Vanessa Foott writes about the recent PMF visit to Manchester Museum including the Golden Mummies exhibition. Her report is followed by a gallery of images from the day.
An excited and eager group of friends gathered at the entrance to Manchester Museum on 22 June 2023. We were met by Lucia Gahlin, who guided us through to the outside of the Golden Mummies exhibition where there was a display of stone blocks discovered at Coptos. A particularly interesting piece is thought to be from a temple of Min dated to the reign of Senwosret I c.1971-1926BCE. This is the first known depiction of Min with black skin:
Petrie and Manchester Museum
We then went upstairs to the main Egyptian galleries where Lucia explained the close connection between the Petrie and Manchester Museum through funding given to Petrie by the British cotton magnate Jesse Haworth. These galleries hold a wealth of items that the rest of the morning was spent investigating. A great deal more time could have been eaten up in this activity but the highlight of the trip was to come and, prior to it, some much needed refreshment was required.
After lunch, we were treated to an enthusiastic and animated talk by the curator of the Egypt and Sudan collection, Dr Campbell Price. Campbell explained the rationale underpinning the Golden Mummies exhibition and gave us some background about where the various finds were made. It was interesting to hear that it was decided not to include CT scans of the mummies as they would not want to have been remembered as having any ‘defects’ but would go to the afterlife as perfect gods.
We were then split into groups to enable us to visit behind the scenes in the stores. Storerooms of museums are one of my favourite places as there are so many exciting things hidden away. This visit did not disappoint, and amongst the artefacts Campbell showed us was the fragment of his beloved Senenmut statue:
Each group was allowed half an hour in the stores and the time just flew by.
The rest of the afternoon was allocated to visiting the excellent special exhibition itself. The ambience created in the gallery by the rich colour scheme was peaceful and the exhibits were enhanced by outsize images taken by Julia Thorne.
Transformation for Eternity
The collection of Fayoum portraits on display was particularly evocative. It is traditionally thought that they were not true likenesses of the individuals, and this is borne out by one image of a good-looking young man whose scan (not on display) shows him to have fleshy folds of skin around the face indicating that he may have been rather fond of his food. However, when looking at these portraits, it brings home how each of the people were individuals with their own stories to tell. I am sure that, although they may not have wanted or imagined being put on display, the deceased are achieving their goal of being transformed for eternity into gods with golden flesh by us remembering and talking about them.
The exhibition is on until the end of the year and I would urge you to visit for yourself if at all possible. For further details, please see: Golden Mummies Exhibition. Tickets are free of charge.
Thank you to Campbell Price and Lucia Gahlin for arranging this visit. I am sure that I speak for all participants when I say that it was a really enjoyable and thought-provoking outing. All proceeds from the day will benefit the Petrie Museum (via the PMF) and Manchester Museum.
Images kindly provided by:
Venessa Foott (VF); Lindsay Hartley (LH): Mike Griffith (MG); Lucia Gahlin (LG).
Main article: VF
Row 1: LG LH LH
Row 2: LH LG LH
Row 3: LH LG LH
Row 4: LH MG LH
Row 5: LH LG
With thanks to Campbell Price and Manchester Museum