Tag Archives: Egypt

Curator’s Diary October 2018 – BM Interpretation Workshop in Aswan

I have just returned from helping to facilitate a workshop on interpretation organised by the British Museum International Training Programme (ITP) at the Nubian Museum, in Aswan, southern Egypt. I was delighted to join Dr Anna Garnett, Curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, and Jane Batty and Stuart Frost,  of the BM’s Interpretation Dept. In addition to fellow facilitators Jackline Besigye (Uganda National Museum), Huzoor Choudhry (Huzoor Designs, India), Vandana Prapanna (CSMVA, Mumbai), we were given a wonderful Nubian welcome – with lively music and participatory dancing – and the chance to meet some 30 Egyptian and Sudanese colleagues.

Serious discussion

The Nubian Museum opened in 1997 and I had previously visited in 2005. It is one of those rare – and fortunate – museums that appears to defy the aging process, and I was struck by how fresh the displays still appeared, despite being relatively unchanged since my visit 13 years earlier. The Museum provided a perfect venue for discussion about interpreting Egyptian and Sudanese collections. Facilitators benefitted from a personal, introductory guided tour of the public galleries and behind the scenes spaces by the Director, Dr Hosny Abd el Rheem.

Bright, colourfully decorated education spaces contrasted with the darker, more dramatically lit display galleries. Our group were impressed by the award-winning architecture of the Museum, which is sympathetic to local building traditions. Especially effective use is made of outside spaces, including a reconstruction of a traditional Nubian House, an immersive ‘cave’ incorporating relocated rock art, and a sweeping amphitheatre space for major public performances.  The way the Museum tackled the representation of living Nubian culture – particularly surrounding issues of displacement during the construction of the Aswan High Dam – was noteworthy.

Labels – the bain of every curator’s life?

During the workshop, it was a privilege to reconnect with the vibrant ITP network on Egyptian soil, building on relationships forged through the international Summer programme, to which Manchester Museum has played host for some 10 years. Great to see several ITP past fellows and to meet new colleagues from the Ministry of Antiquities.

Discussion of interpretation focussed, inevitably, on label and panel text-writing, in addition to alternative strategies such as multimedia and performance/events. We agreed on the importance of that strange alchemy of ‘curatorial’ and ‘interpretation’ approaches to interpretation. Jane Batty introduced the BM’s very useful ‘Top 10 Tips’ for effective interpretation. I was especially struck by the importance of physically connecting text to specific objects rather than letting text float alone, in the hope that someone will read it.

20181022_122825

Campbell & Anna enjoying the Nubian sunshine

I have always been an advocate of object numbers on labels – the British Museum apparently less so. An excellent point that was raised in my discussion group was that it is perhaps only appropriate to dispense with accession numbers on labels if you have a reliable, working online catalogue to look the object up in or a comprehensive published catalogue for your temporary or permanent displays. Lacking these tools, accession numbers still seem a valuable tool for both collections management and finding out further information.

Throughout the almost week-long preparation for and delivery of the workshop, it really hit home just how similar our challenges are – from the biggest museum to the smallest, from Mumbai, to Cairo, Aswan to Manchester. ITP is not simply about “telling” other people how to “do” interpretation the British Museum way, but creating a genuine dialogue that can lead to collaborative interpretation. With so many excellent museum collections in Egypt and Sudan, and after this opportunity to discuss common approaches at length, I look forward to working more closely with Egyptian and Sudanese museum colleagues in future.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Curator's Diary

Curator’s Diary December 2017: Returning to Egypt

Luxor

Earlier this month I was delighted to be able to spend a week based in Luxor, after an absence from Egypt of over two years. The trip was made possible thanks to a generous bequest to a University of Manchester travel fund from one of the Museum’s best-known and much-missed volunteers – the late Audrey Carter, a relative of the archaeologist Howard Carter.

AudreyC-detail

Audrey Carter in 2013

The visit had been organised by the Egypt Exploration Society for Manchester Professor Emerita Rosalie David to present her re-published book Temple Ritual at Abydos to colleagues in Egypt. Rosalie was able to present the book in person to the Minister of Antiquities, Dr Khaled el-Anani, at a press conference announcing he re-opening of two early 18th Dynasty tombs at Dra Abu el-Naga and the inner sanctuary of the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, reworked in the Ptolemaic Period for the cult of the sages Imhotep and Amenhotep son of Hapu. These sites are further additions to the range it is now possible to visit in Luxor. Since my last visit in 2015, tourist numbers have appreciably increased and it is to be hoped that new sites, better interpreted, will help to continue this trend.

Pres-Rosalie

Rosalie David presents a copy of her book to the Minister

The trip was a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues working in Egyptian museums and on current excavations. Particularly pleasing was evidence of recent excavations featured on display in the Luxor Museum, including a number of monumental stone statues of Amenhotep III from Kom el-Hettan. We had the opportunity to visit the site with field director Dr Hourig Sourouzian, showcasing the vast scale of the original Amenhotep III temple. Much of the core architecture of New Kingdom west bank temples before the reign of Ramesses II was in mudbrick, which as a result has now almost totally disappeared. This creates the impression of statues – notably the ‘Colossi of Memnon’ – being isolated and decontextualized. It was fascinating to see at Kom el-Hettan how intensive excavation by a large team has revealed many details that might have been assumed to have been lost – dozens of statues and thousands of fragments that show how densely populated with sculptures the temples must have once been. Selective restoration of some (often colossal) sculptures gives an impression of scale.

Every site we visited – such as the Spanish mission at the Mortuary Temple of Tuthmose III and work by Chicago House at Medinet Habu – was working towards making the results of excavations accessible through on-site interpretation and, where possible, site museums. This will significantly improve the offer for interested visitors to Luxor over the next five years.

Seti I

The Souls of Nekhen – fine bas reliefs in the Temple of Seti I 

A personal highlight was undoubtedly the temple of Seti I at Abydos, one of the best preserved temples in Egypt and – importantly – one which has not experienced the many subsequent modifications that have changed the complexion of most other temples. The quality of the limestone bas reliefs – often with original colour still preserved – is breath-taking. Conservation work on the Osirieon – the site of fieldwork by Manchester legend Margaret Murray in the early 20th Century – illustrated the ongoing efforts to preserve standing monuments.

UmmelQaab

Abydos – one of Pharaonic Egypt’s most sacred sites, looking west

A visit to the Early Dynastic cemetery at Abydos was also very special. Known as the Umm el-Qaab (‘Mother of Pots’) due to the quantity of votive pottery left by pilgrims to the Osiris cult, Manchester Museum houses over 1000 objects from this important site.  It is always a special privilege as a curator to see the sites from whence items in the collection came. Hopefully many more people in future will be able to make this connection in person.

For more photos check out @EgyptMcr on Twitter and Instagram.

1 Comment

Filed under Curator's Diary

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt events at the Manchester Museum, Uncategorized

Wonders of the World: Sea life activities at Manchester Museum

In the third of her guest blogs for the Museum, Sajia Sultana, a Manchester University student and Manchester Museum Summer Public Programme Intern described activities involving the Egyptology collection.

Welcome to Global Explorer, this week families visiting Manchester Museum have been inspired by the collections to create sea life creatures from junk modelling materials.

Here are a few examples of the sea creatures that have been created.  Families have made everything from mythical sea creatures to sharks, starfish, dolphins, jelly fish and many more…

 sea_activity

They have not only taken inspiration from our Natural History collection but from our Ancient Worlds objects too.

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Bronze Oxyrhynchus fish on the gallery

Sea life was present in many forms in ancient Egypt, from objects used in everyday life to religious artifacts and tomb goods.

Sacred animals such as the Oxyrhynchus fish were offered to the Gods as gifts in the hope of gaining their help.

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Fish-shaped palette on the gallery

Cosmetic palettes made from slate designed in the shape of a fish were used in everyday life.

Shells were also used for cosmetic pots, jewellery and bracelets.

Hor-psamtekLook out for the statue of a kneeling man – the “Admiral of the Fleet” called Hor-Psamtek in the Egyptian Worlds gallery.  The hieroglyphs in the inscription on the statue refer to a sea called the “Great Green”, which may be a reference to the Mediterranean Sea, at a time when trade with Greece in the area was important for Egypt. Read more about ‘Hor-Psamtek’ here

What other sea life creatures or objects can you find in the museum?

Tell us about your discoveries on Facebook at #Global Explorer.

Our Global Explorer activities are daily from 11am-4pm running through the summer holidays until Sun 31 August. 

Next week we’ll be making junk model creations inspired by the animals in our collections.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt events at the Manchester Museum, Uncategorized

Temples, Gold and Border Security: Nubia and Egypt in the New Kingdom

Sesebi. Photo: Anna Garnett

Sesebi. Photo: Anna Garnett

In the last of her guest blogs, British Museum Future Curator trainee Anna Garnett describes material from the New Kingdom site of Sesebi

This week I recorded two lectures for Manchester University’s Online Diploma course in Egyptology, organised by Dr. Joyce Tyldesley. To complement the course structure, and to draw upon my own experiences, I gave an introduction to New Kingdom Nubia (the northernmost part of modern Northern Sudan) focussing on the site of Sesebi.

The Nile Valley, stretching from Egypt into Sudan, was a vital trade link and corridor of exotic materials, people and ideas throughout the pharaonic period. During the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1069 BC) the Egyptian pharaohs pushed further and further into Nubia with military campaigns, in order to bring the area under Egyptian control and therefore have power over the Nubian resources, which significantly included gold mines. During this time, the administration of Nubia was placed under the control of an important official known as the ‘Viceroy of Kush’, or the ‘King’s Son of Kush’; a title which emphasises their close relationship to the king. The Viceroy also supervised the tribute coming into Egypt.

Acc. no. 9456. Scarab of Ramesses II from Sesebi.

Acc. no. 9456. Scarab of Ramesses II from Sesebi.

The region of Upper (southern) Nubia was known to the Egyptians as ‘Kush’; an area which the New Kingdom Egyptians recognised as ‘Vile Kush’. Egyptian pharaohs established a large and complex system of fortifications and patrols in the area as a very visible message of domination to the local Nubian population. These fortifications often included temples and domestic architecture, and are known as ‘temple-towns’. One such example is the ‘temple-town’ of Sesebi, on the west bank of the Nile in the region of the Second Nile Cataract.

This site was constructed mainly during the Amarna Period during the reign of Akhenaten (c. 1350-1334 BC) and is currently being investigated by a team directed by Dr. Kate Spence (University of Cambridge) and Dr. Pamela Rose (Austrian Archaeological Institute). A temple dedicated to Amun-Re, Mut and Khonsu, domestic housing and storage facilities were built within an impressive

Acc. no. 9469. Sherd with potmark depicting the Memphite creator god Ptah. From Sesebi

Acc. no. 9469. Sherd with potmark depicting the Memphite creator god Ptah. From Sesebi

buttressed mudbrick fortification wall enclosing an area of approximately 270 x 200m. The modern site of Sesebi is characterised by the three remaining standing sandstone columns which preserve oval name-rings containing the names of Egypt’s conquered enemies. Close comparisons can be made between the layout of Sesebi and the contemporary royal centre at Amarna in Egypt.

The temple area was excavated by a team from the Egypt Exploration Society directed by A. M. Blackman and H. W. Fairman from 1936-8. Manchester Museum was a donor to those excavations and as a result received a selection of excavated objects for their collection. These

Acc. no. 9454. Faience bracelet from Sesebi
Acc. no. 9454. Faience bracelet from Sesebi

objects include faience jewellery (e.g. Acc. No. 9454), pottery sherds (e.g. Acc. No. 9469), faience moulds (e.g. Acc. No. 9468) and also a scarab of Ramesses II (Acc. No. 9456), an object which illustrates later activity at the site during the 19th Dynasty. Ongoing fieldwork and study of these so-called ‘temple-towns’, which also included such sites as Soleb, Sedeinga, Amara West and Sai, is beginning to reveal the intricacies of the New Kingdom occupation of those sites and indeed the complex relationship between the settled Egyptians and the local Nubian population at these key strategic locations.

Anna finishes her traineeship at Manchester Museum at the end of 2013 and will be returning to the Sudan for fieldwork in early 2014. Visit Anna’s blog here.

2 Comments

Filed under Research projects

Foundation Deposits in Ancient Egypt & Sudan

Cartouche plaques in faience. Foundation deposits of Ramesses II. Acc. no. 1846a-b.

Cartouche plaques in faience. Foundation deposits of Ramesses II. Acc. no. 1846a-b.

In ancient Egypt and Sudan groups of objects were buried at specific points, such as the corners of buildings, during foundation rituals to mark the construction of temples and tombs – rather like symbolic ground-breaking ceremonies at the beginning of the construction of modern buildings. These ‘foundation deposits’ were deliberately chosen to symbolically ensure the effectiveness and longevity of the building, and included faience plaques in the form of sacrificed animals, model tools, pottery and basketry.

Foundation deposits take the form of different sized pits, which were often lined with mudbrick. During his excavation of the 12th Dynasty pyramid temple of Senwosret II at Kahun, W. M. F. Petrie found a foundation deposit and stated:

In the middle of the temple area a hole 31 inches square was excavated in the rock about four feet deep, to contain the foundation deposits. Into this the four sets of objects [model tools] were thrown, without any arrangement or order.

Oxen_trussed

Faience plaques of trussed oxen. Acc. No. 1560

Although foundation deposits became gradually more common during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, they reached the height of their popularity during the New Kingdom (c. 1550-1070 BC). Manchester Museum’s collection includes a range of deposits from different sites and periods, including over 100 faience plaques symbolising offerings in the form of parts of oxen, ducks, flowers and fruit, like these plaques of sacrificed headless oxen [Acc. No. 1560, left]. We chose to display most of these – many for the first time – in the new Egyptian Worlds gallery, to emphasise their quantity.

Anlamani_foundation

Acc. No. 8579

Sometimes faience plaques with the name of the pharaoh in a cartouche were also buried in the foundation deposit – also a useful dating tool – such as these examples found in a foundation deposit at the temple of Ramesses II in Western Thebes (the Ramesseum) preserving the name of Ramesses II [Acc. No.1846a-d]. We also have a group of copper model tools, including these model hoes, from a foundation deposit at the temple of Queen Tausret in Western Thebes [Acc. No. 1595].

Aspelta-foundation

Acc. No. 8581

Foundation deposits have also been found beneath royal pyramids in Sudan, including these beautiful faience cups preserving the names of the Kushite kings Aspelta [Acc. No. 8581] and Anlamani [Acc. No. 8579], both excavated by the Harvard-Boston expedition from the royal pyramids at the site of Nuri in Sudan.

– Anna

Anna Garnett is Trainee Curator in Egypt & Sudan at the British Museum and Manchester Museum. Follow her blog here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Object biography

Event: Ancient Egyptian woodworking 09/02/13

Woodworking_NebamunWorking with wood in Ancient Egypt: a practical demonstration

In conjunction with our ‘Collecting Trees’ project and as part of our ‘Discover Archaeology’ Big Saturday on February the 9th, the Museum is delighted to host Dr. Geoffrey Killen, an expert on ancient Egyptian woodworking, who will demonstrate ancient craft techniques – LIVE! Watch Geoff use replica ancient Egyptian tools to make furniture, the Egyptian way. There will also be a chance to see Egyptian wooden items normally kept in storage.

 

 

 

Ancient Egyptian Woodworking

Saturday 9th February

11:30am and 2:30pm

Manchester Museum

ENTRY FREE

3 Comments

Filed under Egypt events, Egypt events at the Manchester Museum