Work out of the field – Five days in and three museums down

Hi everyone, Josh here. As part of my PhD research investigating the Neolithic ceramics of the Fayum, I am travelling to the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Austria to analyse museum collections prior to (hopefully) going to analyse ceramics in the Fayum in mid-October.

I have been in the UK for five days now and have been to over half of the museums I will be visiting during the UK leg of the trip. The Petrie Museum at University College London (UCL) has a wide variety of ceramics from the Fayum, and was my first stop on Friday. The assemblage at the Petrie Museum I would like to analyse is much too large for one day, and so I am going to visit the museum again this week and on Saturdays until I leave the UK at the end of the month.

After travelling up north over the weekend I began this week in Bolton, where they have a small number of ceramics from the Fayum, one of which is important for my research. The vessel in question is a large cylindrical vessel, and is the largest surviving ceramics vessel we have from the Fayum (Figure 1). During the 1920’s when Caton-Thompson and Gardner first excavated sites such as Kom K, Kom W, and the Upper K Pits, a number of vessels of this size were found, but did not survive the excavation process. The fact that this vessel at Bolton is the only one left means that it is only ways to interpret some of the sherds we find which indicate wide-diameter vessels. Also, as I found during my MA thesis, vessels of this size were scattered across Kom W and were likely used for storage purposes.

Figure 1: The large vessel from Bolton Museum with me taking a reading from it with a portable x-ray fluorescence (more on that in a future entry).

Figure 1: The large vessel from Bolton Museum with me taking a reading from it with a portable x-ray fluorescence (more on that in a future entry).

On Monday afternoon I visited Manchester Museum, which also hosts a small collection of ceramics from the Fayum, which Dr Campbell Price and Susan Martin were kind enough to grant me access to. As is the case with Bolton, Manchester has the only surviving example of an odd shaped vessel . This relatively large vessel, unusually, has a stepped base on it, why this is I am still considering. Also at Manchester was a vessel shaped like a modern dish which is relatively common amongst the Fayum assemblages, and corner sherds are often found. As well as ceramics I plan to have a look at other forms of material culture such as grindstones, which Manchester had a nice example of.

The last of the smaller assemblages was at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge, my visit to which was facilitated by Imogen Gunn. Here a number of small sherds comprising mainly of rims and bases were analysed.

I am using a number of different techniques to analyse the pottery which I will talk about in future entries, but what is all adds up to is one heavy bag which needs to be taken with me when I travel to non-London collections. I am now back in London and very grateful that I do not have to carry everything too far from now on, as I am staying about a 10 minute walk from both the Petrie and British Museums.

Stay tuned for more entries in the coming weeks regarding progress on my research, the different techniques I am using, and any interesting pieces I may encounter.


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