyptothek, as well as putting the sense of archaeological discovery back into the museum.

In the Shadow of the Pyramids opens at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen on 11.11 2011 and runs until 25.03 2012.