Missing ‘jigsaw’ piece links Swansea with Cairo

A piece of ancient glass over 3000 years old, on display in Swansea University’s Egypt Centre, has been identified as one of the missing pieces from a rare glass Egyptian vase which is currently in the Cairo Museum.

Vase fragment

The brightly coloured fragment, which is on loan from Swansea Museum, originally belonged to pharaoh Amenhotep II (1427-1401BC). 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 missing piece was prefabricated separately and then sunk into the body of the 40cm high glass amphora (vase).

 

The glass fragment was given to the Museum in 1959. Circumstantial evidence suggested it came from the tomb of queen Tiye (wife of king Amenhotep III (1390-1352BC). 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.

Harold Jones

 

 

 

Birgit Schlick-Nolte, a German Egyptologist and Kate Bosse-Griffiths, the first curator of Swansea’s Egyptological Collection at the University, discovered that the Swansea fragment is part of the vessel in the Cairo Museum, but information on this, together with information on its manufacture, has only recently been published by Birgit. The complete vessel consists of a white amphora decorated with brown and light blue decoration.

 

 

Reconstructed vase

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.

Vase with fragment

“ 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.

Picture 1 shows the missing fragment.

Picture 2 is a copy of a photograph of Harold Jones.

Picture 3 shows the reconstructed Cairo glass amphora.

Picture 4 is a photoshop picture of the vessel with the missing piece inserted.

NB: Pictures 3 and 4 are copyright of Brigit Schlick-Nolte who has given permission for them to be used.

  • An amphora is a type of container of a characteristic shape and size, descending from at least as early as the Neolithic Period. Amphorae were used in vast numbers for the transport and storage of various products, both liquid and dry, but mostly for wine. It is most often ceramic but examples in metals and other materials have been found.

  • 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