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Wednesday, 6 September 2023

New Friends of the Egypt Centre Lecture Programme

The Friends of the Egypt Centre support the Egypt Centre and organise an exciting programme of ten monthly lectures per year (September to June). These events run separately from the Egypt Centre’s other online events, such as courses and conferences, and cater for all levels of understanding. You can choose to be a member of the Friends for an annual fee of as little as £10 or pay £3 per lecture (booking via Eventbrite). Details of the membership options can be viewed here.

The new season will kick off on Wednesday 27th September with the Friends AGM at 6.30pm (UK time), followed by a lecture (7pm UK time) by Don Ryan on the Valley of the Kings. This lecture will take place both in-person (Taliesin Studio) and via Zoom (but will not be recorded), with tickets for the online event available here.


27th September (Taliesin Studio and via Zoom)

Donald P. Ryan (Pacific Lutheran University)

The Valley of the Kings: research and discoveries in several of the lesser-known tombs

Abstract: The goal of the Pacific Lutheran University Valley of the Kings Project has been to investigate several of the undecorated and typically smaller tombs found amongst the larger tombs in Egypt's New Kingdom royal cemetery. Over the years, the project has excavated 11 such tombs including KV 60 (with its purported mummy of Hatshepsut), KV 21 (two 18th dynasty royal women), KV 48 (the vizier of Amenhotep II), and three small tombs KV 50, 51, 52) which contained the mummies of animals. The project's director, Donald P. Ryan, will provide a look at some of the expedition’s interesting discoveries.

Bio: Dr. Donald P. Ryan is an archaeologist affiliated with the Division of Humanities at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, USA, a Fellow of both the Explorers Club and the Royal Geographical Society, and a Research Associate of the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, Norway. A veteran of many field expeditions, he is also the author of numerous scientific and popular articles and several books on archaeological subjects.

A summary of the talks can be found below while the full details can be found here.

25th October (Taliesin Studio and via Zoom)

Ersin Hussein (Swansea University)

Metal production and consumption: luxury, power, and identity in Ptolemaic Cyprus


15th November (Taliesin Studio and via Zoom)

Loretta Kilroe (The British Museum)

Site H25: living under colonial occupation in New Kingdom Nubia


13th December (Zoom only)

Heidi Köpp-Junk (Assistant Professor in Egyptian Archaeology at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures, section for Egyptian temples, Polish Academy of Sciences Warsaw / Georg-August University of Göttingen)

Dewatering systems for wastewater and rain in ancient Egypt: the latest research on the water systems in the temple of Athribis and Tuna el-Gebel


17th January (Zoom only)

Kristin Thompson (The Amarna Project)

Unknown royal statuary from Amarna


28th February (Taliesin Mall Room and via Zoom)

Phil Parkes & MSc Conservation Practice Students (Cardiff University)

Conservation of artefacts from the Egypt Centre


13th March (Zoom only)

Victoria Jensen (Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies University of California, Berkeley)

Deir el-Ballas: the royal residence that defeated the Hyksos

17th April

Martin Odler

Details to be confirmed.


15th May 2024 (Zoom only)

Marisol Solchaga (University of Manchester)

‘Offering-trays’ and ‘soul-houses’: reconsidering their function as ritual artefacts


19th June (Zoom only)

Paulína Šútorová (Trier University)

Lost women: rediscovering Ramesside queens

Monday, 28 August 2023

Countdown to Harrogate

The blog post for this week has been written by Egypt Centre volunteer and University of Birmingham student, Sam Powell, whose visit to Harrogate Museum in July 2022 led to the loan of the collection to the Egypt Centre.

As you may already be aware from social media posts and a series of YouTube videos, earlier this year, over 800 objects arrived in Swansea on loan from Harrogate in order to allow for in-depth recording and research to be undertaken. A condition of this loan was that the objects would be available via an online catalogue for researchers and the public alike, and so, as part of the Egypt Centre’s twenty-five year anniversary celebrations due to take place in October this year, the Harrogate Egyptian Collection will be launched hosted by Abaset Collections (fig. 1)!

Fig. 1: Forty days to go!

As part of my PhD research visits in 2022, I visited the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate to examine a wooden funerary figure in their collection (fig. 2). During my visit, staff mentioned that they would like to utilise their ancient Egyptian collection more effectively, and reach a wider audience. Of course, my first thought was to recommend the Egypt Centre as the ideal place for the objects to undergo full cataloguing and research given the fantastic experience I had working with the collection in Swansea, both as a volunteer, student, and also in creating the Egypt Centre Online Collection (Abaset) for them.

Fig. 2: Catalogue entry for the female figure

Abaset Collections came about as a result of my frustrations as a user of online catalogues for my own research, and so I worked closely with the Egypt Centre team to create a bespoke application that focuses on the user experience and engagement with the objects. The Egypt Centre Online Collection launched in October 2020, and was very timely given the temporary closure of the museum to the public due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Online Collection has proven a valuable asset for the museum, with easy access via mobile devices, high-quality photography of the objects, 3D models, and easy-to-search data to explore. Trails in a variety of languages including English, Welsh, Arabic, Spanish, and Hungarian allow for different themes and topics to be tailored for different audiences. These elements will also be available for the Harrogate Egyptian Online Collection.

All 813 objects from Harrogate have already been photographed from several angles (almost 4000 photos), and the Egypt Centre team and Swansea University students, along with several specialists in different object types, have been working tirelessly to hunt down provenances of objects, translate the names of the deceased, trace auction details, and categorise pottery types in order to populate the data within the online catalogue. This is still very much a work in progress, so not all the objects will be fully catalogued at the time of the launch (fig. 3). One of the best things about Abaset (in my opinion!) is the ability to update information in real-time. This means as soon we know something new about an object, it’s instantly available to everyone!

Fig. 3: Stelae in the Harrogate collection

We really hope you enjoy exploring the absolutely incredible collection of objects that make up the Harrogate Egyptian collection; it’s been so exciting sharing in the discoveries surrounding the objects (with many more to come, I’m sure!). The Harrogate Egyptian Online Collection will be launched on 7th October, so keep your eyes peeled on the day for the link to the site, and please do share any feedback you have about the software and the objects themselves!

Registration for the Egypt Centre’s anniversary celebrations (which will include both the launch of this new online collection, and a presentation about the Egypt Centre Online Collection) is available here.

For a brief preview of the Harrogate Egyptian Collection, see the newly released video below, the fourth in the series on the Harrogate collection.

Tuesday, 22 August 2023

Announcing The Egypt Centre's Twenty-fifth Anniversary Event

As regular readers of this blog will know, this year the Egypt Centre marks twenty-five years since first opening its doors. While the official opening took place on the 28th September of that year, we will be hosting a celebration event on the 7th October. This hybrid event will celebrate the achievements of the Egypt Centre during this time with a series of presentations and unveilings. In particular, the opening of the first Harrogate collection exhibition entitled Causing Their Names to Live. The event is free, in keeping with the museum’s remit of breaking down barriers and widening participation. The in-person event is limited to sixty participants, so will be restricted to presenters, staff, volunteers, and Swansea University students. However, the Zoom event will be accessible to a global audience, who are encouraged to join us in celebrating this milestone. The full programme of the day can be found below. Registration for the event is essential and can be made via the following link.

During the past twenty-five years, we have had thousands of people volunteer at the Egypt Centre and we would like to think that the museum played an important role in shaping the career of some. We have also inspired countless school children with our learning programme, including our “dummy mummy”. Swansea University students have benefitted immensely from our object-based learning approach. Our online activities during the COVID-19 Pandemic have helped us to reach a global audience, many of whom were struggling with the rigours of lockdown! During the breaks at our celebration event, we are hoping to play a series of short videos from people who have engaged with the Egypt Centre during the past twenty-five years. Whether you are a former member of staff at the Egypt Centre, or a former (or current) volunteer, student, or visitor to the museum, we would encourage you to submit a short video (c. 30 seconds) telling us how we inspired you. Please email them (or any questions related to these) to me at


Conference Programme (abstracts available here)

9:15 Webinar starts

9:30–9:45 Welcome address

9:45–11:15 The Evolution of the Egypt Centre

Carolyn Graves-Brown (Former Egypt Centre Curator) - At last! Hopes, imaginations, and dreams come true

Syd Howells (Egypt Centre Volunteer Manager) - Egypt Centre volunteers: a history 1998 1997–2023

Dulcie Engel (Egypt Centre volunteer) - My volunteering journey

Wendy Goodridge (Egypt Centre Museum Manager) - Let the battle commence!: breaking barriers to museum learning

11:15–11:30 Break

11:30–12:45 Collectors & Collections

Meg Gundlach (Egypt Centre Collections Access Manager) - The Hood legacy: Swansea by chance, Swansea by choice

Sam Powell (Egypt Centre volunteer and Abaset Director) - Abaset Collections: restoring ma’at to the Egypt Centre Online Collection

Anna Garnett (Petrie Museum Curator) - To Malet Place and beyond: The Petrie Museum’s role in the distribution of the Wellcome collection

12:45–14:00 Lunch break

14:00–15:10 The Egypt Centre & Swansea University

Christian Knoblauch (Lecturer, Swansea University) - Teaching in the collection: object-centred learning at Swansea University

Ersin Hussein (Senior Lecturer, Swansea University) - Community perspectives: understanding and voicing Cypriot heritage in Wales

Jess Evans (Swansea University student) - My student experience at the Egypt Centre

15:10–15:25 Break

15:25–16:35 Conservation & Innovation

Phil Parkes (Reader in Conservation, Cardiff University) - Shared history: conservation of Egypt Centre objects at Cardiff University

Courtney Lyons (Cardiff University conservation student) - Perspective of a conservation student: treatment of EC168, a Soter-style shroud

Noura Seada (Assistant Lecturer at October 6 University, Cairo) - Online engagement at the Egypt Centre: a view from Egypt

16:35–16:45 Break

16:45–17:45 Keynote

Ken Griffin (Egypt Centre Curator) - Rediscovering Egypt: the Harrogate collection in Swansea

17:45–18:00 Summary and close

Monday, 14 August 2023

Documenting the Harrogate Loan

It’s now almost six months since over 800 objects arrived to the Egypt Centre on loan from Harrogate Museum. Since then, the objects have been photographed (c. 4000 photographs), documented (a continuous process), and entered into a new online catalogue, which will be launched in October. The launch will coincide with the Egypt Centre’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, details of which are almost finalised (stay tuned for an update on this blog soon). At the same time, the first of three planned temporary exhibitions on the Harrogate collection will also be launched. The title of the exhibition is Causing Their Names to Live, which takes inspiration from a common vivification formula found on statues, stelae, and other objects. 

As we approach the date of our celebration (7 October), a series of eleven videos documenting the Harrogate loan and the stories behind it will be released. These videos were beautifully captured and produced by Katie Greenhalf and Gary Lawson of This Film Production Ltd. The first video, which was filmed in February, deals with the Packing Up of the collection at Harrogate ready for transportation to Swansea. It features May Catt (Visitor & Cultural Services Manager) and Karen Southworth (Curator), who were instrumental in making this loan happen. We are grateful to all the staff and volunteers in Harrogate for their hard work in carefully packing up the collection and for answering regular emails about the objects!

Monday, 3 July 2023

Pyramid Construction in the Old Kingdom

The blog post for this week is written by Jeanne Whitehurst, who has completed her Certificate of Egyptology from the University of Manchester. She moved to Egypt over twelve years ago, just before the revolution. Initially, she lived in Luxor, overlooking Karnak Temple, but now she lives in Aswan overlooking the First Cataract. She was extremely fortunate to have worked with Ted Brock on the sarcophagus of Merenptah (KV 8) as a volunteer. 

The Predynastic Period saw the production of fine pottery and other crafts. Writing had developed from rudimentary basic signs on jars to a hieroglyphic script. Khasekhemwy, the last king of the Second Dynasty and the Early Dynastic Period was probably one of the pharaohs to have united Egypt, his mudbrick and stone inner tomb at Abydos and stone statues together with his military prowess helped to lay the foundations for the achievements of the old Kingdom. The Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2613–2181 BCE) is also known as the ‘Age of the Pyramids’ or ‘Age of the Pyramid Builders’ as it includes the great Fourth Dynasty when king Sneferu perfected the art of pyramid building, and the pyramids of Giza were constructed under the kings Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.

How did pyramids develop? During the long reign of Djoser, the first king of the Third Dynasty, he moved the burial site of kings from Abydos to Saqqara (40 kilometres southwest of Cairo [25 miles]). his architect, Imhotep, designed a mastaba completely constructed of stone, then extended it in three phases to achieve a step pyramid. A mortuary complex consisting of chapels around the base, and a vast courtyard for the king’s festivals were also added (fig. 1). Finally, the whole complex was enclosed by a wall. The next development was at Meidum (“Sneferu Endures”) at the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty. This pyramid was designed in the image of the step pyramid by a successor of Imhotep, either constructed for Huni or Sneferu. It has been suggested that it was possibly started by Huni and finished by his son Sneferu, although Sneferu’s sons and other family members are buried nearby. This eight-layered structure is thought to be the first attempt to build a true pyramid, having a burial chamber above ground, and corbelling (arch-shaped) walls. Unfortunately, at some point in time, either during or after construction, it imploded, and its heavy outer layers eventually slid downwards leaving a square three-stepped core.

Fig. 1: The Step Pyramid complex

The next stage of development was a pyramid for king Sneferu at Dahshur, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Cairo. The Bent Pyramid (“The Southern Shining One”) possibly began as a much larger pyramid with an angle of about 54 degrees (fig. 2). However, structural problems caused mainly by the unstable sandy ground may have forced the builders to change the angle of the upper half of the pyramid to 43 degrees. To enter this pyramid today, you need to bend double until you get to the antechamber. The pyramid rises majestically to the king’s chamber above, and the brave can mount the five sets of steps, noticing the cedar wood struts across the space. When you breathlessly reach the top, you realise the small cramp chamber could not hold a human burial. The pyramid had now changed from a stairway to heaven to re-creating the primeval mound.

Fig. 2: The Bent Pyramid

The Red Pyramid, (“The Shining One”) situated one kilometre to the north of the Bent Pyramid, owes its modern-day name to the red sandstone that was used to construct its core. This was the perfect angled pyramid of 43 degrees. The angle allowed for a broader base and a more gentle incline, increasing the stability of the structure. Both Dahshur (Sneferu) pyramids were 105 metres (345 feet) in height (fig. 3). To enter this pyramid, you must ascend steps before the longest descent of any pyramid. The first chamber has magnificent cedar corbelled walls, as have the other two, consisting of eleven courses and climbing to a height of approximately 40 feet. The second chamber has similar dimensions to that of the first. It is exceptional in that it is one of the only pyramid chambers to lie directly beneath the centre point or apex of the pyramid. At the southern end, a staircase has been installed to allow access to the final chamber, the entrance for which is located approximately 25 feet above the floor of this second chamber. Both pyramids are well worth a visit, although you do need to be reasonably fit and not put off by the smell of ammonia from the bats!

Fig. 3: The Red Pyramid

The most famous pyramid and the largest is the Great Pyramid (“Horizon of Khufu”), which is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World. Originally it would have stood 146 metres high (479 feet) with a base of 230 metres (754 feet), even now with its reduced size and excellent quality Tura limestone from nearby quarries having been robbed over time, the immense size (average 3–4 tons) of the sandstone blocks and excellent workmanship is remarkable (fig. 4). The sides were orientated exactly towards the cardinal points at precisely 90 degrees. You have to admire how the blocks fit perfectly together, even up to the slanted ceiling, with the sarcophagus at the far end of the burial chamber creating an awe-inspiring moment for visitors!

Fig. 4: The Great Pyramid

At least four kings of the Fifth Dynasty moved their burial site to Abusir, which is located midway between Giza (to the north) and Saqqara (to the south). The first king to construct their pyramids here was Sahure, the second ruler of the dynasty (fig. 5). Many of these kings also built sun temples at Abu Ghurab, just slightly to the north. The remaining Fifth Dynasty kings returned to Saqqara for their burials.

Fig. 5: The pyramid of Sahure

The final innovation occurred with the pyramid of Unas, the last king of the Fifth Dynasty. Although the reign of Unas lasted for around thirty years, his pyramid (43 metres high) was the smallest in the Old Kingdom. However, the pyramid is not important for its construction but for the decoration inside. His pyramid was named “The Most Beautiful of Places”, which is very fitting. All the rooms inside the pyramid were built of fine limestone, except for the walls surrounding the sarcophagus where alabaster was used. The false door has an elaborate pattern design representing a reed mat and wood-frame enclosure, which was carved and painted. The ceiling of the burial chamber was painted with golden stars in a dark blue sky. Even more important is the decoration of the remainder of the burial chamber, the antechamber, and part of the horizontal passage that consists of vertical columns of meticulously carved hieroglyphs painted in blue (fig. 6). These columns contain the earliest known example of the so-called Pyramid Texts, the oldest known collection of religious texts known.

Fig. 6: Burial chamber of Unas

One of the chronological problems with the kings of the Old Kingdom is that the Horus and nesu bity (coronation) names are not always found together. Additionally, their position in history on the king lists, including Manetho (the priest whose dates and dynasties are used to date the reign of kings) are often incomplete. Djoser, c. 2670 BCE, was the first king of the Third Dynasty, reigning for over twenty years. Some sources, however, indicate that a king named Sanakht was the first ruler, but this claim is now challenged as Sanakht’s name is only known from two reliefs, the Abydos king list, and the Turin papyrus. His name does, however, appear later in the dynasty while he is also mentioned following Djoser in the Westcar Papyrus, which was written during the Middle Kingdom.

One of the most revered kings of Egyptian history was Djoser, who is also known through his nesu bity name Netjerkhet (“divine of his body”). He moved the capital to Memphis, near modern-day Cairo, and began commissioning his building projects, agricultural development, trade, and a rise in new cities. The stability of the country under Djoser was due in part to his success in securing his borders and then extending them. He became legendary for another reason, the re-building of the temple of Khnum on Elephantine Island in Aswan, which is said to have ended a seven-year famine. The erection of a famine stela, 2,500 after his death on Sehel Island and his name highlighted in red on the Turin Canon helped to elevate his status in Graeco-Roman times (fig. 7).

Fig. 7: The Famine Stela

Another revered ruler of the Old Kingdom was Sneferu. As well as having the first perfect pyramid built for him, his reign was a period of peace and prosperity in which he continuously sent mining campaigns to Sinai to discover and protect copper, gold, and turquoise. From the Palermo Stone record, we know he increased commercial exchange and foreign trade with surrounding countries such as Lebanon, where he sent large fleets of ships to import cedar wood for the manufacture of ships, royal doors, and in his pyramids at Dahshur. Most importantly, he secured the southern borders with Nubia. He was also the first king to have his nesu bity name, Sneferu, (“he of beauty”) to be inserted into a cartouche, a practice that became standard for the remainder of Egyptian history. 

Monday, 12 June 2023

The Sixth Dynasty of Egypt

The blog post for this week is written by Linda Kimmel, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States. When she retired from full-time work as a data research manager in late 2020, she began studying about the ancient world, and serving as a docent at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Linda had never heard of the Egypt Centre before the pandemic but has taken every course offered since she first noticed a tweet about the Centre in the fall of 2020 and has been taking online courses there ever since. She hopes to visit the Egypt Centre in 2024, provided the trains are running!


The Sixth Dynasty of ancient Egypt had it all: assassinations, harem plots, mysterious pharaohs, intrigue, and the longest-reigning monarch in world history. The fourth class in the Egypt Centre’s latest course – The Pyramid Age: Life in the Old Kingdom – covered it all, as we swept through the Sixth Dynasty (approximately 2323–2150 BCE). Honestly, this could be a course all on its own! As a longtime fan of mysteries, this class was perfect. It also made it difficult to pick a topic for this week’s blog! What should I cover?

Fig. 1: Kings of the Sixth Dynasty

The Sixth Dynasty is generally considered the last of the traditional dynasties of the Old Kingdom. During our class, Ken covered the seven rulers of the dynasty (fig. 1). I decided to focus my blog post on Pepi I, the third ruler of the dynasty, looking at how he came to power, and some of the events that happened during his reign. Why did I decide to focus on Pepi I? Because one of my favorite artifacts at the University of Michigan’s Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is a portion of a false door from the Saqqara tomb of Qar (or Kara-Pepy-Nefer), an official under Pepi I (Root, 1982) (fig. 2). I have used the artifact many times in tours to highlight the hieroglyphs, in particular the portion of the text that indicates that Qar was “beloved” of Pepi. Even though I generally point out and describe the cartouche of Pepi I, I had never looked into Pepi I’s story.

Fig. 2: false door from the Saqqara tomb of Qar

Pepi I was the third ruler of the Sixth Dynasty. But should he have been the second? He was the son of Teti (the first ruler of the Sixth Dynasty) and his wife Iput (the daughter of the last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, Unas, and Teti’s chief wife). So why did Pepi I not immediately follow his father? That is one of the mysteries of the Sixth Dynasty. Instead of Pepi I, Teti was followed briefly by Userkare. Ken told us that Userkare may be the most elusive of all the kings of the period, and that scholars are still trying to figure out who he was and identify his pyramid. We watched an interesting video in class about the archaeologist Vassil Dobrev’s search for Userkare’s pyramid available on YouTube.

There is some evidence suggesting there was an assassination at the beginning of the Sixth Dynasty. A particularly interesting part of this week’s class was an exploration of the autobiographical inscription of Weni, who served under numerous kings, beginning with Teti. Ken noted that one of the most important parts of the inscription is the mention of a harem plot. It is possible that Userkare was involved in plotting to kill Teti, via his bodyguards. However, Ken cautioned us that there are no Egyptian documents saying Teti was killed. Nevertheless, some speculate that Pepi I may have been the legitimate heir to the throne after Teti died, and that Userkare was a usurper to the throne.

Once in power, Pepi I served a long time (although he was not the longest-reigning monarch). Surviving data mention both a 21st and 25th population count during Pepi I’s reign, which suggests Pepi I may have reigned 50 years if the population counts were done every other year. During his reign, Pepi I faced both internal and external challenges. Internally, it would seem he had to deal with the fallout of his father’s potential assassination. Externally, there is evidence of numerous military campaigns into the Sinai, southern Palestine, and Nubia to the south.

Aside from the challenges, there is also evidence that Pepi I launched trade expeditions into Punt, an as yet unidentified location, believed to be in the area of Eretria. Pepi I was also a prolific builder, building temples at Tanis, Bubastis, Abydos, Dendera, and Coptos. What I found especially fascinating, is that about 2,000 years after his death, the Ptolemies revered Pepi I, and included his name in reliefs at the Temple of Dendera, with one showing a statue of Pepi I being presented. What was it that made Pepi I stand out for the Ptolemies? Ken said Pepi I may have built a temple to Hathor on the site of the Ptolemaic Temple at Dendera.

It has been suggested that the status of the kings’ wives increased during the Sixth Dynasty, with their funerary temples becoming larger. It has been noted that Pepi I married a large number of women, perhaps between six and eight (Prakash, 2019). We looked at a few of Pepi I’s wives in class, most notably Queen Ankhesenpepi II, his chief wife, whose pyramid contained the first Pyramid Texts attributed to a queen. Was one of these wives involved in a conspiracy?

Fig. 3: Pyramid of Pepi I

One of the many things I love about the Egypt Centre courses is the additional literature on selected topics Ken sends us on a weekly basis, and also mentions during our classes. When we got to the part about palace conspiracies, Ken mentioned a book by Naguib Kanawati, Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unis to Pepy I. He cautioned us that it was expensive. Fortunately, I was able to get it from my University library and took a deep dive into the conspiracies. Kanawati notes that Weni suggests there was a harem conspiracy during Pepy I’s reign, with one of his queens being brought to trial.

As we have with all of the pharaohs covered in this course, Ken showed us Pepi I’s pyramid. Admittedly, it is not much in comparison to the Fourth Dynasty pyramids at Giza. In the Sixth Dynasty, the emphasis was more on the Pyramid Texts located inside the pyramids than on the height of the pyramid itself. The pyramid of Pepy I is located at South Saqqara. While it was originally 52.5 meters high, today only 12 meters of its original height survive. It was made of poor-quality local sandstone, cased with white limestone (fig. 3).

Fig. 4: Statue of Pepi I (Brooklyn Museum)

Much more impressive were the two statues we saw of Pepi I. The first is a small statue from the Brooklyn Museum (39.121) that depicts Pepi I kneeling and holding nw-pots, which were ritual vessels that held milk or wine (fig. 4). Since kings would only kneel before a god, it is assumed that this statue would have been placed in front of the statue of a deity (Brooklyn Museum). The second are two larger statues found in the area of Hierakonpolis, now on display in the Egyptian museum (fig. 5). These are the largest copper alloy statues found in Egypt from this time.

Fig. 5: Copper alloy statue of Pepi I

This past Friday, I led a tour at the Kelsey Museum and included the false door of Qar. This time, I included a bit of information about Pepy I, which seemed to interest the people in my tour! I look forward to learning more about Pepi I and the other kings we have covered in this course. Thanks to the readings Ken sends us each week, I have a lot of information available.


Brooklyn Museum, Kneeling Statuette of Pepy I,

Kanwati, N. (2003). Conspiracies in the Egyptian Palace: Unis to Pepy I. London: Routledge.

Malek, J. (2000). “The Old Kingdom.” In Ian Shaw (Ed.) The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 89-117.

Prakash, T. “Egypt in the Old Kingdom (ca. 2649–2130 B.C.).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. (February 2019)

Root, M. C. (1982). A Scientist Views the Past: The Samuel A. Goldsmit Collection of Egyptian Antiquities.

Monday, 5 June 2023

Celebrating National Volunteers Week

The blog post for this week has been written by Syd Howells, the Volunteer Manager at the Egypt Centre. Without our dedicated volunteers, the Egypt Centre would not be able to function as it does. As we mark National Volunteers Week, it is important to recognise all their hard work!

From the very beginning of the Egypt Centre’s formation, the importance of involving volunteers was recognised (fig. 1). Not only was it a pragmatic move, particularly crucial for a new museum, but it was a great way of involving those outside the University community (historical fact: our first ever volunteer was Wendy Goodridge, now the Museum Manager!). Now, 25 years later, this award-winning scheme (for example, we were awarded the Queens Award for Volunteering in 2018), continues onwards providing opportunities to many.

Fig. 1: Our volunteers with the museum's handling tray

The 1–7th June is National Volunteers Week when volunteers and the incredible efforts they provide are celebrated, and an ideal time to recognise our volunteers and the time and effort they freely give to ensure our continuation. Over the past ten years or so, an Egypt Centre tradition has been established where we buy our volunteers cake to say thank you! If you are one of our volunteers, I can confirm that this tradition continues (fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Cake!

Many of our former volunteers have gone on to careers in the heritage sector, education, etc., or have continued in higher education. Volunteering at the Egypt Centre is an ideal way to gain work experience or boost your CV, and those wishing to enter the following fields may benefit:

·       Most heritage-related careers

·       Youth and social work

·       Teaching/training

·       Academia/research

·       Librarianship

·       Tourism

·       Customer care

·       Retail


What do our volunteers do?

Volunteers at the Egypt Centre have three core tasks. These are:

·       Gallery supervision and maintenance (ensuring the galleries are safe and the objects within our collection are secure)

·       Visitor and Customer Care/Interaction (it is essential to be welcoming to visitors)

·       Educational delivery (demonstrating the public activities of mummification, Senet, and the materials handling board to visitors)


There are a variety of types of volunteering you can get involved in, all of which will have at least one element of the core functions. The following roles are available:

·       Gallery Assistant (greeting, guiding, and demonstrating activities to visitors)

·       Educational Assistant (assisting in school visits)

·       Shop Assistant (within our gift shop)

·       Admin Assistant/Transcription Volunteer (helping with paperwork, transcribing old documents relating to our collection)

·       Gallery Supervisor (the progression role of a Gallery Assistant. Gallery Supervisors can provide extensive tours around our galleries to visiting groups)

·       Educational Leader (teaching ancient Egyptian-related activities to visiting school groups)

It is important to note that we do not regularly offer any “behind-the-scenes curatorial work” as our infrastructure simply does not allow for it. All roles besides the Admin Assistant/Transcription Volunteers have an element of visitor interaction.


Without volunteers, the Egypt Centre simply could not function. We are open Tuesday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm, and while we are a small museum with only two galleries (the House of Life and the House of Death), we do hold the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in Wales (fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Welcome to the Egypt Centre!

Our volunteers greet visitors, welcoming them, answering enquiries, and giving guided tours.  Besides the roles noted above, many adapt activities already on offer by making props to enhance the activity, such as headdresses, wigs, etc (fig. 4). Volunteers also pilot new activities before they are offered to our visitors and evaluate the activities. There is a genuine family atmosphere at the museum and our adult volunteers are aged from 18 to 85+ with a diverse range of backgrounds and life experiences.

Fig. 4: Dressing up

We also have a small group of distance volunteers who are primarily people living overseas who like to contribute to the Egypt Centre. These volunteers help to translate trails on our online catalogue into English, thereby increasing the potential for engagement. Besides English, there are now trails in Welsh, Arabic, Hungarian, and most recently Spanish!

It should be noted that some days it is very quiet in the museum, while on other days the opposite applies! For example, we host a lot of school visits, not only from Welsh schools, but also some from England who travel down to visit us for the day.

Why should I volunteer at the Egypt Centre?

You can make new friends, learn new skills, gain experience for your CV and for your chosen career, and have the satisfaction of helping run Wales’ only dedicated museum of ancient Egyptian antiquities! We have special, free Egyptology classes for our volunteers (fig. 5), and you can borrow books from our very own library. I also provide references for volunteers and former volunteers applying for jobs.

Fig. 5: Taking part in object handling classes

What type of people are we looking for?

For our adult volunteer scheme, anyone over the age of 18. You will need to be enthusiastic, enjoy working with others, and meeting people from all over the world (fig. 6). An interest in Egypt is not essential, but it helps! We have many volunteers who are retired people, some also work part-time, and some are students. Swansea University student volunteers can take part in the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) awards, where they can achieve bronze, silver, and gold awards, which are recorded on their final degree transcript.

Fig. 6: One of our enthusiastic volunteers

How do I go about volunteering at the Egypt Centre?

The first point of contact is the Museum Volunteer Manager. Drop me a line on and I can answer any questions you may have about volunteering with us. You can download an application form from or I can send you one via email. Complete this and return it to me (but please ensure I can read it and that you have provided the email addresses of two referees!)

I will then apply for your references and guide you through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. The DBS check is essential as we do a lot of work with vulnerable groups at the museum. Once the references are back and the DBS check is completed, I will arrange with you a suitable day and time for your volunteer induction, where we’ll discuss what days and times you are happy to volunteer at the museum (most people volunteer from between 3–17 hours per month). Then, you are one of us!

If you decide to become involved with the Egypt Centre, you will be an addition to our team of wonderful, dedicated volunteers who love bringing ancient Egypt alive to our visitors.