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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.

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