Egypt in London

London, I have to admit is one of my favourite cities in the world (along with Qu├ębec City and Cairo). Since I have become interested in Egyptology, I have travelled to London and visited the British Museum a few times. On this trip, however, I am determined on expending my horizons… and that’s why I visited the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology last week.

The Petrie Museum is at University College, London and about 15 minutes from the BM (and about 7 from my hotel). It houses the archaeological material excavated by Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, who saw archaeology with quite a scientific eye for his time. Petrie worked in numerous sites in Egypt and the Levant.

As a typical university museum, the Petrie is small, dusty and badly lit… but it was filled with wonderful, wonderful stuff! What I found most exciting there was the pottery. Normally, I like stone artefacts such as statues or carved reliefs… this is perhaps because of my academic background in art and architecture. Yet, it was the ceramic vessels that simply blew me away….

Don’t these cute little pots remind you of something in the NCMA’s Egyptian collection? They should! We do have one of these squat jars with lug handles (NCMA editors Karen and Cathy, and I like to call them squat jars with love handles). Our cute little jar, however, has been removed from the Egyptian gallery recently so as to keep it in a safe place (storage) while there is construction work going on nearby. A curator’s work is to keep the collection in their care safe and if this means moving it temporarily off display, that’s what is needed. Did you know that curators at the British Museum are actually called “keepers”? Doesn’t it sound so much more dramatic? As if they are guarding the museum’s treasures with their life (and should be wearing chain mail or something). But I digress…

There was a whole entire gallery filled with hundreds of ceramic vessels… and it was fabulous! Just the sheer number of them was what made it so impressive. Evidently, the museum contained much more than pots, but the fact that Petrie himself worked extensively with these vessels in order to determine the evolution of their shape and attributes makes these objects so much more important. Having thus created this evolution of pots (it’s called seriation), Petrie could use them to date tombs he later excavated that contained the same type of material. He was the first to do so in Egyptology.

Bye for now!

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