Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A Digger’s Life ... and the Petrie Museum ...


The ‘father of scientific archaeology’ is how William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853 – 1942) is known – more commonly as Flinders Petrie – and as a pioneer of the systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts.

 
potsherds, faience, beads ... 
Petrie’s immediate forebears endowed him with much talent, while encouraging him too as he studied at home ... his father was an electrical engineer, who developed the precursor to the electric light bulb ...


His mother was the daughter of Matthew Flinders, surveyor of the Australian coastline, who spoke six languages and was an Egyptologist ... you can see their son’s life’s work laid out before him ...

Wooden Astrolobe - Ottoman period
(probably made for teaching rather than actual use)

His father taught him how to survey accurately, laying the foundation for his archaeological career.  He learnt French, Latin and Greek in those early formative years ... and was opinionated!


When friends visiting the Petrie family were describing the unearthing of Brading Roman Villa in the Isle of Wight ... which they described as the rough shovelling out of the contents- young Flinders, aged 8, (that’s what I want to call him!) was horrified and protested that the earth should be pared away, inch by inch, to see all that was in it and how it lay.

 
Case 31!  There were more - let alone
the ones on display in the cabinets
When Flinders Petrie, in his late seventies, noted that “All I have done since, was there to begin with, so true it is that we can only develop what is born in the mind.  I was already in archaeology by nature.”


I expect many of us would love to be so decided in life ...


This “Digger” had great encouragement from Amelia Edwards (1831-92), a successful writer, novelist and Egypt enthusiast who became Petrie’s self-appointed patron. 


She provided Petrie with contacts in the press and helped finance his excavations.  She eventually launched Petrie’s university career by using her fortune to endow the professorship at University College London that he took up in 1892.

A name tag attached to a mummy - probably used
at the time 30BC - 37AD to identify mummies at the
time of mummification

Edwards donated her collection of several hundred Egyptian antiquities, many of historical importance ... however the collection grew to international stature in scope and scale thanks mainly to the extraordinary excavating career of the first Edwards’ Professor, William Flinders Petrie.


In his teenage years, Petrie surveyed British prehistoric monuments in attempts to understand their geometry and at 19 produced the most accurate survey of Stonehenge.

 
A child's shoe
He travelled to Egypt in early 1880 to make an accurate survey of Giza, making him the first person to properly investigate how they were constructed ...


... his triangulation survey report, and his analysis of the architecture of Giza was exemplary in its methodology and accuracy and still provides much of the basic data regarding the pyramid plateau to this day.


So why do we find Ancient Egypt so fascinating?  Mummies, pharaohs, gold, hieroglyphs, pyramids, strange gods ... these are what people often think of when ancient Egyptian civilisation is mentioned.


An Armana glazed floral necklace (reconstructed) 
The forms, shapes, colours and decoration of Egyptian objects are immediately recognisable and seem to summon up the culture of ancient Egypt in an instant.


Yet to talk of the ‘culture of ancient Egypt’ is a little misleading – ancient Egyptian civilisation was made up of many different periods and changed enormously over a huge era of time.


Egyptians in the reign of Tutankhamun were as far away in time from the pyramid builders as we are today from the Vikings ... all of 1,200 years ...
 
Carnelian and Garnet beads from a royal tomb

Ancient Egypt is continually in dialogue with the modern world – yet, Petrie’s work and Victorian legacy has left us with the marvellous Petrie Museum ... letting us follow that journey back with the 80,000 pieces in the Collection ...


... giving researchers an exceptionally well-documented ‘objective archive’ – an unsurpassed resource for scholars the world over.

A Head cover was put over the mummy not only to
emphasise that this was a real person, but to show in
the afterlife the person was transformed into a
perfect god-like form

The Museum tells the story of the Nile Valley from prehistory to the rise of the Pharaohs to the emergence of Islam.


What makes the Collection unique is its extensive collection of everyday objects, such as hair combs, clay bowls and textiles, which provide insight into their daily life ...


... there are spectacular art works, sculptures of Kings, mud toys, fine ceramics alongside rat traps, jewellery alongside everyday garments, socks and sandals ...

 
Modelled foot coverings were on occasions
 also added to mummies
... there are coffin faces and masks, three full-length coffins, and the best-preserved example of a pot burial (3,000-2,000 BC), a large, highly prized, group of Roman Period mummy portraits ...


We can also see ancient Egyptian garments as worn, notably three dresses, five thousand years old, (including a rare bead-net dress of a dancer and a linen tunic), life-size statues, the stone lions from Koptos (c 3,000 BC) ...

 
An early lute made from materials
readily available - from SimSim, Gaza
Those rich colours of garnet, cornelian, kohl, Egyptian Faience ... the potsherds and limestone shards, the sintered-quartz ceramics displaying surface vitrification which creates the bright lustre of various blue-green colours ...


Egyptian Faience was perceived as a substitute for the blue-green materials such as turquoise, found in the Sinai peninsula, and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.


Today it has proved impossible, much like the Blaschka’s glass models, to find the techniques that the Egyptians used in their workshops ... but with copper, gold and other minerals available, clay widely used, ‘workshops’ were found in close proximity – allowing much experimentation to occur.

.. yet another case or cabinet full of curiosities
from the Egyptian era .. the faience blue object ...
also the pair of human inlay eyes in limestone
with glass pupils

This Digger thankfully brought us so much knowledge from the Nile dynasties ... and faithfully recorded it for posterity – it is still being used today ... the guide taking us round Durham Castle, and the Museum Education Officer for the Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition ... both had undertaken study work at the Petrie Museum ...


His other claim to fame was to be a populariser ... through his early writings he brought Egypt to life, which he then supported through his research work and diggings in the field, letting the public have insight into Egyptian history with his vivid anecdotes and stories.


The Petrie Museum is a researcher’s paradise ... and with the techniques we have available to us today ... once again opens new doors into ancient Egyptian civilisation through its collections and Museum displays.


Note - I'm off again to the Welsh borders ... back later in the week!


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

47 comments:

Betsy Brock said...

How very interesting! My great grandfather wasn't a surveyor, but he farmed on what used to be a heavily populated American Indian land. He had hundreds of artifacts that he had brought up from his plow...arrow heads, etc.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I have always wanted to go to a museum full of Egyptian antiquities. I don't think there's one over here in the states. Ancient Egypt is so so fascinating. I agree. I can't quite put my finger on it but it's just so interesting!

Diana Wilder said...

I think it was Petrie who encountered one of what they call pyramidologists (the Great Pyramid, they say, predicts the future, depending on where various cracks and nitches are) at the Great Pyramid. He was busily filing a crack into the stone to support his pet theory. Petrie sent him on his way with a flea in his ear. His writings were so elegantly done, too.

Wonderful post, Hilary! (As one who has a cycle of stories set in ancient Egypt and owes a debt to Petrie...)

Diana at Diana Wilder – About Myself, by Myself

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Between Edwards' donation and what he gathered, I bet Petrie had a huge collection amassed by the time he died.

Teresa Coltrin said...

With interesting parents like that, Flinders Petrie had to do something great. Egyptian history is amazing.

Love this post and the photos.

Chatty Crone said...

At first I thought it was a petrie dish!

I am still amazed at all the information and pictures your have.

His parents - how could he help but find something like this.

My grandson would love this -

sandie





Deniz Bevan said...

So fascinating, Hilary!
I can't believe people used to just shovel stuff up! Who knows what we've lost over the years...

I find surveying fascinating. How interesting to be mapping coastlines back in the day when you couldn't simply fly over!

Clarissa Draper said...

What an amazing family. They all contributed to the field of historical research and invention. I cant believe that he learnt all those languages. Fascinating artifacts.

rosaria williams said...

Fascinating! Glad you shared this with us, especially since Egypt is in the news, trying to find a foothold in modern times that will honor its past, and allow its citizens to walk tall into the future.

Sara said...

Very interesting! I love archeology and thought about majoring in it in college, but went a different way.

I do remember how important the surveying was. I loved your quote about the young Petrie saying, "...the earth should be pared away, inch by inch, to see all that was in it and how it lay."

Oddly, of the pictures, the one of the shoe just jumps at me. There something about an common object, so familiar today, to think of its history. It makes me wonder about the child who wore it.

Cheers to you, today...wherever you are:~)

JJ said...

I love this site more and more!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Betsy - did he keep the artefacts? I hope so, and that you have kept the information?! So interesting to hear about ...

@ Keith - I found some images from a couple of museums in the States .. but this museum is jam packed of Egyptian antiquities ....I used my own photos in the end ..

@ Diana - I'll have to come back to you on your comment ...re Petrie et al ... such an interesting lead in you've given me!! I remember your books ..

@ Alex - Edwards and Petrie between them set the Professorship on its way .. and then University College bought the lot - which til then had been used for teaching purposes only ...

@ Teresa .. it's been fascinating finding out about Egyptian antiquities through the museum - however little I touch the subject ...

@ Sandie - I checked up on the Petrie dish aspect ...but very different ... hope your grandson enjoys looking at these pictures ..

@ Deniz - I thought Imight do a post on Flinders the Surveyor .. and early surveying - exactly now - we can sit where we are and google iit ... I wonder what they'd make of it all?!

My whitebait has arrived ... so I,m off to eat ... cheers H!!!

JoJo said...

I'm fascinated by archaeology but I don't think I could ever do it for real....all that gridwork with strings and using teensy tools and brushes. I always joke that I want to get in there with a fire hose and sluice/wash plant.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Clarissa - it was his mother who spoke six languages ... that amazes me ... no wonder young Petrie was so talented in languages though .. they're so helpful - wish I'd learnt them as a child!

@ Rosaria - when I hear of the modern troubles .. I'm glad we brought so much across to the UK and opened up the doors for other "diggers" ...

back shortly!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara - I'm in a place called Shobdon! near the Malvern Hills ...it's really lovely and tomorrow the weather should be better, when I'm wandering through the lanes it will be very pretty ...Interesting you thought of the archaeology route ...

Petrie and his parents must have achieved so much with their lives .. despite the Museum in recognition ...

I look at all the exhibits from the fully mummies, to the pot burial - I saw it! You do wonder about lives long long ago ... so much and yes, what did that child play with ... etc did he grow up ...

@ JJ - thanks so much!

@ JoJo - I see you sneaked in while I was eating supper! - I think if you did what you suggested - Petrie would come back to life with a vengeance and have a few words to say!

It's interesting now - as I read 'diggers' uncovering sites in London and see their process ... before huge concrete structures are built on the land obliterating any archaeology for ever probably...

Cheers to you all - Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

I'd love to visit this museum - looks amazing! I love pic of the child's shoe.

mail4rosey said...

Sounds like he def. had good genes from his mother. :)

I would love to visit Egypt for all of the reasons you said people do, but the information outside of touristy things is always so interesting!!

Your posts are always interesting too!

Patsy said...

Gosh, yes it must be good to know from a young age what you want to do and to have lifelong training for it. Still, I have at last decided what I want to be when I grow up - and in a way the previous years have all been preparation for it.

Donna Hole said...

What an awesome career. Have fun on your trip Hillary.

.....dhole

MorningAJ said...

I LOVE that museum! We went when I was studying archaeology back in the nineties. It's just a fascinating 'cabinet of curiosities'. Thanks for the reminder.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie .. I must go back I missed so much ... and really probably should have taken more pictures! Another time ..

@Rosy .. it seems like the three of them came along at the right time as too his grandfather Matthew Flinders with his surveying of the Australian coast ..

Glad you enjoy being here ..

@ Patsy .. some of us find out later don't we! As you say life gathers so much information along its journey ..

@ Donna - he was exceedingly passionate about all he did - determined to bring Egypt to life for all of us .. by popularising it ...

@ Anne - I expect it's changed a little recently .. but still shows so much ... I must definitely go back and have a more informed look around .. Perhaps we could meet there one day?

Cheers everyone - after a rain soaked journey up - the sun is thinking about coming out for my day in the borders ... Hilary

Jo said...

I thought of a Petrie dish originally too. Fascinating life.

You sure are travelling around and seeing some interesting things.

Susanne Drazic said...

Hi, Hilary. Quite an interesting post and lots of wonderful pictures. Like a few others, when I saw the name Petrie, my first thought was the petrie dish. : )

Rosalind Adam said...

I'd have loved to have studied archaeology. I had the chance but opted from 55BC onwards at Uni but then that was interesting too.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

So interesting, Hilary! I think you're right--one of the reasons we're fascinated by the ancient Egyptian culture is because we can so easily picture it...we still have artifacts and pyramids.

nutschell said...

you always dig up the most fascinating research!!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Jo - I had to check and thought he might be of Petrie fame ...yup I'm checking up that the motorways are stilll there!

@ Suzanne .. glad you enjoyed it ...

@ Ros ...I'm sure that period of history from the Romans onwards would have been fascinating ... but at that stage of my life I was disinterested in history! Glad you enjoyed your studies though ..

@ Elizabeth -can't not think of Elizabeth Taylor and kohl eyes ... so many images are around .. that you're right about ..

@ Nutschell - thanks for the 'dig'! Very appropriate - love it!!

Cheers to you all - Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Flinders sounds like one smart cookie. This was so fascinating, Hilary. Thank you for sharing.

Julia Hones said...

There is a lot of Egyptian art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I visited two or three times. (I love that museum).

juliet said...

Wow, Petrie certainly had a good start in life, with parents like that. I love the beads and necklaces, and am fascinated by things Egyptian so can imagine having a very good time in that museum. Thank you Hilary for the tour.

Marja said...

What a fantastic collection and I love the quote of Petrie that we can only develop what is born in the mind. I think that is so true. The thins I so like now were already there hen I was young.
Anyway what fun to visit such a great museum

Rhonda Albom said...

Really interesting information. We have seen some amazing Egyptian artifacts in Berlin and in San Jose, CA.

Lynn said...

I do love your museum visits!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Hilary,

This is SOOOOO fascinating. I love Egyptian art... I have a few drops of Egyptian blood in my heritage from centuries ago... So I guess that's why. Lol.

Thanks for this amazing tour. I really do enjoy your posts so much. I learn a great deal from them...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene - He must have been very smart .. but worked extraordinarily hard, was very disciplined and had that neat mind .. noting all things down.

@ Julia - very interesting to know about the Met in New York, I found some photos that I didn't use at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore ..

The Met has some amazing art works - I went round years ago .. now I'd appreciate it a great deal more ..

@ Juliet - the Flinders-Petrie family certainly had some good genes .. and used their abilities incredibly well.

The beads and necklaces abound the walls and the cabinets .. there is so much to see .. I'll be going back ..

@ Marja - we are who we are when we're born that is for sure .. just people like Petrie had great talent, which they used to the full. I'm glad his thoughts were recorded for us to read ...

@ Rhonda - you're right about the Berlin museum .. one of the two guides had been to Berlin for their studies, as well as the London Petrie Museum ..

It's great that there are collections around the world for us to visit and for you to take your daughters to on your travels ...

@ Lynn - many thanks ..

@ Michael - I can see those few drops of blood in you ... your imagination ... I must go back and see the art itself .. but so pleased you enjoyed more details on the exhibition ...

Cheers to one and all - Hilary

Val Poore said...

Fascinating, Hilary! I've not heard of the Petrie museum but would love to visit it now. How remarkable that he showed such insight into what was needed on a dig at such a young age!

Lisa said...

I love these posts of yours! So intriguing. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a teenager and even went to a summer camp in England (Tewkesbury)to study it! I loved all the sites we visited. Too bad our professor was such a boring lecturer, but we still had fun!

Tina said...

Wow, I had no idea one person was so influential in this part of history. Completely fascinating as always! Miss you Hils. Will try to catch up soon...you know what's up.
Tina @ Life is Good

klahanie said...

Greetings Hilary,

Playing catch up on behalf of my dopey human. He sleeps and I take over the commenting.

Almost three thirty on Saturday morning, but hey, I'm not into time, as such.

This is one museum my human has not been to. At least he's made no mention of it. Although I do know he likes all this ancient Egyptian stuff. He would of had a Pharaoh time back then.

Have fun at the Welsh borders. Let me know if you see any Welsh border collies.

Pawsitive wishes,

Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Val - perhaps you can visit, if and when you get to the UK again.

Thinking about the young Petrie's comments .. he probably had the temerity to speak out as an 8 year old, whereas his mother (the Egyptologist at that stage) would have been biting back her tongue .. he'd learn from her rather well.

@ Lisa - Tewkesbury is full of history and a beautiful part of the country .. I wasn't far away this week.

What a pity about your field and summer camp professor being so boring .. however as a young lady I bet you had loads of fun ...

@ Tina - Petrie was a man of his times with an impeccable background for his life's work ..

Colorado has been badly hit by the storms .. and I hope life for the region will start to ease a little - though so much to do, I know ..

@ Penny - good to see you 4 paws .. I gather you're in sparkling form again now one young man is home ..

3.30pm - well I guess dog's stay up late ... this lady (?) doesn't I can assure you!!

Egyptian artefacts in the museum are so numerous and Penny there must have been some dogs and cats too - but I didn't spot them .. I was too busy avoiding the rat traps!

I'm sure I must seen some Welsh border collies, but I saw lots of sheep!!

Cheers to you all ... enjoy the weekend, looks like we have some clement weather over this island .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

Sounds like a wonderful place to visit! I love checking out these sorts of places, thinking about those who have gone before us and what their stories are. So glad you shared. Thanks Hilary!

Have a great weekend! :)

Gattina said...

Fortunately that these men exist ! We can learn so much from the past. I have always been in love with the ancient Egypt and have visited everything which had to be visited and still can't get enough. While we were still running around in fur, they had a style of life similar to ours, just like the romans !
I think this link would be of interest to you http://gattinatravels.blogspot.be/2011/10/exhibition-of-tutankhamuns-tomb-in.html it was one of the most impressive exhibitions I have ever seen !

Empty Nest Insider said...

You always take us to the most fascinating places Hilary! Though you saw so many interesting exhibits, the child's shoe was particularly haunting.

Julie

Sandra Tyler said...

love your bits of history, Hilary!

jabblog said...

Another fascinating post, Hilary, and most informative. Too often people make the mistake of thinking that ancient civilisations were unsophisticated. I can only wonder at the achievements they made.

Robyn Campbell said...

I learn so much from you, Hil. It's ALWAYS fun to stop by here.

I truly love to learn about all those years ago and how the people lived then. It's fun thinking about who they were and what their lives were like. Ancient people were not stupid. As a matter of fact, they are responsible for so much of today.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Karen - it's that thinking back into their time isn't it ... and what they were doing - in so many ways not that much different to us ... getting on with daily living.

@ Gattina - I agree it's good passionate people fulfil their lives, as we benefit so much. I don't think we had much choice about the fur .. it was so much colder!

I went over to your post - wonderful photos of the replicated versions of all things Tutankhamun ... thanks for linking over.

@ Julie - there were so many interesting items - the whole was fascinating and next time I'll take my time: the child's shoe is haunting isn't it ... but amazing that they've got it to show us.

@ Sandy - thanks so much ..

@ Janice - the more we learn about previous eras, especially now we can access Eastern and American early dynasties ... they knew far more than we appreciated - you're so right in your comment.

@ Robyn - thanks for coming by, when things aren't easy at the moment.

Each generation builds on its and others' pasts ... the difference is we have the printing press, and now digitalisation .. making our lives easier to record for posterity.

With the new technologies we have available and are becoming available we are able to learn even more ...

Thanks everyone - delighted you enjoyed the more detailed posting on Petrie and his passion .. Hilary