Tag Archives: Flinders Petrie

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.

Ahnas

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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Texts in translation #12: The stela of the God’s Wife, Princess Isis (Acc. no. 1781)

G2.07_Guide_IsisThis finely wrought limestone slab likely once formed the upper part (the curved ‘lunette’) of a larger stela commemorating the daughter of King Ramesses VI (c. 1143-1136 BC), a princess named Iset – or Isis. The stela was excavated by Flinders Petrie at the site of Coptos.

Central text

The Osiris, King, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re Mery-Amun, Son of Re, Ramesses, Heka-Iunu, Father of the God’s Wife of Amun, The Divine Adoratrice Isis.

Above the figure of Re-Horakhty (on the left):

Re-Horakhty, by whose shining all is illuminated, Great God, Ruler of Eternity.

Above the scene of the princess shaking a sistrum and censing:

I play the sistrum before your fair face, gold is in front of you. May you allow [me] to see the sunrise, the Osiris, the Hereditary Princess, great of favours, the God’s Wife of Amun, the King’s Daughter, the God’s Adoratrice Isis, true of voice.

Behind the princess:

Her mother, the Great Royal Wife, whom he loves, the Lady of the Two Lands, Nub-khesbed, true of voice.

Above the figure of Osiris (on the right):

Osiris, who awakens complete, Lord of the Sacred Land, Great God, Chief of Silence

Above the scene of the princess pouring liquid over a table of offerings:

Making a libation to Osiris, Lord of Eternity. May you allow me to receive offerings that go out upon your offering tables, consisting of everything good and pure for the Osiris, the God’s Wife of Amun, the King’s Daughter, Lady of the Two Lands, the Divine Adoratrice, Isis, true of voice.

Behind the princess:

Her father, the king, Lord of the Two Lands, Neb-Maat-Re Mery-Amun, Son of Re, Ramesses, Heka-Iunu [...].

Isis stela line

The scene makes an important religious statement, showing two deities as different aspects of the sun god – representing both night (Osiris) and day (Re-Horakhty). As is typical of many such scenes, the text captions and reinforces what is depicted in figural scenes. Isis performs rituals with a rattle, or sistrum, burns incense and pours libations. These were important aspects of the role of the ‘God’s Wife’, as chief ritualist who entertained the god. In some sense, the ‘God’s Wife’ (or ‘God’s Adoratice’ or ‘God’s Hand’) was a sexual companion for the god Amun.

This position was an important religious and political one, because the princess was a representative of her father the king at Karnak – when the Pharaoh was largely based in the Delta at this period. From recent excavations of chapels at Dra Abu el-Naga on the West Bank at Thebes, it seems the office of God’s Wife and of High Priest were closely linked at this time.

The stela’s inscription is important in making explicit the parentage of Isis, which has been used by Egyptologists to help build a picture of royal family relationships in the Twentieth Dynasty.

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London Event 26/10/13: “In the footsteps of Petrie”

Petrie_1903A fundraising study day run by the Friends of the Petrie Museum, exploring Flinders Petrie’s world of excavation and collecting. Part of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Friends and in honour of Petrie’s 160th birthday.

 

Venue : Institute of Archaeology UCL
Cost is £25 for Friends of the Petrie / £30 for guests / £10 students
Booking form here

 

 

 

PROGRAMME

9.30: welcome
9.45 – 10.45 Professor Stephen Quirke: Framing Petrie: the worlds of archaeology and Egypt 1853-1942
10.45 – 11.15 coffee
11.15 – 12.15 Dr Campbell Price: While skulls bobbed around on the waves: Petrie at Hawara
12.15 – 12.30 short break
12.30 – 1.30 Dr Tine Bagh: It’s all about the money: financing Petrie’s excavations
1.30 – 2.30 lunch (please make your own arrangements)
2.30 – 3.30: Dr Paolo Del’Vesco: In the company of Petrie: letters, notebooks and pocket diaries in the archive of the Petrie Museum
3.30 – 4.00: tea
4.00 – 5.00: Dr Alice Stevenson: The General and the young surveyor: Petrie, Pitt-Rivers and Victorian archaeology
5.00 – 5.30: Panel Q&A

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Masks and masking in ancient Egypt

123

Acc. no. 123

The Manchester Museum holds two very important objects that provide evidence for the use of masks in ancient Egypt. The first is one of the very few surviving masks that appears to have been worn by the living, rather than placed on a mummy. The Manchester example (Acc. no. 123) is made of layers of linen and plaster, and has been painted black – with signs of paint being applied over broken patches of plaster, implying ancient repair. There are holes for the eyes and nostrils, indicating practical considerations for the wearer. A green triangle has been painted between the brows, and the eyes, cheeks and lips have been picked out with red paint. Despite the common assertion that the Manchester mask represents the dwarf-god Bes, this does not seem obvious from inspection of the mask itself.

The mask was found by archaeologist W.M. Flinders Petrie during his 1888-9 excavations at the pyramid-builders’ town of Kahun. It was discovered in a room of one of the houses there. In the next room, in a hole in the floor, was found a group of objects including a pair of ivory clappers and a wooden figurine of a woman with a lionine face(mask). Although the latter was stolen from the excavation, it is comparable with another example from the Ramesseum tomb group – also in Manchester. These objects have been interpreted as the tools of a ritual performer, whose use was connected with music and magic. The exact context of such use is uncertain.

Ostracon 5886 second version

Acc. no. 5886

The other object is a flake of limestone (known as an ostracon), from western Thebes, probably of New Kingdom date and donated by Sir Alan Gardiner. It bears a unique ink sketch: a scene of a funeral. The sketch shows a tomb shaft – of the type known from Deir el-Medina – with a group of female mourners gathered around it. Within the shaft a man is seen descending, and within the chambers of the tomb itself the burial party carry a coffin into place. A striking detail is that one of the party has a jackal head. Given the informal medium, the sketch is likely to show the burial as it happened, albeit in schematic fashion. The implication is that one of the party is wearing a jackal-headed mask. A famous example in Hildesheim may represent such a mask, used for the impersonation of Anubis, the god of mummification.

Ancient Egyptian ritual centred on the knowledge and action of a ritual practitioner, not on abstract “beliefs”. Masking enabled ritualists to act as gods, bringing divine knowledge and power to confront a given problem or participate in ceremonial acts. Religious texts contain many assertions that the speaker is a specific deity. Such a declaration of authority enabled mortals – both men and women – to impersonate gods, and make their ritual actions more effective. The resulting positive psychological effects are well-attested.

Masks enabled ancient Egyptians to become divine, both during life and after death. Manchester is fortunate to have these two outstanding objects, which shed light on an otherwise sparsely-documented practice.

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100 years of Egypt on display at Manchester: Ancient Worlds are open!

On 30th October 1912 a group of dignitaries assembled for the opening of a new building in the Manchester Museum, designed to house the important Egyptology collections. Exactly one hundred years later, we have now opened our new ‘Ancient Worlds’ galleries – and they are already proving very popular.

The new galleries consist of three main parts. The first gallery (previously the rather claustrophobic ‘Egyptian Daily Life’) introduces archaeological methods and explains how we know about the past, through a number of guides related to the field. This section, for example, explains Manchester’s unique contribution to facial reconstruction of ancient peoples, and Flinders Petrie’s ‘sequence dating’ based on pottery typology. Further digital content – including text, images, audio commentary, and 360 degree photography – can be downloaded using codes that appear on object labels. A visitor services assistant can unlock this information for those without a smart phone. This information can also be viewed online, at www.ancientworlds.co.uk.

The second space – formerly the Egyptian Afterlife gallery – is now Egyptian Worlds. Objects are arranged chronologically, with a timeline running around the top of the wall cases – making clear to visitors when, relative to main ‘periods’ of Egyptian history, material is situated. This timeline is illustrated with pots, to show changes in ceramic styles over time. Within this chronological framework individual themes are developed, such as the importance of writing in the Old Kingdom and Manchester’s unique evidence for magical practice in the Middle Kingdom. A smaller adjoining space now houses our rich collection of painted mummy portraits from Roman Egypt, including two of the rare examples of mummies with portraits still in place.

Finally, in our third gallery ‘Exploring Objects’ – what previously housed Mediterranean Archaeology – we present dense displays of several categories of artefacts found in abundance in museum collections, such as Roman glass, pottery lamps, or Egyptian stone vessels. One section that has already proved popular is our case packed with shabti figures, arranged roughly in chronological order to show changes in colour with time. The reason behind creating these densely-filled cases was simple: museum visitors expressed an interest in seeing more material on display. More objects than ever before are now on view in all three galleries, many for the first time in over 50 years. With around a thousand whole and fragmentary shabtis in storage, we wanted to show many more than the dozen or so examples that had been on display in the old galleries. The result is an aesthetically striking display – as evidenced by the popularity of this case with photographers!

In the year since I arrived at the Museum, ‘Ancient Worlds’ has dominated almost every aspect of life. It has been a wonderful opportunity to bring objects from one of Britain’s (and, indeed, Europe’s) great collections from Egypt and Sudan to a new audience. Yet, it has also been very satisfying to hear people express surprise as seeing an object from the old galleries in a new context – in this way many familiar pieces are getting a second look.

This photo from the 1912 opening shows the gallery’s major benefactor Jesse Haworth (standing in the picture), archaeologist William Flinders Petrie (seated third from right), the museum’s first curator William Boyd Dawkins (first on right), and anatomist Grafton Elliot Smith.

A project of this size obviously runs into its fair share of challenges. Yet even when things didn’t go quite according to plan, solutions were found – and the results, we hope, speak for themselves. It was a particular pleasure to work so closely with a team of such tireless, talented, and enthusiastic people at the Museum. We all hope that our new galleries bring Ancient Worlds to life in new and exciting ways for our visitors.

You can see all of Paul Cliff’s photos from the opening at the Museum’s Flickr page.

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Object biography #10: A relief from the tomb chapel of Nefermaat and Itet (Acc. No. 5168)

This month’s object biography was the first Egyptian piece to be installed into the new Ancient Worlds galleries last week. The relief (Acc. No. 5168) comes from the mastaba tomb chapel of Nefermaat and his wife Itet at Meidum. Nefermaat was probably a son of King Sneferu (c. 2613-2589 BC). At this period the highest offices of state were held by members of the king’s close family, and Nefermaat had the titles of ‘Vizier’ and ‘Overseer of All the King’s Works’. Although Sneferu is perhaps best known as the father of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid, Sneferu himself build more in terms of volume – his two (perhaps three) pyramids are located at Dahshur (the ‘Bent’ Pyramid, and ‘Red’ Pyramid), and Meidum (though this was perhaps begun by his predecessor Huni). Nefermaat is likely to have overseen these monumental projects.

The conserved relief in its new home, in the Egyptian Worlds gallery.

Nefermaat and Itet’s mastaba tomb was originally excavated by Auguste Mariette in 1872 and later re-examined by Flinders Petrie in 1890–1891. It is from the latter excavations that our relief comes. The upper scene shows an ox and ibex. Hieroglyphs describe the two boatmen pictured below as ‘coming out of the marshes’, where they have been catching birds.

Our relief was created using a very unusual form of decoration, which is attested chiefly from Nefermaat and Itet’s tomb chapel. Reliefs have been sunk into the limestone walls and then filled with coloured paste. An inscription from another part of the tomb chapel, on a relief now in Chicago, explains the purpose of this unusual decorative technique. In words attributed to Nefermaat: “He is one who fashions his representations (lit. ‘gods’) in writing that cannot be erased”. Other parts of the tomb chapel were decorated in the more conventional fashion of paint applied onto mud plaster. The other Nefermaat scene we hold in Manchester uses this technique, and comes from the same wall as the famous ‘Meidum Geese.’

Nefermaat restoration

The relief being conserved and (somewhat imaginatively) restored in the Museum at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The paste-inlay technique appears to have been an innovation at the time, and seems unique in terms of tomb decoration. It is for this reason that it is often supposed to have been abandoned at an early date, having been found to be unsuccessful. However, the paste-inlays were largely intact at the time of the tomb’s discovery by Auguste Mariette in 1872, and their subsequent deterioration – as shown in an archive photo I recently discovered of the relief’s consolidation when it arrived in Manchester – may be due to rough handling after excavation rather than because of the intrinsic weakness of the technique.

Egyptian tomb owners greatly feared damage to, or usurpation of, their ‘houses of eternity’. Several Old Kingdom tombs, only a little later than Nefermaat’s time, bear curses against trespassers intent on such damage. It is interesting to observe another use of this type of filled decoration occurs in the inscription of the famous seated statue of Khufu’s ‘Overseer of Works’ Hemiunu in Hildesheim (#19622). Perhaps both men, intimately involved with construction and themselves all-too-aware of how easily decorated walls could be reappropriated or destroyed, took special pains to carve their ‘gods’ for eternity. Perhaps the fashion was abandoned due simply to being too labour-intensive.

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Curator’s Diary 31/7/12: Gleanings from Gurob

A.S. Griffith's 1910 handbook of material from Kahun and Gurob.

A.S. Griffith’s 1910 handbook of material from Kahun and Gurob.

On Sunday, I attended the annual fundraising conference of the Gurob Harem Palace Project – a joint mission (Univeristy of Liverpool, UCL, Copenhagen) investigating the New Kingdom settlement site near the Faiyum that housed royal women. I enjoyed my visit to the site in April, which – though little is preserved above ground – gave me some sense of where our objects had come from. The Manchester collection contains over 700 objects from Gurob, many of which were published in a basic list form by Agnes Griffith (sister of famous Egyptologist Francis Llewellyn Griffith, who once taught at the Victoria University of Manchester) in 1910. Therefore, I was keen to attend the Gurob conference and to present an overview of the Museum’s Gurob material.

Petrie’s arrangement of objects from Gurob soon after they were found; our duck vessel is bottom right.

Meetings such as this provide an excellent opportunity to catch up on the latest discoveries, both in the field and in museums. A highlight was being made aware of digitised photographs from Petrie’s excavations (and of objects therefrom) currently available on the website of the Griffith Institute in Oxford. As Jan Picton pointed out, these arbitrary or aesthetic arrangements of objects often informed the plates and drawings that appear in Petrie’s excavation reports. It was exciting to see several objects now in Manchester shortly after they were first discovered. A personal favourite is our faience stirrup jar (Acc. no. 659) – a Mycenean shape adopted by Egyptian craftsmen  and decorated with Egyptian duck motifs.

The duck vessel today (Acc. no 659)

The duck vessel today (Acc. no 659)

It was also very interesting to hear a presentation by Dr. Valentina Gasperini, of Bologna University, who has been visiting the Museum over the last few months to work on imported pottery found at Gurob. I’m very grateful for her input into the interpretation of these objects. Many of these will appear in the new Ancient Worlds galleries where, along with material from the comparable site of Amarna, they will illustrate life in a New Kingdom royal city.

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Object biography #6: The crown from a colossal statue of Ramesses II (Acc. No. 1783)

Acc. no. 1783.

Acc. no. 1783.

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, it seemed appropriate to highlight this magnificent fragment from a colossus of another monarch who celebrated 60 years on the throne. It comes from an over-lifesize granite statue of Ramesses II, named in the inscription on the back pillar as celebrating his heb-sed or jubilee festival. Ramesses II was one of only two pharaohs to rule for over 60 years. It is conceivable that the statue from which the crown comes was created for such a jubilee.

The form of the crown is complex. It comprises the tall ‘atef’ crown, with rams horns and flanked by plumes and rearing cobras (or uraei). It is supported from the back by a falcon – an image familiar from the famous statue of King Khafre in the Cairo Museum. The atef is surmounted by a solar disk with a scarab beetle carved within it, thereby combining a range of divine allusions: to Osiris, god of the dead and rebirth; Horus, god of kingship; and Khepri, the new-born sun. This iconographical mixture is very appropriate for a sed festival. This was an occasion to renew the king’s power and legitimacy as a semi-divine ruler after 30 years on the throne, and was repeated at various intervals thereafter. Assimilating with the of the gods – particularly their solar aspects – is a hallmark of the jubilees of Ramesses II.

The crown was found by William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) in the Ptolemaic temple of Isis at Coptos. Nearby, a lifesized statue of the king seated between the goddesses Isis and Nephthys was also discovered. Petrie suggested that this monument had been reemployed in the Ptolemaic temple. Although it cannot be determined when the colossus fell, it may have been reused and reinterpreted in the same way during the Ptolemaic period – almost a millennium after it was first set up.

Cartouches of Ramesses II, over the hieroglyphs for ‘jubilee festival’, framed by notched palm ribs – symbols for ‘years’.

Manchester was just one of several museums that received impressive fragments of monumental statues from sites in Egypt. This inspired 19th Century writers, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley. His famous poem Ozymandias laments the broken state of another of the colossi of Ramesses II, from his mortuary temple at Thebes. The romantic image of the isolated, ruined statue continues to dominate popular perceptions of Egyptian kings today – of vain, tyrannical, larger-than-life figures.

Yet, this crown is only one part of a statue that would have been set up within a temple, and it would have functioned as part of the architecture. It could only have been seen by those with privileged access to the temple. Very few are likely to have been able to fully decode its elaborate symbolism. Rather than simply being intended to impress ordinary people, as is often assumed of colossi, such statues were equally – if not predominantly – addressed to the gods. Colossal statues like the one this crown comes from were statements to the gods that the king was on a par with them.

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Curator’s Diary 6/4/12: Visiting Egypt (1) – the Faiyum

Yesterday I returned from a 4-day trip to Cairo. One objective of this visit was to capture digital content for the new Ancient Worlds galleries, in the form of photographs and short film clips.

Faiyum

Manchester holds a world-class collection of objects excavated from the ancient towns of Kahun (modern Lahun) and Gurob. Both sites are situated close to the Faiyum lake, some 130 kilometres south-west of modern Cairo. Driving with my friend and colleague Mohammed Komaty on the second day of my trip, it took just over 2 hours on the Western Desert Highway to reach the area. I had never visited the Faiyum region before, so took the opportunity to stop at another important site nearby.

Pyramid at Meidum

Meidum is the site of a large, steep-sided pyramid – a tower-like structure visible from the road. It was perhaps begun by Huni, last king of the Third Dynasty (c. 2637-2613), and was completed – if not entirely constructed – by his son Sneferu (c. 2613-2589 BC). Nearby are several large mastaba tombs (so-called because they resemble the flat, rectangular structures – hence their Arabic name, meaning ‘bench’) belonging to high-ranking officials. One of the mastabas belonged to a son of Sneferu, named Nefermaat, and his wife Itet. In addition to almost 200 other small objects from Meidum, Manchester Museum holds two decorated blocks from Nefermaat and Itet’s mastaba – both of which will feature in the new galleries.

The next stop was Gurob, the site of a royal harem palace during the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1143 BC). I was very pleased my visit coincided with fieldwork by the Gurob Harem Palace Project, an international collaboration led by Liverpool University’s Dr. Ian Shaw, who showed me around the site. The Project has improved substantially our understanding of the extent and use of this intriguing settlement, the story of which will feature in the ‘Royal Cities’ section of the Egyptian World gallery.

GHPP Director Ian Shaw and Tine Bagh

GHPP Director Ian Shaw and Tine Bagh

Of particular interest is the work of Anna Hodgkinson, a friend and colleague from Liverpool, who has been excavating kilns at the site. These contain the remains of glass and faience production, but may have had other uses. It may have been here that some of the most beautiful Gurob objects now in Manchester were created. Anna kindly agreed to speak about her research on camera, which will be included in a video exploring the making of faience and glass objects.

Finally, I made a trip to the site from which arguably the greatest number of Manchester’s Egyptian objects come: the workers’ town of Lahun. Here were housed the builders of the nearby pyramid of Senwosret II (c. 1880-1874 BC) and their descendants. The site was dug extensively by William Matthew Flinders Petrie at the end of the Nineteenth Century. Despite the fact that Petrie discovered many objects that cast unprecedented light on life – and not just death – at the town, there is very little to see today. It was, however, a special privilege to be at the place that has such a close connection with objects I am getting to know so well. Although weathered, the site is still dominated by the mud-brick pyramid of Senwosret II – a feeling enhanced by the total lack of other visitors. The pyramid’s haunting majesty was intended to ensure that the king’s cult continued at the town after his death. This is attested at Lahun by the large number of papyri found there, dealing with a range of matters – including the royal cult – from long after the pyramid had received its intended occupant.

The pyramid of Senwosret II at Lahun

The pyramid of Senwosret II at Lahun

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