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Posts by Ashley Cooke

Baking in ancient Egypt

8 August 2013 by Ashley Cooke

Model of a Kitchen about 2055 BC

Model of a Kitchen from Beni Hasan, about 2055 BC

Chatting about objects with members of the public in our galleries always reminds me of the relevance of our collections in today’s society. This morning I arranged to meet a baker in the Ancient Egypt Gallery to show him some examples of 3500 year old loaves of bread from tombs. David Atherton bakes bread but is also fascinated by the history of baking and wanted to discover more about the origins. Where better to start than the local museum?

Not only do we have the tools used to harvest the wheat and barley but we have grain excavated from a town that was harvested to feed the men building the pyramid of the 12th Dynasty pharaoh, Senusret II, at Lahun – bread and beer were part of the staple diet. They were made in tandem and we have a beautiful 4000 year old carving of a baking, brewing and butchery scene from a tomb at Beni Hasan.  Read more…

An Ancient Egyptian Meadow in Liverpool?

11 July 2013 by Ashley Cooke

Photo of Mould and Pendant

Mould and jewellery pendant from excavations at Tell el Amarna (nos. 56.21.191 & 56.21.355)

The director of World Museum is working hard to create a Wildflower Meadow at the front of the museum. As I walked beside it today my eye was drawn to the bright blue cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) and the pink to purple corncockle (Agrostemma githago) which reminded me of some of the floral jewellery we have in our Ancient Egypt Gallery. Read more…

Digging in the storerooms

10 July 2013 by Ashley Cooke

Detail of the papyrus showing Amenkhau standing up and holding his hands up in adoration before before the falcon-headed god Ra-Horakhty seated on a throne.

Amenkhau holding his hands up in adoration before before the falcon-headed god Ra-Horakhty seated on a throne.

It’s been over two years since my last fieldwork in Egypt but with a collection of over 16,000 items from ancient Egypt there’s always some digging to be done in the museum storerooms! I was recently digitising all of our Greek papyri from Egypt for Dr Nikolaos Gonis, a papyrologist at University College London. It turns out we have a lot of interesting material from the 5th-6th centuries AD and Nikolaos is going to publish them all as a book. Read more…

Happy Valentine’s Day

14 February 2012 by Ashley Cooke

Amulets of different shapes were placed within the wrappings of ancient Egyptian mummies. From about 1500 BC an amulet in the shape of a heart was a popular addition to protect the mummy from harm. Here are a selection of stone and glazed composition heart amulets from World Museum’s Egyptology collection for you on Valentine’s Day.  

Heart amulets

Heart amulets made from different materials, including haematite and carnelian.

A gift of coffins from 130 years ago

24 November 2011 by Ashley Cooke

nest of coffins

Ditamunpaseneb’s nest of coffins from the Saite Period (664 – 525 BC)

World Museum’s great Egyptology collection was created through the generosity of many people, ranging from a Liverpool goldsmith to a peer of the realm. It is 130 years to the day that this nest of 2 coffins arrived in Liverpool. They were given as a gift to the museum by the 8th Earl of Denbigh on 24 November 1881. He had inherited the set from his father-in-law, David Pennant, who had acquired them from his wife’s family, the Spencer-Churchills of Blenheim Palace. Read more…

Flying Scarabs

11 November 2011 by Ashley Cooke


Glazed composition Ram-headed Scarab Palque, about 747 BC

Work in the Antiquities department of World Museum continues with our drive to create new catalogue records on a new collections database (called Mimsy) to replace earlier inaccurate and incomplete databases. There are over 50,000 items in the collection, so this is quite a challenge but it’s very rewarding when you can share information about the collection with the public. This month graduate student volunteers are recording our collection of funerary scarabs that were once stitched on to the mummy wrappings or incorporated into bead nets placed over the mummy during the Late Period (about 747 – 332 BC). Some of the scarabs have horizontal wings with detailed feathering. The one in this photograph lacks wings but has the most interesting iconography. It’s an oval plaque with a ram headed scarab holding the shen hieroglyphic sign between his hind legs, denoting infinity. There are 27 perforations for sewing round the edge. It was part of the amazing gift of antiquities Joseph Mayer gave to the people of Liverpool in 1867 and it now bears the inventory number M14133. Read more…

Tell me about your mummies

7 October 2011 by Ashley Cooke

Bandaged head

The face of a mummy in the mummy store room (inv. M14048).

A good part of my job as a curator is researching our collections and making information available to the public. Sometimes this work is in response to specific questions and this week I’ve been preparing information about our collection of ancient Egyptian mummies for different researchers who study ancient human remains. There are 7 mummies in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum but you can only see 6 as one of the mummies is within a closed coffin, just like when it was found in a tomb by an archaeologist from Liverpool University in 1905. Read more…

Cataloguing Egyptian Antiquities

21 September 2011 by Ashley Cooke

blue frog amulet

Glazed composition frog amulet (about 3350 years old)

This week World Museum has been hosting two curators from the British Museum who have been cataloguing items from our Egyptology collections. Between 1883-4 the English Egyptologist Flinders Petrie excavated the ancient city of Naukratis, a Greek trading post in Egypt. Liverpool was one of over 60 museums that sponsored his work and was rewarded with a small share of the finds that were not kept by the Egyptian authorities. The British Museum is now tracing all of the 13,000 or more artefacts as part of a research and publication project – more details on can be found on their Naukratis website. Read more…

A Mummy Cat’s Tale

10 June 2011 by Ashley Cooke

head of a cat mummy

Head of a mummified cat about 2000 years old


I’ve just given a tour of the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Museum for a group of 30 Egyptology enthusiasts from the University of the Third Age. They were impressed with our display of animal mummies but were shocked to hear of a grizzly tale involving cat mummies being scattered over the fields of Liverpool. On 10th February 1890 an estimated 180,000 mummified cats, weighing 19.5 tons, were sold at auction at the docks in Liverpool. Almost all were crushed and spread on fields like manure but a few were saved and remain in World Museum. They were discovered the previous year at Speos Artemidos in Middle Egypt, when a farmer fell through a hole into a catacomb completely filled with cat mummies. Read more…

Egyptian Shabtis

7 June 2011 by Ashley Cooke

photo of a mummiform man

The face of a shabti for a man called Horwedja.

Egyptologist Glenn Janes made his final visit to the museum stores last week after cataloguing about 800 shabti funerary figures. He will be working with all the information he has gathered over the summer and then we’ll meet again to discuss publishing parts of the collection. The shabti in this photograph is a close-up of a shabti for a man called Horwedja, a priest of the goddess Neith. He wears a lappet wig and a beard. In his crossed hands he holds agricultural tools: an adze, a hoe and the string of the seed-basket that hangs over the shoulder. If Horwedja was called upon to do work in the afterlife this shabti would have came to life and done the work for him. Horwedja died in about 380-343 BC and was buried in a tomb at a place called Hawara. His name is written in hieroglyphs on the first row of text. You can see 46 shabtis in the Ancient Egypt gallery at World Musuem and you can find out more about shabti figures on Glenn Jane’s website. Read more…

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