British Museum blog

Looking back on the 2011 season in the cemeteries at Amara West

Michaela Binder, Durham University

After seven weeks in Sudan, we’ve just returned to England, and are looking back on a very successful season full of interesting new results. During the 41 days of excavation, Dyan Semple, Carina Summerfield-Hill and I were able to excavate 25 graves, 42 more or less complete skeletons and a large range of small finds and pottery.

Most importantly, in the chamber tomb G234 we found evidence that Cemetery C was already in use during the New Kingdom, much earlier than previously thought.

Tumulus graves G238 and G239

The last few days at Amara West were quite busy, as is usual in excavation projects like this. On one hand, all the fieldwork has to be finished.

My work at the end of the season focused on a slightly elevated area with several small shallow burial mounds (tumuli) made up of scattered schist stones and alluvial silt. In the three graves we excavated, the dead were also buried in side-niches at the bottom of a vertical shaft. However, the size and depth of the tombs (up to 1.8 metres) as well as the presence of the superstructures distinguish them from the other niche burials found further north in the cemetery.

Carved flowers on a fragment of a wooden pigment container

Even though the graves were also disturbed and looted, they still yielded ceramic vessel fragments and a few objects, among them pieces of an ivory plate and a wooden pigment container decorated with carvings of lotus flowers.

It is possible that the prominent location and size of these graves indicates that they were meant for the burial of individuals from a higher social class.

Packing skeletal material for travel

At the same time, everything back at the house had to be packed and stored away. The skeletons excavated during this season had to be wrapped and packed in crates, not always an easy task, in order to make sure they are safely transported back to England.

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Construction of St Peter’s Basilica began #onthisday in 1506. It was completed 120 years later. This print by Giuseppe Vasi was made in 1774
#print #art #history #Rome #Italy Happy 134th birthday @natural_history_museum! Here’s the British Museum before the natural history collection moved to South Kensington
#giraffe #history #BritishMuseum #museum Most Greek sculpture that survives from antiquity is carved from white marble, of which the Mediterranean has many natural sources. A relationship has often been assumed between the pure white of freshly cut marble and the idealism of Greek art. In fact, the opposite is true. Colour was intrinsic to ancient ideas of beauty. For centuries this has been a subject of fascination and controversy. The great Italian Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo revived the Greek idea of the human body but denied the use of colour. This was partly due to negative associations with the painted saints of the medieval period. During the European Enlightenment of the 1750s onwards, and increasingly into our own time, the preferred aesthetic was a truth to materials. Painting and gilding were seen as unnecessary and undesirable.

Sculpture in antiquity was often adorned not only with colour but also with different materials. The Greek marble statue of an archer reconstructed here was drilled and fitted with metal attachments. The figure originally held a bronze bow and arrow and a quiver was fixed to his left hip by a metal dowel. Individual locks of hair were made of lead. The colourful design of the man’s knitted all-in-one garment, often worn by peoples from the east, is clearly seen weathered into the marble surface under controlled lighting.

You can see this wonderful object in our exhibition #DefiningBeauty, until 5 July 2015.
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Plaster cast of archer with reconstructed paint, based on a Greek original of about 490–480 BC, from the Temple of Aphaia at Aigina. Staatliche Antikensammlung und Glyptothek, Munich. Uta Uta Tjangala's masterpiece Yumari is a highlight of‪ #IndigenousAustralia, opening a week today
#exhibition #art #history #BritishMuseum #Australia #museum Hans Sloane's collection also ended up as the basis of the @natural_history_museum and the @britishlibrary!
To make more room for the increasing collections held by the British Museum, the natural history collections were moved to a new building in South Kensington in the 1880s. This eventually became the Natural History Museum. These images show some of the natural history specimens on display, including giraffes and a mastodon!
In 1997, the library departments left the Museum to be re-housed at the new British Library in St Pancras.
#history #BritishMuseum #collection #animals #books Hans Sloane's encyclopaedic collection became the cornerstone of the British Museum.
This drawer was once part of the materia medica - a sort of pharmaceutical cabinet - in the collection of Sloane. The cabinet had several drawers, each carefully constructed to keep out destructive insects. Some drawers had small compartments like this example, others contained glazed boxes with seeds, fruit, bark, roots, gums and resins inside. Each had a label written by Sloane with a catalogue number. The botanical or medicinal name of the subtance, where it came from and who collected it were then recorded in his catalogues of his collection.
As Sloane's interest in natural history grew along with his income, he was able to widen the scope of his collection from being primarily medical to being more encyclopaedic, representing the widest possible variety of substances and artefacts for his own reference and for others to consult.
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