I hope you all had a lovely festive period? I definitely did – thanks for asking. I have just returned from a trip to Malta (blog post coming soon), but I wanted to give you a little something to tide you over until I have done all of my post-holiday decluttering.
A little while ago, I attended an ‘Egyptology Day’ with City Lit. The main part of the day was a series of talks by leading academics on various aspects of Egyptian history. If all of their courses are as good as this one, I would definitely recommend booking one; especially as they have hundreds of different areas of interest to choose from.
The course ended with a guided tour of the Petrie Museum in Holborn. This museum is absolutely tiny and based on the UCL campus – you might not have even known it was there unless you’d read about it!
The museum is named after Egyptologist Flinders Petrie, who excavated some of the most important and iconic sites of Ancient Egypt. You may have heard of him recently, as he was portrayed in ITV’s ‘Tutankhamun’. I mention this partly because it was a brilliant series (although not entirely factually accurate), but mainly so that I can insert a gratuitous photo of Max Irons as Howard Carter here –
Anyway…back to the Petrie Museum. Much like its namesake, it focuses entirely on Egyptian archaeology.
This museum houses a whopping 80,000 artefacts, ranging from pottery to jewellery, toys and even human body parts. Due to this, the guided tour focused on some of the more stand out pieces on show.
The museum has one of the best collections of Faiyum mummy portraits from the Roman period in Ancient Egypt. These would have been placed on the outside of the sarcophagus or coffin and are obviously a lot more naturalistic than the more well-known and ‘classically Egyptian’ depictions of the deceased. They were mainly found in the Faiyum Basin (hence the name). This mix of cultures was one of things highlighted during the talks of that day; it seems that communities were a lot keener to peacefully integrate back in the ancient world than they are now.
The museum also boasts possession of the world’s oldest surviving woven garment, the Tarkhan Dress, which has been carbon dated to between 3482-3102 BC. This type of garment would not usually have survived the ravages of time and although it was excavated by Petrie in 1913, it lay forgotten until the late 1970s when it was found with some other textile artefacts.
What sets this museum apart from other more mainstream archaeological museums, such as the British Museum or the Neues Museum in Berlin, is the fact that it is so dark, dusty and poky. It doesn’t feel as though the objects have been set out for display for the benefit of thousands of tourists. In fact, it would be a struggle to get more than 20 people into one room at all. It feels far more research based and authentic and as a result, you will be able to spend real, uninterrupted time looking at some very unusual artefacts.
So, if you have a specific interest in this area of history or if you’re just interested in finding new museums to visit, I would highly recommend the Petrie Museum. It is free to enter and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5pm.
Thanks for reading,