Ancient Egypt collection

Ancient Egypt collection

About this collection

World Museum has over 16,000 objects from ancient Egypt and Nubia, making it one of the largest collections in Great Britain. The objects come from a timespan of over 5000 years that comprehensively represent the evolving cultures of the Nile Valley, from the prehistory to the Byzantine Period.

The museum not only has a superb variety of popular objects, such as mummies, coffins, sculpture and jewellery, but also objects of great historical importance such as a distinctive group of papyrus from the 11th century BC that contain the only written evidence of tomb robbery in the Valley of the Kings (KV9  - the tomb of Rameses VI).

Now, for the first time, we are sharing more than 2700 objects from Ancient Egypt collection online. 

The Joseph Mayer collection

The story of Liverpool's Egyptology collection starts with goldsmith Joseph Mayer opening his Egyptian Museum in 1852. Mayer purchased his collection from Joseph Sams, Rev. Henry Stobart and Viscount Valentia, with many objects sharing the same early 19th century provenance as those now in the British Museum and the Louvre. In 1867 he donated his collection to 'The Liverpool Free Library and Museum' (now World Museum) which at the time positioned the museum as the most important public collection outside London.

As a port-city supplying the Lancashire mills with cotton from Egypt it was easy to bring Egyptian artefacts into Liverpool, including 180,000 mummified cats in 1890 that were auctioned off for fertiliser!

Excavations and John Garstang

From 1884 the museum began enhancing Mayer’s founding collection by supporting fieldwork projects of the Egypt Exploration Society and Flinders Petrie’s British School of Archaeology in Egypt. With the agreement of the Egyptian authorities newly discovered antiquities were allowed to be exported to museums that sponsored the excavation. By this arrangement 4000 items were acquired between 1884 and 1939, in particular from the excavations of John Garstang who in 1904 established the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Liverpool. Garstang was one of the most prolific and peripatetic excavators of his day. His richest finds were in Egypt (e.g., Beni Hasan and Abydos) and Sudan where and he conducted the first systematic explorations of the site of Meroe, the inspiration for Verdi’s opera Aida.

Displaying our collection

Until the end of the Victorian era Liverpool’s Egyptian collection was the largest after the British Museum and was displayed with great pride in the main hall and adjoining galleries. In May 1941 over 3,000 Egyptian objects were destroyed when an incendiary bomb fell on the museum. Over the next 40 years the collection increased in size with 10,000 new acquisitions, but the new gallery that opened in 1976 was modest, showing only a small selection.

With the generous support of DCMS/Wolfson in 2008 the Egyptian Gallery was refurbished and extended and 400 more objects were put on display. Many objects were displayed for the first time in 70 years including one of Egyptology’s rarest objects, the Rameses Girdle. 

In 2017 World Museum's new ancient Egypt gallery extended into gallery space unused for 35 years, creating the biggest ever display area for our ancient Egypt collection. At 1,000 square metres, World Museum's ancient Egypt gallery is now the UK’s largest Ancient Egypt gallery outside of the British Museum. Find out more.

Did you know?

On 10 February 1890, 19.5 tons of cat mummies were sold in Liverpool for fertiliser.

Explore the Ancient Egypt collection

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  • 21st Dynasty Coffins from Thebes. Chronological and Typological Studies

    Niwinski, Andrzej

    Author: Niwinski, Andrzej
    Publisher: P von Zabern
    Date: 1988
    Description: Theben Bd. 5.

  • 5000 Years of Egyptian Art

    The Arts Council

    Author: The Arts Council
    Publisher: The Arts Council
    Date: 1962

  • A Catalogue of the Ancient Marbles at Ince Blundell Hall

    Ashmole, Bernard

    Author: Ashmole, Bernard
    Publisher: Clarendon Press
    Date: 1929
    Description: An illustrated catalogue of the ancient sculptures collected by Henry Blundell and formerly at Ince Blundell Hall.

  • A Catalogue of the Egyptian Antiquities in the Possession of F. G. Hilton Price Dir. S.A. (1897)

    Hilton Price, F G

    Author: Hilton Price, F G
    Publisher: Quaritch, Bernard
    Date: 1897

  • A continuation of the Smiting Scene in Artibus Aegypti: Studia in Honorem Bernardi V. Bothmer

    Hall, Emma Swan

    Author: Hall, Emma Swan
    Publisher: Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire
    Date: 1983
    Description: Emma Swan Hall, 'A continuation of the Smiting Scene', in 'Artibus Aegypti: Studia in Honorem Bernardi V. Bothmer' (Brussels,1983) pp. 75-79.

See all publications


  • 5000 Years of Egyptian Art Exhibition

    Start date: 1962-06-22
    End date: 1962-06-22
    Description: An exhibition organised by the Arts Council that was held at the Diploma Galleries of the Royal Academy. The exhibition consisted largely of sculpture from the Predynastic up to the early Christian period, most of which were from the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo. The exhibition was held between 22nd June to 12th August 1962. A catalogue was published by the Arts Council in 1962 with detailed descriptions of all the exhibits, and with 40 black and white plates.

  • Amélineau's excavations of the Royal Tombs at Abydos, 1894-1898

    Start date: 1894
    End date: 1894
    Description: First excavations of the Royal Tombs of the Early Dynastic Period at Abydos. Amélineau's collection was sold in Paris 8-9 February 1904.

  • An Exhibition of Egyptian Antiquities Recently Discovered in Egypt and Nubia by Mr John Garstang and Mr E. Harold Jones

    Start date: 1906-07-10
    End date: 1906-07-10
    Description: A 17 day exhibition of antiquities excavated between 1905-6 from sites including, Abydos, Esna, Hierakonpolis and Kostamneh. The event was held in what is now the World Cultures Gallery at World Museum. A 4 page exhibition catalogue was published by the University of Liverpool Institute of Archaeology. The exhibition was inaugrated July 10th, 1906, by the Right Hon. The Earl of Derby, K.G., G.C.B., LL.D. and included antiquities belonging to the committee members of the University of Liverpool Institute of Archaeology: Ralph Brocklebank, Esq., The Rt. Hon. Sir J. T. Brunner, Bart., M.P., F. C. Danson, Esq., J.P., Wm. Johnston Esq., Rev. W. MacGregor, M.A., John Rankin Esq., The Lady Amherst of Hackney, Theodore M. Davies Esq., Dr H. O. Forbes and Jesse Haworth Esq. The full title is taken from the exhibition catalogue:'An Exhibition of Egyptian Antiquities Recently Discovered in Egypt and Nubia by Mr John Garstang and Mr E. Harold Jones, Under the Patronage of the Egyptian Excavations Committee of the University Institute of Archaeology'.

  • Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on

    Start date: 2007-10-06
    End date: 2007-10-06
    Description: Held in 1857 in Manchester, art Treasures of the United Kingdom' featured over 16,000 exhibits of the most important historic and modern art ever displayed. 150 years on, Manchester Art Gallery celebrated this extraordinary achievement in an anniversary exhibition.

  • Aurea Roma. Dalla Città Pagana alla Città Cristiana

    Start date: 2000-12-22
    End date: 2000-12-22
    Description: A temporary exhibition organised by the omune di Roma, Assesorato alle Politiche Culturali and the Sovraintendenza ai Beni Culturali and held at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. Curated by Serena Ensoli and Eugenio La Rocca, it included nearly 380 artefacts from more than 80 institutions and private collections. The exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated book of essays and a catalogue raisonné