‘FAKE or FIND?’ WORKSHOP
2-3pm, Friday 7th June 2013.
Collections Study Centre
Join Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and the Sudan, and find out how to tell Egyptian treasure from tourist tat!
What tell-tale signs distinguish a genuinely ancient piece from a modern imitation?
Using examples of both genuine and fake from the collection, Campbell will show some of the tricks of the trade.
A great chance to bring along any Egyptian items you would like to be identified.
Entry is FREE, but booking is essential as places are limited. Find out more here.
Posted in Egypt events, Egypt events at the Manchester Museum | Tagged authentic, Egyptian fakes, forgery, genuine, tourist souvenir | 1 Comment »
The next Manchester Ancient Egypt Society lecture will be given by Dr. Geoffrey Tassie
Hair and State Formation in Ancient Egypt
Monday 13th May, 7:30pm
Days Inn, Sackville Street, Manchester, M1 3AL
Hair, the most malleable part of the human body, lends itself to the most varied forms of impermanent modifications. The resulting hairstyles convey social practices and norms, and may be regarded as a “representation of self”. As such they may be considered as an integral element in the maintenance and structuring of society. Hairstyles were linked to the identity of individuals and social groups, such as men, women, children and the elderly. Within the social hierarchy hairstyles were used as a means of displaying status. After experimentation with a broad spectrum of hairstyles during the Protodynastic and early Dynasty I, an institutionalised canon for hairstyles was established, coinciding with the creation of administrative institutions. Once the canon was established standard hairstyles continued to serve as the norms for identifying members of the administration or signs of authority.
Dr. G. J. Tassie is an Honorary Research Fellow and Associate Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Winchester focussing on the areas of Predynastic Egyptian archaeology and social theory, particularly how the rise of state is reflected in the body. He has directed the Egypt Exploration Society’s Kafr Hassan Dawood and Wadi Tumilat Survey and Excavation Project in the East Delta, researching Fourth and Third Millennium BC sites and investigating the environmental history of the region. In addition to writing over 60 publications, he has devoted his time over the last 10 years to tackling issues of cultural heritage management. He is also engaged in numerous field expeditions in Europe, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
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Great blog about the family of Artemidorus, our mummy #1775
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Acc. no. 8556 (Photo: Paul Cliff)
One of the most-eye catching and distinctive types of pottery in Manchester Museum’s collection are tulip-shaped beakers from the site of Kerma in Sudan, such as this example which is currently on display in the ‘Egyptian Worlds’ gallery (Acc. No. 8556).
The Kingdom of Kush was the first urban society in Sub-Saharan Africa and flourished from 2500 to around 1450 BC. The site of Kerma was the ancient capital of the Kushite kingdom and extensive excavations at Kerma have revealed residential and industrial areas, cemeteries, palaces and two huge mudbrick buildings known as deffufa which are uniquely associated with Nubian architecture and are thought to have had a religious function, perhaps as temples.
Tulip-beakers are a distinctive product of the Kushite kingdom and were produced in large numbers from 1750 to 1550 BC, during the period known as ‘Classic Kerma’. These beautiful vessels were made by hand using red-coloured clay which the potters found in abundance on the banks of the Nile. Before the vessel was fired, the surface was polished, or burnished, with a pebble, thus compacting the clay and making the surface very smooth with a metallic sheen.
The ‘Eastern Deffufa’ at Kerma (Photo: Anna Garnett)
Importantly, during firing the tulip-beakers were turned upside-down in the kiln which meant that the rim was fired in a reduced atmosphere (without oxygen) and so appears black, leaving the rest of the vessel red: we call these types of pots ‘black-topped red ware’. The delicate tulip-shape of this beaker highlights the technological skill of the Kushite potters, especially as the vessel is handmade rather than being made on a potter’s wheel. These beakers may have been used for drinking, and several have been found stacked inside each other in the tomb.
This particular beaker was excavated from Kerma in 1913 by the Harvard-Boston expedition led by George Andrew Reisner, an American Egyptologist and pioneer of early scientific archaeology. It subsequently made its way into the Manchester Museum collection in 1926 via the National Museum of Sudan in Khartoum, and is a very visible illustration of the sophisticated craftsmanship of the Kushite potters.
A team of Geomorphologists and dating specialists, including Prof. Jamie Woodward from the University of Manchester, have recently revealed results from their investigations of ancient Sudanese river channels proving that the Kerma civilisation was able to flourish due to its proximity to the life-giving River Nile, which flooded every year and deposited fertile silts onto the land next to the river. The Kerma civilisation, which lasted for over a thousand years, finally died out in around 1500 BC when these floods were not quite high enough and a major Nile tributary dried up.
Check out more of Anna’s photos of Sudan at her blog.
Posted in Object biography | Tagged beaker, Jamie Woodward, Kerma, Kush, pottery, Sudan, tulip | 1 Comment »
Manchester Museum’s newly-refurbished Nature’s Library gallery, due to reopen on Saturday April 26th, will showcase four million natural specimens to illustrate how the natural world has been collected and catalogued and to explore the diversity of those collections.
The ancient Egyptians also catalogued the natural world around them in the form of onomastica, a type of ancient Egyptian text made up of word lists of many different things from sky and earth. The various categories focus mainly on nouns including birds, fish, food, towns and cities, plants, minerals, buildings, agriculture and different occupations. The selection of the words, and how they were ordered, shows us how the ancient Egyptians divided up and classified their world – a bit like an ancient compendium of the universe. Onomastica can be compared with modern encyclopaedia however these ancient lists only contained the words, and did not include any descriptions for those words.
Acc. no. 7220 – a painted scene from a palace floor
Although we don’t know exactly why these lists were made, it is possible that they were intended to be used as training exercises for scribes when they learned to read and write. They may also have been made to act as a ‘bank’ for knowledge; a place where the ancient Egyptians could list and store all of the words which made up their world.
The earliest known onomasticon is the Ramesseum Onomasticon (Berlin Papyrus 10495) which was found in a tomb which possibly belonged to a lector, a specialist in ritual and magic, dating to the late Middle Kingdom (c. 1800-1700 BC). This tomb contained important papyri and objects, and it is possible to see some of those objects today in the Egyptian Worlds gallery at Manchester Museum. The Ramesseum Onomasticon originally contained over 300 words including birds, fish, food, towns and human anatomy. Because the onomasticon probably belonged to a lector, it is possible that the lists may have been read aloud and performed during ceremonies or rituals.
A dedicated display illustrating onomastica and the idea of the ancient Egyptian classification of the universe can be seen in the Exploring Objects gallery, which contains several natural specimens including mammals, birds, fish and minerals. These ideas will also be presented in new digital format – featuring the superb artwork of Gina Allnatt - accessible from the Manchester Ancient Worlds website, due to be launched very soon, which will combine photos, illustrations and text to tell the story of onomastica and why they are so important for the study of both ancient Egyptian and natural history.
Posted in Curator's Diary, Egypt events at the Manchester Museum | Tagged Lector, Nature's Library, Onomasticon | 1 Comment »
AGMS placement student Rebecca Horne on mummies at the Museum
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One of the most exciting aspects of working in a Museum is the occasional discovery of long-forgotten gems that lie in storage and which are often only brought to light by the chance enquiry of an inquisitive researcher. Such was the case this week when Anna Garnett, our British Museum ‘Future Curator’ trainee and I went in search of objects bearing ancient Egyptian plaster, to take samples for a researcher. Lists of object numbers, provenances and dates gave some indication of the sort of objects we were looking for but – because many of the items in the collection have still not been photographed – the physical identification of items often yields a surprise.
I was pretty sure that I knew all the “key” pieces in the collection. These tend to be the ones that are mentioned in publications, because of their own significance or their relationship to other objects of note. These connections are not often obvious, and usually require book-based research. Yet, sometimes you open a drawer, register the form or decoration of something and immediately recognise it as part of a larger whole. Thus it was with genuine amazment that I opened a drawer to discover a piece of one of the most famous paintings to survive from ancient Egypt. I don’t mind admitting that I let out an audible gasp of surprise. How could I not have read that THIS was here?!
Princesses in the Ashmolean. Note the size of the adult heel!
The colours were a clue but the patterning was unmistakable. A small-ish piece (20 x 15cm) of mud brick, with thin painted plaster coating from Petrie’s excavations at Amarna. Number 8740. It is part of the much larger scene featuring two small princesses – daughters of Akhenaten – from a palace wall now in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Petrie (Tell el-Amarna, 1894, p. 15) describes “the patronising air of the elder sister chucking the little one under the chin” and speculated that the paintings of the two figures is “perhaps the only use of light and shade by the Egyptians.” The princesses sit beside the much larger-scale foot of an adult – Akhenaten or Nefertiti - showing how large the original wall scene must have been. Petrie records many smaller fragments of painted plaster belonging to the wall – and that is what we must have in Manchester. Our fragment seems to represent part of a patterned fabric – a cushion? – in the reds and yellows distinctive of this scene.
Other bits are doubtless scattered in collections around the world. But the thrill of recognising just one small part compares with Petrie’s joy at first sight of the whole.
Posted in Curator's Diary | Tagged Akhenaten, Amarna, Ashmolean, fresco, Nefertiti, painting, princesses | 3 Comments »