Staff Favorite

When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally.

BY RICHARD REDDING, Research Scientist, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; principal investigator on archaeological projects in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia; Chief Operating Officer and Chief Research Officer of Ancient Egyptian Research Associates. Redding works in Giza, Egypt, during dig season.

Djehutymose coffin
Front, inside, and back views of the Djehutymose coffin.

Favorite Artifact: The Coffin of Djehutymose. Mummiform coffin of the priest Djehutymose. Wood, plaster, and paint. Saite period (26th Dynasty, 685–525 BC).

Why: “This coffin is both elegant and beautiful and offers human solutions to natural events such as the sun rising each day after the darkness of night. For example, see the goddess Nut painted on the interior of the coffin lid with a red sun disk on her mouth, which she swallows every night and to which she gives birth (the red disk at her feet) every morning.”

About Artifact: It dates to the Saite period, an era of great artistic revival in ancient Egypt. Texts on the coffin identify its owner as a man named Djehutymose, a priest of the falcon god Horus and the “Golden Goddess” Hathor, and give the names of his parents, Nespakhered (also a priest) and Taro (“The Lady of the House.”)

The coffin, carved to represent the mummy of Djehutymose, is covered with magical spells from the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and images of protective gods and goddesses. In this way, the identification of Djehutymose with Osiris is reinforced, and he is provided with multiple levels of protection against the perils of the afterlife as well as appropriate spells for the successful continuation of life in the world of the dead. The coffin represents a microcosm of the afterworld and the eternity that Djehutymose expects to enjoy.

Lid Exterior: Djehutymose’s face is green in imitation of the god of the dead, Osiris; the color symbolizes regeneration and rebirth. His false beard is characteristic of Osiris; his collar with falcon-headed terminals is another symbol of rebirth. His name reinforces his personal identity throughout the texts on the coffin. The goddess Isis, wife of Osiris, spreads her wings protectively over Djehutymose’s feet. A snake encircles the entire coffin lid, its tail and head meeting above Djehutymose’s feet. This circled snake symbolizes protection and eternity.

Lid Interior: The sky goddess Nut spreads her wings protectively over Djehutymose’s chest. Nut’s crown is a sun disk containing her name, and she holds powerful ankh (life) symbols in her outstretched hands. The two eyes of Horus (wedjat) symbolizing protection and rejuvenation are confronted on either side of her head.

Base Exterior: Protective texts from the Book of the Dead and processions of gods and goddesses line the sides of the coffin.

Base Interior: The goddess Imentet magically embraced Djehutymose’s mummy as it lay in the coffin.

Background: For much of Egyptian history, the bodies of the dead were placed in coffins, which often bore texts giving the names, titles, and parentage of the deceased, as well as religious texts for provisioning, protection, and regeneration in the afterlife.

EmbalmScene
Djehutymose lies on a funerary bed, where he is being embalmed by the jackal-headed god Anubis. His soul (ba) in the form of a human-headed bird, hovers overhead. Beneath the bed are four canopic jars containing Djehutymose’s internal organs, removed during the mummification process.

“Fashioned nearly 2,600 years ago, the Djehutymose coffin has made a complicated journey into the present. In the intervening centuries, the coffin was separated from Djehutymose’s mummy, now lost. Within the last hundred years, Djehutymose’s coffin traveled far beyond the imaginings of the ancient Egyptians: from Egypt to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Donated to the University of Michigan in 1906, the coffin was long on display at the Kalamazoo Public Museum before it returned to Ann Arbor in 1989,” according to the Kelsey publication, Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt: The Djehutymose Coffin.

Although the mummy of Djehutymose is long lost, the coffin has a large modern-day following on Facebook’s Mummy Djehutymose, with 3,892 followers to date, and on Twitter’s @Djehutymose with 3,650 followers). Through Twitter, Djehutymose converses regularly with three ancient Egyptian mummies:

  • @KVMMUMMY from Kalamazoo Valley Museum in Michigan;
  • @LASMummy from Louisiana Arts & Science Museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
  • @MummyDjedi at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and
  • @RockaroundCroc, a crocodile mummy at the British Museum in London, UK.

 Find: Look for the coffin of Djehutymose in a prominent exhibit case in the middle of the first floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The coffin stands tall and open, with the interiors of the lid and base facing visitors. Exteriors of the lid and base can also be viewed from the back of the exhibit.

Learn More: Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt: The Djehutymose Coffin in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, by T. G. Wilfong, available in our gift shop or online.

Find out more about Richard Redding’s work in Giza, Egypt, at http://www.aeraweb.org.

Curator Favorites

When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object.

BY MARGARET COOL ROOT, Curator of Greek and Near Eastern Collections, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, and Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan

Curator Favorites 063
Stone stamp seal (upper left), modern impression made by the seal (upper right), with drawing of the seal below.

Favorite Artifact: Female with grain and symbols. Stone stamp seal. Late prehistoric period (4500–3800 BC). Tepe Giyan, Iran. KM 1991.3.74.

Why: First — this object is one of a large group collected at the site of Tepe Giyan by Ernst Herzfeld, a very famous and important archaeologist. Second — the imagery carved on the seal is really important in the history of visual art.

About Artifact: Images of power, cult, and cosmos were disseminated on large monuments and also on small portable objects such as cylinder and stamp seals. Seals bore scenes carved in the negative onto cylindrical or flat surfaces and then rolled or pressed into still-damp clay documents and tablets to yield infinitely reproducible possible renderings.

This stone stamp seal is one of the earliest examples of a particular and very resonant image of female fecundity in ancient Near Eastern art: an iconic motif of the female figure with limbs splayed to suggest sexual invitation, birthing, or both. She is flanked by sheaves of grain, symbols of abundance through the ages, representing the fertility of flocks, human families, and the earth itself, an image that reverberated throughout later seal traditions in the region for the next 3,500 years.

When viewing the seal, keep in mind that ancient seal carvers worked at a very small scale and had to create forms in the negative.

Background: Gods, rulers, regular mortals, and institutions all had seals. Seals carried status as emblems of personal identity and administrative authority, and they were used as signatures on contracts and/or official tablets. They also had magical properties to bring good luck or ward off evil. Often seals were passed down as heirlooms. By the same token, the special properties attached to seals meant that they were often buried with their owners or strewn as votive offerings in the brick work of important buildings.

People proudly wore pendant stamps and cylinder seals suspended around their necks or wrists or pinned to their clothing. The act of making an impression with one’s seal was a creative moment likened unto the force of the rising sun, as these words from the Hebrew book of Job 38:13–14 (Old Testament) suggest: “Have you taught the dawn to grasp the fringes of the earth … to bring up the horizon in relief as clay under a seal?”

Find It: In the ancient Near Eastern seal exhibit case on the first floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum. Enter the museum through the Maynard Street entrance, go straight by the Security Desk, and then turn right and right. The ancient Near Eastern seal exhibit case will be directly in front of you.

Learn More: The stamp seal described above is featured in Root’s 2005 book, This Fertile Land, available for purchase in our gift shop or online.

Curator Favorites

When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object.

Attic lekythos with funeral scene. KM 2604.
Attic lekythos with funeral scene. KM 2604.

BY CHRISTOPHER RATTÉ, Director and Curator of Greek and Hellenistic Collections, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; and Professor, Departments of Classical Studies and History of Art, University of Michigan

Favorite Artifact: Attic lekythos with funeral scene. Clay, white ground. Greece. KM 2604.

Why. I have been captivated by Greek vases ever since I was 10 or 11 years old — perhaps (although I certainly didn’t know it at the time) for the same reason that inspired Keats to write the “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: because, as the “foster child[ren] of silence and slow time,” Greek vases conjure up such vivid sensations of an ideal past.

My favorite vase in the Kelsey is a 5th-century BC oil jar known as a lekythos, made as a grave offering. Vases of this type are often decorated with scenes of men and women leaving gifts in front of tombs, and in this way they are interestingly self-referential. But what I like most about them is their draftsmanship.

This vase shows two men standing on either side of a gravestone. Both the men and the monument they flank are drawn in outline on a white background, with details such as the men’s cloaks filled in with colored paint. In many ways this is a humble object — it was produced quickly for retail sale — but that is partly what makes it so appealing. Its simple line work seems perfectly in tune both with the function of the vase and with the solemnity of the scene it depicts.

Background. White-ground lekythoi, like this one, were usually associated with funerary rituals. Produced primarily in Attica during the 5th century BC, they were placed both inside and outside graves and filled with oil as an offering to the deceased or to the gods of the underworld.

The coating of white slip and delicate drawings are often fugitive, since much of the color was added after firing. This vase shows a typical image of a tomb encircled with ribbons. One of the figures may represent the departed, the other a visitor to the grave.

Find It. Locate the ancient Greece exhibit case, which faces the wall of windows on the first floor of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing. Facing the exhibit case, turn right and walk to the end of the case, then turn left and left. You’ll be facing the end case, which holds two lekythoi, including Director Ratté’s favorite.

Learn More: Archaeology and the Cities of Asia Minor in Late Antiquity, edited by Ortwin Daly and Christopher Ratté, is available for purchase in our gift shop or online from our distributor.

Curator Favorites

When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object. Here is the sixth in a series.

BY LAUREN E. TALALAY, Curator Emerita and Research Associate (retired Associate Director and Curator for Academic Outreach), Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Adjunct Associate Professor, The University of Michigan

 Favorite Artifact: Amphora by the Berlin Painter. Clay, Attic Red Figure (ca. 480 BC). Common Fund purchase 1977. KM 1977.7.1

Amphora by the Berlin Painter
Amphora by the Berlin Painter.

Why. The amphora’s aesthetics as well as its subject matter. The simple beauty, wonderful color, rich black background, and elegantly drawn people move me. I love the way the painter has given us two individuals focused only on each other. It’s a poignant moment frozen in time of a warrior going off to battle or returning from war. Although the topic’s roots go back to antiquity, we can still relate to the difficult issues of war in our time. While it is hard to see, there is also a shield behind the warrior that was incised by the artist but never painted. It makes me wonder why the artist never finished it.

About Artifact. The painter of this amphora, who like many other Athenian vase painters never signed his name, can be recognized by his style on more than 300 vessels, some of which are among the most beautiful surviving examples of red-figure pottery. He is called the “Berlin Painter” after his masterpiece now in Berlin (Antikensammlung). His simple, elegant composition often “spotlights” one or two figures against the dark background.

The scene on this side is most likely one of sacrifice, with the young warrior setting off to or returning from battle. Facing the youth is a woman who may be his wife. The warrior holds a spear; an incised, but never painted, shield is faintly visible behind and to the left of him. The reverse depicts an old man with a staff, perhaps the warrior’s father. The young man also holds a vessel, which, however, seems to be the wrong kind for a libation or sacrifice scene.

Background. In scenes of this nature, figures are more often painted holding a non-footed vessel called a phiale. The piece may have been incorrectly restored before it arrived at the Kelsey. The Kelsey Museum purchased the Berlin Painter amphora through Bruce McAlpine of Bruce and Ingrid McAlpine Ancient Art, London dealers. It was part of the ex-collection of Lord Belper of Nottingham, England.

Find It.  First, locate the ancient Greece exhibit case on the first floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. This exhibit case faces the wall of windows. While standing in front, look toward the right-hand end of the exhibit case where the artifact sits.

Two Talalay books — In the Field: Archaeological Expeditions by the Kelsey Museum, coauthored by Lauren E. Talalay, and Prehistorians Round the Pond, coedited by Lauren E. Talalay — are available in our gift shop.

Curator Favorites

When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object. Here is the fourth in a series.

Seated Dignitary from Karanis, Egypt
Seated dignitary from Karanis, Egypt.

BY T. G. WILFONG, Curator of Graeco-Roman Egyptian Collections, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, and Professor of Egyptology, University of Michigan

Favorite Artifact: “Statue of a Priest.” Black basalt. AD 50–100. Karanis, Egypt. KM 8218.

Why. It’s hard to resist this statue: it’s a lively example of how Egyptian art adapted and survived into the Roman period. Although this isn’t a portrait, we get a vivid sense of the anonymous priest that this statue represents. With his smiling, eager expression, our priest seems ready to get off his seat, while the monumental quality of the statue attests to the endurance of Egyptian culture into Roman times. I never get tired of looking at this statue.

About Artifact. This statue was found in a courtyard near the South Temple by the University of Michigan’s 1928 expedition at the ancient site of Karanis (modern Kom Aushim). It represents a very late manifestation of traditional Egyptian style, all the more valuable because of its archaeological content.

Although classically Egyptian in its formality and frontal, symmetrical orientation, the statue’s proportions are not those of classical ancient Egyptian art. Its pose and monumentality hark back to the Old Kingdom but do not reflect the earlier canon of proportions. For example, the head and ears are bigger than one would expect.

The figure wears not only a traditional Egyptian short kilt but also a sash across his chest. The shaved head and costume indicate a priest, and he would have served the cult of two crocodile gods of the South Temple, Pnepheros and Petesouchos. The priest would have participated in the daily cult activities of the temple and its periodic festivals, and he may even have been involved in oracles delivered by the crocodile gods or the mummification of actual crocodiles as votive offerings.

Background. This statue has a number of parallels from elsewhere in Egypt’s Fayum region; a similar statue from Soknopaiou Nesos (modern Dimé) very closely resembles this example. Most of these statues are inscribed, some in Greek and some in Egyptian Demotic.

The Kelsey’s statue itself would have had an inscription on its base but was left unfinished: minor detailing work on the figure was not done, and the base and back pillar remain rough, in preparation for an inscription that was never written. Therefore, we do not know the name of our Karanis priest and can only guess about the specifics of his titles and duties from what is known generally about priests of his time.

“Statue of a Priest” anchored a special 2013 Kelsey exhibition: “Karanis Revealed, Part II.”

Find It. Fittingly, “Statue of a Priest” sits serenely (perhaps contemplating the day’s temple activities) in its own exhibit case on the first floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. Look for it between the Graeco-Roman Egyptian case and the stairway leading up to the Roman galleries.

Check out Wilfong’s new book, Life, Death, and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt: The Djehutymose Coffin in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

Curator Favorites

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When it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object. Here is the third in a series of seven.

BY ELAINE GAZDA, Curator of Roman and Hellenistic Collections, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

Favorite Artifact. “The Room of the Mysteries”, A Watercolor Representation 1925-27 by Maria Barosso

Why. “As a historian of Roman art, I have long been interested in sculptures and paintings of the Roman era that have been labeled in museums and textbooks as Roman copies after lost Greek originals. The watercolors painted by Maria Barosso fascinate me as beautiful illustrations of how copies of works of art become works of art in their own right and take on lives of their own. Barosso’s paintings are aesthetically appealing evocations of the Roman paintings that still remain on the walls of the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii, but they are also powerful visual statements of the ways in which this 20th century artist’s own aesthetic sensibility transformed the “original” she copied. In her correspondence with Professor Kelsey, Barosso expressed her desire to capture the original beauty of the Roman paintings. This required her to look beyond the damage that the Roman paintings had suffered from the volcanic eruption of AD 79 and centuries of burial and creatively re-imagine them in an undamaged state. In the process, Barosso’s own style inflected the Roman imagery with an early 20th-century Italian “accent.” Such subtle stylistic inflections can also be detected in ancient Roman works that emulate earlier Greek models.”

Background. The Villa of the Mysteries was situated in fertile farmland outside the walls of Pompeii, a short distance northwest of the city. It was discovered and partially excavated in 1909 by the owner of the land whose workmen first uncovered a lavishly adorned room containing murals that rapidly became famous. Later excavations in 1929-1930 by the archaeological authorities of Pompeii showed that approximately half of the villa had been devoted to agricultural and other utilitarian activities. The other half had been the proprietor’s residence, with splendidly decorated rooms, some with large windows, and terraces that provided vistas out to the countryside, the mountains, and the Bay of Naples.

Before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 forever altered the landscape, some of the best views from the Villa of the Mysteries were to be enjoyed from a large reception and dining room known to archaeologists as Room 5. This room preserves monumental murals that relate to the Greek god Dionysos. The Romans knew this god of acriculture, wine, and the bacchanal as Bacchus or Liber. The roughly life-size, mostly female figures appear to enact rituals related to the mystery cult of this god, whose sacred rites were known only to initiates. The Villa of the Mysteries takes its modern name from the imagery in this room. The identity of the Roman owner of the villa is not known.

The murals in the Villa of the Mysteries have few counterparts in Roman art. Coincidentally, the villa of Publius Fannius Synistor near Boscoreale, from which the Kelsey Museum’s farming equipment, mill, and hardware come, had wall paintings of comparable scale and quality. Most of them are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The murals of the Villa of the Mysteries remain in their original context in Pompeii.

About the Watercolors. The paintings in the Villa of the Mysteries became famous with a few years of their discovery in 1909. Although the murals were made known to the world through published black and white photographs, color reproductions were not available at that time. In 1924, before the villa was fully uncovered, Professor Francis W. Kelsey commissioned a large-scale color replica for the University of Michigan so that scholars, students, and the public would be able to study and enjoy the murals in all their glory. He contracted with an Italian artist, Maria Barosso, who was the head archaeological artist for the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill excavations in Rome, to paint the replica.

Although Kelsey wanted a full-scale replica, Maiuri agreed to allow Barosso to paint only a five-sixths scale version. The end result, nonetheless, evokes the monumentality of the Roman paintings. Professor Kelsey intended also to reproduce the floor in an installation that he planned for a new gallery at the University of Michigan. Kelsey unfortunately died in May 1927, before the paintings arrived in Ann Arbor. In partial fulfillment of his plan to suggest the original effect of the ancient room, the Kelsey Museum created a reduced-scale version of the outer border of the Roman floor.

Find It. Climb the center stairs to the second floor of the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing. Make a slight turn left, then right directly toward the end of the building. Then turn right again into the recreated room that showcases the murals, just as Professor Kelsey envisioned so long ago. Lights will come on as you enter.

Curator Favorites

imageimageWhen it comes to the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s collections, not all artifacts are created equal. Some call out to us intellectually, others emotionally. To that end, we asked our curators to name their favorite Kelsey artifact or object. Here is the second in a series of seven.

BY SUZANNE DAVIS, Associate Curator and Head of Conservation, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan

Favorite Artifact. “Statuette of a Young Man (kouros).” Bronze, solid cast with engraved details, Archaeic Period (6th century BC), Rome, Italy. E.B. Van Deman bequest 1938, KM 6708. (Above top photo: front view; above bottom: back view).

Why. “I like this little guy because he is the perfect pocket-sized man. If you visit him in person, you can see how the figurine is curved due to his funny posture. As a conservator, I’ve never been particularly attracted to the metal objects I’ve worked on, with the exception of this one. He is the cutest copper alloy ever!”

About Artifact. This statuette of a young man most likely was made in the sanctuary of an Etruscan god and purchased there by a worshiper to dedicate to the deity. It may have represented the worshipper symbolically and, when left at the sanctuary, reminded the deity of his continual devotion.

The kouros type originated in the Greek world, but this Etruscan statuette differs from its Greek models. The tautness of the youth’s pose, the strongly arched back, and the large head with its lively facial expression lends the figure an aura of energy characteristic of the art of Archaic Etruria.

Background. From the Villanovan Iron Age, the Archaic Period (ca. 900-480 BC), the Etruscans developed a distinctive visual culture that drew upon indigenous traditions and contemporary artistic trends represented by imported objects, especially in those from the ancient Near East, Egypt, and Greece.

Find It. On the first floor in an exhibit case that backs up to the window, opposite the ancient Greek case, in the William E. Upjohn Exhibit Wing of the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.