Monthly Archives: January 2012

Investigating Tutankhamen’s curse… and 100 years of Nefertiti’s bust.

Dr. Joyce Tyldesley is Senior Lecturer on Manchester University’s Certificate Course in Egyptology, and Honorary Research Associate here at The Manchester Museum. Joyce is the well-known author of many accessible books on Egyptological topics, and her latest – Tutankhamen’s Curse: The Developing History of an Egyptian King – is published on the 9th of February. The book tells the story not just of the Boy King, but – arguably of more interest – addresses the reasons why we are fascinated by him.

Joyce Tyldesley and Nefertiti

Joyce and Nefertiti

I recently met with Joyce, who came to the Museum to examine one of our objects for her next book. Her interest lay not a genuine artefact, however, but in a replica: our reproduction of the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti. This iconic image was discovered in 1912, and thus joins our Egypt galleries in celebrating a centenary this year. It was found by a German mission working at Tell el-Amarna, the short-lived royal residence city of Nefertiti’s husband Akhenaten (c. 1352-1336 BC), and is now housed in Berlin.

Joyce is currently writing an account of the modern obsession with the bust, and its central place in our impression of ancient beauty. As it is impossible to handle the original bust, Joyce asked if she could examine the Manchester copy as it is one of a number of accurate replicas made in Germany and now in several museums.

Manchester Nefertiti replica bust

Bust displayed previously

The Manchester bust – although not genuine, and never claimed to be – has always been popular with visitors. The new Ancient Worlds galleries will reflect the popularity of Nefertiti and her time by including both a rich selection of objects discovered at Amarna and several Amarna-style artworks: some educational copies and some made with the intent to deceive.

The modern reception of Tutankhamen and Nefertiti offer a fascinating insight into the continuing  allure of Ancient Egypt. The Museum is delighted that Dr. Tyldesley has used some of our objects in her research, and I eagerly anticipate the publication of both books.


Filed under Research projects

Study Day: Mummies and Medicine – Investigating Health in Ancient Egypt

Saturday, 11th February 2012, 9:30am-4:30pm
Mummies and Medicine: Investigating Health in Ancient Egypt

A Study Day presented by the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, The University of Manchester, in the Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester.

All tickets cost £30. Tea and coffee are provided at the breaks: lunch is not provided.

Email any queries to:

More information, including the programme, can be found here.

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Filed under Egypt events, Egyptian mummies

Scarabs in Ancient Egypt

In preparation for the opening of our Ancient World Galleries, I spoke to our entomologist Dr. Dmitri Luganov about the habits of the scarab beetle and its significance in Ancient Egypt.

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Event: After Hours – Ancient Egypt by Torchlight

Ancient Egypt by torchlight
Ancient Egypt by torchlight

Ancient Egypt by torchlight – Mummies, monuments… and mystery!

Thursday 26th January, 6.30-9.30pm.

Join Curator Campbell Price at 7.15 & 8.45pm for a guided torchlight tour of the highlights from the current Ancient Egyptian Afterlife gallery before it closes for redevelopment at the end of February.

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Lecture: “Ancient Egypt and Modern Science: How Geophysics has Revealed More of Saqqara’s Secrets”

On Friday the 27th of January I will be giving a lecture as part of the Daresbury Laboratory Talking Science series. Please note the change of topic: I will be speaking about how the work of the Saqqara Geophysical Survey Project has shed light on one of ancient Egypt’s most important religious and burial sites, Saqqara. The lecture will be between 7 and 8pm.

Using radar equipment at Saqqara

Using radar equipment at Saqqara


Filed under Egypt events

A safe return from a voyage… to Venezuela!

When the priestess Sheri-ankh died in the early Ptolemaic Period (c. 300 BC), she may have hoped to make one final journey: a funeral procession, across the river Nile, to her tomb on the west bank. Perhaps she supposed part of her soul might travel with the spirits of her departed relatives in the sun god’s barque across the sky. It is doubtful, however, that she ever entertained the notion of making a trip to South America.

Salford EA7

Salford EA7 on display in Caracas

Spurious theories about Pharaonic trans-Atlantic voyages aside, it would have been neigh on impossible to make such a trip in 300 BC. In fact, Sheri-ankh’s knowledge of the world beyond Egypt would have been limited. In the age of the early Ptolemies, when Sheri-ankh lived, we may reasonably expect her to have known about places around the ancient Mediterranean. Her trip in 2011 AD would therefore have beyond her wildest imaginings.

Jenny and Salford EA7Yesterday, conservators checked up on the condition of Sheri-ankh’s mummy and her finely painted and gilded coffin. Both were given to the Manchester Museum by Salford Museum in 1979, and bear their original number: EA7 . They have just returned from a loan to Caracas in Venezuela. Accompanied by conservator Jenny Discombe, the crated mummy and coffin landed in Caracas via Frankfurt  in May 2011. Once it arrived, the crate had to be winched – using a crane – up the side of a 4-storey building to join other exhibits in the display.  All of this took place under Jenny’s watchful eye – in darkness, at 2am. Quite an adventure – for both courier and ancient priestess!

Needless to say, we are all pleased that Sheri-ankh has returned to the Museum safely after her journey to a far-off land.
A crane winches Sheri-ankh in Caracas

A crane winches Sheri-ankh in Caracas

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Filed under Curator's Diary, Egyptian mummies

Liverpool Ancient Worlds Dayschool: How Did Ancient Egyptian Statues Work?

‘How Did Ancient Egyptian Statues Work?’


Presented by Dr Campbell Price

Statues were central to ancient Egyptian religion, but how did the Egyptians use and understand them? This day school will examine stylistic developments in sculptures of non-royal people, deities and kings, and address the meanings behind them through textual sources. We will also study the existence of portraiture, the role of sculptors and the rituals designed to bring statues to life. The collections of The Garstang Museum of Archaeology provide a valuable resource for this course.


This day school costs £30, and includes light refreshment. A booking form can be downloaded from the ‘Fees and Booking’Tab. If you would like more information,please feel free to contact Dr Glenn Godenho (,0151 794 2475).

More information at the Liverpool Ancient Worlds website:

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Event: Future Curators open evening

Invitation to Future Curators Open Evening

As part of the HLF Skills for the Future programme, the British Museum, together with five regional partner museums, is looking for five ambitious and creative people to take part in this paid work-based training initiative. Trainees will spend a total of 18 months at two UK museums; six months at the British Museum and 12 months at a partner museum. Through formal training and on-the-job experience, each trainee will acquire specific collections knowledge, an extensive range of curatorial and transferable skills, and a large network of professional contacts, invaluable for laying the foundations for a successful career in the sector. The programme welcomes applications from a diverse range of people and backgrounds to apply for this unique trainee opportunity to build skills and knowledge for a career in the Museum sector.

The traineeship will begin in June 2012, with recruitment open 11th January – 17th February 2012.

The five positions we are looking to fill are:

Trainee curator in Ancient Egypt and Sudan

Trainee curator in Ethnographic Collections

Trainee curator in Far Eastern Culture

Trainee curator in Late Medieval Europe

Trainee curator in Islamic Art and Culture

We will be holding an Open Evening in the Kanaris Lecture Theatre at Manchester Museum from 5.30-7pm on 24th January. This will be a great opportunity to hear an introduction to the programme, meet some of the curators at the Museum, and ask any questions you might have. The team will be there at 5.30pm for anyone who would like an informal chat, and the formal presentation about the programme will start at 6pm. Places for the open evening are limited, and we will allocate on a first come first served basis. Those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to

To find out more about the programme, visit or e-mail

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Pots, pictures and… publicity.

Loretta and some Lahun pots

Loretta and some Lahun pots

A useful way to get to know the collection is by facilitating access to objects for visiting researchers. Before the visit last week of Loretta Kilroe, an Oxford University student and native of Manchester working on Middle Kingdom pottery from Flinders Petrie’s excavations at Lahun, I hadn’t known about the distinctive potters’ marks on many of these vessels. Researchers like Loretta are able to throw new light on objects often packed away in storage, as here. We hope, however, that much more of this material – and results from the research of Loretta and others – will feature in the new Ancient Worlds galleries.

Photography for guidebook

Photography for guidebook

Photography is now complete for the Egyptian objects set to feature in the Museum’s souvenir guidebook, currently in preparation. The photography by Paul Cliff will highlight both some hidden gems, and bring out new aspects of well-known favourites. Here Paul is getting the lighting just right to capture the colourfully painted eye-panel of the box coffin of Nakht-ankh.

Finally, it is now possible to follow everything Egypt and Sudan at Manchester on Facebook. This new page allows a platform for swift, easy updates and will provide more images than are possible here. Click ‘like’ to find out more.


Filed under Curator's Diary

Object Biography #1: A vessel naming Nesi-khonsu (Acc. no. 6736)

Manchester 6736 - a cup of Nesikhonsu
© Paul Cliff / Victoria Hayden

Each month I hope to highlight an individual object that will feature in our new Ancient Worlds galleries. Many of the objects in the collection have incredible stories behind them but, due to an inevitable lack of space, these cannot be included fully in gallery labels or text panels. We aim to tell some of these stories – or “object biographies” – in digital content to accompany the new displays.

This small cup is only 6.75 cms in height but is made of eye-catching bright blue faience, or glazed composition ceramic. The hieroglyphs name Nesi-khonsu, wife of the Twenty-first Dynasty ruler Pinedjem II. She is given the title “first in charge of the musical troupe of Amun” (tA wrt-xnrt tp n imn) – a group of female musicians who entertained the deity in his temple at Karnak.

This piece belongs to a set of such vessels from Nesi-khonsu’s burial, intended to contain oils for use in rituals, and now scattered across several museum collections. For example, four cups from the set are in the Myers Collection of Eton College (below). Other examples are in the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Myers Nesikhonsu cups

Nesi-khonsu cups in the Myers Collection, Eton College

Our cup entered the Manchester collection from a 1922 Sotheby’s sale of objects collected by the Rev. William MacGregor. The accessions register lists its provenance as “Deir el-Bahri”, without giving any more detail. In fact the cup derives from one of Egyptology’s most spectacular discoveries: tomb DB320, the cache of royal mummies at Deir el-Bahri. The tomb was the family sepulchre of Nesi-khonsu’s husband, Pinedjem II of the Twenty-first Dynasty, but also contained the mummies of such famous rulers as Ahmose, Amenhotep I, Tuthmose III, Ramesses II and III. Their tombs had been robbed, so their bodies had been collected together, rewrapped and re-coffined during the Third Intermediate Period.

Funerary objects from the Deir el-Bahri cache (tomb DB 320)

Funerary objects from the Deir el-Bahri cache (tomb DB 320)

DB320 officially came to light in 1881, after objects from it had appeared on the art market and raised Egyptologists’ suspicions of a major find. The infamous Abd er-Rassul family of tomb robbers had known about the tomb for over a decade and only grudgingly gave up their personal treasure trove to the antiquities authorities. Once officially cleared, the tomb yielded a mass of funerary equipment of the original occupants – including Nesi-khonsu’s libation vessels. Two are shown on this photo, taken soon after the discovery.



Filed under Object biography