This has been written by Dr Dulcie Engel, who recently put together a virtual trail to lead visitors through some of the items in the Woking Loan at the Egypt Centre. Following her previous post on the loan and the launch of the trail today, this new post highlights some of her favourite items on the trail. Ken Griffin has recently re-photographed the whole of the Woking Loan collection, which can now be viewed on the Egypt Centre online collection catalogue.
In my previous Woking Loan blog, I talked about the history of the collection in Woking College (and previously, the Girls Grammar School); possible links to Robert Mond and Flinders Petrie; and I picked out a few objects of interest (fig. 1). In this post, I am going to focus on some of the other items featured in the trail. First of all, I would like to mention the very first inventory of the donation to Woking Girls Grammar School. Some of the artefacts still bear the original ‘museum’ labels; round white stickers with numbers written on by Anna Bachelier. Anna was a pupil when the objects were given to the school in 1958, and worked with the collection until she left in 1962. She went on to become a leading archaeologist in Scotland, under her married name of Anna Ritchie. While at school, Anna looked after the collection and even took the objects to the British Museum for identification. Here she recalls her time with the artefacts:
|Fig. 1: Sokar Hawk (WK21)|
“The artefacts were displayed in a shelved case in the main entrance hall of the school, and I loved looking after them. You are right in thinking that I compiled the first inventory, and indeed that the museum was a spur to my future as an archaeologist. Miss Hill was headmistress throughout my years at the school, and although strict she was happy to encourage initiative I suppose, and readily gave permission for me to set up the museum.” (Personal e-mail communication, 28/10/2019)
Anna put together a ‘Museum File’ (fig. 2) of seventeen pages, covering various donations of interesting items to the school (mainly fossils). Of particular interest to us is the sheet that deals with the Egyptian collection. One side of this inventory* is entitled ‘E. Egyptian Collection presented to the school’ and has descriptions of objects numbered 1 to 25. The reverse side is headed ‘S. Other Shuabti Figures [or Shabti]’, and there is a note of shabtis (and scarabs) with a separate numbering system, but no descriptions. The inventory does not correspond exactly to the fifty-eight artefacts donated to the Egypt Centre in 2012, but gives us a good idea of what was there originally.
|Fig. 2: From the cover of the ‘museum file’|
WK7 (fig. 3) is a pottery vessel made of B2 silt, painted white. It stands 141mm high, is 101mm wide at its widest point, and weighs 312 grams. It has a flat base, rounded belly with ridged lines, a handle, and a spout (a second handle is missing, and it is clear to see where it broke off). There is a plant motif in black just below the neck, which is typical of Ptolemaic pottery. Although the label is now missing, this vessel is clearly no. E.14 in Anna’s inventory: ‘Clay Pot with extended neck, Graeco-Roman period’.
|Fig. 3: Pottery vessel (WK7)|
WK25 (fig. 4) is an unguentarium, that is, a Roman Period (first century CE) perfume or ointment bottle. It is one of two in the Woking Loan (the other is WK24). The Roman Period was a golden age for glass-making across the empire. WK25 is semi-translucent and a pinky-brown colour, with traces of iridescence. It is 43mm high, the base diameter is 26mm, and the neck diameter 13mm. The wall thickness is 1mm. When Woking College history teacher Andrew Forrest later took the collection to the British Museum in 2001, he was told that Petrie dug up many such bottles, often found in child burials. Anna Bachelier lists four Roman glass vessels of varying sizes under E15 (a–d) in her inventory, but we only have two of them.
|Fig. 4: Unguentarium (WK25)|
WK26 (fig. 5) is a beautifully painted fretwork wooden figure of Anubis, the god of mummification. It is most likely that it formed part of a coffin lid or mummy board dating to the Nineteenth–Twenty-first Dynasties when fretwork, also known as openwork, was a common decorative technique. It is one of two in the Woking Loan. The other, WK27, depicts either Isis or Nephthys in mourning, but the decoration is not as clear as on WK26. Anubis is missing his muzzle, feet, and arms, but his ears stand proud! The wood is coated with a thin layer of gesso, and painted red, yellow, green, blue, and black. It is 131mm high, 42mm wide and 8mm thick. On the back, there is the original round white label reading ‘E.23’. On the inventory we read: ‘E.23 ANUBIS, part of fret-work design 5.3”’.
|Fig. 5: Wooden fretwork figure of Anubis (WK26)|
WK29 (fig. 6) is a pottery overseer shabti painted light blue, and dating from the Third Intermediate Period. As an overseer figure, the shabti holds a whip in its right hand and wears a projecting kilt. It measures 80mm high, 25mm wide, and 16mm deep. On the back it still has its original label, S.31.
|Fig. 6: Pottery overseer shabti (WK290|
WK39 (fig. 7) is a blue-green faience cone-shaped pendant representing a lotus. The lotus symbolised rebirth, and Upper Egypt. The pendant possibly dates to the New Kingdom. A very close parallel can be found in the World Museum, Liverpool, which originates from the collection of Robert Mond. The diameter of the cone base is 24mm; the height of the cone 29mm. A suspension loop has been pierced through the top of the cone, so the flower would hang down when suspended on a necklace, hiding the petal detail on the base. In the original inventory it was no.E.8: ‘pendant of PAPIRAS (sic) flower, 1.2” high, 22nd dyn.’ Overall, this has to be my favourite item!
|Fig. 7: Lotus pendant (WK39)|
Enjoy following the trail!
*You can see a copy of the original inventory in the appendix of my 2020 article The Woking Loan: a collection within a collection at the Egypt Centre.
As noted previously, I could not have done this research without the help of Egypt Centre staff, in particular Carolyn Graves-Brown, Ken Griffin, and Syd Howells. Additionally, Ancient History staff and researchers at Swansea: Christian Knoblauch, Nigel Pollard, John Rogers. Nor my brilliant Woking Loan correspondents: Richard & Rosemary Christophers at the Lightbox Gallery, Andrew Forrest, Anna Ritchie, the staff of Woking College; and John Taylor of the British Museum.