Encountering Corpses

Campbell@Manchester:

Outstanding blog that nails all the points I try to make when giving people tours of Ancient Worlds

Originally posted on Manchester Museum Digital Gazette:

(Warning: this article includes images of human remains)

One of the most popular galleries in any museum is Ancient Egypt, and in that gallery the biggest attraction is often a mummy. Manchester Museum is no exception; it is renowned for its extensive Egyptology collection, and especially its mummies. But where does this fascination come from?

Howard Carter’s famous discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 made headlines worldwide, inspiring generations of would-be archaeologists, but also popularising Egyptology beyond the academic –ownership of the discipline was no longer exclusive to the university professor. This is something that continues today, the internet is proliferated with theories of curses and conspiracies, to vampires and aliens. However this public interest seems to have been spawned long before Carter   famously saw “wonderful things”. By the mid nineteenth century the animated corpse had already become a unit of gothic fictional currency, a role for which the…

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Edinburgh workshop 16/10/14: Egyptian Gold – Ancient Context, Modern Analysis

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Detail of golden shell pendant, Acc. no. 5968, from Riqqeh

A workshop organised by National Museums Scotland and PICS 5995 CNRS project
Thursday, October 16th, 2014, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Gold is inextricably linked with ancient Egypt’s wealth, beliefs, and traditions. However, surprisingly few studies have been conducted on Egyptian jewellery of the Bronze Age and little is known about goldsmithing practices. A day workshop hosted by National Museums Scotland and sponsored in collaboration with project PICS 5995 CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), entitled Analytical study of Bronze Age Egyptian gold jewellery, will examine the archaeological context, symbolism, and production processes of gold jewellery excavated in royal and elite burials of the Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Periods (c. 2055–1550BC).

Registration is free but places are limited and advance booking is required. Please book HERE or call 0131 247 4073. For enquiries, please contact Lore Troalen at l.troalen@nms.ac.uk

Programme
Seminar Room, Learning Centre (Level 4), National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
10:15 Registration
10:45 Opening
Jane CARMICHAEL, Director of Collections, National Museums Scotland
11:00 Procurement to adornment: archaeological perspectives on Egyptian gold and gemstone mining
Ian SHAW, Reader in Egyptian Archaeology, University of Liverpool, Co-Director of Gurob Harem Palace Project
11:25 Analytical strategies for the study of Egyptian jewellery
Maria F GUERRA, Director of Research at CNRS & head of project PICS 5995
11:50 Harageh Tomb 72 and the symbolism of fish pendants
Margaret MAITLAND, Curator of the Ancient Mediterranean, National Museums Scotland
12:10 Analysis of jewellery from Harageh Tomb 72
Lore TROALEN, Analytical Scientist, National Museums Scotland
12:30 Discussion
12:45 Lunch (please make your own arrangements)
13:45 The jewellery equipment of Middle Bronze age burials in Egypt
Wolfram GRAJETZKI, Honorary Senior Research Associate, University College London
14:10 Amuletic jewellery from Riqqeh Tomb 124 in the Manchester Museum
Campbell PRICE, Curator of Egypt and the Sudan, Manchester Museum, University of Manchester
14:35 Analysis of jewellery from Riqqeh (title tba)
Matthew PONTING, Senior Lecturer in Archaeomaterials, University of Liverpool
15:00 Tea/coffee (provided)
15:20 The jewellery of the Qurnah ‘queen’: craftsmanship and adornment in the Second Intermediate Period
Lore TROALEN and Margaret MAITLAND, National Museums Scotland
15:50 Discussion
16:10 Close

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Unravelling the John Rylands papyrus collection

Campbell@Manchester:

Exciting conference this week: ‘From Egypt to Manchester’

Originally posted on Faces&Voices:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 15.10.01This week the John Rylands Library hosts an international conference on the Rylands papyri: From Egypt to Manchester: unravelling the John Rylands papyrus collection. I am happy to have a number of colleagues and friends coming to a (so far!) sunny Manchester. You can download the program from here: Conference.

I will be tweeting from my account, so follow @papyrologyatman for live updating from Thursday afternoon through Saturday.

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Object biography # 16: A pyramid temple column reused by Ramesses II (Acc. no. 1780)

Granite column, with decoration of Ramesses II and Merenptah (Acc. no. 1780)

Column, with decoration of Ramesses II and Merenptah (Acc. no. 1780)

Manchester’s imposing (3.8m tall) red granite column (Acc. no. 1780) is one of eight which once fronted the pronaos of a temple dedicated to the ram-headed god Herishef at Herakleopolis Magna (modern Ihnasya el-Medina), 15 miles west of Beni Suef in Middle Egypt. The temple was excavated by Swiss Egyptologist Edouard Naville in 1891, and the columns were distributed to museums around the world shortly thereafter. Other columns from the temple are in the British Museum; Bolton Museum and Art Gallery; South Australian Museum, Adelaide; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. English archaeologist W. M. Flinders Petrie re-excavated and planned the site in 1904. The columns were recently studied by Japanese Egyptologist Yoshifumi Yasuoka, who identified traces of the original panels of decoration on them and re-examined their architectural arrangement.

The temple of Herishef was expanded during the reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), at which time the eight palm-form granite columns were brought to the site from elsewhere. The columns were in fact already ancient when Ramesses reused them. Their proportions and form of their palm-capitals are typical of the Old Kingdom, and it is likely that they originally derived from an Old Kingdom pyramid complex of the Fifth Dynasty (c. 2494-2345 BC). Such recycling of older building material is characteristic of Ramesses II, and of Pharaonic Egyptian architecture in general.

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Ruined columns at Herakleopolis Magna, as excavated by Edouard Naville. 1891.

The most likely candidate for the new construction work at Herakleopolis Magna is Ramesses’ fourth son, Khaemwaset, High Priest of Memphis. Prince Khaemwaset is well-known to have taken a particular interest in Egypt’s past, leading to his designation as the “first Egyptologist.” Khaemwaset was particularly active in the Memphite necropolis, where he was responsible for ‘labelling’ the monuments of ancient kings. In the course of such ‘survey’ Khaemwaset would have become aware of sites too ruined to save – but whose elements might be re-purposed for his father’s ambitious building programme elsewhere. In honour of Ramesses II new decoration was added, showing the king worshipping the ram-headed Herishef. The long-lived Ramesses was eventually succeeded by the thirteenth son, Merenptah, who added further columns of hieroglyphs with his own names in poorer quality inscriptions. Given Merenptah’s advanced age at his accession, he would have been keen to make his monumental mark as quickly as possible. By adding texts to standing monuments, his artisans were able to assert his presence and associate the elderly king with his famous father.

Petrie's reconstruction of the original appearance of the Ramesside pronaos

Petrie’s reconstruction of the original appearance of the Ramesside pronaos

The Manchester column was originally set up in the University’s Whitworth Hall in the late Nineteenth Century but was moved to the entrance hall of the Museum between 30th November and 2nd December 1979.

The column leaving Whitworth Hall... and arriving at the Museum. 1979.

The column leaving Whitworth Hall… and arriving at the Museum. 1979.

It is perhaps appropriate that a monument ‘salvaged’ by History’s first Egyptologist is the first object to greet visitors when they arrive at our Museum (and when they exit, via the gift shop). After all, in one of his inscriptions, Khaemwaset is said to have been one “who so loved antiquity and the noble people who came before, along with the excellence of what they made.”

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Wonders of the World: Sea life activities at Manchester Museum

In the third of her guest blogs for the Museum, Sajia Sultana, a Manchester University student and Manchester Museum Summer Public Programme Intern described activities involving the Egyptology collection.

Welcome to Global Explorer, this week families visiting Manchester Museum have been inspired by the collections to create sea life creatures from junk modelling materials.

Here are a few examples of the sea creatures that have been created.  Families have made everything from mythical sea creatures to sharks, starfish, dolphins, jelly fish and many more…

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They have not only taken inspiration from our Natural History collection but from our Ancient Worlds objects too.

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Sea life was present in many forms in ancient Egypt, from objects used in everyday life to religious artifacts and tomb goods.

Sacred animals such as the Oxyrhynchus fish were offered to the Gods as gifts in the hope of gaining their help.

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Cosmetic palettes made from slate designed in the shape of a fish were used in everyday life.

Shells were also used for cosmetic pots, jewellery and bracelets.

Hor-psamtekLook out for the statue of a kneeling man – the “Admiral of the Fleet” called Hor-Psamtek in the Egyptian Worlds gallery.  The hieroglyphs in the inscription on the statue refer to a sea called the “Great Green”, which may be a reference to the Mediterranean Sea, at a time when trade with Greece in the area was important for Egypt. Read more about ‘Hor-Psamtek’ here

What other sea life creatures or objects can you find in the museum?

Tell us about your discoveries on Facebook at #Global Explorer.

Our Global Explorer activities are daily from 11am-4pm running through the summer holidays until Sun 31 August. 

Next week we’ll be making junk model creations inspired by the animals in our collections.

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An intern’s perspective: Cataloguing Egypt at Manchester Museum

Fragment of cartonnage. No number.

Fragment of cartonnage. No number.

Here our most recent intern, Hannah Perry – a student at UCL Qatar, describes her placement at the Manchester Museum, and the experience of working on collections.

 

As part of my Museum and Gallery Practice MA at University College London-Qatar, I carried out a one-month placement with Manchester Museum.  The aims of the placement were to apply the skills learned throughout the course towards an institution of our interest.  An art history student focusing on ancient Egyptian art as an undergraduate in the States, I was very excited for this opportunity to work with Manchester’s Ancient Egyptian collection!

 

Throughout my time here, I worked on a project photographing and documenting over 1,000 of the 16,000 objects in Manchester’s Egyptian collection.  Among these objects were bronze statuettes, ivories, animal specimens, coffin casings, jewelry and much more.  All photographs and information were uploaded to the Manchester Museum records database, which are made available to the public via the museum website.  This was a particularly fulfilling task for me, considering I have lived in many regions with little to none ancient Egyptian collections, I am very appreciative of museum initiatives to share online collections.

 

It came immediately to me that Manchester Museum is very different from the institutions I am familiar with in the Gulf.  In Qatar, it has been an incredible experience to witness the formative years of world-class museums.  As they were born in the digital age, collections have grown simultaneously in both their physical acquisition and digital experience.    In Manchester, on the other hand, the collection has been in the works since the 19th century- well documented in book after book of museum records.  The objects I recorded were accompanied by notes from generations of curators and keepers, often times just as exciting as the objects themselves.   For me, every object was a fascinating discovery, and I could imagine for many museums, revisiting stored objects for database entry may sometimes result in exciting rediscoveries as well.

 

A profusion of copper alloy Osiris statuettes

A profusion of copper alloy Osiris statuettes

Although the process of record keeping may seem tedious to some, my work at the Manchester Museum turned out to be an invaluable experience.  Museum catalogues and databases, important to the non-local public, are often taken for granted.  I gained an insight into the huge amount of work involved in recording a collection as large and historic as Manchester’s Egyptian collection.  Although I have previously learned to maintain and create museum database in a classroom setting, it was not until I applied these skills at the Manchester Museum that I actually grew to appreciate the process.  Now I can only hope to continue this work somewhere as incredible as the Manchester Museum!

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New light under old wrappings (II): The temple singer Perenbast

Perenbast about to be CT-scanned at the Manchester Children's Hospital

Perenbast about to be CT-scanned at the Manchester Children’s Hospital

The British Museum opens its latest exhibition, Ancient Lives, New Discoveries, this week. Here in Manchester, which the exhibition acknowledges is the home of mummy studies, we have been carrying out similar research on our 20 human mummies, and many of the discoveries we have made tie in with those presented in the BM exhibition.

Between 1908 and 1909, while clearing the courtyards of some New Kingdom tombs on the Luxor west bank at Qurna, W. M. Flinders Petrie discovered an unopened tomb of “about the 25th Dynasty.” This camped space turned out to contain the burials of a man and a woman, presumably husband and wife, which can now be dated to the 22nd Dynasty based on their funerary provisions and the iconography of their coffins. In addition to the coffins, the burial contained a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure and two shabti boxes for each occupant. Most of the objects are wooden, covered in a black resin, with details on the coffins picked out in yellow and white paint. The assemblage belonging to the male mummy (whose name is not preserved) was sent to Bristol Museum and the group belonging to his (presumed) wife, a temple singer named Perenbast, came to Manchester.

Perenbast and her presumed husland after Petrie's discovery of their tomb

Perenbast (right) and her presumed husband after Petrie’s discovery of their tomb

X-rays taken in the 1970s as part of the Manchester Egyptian Mummy Project revealed some dense shapes in the area of Perenbast’s chest. These were identified as likely to be amulets but it was only in 2013 that their precise nature was understood. Using the latest CT-scanning technology, it is possible to visualise the objects at high resolution. What appeared as grainy masses on the older X-rays were revealed to be a plaque on the left side of the abdomen, used to cover the embalming incision, a scarab beetle and detached wings, and an ‘ib-shaped’ heart amulet. It is not clear if these objects are made of metal, faience, or perhaps wax.

Scan showing heart scarab and 'ib' amulets. (Image courtesy of Professor J Adams, Central Manchester Healthcare Trust)

Scan showing heart scarab and ‘ib’ amulets. (Image courtesy of Professor J Adams, Central Manchester Healthcare Trust)

It is now also possible to isolate objects such as amulets and print then in three dimensions, using resin. Such 3D renderings are displayed in the BM show and are planned for Perenbast to enable visitors to handle copies of objects which will never be seen for real. It would be interesting to know what, if any, similar amulets occur in the wrappings of “Mr. Perenbast” in Bristol.

The “revelation” of the “secrets” of Egyptian mummies – whether through physical unwrapping or more modern non-destructive methods such as CT-scanning – has a perennial favourite with the general public for over 200 years. And for just as long there have been (often circular) arguments about the ethics of investigation and display. In a provocative new book, Christina Riggs, formerly Curator of Egypt and Sudan here at the Manchester Museum, charts (and challenges) our obsession with mummies, evaluating ancient intentions and modern preconceptions.

The response to the latest British Museum exhibition shows that, more than ever, we want to probe underneath the mummy’s bandages in new and visually stimulating ways. The value of the answers these investigations provide depends, I suppose, on the value of the questions we come up with in the first place.

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