A History of Egypt in 6 Objects

On a recent MOOC we had to do our own selection of 6 objects to illustrate Egypt’s history

      A history of Egypt in 6 objects

I have had a little fun with this as all the photos were taken in my flat in Luxor. They are fakes or reproductions so it combines the old and the new. But it is a real reflection of things I feel are important in ancient Egypt. I have tried to find the originals in museum collection and give links


A Schist Cosmetic Palette,

Predynastic Period, Nagada II, circa 3500-3100 B.C. in the shape of a fish, with grooved gills, serrated dorsal fin, and deeply notched tail fin, a suspension hole above. One sold by Sothebys for $7,000 Used to prepare eye makeup, it demonstrates the skill of the predynastic craftsman in stone. Similar one in the Aswan museum, this a fake bought in Luxor. It is so tactile and smooth.

White Chapel



Middle Kingdom, the white chapel of Senuseret I in the Open Air Museum at Karnak. This was chopped up and used as hard core in a pylon built by Horemheb. So it is a rare survivor. It was a way station used in the procession of the God’s barque from Karnak to Luxor. The carving is exquisite, very detailed and fine, you can see the individual barbs of the feathers in the headresses. It also had a practical use apart from being a way station. Around the outside was a list of all the nomes of Egypt at that time with the length of the Nile. So when the inundation happened you could recreate the borders. When we think of a fence or border it is permanent but this demonstrates that the ancient Egyptian would have had to recreate them every year.


Blue Hippos were very popular and this is the most famous, it is decorated with the plant life that was along the Nile and demonstrated the different climate at the time. This is quite important for our understanding of Ancient Egyptian life. Although there was desert and Nile, it was more savannah like and supported animals and plants that it doesn’t today.

Nicknamed William it is in the Metropolitan museum in New York


Standing Hippopotamus

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12, first half

Reign: Senwosret I to Senwosret II

Date: ca. 1961–1878 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Middle Egypt, Meir (Mir), Tomb B no. 3 of the nomarch Senbi II, pit 1 (steward Senbi), Khashaba excavations, 1910

Medium: Faience

Dimensions: L. 20 cm (7 7/8 in.); W. 7.5 cm (2 15/16 in.); H. 11.2 cm (4 7/16 in.)

Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917

Accession Number: 17.9.1



Amarna Blueware


I picked this up at Malqata, it is a tiny bit of broken pottery. There is a massive hill of broken pieces. Amarna blue ware. Most pieces are found at Tel Amarna but this is much earlier in the period when they were still at Luxor. It demonstrates that the art and culture of this period developed and started in Thebes and then moved to Amarna.

The BM has a complete pot http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aes/b/blue-painted_pot.aspx

From Tell el-Amarna, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1300 BC

Biconical pottery jar, decorated with a design in blue, red and black

This large biconical jar is typical of the ‘blue painted ware’, made only in the Eighteenth Dynasty. Before this time, decorated pottery had only been made in the Predynastic period, some two thousand years earlier. The design is painted in blue, with highlights in black and red, on a buff background. The motifs are generally floral, with horizontal bands and festoons similar to the elaborate collars worn by wealthy Egyptians.

After the Predynastic period, pottery was generally wheel-made. The wheel was very simple and controlled by hand. It consisted of a stone, on which the turntable was constructed of mud and straw, set into a stone base. The surfaces of the bearing were highly polished and perhaps lubricated with grease. The use of the wheel allowed a potter to make vessels quickly, in a simple form of mass production.

Pottery workshops are, however, known from the Predynastic period. At this time pots were made by the more laborious method of coiling. A potter’s house, his wares stacked outside, was found at Hierakonpolis. The house was destroyed by a fire that spread from the potter’s nearby kiln. He seems to have learnt a lesson from this, building his next house of stone, and a little farther from the kiln.



Actually I don’t know very much about these pieces, they are little images of gods with a hole so they could be worn. Something the ordinary people wore which makes them very special to me. One is Set and the Tawosret. My father bought them in 1946 when he was in the army in Egypt. They were taken to a museum and judged to be late period and genuine.



Everyone who could would have a shabiti or preferably several. The ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife was just like everyday life. This meant you had to work. The idea of the shabiti was he would do the work for you which is why he carried tools.



A 26th dynasty figure replica, made of blue-glazed composition, inscribed with the Saite version of chapter six of the Book of the Dead.

It was believed that the recitation would bring the figure to life to carry out all of the agricultural duties demanded of its dead master, Psamtik, son of Sebarekhyt, in the afterlife. In readiness, the shabti carries a pick, an adze and behind its left shoulder, a seed basket.

The statue is attributed to the Saite period, about 600 BC. This replica figure is moulded from the original in the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum.

This was bought for me in 1972 when the Tutankhamen exhibition visited the British museum so it has memories of that too for me





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