Author Archives: Campbell@Manchester

About Campbell@Manchester

Curator of Egypt and Sudan

Raising Aspirations: Exploring Ancient Egyptian Art

Great work on Egyptian art from our Learning Team

Learning at Manchester Museum

img_5110I was recently contacted by a teacher from Tameside College’s  Aspirations Department (I love that there is such a department exists!) who teaches  a group of young people with learning disabilities (aged 16-20) on an Entry level 2 study programme.  They have been studying a BTEC unit titled Exploring Art,  where they had to plan and produce a piece of art within 15 weeks.

“In order to get some ideas and inspiration we visited Manchester Museum and as a result of that the learners chose Ancient Egypt as their theme. After viewing what the Museum had on display the students came up with some marvellous ideas.  Each learner made a mood board displaying their idea and the tools and equipment they planned on using to create their piece of art work and finally creating their own piece: the results were fantastic.”

Their teacher was really pleased to be able to share these images of the process…

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by | February 20, 2017 · 2:59 pm

New year, new job!

Manchester Museum welcomes Dr Lidija McKnight on three-month secondment as Project Curator

Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank

Well, here we are at the start of a new year! The time seems to fly by, especially in the world of museums when the continual cycle of exhibitions seems relentless. This is particularly evident this year as I have started a three-month secondment at Manchester Museum, during which I will be working as Project Curator alongside Campbell Price, the Curator of Egypt and Sudan. I have worked with the Museum for many years now, both as a researcher on the collections and on the recent ‘Gifts for the Gods’ exhibition, so it feels strangely comforting to now have a desk there! Knowing all the staff (just about!) has made it much easier to fit in and everyone has been really welcoming.

‘Gifts for the Gods’ has been really successful at World Museum Liverpool, with lots of good feedback on the design, content and themes. On Saturday 28th January, Campbell…

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by | January 17, 2017 · 8:13 pm

The most precious of gifts

Today is the 12th day of Christmas – on which traditionally I receive all manner of gifts from my true love – so many leaping lords, drummers and milkmaids, I’m not sure where I’m going to keep the…

Source: The most precious of gifts

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Object Biography # 22: A sculptor’s trial piece of Akhenaten(?) drinking

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Fragmentary trial piece of figure drinking from a cup, Manchester Museum

Ancient Egyptian art was governed by a strong sense of decorum – i.e. what was permissible to depict and how it was presented – especially in relation to the Pharaoh. This system changed significantly during the reign of Akhenaten (c. 1352-1336 BC), when new scene-types were introduced. The king, queen and royal family are represented in previously unparalleled moments of intimacy: apparently ‘playing’ with children, holding hands and even kissing. Such acts would be unthinkable for Senwosret III or Tuthmose III, and were perhaps shocking to an ancient audience – although the impact of visual culture, and the composition of the audience, is difficult to model.

Another activity in which the king is usually never shown partaking is eating and drinking. Egyptian kings present offerings to gods; non-royal people sit impassively in front of heaped offering tables. eii-toastDespite the great importance placed on eternal sustenance, the act of eating itself is conspicuous by its absence. Even mouths – of any
human figure – are almost never shown as open.

In a modern Western context, it is often considered undignified for leaders to be seen consuming food. Queen Elizabeth II is often shown toasting a visiting head of state at a banquet – but she is never pictured eating. Elected politicians are more likely to be compromised when photographed eating because they appear vulnerable – and, consequently, foolish.

miliband

British politician Ed Milliband looks undignified when caught eating on camera

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Detail showing cup or chalice, with spindly fingers

The present object is a reconstructed single limestone plaque (31 x 17cm), rather than a section of relief. It may therefore have been a sculptor’s trial piece but may have also had a (secondary?) votive, devotional function at Amarna, where images of the king (and royal family) were key objects of cult. There is no preserved text to identify the figure, who is shown seated and holding a goblet or chalice to his mouth.

The spindly fingers, voluminous kilt and languid (to modern eyes, at least) pose might indicate suggest a depiction of Akhenaten himself – especially as the face of the figure has been deliberately effaced – a fate meted out to images of the king after his death. A close parallel for the pose of the present image occurs in a scene of the royal family ‘feasting’ from the tomb of Huya at Amarna.

huya-feast

Scene in tomb of Huya at Amarna of royal family ‘feast’, with drinking figures of Queen Tiye (at left) and Akhenaten and Nefertiti (at right)

In fact, these and other scenes do not actually show the royals consuming anything – their mouths are all closed and their faces are impassive – but about to consume the food and drink they hold. The same restraint occurs in a small plaque – perhaps an instructive parallel to the present piece – showing a princess about to eat a cooked duck. What is

princess-duck

Amarna princess about to consume a duck, Cairo Museum

innovative is that food and drink is shown being the king or royal family at all.

One major problem of interpretation, especially with Amarna Period representation, is that we often impose modern parallels on ancient evidence to describe what is going on; like so-called ‘jubilees’ and ‘durbars’, this is not a ‘banquet’ in a modern sense. It targets other concerns that are not likely to be fully understood by a modern audience.

As Margaret Murray wrote in 1949, Akhenaten “appeals by a mixture of religion and sentiment”. In creating the innovative image world of Amarna, artisans had to learn new motifs and scene types. Perhaps this explains the significant number of so-called ‘trial pieces’ and models found at the site of Amarna. The present piece was perhaps one of many experimental stages in refining the royal image – creating innovative poses, such as the king drinking, attested in tombs of officials like Huya.

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“If a crocodile has sex with her…” Lecture by Dr Luigi Prada, 13/1/17

To close our season of events in conjunction with the touring exhibition, ‘Gifts for the Gods: Animal Mummies Revealed’:

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If a crocodile has sex with her…”: Animals between magic, religion, and divination in Graeco-Roman Egypt.

Dr Luigi Prada, University of Oxford

2pm, Friday 13th January, Collections Study Centre, Manchester Museum

Book here

Animals played a huge role not only in the practical daily life of the ancient Egyptians, but also in their intellectual and spiritual life, especially in the Graeco-Roman Period.

Whilst we may be familiar with their overall role in Egyptian cults, there are aspects which remain often unknown outside the specialists’ circle–such as, for instance, the fact that sacred animals typically carried personal names (very much like our pets), that archaeological excavations revealed the existence of animal nurseries in Egyptian temples where, for instance, thousands of crocodile eggs were looked after to hatch, and many more such intriguing facts.

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Greaco-Roman tunic from Egypt, with figures of animal divinities

Even more remarkably, animals in Graeco-Roman Egypt were seen as divine agents not only in a cultic milieu, but also in private magical and divination practices. Thus, we know for instance of numerous papyri, many of which are still unpublished, that discuss omens connected with animals. Some are dream interpretation handbooks, and discuss the meaning of dreams in which animals are sighted, explaining what this foretells with regard to the dreamer’s future. Other, even more remarkable texts (such as one known under its ancient title as ‘The Book of the Gecko’) focus instead on animal omens experienced in the waking state, interpreting a myriad of animals’ movements and behaviour as signs of events to befall the human observer.

This talk will introduce the audience into this fascinating and little-known material.

Dr Luigi Prada is Lady Wallis Budge Junior Research Fellow in Egyptology at the University of Oxford, a Theodor Heuss Research Fellow (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) and a Trustee of the Egypt Exploration Society.

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Halloween Special: So … why Mummies?

Mummy magic at Hallowe’en…

Stories from the Museum Floor

Today’s special edition post is by Becca from the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum. We are each sharing our passion and  interest in the museum and its objects … and Becca has a special interest in Halloween! 

And to find out more about ancient Egypt, have a look at the Curator’s blog, Egypt at the Manchester Museum.

Halloween Special: So … why Mummies?

Well what passes for summer is gone and winter is most definitely coming, but before everyone gets the advent calendars out, let’s talk about my favourite time of the year …

Yup you guessed it, Halloween!

We’ve got sweets, themed parties, costumes, and my personal favourite, scary films. Now then, prizes will be given for guessing my favourite movie monster (and if you’ve read my other blog posts you probably know where this is going). If you were sat reading this thinking mummies, then very well done…

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by | October 28, 2016 · 9:06 am

How to make a Coptic sock – II

A reflection on the production of our Coptic sock from experimental researcher Regina De Giovanni. 

In March 2012 I visited the Manchester Museum and was able to spend time with the Child’s Coptic Sock, which as off display at that time. I believed the sock to be knitted and made a knitting pattern and a pair of replica socks based on the ancient original.

CopticSock

Manchester Museum’s Coptic sock

I had all but forgotten about the project when in May of 2015 I received an email from Dr Giorgios Boudalis who works at The Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessalonica (Greece) who found me through the Manchester Egypt blog. He asked me to make a pair of socks for an exhibition in New York 2017 using the technique used in ‘Coptic Knitting: An Ancient Technique’ by Dorothy K. Burnham Textile History Volume 3, Issue 1 December 1972, 116-124. The technique in the article was also used for bookbinding Coptic Books which is his area of interest.

Inspired by this request I visited the Whitworth Gallery and spent time with Curator Frances Pritchard looking at samples of Coptic Sock broken parts to observe any damage which might give clues to their construction. I brought premade squares made in both Tarim stitch and knitted stocking stitch which I cut roughly to compare the damage. The experiment was inconclusive as the damage on both squares looked similar to the pieces. We noted that the originals were made in fine 3 ply yarn which would rule out the “spin as you go” method which would create the yarn by twisting fleece with the needle as the work progressed.

toes made separately and then joined

Toes made separately

I also searched the Manchester Museum collection of needles and bodkins, while interesting were not suitable for the replication of the Tarim Stitch. I then discovered a demonstration of Tarim Stitch on You Tube which used a flat wooden needle. http://www.neulakintaat.fi/ (Finland). Eventually I sourced a fine wooden needle on Etsy from Belarus. The needle needed to be shortened and flattened before it met the needs of the project.

turning the heel

Turning the heel

Knitting is constructed with two rigid needles and a continuous length of yarn. Tarim stitch is worked with a short flat needle using an “arm’s length” of yarn at a time. Splicing the lengths of yarn together is fiddly and time consuming which makes the overall task slower than knitting.

Having conquered the stitch method of construction many questions are left. Where did the yarn originate from, it looks like wool though there seems little evidence of sheep farming in Egypt? What dyestuffs were used to generate the lovely bright colours? What were the needles made of wood, reeds, thorns or bone? What tool was used to cut the yarn?

complete tarim stitch sock

Complete tarim stitch sock

The project so far has been truly International via the magic of the Internet and thanks to the staff at Manchester Museum and Galleries for being so willing to give experimenters like myself access to their collections.

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