Thursday, 31 August 2017

Unearthing the new archaeology displays

A new display of stone artefacts
© Pitt Rivers Museum
During the VERVE: Need Make Use project, the team have refreshed displays and created entirely new exhibits.  The previously empty desktop cases on the Upper Gallery are now being filled with new displays of archaeology. We hope the public will find their way up to the top floor to uncover these artefacts.

Here are a few highlights from the displays:

Female ceramic figure 1921.54.1
© Pitt Rivers Museum

In Case 4: Ceramics is a female figure (1921.54.1) from Cyprus dated to the Bronze Age (1800-1600 BC). It was donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum by George Davis Hornblower in 1921.

This terracotta female figure has been hand formed and is hollow. The details have primarily been painted on with dark brown pigment, with some impressed and incised into the clay. The figure has a striking pose, which is believed to symbolise female fertility. According to Professor Vassos Karageorghis this figure is a rare example of the Astarte-type figure (Karageorghis, 2004). Astarte is an ancient Middle Eastern goddess. This figure shows a transition point in the development of such figures from a plank shape to more three dimensional shapes. The figure’s actual provenance is unknown as it was purchased at a sale in Egypt in 1908.

Bronze mirror 1887.1.414 © Pitt Rivers Museum

This broken bronze disc mirror (1887.1.414) is in Case 7: Metals. The mirror is from Ancient Greece and is dated to the 4th century BC. The label on the mirror in Greek is literally translated as ‘Athens vi / The skull of a woman from / a tomb at Vari in Attica, / excavated in the / year 1866. There are also / more bones and a bronze / mirror 250-500 / BC.’  The mirror was transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum from George Rolleston at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Rolleston purchased the mirror from Athanasios Rhousopoulos in 1871. The mirror would have had a shiny, reflective surface but, over time, the metal has corroded. 

Rush matting fragment 1937.44.13 © Pitt Rivers Museum

In Case 8: Organic Materials are two fragments of rush matting from Bee Cave Canyon, Brewster County, Texas, USA. Bee Cave Canyon is a large rock shelter that was excavated between 1928 and 1929 by the Museum of the American Indian in conjunction with the University of Cambridge. The site has evidence of walled rooms, rock paintings, worked stone and also yielded a considerable amount of perishable materials, revealing a lot about the prehistoric people that lived there.

The fragments on display are a piece of twill plaited basketry or matting (1937.44.13) and a corner piece of chequer plaited matting (1937.44.17). They were donated by Lewis Colville Gray Clarke, who was director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge from 1937. Artefacts from the site are housed in the National Museum of the American Indian, which is now part of the Smithsonian Institution, as well as in Cambridge's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, also accessioned there in 1937.

This is just a sample of the objects on display with interesting stories to tell, so come to the Museum to find some more...

Madeleine Ding and Sian Mundell
VERVE Curatorial Assistants


Karageorghis, V. (2004). 'Kypriaka XV' in Report of the Department of Antiquities, Cyprus. Nicosia: Dept. of Antiquities, pp. 169-74

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let us know what you think...