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.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Program Wrap Up: Dr. Betsy Bryan on Egyptian Funerary Beliefs

Posted on April 2nd, 2015 by

This Sunday we welcomed Dr. Betsy Bryan of Johns Hopkins University to the JMM to offer a little more insight into Mendes Cohen’s collection of antiquities. Dr. Bryan’s fascinating presentation  discussed both the collection as a whole and the way in which it represents ancient Egyptian funerary beliefs.

The Program

The Program

The collection, originally consisting of nearly 700 objects, formed the basis of the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, and was donated shortly after Mendes’ death by his nephew also named Mendes Cohen. Most of the pieces were acquired during his time in modern Luxor during his three month voyage down the Nile.

Dr. Bryan explained that the ancient Egyptians believed the afterlife to be similar to life, as such requiring many of the same possessions. These requirements ranged from the body, hence the need for mummification, to smaller items such as cosmetic containers, jewelry and food. Some items such as jewelry provided a dual function having protective powers, often associated with the preservation of the body.

Selections from Mendes' archaeological collection.

Selections from Mendes’ archaeological collection.

The talk predominantly  focused upon standards within wealthier members of the community especially Tutankhamun. However there was a particularly interesting discussion regarding ordinary members of society and the simpler grave goods that can be found in their burials based upon Dr. Bryans current work in Egypt.

Please enjoy this recording of Dr. Brayns presentation and share with friends and family!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Mendes’ Star Spangled Banner

Posted on August 14th, 2014 by

There are due to be some amazing objects on display within our upcoming exhibit, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, one of which is the American flag Mendes made during his time in Egypt. The flag is an important part of our collection and has a great claim to fame, probably being the first American flag to be flown on the Nile. Though exciting that the flag will be on display throughout the duration of the exhibit, it was essential to undertake some conservation to ensure no damage comes to the flag.

Last week we had a visit from Michele Pagan, the textile conservator who is working on the flag. She has already done some great work, adding a new backing to the flag that is much lighter that what had been used previously. This layer will also act as a support to the fraying edges and will have a section sewn in to make display of the flag easier. Michele has also added a layer of red silk organza behind the red strips of the flag, giving back some of the color to the flag, without doing anything that could be potentially damaging.

Marvin Pinkert, Deborah Cardin and Michele Pagan with Mendes’ flag

Marvin Pinkert, Deborah Cardin and Michele Pagan with Mendes’ flag

At present the strongest area of the flag is the canton, the blue square, the fabric is in good condition and has lost little of the original color. In contrast the stars are starting to deteriorate, not surprising as they are only made with paper and attached with an adhesive. The stars are receiving some careful treatment from the conservator, a fine layer of silk organza is being sewn over the top of the stars, keeping them visible but offering a little extra support.. This approach is the simplest of the three options presented, but it is also the one which is least likely to prove problematic in the future.

The flag

The flag

One of the surprising things to hear from Michele was that this is possibly the most fragile flag on which she has ever worked, given that she worked on THE Star Spangled Banner, this is quite a statement! There are a number of reasons for this all of which relate to the conditions in which it was made. Mendes certainly didn’t plan to be making this flag prior to leaving America, it seems whilst travelling in Egypt his patriotism inspired him to create the flag. This means that unlike most flags of the time made of wool, Mendes had to make the most of what he had and so his flag is made of cotton.

The difference in the ways in which the materials have deteriorated comes from the quality of the cotton, the blue is of a higher thread count and was dyed prior to weaving helping it to retain its color. In contrast the red and white are of a lower thread count and it is probable that the dye was applied to the red after weaving resulting in its loss of color. We did wonder if perhaps Mendes had dyed the fabric himself, but based on this letter it seems not, dated May 3rd, 1832:

“10th day … Manfalout containing about 400 inhabitants – bazaars – apricots, cucumbers, apples (small) – purchased red, white and blue cotton to make a flag – returned on board and cut it out, my servant making it”

Packing the flag safely away again, ready for more conservation work.

Packing the flag safely away again, ready for more conservation work.

The flag is a stunning piece so make sure you come and see the great work that has been done on the flag in The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, opening September 14th 2014.

 

A blog post by Program Manager Trillion Attwood. 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »