Monthly Archives: November 2013

Object biography #14: A coral bracelet from Qau el-Kebir (Acc. no. 7169)

Beads_coralUse of coral in ancient Egypt was very limited. This is reflected by the fact that in the Manchester Museum’s collection of over 16,000 artefacts from ancient Egypt and Sudan only two items have elements that are made from coral.

This string of beads (Acc. no. 7169) comes from a grave excavated by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt at the site of Qau el-Kebir. The string may have formed a bracelet, an anklet or part of a larger necklace. It consists of 41 green glass beads, two of carnelian, one of gilt glass, and three long coral beads. Glass beads imitating gold and pearl provide a useful dating criterion as they seem to be an innovation of the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 BC) and continue to be used into Christian times (Fourth Century AD). Our string is most likely to date to between 30 BC and 394 AD, when Egypt was a province of the Roman Empire.


Red sea coral

For the Egyptians, the nearest source of coral lay in the reefs of the Red Sea to the east of the Nile Valley. Red Sea coral (Tubipora musica) is attested in small numbers of grave goods from the Predynastic period (c. 5000-3100 BC) onwards, chiefly in the form of beads. Trade between the Nile Valley and the Red Sea coast is well-attested, and several areas of Egyptian occupation are known throughout the Pharaonic Period and later. Items arriving in Egypt through this route included a range of shells, sea urchins, coral and other materials. Due to its comparative rarity, coral is likely to have been prized by the ancient Egyptians as exotica, a material particularly suitable for use in small amounts in jewellery. The ownership of such items also implied wealth and status for the wearer.

It is unclear what, if any, special properties or associations coral had for the ancient Egyptians but colour symbolism was important in Pharaonic art. While blues and greens represented fresh growth, new life and rebirth after death, red stones such as carnelian and jasper were often used to represent solar elements in jewellery. Red also represented blood, and in Chapter 156 from the Book of the Dead, known as the ‘Chapter for a Knot-amulet of Red Jasper’, protection is sought through the blood of the goddess Isis:

You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis. The amulet is a protection for this Great One which will drive away whoever would commit a crime against him.

It may be assumed that these associations also applied to coral. As so often in Egyptian jewellery, colour was primarily symbolic rather than simply decorative.

This object can be seen in our new exhibition, Coral: Something Rich and Strange, from 29th November 2013. This blogpost is taken from an entry in the exhibition catalogue, edited by M. Endt-Jones and published by Liverpool University Press.

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Lecture 04/12/13: Ancestors in Ancient Egypt – Images and Practice

Acc. no. 1554 © Paul Cliff

Acc. no. 1554, depicting a man venerating an ancestor © Paul Cliff

“Ancestors in Ancient Egypt: Images and Practice”

Dr. Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan
Kanaris Lecture Theatre, 6pm, Wednesday 4th December 2013

The existence of an ancestor cult in ancient Egypt has traditionally been downplayed by Egyptologists, in comparison with practices recognised in other African civilizations. In Pharaonic Egypt, ancestor worship has tended to be subsumed within a general reverence for deceased relatives, which dominates and motivates much of the monumental record. Viewing Egypt in its African context, this lecture will assess some points of comparison between ritual practice during the Egyptian New Kingdom (c. 1550-1070 BC) and the treatment of clay figurines from Komaland in Ghana, currently the subject of an exhibition entitled ‘Fragmentary Ancestors’ at the Museum. Possible connections include the manner of fashioning an image, its power as an object, expected interactions with the image, and the deliberate deposition of it.

This discussion is part of a wider research project which examines the interaction of individuals with standing monuments, and the extent to which those relationships are conceptualised and expressed on the monuments themselves. While compelling archaeological evidence for specifically ancestral veneration is limited in Pharaonic Egypt, texts and iconography are enticingly rich, and open to interpretation. This lecture presents a range of material and returns to the recurring question of how far Egyptology can engage with archaeological and enthnographic parallels.

More information here

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Study Day 23/11/13: South Asasif Conservation Project in Context

southasasifStudy Day – Gateway to an artistic and cultural renaissance
South Asasif Conservation Project in context

Saturday 23rd November, Karanis Theatre, Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester
Cost is £30 / £25 for South Asasif Conservation Trust Friends/Patrons

Dr Elena Pischikova and Dr Campbell Price will be the principal speakers for this exciting study day which explores the process of artistic and cultural renaissance alongside political unification and the dawn of the Late Period. The day will focus on the case study of the tombs of the South Asasif necropolis in Thebes which provide an early example of what was to follow in Late Period tomb architecture, texts and decoration.


09.30 – Registration
10.00 – Welcome and Logistics (John Billman)
10.10 – South Asasif Conservation Project – Introduction, overview & latest results from 2012 & 2013 by Dr Elena Pischikova
11.30 – Break
12.00 – Chronological Context of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty by Dr Campbell Price
12.30 – South Asasif Conservation Project – anatomy of an excavation by John Billman
13.00 – Lunch (please make your own arrangements)
14.30 – Creating and Dedicating a Monument in Late Period Thebes by Dr Campbell Price
15.00 – Break
15.30 – Kushite art in Karakhamun and Karabasken – Inspiration, Style and Technique by Dr Elena Pischikova
16.30 – Close

Note : The above Study Day cost includes a voluntary gift-aidable donation of £15, if you do not wish to make this donation deduct £15pp

More information can be found at the Project website. Check out the South Asasif blog.

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Study Day 08/02/2014: Sons of Osiris – Men in Ancient Egypt

Acc. no. 5839. New Kingdom stela from Riqqeh.

Acc. no. 5839. New Kingdom stela from Riqqeh.

‘Sons of Osiris: Men in Ancient Egypt’

Saturday 8th February 2014

Kanaris Lecture Theatre, The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester

A series of presentations examining the lives, roles, health and deaths of ancient Egyptian men. Presented by Egyptology Online in association with The Manchester Museum and the KNH Centre.

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

The programme for the event is as follows:

9.15 Registration: tea/coffee
9.45 Welcome and Introduction
10.00 Fathers and Sons: Gods and & Men in Ancient Egypt – Joyce Tyldesley
10.45 ‘Accident and Emergency’: Men’s Health –Roger Forshaw
11.15 Break
11.45 Grumpy Old Men: What did Ancient Egyptian Men Moan About? – Glenn Godenho
12.30 Is it a Man? – Bob Loynes
13.00 Lunch (please make own arrangements)
14.00 His Father’s Son: Khaemwese at Memphis and Elsewhere – Steven Snape
15.00 Break
15.30 The Two Brothers: Facts and Fantasies –Campbell Price
16.30 Conclusion

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