Friday, 3 December 2010

Website of the Week #7: A History of the World in 100 Objects

For this week's "Website of the Week" I've chosen the homepage of the 'History of the World in 100 Objects' series, a BBC and British Museum project broadcast on BBC Radio 4. If you havn't heard about this project then I highly recommend a visit to this website; the whole series of programmes, grouped thematically, are accessible as podcasts which can be saved to your computer, and there is also an interactive timeline which allows the visitor to filter the '100 Objects' by e.g. location, material, size and culture. 

The wide range of objects included in the series include items of personal adornment, stone tools, sculpture and architectural elements, ranging from 2,000,000BC to the present day. This useful tool is not only beneficial for members of the interested public but also acts as a quick reference for students of archaeology and related subjects. Another interesting feature of the site is the 'Featured Museum' - a focus on a local museum involved with the project - proving that objects of cultural and historical importance can also be found in smaller local museums across the country.

The website offers the opportunity for the public to add their objects to the list, and to participate in the series of related events due to take place in museums across the country. Dr. Neil MacGregor has published the companion volume with the same title, which I also highly recommend. If you'd like to learn more about World History in an interesting, engaging setting, then this is the site for you.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Website of the Week #6: The World of Beatrix Potter

For this week's 'Website of the Week' I've chosen the homepage of the 'World of Beatrix Potter' as something a little bit different! I've been fascinated with the life and history of Beatrix Potter since I was a child, and this website is a lovely starting point for anyone interested in 'Miss Potter' and her little books; the most famous of course being 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'. In fact, there is an Egyptological link here: a copy of Peter Rabbit in hieroglyphs was published by the British Museum Press!

The website contains information and images of Beatrix's artwork, including her famous paintings and drawings of animals and plants, and landscape paintings of the Lake District. Some of her childhood sketches have also been reproduced, which allows the visitor to trace the development of her artwork over the course of her life. There are also a large selection of printable downloads, including a wallpaper calendar and a relevant map of the Lake District. Do take a look, and hopefully this will prompt you to revisit the books of Peter Rabbit and perhaps even visit Beatrix Potter's house at Hill Top, Hawkshead, which is currently in the care of the National Trust. 

Visit to the Dales Countryside Museum, Hawes

I visited the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes, North Yorkshire, on a Sunday jolly with my mother last weekend. I am very interested in the history of the Yorkshire Dales and the local countryside, and I hoped that this Museum would satisfy my interests. I was not disappointed; the enormous collection of objects relating to life in the Yorkshire Dales range from Romano-British coins and milestones to local children's toys dating to the Victorian era.

A small selection of the huge collection of farming equipment
The Museum is arranged chronologically, beginning first with the archaeology and history of the Dales from the Prehistoric and Roman Periods and concluding with a piece on modern farming practices and the impact of the current economic conditions on the local farmers. The Museum was officially opened in 1979, and is located in the Victorian buildings which once functioned as Hawes Railway Station. A superb use of space employs an old train as an exhibition area for the history of the Railway and the social history of the area, including a case on the tradition of countryside sports and Victorian pastimes. 

The exhibition in the main building snakes around the large gift shop and is designed to allow the visitor to experience different local working situations, such as life in coal mine, a Victorian pharmacy, a milk farm and a ropeworks. Though the building does not look particularly large from the outside, the layout of the exhibition makes full use of the internal space with a mezzanine floor and connecting rooms.

Image of the train converted into an exhibition space at the Museum

View of the reconstructed Victorian pharmacy
On the whole, the objects are well labelled and there are also extended descriptions where required. I was also impressed with the use of audio recordings in some of the scenes, including a description of haytiming during the early 20th Century, and an interactive touchscreen which detailed the history of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Unfortunately we visited on a rather quiet day; the Museum frequently holds events for families and interested visitors including dry stone walling, spinning and weaving demonstrations, and rag rug making, and I would very much like to return for an event in the future. Though the Museum is somewhat off the beaten track, I highly recommend a visit for a fascinating and unusual day out. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

Website of the Week #5: Ancient Egypt Online

For this week's "Website of the Week" I've chosen Ancient Egypt Online: a new website dedicated to the study of ancient Egypt created by Nicholas Wernick, a Ph.D student in Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. This site aims to be more comprehensive and user-friendly than the current selection of Egyptological websites, and even though it is still in the early stages of development, it is clear that over time it will become a useful study tool for students of Egyptology and general interest alike. 

The different sections of the site are being written and designed by a small group of MA and Ph.D students from Liverpool, with the prior aim that the information supplied is as accurate and up-to-date as possible - this includes the current news stories that are regularly added to the news feed.

I must confess that I have a personal interest in the site; I have written some of the content and I have also supplied some of my own images of Egyptian sites. However, I do genuinely believe that the importance of the site as a tool for current Egyptological research will continue to develop as the different sections are added to over the coming months, and I would certainly recommend that you take a look.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

A New Acquisition: 1945 Guidebook for Luxor and Upper Egypt

Yesterday, on the advice of my good friends David Smith and Helen Murphy, I picked up a small, yet perfectly preserved paperback Guidebook of Egypt from Reids of Liverpool Bookstore, entitled "The Latest Pocket Guidebook to Luxor & Environments, Including also Tutankhamun", for the princely sum of £8 [Apologies for the quality of the images, I didn't use a flash].

It was written by N. F. Mansfield-Meade, an English resident of Luxor, who describes the volume as "Historically Accurate, Beautifully Illustrated, Lucid & Interesting". This is the 1945 (5th) Edition, but the 1st Edition was written in 1926; four years after Howard Carter's discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

The book itself of course is a treat: there is a pull-out map of Karnak Temple, and images of sites dating to the 1920's which are archival records in themselves; the quiet image of the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx a stark contrast to the modern-day visitor experience of the Giza Plateau. 

 However, it is not just the book which interested me. This guidebook was evidently used by a certain British Serviceman in Egypt post-1945: a black-and-white photograph of a saluting patrol was tucked in the back, together with a leaflet for the YMCA Club and Hostel, Ismailia, "Open to all Services and Services Families". I'm not entirely sure who this book  belonged to (though I will be pursuing this further), but nevertheless I'm delighted to be the new owner of this little piece of history. 

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dr. Jaromir Malek at MAES: Their Rules and Ours: The Art in the Tomb of Tutankhamun

Last night (November 8th) marked the inaugural lecture of the Tutankhamun exhibition lecture series at the Trafford Centre's Museum of Museums. Dr. Jaromir Malek, keeper of the Griffith Institute Archive, Oxford, gave a fascinating lecture on the study of artistic representation in ancient Egyptian art, and how pieces from the tomb of Tutankhamun can be used to illustrate theories and principles of artistic proportion and decorum.

Dr. Malek began by presenting several images of modern art, together with the mask of Tutankhamun. He reminded the audience that, for each of the pieces, they did not need  any specialist knowledge of art to be emotionally moved after seeing them. This, of course, is entirely correct, though I must say, for me, having even limited knowledge of the ancient Egyptian rules of decorum dramatically enhances my enjoyment of the ancient art, and I do hope that much of the audience were able to say the same after Dr. Malek's lecture.

The audience were reminded that Egyptian art should not be viewed in isolation, and certainly that it should not simply be taken at face value. Some of the complex ideas inherent in the ancient art are still not fully understood today, for example the exact significance of the animal-headed couches from the tomb of Tutankhamun. The modern viewer simply cannot experience the artefacts on the same emotional level as the ancient Egyptians; one should always remember that their production relied upon a complex ancient system of religious, traditional and artistic conventions.

The two 'Guardian Statues' before the entrance to the Burial Chamber
Dr. Malek then went on to discuss the treatment of the human body in the ancient reliefs and paintings, and interestingly reminded the audience that the same conventions used in the portrayal of King Narmer on the Narmer Palette were also used in the production of the so-called 'Guardian Statues' from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Each part of the human figure was shown in its most characteristic view as composite elements of a whole, and throughout the pharaonic period the left foot of a human figure always stepped before the right. 

Another interesting theory presented in the lecture concerned the pose of cat statues: the tail of a cat was considered to be a fundamental element in ancient Egypt feline representation, and it was always represented on the right side of the cat's body. The most famous example of this idea is, of course, the Gayer-Anderson Cat in the British Museum. This theory also affects where the figures would have been positioned in antiquity; a sphinx with it's tail on the right must surely have been placed to the left of an entrance, so that the tail was clearly visible to the onlooker.

Howard Carter inspecting the Second Coffin of Tutankhamun
Finally, Dr. Malek released a rather mind-boggling statistic: Howard Carter and his team excavated 5398 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun, and at the current rate of publication it will take until the year 2215AD to complete the publication of the tomb's entire contents! So far only 30% of the objects have been studied and published to an academic standard, and the worldwide participation of Egyptological institutions will be required to complete the task. This is a massive job, and although chances are that we won't see the completion in our lifetimes, the work of Dr. Malek and the Griffith Institute is going a long way to make it happen. I do highly recommend a visit to the homepage of the Institute, though be sure to set aside a good amount of time as it is very easy to spend hours looking through the digitised archive!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Visiting the "Journey Though the Afterlife: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead" Exhibition

During a day trip to London this week I managed to find the time to visit the new Book of the Dead exhibition at the British Museum, on the opening day. The tickets to the exhibition are timed to allow for the efficient flow of visitors, and I booked a ticket for 5.40pm. Entering the exhibition area, within the circular Reading Room in the centre of the Great Court, was rather atmospheric in itself as the shadowy moonlight flooded through the ceiling of the Great Court.

The Book of the Dead of Hunefer, illustrating the 'Opening of the Mouth' ritual. New Kingdom.
The Book of the Dead was the culmination of the ancient Egyptian tradition of creating religious texts for the deceased. These texts, made up of a series of spells, were necessary to enable the deceased to enter their afterlife, while also avoiding potential dangers along the journey. The exhibition promises that, "The Book of the Dead will help you to be in full command of your special powers so that you can avoid disaster along the way".

The earliest example of this were the Pyramid Texts; a series of religious inscriptions carved onto the walls of the royal pyramids during the Old Kingdom. This idea was transferred to the walls of coffins during the Middle Kingdom, known as the Coffin Texts. It was during the New Kingdom that the Book of the Dead, funerary texts inscribed on papyrus, mummy bandages and coffins, developed from the Coffin Texts.The papyri were sometimes placed within the coffin alongside the deceased. The majority of the Books on display date to the New Kingdom, though there are also several papyri dating to the Late Period.

The "Pyramid Texts" from the 6th Dynasty Pyramid of Teti at Saqqara
The choice of the Reading Room for the exhibition was an excellent one; the visitor ascends a flight of stairs before making their way through a cluster of rooms, 11 in total, each dedicated to a particular aspect of the burial. The visitor literally follows the ancient Egyptian journey from death to the afterlife through the maze of rooms; a journey which is made all the more real with the use of atmospheric lighting and hushed silence. The dimmed lighting is also necessary to protect the fragile photosensitive papyri from permanent damage, which is also why photography is not allowed. 

The exhibition utilises a variety of different digital media in several of the rooms, including interactive video slideshows and projected images, and relevant objects are displayed alongside the selection of Book of the Dead papyri, including shabti-figures, jewellery and amulets, which enhance the viewer's understanding of the particular concepts illustrated by the papyri, and help to place the papyri in their historical context. Many of the objects chosen for the exhibition have never been seen before by the general public, and although a small number of the objects are on loan from overseas institutions, the vast majority of the objects are from the British Museum collection.

The Book of the Dead of Ani, illustrating the 'Weighing of the Heart' ritual. New Kingdom.
Some personal highlights include the famous New Kingdom Books of the Dead of Hunefer, an overseer of the palace of Seti I, and Ani, a royal scribe. Unfortunately, we do not have a provenance for these papyri as they entered the collection via antiquities dealers during the latter half of the 19th Century, but their illustrations are still as vivid as they must have been in ancient times. At the end of the exhibition, once the visitor has completed their journey to the afterlife, they must walk along a curved pathway, which has been used very effectively to display the Greenfield Papyrus. This is the longest Book of the Dead in existence, measuring 121feet/37metres.

The exhibition catalogue has been written by Dr. John Taylor, Assistant Keeper of Ancient Egypt and the Sudan at the British Museum, who also featured in a BBC news story about the exhibition. The only advice that I would add is to make sure you have at least three available hours for your visit - it took me at least that long to complete the visit and I was forced to rush towards the end to catch my train! It was a fantastic experience to visit the exhibition on its opening day, and judging from the volume of visitors on that day alone it is clear that the exhibition will be a resounding success.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Visit to Harrow School 4.11.10

This week I was privileged enough to visit the Egyptian galleries at Harrow School, Northwest London, with a group from the University of Liverpool. The Egyptian collection, containing some 900 objects, was donated to the museum in 1864 by a former pupil, Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, on the condition that it was used for the education of the schoolboys. The collection consists of objects that were purchased by Gardner Wilkinson during his travels in Egypt, together with a selection of objects from the EES excavations in the Faiyum and some objects from other private collections. His handwritten catalogues are also housed in the museum.

Painted limestone head of a sphinx. New Kingdom
The current display was designed by Dr. Ian Shaw, University of Liverpool, during the 1990's, and consists of a large, rectangular case of Egyptian objects on the ground floor and a tall case on the upper mezzanine. The collection also features Greek objects and a selection of modern British paintings; one of which can be attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, a former pupil of Harrow School.

The attitude of Gardner Wilkinson to archaeology and artefact acquisition at that time was surprisingly ahead of its time; Dr. Shaw's short catalogue of the collection preserves an excerpt of a letter from Gardner Wilkinson to the headmaster of Harrow in 1864: 

"You know how often an interesting object may afford most useful information relating to customs and dates which, if not explained, may pass unobserved. Fragments of pottery may sometimes prove or illustrate more, and be of greater importance than, an entire handsome vase - one instance of this occurs to me in a broken bottle in the Egyptian collection that many might look upon as an insignificant fragment though it enables us to correct the date generally assigned to vases of that particular style".
Funerary cone with the name of Neferhotep, 4th Prophet of Amun, from Thebes. New Kingdom

Rosette inlay tiles from from Tell el-Yahudiya. New Kingdom

Commemorative green-glazed steatite scarab of Amenhotep III. New Kingdom
Wooden hammer, mallet (Roman Period), copper alloy knife and chisel. New Kingdom

Selection of shabti-figurines. Late Period
It is this attitude towards artefact acquisition which makes the Harrow collection well worth a visit - extravagant gilded objects and fragments of stone statues are displayed together with objects of daily life, such as a stonemason's chisel, mallet and hammer, and toilet articles. The collection contains several royal objects of interest, including a painted fragment and a shabti from the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings, five inlay rosettes from Tell el-Yahudiya, an unusual human-headed scaraboid with the cartouche of Tuthmosis III and one of Amenhotep III's commemorative 'Wedding' scarabs. Interestingly, a quartzite fragment from one of the Colossi of Memnon is also on display. 

Fragment from the Tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings
Gilded and painted head from a cartonnage mummy case. Ptolemaic Period
Scaraboid with the face of Tuthmosis III wearing the blue crown. New Kingdom
The collection represents sites from all over Egypt, in a variety of materials which represent the technological processes used in their production throughout the pharaonic period. Despite the fact that the display is already over ten years old, the use of suspended glass shelves and a two-tier method of displaying the objects means that it still appears quite modern to the visitor. I would like to see more of the collection on display in the future, but as it stands the current display makes good use of the space that is available, with a choice of objects that is truly representative of Gardner Wilkinson's extensive collection, and it is well worth a visit.

Website of the Week #4: The Epigraphic Survey

For this week's 'Website of the Week' I have chosen the homepage of the Epigraphic Survey of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. I have a particular interest in the work of the Epigraphic Survey, directed by Dr. W. R. Johnson, as they are currently involved in the documentation and conservation of Luxor Temple, constructed primarily by Amenhotep III

The Epigraphic Survey, based at Chicago House, Luxor, has worked in Egypt since 1924 to record the scenes and inscriptions preserved on the ancient monuments to a very high standard; a technique known as the "Chicago House Method". Many of the OI publications are also available as free PDF downloads from the site, including the Medinet Habu volumes. I'm sure many of you are already very familiar with the work of the Chicago team, but do visit the website again to view their 2009-10 field season report and a selection of  associated photographic portfolios containing high-quality images of sites in Egypt, including Gebel es-Silsilah and the temples in Luxor.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Guest Article by Prof. Ken Kitchen: "Egypt's Exotic Trade with Africa"

Do have a look at the Iconic Guides website for a guest piece by Prof. Ken Kitchen on Punt and Egypt's trade links with Africa. 

The piece marks the launch of the new updated "Iconic Guide" to the temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Website of the Week #3: Iconic Guides: Audio Tours to the Ancient World

For this week's "Website of the Week", I recommend a visit to the homepage of the Iconic Guides. This project was spearheaded by Dr. Benedict Davies, who holds a Ph.D in Egyptology and is a successful freelance author of several Egyptological volumes.

The beauty of the project is that it offers professional MP3 audio downloads, which you can then transfer to your MP3/IPod for a wide selection of sites in Egypt, Greece and Japan at reasonable prices, and the list of sites is constantly increasing. You also receive a printable PDF plan of the site you have chosen, and the numbers on the PDF correspond with sections of the audio.

The guides are much cheaper and easier to arrange than a professional tour at the sites, so do have a look at the website and hopefully it'll come in handy when you're preparing your next holiday.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Free Online Issue of Geoarchaeology Journal: Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley

Just a quick note to let you know of a free online issue of the Geoarchaeology Journal, which contains articles on climate change in antiquity and related issues including a paper on Holocene movements of the Nile at Karnak by Dr. Judith Bunbury (St. Edmund's College, Cambridge) et al. Do have a look, the articles are downloadable as PDFs and make for interesting reading.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

EES North Launch Event: Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley

Yesterday afternoon (October 23rd) marked the inauguration of the new EES North Lecture Series with a Day School entitled "Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley". The event took place in the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester, and was well-attended by over 60 delegates; the audience comprised of both academics and interested members of the public, many of whom belonged to regional Egyptology societies.

The afternoon commenced with an opening address from Dr. Karen Exell, and the first lecture was given by Dr. Penny Wilson of Durham University entitled:  "Fishing, Feasting and Famine: A Guide to Ancient Nile Delta Environments". Dr. Wilson is the Field Director of the joint Durham University/Egypt Exploration Society/SCA project at Sais (Sa el-Hagar) in the Egyptian Delta. She presented fascinating evidence for food acquisition, processing and consumption at Sais during the Prehistoric and Predynastic Period, based on her 10 year's work at the site. 

The 'Great Pit' filled with water
A key feature of this account is the so-called 'Great Pit' that has been excavated to the south of the site, which contained both Prehistoric and Predynastic pottery together with a very thick layer of burnt fishbones and vessels preserving a 'fishbone' motif. The team have recovered over 15,000 fish bones, and one hippopotamus bone, though only 5000 of the bones can be identified with any certainty. The bones included those of the Catfish, Tilapia fish and Nile Perch, and an analysis of the remains suggests that the fish were being processed. Another interesting feature of the site is a late Ramesside 'house' area in the Northern Enclosure, which preserved may smashed vessels and an assortment of burnt botanical remains. Dr. Wilson suggests that this may be evidence of a feast which took place before the roof of the house collapsed and destroyed the pottery vessels.  

Angus Graham then presented a paper entitled: "Islands, Marshes, Sloughs and the Nile: Karnak within a Dynamic Theban Floodplain" on behalf of the EES Karnak Land- and Waterscapes Survey, an Amelia Edwards Research Project. Angus is always a very entertaining speaker, and despite a few technical hitches the lecture was very well received and produced several intriguing ideas concerning the area in and around Thebes. The data was based on Angus' sediment coring work on the East Bank at Luxor; his team have investigated 27 augersites at Karnak alone in five seasons (2002-8). 

A fascinating point to note is that evidence may begin to emerge  in the coming seasons of an Old Kingdom settlement on higher ground at Karnak; I for one will be looking forward to those potential results. Angus concluded by stating that Karnak really was the 'ideal' location for a cult temple in ancient times: it had access to water, it was placed on land which was not eroded by the river, it preserves evidence of biodiversity and it was clearly an area where the natural and cosmological world are unified. 

Aerial photograph indicating the ancient Nile courses at Karnak
Dr. Judith Bunbury (St. Edmund's College, Cambridge) and Dr. David Jeffreys (UCL) then co-presented a paper entitled, "New Work at Memphis: White Walls in Text and Context". Dr. Bunbury began with an illuminating lecture based on the idea of climate change early in Egyptian history, and the effect that changing temperatures had on human movements and changes in the vegetation of desert regions. Dr. Bunbury's data, like Angus', comes from her auger-boring work at several sites, including Hierakonpolis, Giza, Gurob and Memphis. She reiterates the idea that throughout Egyptian history there must have existed a long-running dialogue between the people of the deserts, and the landscape, and that Memphis in particular certainly persisted from the Predynastic Period, but was constantly re-founded on account of it's highly important strategic position at the base of the Delta. 

Ruins of the Temple of Ptah at Memphis
Dr. Jeffreys ended the day with a fascinating lecture on his work as the Director of the Survey of Memphis since 1980. Several interesting ideas were presented, which focussed on the point that Dr. Jeffreys is determined to always challenge and question past presuppositions concerning Memphis and the surrounding area. He referenced the work of Joseph Hekekyan (1807-1875), an Armenian geologist - and perhaps the world's first geoarchaeologist - who illustrated possible reconstructions of Memphite features, including the great Colossus of Ramesses II on display at Mit Rahina

Dr. Jeffreys and his team recently excavated a area of Ramesside priest's houses, where interestingly they discovered a layer of sand, which is suggestive of climate change and the associated dessication of the landscape. It is clear that the team must work quickly: the land in and around Memphis is all privately owned, and buildings are being erected fast upon the archaeological site. But the results of the Survey to date have revealed much about the history of Memphis and the Nile movements in the area, and one can only hope that the authorities involved allow the team to continue their work at a reasonable pace over the coming seasons.

A wine reception then followed, which  was an excellent opportunity to meet the speakers and to socialise with members of the Society. Overall, the Climate Change Day School was a success - an outcome which was clearly a result of the excellent choice of speakers, who provided an  entertaining and thought-provoking afternoon of lectures.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Tutankhamun in Manchester: His Tomb and Treasures

I was lucky enough to attend the preview of the new "Tutankhamun: His Tomb and Treasures" exhibition at the Trafford Centre, Manchester, on Thursday 21st October. This is a touring exhibition that has previously visited Germany, Spain and Hungary, and offers the visitor over 1000 high-quality replica objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun. I have previously visited a similar display in Blackpool in 2002, and I must say this the quality of the Manchester exhibit and its objects far surpasses those which I saw then. 

Bob Partridge
The exhibition is set in a huge warehouse in the Museum of Museums at the Trafford Centre, and audio guides and guided tours of the exhibition are available. On entering the visitor first sees the only genuine 'artefact' in the exhibition: a  delicate bunch of papyrus stems set in the middle of the entrance.

The evening was certainly a success; over 200 visitors enjoyed Egyptian music and refreshments while they milled around the display. There were several speeches, including those of the German team behind the project, the Chairman of Ancient Egypt Magazine, Bob Partridge, and the Director of Manchester Museum, Dr. Nick Merriman.

The Treasury
The Antechamber
The great benefit of this exhibition is that the majority of the objects have been replicated twice, but displayed in different contexts: the visitor is able to see the Antechamber, the Treasury and the Burial Chamber as Howard Carter found them. Each room is recreated with precise attention to detail, based on the original Harry Burton photographs, though I must say that for me the Antechamber is the most spectacular, on account of the fact that the visitor is able to view the room from between the two 'guardian statues' - a vantage point that is not available in Cairo.

The Middle Coffin
The visitor then enters a succession of rooms containing a sizable collection of objects: the coffins and shrines have all been replicated, together with the burial mask of course, and objects from both daily life and the afterlife fill the enormous space. Some of the key objects include the golden throne, which has been copied in precise detail and displayed upon a dais, and one of the king's chariots, which is the centrepiece of a display on Egyptian Warfare. 

The Quartzite Sarcophagus
Finally, the visitor enters a room dedicated to the work of Howard Carter, in association with the Griffith Institute - here, detailed replicas of Carter's watercolours hang upon the walls, and a set of flat-bed cases contain facsimile letters addressed to and from Carter, together with a selection of his publications. A film of highlights of the excavation and of Carter's life is also projected in this room. A well-equipped gift shop is available at the end of the exhibition.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to the Tutankhamun exhibition, especially if you've not yet had the good fortune to see the real things in Cairo. I also recommend reading Jaromir Malek's review in this month's Ancient Egypt Magazine for a detailed and accurate account of the exhibition. 

Monday, 18 October 2010

Website of the Week #2: CultNat

This week's Website of the Week is that of the Center for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CultNat) in Egypt. This extensive project is affiliated with Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the CultNat team are working at a fast pace to document every aspect of Egypt's heritage; both ancient and modern. 

It is a truly massive project, though it is extremely worthwhile as a documentation tool for scholars and amateurs alike. I was lucky enough to visit the Headquarters of CultNat in April 2010 with Dr. Judith Bunbury of Cambridge University. The CultNat project also houses the ongoing 'Eternal Egypt' project, and the website contains descriptions and 3D views of over 2000 ancient Egyptian artefacts. Do let me know what you think!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

"Hoo's Ta Gaan On": The Traditional Dialect of Old Lakeland

As you might gather from the name of this Blog I am very interested in the traditional Cumbrian dialect, especially in the region of old Westmorland, and I would like to play a small part in the preservation and promotion of this fascinating, yet rapidly declining local dialect. I was lucky enough to learn the traditional sheep counting numbers first-hand when I was a child from my grandfather, Mr. George Henry Rowlinson Esq., when he worked as a dairy farmer in the Dales, and I've had an interest in the history of the local dialect ever since.

The Cumbrian dialect contains Norse and Celtic influences, and there are distinct variations in the dialect between the county regions; for example the North/West Cumbrian accent was greatly influenced by the Scottish and Geordie dialects, in contrast to the South which preserves aspects of both the Lancashire and Yorkshire dialects.

The beauty of the dialect is that it even varies from village to village in the same region. One of the most noticable features of the Cumbrian dialect is the dropping of vowels and the shortening of adjoining words, especially when associated with the word 'The'; for example instead of 'On the', a Cumbrian would say 'Ont'.

I would highly recommend a visit to the webpage of the Lakeland Dialect Society, which was founded in 1939 to support the preservation of the Cumbrian dialect, and to hear a reading of a poem entitled "Use It or Lose It" by the President of the Society, Ted Relph. An article of Ted's in the Cumberland News makes for an interesting read. Another entertaining recital of the dialect can be found in the form of a Bible reading in the traditional Cumbrian dialect by Rene Roberts on BBC Radio Cumbria.

One of my favourite choice of words has to be:

 "Brossen - Adj. Bloated and round with food particularly as applied to a cow, sheep or other herbivore (Think of a Thelwell pony)", taken from Low Nest Farm's website.

Friday, 15 October 2010

EES North Event: Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley

I'd like to publicise an Egypt Exploration Society Day School that's taking place on Saturday 23rd October, entitled "Landscape Development and Climate Change in Ancient Egypt: the Delta and the Valley"

Speaking at the event are Dr. David Jeffreys, Dr. Judith Bunbury, Dr. Penny Wilson, Angus Graham and Dr. Karen Exell. This will be the first lecture of the Northern Branch of the society, and will take place in the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester.

I am particularly interested in the evidence for climate change in Egypt during the Pharaonic Period, and how the changes in the desert landscape during this time affected desert travellers and religious activity. So do buy a ticket and go along if you're able, I have attended entertaining lectures given by all the speakers on previous occasions and so it should be a good event.

Internet Explorer Technical Hitches...

Having a few hitches with the text format in Internet Explorer, please bear with me while I attempt to fix it!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Website of the Week #1

Head from a Shabti of Amenhotep III
I'd like to start a tradition of recommending a 'Website of the Week', the first being the site for Highclere Castle: the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon during the early 20th Century. The current 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon have opened an exhibition of genuine and replica ancient Egyptian artefacts, entitled "Wonderful Things", details of which can be found on the Highclere Castle site, together with a selection of images of key objects from the exhibition.

Dr. Elena Pischikova Lecture at MAES: "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes"

Following our visit to WAES on Monday 11th October I travelled with  fellow PG students Claire Ollett and Hayley Meloy to a lecture given by Dr. Elena Pischikova (Director of the South Asasif Conservation Project), entitled "Excavating the Tomb of Karakhamun at Thebes", hosted by the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society at the Days Inn Hotel, Manchester. 
This audience was larger, though certainly no less entertaining than the group at that afternoon's WAES lecture, and the session kicked off to a good start with an auction of Egyptology-related books by the Chairman of the MAES, Bob Partridge. Everyone in the audience seemed to get into the spirit of the auction and it certainly appeared to be an effective idea for a fundraiser judging from some of the larger bids!
Relief of Karakhamun from the East Wall of the first Pillared Hall
The lecture centred on the previous season's work by Dr. Pischikova and her international team in the Late Period necropolis in the South Asasif on Luxor's West Bank, on behalf of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the excavation and conservation of the rediscovered Kushite tomb of the enigmatic priest Karakhamun (TT223). The construction of the tomb can be dated to the 25th Dynasty, between 710-690BC, and  it preserves an exquisite decorative programme which includes a relief of the tomb owner together with his dog, and painted elements including a cavetto cornice from the tomb entrance. This tomb is the largest in the Late Period necropolis, and preserves two pillared halls together with a five-roomed burial chamber.

The tomb was discovered in the 19th Century in an unstable condition, and since then the tombs of the Asasif necropolis have deteriorated significantly. During past seasons Dr. Pischikova and her team have been working to remove the ever-growing piles of rubbish which lay upon the tombs, while excavating section by section to reveal the tomb.

Image of the goddess Nut
from the ceiling of the Burial Chamber
Dr. Pischikova and her conservation team worked to a very high standard in order to reconstruct inscribed pillars and consolidate areas of painted and carved wall decoration. She is adamant that the materials used for the conservation and reconstruction should be as close to the ancient building materials as possible; for example using limestone cut from the area of Deir el-Bahri both for building stone and lime cement. This is very effective in making the repairs look as authentic as possible.

The team completed their fifth season at the site during May-August 2010, when the excavation took a fascinating turn. The team exposed the first steps leading down to the burial chamber in July 2010, and later during August the 8-metre deep burial shaft was revealed. The Press were quick to report the story, and it soon made headline news

The burial chamber was the first room in the tomb to be discovered with an intact ceiling, which preserves a detailed painted image of the goddess Nut together with a series of astronomical elements, including the circumpolar stars and the decans. The main constellations are also all in situ. This is a deserving find for the team, whose hard work over the past seasons has finally been rewarded. The ceiling will be completely consolidated by the conservation team, and Dr. Pischikova's main aim is to reconstruct the tomb in situ over the coming seasons.
The entrance to the tomb (
Dr. Pischikova presented a fascinating insight into Karakhamun's life and death, and owing from the reactions during the questions she certainly convinced the audience that Egyptian history does not simply 'end' at the Ramesside Period. She is a very entertaining speaker, who not only made light of a technical hitch or two but also encouraged her daughter to actively participate in the presentation. I highly recommend that you attend one of her lectures should you ever have the opportunity.

Dr. Paul Nicholson Lecture at WAES: "Glass and Faience at Amarna"

I travelled "across the water" on Monday 11th October with fellow SACE postgrad Claire Ollett to the Wirral Ancient Egypt Society (WAES), an Egyptology society based at Mayer Hall, Lower Bebington, for a lecture presented by Dr. Paul Nicholson, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Cardiff, on the Glass and Faience Industries at Amarna. We had a very warm welcome - the society members were very interested in our studies and I would certainly recommend their lecture series to anyone in the area.

Dr. Nicholson gave a fascinating lecture on his work at Amarna, carried out on behalf of the Egypt Exploration Society, which focused on the idea of an 'industrial estate' of faience, glass and pottery production at the site. It was interesting to hear more about the work of W. M. F. Petrie at Amarna (1891-2); whose interest in the 'glazing technologies' at the site was illustrated by an image of one of his notebooks, which contained a reference to over 1000 clay moulds used  in the production of faience amulets that he discovered during his excavations. 

Blue glass produced from
Dr. Nicholson's Experimental Kiln at Amarna
The area of Dr. Nicholson's research focus is O.45.1, which has preserved an industrial area consisting of two kilns for faience or pottery production, and a 'potting area' identifiable from the presence of fired bricks, unfired pottery and a trampling pit. Interestingly, these fired bricks were re-used from an earlier kiln and would originally have been covered with a solution of mud and water to increase the firing temperature inside the kiln.

The history of glassmaking/working in New Kingdom Egypt also featured in the lecture. Debate continues as to whether the Egyptians actually produced their own glass, or whether they had raw glass ingots imported from other glass-producing regions in the Near East which they worked into objects. Dr. Nicholson argues in favour of the local glass production, which was also Petrie's opinion. 
The Experimental Kiln during Firing at Amarna (  

Dr. Nicholson described and illustrated an experimental kiln that his team constructed at Amarna with firing features as close as possible to the ancient kilns. The structure was able to produce a firing temperature of 1100°C, which was encouraged by the north wind and a north-facing stoke hole. The team were able to produce blue glass in the kiln in one step without a fritting stage, which suggests that some glass may well have been produced in Egypt. Glass, faience and pottery production, i.e. high temperature objects, would have been controlled by the state at Amarna, and thus glass and faience especially would have been high-status products.
The lecture was followed as always with tea and a separate questions session. Dr. Nicholson presented a series of interesting new ideas, which were received with enthusiasm by the audience. Overall it was a thoroughly good lecture, and I would certainly recommend a visit to the WAES for an engaging and entertaining afternoon.

The Society meet on the second Monday of every month at Mayer Hall, so do check their events programme for a list of upcoming lectures.
Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

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