Monday, 16 November 2015

Going to the Dogs: New work at the catacombs of Anubis, North Saqqara

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Friends of the Egypt lecture.  Everyone welcome!

Professor Paul T. Nicholson Department of Archaeology School of History, Archaeology and Religion Cardiff.

This paper will look at a site that has been known since the 19th Century but which has received very little archaeological attention. The results of the work offer a more complete picture of the development, abandonment and re-use of this important monument at Saqqara. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

A Touching Memorial to an Egyptology Great

As part of my visit to Bristol last week, I took the opportunity of paying my respects to the resting place of Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (7 June 1831 - 15 April 1892), founder of the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society) and the Edwards Chair in Egyptian Archaeology at University College London.  

Edwards - a successful novelist, journalist and traveller - was introduced to Egypt in the winter of 1873 when she undertook a holiday there.  She was so taken with the country, its history and its antiquities, that when she returned she wrote what has now become a seminal publication - A Thousand Miles Up The Nile.  Her concern regarding the destruction and mutilation of some of the monuments and antiquities she encountered there led her to co-found the Fund in 1882 with Reginald Stuart Poole of the British Museum.  Its aims were to encourage the exploration, surveying and excavating of ancient sites in Egypt and the Sudan and to disseminate the findings through regular publication. It also strived to help with the preservation of Egypt's history and material culture. In the last two decades of her life, Edwards tirelessly campaigned, cajoled sponsors and lectured on behalf of the Fund. 

She died on 15 April 1892 at Weston-Super-Mare after catching influenza. Edwards' grave can be found in the beautiful and peaceful graveyard of St Mary's Church in Henbury, Bristol, not far from what was once her home at Westbury-on-Trym.  The plot is marked with a stone obelisk under which a large ankh rests.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Must See Exhibition Encourages Engagement with Death

One of the symbols of death - a plaque mask!

On Thursday evening my husband and myself were privileged to attend the  preview opening of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery's brand new exhibition: Death: the human experience.  With well over 200 people anxious to see the new display, and with a maximum capacity of 60 people allowed in at any one time, there was a long queue to contend with.  We were however happily entertained by a great (and energetic!!!) live band and new friends were made as we waited. Was the long wait worth it?  I can honestly say a huge YES! 

A large crowd mingled at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on preview night

The exhibition is a feast upon the eyes and the mind.  There are 225 objects on display and remarkably, 95% of them are from Bristol's own collection.  The diverse array encompasses many cultures from around the world and covers a vast timescale from early humanity to the modern period. Items include a Ghanaian fantasy coffin, a Victorian mourning dress, a plaque doctor's mask and a Day of the Dead skeleton figure.  To describe any further the things that you can see would only spoil the surprise of encountering the eclectic mix of items you come across when visiting! An audio guide is available which is easy to use. You choose which exhibits you want to learn more about by activating a button next to it and then can listen to the soundbite through your individual headphones.

The brilliantly easy audio guide that accompanies the exhibition

A number of themes are addressed through the exhibition.  For example, there is a section looking at the symbols associated with death.  Another theme considers how different cultures, and different eras, have approached death and mourning.  Visitors also learn about death in our Western culture and the processes that are attached to it.  The history of its mourning rituals and how they have changed are also explored. Furthermore the exhibition refuses to shy away from considering and confronting the ethical issues that surround death.  The visitor is never told what to think.  Instead it gently introduces you to some important questions which encourages you to make up your own mind - or at least to start thinking about it.

All in all I feel the exhibition is well thought out and planned and the curators have succeeded in taking an emotive subject and making it accessible to all. I learnt so much from it.  Unlike many other exhibits I have attended, I wanted to read every information sheet and not skip a thing!  Death is addressed in this refreshingly original exhibition as being an important part of life and by encouraging us to talk openly about with others, it better helps us to understand our universal human relationship with it.  The visit led to an in-depth (and surprising) discussion between me and the hubby on the way home which we had never really touched on before. We talked about how we would like to be remembered, what celebration of our lives we would want and importantly, what type of funeral we favoured.  Surprisingly, we both agreed, the conversation we had was not in the least depressing!!!!

If you are in the, even if you have to make a special visit...go see it!  You won't be disappointed!!!

The Ghanaian fantasy coffin
A number of events are accompanying Death: the human experience.  To keep up to date with upcoming events, go to the website: Bristols Museums

The exhibition runs from 24 October 2015 to 13 March 2016.

There is no fixed entrance fee: you have the choice to pay the amount which you think the exhibition is worth to you!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A sensational show of Gothic Horror not to miss

Image - South Wales Evening Post 
I deviate from ancient Egypt in this post to tell you about an amazing play I have seen tonight as it touched upon my other loves - the Victorian period, traditional ghost stories and memento mori.

Still Lives, performed at the Taliesin here in Swansea, is a co-production between Mappa Mundi and Theatr Mwldan (a theatre company and a presenting arts centre).

The performance is in the genre of Gothic horror and calls upon some of the works of Edgar Allen Poe and M R James.  Furthermore, it touches upon the Victorian fascination with photography and the afterlife, and is suitably set in the last decade of the nineteenth century.  The premise of the play is that the audience has been invited to hear a lecture given by a photographer (brilliantly played by Richard Nichols) and right from the beginning of the performance you are made to feel part of the what is being related.  The one hour and twenty minutes speed by as Nichols tells the stories behind some of the photographs he has been involved with.  I won't give any spoilers here but the tales are brilliantly acted and sufficiently eerie to make many of the audience gasp and jump.  The production's use of the magic consultants - Morgan and West - ensured we were all entranced with some cleverly constructed surprises.

There are only 5 actors in the play - Gwawr Loader, Francois Pandolfo, Lizzie Rogan, Keiron Self and of course Richard Nichols.  Each gave a first class performance - Gandolfo was especially chilling in several of the stories.  The play reminded me in some ways of the theatre production of The Woman in Black in so much as the production upholds the tradition of engaging audience suspense through pure old fashioned storytelling.  Yet saying this, there are some excellent special effects which gave us in the audience a feast of visual and audio entertainment.

The only disappointment was how small the audience was - where were you people of Swansea?  You  missed a real treat!!!

The tour of Still Lives is next arriving at Aberystwyth Art Centre on 20 and 21 October.  Then the tour ends at Theatre Frycheiniog in Brecon on the 22-23 October.  If you can get there, please do.  You won't be disappointed!

Image - South Wales Evening Post

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Secret Egypt Reaches Weston Park

Secret Egypt –
Unravelling Truth From Myth

17 October 2015- 10 April 2016

Ever wondered how the pyramids were built or how mummification worked? Visitors to Weston Park are set to find out this October as the museum opens the doors to a new blockbuster exhibition exploding the mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Secret Egypt – Unravelling Truth From Myth will explore evidence of objects spanning 4000 years to unearth the truth buried beneath popular myths surrounding one of the world’s greatest ancient civilisations.

Pectoral - fiance plaque depicting Anubis (copyright Birmingham Museums Trust)

From Agatha Christie to Indiana Jones, Egypt has been the inspiration for numerous books, films and TV shows. But how much of this is true? Bringing together over 150 objects drawn from Birmingham Museums' significant ancient Egyptian collection with items from Sheffield’s own collections, Secret Egypt will set visitors on an investigative journey to find the facts behind the fiction.

Canopic jar lid in form of Imsety (1069-664 BC) (Museums Sheffield)

The exhibition comprises six thought-provoking sections, each bringing together a wealth of archaeological evidence to dispel a modern misconception about ancient Egypt. Beware the mummy's curse! exposes the sensationalism behind the gory and gruesome idea that bandaged mummies would rise from the dead, Were the Egyptians obsessed with death? uncovers the real reasons behind the elaborate tombs and coffins, while Did aliens build the pyramids? reveals the archaeological evidence which put pay to the more fantastic explanations for ancient Egyptian civilisation.

 Objects on display will include the mummy and coffin of Namenkhetamun dating from around 600 BC. Visitors will also discover amulets, shabtis, and canopic jars illustrating what a burial chamber would have been like in Ancient Egypt and find out more about the elaborate tombs and coffins the Egyptian’s created.  The exhibition also tells the story of the fall of ancient Egypt, as well as celebrating the legacy it has left in our society some 2000 years later,

Wooden plaque Ramesses III (copyright Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery)

Lucy Cooper, Exhibition & Display Curator at Museums Sheffield, said:
‘We’re delighted to be working with Herbert Touring and Birmingham Museums Trust to share this fantastic myth-busting exhibition with visitors to Weston Park. Ancient Egypt has been the inspiration for some of our best-loved fiction, but we can’t wait to reveal the real story of this remarkable civilisation.’

Secret Egypt: Unravelling Truth From Myth opens at Weston Park on Saturday 17 October 2015 and continues until 10 April 2016 – entry to the exhibition is free.

A touring exhibition from the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, loaned by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council.

§  Museums Sheffield: Weston Park, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TP. Tel. 0114 278 2600
§  Museums Sheffield: Weston Park is open Monday – Friday 10am–5pm, Saturday 10am–5pm, Sunday 11am–4pm (open until 4pm Monday – Friday from 2 November 2015 until 15 February 2016).
§  Free Entry
§  Twitter: @museumsheffield
§  Secret Egypt has been curated by the Herbert Art Gallery & Museums, Head of Collections and Programmes Chris Kirby and Keeper of Collections Ali Wells.

Eye of Horus amulet (664-332 BC) (Museums Sheffield)

My thanks to Amy Farry (Communications Officer), Weston Park for the above information.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Selling Ancient Egypt

This week I have been doing some research into early twentieth century adverts which featured ancient Egypt as a selling ploy.  Unsurprisingly, quite a few originated from the period of Tutankhamen's tomb discovery which sparked a great love affair with not only the Tut himself, but also anything ancient Egyptian.  

It has been interesting to explore how the products that were advertised were linked to commonly perceived virtues associated with ancient Egypt during that period, for example, themes of beauty, glamour and quality are consistently explored in the adverts.  

Beauty products tapped into the idea of ancient Egyptian women as being "mysterious' and 'youthful' and adverts played on the idea that the civilisation were privy to deeply hidden secrets which allowed them to maintain this youthfulness.  Through the depiction of radiant, young Egyptian women alongside images of the product being marketed, there was a implied suggestion that by buying the brand, the purchaser could also become privy to the secrets of the ancients.

Palmolive frequently used ancient Egypt in their adverts for a variety of products which included soap, cream, powder,vanishing cream, shampoo and talcum powder.  One advert depicts Cleopatra reclining on a bed; in the background are two servants apparently concocting a mysterious potion.  Out of the vapours appear the image of Palmolive soap. "The great queen who reigned centuries ago" states the advert, "was one famous user of Palm and Olive oils - perhaps she pictured the day when modern science would combine them for universal toilet use".

Ancient Egypt was also linked to the concept of purity as evidenced in an advert for Sunlight Soap.  

"Sunlight Soap is always pure" declared the advert alongside the image of Egyptian women washing their clothes with the pyramids in the background. 
Tobacco companies also took to ancient Egypt to extol the pleasures of smoking their particular brand of cigarettes.  The inclusion of a beautiful young 'royal' ancient Egyptian woman in the Egyptian Deities advert opposite suggests a certain elegance and glamour to the product.  The wording also declares the brand are for "People of culture and refinement."  Another advert shown below for the same company portrays a statue on a throne-like seat and alongside it is a  contemporary photograph of a young lady seated royally on a draped chair.  The concept couldn't be clearer - smoke Egyptian Dieties and you too can feel not only like a King or Queen, but an ancient Egyptian King or Queen at that!!!

The idea of high quality can also be seen portrayed in advertising for other brands.  For example, Miltiades Cigarettes uses the sphinx in its royal headress as its logo, whilst Melachrino goes one further by using the goddess Maat alongside the tag-line "Melachrinos set the standard of cigarette quality".

Interestingly, companies would even use the concept of ancient Egypt even when the brand blatantly conflicted with what it was selling.  Take this early advert for Murad cigarettes.  Ancient Egyptian statues of Anubis, Egyptian furniture and architecture, and an Egyptian headress are all used to advertise Turkish cigarettes!

The use of ancient Egypt as a marketing tool continues to this day and the same concepts of quality and beauty are still important themes for advertisers. 

Take for example the Panasonic Lumix advert with its cleverly animated Anubis statue (click advert).

My personal favourite is the 1989 advert for Vaseline Intensive Care lotion where a mummy unwraps itself in a museum to reveal a beautiful young woman beneath the linen (click advert).  The Bangles "Walk Like An Egyptian" gives the advert an added thumbs up!!!

***Watch this space as I go off in search of ancient Egyptian inspired products and feature personal reviews on them***

Monday, 28 September 2015

Tamworth's First Carnival

Seems MacGregor is flavour of the month at the moment.

Another mention of him...this time about the hospital he helped create:

Tamworth's very first carnival

Image - Tamworth Herald