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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: