Favourite object - My Friend Bes

I want to introduce you to one of my favourite pieces in the Egypt Centre in Swansea...his name is Bes!

He is not the biggest artefact there or indeed the most important but I have a fond spot in my heart for him.

Image copyright of Egypt Centre

Bes is in fact a fragment of a vessel that I was introduced to in 2005 as part of an undergraduate  Material Culture module taught by Dr Kasia Szpakowska. We were asked, in pairs, to chose from a selected group of artefacts in order to examine its life-cycle.  This little fella caught my eye!

Over the next 6 weeks I photographed him, measured him, handled him (with gloves of course!) and researched how he came to have been made.  I learnt an amazing amount about manufacture of vessels and working with clay.  I examined the purpose of Bes vessels and the beliefs and customs of worship of household gods.  I was also introduced to the history of collecting by this project as I found out how he had come to be at the Egypt Centre and why he may have been of interest to collectors.

This small fragment of pottery (accession number W1702) measures 9.5 x 3.5 x 8.2 cm and has Deir el-Medina written in blue on the back by an unknown party. It is believed to have come from the New Kingdom and probably contained wine or milk when intact.  Further details can be accessed via the Egypt Centre searchable database.  If you are ever interested, my project containing all the information I found sits in his file!

This little guy marks the beginning of my specialisation in the History of Collecting; Bes ignited in me a passion for wanting to know why items such as this were collected and what type of people the collectors were.  I now do guest spots on the very same module speaking to second years about how to research the history of collecting section.

He may not be the most aesthetic of objects, but to me he is adorable.  Every time I pass him in the gallery I offer him a little thanks and a smile...


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