Monday, 15 July 2019

Figuring Out a Backstory of a Figure from a Funerary Model

The blog for this week is a guest post by Sam Powell, MA student of Egyptology and Egypt Centre volunteer.

In the House of Death, the offerings case contains several wooden figures (fig. 1). A predecessor of the better-known shabti, these figures are from funerary models that were included in burials from the First Intermediate Period until the reign of Senwosret III in the Middle Kingdom. These models are believed to have been a substitute for food provisions, as they would continue to magically prepare bread, beer, and meat in the afterlife. I have been intrigued by these figures since seeing the beautiful models in the Cairo Museum belonging to Meketre. This year, I attended Ken Griffin’s object handling classes, which included some of these figures, and subsequently chose to use several for an assignment for the Women and Gender in Ancient Egypt module of the MA in Egyptian Material Culture. Having enjoyed this research so much, I have decided to use this set of objects as the basis of my MA thesis.

Fig. 1: Display of funerary models in the House of Death

The Egypt Centre is home to sixty-seven objects identified as figures from funerary models, as well as over fifty detached limbs, and various tomb model ‘furniture’, such as oars, masts, jars, and boxes, none of which have any known provenance. One ‘complete’ model is that of a boat (W361), which will be the subject of a curator’s talk by Carolyn Graves-Brown as to its authenticity later in the year (fig. 2). Many were acquired from the Wellcome collection and have acquisition slips and auction details, which may help in tracing provenance.

Fig. 2: Model funerary boat (W361)

For my MA thesis, I intend to build on the work of Gersande Eschenbrenner-Diemer (2017), who has created four phases of chronology from examples with known provenance, which I will use to determine probable origins for the Egypt Centre examples. Additionally, it may be possible to identify the types of model that the figures originated from (fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Examining one of the servant figures

The starting point for my research is to complete condition checks on all the figures and examine them in closer detail. Ken Griffin is kindly photographing each of the objects from several angles with a macro lens so that I can create a comprehensive catalogue for easy comparison, for which I am very grateful (fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Photographing W361

Although in the early stages of my research, one figure can already be given a probable provenance. W687 is a figure with typical features for models originating from Beni Hasan. He has reddish skin, a flat-based, cheek-length wig, high waisted ‘trousers’ (likely covered with linen to represent a kilt), and dowel legs that would slot into the base (fig. 5). On closer examination of the figure, ‘380’ is written on the reverse in pencil. From the Wellcome flimsy slip (65926), we know this figure was purchased by Henry Wellcome from the collection of the Charles James Tabor (1849–1928) in 1928. The catalogue entry (lot 219) indicates that Tabor acquired it via the collection of the Reverend William MacGregor (1848–1937) in 1922 (lot 618). MacGregor acquired many objects from John Garstang (1876–1956), who excavated at Beni Hasan between 1902 and 1904 (Garstang, 1907).

Fig. 5: W687

On checking the report for Garstang’s excavation, an “inventory of objects found within the tombs” is given in the appendix. This states that there was a tomb 380, which did include funerary models, the current location of which are unknown (Garstang 1907: 224).

The entry lists:
i.                 Figures and oars from boat.
ii.               Figures from brewing group.
iii.             Model of bull lying down being fed(?) by girl.
iv.              Figure of embalmed body from boat (as in Fig.92)
v.                Blue ball beads
vi.              Piece of ivory.
Pottery figure, seated (no head).

Therefore, it seems certain that W687 originates from this tomb. Whether he was part of the boat or brewing group is unclear, but a contemporary brewing and butchery scene from tomb 723 of Sobek-hetepa at Beni Hasan, now in the British Museum (BM EA 41576), shows a figure in a similar stance (fig. 6).

Fig. 6: BM EA 41756

Although there is a lot more work to be done on these figures over the next year, I am really enjoying piecing together the available clues about this interesting set of objects (fig. 7). As a Swansea University student, having access to the objects I want to study is invaluable. I would not have been able to spot the pencil note on the reverse of W687 from a photograph, and spotting trends in materials and styles is so much easier and accurate when handling with the physical objects.

Fig. 7: Matching figures to Wellcome flimsy slips

I hope to provide a future blog post to update with my progress. With any luck, I will be able to reunite W867 with some of his original companions!

Eschenbrenner-Diemer, G. (2017) ‘From the Workshop to the Grave: The Case of Wooden Funerary Models’. In Company of Images: Modelling the Imaginary World of Middle Kingdom Egypt (2000–1500 BC). Proceedings of the International Conference of the EPOCHS Project held 18th–20th September 2014 at UCL, London, ed. G. Miniaci, M. Betrò and S. Quirke. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 162. Leuven: Peeters. 133–191.
———. (2018) ‘The Petrie Museum’s Collection of Funerary Wooden Models: Investigating Chronology and Provenances’. Archaeology International 21: 101–108.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy.
———.(1928) Catalogue of Antiquities, etc., Comprising the Collection of Prehistoric Implements, the Property of Miss Carey, Egyptian, Greek and Roman Antiquities, etc., Comprising the Collection of the Late C.J. Tabor, the Property of Princess Ghika, the Property of Mrs O. Gregory, the Property of Mrs A. Belcher, the Property of Mrs de Burley Wood, the Property of W. Kennett, and other Properties, including Indian and South American Objects; which will be Sold by Auction by Sotheby and Co. ... on Monday, the 12th of November, 1928, and Following Day. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
Winlock, H. E. (1955) Models of Daily Life in Ancient Egypt from the Tomb of Meket-Re’ at Thebes. Publications of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 18. Published for the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Monday, 8 July 2019

An Ancient Egyptian “Saint” in Swansea: Fragments of the Sarcophagus of Amenhotep Son of Hapu

Last Tuesday I went with some of the South Asasif Conservation Project team members to Mohamed Abdulla’s restaurant for some lunch. This was also an opportunity to say goodbye to Marion Brew, our main archaeologist at the site. Aside from the excellent food, the restaurant is located opposite the scant remains of the memorial temple (fig. 1) of Amenhotep son of Hapu (Robichon & Varille 1936). Amenhotep was the most famous official of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned c. 1386-1349 BC. He was an architect, priest, scribe, and public official who is known from his many statues (Galán 2003). After his death, his reputation grew and he was respected for his teachings and as a philosopher. He was also revered as a healer and eventually worshipped as a god of healing. Some Egyptologists refer to him as an ancient Egyptian “saint” (Wildung 1977; Murnane 1991).

Fig. 1: Examining the remains of the temple (photo by Sharon Davidson)

So what does Amenhotep son of Hapu have to do with Swansea? Well, one of the prized possessions of the Egypt Centre, and the one that most Egyptologists often get excited about, are two fragments of the sarcophagus of Amenhotep son of Hapu (W1367a & W1367b). These fragments (figs. 2–3), which are carved out of granodiorite, originally formed part of the inner sarcophagus of this official. They were acquired by “Llewellyn”, an agent of Sir Henry Wellcome, in 1906 as part of the collection of Robert de Rustafjaell (lot 99) for the sum of £2/10. This lot is described as a “head of a king in sandstone (modern colouring); and eight varied fragments, etc., some of Roman date”. The catalogue also notes that the lot consisted of nine objects. Small round stickers containing the lot details are attached to both objects. In fact, it seems that there were at least three fragments of the sarcophagus sold as part of this lot. W1967a actually consists of two fragments glued together at an unknown date, both of which contain auction labels.

Fig. 2: W1367a

Amenhotep is known to have had two sarcophagi, both in granodiorite (Varille 1968, 113–120). While the outer sarcophagus was carved in sunk relief, the inner one contained raised relief. As a result, the fragments in the Egypt Centre can be attributed to the inner sarcophagus. Both sarcophagi were reconstructed on paper by Alexandre Varille (1909–1951), although he was unaware of those in Swansea. Fragments are known in the Cairo Museum, British Museum, Petrie Museum, the Louvre, the Musée de Grenoble, the Musée du Cinquantenaire à Bruxelles, and Stockholm (private collection).

Fig. 3: W1367b

W1367a (fig. 2) contains the legs of a deity, with two columns of hieroglyphs in front and a thicker column of hieroglyphs behind. The latter has the hetep element of the owner’s name, which is followed by a seated determinative and the epithet mꜣꜥ-ḫrw, “true of voice”. The two lines in front would have listed some of the many titles of Amenhotep, although only that of i͗ry-pꜥt (“member of the elite”) can be firmly read. Most interesting is that W1367a clearly joins directly with the fragment housed in the Musée du Cinquantenaire à Bruxelles (E.03059), as can be seen in figure 4. This join provides the full height of the sarcophagus base and the thick column of hieroglyphs behind the deity: ṯꜣy-ḫw ḥr wnmy n nswt i͗ry-pꜥt I͗mn-ḥtp mꜣꜥ-ḫrw (fan-bearer on the right side of the king, member of the elite, Amenhotep, true of voice).

Fig. 4: W1367a (bottom) virtually joined with Brussels E.03059 (top)

W1367b (fig. 3) contains the upper half of a jackal divinity (either Anubis or Duamutef) who is surrounded by columns of hieroglyphs. Once again, they contain the titles of Amenhotep: i͗ry-pꜥt ḥꜣty-ꜥ (member of the elite, mayor); i͗my-r mšꜥ n nb tꜣwy (overseer of the army of the lord of the Two Lands); and ṯꜣy-ḫw ḥr wnmy n nswt (fan-bearer on the right side of the king). The remaining title behind the deity can be reconstructed as i͗my-r šnwty n(t) [I͗mn] (overseer of the double granaries of Amun, one that does not seem to have been otherwise attested for Amenhotep. A reconstruction of the sarcophagus incorporating of the Swansea fragments was made some years ago by the late Anthony Donohue (fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Reconstruction of the interior sarcophagus with Egypt Centre fragment in grey

Over lunch (fig. 6) we discussed the life and career of Amenhotep, contemplating where he may have been buried and whether his tomb remains to be (re-)discovered. The most likely location seems to be the slopes of Qurnet Murai, where a number of his funerary cones were unearthed (Bidoli 1970). This hillside also contains the tomb of Merymose (TT 383), the viceroy of Kush during the reign of Amenhotep III, whose inner sarcophagus of granodiorite (BM EA 1001) displays many parallels with that of Amenhotep son of Hapu.

Fig. 6: Drinks at Mohamed Abdulla’s

Bidoli, D. (1970) ‘Zur Lage des Grabes des Amenophis, Sohn de s Hapu’. Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Abteilung Kairo 26: 11–14.
Galán, J. M. (2003) ‘Amenhotep Son of Hapu as Intermediary Between the People and God’. In Egyptology at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, Cairo, 2000 2, ed. Z. A. Hawass and L. P. Brock. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. 221–229.
Murnane, W. J. (1991) ‘Servant, Seer, Saint, Son of Hapu, Amenhotep, called Huy’. KMT 2, 2: 8–13, 56–59.
Peterson, B. (1978) ‘A Sarcophagus Puzzle’. Chronique d’Égypte 53, 106: 222–225.
Robichon, C. and A. Varille (1936) Le temple duscribe royal Amenhotep, fils de Hapou, I. Fouilles de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 11. Cairo: l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge (1906) Catalogue of the Collection of Egyptian Antiquities Formed in Egypt, by R. de Rustafjaell, Esq. Queen’s Gate, S. W. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.
Taylor, J. A. (2001) An Index of Male Non-Royal Egyptian Titles, Epithets and Phrases of the 18th Dynasty. London: Museum Bookshop Publications.
Varille, A. (1968) Inscriptions concernant l’architecteAmenhotep fils de Hapou. Bibliothèque d’étude 44. Cairo: Institut français d’Archéologie orientale.
Wildung, D. (1977) Egyptian Saints: Deification in Pharaonic Egypt. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Ushabtis of the Divine Adoratrice Qedmerut

In 2016 I was invited to Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) to participate in a conference relating to the excavations of the tomb of Karomama within the Ramesseum complex. Since the Ramesseum lies just across the road from the South Asasif necropolis, we are fortunate enough to see the temple of Ramesses II every day (fig. 1). As an undergraduate student at Swansea University, I undertook a life-cycle project on a rather special ushabti in the Egypt Centre collection (W1315), which had been misidentified several times over the years. Based on the rather scant traces of her name on the front, along with the iconography of the figures, it was possible to identify her as the Divine Adoratrice Qedmerut.

Fig. 1: Sunrise at the Ramesseum

Of all the women to have held the prominent title of Divine Adoratrice (dwꜣt nṯr), Qedmerut is perhaps the most obscure. Though her exact chronological position is uncertain, the typology of her ushabti figures makes her likely the direct successor of Karomama G Merytmut in the mid Twenty-second Dynasty (late ninth–early eighth century BC). Qedmerut is known exclusively from her ushabti figures, which were discovered by the Egyptian Research Account (ERA) within the Ramesseum in the late 1890s (Quibell 1898). These figures were subsequently dispersed to the various institutions and benefactors who subscribed to the ERA, especially within the United Kingdom. W1315 (fig. 2) arrived in Swansea from the British Museum in 1980.

Fig. 2: Front of W1315

The ushabtis of Qedmerut are moulded in faience and are noteworthy for their rather coarse and pitted surfaces. Aston (2009, 241 & 357) identifies them as his “Type F”, which he describes as having crossed bands holding two opposed hoes, a solid unpainted wig bound by a headband, and the face modelled in a more “naturalistic” manner. A uraeus, a feature commonly found on the ushabtis of the Divine Adoratrice, is modelled on the forehead. All the details have been painted in black ink over the bluish-green glaze: a seshed-headband, large eyes, thick brows, small hoes, and a rectangular seed-bag at the rear suspended from long cords (fig. 3). Additionally, a single column of hieroglyphs, identifying the owner, is located on the front. The figures measure approximately 10 cm in height, 3 cm in width, and 2.5 cm in depth.

Fig. 3: Back of W1315

Due to the poor quality of many of the ushabtis, the inscriptions have often faded or are only partially visible as a result of the surface flaking. Yet, even without the inscription present, a number of key identifiers can be noted, besides the poor quality faience used in the production. The first is the uraeus, which is only found on royal ushabtis, including those of the Divine Adoratrice. However, amongst the Divine Adoratrices of the Third Intermediate Period, only those of Qedmerut and Karomama G appear to wear one. The main difference between the figures of these two women is the size (Moje 2017). At a maximum of 10 cm in height, Qedmerut’s ushabtis are significantly smaller than those of Karomama G, which have a minimum height of 13–14 cm (fig. 4). Thus, combining these elements can often lead to the identification of Qedmerut’s ushabtis that have either a missing or partially damaged inscription.

Fig. 4: Ushabti comparison of the Divine Adoratrices Maatkare, Henuttawy, Mekhetemweskhet, Karomama, Qedmerut

The ushabtis of Qedmerut all contain a single column of text identifying the owner. Two main variants are attested, which I have designated as Type A and B (fig. 5). In both cases, the title of dwꜣt nṯr is enclosed within the cartouche, an arrangement that only occurs for the ushabtis of Henettawy D and Qedmerut. ln many cases the inscription has faded, although it is still possible from surviving traces to determine the type for almost all figures: Type A occurs fifteen times, Type B is found on twenty-five figures, while for eight of them it is impossible to determine. 

Fig. 5: Type of inscriptions on the ushabtis of Qedmerut

In the 2017 proceedings of the conference, I published a catalogue of the forty ushabtis of Qedmerut known to me. Since then, a further eight have come to light, some of which were kindly brought to my attention by Glenn Janes, thus bringing their number to forty-eight. These new examples are: one in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge (2006.152), at least six in the Pennsylvania University Museum (E1898, E14598, E14599, E14600E14670, E14672), one sold by the Helios Gallery in 2017, and another to be sold by Bonhams auction house on Wednesday 3 July 2019. With the recent rediscovery of Karomama’s tomb within the Ramesseum complex (fig. 6), it is hoped that the burial place of Qedmerut will follow suit, perhaps shedding additional light on the identity of this mysterious woman.

Fig. 6: Shaft tomb of Karomama

Aston, D. A. (2009) Burial Assemblages of Dynasty 21–25: Chronology - Typology - Developments. Contributions to the Chronology of the Eastern Mediterranean 21; Denkschriften der Gesamtakademie 54. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Ayad, M. F. (2009) God’s Wife, God’s Servant: The God’s Wife of Amun (ca.740–525 BC). London: Routledge.
Griffin, K. (2017) ‘The Ushabtis of the Divine Adoratrice Qedmerut’. In De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu. Première synthèse des résultats de la fouille du temple de Touy et de la tombe de Karomama – Von der Königsmutter zur Gottesgemahlin. Erste Synthese der Ausgrabungsergebnisse des Tempels von Tuja und des Grabes von Karomama, ed. B. Lurson. Connaissance de l’Egypte Ancienne 18. Brussels: Safran. 145–155.
Lurson, B. and F. Mourot (2018) ‘From the Foundations to the Excavation: A Stratigraphy-based History of the Temple of Tuya’. In Thebes in the First Millennium BC: Art and Archaeology of the Kushite Period and Beyond, ed. E. Pischikova, J. Budka and K. Griffin. GHP Egyptology 27. London: Golden House Publications. 193–213.
Moje, J. (2017) ‘Die Uschebtis von Karomama Meritmut G – ein Überblick’. In De la mère du roi à l’épouse du dieu. Première synthèse des résultats de la fouille du temple de Touy et de la tombe de Karomama – Von der Königsmutter zur Gottesgemahlin. Erste Synthese der Ausgrabungsergebnisse des Tempels von Tuja und des Grabes von Karomama, ed. B. Lurson. Connaissance de l’Egypte Ancienne 18. Brussels: Safran. 103–112.
Nelson, M. (2003) ‘The Ramesseum Necropolis’. In The Theban Necropolis: Past, Present and Future, ed. N. C. Strudwick and J. H. Taylor. London: British Museum Press. 88–94.
Quibell, J. E. (1898) The Ramesseum. Egyptian Research Account 2. London: Bernard Quaritch.

Monday, 24 June 2019

News from Luxor: Reconstructing a Fragmentary Middle Kingdom Stela

This past Saturday I arrived in Luxor, which will be my home for the next four weeks. I’ll be joining up with the South Asasif Conservation Project (SACP), directed by Dr Elena Pischikova, a project I’ve been involved in since 2010. My role on the project is as an epigrapher, working mainly on reconstructing the religious texts in the tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223). In particular, my work this season will focus on helping the team reconstruct the Ritual of the Hours of the Night, which was inscribed on the southern pillars within the First Pillared Hall of the tomb (fig. 1). While the tomb had completely collapsed in fairly modern times, over 20,000 inscribed fragments have been recovered from the floor since 2006. As a result, the reconstruction of the monument is a giant jigsaw puzzle!

Fig. 1: Reconstructed vignette of the Seventh Hour of the Night

In preparation for my trip to Luxor, I decided to look at two related boxes in the Egypt Centre store. One was labelled as “stela”, while the other contained just over forty fragments of broken limestone (fig. 2). These fragments, which carry the accession number EC1848, were originally part of the collection of Charles James Tabor (1849–1928), a British businessman, bibliophile, lecturer of folklore, and collector of ‘curios’ (Hardwick 2012, 49). They were sold as part of lot 235 on the 13 November 1928, with the auction catalogue describing it as “six sepulchral stele in limestone”. No details of its provenance are recorded. The lot was purchased by Harry Stow, a long-term buyer for Henry Wellcome, for the sum of £19/10. The Egypt Centre has at least three other objects (W348, W349, W1710) allegedly from this lot, although two of them are sandstone!

Fig. 2: Fragments of EC1848 before reconstruction

Using the experience gained through my work with the South Asasif Conservation Project, I spent a day trying to piece the fragments together. Several fragments had been previously glued together at an unknown date, perhaps by the late Anthony Donohue (1944–2016), who worked on the collection for many years. The largest fragment contains the upper figure of a man carved in sunk relief, with a table of offerings above. Traces of an inscription are located above this. Thus, it was already clear that EC1848 contained at least three registers (fig. 3). Stylistically, the stela can be dated to the Middle Kingdom, specifically the late Twelfth or Thirteenth Dynasties.

Fig. 3: Largest fragment of EC1848 before joins

Following a quick examination of all the fragments, around half of which contained decoration, I was able to join two of the larger fragments to the inscription at the top. This revealed that the text consisted of at least four lines of hieroglyphs (fig. 4). While fragmentary, it was possible to reconstruct a part of it. On the second line is the well-known phrase n-kꜢ-n, “for the ka of”, which traditionally precedes the name of the deceased. Unfortunately, this name is missing. Line 3 has ir-n ḥꜢty-Ꜥ wr [...], “made by the Governor [...]”. This identifies the father of the deceased, whose name perhaps begins Wer-[...]. Finally, on the bottom line, the inscription provides the title and name of the owner’s mother: nbt-pr Bbi͗ mꜢꜤt-ḫrw, “Mistress of the House, Bebi, the justified”. The name Bebi is well attested for both males and females of the Middle Kingdom (Ranke PN, 95. 16).

Fig. 4: Upper register inscription during reconstruction

Several joins were made to the scene in the central register, which allows for a reconstruction of a large offering table with a duck on top and drinking vessels below (fig. 5). To the right is a fragment containing the upper body and arm of a person, perhaps seemingly sniffing a lotus blossom. To the left of the table, only the remains of a toe from another figure and the base of a staff are present. This would suggest that we have a seated male figure (the owner of the stela) on the left side, and a female figure (likely his wife) on the right (Budge 1912, pl. 22). In the centre of the lower register, a male figure is depicted looking to the right. The inscription in front of him reads sꜢ.s sꜢ-ḥwt-ḥr, “Her son, Sahathor”. Sahathor, meaning “son of the goddess Hathor” is another common name in the Middle Kingdom (Ranke PN, 283. 20). Directly behind him is a column of hieroglyphs, which reads as ḫw-ni͗wt.f mꜢꜤ-ḫrw, “Khuniwtef, the justified”. This name is much rarer, although it is attested on a stela in Cairo (CG 20134), which also dates to the Middle Kingdom (Lange & Schäfer 1902–1925 I, 158). I am grateful to Wolfram Grajetzki for bringing this stela to my attention!

Fig. 5: Reconstruction of EC1848

Despite ten new joins to the stela being made, around thirty more fragments (mainly undercoated) remain. From the decorated fragments, three contain traces of arms holding flowers. One of them even includes the partial inscription sꜢt.f [...]-ḥwt-ḥr, “his daughter, [...]-Hathor”. It is thus clear that we have in the Egypt Centre a rather fragmentary family stela dating to the late Middle Kingdom.

Budge, E. A. W. (1912) Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae, &c., in the British Museum. Part II. London: The British Museum.
Franke, D. and M. Marée (2013) Egyptian Stelae in the British Museum from the 13th–17th Dynasties. Volume I, Fascicule 1: Descriptions. London: British Museum.
Griffin, K. (2018) ‘A Preliminary Report on the Hours of the Night in the Tomb of Karakhamun (TT 223)’. In Thebes in the First Millennium BC: Art and Archaeology of the Kushite Period and Beyond, ed. E. Pischikova, J. Budka and K. Griffin. GHP Egyptology 27. London: Golden House Publications. 59–70.
Hardwick, T. (2012) ‘The Obsidian King’s Origins: Further Light on Purchasers and Prices at the MacGregor Sale, 1922’. Discussions in Egyptology 65: 7–52.
Lange, H. O. and H. Schäfer (1902–1925) Grab- und Denksteine des Mittleren Reichs (CG; 20001–20780). 1–4. Catalogue général des du Musée du Caire. Berlin: Reichsdruckerei.
Ranke, H. (1935) Die ägyptischen Personennamen, vol. 1. Glückstadt: Verlag J. J. Augustin.
Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge. (1928) Catalogue of Prehistoric Implements, Egyptian, Greek and Roman Antiquities, &c.: Monday, the 12th of November, 1928, and Following Day. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Handling Sessions at the Swansea University Open Day

On Saturday, the final Swansea University Open Day took place in the Taliesin Create, just next door to the Egypt Centre. As with the previous five open days this academic year, prospective students had the opportunity to handle some of the objects in the Egypt Centre collection. People often assume that because the museum is called the Egypt Centre, all of the objects relate to Egypt. This is not true. The Egypt Centre also possesses a significant collection of Classical objects (Gill & Gee, 1996). With Egyptology at Swansea University coming under the Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology, this was the perfect occasion to also highlight some of these Classical objects (fig. 1). This blog post will present three of the objects used for the handling session.

Fig. 1: Display of the objects ready for handling

The centrepiece of the display was a life-size marble head of a bearded figure (W914). Although this object was too big and heavy to be handled, prospective students were able to see this head up close. This head was recently studied by one of our volunteers and Masters students, who will be writing a guest blog about it shortly. We did, however, have a much smaller, and very intriguing, terracotta head that they were able to handle (fig. 2). GR106 is described in the Egypt Centre catalogue as being a scent bottle dating to the sixth century BC, with the rather vague provenance of “Eastern Mediterranean”. This identification is presumably based on parallel objects. Not being familiar with these objects, the fact that there are holes in the base, along with the rear and top of the head, doesn’t seem to make much sense. These holes, particularly the one in the base, would have to be plugged in order to retain any liquid. If any readers have any ideas about this object, we would love to hear them! 

fig. 2: Scent bottle? (GR106)

A second non-Egyptian object the prospective students got to handle was a Cypriot horse (W229a), which has been dated to the sixth century BC (fig. 3). Cyprus is the primary area of interest by our colleague Ersin Hussein, who we work closely with on a number of projects. This small ceramic figure was originally part of a larger chariot group, as is evident from the fused rear legs. Black and pink painted decoration is present on the front of the horse. A circular label on the side indicates that this figure was sold as part of lot 33, which contained 8 items. In fact, it was purchased by Henry Wellcome almost exactly 100 years ago, on the 18th July 1919. The description at the beginning of the catalogue reveals that it was originally part of the “Laurence-Cesnola collection”. The name Cesnola has been long associated with Cyprus, particularly through the excavations of Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832–1904), who became the first Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1879–1904). Yet the Laurence-Cesnola collection (also referred to as the Lawrence-Cesnola collection) relates to his brother, Alessandro Palma di Cesnola (1839–1914), who married Augusta Alexandra Lawrence in 1879. She was the youngest daughter of Edwin H. Lawrence (1819–1891), a London financier and Alessandro’s excavation partner.

Fig. 3: Cypriot horse from a chariot (W229a)

The final object to be presented here is a mummy label (W449), one of our chosen Egypt Centre highlights, which almost certainly originated from Egypt. The label is written in Greek, clearly by two different hands: the first two lines by one person, and the remaining five lines by another. The text reads as “Hermiysis, [son] of Kollouthos, farewell!”, and “Kollouthos to Kallistos: When the mummy of my child reaches you, keep guard until I arrive.” In Graeco-Roman times (332 BC–AD 395), people who died away from home were normally taken back for burial in their local cemeteries. In order to make sure that the dead were correctly identified, the senders put labels around their necks. W550 was purchased by in 1922 by Harry Stow, on behalf of Henry Wellcome, from the collection of the Reverend William MacGregor. Lot 643, which consisted of three mummy labels written in Greek (W548 & W550), and the fragment of a wooden tablet inscribed in Coptic (W551), was purchased for £1/2 (Mueller, 1973).

Fig. 4: Mummy label (W549)

So why study at Swansea? The Department of Classics, Ancient History, and Egyptology offers a diverse range of degree schemes at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The Egypt Centre also teaches modules on the new MA in Public History and Heritage degree, which is part of the Department of History. Lecturers favour a hands-on approach to teaching, from experimenting with ancient technology, to object-centred learning at the Egypt Centre (fig. 5). The close links between the Department and the Egypt Centre mean that the collection is well-used by a wide variety of students. These students benefit from these links, helping to provide them with key employability skills and preparing them for the workplace by encouraging creativity and innovation.

Fig. 5: Prospective students enjoying the handling session

di Cesnola, A. P. (1881–1882) Lawrence-Cesnola Collection. Cyprus Antiquities Excavated by Major Alexander Palma di Cesnola, 1876–1879. London: W. Holmes and Son.
Gill, D. W. J. and R. Gee (1996) ‘Museum Supplement: Classical Antiquities in Swansea’. The Journal of Hellenic Studies 116: 157–161.
Mueller, D. (1973) ‘Three Mummy Labels in the Swansea Wellcome Collection’. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 59: 175–180.
———. (1922) Catalogue of the MacGregor Collection of Egyptian Antiquities. London: Davy. 

Monday, 10 June 2019

Highlights of the Egypt Centre: Results!

This past Wednesday, as part of Volunteers’ Week, we announced the results of our selection process for the highlights of the Egypt Centre. Voters were asked to select up to fifteen objects currently on display in each of our galleries (House of Death and House of Life). While many of the objects selected were expected, we were surprised by some of the objects that missed out. From the House of Death, a Greek mummy label (W549), stela of Isis-Thermouthis and Serapis-Agathadaimon (W56), and the head of an unidentified Ptolemaic queen (W194) were just some of the objects that weren’t selected (fig. 1). In the House of Life, the lintel of Tjenti (W491) and the painted plaster fragment of Akhenaten’s elbow (W802), two objects that featured in recent blogs, missed out.  

Fig. 1: Unidentified Ptolemaic Queen (W194)

The chosen objects from each gallery is as follows.

Objects from the House of Death (fig. 2) are:
EC number
Coffin of the Chantress of Amun, Iwesemhesetmut
Book of Dead papyrus of Ankh-hapi
Cartonnage coffin with foetus
Overseer shabti of Ptahhotep
Bes pot
Cat mummy mask
Khabekhenet wall relief
Gilded cartonnage mask
Edfu stela of Pasherienimhotep
Pottery offering tray
W1377Eighteenth Dynasty Theban tomb painting
W1367a & b
Sarcophagus fragments of Amenhotep son of Hapu

Fig. 2: Objects from the House of Death

Objects from the House of Life (fig. 3) consist of:

EC number
Middle Kingdom battle axe
Carnelian anklet with snake heads
Statue of Aba
Paneb’s offering stand
W946 bis
Commodus stela
Amarna collar with Beset
Miniature Quran
Faience wall tiles
Amethyst scarab bracelet
D-Ware pot
Bes bell
Book of Esther

Fig. 3: Objects from the House of Life

We are grateful to the 108 people who participated in the selection process over the past five weeks. Over the coming months, those highlights that haven’t already featured on this blog will be presented. Additionally, Dulcie Engel, one of our volunteers, will be writing a short catalogue entry for each of the objects, which will form part of a small booklet featuring these thirty highlights!