Monday, 6 September 2010

Horus Egyptology Society Oxford Weekend: 13 – 16 August 2010

Superstitions abound about Friday the 13th and, as far as 29 of the members of Horus Egyptology Society are concerned, this was stuff and nonsense and bah humbug!!!

Friday-the-13th August 2010 was the start of a lovely weekend made special by Dr. Joann Fletcher and Dr. Stephen Buckley accompanying us and sharing their expertise in the Ashmolean Museum and at Highclere Castle. Thanks to John and Joan it was a great success.

We travelled down to Oxford in our various small groups and convened at the Ashmolean Museum for an afternoon of Egyptologist’s Delight - Four galleries displaying ancient Egyptian culture from across a wide timeline: The Griffith, Petrie, Chester and Sackler Rooms.

This link will take you to an online handbook of the Sackler gallery – with photos. Well worth a look.


A visit to Oxbow Books

Oxbow Books is a treasure trove. A few minutes walk from the Ashmolean Museum and there you are. Tome heaven to Horus members or, to the long-suffering partners - “not-another-bookshop”!!!

Thoughts about the groaning book shelves back home, the excess weight on the car suspension, and the lighter bank balance all disappeared once we got inside. Clogging up the aisles, Horus members settled into foraging-mode – hungrily reaching for books and periodicals and quickly scanning them.

Their patient partners and friends went into serf-mode; they stood patiently with arms outstretched ready to catch-and-stack the books with consummate ease, and then, without visibly flinching they queued diligently at the till to pay. Finally, after an hour or so, and leaving a little trail of till receipts, we left the bookshop. [Instructions on this form of hypnotic control available on request]

For the street map:

The Oxford College walk turned into the Oxford Book shop walk.

Yes, it is all very well looking at the colleges of Oxford, but there are book shops along the route. Excellent book shops, some, well most of them, have a coffee shop. How quickly time passes when you can browse the shelves and have another cuppa. Guess what? More books bought. Pity about the weather – drizzly days make you want to go into a …. Bookshop.


Highclere Castle

Sunday was a lovely day. Bright and cheerful, reflecting the Horus group eager to see the Castle and the new exhibition.

The website is particularly easy to navigate with useful information about the castle, the exhibition, tours and walks.

We started the day at the 'Wonderful Things' Egyptian Exhibition which is a showcase for the 5th. This link has a tantalising video of part of the exhibition: Earl of Carnavon’s life, his work, his passion for racing cars, as well as the collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the story of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun with Howard Carter.

The exhibition is inspired and the staff are professional, courteous and well-informed. In the cellars of Highclere, you move from room to room learning more and more about this intrepid man. Newsreels, newspaper articles and photographs bring the era of the 1920’s vividly to life. The display cases are carefully arranged and the objects clearly described. The Antiquities collection can be viewed in this link too

The Tutankhamun burial chamber is decorated with scenes from the original in the Valley of the Kings and an ingenious way is used to display the golden shrines that surrounded the coffins of the boy king. You first meet the golden doors of the outer shrine – complete with the unopened seal – then as you move around the side you see one of the coffins and a model of Tutankhamun’s mummified body, partially unwrapped, but bearing the funerary amulets, necklace and golden sandals.

The Castle itself is charming; visitors feel welcome and at home. It was also nice to be pointed in the direction of the quirky little cupboards between two day rooms that held a cache of Egyptian artefacts that had been ‘forgotten’ until a few years ago – the lady guide had seen us in the group earlier (in the exhibition). The artefacts had been verified and allowed to stay in the country I might add.

Yes, there is a gift shop with some rather fine books, the latest two being:

Carnarvon & Carter by Fiona Carnarvon

Egypt at Highclere. The Discovery of Tutankhamun.

One cannot mention books without a cuppa in the sentence – and the tea room is clean with reasonably priced scones, cakes and light lunch items. Just what you need.

Susan Corcoran

Monday, 2 August 2010

Mentuhotep II - Dr. Joann Fletcher. 29th July 2010

Once again Joann’s inimitable style of speaking was most informative, entertaining and sometimes humorous. Her talk on Montuhotep II, which included a little of her own likes and
dislikes about ancient Egyptian culture was delivered with true professionalism.

The perfect recipe for a really enjoyable evening.

Terry Frodsham

Mentuhotep II was the king accredited with the re-unification of Egypt after the First Intermediate Period c.2160 – 2055 BCE.

Joann set the timeline by describing the collapse of the Old Kingdom, how the state of Egypt and the nature of kingship changed and how central administration disintegrated leaving individual nomes, or provinces, under local control.

This period of fractured leadership, provincial in-fighting and civil unrest was called the First Intermediate Period. These troubled times were illustrated by the tomb models of Egyptian soldiers and Nubian archers found in the tomb of Mesehti at Asyut.

The tenuous rule by the Herakleopolitan leaders 9th and 10th Dynasties (leaders called Akhtoy or Khety) was eventually broken by the Theban leader Mentuhotep II, the fifth ruler of the 11th Dynasty, who ruled from 2055 – 2004 BCE.

Using a plethora of old photographs and illustrations made by the excavators of the early 1900’s Joann described how the architecture and art of the early Middle Kingdom was not only quite exquisite, but was a compliment to the restructuring of the nation from its Theban base.

Montuhotep II carried out restoration work and built many temples to Montu, Amun and Hathor, but his most innovative was the Temple built at Deir el-Bahri which became his resting place and that of his royal ladies.

It was unique in design and included elements of Old Kingdom pyramid complexes, such as causeway ramps and sloping shafts to the tombs; but the multi-tiered colonnaded construction was inspirational, and the precinct, with its tree-lined court of sycamore, fig and tamarisk must have been delightful. The king’s tomb was cut into the rock face at the back of the temple and there were six chapels and tombs for his wives and family.

Incredibly the temple was buried beneath sand until the 1900’s. Joann showed us photographs of some of the reliefs they excavated; scenes of the ladies of the court having their hair dressed and adorned with ornaments, scenes of wildfowl and of the king and she lamented that many of the reliefs were now scattered in museums around the world. It was shocking to hear that some of the mummies that were found were sent to Cairo and subsequently dissected, de-fleshed and the remains left now in small boxes.

Today the temple remains are argely overlooked by the visitors to Hatshepsut’s Temple just next door. Also eclipsed are the court officials’ tombs cut higher in the rock face. One of these, Meketre’s tomb, contained numerous tomb models, all exquisite in detail and preservation, showing scenes from everyday life – baking, weaving, carpentry, fishing and even a miniature house with garden, plants and pool.

Joann also mentioned the work of Herbert Winlock, who uncovered the tomb of some sixty archers/soldiers near to the Temple of Mentuhotep II, a band of brothers that died in battle who still had arrows embedded in their bodies. Had these men died in the struggles that led to the re-unification of Egypt?

The talk was enlightening and entertaining and the use of old photographs from the actual excavations and even drawings, brought this period of Egyptian history to life. That the Old Kingdom was a golden age and the New Kingdom an exciting age is undisputed, but the Middle Kingdom with its art, architecture, literature and hieroglyphs and its key players were given due respect in this great talk by Joann.

Susan Corcoran

Reviews of Horus Meetings

As a new feature of the Horus Egyptology Society Blog, following meetings we will bring you a summary review of each speaker and the topic(s) they covered, starting with notes on the most recent speaker - Dr. Joann Fletcher who was our guest on the 29th July 2010.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Membership fees 2010/2011

A gentle reminder for any members reading this that membership fees for the forthcoming year are payable from 1st September onwards.


Horus Egyptology Society.

Events Diary for 2010/2011

The list of events for the forthcoming twelve months are as follows:


30th September:

Victor Blunden - TBA

25th November:

Professor Ken Kitchen - Discovering Ancient Egypt in Rio de Janiero


20th January:

John Johnson - Seti I

31st March:

Linda Clarke
- Senusret II

26th May:

Dr. Aidan Dodson - Ramses II's Poisoned Legacy - The Fall of the 19th Dynasty

28th July:

Dr. Joann Fletcher & Dr. Stephen Buckley - Pre-Dynastic Egypt