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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Glass fragment, Swansea and Cairo

A piece of ancient glass over 3000 years old, displayed in Swansea University’s Egypt Centre, has been published with information on its manufacture. It has been identified as being part of an Egyptian vase which is currently in the Cairo Museum. It is on loan from Swansea Museum. Garethe el-Tawab, Curator of Swansea Museum said: “ The loan of this very rare piece of ancient glass by the Museum to our colleagues in the Egypt Centre is a marvellous example of partnership working in international research”. I thought that was a good quote, better than I could have thought up myself.

The fragment, originally belonging to pharaoh Amenhotep II (1427-1400 BC), is 4cm long piece and displays two names of the king in cartouches picked out in red and yellow on a background of brilliant blue. The names are surmounted by red sun-disks and yellow feathers.

The glass fragment was given to Swansea Museum in 1959. Circumstantial evidence suggested it came from the tomb of queen Tiye (wife of king Amenhotep III). Kate Bosse-Griffiths wrote an article about this and other items from the tomb (see references below). It had been given to Swansea Museum by Miss Annie Sprake Jones of Abergwili who received it from her brother Harold Jones. Harold Jones had been employed as an artist in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings in the early 20th century.

German Egyptologist, Birgit Schlick-Nolte contacted the Egypt Centre  and Swansea Museum as she was interested in the manufacture of early Egyptian glass. Kate Bosse-Griffiths, who had earlier curated both the Egypt Centre items and those at Swansea Museum, and Birgit had long ago corresponded on the piece, and both were absolutely sure that the Swansea fragment was part of the vessel in the Cairo Museum which comes from the tomb of Amenhotep II. The complete vessel measures around 40cm in height and consists of a white amphora decorated with brown and light blue decoration.
Glass of this date is extremely rare in Egypt and was often given as diplomatic gifts between the kings of the region. Vessels and other artefacts from the reign of Amenhotep II are part of an extraordinary array of sophisticated techniques from an innovative period of glass production. Large vessels such as that in the Cairo Museum, from which our fragment originated were not even attempted in later years. At this date the manufacture of glass was a royal monopoly and valuable like gold and silver.

The Swansea piece with the king’s name would have been prefabricated and placed upon the body of the vessel while it was still in a molten state. Interestingly, one of the names for glass in ancient Egyptian was ‘the stone that flows’.”

Bosse-Griffiths, K. 1961. Finds from 'The tomb of Queen Tiye' in the Swansea Museum. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 47, 66-70.

Schlick-Nolte, B., Werthmann, R. and Loeben, C. 2011. An outstanding glass statuette owned by pharaoh Amenhotep II and other early Egyptian glass inscribed with royal names', Journal of Glass Studies 53, 11-44.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Icon of Berlin and Egypt. 100 years of Nefertiti

This replica bust of Nefertiti welcomes our visitors. 100 years ago, on the 6th December 1912 the original was uncovered at Amarna by the German excavation team headed by Ludwig Borchardt. The original is now in Berlin and has caused some controversy as it has been claimed that it taken from Egypt illegally. It is, of course, an iconic symbol of Egypt but is also loved by the people of Berlin and thus has also become a symbol of that city.

The original was found, with others, in the workshop of the sculptor Thutmosis in a walled-off closet. There is one inlaid eye made of rock crystal in the original suggesting that the piece was never finished. As it may have been an artist's model perhaps there was never any need to finish it.

Nefertiti was a wife of the so-called 'heretic' pharaoh Akhenaten who built a new city on the banks of the Nile around 1340 BC to worship the god the Aten. Previously, the main god worshiped in Egypt had been Amun, the god of Thebes. The Egypt Centre has over 200 artefacts from the royal site of Amarna (originals not copies).

This queen was one of the few Egyptian royal women who attained any importance. Nefertiti is even shown smiting the female enemies of Egypt-such smiting scenes were usually reserved for kings. It is possible that for a time she even acted as joint ruler with her husband, though this is debated. During the Amarna Period there seems to be a change in depictions of royal women. Not only are they sometimes painted a reddish colour, usually reserved for men, but at times they are also shown as mature women, with signs of ageing. For much of Egyptian history women were depicted as slender and youthful.

Our copy of the bust of Nefertiti was brought to Swansea in the 1960s by Professor of Classics George Kerferd. It seems probable that it was made from the Berlin original by the sculptor Tina Wentcher (also known as Ernestine Haim). She produced a number of replicas in the years following World War I and there are now many examples scattered throughout the world.

The bust of Nefertiti is perhaps the most well-known depiction of ancient Egyptian women. But, while it is considered an archetype of female beauty we cannot be sure that Nefertiti actually looked like this. As with all Egyptian art, representations were idealised and stylised.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

SPARKLING Egypt Centre

The Egypt Centre (Rosie Freeman and Jayne Holly-Wait) attended Swansea's first ever SPARKLE event on Saturday. Swansea SPARKLE is a transgender and public integration day. We shared a stall with the National Waterfront Museum and talked to people about identity in ancient Egypt, we also had some examples of items used to make make-up and other beauty products for people to smell and feel. Hopefully we've encouraged people to visit the museum and even volunteer!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

A Voice Offering

On Monday we had a group of very enthusiatic Swansea MA students in the Egypt Centre looking at our objects as part of their Egyptian language course. They were particularly looking at voice offerings. This is one of the objects that they studied. You can find out a bit more about it here.

We often get groups studying artefacts without text but it is more unusual for those studying text. It seemed to go well with the students commenting about how it was good to see things in context. I'm also hoping that the novelty of seeing text 'in the flesh' will help them remember and inspire them to learn more.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Greyhounds and Welsh Museums: Federation AGM

Shame on me, but it is a while since I attended a meeting of the Welsh Federation of Museums and Galleries in Wales. However, I actually did so yesterday.

The meeting was held at Wrexham Museum. I was really envious of their central town location, their great displays, and especially of the fact that they have a logo with two greyhounds (having a softspot for greyhounds myself). Apparently the dogs are the famous Acton Park hounds.

We heard about the work of the Federation. They do a lot more than just distribute grants! For example an advocacy toolkit has been produced. I was really interested in Jane Henderson's talk on the Distributed National Collection. The National Collection is defined as that which is particularly important to the people of Wales. They have recently carried out a research on doll collections distributed throughout the Principality. They can say a lot about changes in Welsh National costume, among other things. Natural Science is planned next.

In the afternoon, I gave a quick talk on our getting our collections online. Wont say much about this as the link gives more information.

Pat West told us about the Llyn Cerrig Bach Partnership with the National Museum of Wales. Both Anglesy Council and the National Museum deserve a lot of praise for this project. For those of you who don't know, Llyn Cerrig Bach is a hoard of Iron Age (Celtic) artefacts which were discovered in the 1940s. They include a gang chain, a piece of a cauldron, a sickle, etc. The items have been kept for much of their time since their 1940s discovery, in Cardiff, but are now on display in Anglesy.

Eleri Farley told us all about volunteering at Wrexham Museum. It was interesting to hear how other museums do things. Eleri told us that they limit their volunteers to 30 so that they can ensure that the volunteer manager has a good personal relationship with all the volunteers. This is different from Egypt Centre where we need many more volunteers to run our programmes, but I did think it was a good point. Like Egypt Centre, they also see their volunteers as an important link with the community and they have a structured induction process and volunteer roles. Wrexham Museum Service volunteer programme is the first in Wales to achieve the Investors in Volunteers award. Well done to them, and from what Eleri said it is much deserved.

Finally, we had a tour of the galleries. I really liked the way the display was set out, making a lot of use of a limited space. And, I thought the 'Smelly Old Wrexham' interactive was great fun. They have a trail of Wrexham on a panel, and a dog character is shown going around the town sniffing out the different sites. You can lift small panels on the interactive to smell the smells that might interest the dog.

So thank you to the Federation and to Wrexham Museum. I also had a very nice lunch!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Middle Kingdom Statuary

Today we had a visit from a PhD student from Brussels, Simon Connor who is researching Middle Kingdom statuary. Its always useful when researchers come to see the collection as we learn a lot. For example I didn't know that sometimes steatite was heated up to make it look like more expensive stone such as granite. Sometimes modern forgers do the same.

Here are a few of the pieces that Siman looked at:
W301. Simon pointed out that the big belly on this piece is typical of the 13th Dynasty. The inscription is the standard offering formula and mentions a person called Minaa. The piece is made of granodiorite so is an elite piece.

W5291. The piece on the left is also of granodiorite and thus an elite piece. If you view the statue sideways on you would see that the man is kneeling, as is common with other statues showing figures holding vessels. No exact parallel to this is however known. A little more can be found out about it here.

Finally the figures on the left (W847) are steatite. As this is a soft stone it would have been used for the 'not so elite'. You can find out a bit more about this here.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Archers

arrowNot the Radio 4 programme, but archery stuff in the Egypt Centre, particularly stone arrowheads. The Egyptians also had arrowheads made of bone and metal but the flint arrowheads were especially sharp. Flint is a very effective material for making weaponary. It is lighter than metal, sharper than metal and breaks up when the animal or human moves. The latter quality means that not all the fragment can be got out of flesh. Yuk! Of course, being fragile also means it can't be used again and again. Also, if its light maybe it wouldn't be so good for piercing heavy armour.

The picture above shows some of our hollow based arrowheads dating to the Predynastic Period. The fact that these are made more elaborate than they need be suggests that they may well have had some symbolic importance too. You can read more about them here.

AR503402It is quite feasible to make much simpler arroweads from small flakes of stone. Indeed Egypt Centre has a couple of examples. The example on the left is from Armant. Note how small it is. You can read more about this type here.

The Egyptians used flint arrowheads right up until the 6th century BC, and no wonder. Why switch to metal if flint does the trick.

Monday, 8 October 2012

John Brumfitt Library

Yet another reason the volunteer at the Egypt Centre! The John Brumfitt Library. Volunteers (active volunteers who have done more than 20hours) can now borrow Egyptology books from the Egypt Centre.
John was a volunteer at the Egypt Centre from 2000 and sadly died earlier this year. This is him helping us when we borrowed part of the Rhind Mathematical Papyri from the British Museum.  His family have kindly allowed Egypt Centre to use his book collection as the core of a volunteer lending library. Altogether there are about 400 books but at the moment only a few have been catalogued and are available for borrowing. The few available include:
Allen, J. 2000 Middle Egyptian: an introduction to the language and culture of hieroglyphs.

Brier, B. 1998 The Murder of Tutankhamen: a 3,000 year old murder mystery.

Faulkner, R.O. 1962. A Concise dictionary of Middle Egyptian.

Horning, E. 1999. Akhenaten and the Religion of Light.

Grajetzki, W. 2003 Burial customs in Ancient Egypt: life in death for rich and poor.

Martin, G.T. 1991. The Hidden tombs of Memphis: new discoveries from the time of Tutankhamun and Ramesses the Great.

Morkot, R.G. 2000 The Black pharaohs : Egypt's Nubian rulers

Nunn, J.F. 1996. Ancient Egyptian Medicine.

Reeves, N. 1996. The Complete Valley of the Kings: tombs and treasures of Egypt's greatest pharaohs.

Shaw, I. (ed) 2000. The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt.

Taylor, J.H. 2001. Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Wilson, H. People of the pharaohs: from peasant to courtier.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A message from another ex-volunteer, Sally Fung

This summer’s Olympic Games were such a success thanks in a large part to thousands of people who gave up their time and volunteered to do all manner of jobs. The volunteers that I saw in London were brilliant and they really made sure everyone had a wonderful time.  I’m sure that they made many friends and learned a few new skills. What have the Olympic Games to do with the Egypt Centre I can hear you ask? The answer is, they both need volunteers.
The Egypt Centre runs a well organised volunteer programme of which I was lucky enough to be a part of. I hadn’t worked for eight years as I had been a stay-at-home mum and I needed to get back to at least part time, if not full time work. Unfortunately being off work for such a long time had left me very unconfident. I also did not have any recent references I could put down if I applied for work and no recent experience.  I was looking for volunteering opportunities and through County of Swansea’s, Swansea Council Volunteer Service, I found that the Egypt Centre needed people. 
I started in March 2010 as an Education Assistant. I didn’t know anything about ancient Egypt when I started, nor had I had much experience at working with school parties, but I had support from the staff, both paid and other volunteers, and I soon began to feel my confidence return, so much so I trained as an Educational Leader.  With the training, the different Master Classes and my own study I soon learned new skills, such as dealing with groups of people of various ages, talking to people about the Collection, making resources, and developing a passion for ancient history, as well as having a lot of fun and making very good friends. I went on to help and then lead the holiday workshops for children. It was through my volunteering with the Egypt Centre that I decided I would like to retrain and do educational work with children. I studied at FE College and attained a Diploma in Teaching Assistant work. This summer I applied for a job in a Primary school as a Teaching Assistant and thanks to my volunteering at the Egypt Centre, and the help I received from the staff, I am now fully employed in a school as a Teaching Assistant helping children who struggle with Literacy and Numeracy.  It is a job that I love doing. 
So if you can give up a few hours a week to volunteer I would encourage you to do so. You could learn valuable transferrable skills that employers are looking for, experience at working in the Heritage/Education Sector, and make some really good friends.  I am so glad that I took the time and volunteered.

If you want to know more about adult volunteering at the Egypt Centre click here.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Working with Computer Science 3-D images

Many thanks to those who came along to the launch of our various digital online services last Thursday. Most of these you will probably know about: our website, searchable database, Culture Grid connection. But new in the past week or so has been our work with student, Lewis Hancock of Computer Sciences Department at Swansea University. As part of his undergraduate degree, Lewis has been working 3-D images of some of our objects. Visitors will be able to borrow a tablet, go into the galleries and use the tablet to access 3-D images of some of the objects. This means they will get to see the back of things like our cippus. For those who can't visit the Centre there is a version now online, which will give you an idea of what we are trying to do. We are hoping to work further with Lewis on a journey through the Egyptian afterlife, so, watch this space!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Why on earth choose this? Women's stuff again!

EC185, a fragment of a Soter type shroud has just been put on display in the Egypt Centre. I've been meaning to do this for ages. The tour for the Latin in the Park group, Saturday gone (see previous blog) reminded me again.

We have several Soter-type shroud fragments in the Egypt Centre and several are much more complete than this one. You can see a couple more here. So why on earth this fragment?

If you want an idea of what a complete example looks like, a complete one, belonging to a male, can be seen in the Ashmolean. These things date to the early 2nd century AD and basically show the edeceased as transfigered.

Unfortunately, we don't have much space to display things and textiles take lots of space. So, I had to find a small example! I really wanted to show one of a woman (we already have a male one display). It interests me that by the Graeco-Roman Period the gender of the female deceased had become very important.

In earlier periods, women were transfigured through the male god Osiris, conceivable a problem if women wanted to retain gender in death (Cooney 2008). Men were also given more credit for creation, with women playing the supporting role. By the Roman Period dead women were associated with the goddess Hathor, even known as 'The Hathor N' (where N stands for the name of the deceased). Some have suggested an increasingly gendered afterlife for women in the Graeco Roman Period (Riggs 2005; Cooney 2008, 16). Additionally, the female seems to have been given more credited for creation. So, for example, while the male god Khnum, the potter, was previously credited with creation and birth of children through spinning his wheel, by the Graeco-Roman Period, Hathor is sometimes credited with spinning the wheel (Dorman 1999, 96). Another text from this period states that the bones of a child are formed by the father and the soft body parts by the mother (Roth 2000, 190).

This is not to say that the Graeco-Roman world gave women more status. Herodotus was quite shocked at the freedom Egyptian woman enjoyed compared to other parts of the classical world. Additionally, women become more important in creation before the Graeco-Roman period, its just that its more noticable then.

So, basically, I wanted to put something on display showing the increasing importance of women in creation in the Roman Period, but we didn't have much room! Apologies for those fed up of me going on about women's stuff again!


Cooney, K.M. 2008. 'The problem of female rebirth in New Kingdom Egypt: The fragmentation of the female individual in her funerary equipment', in Graves-Brown, C. (ed.), Sex and Gender in Ancient Egypt: 'Don Your Wig for a Joyful Hour'. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, pp. 1–25.

Dorman, P.F. 1999, 'Creation on the potter's wheel at the eastern horizon of heaven', in Teeter, E. and Larson, J. A. (eds), Gold of Praise. Studies on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Edward F. Wente. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 83–99.

Riggs, C. 2005.  The Beautiful Burial in Roman Egypt: Art, Identity, and Funerary Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roth, A.M. 2000, 'Father earth, mother sky: Ancient Egyptian beliefs about conception and fertility', in Rautman, A. E. (ed.), Reading the Body: Representations and Remains in the Archaeological Record. Philadelphia: University of Pensylvania Press, pp. 187–201.

Friday, 20 July 2012

What did Egypt ever do for Rome?

OK, I'm preparing a short talk for tomorrow for some members of the public learning Latin. It's called 'Latin in the Park' and I think its a great way to get people involved in learning Latin. I've been asked to show a group around the Egypt Centre pointing out the Roman things in the Centre. I thought it would be a really good idea to highlight things the Egyptians gave to the Roman world (apart from grain and taxes). So among the many things I'm pointing out will be: alabastra vessels, papyrus, Nile related objects (so I can talk about Nilotic scenes decorating Roman houses), Isis, Serapis, Harpocrates, Coptic textiles, connections with early Christanity and of course Cleopatra VII as an archytypal exotic foreigner of low morals....

The list seems to get longer the more I think about it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Sandra Hawkins: We are so proud of you

Sandra Hawkins from Mayhill in Swansea, started volunteering at the Egypt Centre in March 2000. She had come to us through Job Force Wales . After 5 years of unemployment and no qualifications, Sandra had very little confidence and needed a placement to help her back into the routine of work. She came for an interview with us with her project officer and was extremely shy and reluctant to answer questions. However, we soon saw her blossom at the Egypt Centre. From beginning as someone who was extremely unwilling to talk to anyone (even us!), Sandra was soon able to give presentations to children, school teachers and all manner of Egypt Centre visitors. She became events officer for our Friends Group and since 2001 has been employed as a part-time workshop assistant. She has become a valuable member of our team. 
Sandra attends all training sessions on a variety of subjects both Egyptological and aspects of dealing with children and vulnerable adults.  She has also attended  computer science, maths, etc. outside of the museum environment.
Recently Sandra has been studying especially hard evenings and weekends and on days when she wasn’t volunteering or working with us. Last Monday (16th July) she graduated with a degree in Humanities with DACE (Swansea University’s Department of Adult and Continuing Education). Her attitude to learning has been transformed and so has her life. 
While we are proud of all our volunteers, Sandra’s achievement is exceptional. Well done. We just wish we could give her a special degree!
Wendy, Jayne, Carolyn, Ashleigh, Ros.

If you want to know more about adult volunteering at the Egypt Centre click here.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


Competition- £10 Egypt Centre gift token to be won (to be spent in Egypt Centre shop). Egypt Centre is working with Swansea University IT department on a pack of collectable cards based on the Egypt Centre costume activity. Children will collect sets of cards concerning a particular Egypt Centre character, e.g. Padiamun, and those cards with objects in the Egypt Centre that may have belonged to him. We are looking for a title. The best we have come up with so far is 'Pharaoh's People'. If anyone can think of a better title, please let us know by Monday. If we use your title there's a £10 gift token. Wendy and Carolyn choose the title, if two people choose the same title we shall pull a a name out of a 'hat'. Email c.a.graves-brown@swansea.ac.uk or w.r.goodridge@swansea.ac.uk.

Several of the characters are based on characters known to the Egypt Centre through their objects. For example we have: an offering table belonging to the notorious paneb of Deir el-Medina;  the shabti of Padiamun, a 21st Dynasty Priest of Amun; a stela of Djedmutiwefankh, a temple scribe to Amun in the late New Kingdom; and of course we must include Iwesemhesetmut, a Chantress of Amun whos coffin we have. 

The cards will be aimed at children aged 7-11. We are hoping to have a digital element where characters can be accessed online, as well as actual collectable cards.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Objects from all angles

Part of the problem with museum displays is that very often only one side of the object is visible.

Today we have an undergraduate Swansea University IT student in. Lewis Hancock (student) is shown here with Wendy Goodridge (assistant curator). They are photographing a selection of our objects from all angles. The photographs will then be accesible via smart phones in the galleries so that visitors will be able to see objects from all angles. For those who don't have smart phones we shall be loaning a device.

In order to do this, some of the objects, like the one shown here, need to be held in place. Wendy says that under the lights, it's like being in Egypt!

If you want to know more about this particular object you can find out here.

Young Egyptologists: Summer Workshops

It's that time again. Wendy has been extremely busy working with our workshop leader Hannah Frost on the children's workshops for this summer. Hannah is a volunteer at the Egypt Centre as well as being a trained school teacher.

So if you have a child aged 6 to 10 years who is interested in things ancient, book quickly. Several places have already gone.

If you want the details, this is the link:


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Want to get into museums? Volunteer. One volunteer's success story.

Guest Post by Cat Lumb

Secondary and Post-16 Co-ordinator (Humanities)

Manchester Museum

University of Manchester

When I first started volunteering at The Egypt Centre I was nineteen years old. It was the first year of my Egyptology and Anthropology degree and I’d just been reliably informed that jobs linked to the field of Egyptology were rare to come by, especially in the UK. Ten years have passed and in that time I’ve designed, developed and delivered two OCR ‘Introduction to Egyptology’ courses for Adult Education and found a position I adore with The Manchester Museum within the Learning and Engagement Team as their Secondary Humanities Co-ordinator. Without the valuable experience I gained from volunteering at The Egypt Centre I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the appropriate understanding in order to be successful in either job.
Volunteering for a smaller museum, like The Egypt Centre, provides an excellent foundation for anyone wanting to experience working in the cultural sector. While the operation as a whole may appear diminutive in comparison to the major workings of a larger institution like The British Museum, the service they provide is still very real for their visitors. The primary school children that attend The Egypt Centre to learn about mummification and the great Egyptian Empire will recall such an experience for a lifetime – they don’t care if The Egypt Centre has several galleries or if there is only one: what matters is the contact they have with those who represent the experience,  and for The Egypt Centre this is their volunteers.
During my interview for my position at The Manchester Museum my experience of volunteering at The Egypt Centre allowed me to talk about issues of conservation, the importance of public engagement and the rewards of giving a young mind the opportunity to learn within a museum environment. I had direct, practical experience to draw from and concrete examples of success to demonstrate my skills with. Yes, I could have gotten similar examples from any number of different volunteer programmes within much larger cultural institutions, but the joy of volunteering for The Egypt Centre was the distinct camaraderie between the few members of staff and the wealth and diversity of the volunteers there.
As a volunteer I felt I was an integral part of the fantastic work that was going on there – rather than just another face at another venue. There were multiple opportunities to get involved in a myriad of museum-related areas: from learning about responsible object-handling - the value of ‘real’ vs replica’ items - to understanding the type of experience and information individual visitors are looking for during their time within the galleries. I was able to apply the correct level of professional knowledge during my application and interview with The Manchester Museum that proved I understood the significance such experience had brought me.
All volunteer programmes are different. But I believe that the most valuable experiences can often be within those smaller, less well-known, intuitions that offer a service to their local community. In this way the experience of the volunteer is much broader, more personal and potentially a lot more rewarding than it might be in the corporate environment of a larger, business-focused environment where a volunteer is one of many.  I certainly wouldn’t change my three years experience as a volunteer for The Egypt Centre for anything: it gave me a significant insight and a keen understanding of the key relationship all museums depend on – the engagement between the objects and the visitor. Nowhere is this more evident than in those smaller, focused galleries of local museums such as The Egypt Centre.

Information on volunteering at the Egypt Centre

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Twinkle toes!

Just repacking some of our cartonnage (although due to lack of space it seems more like I'm just moving them around). But, wanted to share a couple of really pretty Graeco Roman cartonnage foot coverings. You might have to look hard (click on the photos to enlarge them) as the interest (well for me) is in the detail.

First of all EC35, above. I've taken pictures of top and bottom. They show the top and bottom of the sandaled feet. Noticed that the toes on the left have little toe coverings, just like the mummies would have done.

Now, EC491, below, see the little stars in the background of the right. Presumably this is to show the Duat, the otherworld of the Egyptian dead.

For more Graeco-Roman items in our collection you can do an online search on our database, or click here for selected items.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Dull but very necessary task: ACCREDITATION

Ok, just finished a job that I’m glad is out the way, for now. Accreditation interim returns just submitted. But now I have a list of jobs I have to do for our completed returns which are due for the full treatment next year. These include: writing and implementing a care and conservation plan and updating our disaster plan.

The accreditation stuff is not the most exciting part of my work (in my opinion) but I recognise that it is very necessary. Unfortunately, I can't spend all day tinkering around with interesting objects!

The Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for UK museums. It is administered by Arts Council England. Achieving the award shows the Egypt Centre measures up, meeting the guidelines on how it is run, how it looks after its visitors and the service it provides its visitors. There are several sections we have to show we match up to: organisational health (is our governing body suitable, our workforce acceptable, do we have a forward plan, etc.); ownership of collections (this one is a bit weird for us as we don’t own most of our collections, more on this below); collections care and documentation; users and their experiences.

Most of the objects in the Egypt Centre are not actually owned by us but are on long term loan. Most are borrowed from the Wellcome Trustees but others are from Woking College, and the British Museum. Because they are on a long term loan we have a special agreement drawn up whereby we agree to care for the collections but the Wellcome Trust wont ask for them back.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Degree in Egyptology for Children!

A Degree In Egyptology, for Children!

This morning Wendy (assistant curator), Ros (museum assistant) and Ashleigh (volunteer manager) are off to the annual award ceremony for Children’s University and I am left holding the fort. Hopefully our volunteers will be getting lots of awards.

For many years now the Egypt Centre has been running a volunteer programme for children (started by Wendy Goodridge). In 2005 Wendy, and the then volunteer manager, Stuart Williams, came back from a meeting in England (as far as I remember) about a wonderful project called ‘Children’s University’. Children were accredited for voluntary work, not just in museums but also church groups, dance groups, in fact any out-of -chool activities. Could they do the same in the Egypt Centre? To be honest I was a bit worried about the workload, but they talked me round. After all, they said, many of the modules were already set up, we could offer a whole degree in Egyptology for kids.

Wendy contacted the Local Education Authority and told them about the wonderful plan. Children’s University Swansea was born. It is part of Children’s University Wales. Children’s University in Wales awards credits to children and young people from the age of 5 to 19 who attend activities outside normal school hours.  The awards are based on the amount of time young people spend on each activity and the activities can range from football to heritage work.

At the Egypt Centre we have devised a programme of modules that cover themes such as Egyptian history, architecture, customer care, health and safety, preventative conservation and material culture.  These are for our young volunteers. Wendy has also extended the project to cover our summer workshops and also our Saturday workshops for disadvantaged children.

Several years on we have lots of modules and lots of levels. The young people that we have taking part on the project come from the local community and many of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds, many have learning difficulties, but others come from ‘typical middleclass’ backgrounds (whatever that means) with families giving lots of support and help.

So I am expecting ‘the gang’ to come back from the award ceremony hoarse with cheering our youngsters!

If you want to know more about Children’s University Swansea, here is the link.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Online First

OK long time, no blog. That's because most of the news either seemed more suited to Facebook, or to our web pages (information on objects in the collection, etc.). However, this piece I decided would be best suited to a blog.

I am very happy as we have just managed to get all the Egypt Centre collection online onto Culture Grid using a database system called MODES Complete. The reason why that is exciting is that we are a small museum frustrated at the fact that not very many people seemed to know about our collection. This would seem to be a big step in solving the problem with little money.

For a long time now, putting our database online seemed the right way to go in order to publicise our collection. This is what we hoped for when we first started cataloguing using a computer database (MODES Plus) back in 1997. Our complete catalogue has been online on a searchable database for several years now, hosted by MODES. But still it seemed that publications came out which would have benefited from including some of our objects. Researchers found us by accident rather than design. To give one anonymous example, a researcher was absolutley delighted in coming across us accidently. She had been looking for a particular group of objects for years, and there they were in the Egypt Centre. Our collection had been online for years, but she hadn't looked for us and the objects weren't at the top of Google searches. Frustrating for us and her.

What to do?

If we could be part of a larger group, one which researchers would routinely use, the problem of us being overlooked might be solved. Ideally, if we could be part of a searchable database where objects could be linked back to their original collections, our objects might be noticed more. So hurray for Collections Trust's Culture Grid, which does exactly that. The problem would be then how to get our collection on Culture Grid. I'm not a computer geek and we couldn't afford to hire a computer geek.

Earlier this year, accidently (as a result of a conversation with Phil Purdy of Culture Grid on an ACCES matter) that MODES Complete can do it all for us. So, a bid to CyMAL (the branch of the Welsh Assembly dealing with Museums, Libraries and Archives) for a small grant was put in. In March we got MODES Complete. I still can't use it properly as I haven't been on the full training course! But, with help from Richard Langley at MODES and Phill Purdy from Culture Grid, success. It's all online. I am so pleased. In the end it turned out to be a really simple matter. Now just waiting from enquiries from people wanting to see our collections.

Thank you CyMAL, Collections Trust and MODES.

If you want to know more, including a look at the database, this is the link.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Real Objects versus Digital Information

OK, I have posted something similar in the past but have been giving more thought to this after attending the 'Geeks Night' at the Petrie Museum on the 3rd May. Additionally, Egypt Centre is planning a project with our Computer Department which will involve the Egypt Centre objects as well as digitisation. We want to make best use of both. As a museum curator I tend toward believing that things are superior to reproductions of them (I would wouldn't I). I personally feel that you get something extra from the 'real thing' and therefore right from its beginnings Egypt Centre has encouraged handling of real objects (picture left). I read this really interesting PhD thesis which can be downloaded from here : http://kentstate.academia.edu/KierstenFLatham/Papers/105266/Numinous_Experiences_with_Museum_Objects

Of course, digital information would be useful in providing information on an object which is difficult to provide either from encountering the object itself or through other media e.g. books or verbally. Not everyone is able to visit a museum to see the real thing and perhaps we can use the digital to encourage people to see the real things.

No conclusions here, just meandering thoughts. Anyone have ideas?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day: Love is in the air

When I hold my love close
(and her arms steal around me),
I'm like a man translated to Punt
or like someone out in the reedflats
When the whole world suddenly bursts into flower.
In this dreamland of South Sea fragrances,
My love, you are essence of roses.

New Kingdom Love Song (translated by JL Foster).

The ancient Egyptians were clearly not totally morbid people, but like us lived and hoped and loved. So here we have a 'bouquet' of three items associated with love in the Egypt Centre:

AB23, part of a faience sistrum showing the goddess Hathor. Hathor was goddess of drunkeness and love, a gentle contrast to Sekhemet. For more information on this object follow this link: http://www.egypt.swansea.ac.uk/index.php/collection/75-ab23

W961p. A pendant from Amarna showing the deity Bes with tamborine. Bes often appears with Taweret in scenes associated with childbirth. You can find more about this object by following this link: http://www.egypt.swansea.ac.uk/index.php/collection/26-w961p

W1150. A ring bezel, again from Amarna, showing a nude or scantily clad musician with monkey. The figure and monkey are both associated with eroticism. For more information on this item follow this link: http://www.egypt.swansea.ac.uk/index.php/collection/40-w1150

Friday, 13 January 2012

Children's Workshops Coming Up

Our volunteer assistant education officer, Sally Fung has been working really hard recently to organise our children's workshops for half term. Depending on which day children choose they can become an archaeologist for the day, learn about animals in ancient Egypt, and of course carry out a mummification on our dummy mummy.

If you want to know more follow on this link:

Remember you need to book in advance.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

10th anniversary celebrations of Young Egyptologists Workshops - Wendy organising celebrations!

st joseph clydach195 20.05.06Wendy Goodridge has been very busy organising the celebrations for a whole 10 years of Egypt Centre Young Egyptologists Workshops. It was Wendy's aim to make sure that we targetted all groups and these workshops were specifically for Community First Areas. Children learnt literacy and numeracy but more importantly were given greater confidence through the fun, Egypt related activities such as practising embalming on our dummy mummy, playing the ancient game of Senet and handling real ancient Egyptian objects. And how successful they have been. They were even instrumental in the Egypt Centre being runner up in the widening participation section of the Times Higher Education Annual Awards (though we think we should have won!).

You can find out more about the workshops here:

And, if you would like to come along to the celebrations let Wendy know.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A centipede, hedgehog or gazelle?

I have been looking anew at W1155a. It is a faience ring bezel (the decorative part of a ring) and comes from the 'Coronation Hall' at Amarna. But what is the motif? It was catalogued in the Egypt Centre around 1997 as showing a centipede (if you imagine it 'upside down' you can see why. I later thought it was a hedgehog. I now think it is a badly executed gazelle with palm branch. This would make it appropriate for the start of a new year. The palm branch symbolised newness or vigour. But, I am not 100% certain. Any further ideas appreciated.

There is more on it here: