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