Death on the Nile

Gillian MacNee, the new Curator for Learning and Access, has been hard at work developing a new Ancient Egyptian school workshop for the University of Aberdeen Museums. Here she tells us about her first week delivering the new workshop.

Last week we had our first school groups to our new workshop “Death on the Nile”, which is all about Ancient Egypt.  They examined real objects from Ancient Egypt, starting off with one of my favourite things from our Egyptian collection, which is a limestone fragment with hieroglyphics depicting the name of the pharaoh Khufu in the oval cartouche, with the symbols of upper and lower Egypt above it.  The children learned how to read the hieroglyphics that make up Khufu’s name.

Gillian- School

Fraserburgh South Park School translating the cartouche


Khufu’s cartouche, ABDUA 21613

They then examined real Egyptian charms depicting different gods and goddesses.  Many Egyptian deities were depicted as having body parts of animals, so the children have to examine the charm carefully to see what animal they can see.  Below is one of the charms: can you figure out what animal it looks like?


This is charm of the goddess Sekhmet, she has the head of a lioness and, as the Egyptians saw lionesses as the fiercest hunters they knew, they believed Sekhmet was a warrior goddess that would lead the Pharaoh into war.

Gillian- School2

Fraserburgh South Park School reading a story from a piece of papyrus to figure out their charms power

They then examined other Egyptian charms. Can you figure out what animal is represented in the one below?


It’s a cat!  Cats were an important part of Ancient Egyptian society.  Some cats were mummified after death, just like people were.  Below is a mummified cat from the museum’s collection.  Whole tombs have been discovered in Egypt with hundreds of mummified cats and kittens.

mummified cat

Mummified Cat, ABDUA 22120

The groups then have to find the real animals in the Zoology Museum that they have seen as Egyptian charms.  Below is the Scottish wild cat, which matches the cat charm the groups examined earlier in their visit.

wild cat

A Scottish Wildcat in the Zoology Museum, University of Aberdeen

The sessions were a great success, and there will be many more to follow after the Easter holidays. In the meantime, keep an eye on our website for the upcoming family event ‘Night at the Museum’ which will be taking place on the 17th May across the museum’s venues.


About uoamuseums

The University of Aberdeen's Museums include King’s Museum and the University's Zoology Museum. The museums can claim to be Scotland's oldest, with records of museums and collections as far back as the late 17th century. Thanks to their status as a Recognised Collection of national significance, the Zoology Museum’s displays are currently being improved, while King's Museum hosts changing exhibitions drawn from across the collections, particularly those formerly in Marischal Museum. Visitors are warmly welcomed to the museums, and there are no charges for admission. Marischal College now houses the Museums Collections Centre, caring for and conserving many of the collections.
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