Ancient Egypt at the JMM

Posted on May 18th, 2015 by

I became involved in the development for The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen as I have a background in Egyptology, it isn’t something I ever expected to use when I started working at the JMM but recently it has been put to good use. In addition to working on the exhibit I have been able to plan a few programs that also draw on this knowledge.

Last month we held an Ancient Egypt family day here at the Museum. We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just the usual discussion of mummification but something that would teach some of the skills needed by an early Egyptologist like Mendes. We planned a series of interconnected activities that showed some of the process an archaeologist follows.

Excavation

Excavation

Understanding how to excavate was our first aim, everyone received their own archaeological dig to excavate. We started by carefully dividing the site into sections, these would be essential for recording our finds accurately . As we dug we also spoke about the importance of stratigraphy and how it helps to date a site and the objects we find.

Due to some careful planning everyone found the remains of two ceramic vessels which were carefully recorded and collected for the next stage.

ancient 2

Finds Analysis

This was an important part of the day that really taught some practical skills. We examined the pieces we found, discussing rim sherds especially. We looked at how they can be used to create a better impression of how a vessel may have originally looked, especially the size of the vessel. We also discussed why ceramics are such a common find on archaeological sites and what they can reveal.

Reconstruction

Reconstruction

Once we gathered as much information as possible regarding our sherds we stared the process of reconstruction, this took a lot of patience and a little creative thinking, but eventually we were able to reconstruct our precious artefacts!

Hieroglyphs

Hieroglyphs

The one thing that no Ancient Egypt day would be complete without is of course hieroglyphs. All of the materials that were excavated came ready inscribed with their ‘original’ contents, including bread, beer, cobras and fish. Once the translation was done we took the opportunity to do some writing in hieroglyphs ourselves.

Grave Goods

Finally we explored some of the types of object an archaeologist might discover. Most of the material that survives from Ancient Egypt, including all of the antiquities on display in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, were originally intended for a funerary context. So we decided to make a few grave goods of our own including this fantastic death mask and some shabtis.

If you missed out on Egypt Day don’t worry! We have another great family day planned for June 14th, the closing day of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and Flag Day.

Trillion BremenA blog post by Programs Manager Trillion Attwood. To read more posts from Trillion click HERE.

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Happy Earth Day!

Posted on May 2nd, 2012 by

A blog post by Program Manager Rachel Cylus.

It all started a few months ago with a lively conversation in the West Wing about Peeps Dioramas.  If you haven’t heard of Peeps Dioramas (where have you been??), they are a national edible art competition each spring celebrating the popular Easter candy, Peeps.

“If only there were a Passover equivalent!” we exclaimed.

That is how the idea of “Ginger ‘Bread of Affliction’ Houses” was born.  Matzah – also referred to in many Haggadahs as the bread of affliction, is a pretty great building material, although it can be pretty crumbly and delicate, hence “ginger”.  Eventually we would like to have an edible art contest based around matzah, but for this year we decided to stick to Matzah House building.

With a little tweaking and some input from our colleague, Kim Jacobsohn at the DBJCC, the Earth Day Counts program began to take shape.  Just after Passover and right in the middle of the Counting of the Omer, Earth Day is the perfect time of the year to talk about Feeding the World from a Jewish Food perspective.

During Passover we spend a lot of time giving extra consideration for the foods that we eat.  Does it rise?  Does it have cornstarch?  Is it made with soybean oil?  Considering that Kashrut has a lot of rules and regulations to begin with, on Passover the rules multiply ten fold, it seems.  And with it, we find ourselves selling off chametz – leavened products, and buying new… well, everything.

But what about after Passover is over?  What happens to all the food we just can’t stand looking at one more day?  Why not turn it into edible art and celebrate how food ends up on our tables in the first place.

For this program we had seven family friendly activities.  First and foremost, of course, Building Matzah Houses out of leftover matzah and Passover candy.  The kids were pretty creative, even if many of the houses had to remain 2-dimensional objects of wonder.  We used cake icing to stick everything together, and the weird and wacky candies of Passover made for great decoration.  By making them edible, we even got a few participants who were ready to snack on some matzah again.

We also celebrated the foods we can eat, in the form of a Seven Ancient Species Taste Test.  Participants were invited to try the seven foods of the bible which were used in sacrifice at the ancientTemple.  We tried dates, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates, wheat and barley in multiple forms and guests were invited to fill out surveys and tell us what they thought of these special foods.

Then we used two of the seven species (wheat and grapes) to make sandwiches for the needy.  With help from our friends at the Jewish Volunteer Connection, we donated pb&j sandwiches that we made together to Our Daily Bread and the Helping Up Mission.

Since wheat and barley are key elements in the Counting of the Omer, we decorated calendars to keep track of the days between Passover and Shavuot, when the Israelites would bring offerings to the temple.

All in all it was a great day, with around eighty people showing up to take part in the festivities.  The next Family Fun Day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is July 1st when the Sol Food Bus will be arriving to teach us about Urban farming.  See you then!

*All photos by Will Kirk.

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