Coffin Conservation


Last week a painted ancient Egyptian coffin in the University’s museums’ collection left Aberdeen for conservation in Hildesheim near Hannover in Germany.

The wooden coffin dates to the Middle Kingdom (2000-1700BC) and was discovered in Beni Hasan, Middle Egypt, by Professor John Garstang in 1903-4. It was made for a royal official, Nekht, whose name means ‘strong’. We hope to find out more about him, but this was a fairly common name in Egypt. The site has some Old Kingdom burials but most, like this coffin, date to the Middle Kingdom. There are over 800 rock-cut tombs at Beni Hasan, with most consisting of a shaft with a chamber at the bottom in which the coffin was placed. A photograph from the Garstang Museum in University of Liverpool shows another coffin (now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge) as it was found in its chamber.

Another archive photograph shows Garstang and an assistant with a coffin and other finds in a larger chamber in which the excavators lived! The excavations were funded by subscription, so the finds are now spread between many museums across the world including the Aberdeen, Liverpool and Cambridge.

The coffin is being conserved by a specialist conservator, Jens Klocke, who is based in Hildesheim.  Having been damaged by wet rot, it is very fragile, Jens came to Aberdeen to stabilise the coffin before it was transported in a specially made crate complete with Nekht’s name in hieroglyphics added by Jens! Preparation included covered the coffin in a waxy seal of cyclododecane spray, which offers protection to the artefact while it is being transported but will completely vanish by evaporation after a few days. In the conservation lab, Jens will remove all of the temporary consolidant and gently clean it. He will then consolidating the painted areas the cracking of the wood, before strengthening the coffin by replacing missing dowels and then re-attaching the base of the coffin.

This conservation has been made possible by our partnership with the Lokschuppen exhibition centre in Rosenheim near Munich, and the generous support of an anonymous donor to the Aberdeen Humanities Fund. Once conserved, the coffin will be on display in Rosenheim as part of a large exhibition on Ancient Egypt which is based on Aberdeen’s collection.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Objects on Loan for Fijian Art Exhibition

At the University of Aberdeen Museums we look after vast and impressive collections from the Pacific, some of which are now going to be on display in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

The exhibition, ‘Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific‘ will be the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled and explores the art and cultural history of Fiji since the late 18th Century.

Alongside the Fiji Museum, The British Museum, The Pitt Rivers Museum and many more, the University Museums will be lending some of our more spectacular Fijian items to the exhibition including jewellery, weapons, household objects and works of art.

Last week out team in the collections centre were working hard preparing the objects for the loan; packing the objects safely for transportation to Norwich.

We’re excited for these objects to go on display and join the other impressive collections from around the world that will be on display in this important exhibition.

The exhibition will be open from 15 October 2016 – 12 February 2017

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kayaking Greenland to Scotland

Two adventurers, Olly Hicks and George Bullard, have just landed in Durness in North-West Scotland after kayaking 1200 miles from Greenland to Scotland. Their voyage took over six weeks, including spending 12 nights at sea paddling by the light of the midnight sun.

Their voyage was inspired by 300 year-old stories which might refer to kayakers reaching Scotland. One account, by an Orcadian minister, talks of these men which are called Finnmen; in the year 1682 one was seen sometime sailing, sometime rowing up and down in his little boat at the south end of the Isle of Eda, most of the people of the Isle flocked to see him, and when they adventured to put out a boat with men to see if they could apprehend him, he presently fled away most swiftly.

Our Greenland kayaks.jpg

Seal-skin kayaks from Greenland held in the University of Aberdeen Museums’ collections

Another account records someone who landed with his kayak at Belhelvie, North of Aberdeen. He was ‘all over hairy, and spoke a language which no person there could interpret. He lived but three days,  although all possible care was taken to recover him.’ This kayak is still preserved in the University’s museum collection, along with hunting equipment.

The story has inspired much speculation and wonder. Would it be possible for anyone to kayak from Greenland to Aberdeen or would such a voyage only have been possible with the help of whaling ships that were working in the Greenland Sea? Were the ‘Finnmen’ actually Inuit kayakers?

Although the mystery continues, the adventure by Olly Hicks and George Bullard shows that the story of an Inuit Kayaker reaching Scotland 300 years ago might well be true. If so, it shows how amazingly well-designed was the Inuit kayak made from seal-skins attached to a driftwood frame – this year’s voyage depended on a kayak made of carbon fibre with Kevlar in the bottom of the hull for ice protection, with navigation and tracking devices that use the latest satellite technology.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pictish Stone on Loan to Dundee

 FairyGreen Piciths stoneAs part of the ‘Reflections on Celts’ spotlight tour from the British Museum and National Museums Scotland, a Pictish stone from the University Museums’ collection will be going on display in the McManus in Dundee.

The exhibition will be on display in Dundee from 31st August 2016 – 26 March 2017 alongside the two Iron Age mirrors from the British Museum and National Museums Scotland.

The Pictish stone from Fairygreen, Perthshire, contains various symbols including a Pictish beast, a mirror, a comb and a decorated rectangle. Unusually, on the hind leg of the beast, you can see where the carver has made a mistake and tried to erase it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beakers and Bodies


Image from the University of Aberdeen Musuems’ Collections: a stone cist excavated in 1923 which holds the remains of a man and a beaker

The latest issue of British Archaeology features and image from the University of Aberdeen Museums collections; a stone cist excavated in 1923 at Upper Mains of Catterline, Aberdeenshire (former Kincardineshire) which holds the remains of a man and a beaker.

An article in this issue of British Archaeology discusses the results of the ‘Beaker People Project’, in which the University Museums was a partner. Using the latest scientific techniques for radiocarbon dating and stable isotopes, the article discusses the movement of people living over 4000 years ago in Western Europe.

A future edition of the magazine will feature related work, the ‘Beakers and Bodies Project’ funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which focused specifically on Beakers in North-East Scotland, of which the University has an impressive collection.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Student Object Highlight – WWI Medals

Student curator of our current exhibition ‘The Land Endures: Bringing Sunset Song to Life’, Sebastien tells us about his favourite objects in the exhibition and why he finds them so fascinating:

ABDUA 10327 - Medals.jpg‘These four objects are part of a collection of First World War medals awarded to Charles Luther Gordon, a 2185 Private Gordon highlander soldier. Private Gordon served in 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders and later joined the regiment in Accrington, Lancashire. These medals include the 1914-15 Star, a British War Medal 1914-20, a Victory Medal 1914-18, and a ‘Dead man’s penny’ for a soldier killed in action on 2nd March 1916.

ABDUA 10327 - Dead Man's Penny.jpgI chose these objects as I wanted to research something a little different from the objects that highlight home-life in North East Scotland which make up a large amount of the exhibition. While these objects represent an integral part of the history of North East Scotland, I feel the medals are equally as important. The Gordon Highlanders were an integral part of the British Army since the Napoleonic Wars in 1794, under Duke Gordon’s tutelage. In my opinion, these medals are a very important to exploring north East Scotland’s importance as a region in a wider context.

I found the link of these medals to the novel Sunset Song particularly interesting as well. For example the 1914-15 Star is used to represent Chae Strachan and his excitement when the war began, resulting in his early departure to the Western front. This early period also represent’s Chae’s brief exposure to the traumatic experiences of war and how this completely changed his personality, frequently questioning the Kinraddie community’s behaviour and wrongdoing. Moreover ,the British War Medal and Victory Medal could both represent Long Rob and Chae for participating in the First World War itself. Finally, the Dead Man’s Penny represents Long Rob and Chae’s commemoration of their brave deaths.

Thanks you for reading and stay tuned for more discoveries at the exhibition, hope to see you there!’

Written by Sebastien Raybaud, Student Curator



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘The Land Endures’ Review

With the opening of our latest student exhibition ‘The Land Endures: Bringing sunset Song to Life’, Andy Hall, a director of the Grassic Gibbon Centre tells us what he thought of the student’s efforts.

ggb 8As a director of the Grassic Gibbon Centre in Arbuthnott, I was delighted to attend the opening of the exhibition “The Land Endures: Bringing Sunset Song to Life” at King’s Museum, Old Aberdeen Town House. I was particularly impressed by the imitativeness of the presentation of the exhibits, the meticulousness of the display and the rigour of the research behind the project. 

Most, if not all, of the students hadn’t read Sunset Song before this project but had become very knowledgeable and had a clear understanding of the essential relationships between the characters, their community and the landscape of the Mearns. The work of these young people from all over the world has made a valuable contribution to the appreciation of Sunset Song and to perpetuating the memory of James Leslie Mitchell. 

Sunset Song for webThe exhibition remains open until the 30th of November 2016. For those people with an interest in Scottish literature or in the social history of Scotland, an hour would be very well spent appreciating the efforts of these talented young people in the appropriately historic and characterful surroundings of Old Aberdeen.”

Come along to see the exhibition for yourself in King’s Museum, The Old Townhouse, Aberdeen.

Opening hours Tuesday-Saturday 11.30am – 4.30pm

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment