Ancient Egypt: A History in Six Objects

This was a really informative and enjoyable course was run by Manchester University, with the team of Dr Joyce Tyldesley, Dr Glenn Godenho and Dr Campbell Price.

In each of the 6 weekly lectures the three experts examined and discussed a different item from the Manchester Museum‘s Ancient Egyptian collection.

To pass the course and be awarded our Statement of Accomplishment, we students had to select and produce our own ‘Ancient Egypt: A History in Six Objects’ – which was an enjoyable,  thought-provoking, challenging and interesting exercise.

Here are a few of the items I chose and my reasons for choosing them:

Early Dynastic Period:
Den sandallabel_lKing Den Sandal Label
1st Dynasty c. 3000-2890 BCE
Hippopotamus ivory label –  from Abydos
British Museum

This label belonged to King Den – one of the first pharaohs of the newly-unified Egypt some 3000 years ago.  No bigger than a credit-card, it is a name-tag; once attached to a pair of his sandals, made to accompany Den into the afterlife; to identify him to those he met on his journey.

I chose this label because, although tiny, it says so much about early royal power and control; and of royal iconography which remained an integral part of pharaonic propaganda throughout the centuries.

The New Kingdom (Dynasties 18-20) c.   1550 – 1069 BCE:
Tutankhamun's pectoralTutankhamun’s Solar Boat Pectoral:
18th Dynasty, Tutankhamun c. 1333-1323 BCE
Valley of the Kings, Tomb of Tutankhamun
Gold, silver, semi precious stones and glass paste
Cairo Museum

This exquisite item was discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb in an inlaid box of ebony and ivory with an inscription that read, “Golden jewellery, belonging to the funerary procession, for the bedchamber of Nebkheperure”  (Nebkheperure being Tutankhamun’s coronation name).

As is usually the case with Egyptian jewellery, it is laden with symbolism; and this piece appears contradictory.  The iconography is both solar and lunar:  there is the solar scarab beetle and the baboons – associated with the sunrise; and the lunar deity of Thoth, symbolising both the underworld and the celestial realms; the night and the day – and more.

There is so much more to the Tutankhamun find than the fabulous ‘Golden Mask’; this represents a lovely example of  incredible workmanship, which is laden with apparently contradictory iconography, typical of the ever-present ‘duality’ of their thinking – or perhaps, they were just hedging their bets?

Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties 21-25)  c. 1069 – 664 BCE:
louvre-quotdivine-adoratrice-d039amonquot-karomamaStanding statue of Karomama – the ‘God’s Wife of Amun’ 
22nd Dynasty, c 870 BCE
Probably Karnak

Bronze, inlayed with gold, silver and electrum – H 870 cm
Musee du Louvre

This beautiful piece is a fine example of the exquisite workmanship of this period.  It represents Karomama in her role as Divine Adoratrice.  The statue is famous for the sophisticated, high standard of production technique – the lost-wax bronze casting process and features complicated metalwork, which was ornately decorated with precious metal inlays.

This beautiful, graceful statue is undoubtedly ranks among the finest pieces of this period, and tells us of the importance of the role of ‘God’s Wives’ during this time – and I think she is simply gorgeous!

I found the process of selecting my own 6 objects so fascinating that I thought I would share some of my other favourite objects with you – in the form of another presentation – with an expanded selection to cover a broader time-frame.
So, let me introduce my own:
 ‘Ancient Egypt: A History in Twelve Objects’.

I hope you  will enjoy my selection as much as I have enjoyed creating it.