Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Rome: The "City of Obelisks"

During a holiday to Rome in July 2011 I managed to squeeze in some Egyptology-related sightseeing, namely following the trail of obelisks around the city which Labib Habachi dubbed the "City of Obelisks". There are 13 obelisks standing in the city today, more even than in Egypt, and although I didn't have the time to see every one (I only managed to get to 8), I'd like to share some of my holiday snaps of the obelisks that I did see, some of which were inscribed in Egypt then brought to Rome, and others were brought uninscribed from Egypt and subsequently decorated in Rome. 

Piazza Della Rotunda
Red granite, 6.34m, 19th Dynasty
Originally erected by Ramesses II at Heliopolis
Now outside the Pantheon of Hadrian
Piazza dell' Esquilino
Red granite, 14.75m, Unknown date
Originally erected on the western flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus
Now outside the church of Santa Maria Maggiore

Monte Citorio
Red granite, 21.79m, 26th Dynasty
Originally erected by Psamtek II at Heliopolis
Now outside the Italian Chamber of Deputies building
Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano - "Lateran Obelisk"
Red granite, 32.18m, 18th Dynasty
Undoubtedly quarried in Aswan
Originally erected by Tuthmosis III at the Temple of Amun, Karnak
Now outside the Lateran Palace
Largest obelisk in Rome
Piazza Navona
Red granite, 16.54m, inscribed in Rome
Originally erected by Domitian near the Iseum
Now in the Piazza Navona
Piazza San Pietro
Red granite,23.37m, uninscribed
Originally erected in the Julian Forum in Alexandria by Augustus
Now in front of St. Peters Cathedral
Trinita dei Monti
Red granite, 13.92m, inscribed in Rome with a copy
of the Popolo inscription of Seti I and Ramesses II (below)
Originally erected in a private residence (Horti Sallustiani)
Now in front of the church of Trinita del Monti (Spanish Steps)
Piazza del Popolo
Red granite, 32.77m, 19th Dynasty
Originally erected by Ramesses II at Heliopolis (inscribed by Seti I and Ramesses II)
Now in the Piazza del Popolo
(note the man in Egyptian costume in front of the obelisk!)

The remaining obelisks that I didn't see are:
- Monte Pincio (Red granite, 9.25m; inscribed by Hadrian)
- Villa Celimontana (Red granite, 2.68m; originally erected by Ramesses II at Heliopolis, smallest obelisk in Rome)
- Piazza della Minerva (Red granite, 5.47m; originally erected in Sais by Psamtek II)
- Piazza del Quirinale (Red granite, 14.64m; originally erected on the eastern flank of the Mausoleum of Augustus)
- Vialle delle Terme di Diocleziano (Red granite, 9.25m; originally erected in Heliopolis by Ramesses II)

I also managed to find a couple of other Egyptianizing monuments whilst in Rome, I'll be sure to put up those images in a second blog post. 

All information after Habachi, L., (1977), The Obelisks of Egypt: Skyscrapers of the Past, London: Biddles Ltd, where you can also find more information about the obelisks I missed on my visit.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Visit to the Petrie Museum 10.9.11

On a day off from my internship at the British Museum during September 2011 I took a trip to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon. Although I've visited this museum quite a few times before, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the collection has been redisplayed and that new and innovative methods of conveying information about the collection had been implemented.

The Museum holds over 80,000 objects, only a fraction of which are currently on display, so it was great to see that supplementary information about a selection of the objects was being offered, making those objects more accessible to both visiting members of the public and academics.

To begin with, a screen has been installed which, when wearing the 3D glasses provided, allows the viewer to browse a selection of objects from the Petrie collection in 3D, meaning that those objects are automatically more accessible and perhaps also more interesting to the general public as they are able to control the angle of the object and thus their experience of that object.

A QR code for the painted
stela of Neskhons (UC 14226)
Some of the objects have also been given QR codes, meaning that visitors with smartphones are able to scan a code to give them more information about that object on their phones via This is both a great way of utilising new technology and providing more information on an object when physical museum space is at a premium.

The glazed inlays and pendants etc. from Amarna have (on the whole) been arranged according to form and colour, meaning that the case is particularly eye-catching. However it was the addition of plans of Amarna buildings in the case which I was particularly interested to see. Where the context of a fragment is known, an arrow connects that particular object to its findspot on the plans. This is extremely useful as it is both aesthetically pleasing and a visual device to emphasise the context of the objects to the viewer, which they may not have previously been aware of.
The glazed objects from Amarna

Plan of part of Amarna with arrows showing the context of the Petrie Museum fragments

My favourite of all the updates to the Museum are the quotes which have been added to the walls of the stairwell when entering/leaving the building of Flinders Petrie and Amelia Edwards, which add to the atmosphere of the visit as a personal touch.

Overall I think these additions to the displays only serve to emphasise the importance of the collection and how object information can be projected in an accessible, and dare I say fun, way, which can only improve the overall visitor experience. I do hope that more of the Petrie displays will be added to and updated in such ways in the future. 
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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