Ancient Egyptian replicas - not the real thing?

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Replica of a lapis lazuli figure of a woman

Replica of a lapis lazuli figure of a woman

There are over 1300 objects in our Ancient Egypt Gallery but two of these are replicas that we included because the story of their discovery relates to Liverpool archaeologists. Casts of important objects were often made before the genuine object was deposited in a museum. In the early 1900s Prof. John Garstang did this for quite a few of his discoveries, including a female figure from Hierakonpolis, an ivory sphinx from Abydos, a 1st Dynasty ivory tablet from Naqada, a 2nd Dynasty cylinder seal from Abydos and gold jewellery from Meroe. The museum, like many of his other fieldwork sponsors, was given copies of these prize finds. One such replica we display was only partly discovered by a Liverpool team – a serene looking figure of a standing woman with crossed hands finely carved from lapis lazuli and dating to Naqada III–early 1st Dynasty (about 3300–3000 BC).

Replica of an ivory sphinx with the head of pharaoh crushing a captive

Replica of an ivory sphinx with the head of a pharaoh crushing a captive

It was given to the museum on 16 November 1906 along with 431 finds from a season of excavations in Upper Egypt that the museum had sponsored. The story of how the figure was discovered can be compared to the challenge of finding a needle in a haystack. The body was found by an archaeologist called James Quibell who was working at Hierakonpolis between 1897-1899 on behalf of the Egyptian Research Account run by London based archaeologist, Prof. Flinders Petrie, who presented the headless figure to the Ashmolean Museum; where it remained incomplete until in 1906 when Garstang’s assistant, Harold Jones, found the missing head whilst doing some spot digging in the same temple area for the Liverpool Institute of Archaeology. The complete figure can now be seen at the Ashmolean (Ash.E.1057) and a number of replicas are in other collections but seldom on display which is a shame as they may not be the ‘real thing' but they do allow us to share images of remarkable finds from the ground that often carry interesting stories of discovery.