Work on the new displays continues as we rapidly approach the opening in late October. Over the last few weeks we’ve had a couple of placements from the university’s archaeology department working with us. In this image Susan our curatorial assistant is arranging some Predynastic Egyptian pots with the help of Suzanna, one of the placements. This is a trial arrangement for one of the displays in the 1st gallery of Ancient Worlds.
In the new displays we explore various aspects of archaeology and on the first table we look at Manchester’s contribution to the story. Right from the start we wanted to show that archaeology and Egyptology, though separate collections in the Museum, are part and parcel of the same discipline.
The first table with its focus on Manchester allows us to highlight the fact that the fieldwork of famous Egyptologist, William Mathew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) was financed in part by Manchester businessman Jesse Haworth (1835- 1921). We’re also trying to show how people find out about different aspects of life in the past and our rich collections allow us to show Petrie’s serial or sequence dating technique. You can get an idea of what we’re trying to do by looking at the diagram on the Petrie Museum’s website
Petrie knew that the style and frequency of the objects he found in graves changed over time. His seriation technique enabled him to chart those changes and to tell whether any given grave group came earlier or later in the sequence. At the time he was working there weren’t techniques like radiocarbon dating so this relative dating method was useful, especially if the sequence was anchored by a later date.
In the case of the Predynastic pottery the material changed over the thousand years leading up to the unification of Egypt about 3100 BC. By laying the pots out in advance as an example of Petrie’s sequence dating we can test whether everything fits and get an idea of how things will look. Our thanks to Suzanna for helping us with this work.