Thursday, 13 August 2015

Golden Mummy Mask from MacGregor Collection Discovered in Liverpool

I am very excited about a new object from the MacGregor Collection that has been brought to my attention by Dr Ashley Cooke of the World Museum in Liverpool. It is a beautiful golden faced mummy mask with a painted vulture on the top of the head.

The mummy mask features in the sale catalogue of MacGregor's collection as part of 7 objects which made up Lot 629.  The lot description stated:

"Five painted wood Fragments from mummy-cases, all of late period, one with a long inscription relating to a priest of Osiris; also two gilded Cartonnage Heads from mummy-cases, one in very damaged condition, the other well preserved"

The mummy mask is likely to be the one mentioned as 'damaged', for it is currently in a poor state of repair.  Despite its condition however, it is still remarkable: the colours are still vivid and the artwork is well executed.

I am now in the process of searching through my masses of research paperwork to see if I can find any mention of its find site or purchase information.

Watch this space for future news!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Death Exhibition at Bristol Museum to open October 2015

There is an exciting and innovative exhibition due to hit Bristol Museum later this year!  Death: The human experience, which opens in October 2015, will explore the various ways in which humans from around the world - and from different time periods -  have approached the subject of death and dying.  Featuring hundreds of objects from Bristol's world cultures, archaeology, natural sciences, social history and art collections, the exhibition will explore stories from different cultures from ancient times to modern day. 

Amber Druce and Lisa Graves, Collection Officers for World Cultures, hope that the exhibition can help visitors learn from other perspectives:

"Many psychologists and bereavement counsellors believe that as a society we, and especially children, need to talk more about death to make it less scary. In this exhibition we’re looking to offer a communal, safe environment to address the issues and ethics around death and dying. Many cultures concentrate on celebrating the lives of deceased loved ones, most famously in Mexico, so it isn’t all doom and gloom!"

The Mexican Day of the Dead is just one of many themes explored in the exhibition, which also include Victorian mourning rituals, mummification, Buddhist watercolours showing death processes and ancestor worship, bespoke coffins and mourning clothes and jewellery. This thought-provoking exhibition raises scientific and ethical questions and acts as a platform for discussion about  how people have responded to death creatively with music, humour, film and literature.

The preparation process of putting on the exhibition has been extensive, with the organisers speaking extensively to the public and to professionals from the death industry. This has resulted in an exciting public programme that will run alongside the exhibition including writing workshops, debates, theatre, film screenings, and day-schools. 

Even the cost of the exhibition is innovative - visitors have the choice to pay what they think the exhibition is worth.

The exhibition runs from 24 October to 13 March 2016. I for one will definitely be visiting...and probably more than once!!!

Bristol Museums

Death Exhibition

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Spotlight on a Collector - Alexander Henry Rhind

Alexander Henry Rhind was a lawyer and excavator.  He was born on 26 July 1833 in Caithness.

After wintering in Egypt due to ill health, Rhind excavated at Thebes and Giza in later years and published several books including Thebes; its tombs and their tenants (1862) and Egypt: its Climate, Character and Resources as a Winter Resort (1856).

Rhind acquired a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities which in later years he bequeathed to the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh (National Museum of Scotland) such as the bilingual Hieractic-Demotic papyri at Edinburgh (908-9).  A few, now well-known antiquities, also went to the British Museum such as the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus (EA 10057-8) which is a list of practical problems found in administrative and building works.  It contains 84 problems in the text concerned with numerical operations, practical problem-solving and geometrical shapes.

Rhind Mathematical Papyrus

Another British Museum antiquity is the Bremner-Rhind papyrus (EA  10188)

Rhind revisited Egypt in 1862-3 where he contracted a serious illness.  He died on the away home at Lake Como.

Bibliography:  Who Was Who in Egyptology 4th Revised Edition.  Ed. M L Bierbrier.  London: The Egypt Exploration Society (2012)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Unwrapping of a Mummy at Edgeworth Manor House

The Unwrapping of a Mummy at Edgeworth Manor House 

In the autumn of 1851, Edmund Hopkinson (1787-1869), the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, issued invitations to an eclectic mix of guests to his mansion, Edgeworth Manor in Stroud.  Scientists, doctors, chemists, and a scattering of Hopkinson’s friends, were promised a sumptuous dinner; but first they were to be treated to a very special late afternoon entertainment, for Hopkinson was in possession of an Egyptian mummy which he had chosen that day to unwrap.  Hopkinson was neither a collector nor had he acquired the mummy as a souvenir, both of which were the usual methods of owning such an antiquity.   Instead, it’s journey to Edgeworth Manor came via a succession of owners, each enjoying the artefact for its curiosity value. 

Edmund Hopkinson: Image from the National PortraitGallery

The mummy, and its three elaborate coffins, were first brought to England in 1834 by James Burton (1788-), an Egyptologist and collector of Egyptian antiquities.  In 1836 Burton placed his collection for sale through the auctioneers Wilkinson, Hodge and Sotheby’s, minus the mummy and the cartonage, which transferred ownership to Burton’s friend George Greenough.  It was likely that the mummy and cartonage may have changed hands in part repayment of the debt, as Burton is known to have lent heavilly from Greenough.  Both the mummy and its cartonnage were displayed in the ‘Mummy Room’ at Greenough's house in Regent's Park.  It formed part of a collection which was regularly shown to dinner guests in order to stimulate conversation.  It remained in Greenough’s home for 25 years until tiring of his curiosity, he offered it as an after dinner raffle prize.  The mummy was subsequently won by Hopkinson, the brother-in-law of Burton, in 1848 at a Christmas party. The mummy, nested within a cartonnage coffin, a wooden inner coffin and a rectangular outer coffin, now became resident in Edgewood Manor. 

The unwrapping of the mummy, since identified as Padiamun, a sailor of the barque of Amun,  was an elaborate affair.   Alongside the promised dinner, there were drinks and music supplied by the Cirencester Town Brass Band.  The unwrapping was performed by Mr Rumsey, a local surgeon, who it was reported, stripped the body of  no less than 280 yards of bandage. The removal of the inner wrappings proved difficult due to the layers of gum, but once released from its linen, the mummy proved to be in excellent condition: ‘the wrinkles of the skin, the form of the limbs, and even the expression of the countenance (were) well retained’.  Rumsey concluded that the brain had been removed via the nose which, in itself, showed considerable damage.  No papyri or inscriptions were found among the bandages, nor were there any amulets, scarabcoi, rings, or jewels about the body. At the conclusion of the examination the party sat down to dinner ‘where the elegance of the entertainment was only equalled by the kind courtesy and hospitality of the worthy host’.
The mummy, and its bandages, which were roughly replaced on the body after its unwrapping, was given by Hopkinson to the Gloucester Museum in 1852 together with one of the coffins.  The largest, outermost coffin and the innermost cartonage coffin had suffered badly from being kept in damp conditions and were thrown away by Hopkinson.  In 1953, Gloucester Museum gifted both the mummy and its coffin to Liverpool Museum to replace objects lost in World War Two when the Egyptian Gallery was bombed (accession number 53.72).  
The Mummy of Padiamun
Image via Liverpool Museums

Padiamun has undergone several investigations since coming to Liverpool.   In 1967, the mummy was x-rayed and an instrument used by Rumsey in the 1851 unwrapping was found to be still lying inside the skull.  The coffin has also been dated to the 22nd dynasty and its style has been identified as  being contemporary to the area of Thebes.  More recent scanning has also taken place and has produced some remarkably clear images of the mummy without having to inflict any further intrusive damage.

Scan of Padiamun's nasal cavity
Image via Liverpool Museums

Coffin of Padiamun

The coffin is beautifully decorated - on the front is an image of Padiamun and Osiris in the hall of judgement.  Padiamun is clutching his heart in readiness for it being weighed and Thoth, Anubis and Maat are shown accompanying him.  On the shoulders of the coffin can be seen the rare images of hippocampus (seahorses). On the inside there is a died pillar  holding the crook and flail often seen as a symbol of kingship.  It also has horns which can be associated with the god Khnumn. Ba birds fly above the horns, arms reaching for the sun disc.  At the top of the coffin, a single figure holds up a solar barque.


Cooke, N (1996).  ‘Burton and KV5’ in Minerva pp6-9.

Cooke, N. (2001).  The Forgotten Egyptologist: James Burton in P. Starkey & J Starkey (Eds) Travellers in Egypt.  London: I B Tauris & Co. Ltd P85-96

Davies, R A (1985).  Haliburton’s Letters in The Thomas Chandler Haliburton Symposium Ed. F M Tierney.  Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press: pp25-36, 29.

Gloucester Journal.  25 October 1851.

Stroud News, The Mummy Returns! Unwrap an Egyptian Easter surprise,  9th April 2009

Taylor, J.H. (2003), 'Theban coffins from the 22nd to the 26th Dynasty: dating and synthesis of development ' in Nigel Strudwick and John H Taylor (eds.) The Theban Necropolis: Past, Present and Future.  London: British Museum Press pp.109-10, pl. 59

Saturday, 25 July 2015

On This Day...excavator, benefactor & collector Richard Vyse was born

On this day in 1794, the benefactor, excavator and author, Richard William Howard Vyse was born.

In 1835 he carried out excavations at the pyramids of Giza, which were considered to be one of the most important investigations on this area to have been carried out during the nineteenth century.

Vyse subsequently wrote Operations carried on at the pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, a text that still retained relevance into modern times.

Vyse collected Egyptian antiquities, some of which were gifted to the British Museum.

One item was a 12th dynasty granodiorite statue of Senwosret I (EA 44) said to be from Karnak.

Another item from his collection, also in the British Museum was a 4th dynasty wooden anthropoid coffin of Menkaure (EA 6647).

Bibliography: Who Was Who in Egyptology 4th Revised Edition.  Ed. M L Bierbrier.  London: The Egypt Exploration Society (2012)

Friday, 10 July 2015

2015-16 Lectures at the Egypt Centre

I am very excited to announce the 2015-16 list of speakers for the Egypt Centre, Swansea have been finalised and are listed below.

I hope that those that are in Wales around the time of these evenings will pop along, enjoy the talk and even come for a meal afterwards with us if you are able! 

Wednesday 16 September 2015

This month’s lecture will follow the Friends of the Egypt Centre AGM, which begins at 6pm and is held at the same venue as the lecture.  All Friends are welcome and are encouraged to attend. 

TitlePresenting Ancient Egypt - the creation of the Secret Egypt exhibition

Abstract: This talk will look at the interpretative techniques that were used to create a highly successful exhibition on ancient Egypt that has been seen by over 120,000 people around the UK. We will see how through the interpreted use of primary source material, Secret Egypt has attempted to dispel well established misconceptions about ancient Egypt to convey a more accurate but still remarkable and vivid picture of this ancient civilisation.

Chris Kirby
Director of Collections for Culture Coventry

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Title: Ancient Egyptian Demons: an interactive workshop

Abstract: Ancient Egyptian demons are conceptual imaginings of ancient minds, a projection and manifestation of fears of the unexplained. A short lecture will discuss some of the problems encountered when modern scholars study these ancient visualisations and textual descriptions of demons. Following this is an interactive workshop that brings the Demon Creation Station (Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: 2K) to you, so expect to get creative!

Zuzanna Bennett
PhD candidate in Egyptology
The Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project: Second Millennium BCE
Swansea University

Wednesday 25 November 2015

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

Abstract: 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.

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

16 December 2015

Title: Visualising the votive: revealing mummified animals using X-rays

How can we unravel the secrets of the dead? Materials science, engineering, microscopy, zooarcheaology, Egyptology, and herpetology (and a BBC documentary crew!) are combined to investigate a number of different animal mummies from the Egypt Centre collection. Using advanced X-ray imaging, we reveal internal structures at high resolution, including ‘harder’ skeletal structures, wrappings and mummification materials, and even dessicated soft tissues. These structures remain intact after thousands of years, and are made visible by X-ray microtomography. 

Dr Richard Johnston
Senior Lecturer | Materials Research Centre
College of Engineering | Swansea University

Christmas Get Together: After the lecture there will follow the Friends’ Christmas get together.  Don’t forget to pop this event into your diary!

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Title: Search for the Missing Tombs of Egypt

Abstract: Manetho and others gave us lists of kings. Archaeologists have provided us with their tombs, but not quite all of them - yet. What are the chances that the tombs of Imhotep, Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and others have yet to be found and where might they be?

Book Signing: After the lecture, there will be opportunities to buy a signed copy of Dr Naunton’s newly published book.

Dr Chris Naunton
Egypt Exploration Society

February 2016

Title: Decoding Egyptian Art

Abstract: To come

Professor Alan Lloyd

There will be the opportunity to purchase second-hand books relating to Egyptology and history this evening; all proceeds will go to the Friends of the Egypt Centre.

Wednesday 16 March 2016
Memorial Lecture

Title: The Mummy Trial

Abstract: Around 3000 years ago the Chantress of Amun, Iwesemhesetmut, passed over to the west, to dwell forever in the land of the gods.  Should we display her carefully mummified body, or ‘hide’ it in the museum stores? You, the jury, will decide.*

Presented by the Egypt Centre staff and volunteers with the Friends of the Egypt Centre.

This is a ticketed event.  Tickets for this exciting and innovative night will be limited so book early to avoid disappointment.  Tickets are free to current Friends.  Guests/non-members £5.  Wine and cheese will be served during the interval.

Please note: this event will be from 7 – 9 pm.

* This is a fictional scenario designed to raise awareness of issues surrounding display of human remains- unfortunately the body of the Chantress was destroyed many years ago.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Title: In Bed with the Egyptians

Abstract: In this talk we will go behind the bedroom doors of the ancient Egyptians to investigate the most intimate moments of their lives. We will discover what they found attractive, general approaches to sex, pre, post and extra-marital. We will also discover what the consequences of sex were; both positive and negative.

Charlotte Booth
PhD Candidate
University of Birmingham

Book Signing: After the lecture, there will be opportunities to buy a signed copy of Charlotte’s newly published book.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Title: Snakes Alive!

Abstract: EES Trustee Dr Linda Steynor explores the use of figurative language in the enjoyable but enigmatic Ancient Egyptian poem, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor. She highlights issues of accessibility and appreciation and illustrates the hidden complexities of the Sailor’s apparently simple ‘tall tale’, showing how his word-pictures offer a moral compass and provide a strategy for coping with the vicissitudes of life, as relevant now as for the Ancient Egyptian.

Dr Linda Steynor
Trustee of the Egypt Exploration Society.

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Talk: Egypt in England

Abstract: More than two hundred years of the cultural legacy of Ancient Egypt, expressed through Egyptian style architecture in England. Mock temples, pyramids, and obelisks. The What, Where, and Why of buildings ranging from mill to mausoleum and cinema to synagogue.

Book signing: There will be an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of Chris’ book after the talk.

Chris Elliott is the author of Egypt in England.  He is a member of the Society of Authors and the Egypt Exploration Society, does tours and walks around London and has appeared on the TV series ‘How London was Built’.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Horizon Features Egypt Centre Animal Mummies

Sometime ago I featured as a guest blogger for the Egypt Centre and reported on some exciting news about the collaboration between the Museum, Swansea University Engineering Department and the Medical Department who were all working together to x-ray some of the animal mummies that are in the collection.

The excitement continues in that the results are to feature on a Horizon programme on 11th May at 9pm on BBC Two.  A preview of "70 Million Animal Mummies: Egypt's Dark Secret can be found here.

To read my blog post on the project, click here

70 Million Animal Mummies: Egypt's Dark Secret