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    16th AUGUST 2017: ROGER SHARP. KARNAK, A COMPLEX OF TEMPLES

    Note: This report does not contain any of the many illustrations shown.

    Roger’s talk gave us a comprehensive background to the pictures he showed, and much more than the usual guide-assisted visit. He illustrated and explained how each pharaoh made different additions, thus leaving his particular mark on the complex that is Karnak. This gave an insight into the wonderful place Karnak must have been all those years ago.

    As someone who has made just one visit to Egypt, my next visit will be enhanced by the knowledge I have gained from the talk.

    Roger’s illustrations have been taken over a long period of time and allowed us to see sights no longer available to visitors. Especially interesting were the pictures taken from the tops of the pylons, access to which is forbidden today. These illustrations allowed us to see how truly vast the site is.

    Pat Holiday

    21st OCTOBER 2017: BETH ASBURY, THE PITT RIVERS MUSEUM, OXFORD.

    Note: Illustrations not included

    Beth proved to be a most enthusiastic presenter as she covered the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford and its extensive and fascinating collection of anthropological and archaeological items gathered from all parts of the world, comprising some 300 thousand items.She began by covering the life of Pitt Rivers himself, who was a soldier and archaeologist hugely influential in the development of the science of modern archaeology. He was born Augustus Henry Lane Fox in 1827 into a wealthy landowning family, but changed his name to Pitt Rivers after inheriting an estate from his great uncle. He pursued a career in the army from 1845 and fought in the Crimean War, retiring in 1882.

    He became fascinated with the development of firearms, and how they developed functionally and typologically over the years. He virtually invented the science of typology (the classification of artefacts in a stylistic and chronological sequence over time), which became of crucial importance to archaeological studies.

    As his vast Cranbourne Chase estate was in the heart of Wessex, which is littered with prehistoric remains, he became interested in the study of all types of ancient artefact from flint tools to changes in pottery design and decoration. Eventually, widening his interests even further, he amassed a huge collection of ethnographical items from all over the world, largely through purchases at auctions and sales. He joined the Ethnological Society of London in 1861, and later served as president of the Anthropological Institute. He became our first Inspector of Ancient Monuments, after the passing of the Ancient Monuments Act in 1882. During a Cook’s Tour to Egypt in 1881 he met Petrie at Giza, and no doubt their common interest in the typological analysis of artefacts was of prime interest to them both.

    He had a meticulous approach to excavation and was interested in recording all finds on a given site, as well as their contexts, and he kept extremely detailed records of his work. Most importantly he declared that excavation should be undertaken only under proper archaeological supervision, and by properly trained people.

    Pitt Rivers exhibited his collections and finds in local museums such as the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, and his ethnographical collections form the basis of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. He died in 1900.

    Beth then moved to a description of the museum itself, where items are displayed in a typological and thematic arrangement, and where artefacts from different parts of the world can often be seen in the same case, displaying variations in types, techniques and materials developed in different cultures. This is an arrangement quite different to the museum layouts we commonly experience, where items from one country or culture are usually displayed in close proximity. In addition to the objects displayed, the museum includes collections of photographs and manuscripts, together with an extensive sound and film archive.

    The Egyptian/Sudanese collection is dispersed over a number of cabinets, and includes about 12,000 items. Beth showed many illustrations covering these exhibits, and described the contents of cases covering subjects such as The Treatment of the Dead, Religious Figures and Artefacts, The Human Form in Art, Animal Form in Art, Body Decoration, Furniture, Organic material, etc. Particular items, for example, included Egyptian returning and non-returning boomerangs, self and composite bows, the mysterious mummy assemblage of Irterau, dating to about 700 BCE, and the famous Oxford Bowl, which is inscribed with one of the very few letters to a dead Egyptian we know of. Of particular interest to Beth was the funerary assemblage of Irterau, which was presented to the Prince of Wales in 1869. The coffin and mummy were of a batch of thirty which, it was claimed, were retrieved from a pit tomb at the time of the Prince’s visit, but were probably gathered together from finds made over a number of years and “planted” to impress the visitors.

    Roger Sharp