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.

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Publications

  • 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
    Description:

  • 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
    Description:

  • 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.