Secreted in the centre of the University College London campus, and up a rather unassuming flight of stairs, you’ll find one of the city’s best kept secrets – the Petrie Musuem of Egyptian Archaelogy.
Much like its sister museum, the Grant Museum of Zoology, the Petrie represents the University’s earliest forays into this area of study. Amelie Edwards, the Victorian novelist and explorer left her collection of Egyptian artifacts (and a considerable sum of money) to the University so that they could establish an academic position to further study this ancient civilisation – its interesting to note that she chose this institution because at that time it was only the University in the UK to award academic degrees to women. The first professor appointed as a result of her bequest was William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1892.
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology contains over 80,000 artifacts encompasssing the entire breadth of the Egyptian civilsation, from prehistory right through the reign of the Pharaohs to about 1000 AD – representing about 6000 years of history. What I found particularly impressive was the cabinet after cabinet containing the most incredibly decorated domestic pottery, from a time when we were just figuring out how to erect Stonehenge. There are also areas focusing on jewellery and adornment, the complexities of Egyptian sacred ceremony (there are examples of daggers, canopic jars, shantis and the like) and several large cabinets contain fragments of pictograms and heiroglyphs, some of which even retain their original pigments. For those whose visit to an Egyptian museum wouldn’t be complete without a ‘mummy’, you will find an ornate sarchophagus amongst the objects!
Visits to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology are free, however because it is part of the University complex visiting times are a little protracted – opening hours are 1pm to 5pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays. A visit to the museum is a magical experience – it’s far more intimate than the British Museum. Pick the right time and it could be just you and the Pharaohs in the room… You can find more images from my visit