Search This Blog

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Mummymania Exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art

Mummymania was a recent exhibition at the Ian Potter Museum of Art. I was invited along to the openning night and enjoyed talks given by experts in the fields of Archaeology, Materials Conservation, Curatorship, Film Studies and Literature. Not too mention some nice cheese and wine afterwards. The exhibition showcased a variety of things from the collection and other items on loan related to ancient Egyptian mummies, and the "mummymania" which has swept the popular imagination, especially over the 20th century. I've been back a number of times since, prioer to the exhibition winding up last April.

Some of my highlights were a mummified falcon, a mummified cat, the collection of vintage mummy horror film posters, canopic jars and more. I have to say my personal favourite was seeing the little blue faiance shabtis! I did my first ever Archaeology assesment task on some of the shabtis in the Ian Potter Museum of Art's collection. I even have some replica ones myself.

A shabti/shawabtis/ushabti is a small figurine of a person usually made of faiance or clay. The name derives from the Ancient Egyptian "Ushab" to answer - and thus there name means - the answerer. Shabtis were inscribed with heiroglyphic spells, so that in the safterlife, an Egyptian elite could summon them ("call them" so to speak) and they would come to life and "answer" the call, usually to do work. As the Ancient Egyptian afterlife was thought to be much like the present world, though far more exclusive and a bit nicer, work still needed to be done to cultivate and irriagate. For this reason shabtis usually carried tools, some were even overseer shabtis with flails. Some tombs even had sets of shabtis, with a different one to work each day of the year, so the deceased could relax. Shabtis were usually made of glistening light blue faiance or stone, such as alabaster.

You can see some examples in the promotional picture for the exhibition here:

Rememberance Day 2015

Rememberance Day celebrates the armstice at the end of The Great War, which came to be known as World War I. In Commonwealth nations this is celebrated on the 11/11, and a minute's silence at 11 AM. We were winding up a Claasics and Archaeology Postgrad committee meeting last year when The Last Post sounded from a brass bugle and we listened to the address from the quad building and held our silence. I had bought a red popey pin that morning and wore it pined to my bag strap. I've kept it on there ever since.

The University of Melbourne landscape has a number of reminders of the Fisrt World War all around. For instance, only a small portion of the larhe wrought iron fencing remains on Grattan street. It used to encircle the entire university campus. In the 1888 Building, our graduate building, you can see a list of names and many photos of the students from the university who fought and died in WWI. The University had it's own cadet regiment at thE time.  There is also a patriotic looking stained glass window from the period. There is also an obolisk dedicated to all who fought near South Lawn, surrounded by cuttings of the wild rosemary which grows on the hills of Gallipoli. Seeing as how 2015 marks the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, a seedling of the Lone Pine was planted near Wilson Hall with a comemorative and military ceremony.

I was fortunate enough to visit the shores and hills of Gallipoli in 2008 as part of the overseas intensive subject, The Greco-Roman City in Antiquity, and it was a very serene place and a humbling, quiet, reflection inducing experience for our group whether international students, or Australian students, whether they had family there or not, it struck a sombreing cord.

I didn't know it at the time, but on ANZAC Day 2015, 25th of April, for all our Australian and New Zealand military people who served in any and all capacities, I found out I had a Hallett relative who died at Gallipoli. We found his death penny in my Great Uncle's old things. Albert Hallett, not my direct ancestor but a relative. This too was an interesting and unexpected discovery to be proud of.

And here is a couplke of photos from campus that day:

The Lone Pine seedling
The Obolisk

Tabletop Catapult

I think everyone should have a tabletop catapult (it's a nifty pencil sharpner too!). Great for fireing peas, beans or corn from one end of a dining table to another. Come Easter, also great for launching boulders of Easter egg foil and come Christmas, a handy way to "share" unwanted bonbon pieces.

The word catapult derives from the Ancient Greek word Katapeltes, from Kata -"against", and pallein - "to hurl", "to throw" thus it is a siege engine "to hurl" [rocks, projectiles etc] "against" [walls, forts etc]. Marvelous how language works sometimes, even if quite literal in description.

Medieval European banquets opten had small catapults capble of casting fruit, vegetables, bread, or small blocks of cheese from one end of the long feasting tables to another.

Ancient Bling for Modern Lives

Museum shops around the world, both instore gift shops and their online counterparts, have a wonderful variety of replica artifacts or artifact-inspired pieces. Nowhere is this more apparent, not to mention glamerous, than in modern jewellry. Sometimes it is quite forward to simply get a jewller to imitate the work of an ancient craftsperson - all be it with modern technology, magnification, electroplating etc - but sometimes it is extremly difficult, even almost impossible to replicate some of those generations of skills devloped to make something incredibly small, intricate and fine, let alone do it as they once would have. Sometimes though, new jewellry can be created, inspired by ancient pieces like a broach based off a larger object or a bangle based off the design of a diadem.

Ancient bling for (your) modern lives!

Here are some pieces I checked out at the Metropolitan Museum of Art store (Melbourne outlet)

Egyptian and Sumerian

Egyptian and Javan

Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical Greek 

Roman, Byzantine and Medieval Persian