Notes from the Egypt Centre curator
And hello again.
Monday. Wendy spent the day getting ready for Tuesday and importantly preparing the condition reports for the student handling session next Monday. The preparation always takes much longer than the actual session. Five objects have been chosen, each of a different material, illustrating technology and material culture of ancient Egypt. The handling sessions and close examination of the real objects is always a favourite session for students and the reason some come to Swansea to study! We had a group of MA Egyptology students round and I gave them a tour of the Egypt Centre. I say tour but as I tend to burble on a lot they only heard about 4 objects. They did hear about the love story between the previous curator and a deceased head of Classics at Swansea, which is integral to how the Egyptian collection came to Swansea. Yes really! I am hoping the students were enthused enough to come back and visit us and learn about more objects.
Started tidying up the collections part of our website and sending stuff off for Welsh translation. This bit of the website with associated links: http://www.egypt.swan.ac.uk/the-collection-2/the-collection/
Also answered requests from a student from Leiden who is doing research on coffins. She started with the Vatican Coffin Project then moved on to us. Yes, the Pope has an Egyptological collection and we were pleased to have been considered as important enough to be second! Anyway, she wanted information on some of our Third Intermediate Period (c. 1000 BC) coffin fragments and particularly the complete one which we have on display downstairs. The complete one is ‘fun’ as it has pictures on it all about how to get to the afterlife. It belonged to a lady musician who worked in the temple at Thebes, a well to do woman. It has lots of pictures of strange goings on including a judgement scene. One of the ideas the Egyptians held about the afterlife was that your heart would be weighed against the feather of truth to see if you were deserving of an afterlife. If your heart was heavy and full of lies it would be eaten by the devourer who was part hippopotamus, part lion and part crocodile. Without a heart heaven was a no go! I’ve got very interested in this coffin over the years so you can read more about it here: http://www.egypt.swan.ac.uk/the-collection-2/the-collection/w1982/
Tuesday. Wendy and I staffed the Egypt Centre stall at Staff Benefits Roadshow, Swansea University and we met lots of people we hadn’t met before including ISS staff. It was worth it to meet you all. We do try and benefit staff in having events for adults (including wine tasting a murder mystery and a photography event) and we keep the children of staff amused through events for children. And, I don’t know about you, but I find it therapeutic to visit museums. It gives a sense of perspective. That lady musician who lived 3000 years ago loved and laughed, sang, had hopes and fears, just like all of us.
But back to normality, when we got back to the museum apparently the school had come and gone. They arrived at the Centre an hour late as they had confused us with Swansea Museum. This happens all the time. Our advertising budget is small and Swansea Museum is the longer established institution, in fact the oldest museum in Wales.
Matching orphan labels to objects (warning, nerdish stuff). Wellcome label 243552 was found separate from its object (Henry Wellcome’s agents gave artefacts accession numbers but some of these have been separated from artefacts). But the Wellcome Institute in London has useful documents. Back in 2000 I visited there and made a few notes. Looking back over those notes I found a reference to a 1930s notebook (‘Miss Borer’s notebook’) which states that Lot 52 was a Black basalt mould measuring 4 ½ by 2 inches purchased at Sotheby’s on 22/10/1934. We have six basalt moulds in the collection. But only one with that measurement-result! EC656. When we look at photocopies of the sale catalogues of that date (some of which we have in our museum library) we see that this had been the property of Mansoor Abd Essayid. The catalogue says he was an official of the Egyptian state railways, Cairo. Unfortunately we don’t know where he obtained his moulds.
Went to two very good talks this week. One by Dr Kasia Szpakowska on a journey through the afterlife, which was given to the Friends of the Egypt Centre on Wednesday night. You can find out more about the friends lectures here: http://www.egypt.swan.ac.uk/about/friends-of-the-egypt-centre/
The other, held on Thursday early evening, by a student who is doing a PhD in both Swansea and in the Sorbonne. It was all about a little known woman called Ahhotep. She was a ‘warrior queen’ who drove off the enemies of Egypt around 1550 B.C. Most literature on her states she wasn’t involved in the warfare itself despite the fact that her son credited her with driving off the enemies of Egypt. The usual thinking seems to ignore the facts and just assume that there was no way Egyptian women did such unladylike things! This talk gave a different view. More about that lecture programme here: https://inepww.wordpress.com/
And, if anyone is interested you can attend these lectures. The Friends lectures have a small cost, the latter are free.
Our Museum Volunteer Manager Syd Howells gave a successful talk on the history of the Egypt Centre and the collections' origins to a church group in Tycoch on Thursday evening.
Our volunteers have been super busy this week with large school groups almost every day and of course, all schools chose the mummification activity. We really couldn’t manage without our volunteers.
Quote from a child visiting the Centre on being helped to take his coat off ‘I like it here, it’s like a five-star hotel’.