DNA confirms the Two Brothers’ relationship

The Two Brothers are indeed brothers (well, half brothers). Yet another great post by my colleague Campbell Price at the Manchester Museum.

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

Using ‘next generation’ DNA sequencing, scientists at the University of Manchester have confirmed a long-held supposition that the famous ‘Two Brothers’ of the Manchester Museum have a shared mother but different fathers – so are, in fact, half-brothers. This is the first in a series of blog posts presenting the DNA results, and discussing the interpretation and display of the Brothers in Manchester.

The ‘Two Brothers’ are among Manchester Museum’s most famous inhabitants. The complete contents of their joint burial forms one of the Museum’s key Egyptology exhibits, which have been on almost continuous display since they were first entered the Museum in 1908.

_D0V4739, 4740 (3) The Two Brothers’ inner coffins: Khnum-nakht (left) and Nakht-ankh (right), 2011

Central to public (and academic) interest have been the mummified bodies of the men themselves – Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh – who lived around the middle of the 12th Dynasty, c. 1900-1800 BC. Their intact…

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The Return of Greek Ceramics

As promised yesterday, today’s post presents the last study session of 2017. Actually, it’s the last study session. Full stop. We’ve looked at the entire Classical collection since 2013 and this part of the project is completed!! (Insert a sigh of relief here, but note that the project itself is far from being completed!)

So, back in mid-December, we studied the Greek ceramics. Again. (Yes, we did it before, but the consultant was not able  to complete the project and thus I had to find somebody else and start over from scratch). The task was given to Keely, the expert on South Italian ceramics… who is also specialised in Greek ceramics.  (Let’s not forget that South Italian ceramics are pots made by Greek colonists who settled in South Italy.) We invited Kat, who works in the marketing department, to come see what we were doing so she could post ‘behind the scenes’ stuff on social media. She admitted being a little verklempt at seeing the objects up close, without a vitrine, and have an expert tell her all about them. :)

Having a Greek ceramics expert at the museum for several days, we took the opportunity to film a few video clips for docent training (we also did some on South Italian pots, too!). Carpe diem, as the Romans would have said!

A long time ago: a Cycladic figure…

Gad! The end of the year is upon us! (Where the heck did 2017 go?)  I’m taking a few minutes of free time to try to write the last two  posts on the classical research conducted in 2017.

My first post is related to a study conducted a long time ago… that’s what July feels like. (Yes, this happened in July, but I didn’t get the photos until the end of October or beginning of November.) It was a one-day affair because there was only one object to study: a Cycladic figure. Despite its very appealing modern aesthetics, this small ancient sculpture dates to the Cycladic civilisation, between circa 3300 and 2000 BC. (The Cyclades are Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.)

Actually, because of its striking modernity, these figures were very much prized by collectors and as a result there were illegal excavations of sites across the Cyclades. And a significant number of fakes also abound. Unfortunately, there are no scientific methods to determine whether or not these figures are genuine, which makes the researcher’s task more difficult… and the lack of provenance (ownership history) and archaeological provenience (actual find spot on a dig) is not helping the matter either when studying these wonderful little figures.

 

Reflecting on another crazy busy year

You know you’ve fallen behind when the January/February 2018 issue of Archaeology arrives in your mailbox and you’re still not finished with the July/August issue!

It’s the little things that have fallen through the cracks this year. Things like reading Archaeology magazine and posting on my blogs. Mostly because I’m desperately trying to complete projects at work or volunteer stuff at home so that my schedule (life) can return to some kind of normality.  Each time I actually do complete a project, something else pops up to take its place.  Even though I say no to new endeavours or delegate tasks to others, things still pop up. Just like the heads of the Hydra in Greek mythology. You chop one off and two more sprout up.

It’s been another crazy busy year. The second one in a row. And I know a third one is coming along with 2018. I thought perhaps I should reflect on what I have actually accomplished this year so I don’t feel so bad from having neglected my dear readers. (I’m sure you won’t fault me for spending what little free time I may have away from the computer, taking a dance lesson, eating out with friends, walking in parks to exercise or sleeping in).

  1. An article co-authored with a colleague from the British Museum is about to see the light of day (proofs were sent back to the publisher a couple of weeks ago). The project started back in 2008 (!) but took forever to complete because of other museum tasks that take curators away from their research–mostly exhibitions, which can be very demanding–and sometimes health issues get in the way.
  2. A second article is about to see the light of day soon–proofs should be coming to me this week. This was one of those projects that popped up out of nowhere–a conference paper given as part of a panel discussion that was selected for publication. Can’t say no to that!
  3. An online journal has seen the light of day.  When things had come to a grinding halt, I offered solutions to fix the problem–yes, creating more work for myself. However, that is part of my work ethics: if I sit on a committee it’s because I actually want to accomplish the task given the committee. Luckily, once the problems were fixed, colleagues took up the tasks assigned to them and helped make this a reality. This took up loads of my time on weekends and week nights; however, now that we have a system and the journal has its platform, volume two should be much easier to deal with.
  4. Funds were raised so that my next big project is fully funded. Quite an accomplishment, that! It’s so hard to find funding these days, but I did not give up and working with a colleague who has the same work ethics made this a reality as well.  You’ll hear a lot about this project in 2018 because it will consume my life for the next three years–but it’s very cool and should have loads of blogging opportunities. (Time permitting, of course.)
  5. No consultants were strangled and I consider this an accomplishment because a couple have actually brought my patience to its limit!  :)

I’m very happy about the publications (excited to see them in print soon!), the new online journal, and securing funds for my new project. I can’t wait for my other big volunteer project (not mentioned here) to be over soon because that will free up personal time on weekends. Just knowing that I have brought the project to a point where I am satisfied that it can continue with minimal input on my part–without falling apart–is reassuring. I have done my part; others should roll up their sleeves while I supervise from a distance.

I hope the holidays give me time to read my issues of Archaeology magazine, post a few things for you wonderful readers and will help me recharge my batteries.
I may not have Iolaus to help me, but I’ll get you, Hydra… I’ll cauterise one chopped off  head at a time. Just you wait!

Curator’s Diary November 2017: My First Trip to Sudan

Impressions of a first trip to Sudan by friend and fellow curator, Campbell Price at the Manchester Museum. Just by reading his post, I can see the sparkle in his eye and the grin on his face… he clearly enjoyed his trip to this wonderful country!

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

Last week I returned from six days in Sudan, my first ever trip to the country. Despite many visits to neighbouring Egypt, I have always wanted to visit Sudan but not quite managed. I have been especially aware of this since my appointment in 2011 as Curator of Egypt and Sudan at Manchester Museum, which holds some 2000 Sudanese antiquities. As a guest of staff at the British Embassy in Khartoum, I was very grateful for their hospitality and the logistical help afforded in seeing so much of this beautiful country over a short period. Tourism is not nearly as widespread in Sudan as it is in Egypt, which has definite advantages (and some drawbacks) for the interested visitor.

Omdurman Sufi dancing at Omdurman

A personal highlight was witnessing Sufi dancing at the mosque of Hamed al Nil, at Omdurman just outside Khartoum, at dusk after Friday prayers. Although an…

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Sold Out!

Next Friday, I’m giving a lunch and lecture at the Museum on the topic that has many times graced my blog: the science related to the research on the classical collection.  What a fun learning experience that has been! The project is not completed by any means–it will culminate in the publication of said research in the collection catalogue–but we’re wrapping up the actual study of the artefacts.

A few days ago, I was told that the event was sold out!  Now I just need to get cracking on that PowerPoint!  I dump loads of very cool photos in it, I just have to organise them into a coherent narrative. No worries, it will get done by Thursday evening!