Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

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The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Science Library, Malet Place Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology.jpg
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Science Library, Malet Place

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London is part of University College London Museums and Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material. [1]


Upper part of a statuette of an Egyptian woman and her husband. 18th Dynasty. From Egypt. From the Amelia Edwards Collection. Now housed in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London Upper part of a statuette of an Egyptian man and his wife. 18th Dynasty. From Egypt. From the Amelia Edwards Collection. Now housed in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London.jpg
Upper part of a statuette of an Egyptian woman and her husband. 18th Dynasty. From Egypt. From the Amelia Edwards Collection. Now housed in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London

The museum was established as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College at the same time as the department was established in 1892. [2] The initial collection was donated by the writer Amelia Edwards. [3] [4] The first Edwards Professor, William Matthew Flinders Petrie, conducted many important excavations, and in 1913 he sold his collections of Egyptian antiquities to University College, creating the Flinders Petrie Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, and transforming the museum into one of the leading collections outside Egypt. Petrie excavated dozens of major sites in the course of his career, including the Roman Period cemeteries at Hawara [5] , famous for the beautiful mummy portraits in classical Roman style [6] ; [7] Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten; [8] and the first true pyramid, at Meydum, where he uncovered some of the earliest evidence for mummification. [9]

The collection and library were arranged in galleries within the university and a guidebook published in 1915. Initially, the collection's visitors were students and academics; it was not then open to the general public. Petrie retired from University College London (UCL) in 1933, though his successors continued to add to the collections, excavating in other parts of Egypt and Sudan. During the Second World War (1939–1945) the collection was packed up and moved out of London for safekeeping. In the early 1950s it was moved into a former stable, where it remains adjacent to the science library of UCL.

Current description

Fragments and slabs of stelae On either side of this small and narrow hall, there are displaying cases, containing fragments and slabs of stelae. This is seen immediately after you pass through the information desk.JPG
Fragments and slabs of stelae

The museum is at Malet Place, near Gower Street and the University College London science library. Admission is free, and as of January 2018 the museum is open each afternoon 1pm-5pm, Tuesday to Saturday, with researchers accommodated at other times as well. [10]

The museum has an education programme for adults and families, [11] and has an active Friends organisation allowing members to attend lectures, museum seminars, tours to Egypt and Egyptian collections, social events, and so on. As well, the Friends raise funds towards the conservation, publication and display of the Petrie Museum's outstanding collection. [12]

Organisation and collections

Display case at entrance to the Petrie, with figurines and statuettes. You will see this displaying case when you immediately enter into the Museum; it is next to the information desk. There are many figurines and statuettes.JPG
Display case at entrance to the Petrie, with figurines and statuettes.

The museum is split into three galleries, with the main gallery (housed above the old stables) containing many of the museum's small artifacts, as well as tablets of writing and mummy portraits and cases. Another gallery contains mainly of pottery. The third is along a stairwell down to an emergency exit. Some parts of the collection are not lit to protect light-sensitive items, and torches (flashlights) are supplied to see inside the cases.

The collection has been digitised and the catalogue can be browsed and consulted online. [13]

Notable holdings

The collection contains some significant 'firsts': one of the earliest pieces of linen from Egypt (about 5000 BC); two lions from the temple of Min at Koptos, from the first group of monumental sculpture (about 3000 BC, these are located in the main UCL building); a fragment from the first kinglist or calendar (about 2900 BC); the earliest example of metal from Egypt, the first worked iron beads; the earliest example of glazing; the earliest 'cylinder seal' in Egypt (about 3500 BC); the oldest wills on papyrus paper; the oldest gynaecological papyrus; the only veterinary papyrus from ancient Egypt; and the largest architectural drawing, showing a shrine (about 1300 BC).

Costume is another strength of the collection. [14] [ verification needed ][ page needed ] In addition to the 'oldest dress' there is a unique beadnet dress of a dancer from the Pyramid Age (about 2400 BC), two long sleeved robes of the same date, a suit of armour from the palace of Memphis, as well as socks and sandals from the Roman period. The collection contains works of art from Akhenaten’s city at Amarna: colourful tiles, carvings and frescoes, from many other important Egyptian and Nubian settlements and burial sites. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD). [7] [ page needed ]

The collection also includes material from the Coptic and Islamic periods. [15]

There is a substantial archive held in the museum, including excavation records, correspondence and photographs relating to excavations led by Flinders Petrie. There are additionally documents relating to the distribution of finds from fieldwork to museums worldwide between the 1887 and 1949. [16]


Interior of the museum Interior of the Petrie Museum.JPG
Interior of the museum

The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material. [17] It only ranks behind the collections of the Cairo Museum, The British Museum and the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin in number and quality of items.[ according to whom? ][ citation needed ]

Published works

In 2015, the museum, in conjunction with UCL, published a multi-author compilation of articles, The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Characters and Collections, which is available in both print and via a free open access download. [18] It is edited by Alice Stevenson.

Related Research Articles

Amarna Egyptian archaeological site

Amarna is an extensive Egyptian archaeological site that represents the remains of the capital city newly established and built by the Pharaoh Akhenaten of the late Eighteenth Dynasty, and abandoned shortly after his death. The name for the city employed by the ancient Egyptians is written as Akhetaten in English transliteration. Akhetaten means "Horizon of the Aten".

Nefertiti Egyptian queen and Great Royal Wife (chief consort) of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh

Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was an Egyptian queen and the Great Royal Wife of Akhenaten, an Egyptian Pharaoh. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped one god only, Aten, or the sun disc. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history. Some scholars believe that Nefertiti ruled briefly as Neferneferuaten after her husband's death and before the accession of Tutankhamun, although this identification is a matter of ongoing debate. If Nefertiti did rule as Pharaoh, her reign was marked by the fall of Amarna and relocation of the capital back to the traditional city of Thebes.

Memphis, Egypt Ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, Egypt

Memphis was the ancient capital of Inebu-hedj, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Mit Rahina, 20 km (12 mi) south of Giza in Greater Cairo, Egypt.

Fayum mummy portraits naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to mummies from 50 CE - 350 CE

Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to Upper class mummies from Roman Egypt. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. The Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.

Flinders Petrie English egyptologist

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie, FRS, FBA, commonly known as Flinders Petrie, was an English Egyptologist and a pioneer of systematic methodology in archaeology and preservation of artefacts. He held the first chair of Egyptology in the United Kingdom, and excavated many of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt in conjunction with his wife, Hilda Petrie. Some consider his most famous discovery to be that of the Merneptah Stele, an opinion with which Petrie himself concurred.

Ankhkheperure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu was a short-lived pharaoh in the late 18th dynasty. The names of this pharaoh translate as 'Living are the Forms of Re' and 'Vigorous is the Soul of Re – Holy of Forms'. His or her reign, for it is uncertain whether Smenkhkare was male or female, was during the Amarna Period, a time when Akhenaten sought to impose new religious views. He or she is sometimes distinguished from the immediate predecessor (successor?), the female ruler Ankhkheperure Neferneferuaten. Unlike Neferneferuaten, Smenkhkare did not use epithets in his or her royal name or cartouche.

Thutmose, also known as "The King's Favourite and Master of Works, the Sculptor Thutmose", was an Ancient Egyptian sculptor. He flourished around 1350 BC, and is thought to have been the official court sculptor of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten in the latter part of his reign. A German archaeological expedition digging in Akhenaten's deserted city of Akhetaton, at Amarna, found a ruined house and studio complex in early December 1912; the building was identified as that of Thutmose based on an ivory horse blinker found in a rubbish pit in the courtyard inscribed with his name and job title. Since it gave his occupation as "sculptor" and the building was clearly a sculpture workshop, the determination seemed logical and has proven to be accurate.

Egypt Exploration Society archive organization in Cairo, Egypt

The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) is a British non-profit organization. The society was founded in 1882 by Amelia Edwards and Reginald Stuart Poole in order to examine and excavate in the areas of Egypt and Sudan. The intent was to study and analyze the results of the excavations and publish the information for the scholarly world. The EES have worked at many major Egyptian excavation and sites. Their discoveries include the discovery of a shrine for the goddess Hathor, a statue of a cow from Deir el-Bahri, the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and the sculpted model of Nefertiti from Amarna. The Society has made major contributions to the study of the ancient Egyptian world. The Society is based in London and is a registered charity under English law.

Amarna letters archive, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom

The Amarna letters are an archive, written on clay tablets, primarily consisting of diplomatic correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru during the New Kingdom, between c. 1360-1332 BC. The letters were found in Upper Egypt at el-Amarna, the modern name for the ancient Egyptian capital of Akhetaten, founded by pharaoh Akhenaten during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. The Amarna letters are unusual in Egyptological research, because they are mostly written in a script known as Akkadian cuneiform, the writing system of ancient Mesopotamia, rather than that of ancient Egypt, and the language used has sometimes been characterised as a mixed language, Canaanite-Akkadian. The written correspondence spans a period of at most thirty years.

Egyptian Museum of Berlin part of the Neues Museum, collection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts

The Egyptian Museum of Berlin is home to one of the world's most important collections of Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including the iconic Nefertiti Bust. Since October 2009, the collection is part of the reopened Neues Museum on Berlin's Museum Island.

Amarna art

Amarna art, or the Amarna style, is a style adopted in the Amarna Period during and just after the reign of Akhenaten in the late Eighteenth Dynasty, during the New Kingdom. Whereas Ancient Egyptian art was famously slow to alter, the Amarna style was a significant and sudden break from its predecessor, which was restored after Akhenaten's death. It is characterized by a sense of movement and activity in images, with figures having raised heads, many figures overlapping and many scenes busy and crowded. The human body is portrayed differently; figures, always shown in profile on reliefs, are slender, swaying, with exaggerated extremities. In particular, depictions of Akhenaten give him distinctly feminine qualities such as large hips, prominent breasts, and a larger stomach and thighs. Other pieces, such as the most famous of all Amarna works, the Nefertiti Bust in Berlin, show much less pronounced features of the style.

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Margaret Stefana "Peggy" Drower MBE (1911–2012) was a historian of Ancient Near Eastern History and Egyptology. She was awarded the MBE and elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. She wrote the definitive biography of Flinders Petrie.

Alice Stevenson is a British archaeologist and museum curator. She is Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at UCL's Institute of Archaeology and a specialist in Predynastic and Early Dynastic Egyptian archaeology.

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  1. "UCL Petrie Museum Online Catalogue". UCL Petrie Museum. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  2. "UCL: The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology". Museum Mile. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  3. Moon, Brenda E. (2006). More Usefully Employed: Amelia B. Edwards, Writer, Traveller and Campaigner for Ancient Egypt. London: Egypt Exploration Society. ISBN   9780856981692. OCLC   850990713.
  4. Willey, Russ. "Rehumanising the past. Petrie Museum, behind Gower Street, Bloomsbury". Hidden London. London, ENG. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  5. Stevenson, Alice, ed. (4 June 2015). The Petrie Museum Of Egyptian Archaeology. UCL Press via Internet Archive.
  6. "Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt". The Met. 8 February 2000. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  7. 1 2 Picton, Janet; Quirke, Stephen; Roberts, Paul C., eds. (2007). Living Images: Egyptian Funerary Portraits in the Petrie Museum. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. ISBN   9781598742510. OCLC   878764269.
  8. "The Central City - Amarna The Place". Amarna Project. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  9. UCL. "UCL - London's Global University". UCL CULTURE. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  10. Petrie Museum Staff. "Petrie Museum". Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  11. UCL. "Get Hands on with ancient Egypt". UCL CULTURE. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  12. Petrie Museum Staff (28 February 2017). "Friends of the Petrie Museum Membership". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  13. Petrie Museum Staff (28 February 2017). "UCL Petrie Museum Online Catalogue". Retrieved 28 February 2017.
  14. Hall, Rosalind M. (1986). Egyptian Textiles. Shire Publications.[ full citation needed ]
  15. Petrie Museum Staff (2 March 2013). "Trails and Resources". Archived from the original on 2 March 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  16. "Homepage / الصفحة الرئيسية - Artefacts of Excavation".
  17. UCL. "UCL - London's Global University". UCL CULTURE.
  18. Stevenson, Alice, ed. (2015). The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Characters and Collections (PDF). London, ENG: UCL Press. Retrieved 28 February 2017.

Further reading