A ‘fragment’ of history links Swansea with Cairo

A piece of ancient glass over 3000 years old, displayed in Swansea University’s Egypt Centre, has been identified as being part of an Egyptian vase which is currently in the Cairo Museum.

The rare fragment, originally belonging to pharaoh Amenhotep II (1498-1387 BC), is on loan from Swansea Museum.

Egyptian vase fragment

The 4cm long piece of glass displays two names of the king picked out in red and yellow on a background of brilliant blue. The names are surmounted by red sun-disks and yellow feathers. The glass fragment was given to Swansea Museum in 1959. Circumstantial evidence suggested it came from the tomb of queen Tiye (wife of king Amenhotep III). It had been given to Swansea Museum by Miss Annie Sprake Jones of Abergwili who received it from her brother Harold Jones. Harold Jones had been employed as an artist in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings in the early 20th century.

It was German Egyptologist, Birgit Schlick-Nolte who discovered that the Swansea fragment is part of the vessel in the Cairo Museum which comes from the tomb of Amenhotep II. The complete vessel measures around 40cm in height and consists of a white amphora decorated with brown and light blue decoration.

Dr Carolyn Graves-Brown, Curator of the Egypt Centre, said: “Glass of this date is extremely rare in Egypt and was usually given as diplomatic gifts between the kings of the region. Vessels and other artefacts from the reign of Amenhotep II are part of an extraordinary array of sophisticated techniques from an innovative period of glass production. Large vessels such as that in Cairo Museum, from which our fragment originated, were not attempted even in later years. At this date the manufacture of glass was a royal monopoly and as valuable as gold and silver.

“The Swansea piece with the king’s name would have been prefabricated and placed upon the body of the vessel while it was still in a molten state. Interestingly, one of the names for glass in ancient Egyptian was ‘the stone that flows’.”

Garethe el-Tawab, Curator of Swansea Museum said: “The loan of this very rare piece of ancient glass by the Museum to our colleagues in the Egypt Centre is a marvellous example of partnership working in international research”.

Visitors will be able to see the rare piece of Egyptian glass for themselves when they come to the Centre which is open from Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm and is free to the public. The Centre will be closed from  22nd December reopening on Wednesday 2nd January 2013. 

  • The Egypt Centre, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, situated at the Swansea University officially opened in 1998. The collection comprises over 4500 objects largely from the pharmacist Sir Henry Wellcome collection (1853-1936).  The Egyptian material largely covers the period c.100,000 B.C. - A.D. 500 in two galleries and includes jewellery dating from the time of Tutankhamun, weapons, a mummified crocodile and much, much more. There are lots of hands on activities for children and adults alike, the most popular of which is the dummy mummy. Come and try your hand at mummification!  For further information about the Egypt Centre contact 01792 295960 or visit the web site at http://www.swansea.ac.uk/egypt