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Thursday, 27 August 2015

Professor George Kerferd

Today a visitor came to the Egypt Centre asking about Professor George Kerford (January 15th 1915 to August 15th 1998). We unfortunately don't have much on him here in the Egypt Centre, but a quick bit of googling showed he was born 100 years ago, so it is fitting to blog about him. His obituary in the Independent newspaper can be read here

However, we know that he collected a few items for the Classics Department at Swansea University in the 1950s and 60s. We also have an account of his setting up a small museum at Swansea University, long before the Egypt Centre. The account was written by Gwyn Griffiths who knew him. And here is the account (see page 6).

We have been able to identify some of the items from that 'proto-museum' which are now in the Egypt Centre. These include:

W1011, the replica bust of Nefertiti which welcome visitors to our Centre. There is a lot more about this on a previous Egypt Centre blog, here. 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. 

Other items that we can connect to Kerford, include:

This is a black red figured drinking cup. It shows a seated satyr facing right with drinking horn on his right side and wine skin over his left shoulder. It dates to around c500 B.C. Satyrs were daimones of the countryside, depicted depicted as having the tail of a horse, assinine ears and upturned pug noses. They are usually shown drinking, dancing or playing musical instruments. The name kylix was used in antiquity to refer to this shape of vessel.

GR29 (left) is a black-figure lekythos. Lekthoi were used for storing oil. It shows dancing tailed satyrs and women. There are bulls painted around the shoulder of the vessel. Like the kylix above, this dates to around 500BC. 

GR28 (right) is a black polished red-figured jar with handle(NOICUS). This is an oinochoe (wine jug). This piece was made in southern Italy, c. 400 B.C. The mouth is trefoil (in the shape of a clover leaf) and the figure represents a seated Dionysaic figure with tail holding an offering plate and a plant. A wave pattern runs around the foot of the vase and egg-moulding occurs above the figure. 

Finally we have GR25, a Corinthian Aryballos (oil flask). Painted on it are a siren (bird with human head) and a swan. This dates to the late seventh century BC. The term 'aryballos' is now given to vessels with a round or ovoid body, narrow neck and broad flat lip. Arabolloi are common in Corinthian ware. 

I never met Professor Kerferd, but he seems to have been an interesting and entertaining person. The Independent obituary says this : He enjoyed his life. At a conference when some of his colleagues were bemoaning their inadequate pay, he burst out that he himself would gladly pay for the privilege of a life spent in studying Classics; remuneration was a bonus.

And, I am grateful for his collecting of items, now housed in our Museum. He should certainly be remembered.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A happy looking Bes

Just been trying to find out more about this rather happy looking Bes. Bes was a good, protective daemon daemon (well usually). Associated with children and women in childbirth, marsh scenes, music and dance. Sometimes though he does look a bit fierce (perhaps intentionally to scar away anything bad).

Here though he looks really happy, with a chubby face and flaring nostrils.

This object is made out of faience and is probably part of a vessel shaped in the form of Bes. It probably dates to around 600BC. If you want to know more about it click here.

You can also find out about other blog posts I have written which are about this daemon by clicking on 'Bes' on the right here.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Now here's another weird thing!

What is he holding?

This is a black granite or granodiorite sculpture of male holding two long objects. We do not know what the items are and assume them to be vases. We know of no comparable examples.

The object is probably Middle Kingdom (c.2030-1640 BC).

From the side it appears that the figure is kneeling, which is compatible with figures shown holding vessels (though not usually ones quite like this).

That this is made from hard stone suggests that this item belonged to a noble and indeed the inscription on back states that the man is the Steward Iwf.

This was formerly part of the Rustafjaell collection purchased by Sir Henry Wellcome at auction in December 19th-20th 1906, lot 219. Published in Malek (1999, 382). For more information on Middle Kingdom art see Bourriau (1988).

Further reading

Bourriau, J. 1988. Pharaohs and Mortals. Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Malek, J.,  Magee, D. and Miles, E. 1999. Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings, VIII, Objects of Provenance Not Known, Part 1. Royal Statues. Private Statues (Predynastic to Dynasty XVII). Oxford: Griffith Institute.

Russmann, E.R. 2001. Eternal Egypt. Masterworks of Ancient Egyptian Art from the British Museum. London: British Museum Press.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Early Dynastic Status Symbols- stone in funerary contexts

W401b is a squat, breccia round-based bowl with lugs. It measures 18cm in height. The lugs have no holes through them, which may suggest that the vessel was unfinished, or its purpose was symbolic.

Vessels such of these would have been laborious to make and their manufacture may well have been a royal monopoly. Thus, it has been suggested that they are status symbols or ‘powerfacts’. They are only found in the graves of the wealthy and some even have gold leaf on them. A number are inscribed with the names of kings and from the names it appears that some kings took vessels of other kings for their own funerary complexes. It is also seems likely that kings may have given gifts of stone vessels to courtiers and members of their family.

This type of vessel dates from the Predynastic Naqada II Period to the 5th Dynasty, though is most common during the 1st to 3rd Dynasties, the heyday of Egyptian stone vessel production. It has been estimated that more than 40,000 stone vessels were put in the step pyramid at Saqqara alone! Large numbers have also been found at Abydos and smaller numbers elsewhere in Egypt. You can see more vessels of this date elsewhere in this gallery.
This example is made from limestone breccia. Pottery vessels are sometimes found with spiral patterns, like the one on the right, suggesting that they were copying breccia examples.

It is sometimes said that the reason why so many stone vessels are found in graves, particularly in the Early Dynastic Period, is because stone is an eternal material. It is therefore particularly suitable for burials. The vessels do not seem to have had an ‘everyday’ purpose. A number are not properly drilled out suggesting that they are only symbolic.

Red breccia is found at several sites on the west bank of the Nile. It’s use seems to have declined from the 4th Dynasty. It is only used occasionally in later periods. For the manufacture of stone vessels see Stocks 2013.

We do not know where in Egypt this object came from. Sir Henry Wellcome purchased it at auction in 1906 from the collection of Robert de Rustafjaell.

If you are interested in other stone vessels in the Egypt Centre, and even a podcast about ancient Egyptian stoneworking,  click here.

Further Reading
Aston, B. G. 1994. Ancient Egyptian Stone Vessels. Studien zur Archäologie und Geschichte Altägyptens 5. Heidelberg

el-Khouli, A. Egyptian Stone Vessels. Predynastic Period to Dynasty III. Typology and Analysis, Mainz am Rhein, 1978 (3 vols.)

Stocks, D.A. 2013. Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt