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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 Thus, we know for instance of numerous papyri, many of which are still unpublished, that discuss omens connected with animals.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

Object biography #21: An inscribed base from a statue of Hathor (Acc. no. 3309)

 

A guest blog from University of Exeter researcher Tara Draper-Stumm, who is researching the numerous Sekhmet sculptures of Amenhotep III at Kom el-Hettan. Here we reveal a previously-unidentified fragment from the Museum’s storerooms, likely from the same context. 

This inscribed rectangular granite base with a pair of feet in the striding position, both broken at the ankles, are all that remains of a standing statue of the goddess Hathor (acc. no. 3309), commissioned by Amenhotep III. An inscription in two columns on the base reads:

Son of Ra, Amenhotep, Ruler of Thebes, given life

Beloved of Hathor, Lady of jubilees

The inscription suggests that the statue was commissioned in preparation for the first of Amenhotep III’s three Sed (‘jubilee’) festivals, which took place in his 30th regnal year.

3309

Acc. no. 3309

The base measures 43 cm in length by 22.5 cm wide, and is 14 cm in height, with a cracked surface. Statue bases associated with the well-known life-size (or larger) standing statues of the goddess Sekhmet are approximately 30%-40% larger than the Manchester statue base, with three columns of inscription. The size of the Manchester piece therefore suggests it comes from a statue that was smaller than lifesize, perhaps 1 metre or so in height.

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Sekhmet statues from Kom el-Hettan in the British Museum

While we know that Amenhotep III commissioned hundreds of statues of himself and the gods in the run-up to his Sed festival, embellishing temples the length of Egypt, the inscription would indicate this statue fragment came from Kom el-Hettan in Luxor, the site of Amenhotep III’s funerary temple, where his Sed festival was likely celebrated.

This statue fragment entered the museum’s collection in 1895-6, the gift of Jesse Haworth, a major supporter of the work of Flinders Petrie and the newly established Egypt Exploration Society. In return for his support, Haworth received a selection of Petrie’s finds. In the 1895-96 season Petrie excavated a group of funerary temples on the west bank at Luxor, his results being swiftly published as Six Temples at Thebes in 1897. Petrie did not excavate at Kom el-Hettan, since “de Morgan [Director of the Antiquities Service] informed me that he reserved the site of the great funerary temple of Amenhotep III for his own work.” However, Petrie was allowed to investigate the ruins of Merneptah’s funerary temple, near Kom el-Hettan. Here Petrie “discovered a large amount of sculpture which had belonged to the temple of Amenhotep III, as that had been plundered for material by Merneptah.”

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Detail of Acc. no. 3309.

Petrie makes no mention of this statue fragment in his report, and no photographs of it survive in the archives of the Petrie Museum, where photographs associated with this excavation are to be found. However, Petrie does mention finding parts of statues of jackals “split up into slices…and laid in the foundations of Merneptah,” along with parts of sphinxes, inscribed blocks and parts of statues of Amenhotep III, among the foundation fill. It seems possible therefore that the Manchester Museum’s statue base could also have been used in Merneptah’s foundations and was found there by Petrie. The condition of the statue base would certainly suggest this. Petrie also made mention of the area being “under the high Nile level”, with evidence buried statuary much “swelled and cracked,” presumably from water damage over time. This description also relates well to the damage to the Manchester statue base.

Such a statue of Hathor may once stood in a shrine inside Amenhotep’s funerary temple, one of many hundreds of statues commissioned for the temple and employed in ceremonies associated with the King’s Sed Festival. It is unclear what happened to the rest of the statue. It may have been broken up and used in the foundations of Merneptah’s temple, like so many other statues from Amenhotep’s funerary temple. Presumably if the body or head had survived in decent condition in association with the statue base Petrie would likely have kept them together. Since this area of Luxor has been dug up repeatedly since at least the early 19th century, including by Drovetti, Salt, and Belzoni, among others, it is also possible that a further fragment of the statue survives in another museum or private collection.

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Hathor cow head. MMA acc. no. 19.2.5

Evidence survives for smaller than life-size divine statues being made in the reign of Amenhotep III. A head of the goddess Hathor as a cow is in the MMA in New York (acc no. 19.2.5). Made from porphyritic diorite, the head is only 28 cm wide at the ears, and the back pillar measures 15 cm wide. While this is probably not the head for our statue base, it could suggest what the statue looked like when completed

While we may never know for certain where this statue base was found, or how it originally looked, it adds to an ever-developing picture of Amenhotep III and the incredible rates of statuary production during his reign.

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Ancient Egypt Glossary #3: Canopic Jars etc.

Canopic Jars in Ancient Egypt

Stories from the Museum Floor

Today’s post is by Becca from the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum. We are sharing our passion and interest in the museum and its objects.

For more about Ancient Egypt and Sudan, please visit the Curator’s blog, Egypt at the Manchester Museum.

Canopic jars and the four sons of Horus

So in the last few blog posts I’ve done we covered mummification, coffins, and tombs. However, what we didn’t cover is what goes inside the tombs with your mummy and its coffin.

There are a lot of different funerary items that can be placed into the tomb with your mummy in the hope for a comfortable afterlife, today I will be focusing on some of the most important items you need – canopic jars.

Canopic Jars

Canopic jars contain the mummy’s organs that will be needed in the afterlife. Now not all organs made it into…

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Egypt in World War I: Manchester Histories Festival

WW1-Edfu.jpgTo commemorate the WW1 Centenary, researchers from Cardiff University will hold a ‘roadshow’ at the Museum on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June exploring local links between Manchester regiments serving in Egypt and the Middle East and collecting memories. Items from the Manchester Museum archive relating to the Great War will be on display, with short tours by the Curator of Egyptology. A special presentation will take place at 11am on Saturday 11th June.

The team hope that visitors will bring photographs, postcards, stereoviews, lantern-slides, or any other items relating to wartime spent in Egypt and Palestine along to find out more about how they fit into a wider picture. Once loaded to the website copies of images will be available for all to see and so give a more comprehensive view of the First World War in Egypt than is presently available.

Please bring along any photographs etc. for the team to re-photograph or scan for uploading to the website – they are not looking to keep any original material, everything will be rendered virtually.

Planes

Views of an Antique Land – Imaging Egypt and Palestine in the First World War

Much of the commemoration of the First World War has focussed on the Western Front and so gives the impression that the war was entirely one of mud and trenches with very little movement. However, the war in Egypt and Palestine was much more mobile and often fast moving. It is a surprise to many that a great number of personnel served in Egypt and Palestine at some point during the war with units regularly being withdrawn from the Western Front to serve in the area before returning to Europe.  A new project offers a different perspective on the First World War using images taken in Egypt and Palestine during the period of the conflict.

Leading the project from Cardiff University are Dr Steve Mills and Professor Paul Nicholson of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion supported by project officer Hilary Rees.  The project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, focusses on collecting and making accessible images of Egypt and Palestine as they would have been seen by people during the First World War.  To this end we are collecting not only military images but also those of the ancient monuments of Egypt and Palestine which have much to tell us about the presentation of archaeological sites at that time.

The aim is to collect photographs taken by service personnel, postcards, lantern slides and stereo-views. The project does not collect the actual views but rather scans of them which will be uploaded to a dedicated interactive website where anyone interested in seeing what their ancestors saw or who is interested in how the ancient monuments, cities, towns and villages looked during the First World War can get that information.

 

The website at http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/ww1imagesegypt/ will be a perpetual online learning resource and archive offering new views of archaeological sites, military installations and cities as they appeared during the war.

 

The participation of members of the public at all stages of the project is very welcome. It is hoped that they will contribute by uploading relevant images and information to the site and in identifying images.  The project team can be contacted directly at ww1imagesegypt@cardiff.ac.uk

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Gifts for the Gods travels north of the border

Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank

We always knew that the six months during which Gifts for the Gods was open at Manchester Museum would be a very different time for us. Having a successful exhibition based on our current research open on campus, meant that we had many demands on our time – including public engagement events, learning programmes and community outreach initiatives. All of these events are vital in helping to publicise the research which underpins the exhibition, raise the profile of what we do and enthuse the public about the mummies themselves. Now the numbers have been counted, we know that 1011 school children have taken part in guided learning sessions and organised workshops around animal mummies (and many more school groups who used the exhibition space for self-guided learning activities). To date, an amazing 9655 visitors engaged with events linked to the themes of the exhibition.

It was lovely (and quite emotional!) to…

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by | May 10, 2016 · 9:20 pm

Because that’s how we (wrap and) roll!

Ancient Egyptian Animal Bio Bank

On Thursday 25th February, a momentous event took place at Manchester Museum. Crowds gathered to witness a theatrical spectacle; this time it wasn’t a mummy ‘unwrapping’, but a mummy ‘re-wrapping’. Over 400 people attended the event and a further 1000 engaged via the internet with the help of the live-streaming app, Periscope. The event was a bold move; there was no guarantee that the re-wrapping would be a success. After all, our practice efforts had been less than encouraging! Nonetheless, we decided to take the bold move to forge onwards and take our research at the University of Manchester out of the laboratory and into the public spotlight.

Fig 100 copy

Time had not been on our side in the run up to the event, with many other commitments meaning that we had just one afternoon to practice what we hoped to achieve on the night. We have studied many mummies over the…

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by | March 23, 2016 · 11:21 pm