Author Archives: Campbell@Manchester

About Campbell@Manchester

Curator of Egypt and Sudan

Curator’s Diary 20/05/15: Discussing & Displaying Tutankhamun

Last week I attended a conference on the complexities of moving and displaying objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun. These world-renowned artefacts, from perhaps the greatest archaeological find in history, have already begun to be moved from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to a new home in the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in Giza, which will display objects focusing on the themes of kingship and eternity – including the Tutankhamun tomb group. International participants met between 10-14th May in various venues in Cairo to discuss possible approaches.

Dr Tarek Tawfik, Director of the Grand Egyptian Museum Project, opens the conference

Dr Tarek Tawfik, Director of the Grand Egyptian Museum Project, opens the Tutankhamun conference at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC)

The issues posed by the move are manifold. How to conserve often very fragile objects that have rarely – if ever – left their 90 year old display cases? How to transport them safely? How to interpret them in their new display space? There is no doubt that Tutankhamun is a world-wide celebrity, and that his mummy mask is an iconic, instantly recognisable image of ancient Egypt around the world. Ever since the discovery of the tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in November 1922, the objects have spawned an interest in popular culture – ‘Tutmania’. The ongoing interest in aspects of the discovery, clearance, and subsequent popular influence of the tomb’s contents was well-illustrated in a recent exhibition – ‘Discovering Tut’ – at the Ashmolean in Oxford.

View from the Grand Egyptian Museum site towards the three pyramids at Giza. A visitor centre is planned for Spring 2016, with an initial opening in 2018.

View from the Grand Egyptian Museum site towards the three pyramids at Giza. A visitor centre is planned for Spring 2016, with an initial opening in 2018.

But despite all this attention, Egyptologists often falter when asked to explain the importance of the tomb. And this is a significant part of the problem: Egyptology doesn’t really know how to handle the success of Tutankhamun, and so the challenge for the new display will be to harness the extraordinary public interest in the Boy King and at the same time to correct assumptions and misconceptions about the king, the tomb, and ancient Egypt in general.

At the conference we discussed how to present individual objects and object categories, the broader historical context of Tutankhamun’s time, and the value of digital interpretation. These are a set of issues many museums face, including here in Manchester. One big task is trying to distil recent scholarship and present it in an engaging way. Most visitors to the current Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square are foreign tourists on package holidays; these people tend only have time to see highlights and so a priority will be to allow free flow of movement for these groups whilst also providing access for visitors with more time. A recommendation that was welcomed by participants is a dedicated space in the new Grand Egyptian Museum to showcase research – the everyday work of conservators and Egyptologists that increases our understanding of the objects.

Burton's photo of statuettes wrapped in linen, from the so-called 'Treasury'

Burton’s photo of statuettes wrapped in linen, from the so-called ‘Treasury’

Another point of discussion centred on how to arrange the objects – for example, the ancient importance of objects being carefully wrapped in linen before being sealed in the tomb. While this is acknowledged by Egyptologists as endowing and maintaining the sanctity of statuettes of the king, deities and other ritual objects, the linen is often removed for display and is mostly unknown to visitors. I was interested to hear, therefore, about an option to ‘re-dress’ some of the statuettes for display, as they appeared in famous 1920s photographs by Harry Burton.

Towards the end of the conference we discussed the value of replicas. Confirming my own impressions, colleagues from Germany reported that the majority of those who visited replica exhibitions of the tomb were more likely to want to go and see the original objects. This reflects a broader effect of Egyptian collections worldwide; having seen some objects, interested people will want to travel to see more. The innate public desire to know more is a big motivation for the team developing content for the galleries. I wish them luck in this impressive task; the initial opening of the GEM is expected in 2018.

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Object Biography #17: An Anonymous Gilded Mummy Mask (Acc. no. 7931)

The mask on display

The mask on display

This striking gilded cartonnage mummy mask (Acc. no. 7931) came into the Manchester Museum from the collection of William Sharpe Ogden in 1925, and reputedly derives from the Luxor area. At some point after its arrival in the Museum the mask was subject to modern reconstruction for display. The mask’s unusual appearance resulted in it being given a ‘Late Period’ or ‘Ptolemaic’ in some records.

In fact, based on the work of Aidan Dodson, the mask is likely to be one of a small number of examples from the early New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC). The feathered (or rishi) pattern is a distinctive feature of many of these, which exhibit proportionately rather small faces. A comparison may be drawn with a well-known gilded mummy mask in the British Museum (EA 29770), identified by John Taylor as belonging to Queen Sit-djehuty of the 17th Dynasty. Based on this comparison, it may be suggested that our mask belonged to a very high-status women, perhaps even a member of the royal family.

8106A common feature of such early New Kingdom masks is a projecting ‘tab’ or ‘bib’ at the bottom of the broad collar. By chance, a fragment is preserved in Manchester (Acc. no. 8106) that is a strong contender for our missing ‘tab’.  This fragment was also part of the Sharpe Ogden collection and, although the fragment bore a different sale number than the mask, a join is likely because of the pattern 7931_conservationof the edge of both mask and fragment. The mask was in poor condition when it arrived at the museum and it is conceivable that the ‘tab’ snapped off long before it arrived, being given a separate number for sale because it carried a visually appealing set of inked hieroglyphs. These spell out a standard offering formula for the ka of the deceased. Unfortunately, like several other examples of this type, it does not carry a name, almost as if it was a prefabricated piece awaiting magical personalisation (and activation) through the addition of a name. The high quality of the masks with anonymous tabs would seem to argue against an ‘off-the-peg’ arrangement – perhaps  the filling in of the name was a ritualised part of the funerary preparations and was never (properly) completed, or done in less durable pigments than those that have survived?

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Botany in Ancient Egypt – Part 2

Campbell@Manchester:

The second part of Jemma’s blog on Botany in Ancient Egypt

Originally posted on Herbology Manchester:

by Jemma

Part 1 of this blog post (https://herbologymanchester.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/botany-in-ancient-egypt-part-1/) focused primarily on how the ancient Egyptians acquired their extensive botanical knowledge. This second blog post will now look more closely at some of the plants that they commonly used – some of which you may know!

An Egyptian mummy wrapped in garlands of unidentified plants. An Egyptian mummy wrapped in garlands of unidentified plants.

Papyrus

One of the most well-known plants associated with ancient Egypt is Cyperus papyrus. The most famous use for this plant was to make an early form of paper. However, papyrus was used by the Egyptians for multiple purposes and was not limited solely to the production of paper. Other common uses of papyrus include the production of ropes, mats, baskets, sandals and chairs. The plant was also used to hold together bouquets of flowers and eaten as food. The open head of a papyrus plant was also a hieroglyph called ‘wadj’, meaning ‘green’, or…

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Botany in Ancient Egypt – Part 1

Campbell@Manchester:

A great blog from Jemma in the Herbarium on Botany in Ancient Egypt!

Originally posted on Herbology Manchester:

by Jemma

During my research into the Materia Medica collection (plant, animal and mineral based medicines used in from the 1800s) at the Manchester Museum, I have notice a recurring feature; many of the plants had in fact been used by humans for thousands of years and a large portion of these by the ancient Egyptians!

Plants featured heavily in Egyptian culture: in food, medicine, religion, perfumes and beyond. Early medicinal texts, such as the Ebers Papyrus from 1550 BCE, provide detailed insight into their extensive herbal knowledge. Unfortunately no complete record has yet to be found, but the fragments that have survived show just how knowledgeable these ancient peoples were when it came to plants and their uses. Many of the applications documented are the same used right up until the introduction of modern medicinal practices. Even today, large portions of herbal remedies used as ‘alternative’ medicines feature plants…

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MAES Study Day 21/03/15: ‘The Power Behind the Throne’ – Key Personalities in Ancient Egyptian History

CG 42127 Amenhotep son of HapuManchester Ancient Egypt Society present their annual study day:

The Power Behind the Throne: Key Personalities in Ancient Egyptian History

Dr. Campbell Price, Colin Reader and Sarah Griffiths explore who really pulled the strings in the ancient Egyptian court, from the Old Kingdom through to the end of the Late Period. Find out more about the lives and times of some of the most famous ancient Egyptian celebrities such as Imhotep and Senenmut and meet some of the lesser known powerful personalities of the Pharaonic era.

The study day will be held at the Longfield Suite, Prestwich from 9:30am to 4:30pm, Saturday 21st March. There will be a raffle for charity, book auction to raise funds for MAES and a fun photo-spotting competition.
Tea / coffee / biscuits provided morning and afternoon. You need to make your own lunch arrangements, but there are lots of places in the shopping centre to buy / eat food.

Tickets are £30 you’ll also receive a free MAES folder (while stocks last). Speak to Gillian Cook, 298 Manor Avenue, Sale, Cheshire, M33 4NB (0161 976 1165)

There is a limit on numbers so please book early! Make Cheques payable to MAES.

Preliminary programme

9:30 Tea and coffee

10:00-10:30 Campbell Price – Introduction

10:30-11:30 Colin Reader – Old Kingdom: Imhotep

11:30- 11:50 Tea and coffee

11:50-12.50 Sarah Griffiths – Middle Kingdom personalities

12:50 – 13:00 Campbell  – summary

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 14:15 Auction / raffle / competition

14:15- 14: 45 Sarah – Early New Kingdom personalities

14:45 – 15:15 Campbell – New Kingdom continued: Royal master builders

15:15 – 15:30   Tea and coffee

15:30 – 16:30 Campbell – Late Period: The Gods Wives and their Staff & Admirals of the Fleet

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Texts in Translation #15: An offering table dedicated by Queen Tiye (Acc. no. 633)

Head of Queen Tiye in Berlin

Head of Queen Tiye in Berlin

Like so many seemingly unassuming objects, this small (25 x 11 cm) black granite offering table carries an interesting back-story. It comes from the excavations of W.M. Flinders Petrie at the site of Gurob, the ‘harem’ complex used to house royal women and children in part of the New Kingdom (c. 1400-1200 BC). Manchester Museum holds many objects from Petrie’s excavations at Gurob, which is currently being reinvestigated by a joint project of the Universities of Liverpool, Copenhagen and UCL.

One of the most famous finds to have come from the site is a small ebony head of Queen Tiye, the chief wife of Amenhotep III (c. 1390-1352 BC), now in Berlin.  It is likely that the queen spent a lot of time at Gurob, and the inscription on our offering table suggests she lived here as ‘Queen Mother’ after her husband’s death.

The hieroglyphs read:

An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, Ruler of the West, that he may allow coming and going in Rosetau for the royal ka (of) the Osiris, Neb-maat-re;

An offering which the king gives (to) Osiris, Ruler of Eternity, that he may give all that comes out upon his altar for the royal ka of the Osiris, Neb-maat-re;

The Great Royal Wife, she made (it) as her dedication for her ‘brother’, her beloved, the perfect god, Neb-maat-re.

Offering table. Acc. no. 633

Offering table. Acc. no. 633

Petrie noted the importance of the piece when reviewing the inscribed finds from Gurob: “The black granite altar is of special interest. Though roughly cut it seems to have belonged to a class of funerary offerings made for Amenhotep III by his celebrated queen Thii. It follows the usual formulae to Osiris, for the royal ka of Amenhotep III, down each side ; and then along the base is a line stating that ” The great royal wife Thii made her monuments of her brother, her beloved, the good god Ra-ma-neb.’ The question of the parentage of Thii is one of the most important genealogies in Egyptian history.

Offering_table_633

Petrie’s interest focussed on the use of the Egyptian term ‘sen’, which implies kinship but is often rendered ‘brother’. In fact, Tiye’s statement need not mean that she was the sister of Amenhotep III; a more general sense of kinship may be meant (the word “husband” – written with a phallus sign – may have been inappropriate), and the affectionate sentiment of wife towards her spouse is appealing.

The fact that the offering table exists at all and the reference to the king as ‘the Osiris’ implies that Amenhotep III had died when this object was made and used. The appearance of the term ‘royal ka’ (ka nesu) is also fairly uncommon, and refers to an important (semi-)divine aspect of the king’s person, which could be separated from him and objectified for worship. Although Amenhotep III promoted his own divinity to an unusual extent during his own lifetime, it seems more likely that the ‘royal ka’ mentioned here is that of the deceased king.

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‘Teacup Travels’ – CBeebies series features our objects!

TEACUP TRAVELS ADSHEL (Manchester Museum)Manchester Museum has recently participated in a project to recreate ancient objects for children’s television. The TV series Teacup Travels tells a series of adventure stories, which aim at opening the door to ancient worlds and civilisations to young viewers. Each 14 minute episode revolves around Great Aunt Lizzie telling her fictional adventures in Ancient Egypt, Imperial China, Roman Italy and the Celtic Lands of Iron Age Britain. Each story features a replica of a historic artefact from museums across the UK.

Great Aunt Lizzie’s wondrous stories are told to her niece Charlotte and her nephew Elliot, who, whilst cradling one of Great Aunt Lizzie’s special teacups, can’t help but imagine themselves long ago and far away, in Great Aunt Lizzie’s old battered boots.

Brick mould from Kahun (Acc. no. 51). © Paul Cliff

Brick mould from Kahun (Acc. no. 51). © Paul Cliff

Manchester Museum worked with the makers of Teacup Travels to recreate historical artefacts on display at the museum: an Ancient Egyptian brick mould and wooden horse toy. Painstakingly re-made by highly experienced and skilled prop-makers, two unique stories were inspired by these objects from the collection at Manchester Museum.

  • Can Charlotte replace a broken brick mould before the Pharoah’s architect arrives?
  • Will Charlotte be able to convince a carpenter that people will love the wooden horse toys she makes?
Horse_replica

Replica of our Roman Period wooden horse (Acc. no. 6974)

The production team has been truthful to the original artefacts, ensuring that they look the part through a detailed process of recording how the items were found, the state they were in, how they were originally used so that the replica in the series could be portrayed accurately by the cast.

In support of the show, CBeebies has built a website to help children go on a journey of discovery. From watching the show on television, to clicking online, they can easily find out about the ancient artefacts by downloading a printable PDF of the Teacup Travels “museum map” which features an introduction to each of the artefacts – where they can be seen, how they were used and so on.

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