The Collections Team has been working alongside our fantastic volunteers to complete the decant of the Egyptian Gallery in time to install the new Ancient Lives Gallery. During the decant, we have had the opportunity to photograph and document a selection of items before carefully packing them away.
Two of the volunteers on the project – Paris and Angela – talk about some of their favourite objects in the collection.
Now safely protected between two sheets of Perspex, these delicate fragments are a rare example of the meeting of two cultures, Egypt and Greece. The inscription, which has not been translated, is written in Greek upon a quintessential Egyptian medium, papyrus. This suggests an artefact dating from the Ptolemaic Period of Egyptian culture. The period, of course, was named after Alexander the Great’s general, Ptolemy, who was given Egypt as his share of the spoils of the territory gained by Alexander in his ambition to conquer the world.
We were drawn to these tiny fragments because they encapsulate so succinctly the coalescing of two cultures during a period of great upheaval. The object is so fragile, but incredibly has survived the ages to bear witness to this period of history in Egypt.
Twin glass vessel
This artefact is one of the more easily identified objects in Maidstone Museum’s Egyptian collection, which is commonly known as the double cosmetic glass tube. It is likely that they contained kohl, which was used around the eyes; the colour may have varied between black, brown and green, which may account for the double tubes.
The twin flask was created by strongly heating quartz sand and natron, a technique that stood the test of time, starting after the Roman Conquest of Egypt and continuing until around A.D. 850 in Byzantium. Although this is a part of the Egyptian collection, similar objects have been found across the Eastern Mediterranean during the Roman Period.
What identifies this particular object as coming from Egypt are the Lotus terminations of the arms – the Lotus being symbolic of the sun and creation, which were central to Egyptian belief. We were particularly drawn to this artefact for its symmetry and sinuous beauty.