Saturday, January 19, 2013

Piece of glass has been identified as part of 3,000-year-old Egyptian vase

by James Rush

A piece of glass on display at Swansea University has been identified as a lost fragment of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian vase at Cairo Museum.

The fragment is believed to have come from a 15in high vase from the tomb of queen Tiye, the wife of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned from 1386 to 1349BC.
The piece of glass, which is on loan to the university's Egypt Centre from Swansea Museum, is part of an amphora, a kind of vessel usually used for transporting wine.

The rest of the vessel is currently on display in Cairo.

Although it was found in the tomb of the wife of Amenhotep III, the 4cm fragment bears the name of his grandfather Amenhotep II, who is thought to have ruled Egypt between 1427-1401BC and was given to the museum by the family of Harold Jones in 1959. Mr Jones  was an artist in the tombs of the Valley of the Kings in the early 20th century.

Photo Credit: D. Legakis Photo/Athena Pictures
The 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 originally prefabricated separately and then sunk into the body of the 40cm high glass amphora.

The complete vessel consists of a white amphora decorated with brown and light blue decoration.

Photo Credit: D. Legakis Photo/Athena Pictures

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.'

Amenhotep III's reign is said to mark the zenith of civilisation in ancient Egypt, for both its cultural achievement and political power.

He is thought to have died around 1354 BC and was buried in a tomb in the secluded western branch of the Valley of the Kings.

The Swansea piece which bears his grandfather’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.


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