Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Coptic trove from Al-Gurna

Al Ahram Weekly by Nevine El-Aref

In Al-Gurna where several excavation missions are probing for more Ancient Egyptian treasures under the sand, a team from the Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology has stumbled on a major Coptic trove buried under the remains of a sixth-century monastery located in front of a Middle Kingdom tomb.

Excavators unearthed two papyri books with Coptic text along with a set of parchments placed between two wooden labels as well as Coptic ostraca, pottery fragments and textiles.
The head of the team, Tomaz Gorecki, said the books were well preserved except for the papyri papers which were exceptionally dry.

The first book has a hard plain cover embellished with Roman text from the inside while the second includes no less than 50 papers coated with a partly deteriorated leather cover bearing geometrical drawings. In the middle, a squared cross 32cm long and 26cm wide is found.

As for the set of parchments, Gorecki said it included 60 papers with a damaged leather cover and an embellished wooden locker.

See the above page for the full story.

Thursday, 28 April 2005

A museum of Coptic identity

Al Ahram Weekly By Jill Kamill
With photos (click the small image to see the bigger photographs)

The Coptic Museum is approaching the last stage of structural restoration prior to its official re-opening this year as a state-of-the-art museum. Jill Kamil looks into what's going on

It was no easy matter to gain access to a building that was being restored -- or transformed, rather -- and even more difficult to find someone able, or willing, to talk about progress, plans and deadlines. The Coptic Museum has been off-limits to visitors for a long while now, and with rumour circulating that some galleries would re-open this year, Al-Ahram Weekly sent a team to investigate.

The reason for our interest was that no attempt had ever been made to sort out this huge jumble of Coptic antiquities of more than 16,000 objects according to historical sequence. This was understandable a century ago, when Morcos Samaika founded the museum, because provenance details for the bulk of the objects were not available. They had been collected haphazardly from abandoned burial grounds, derelict monasteries and ancient temple sites. Because Christian monuments were of little concern to early archaeologists, objects were trodden into the earth, covered by sandstorms, or used for garden decorations. In a word, neglected.

When in 1910 Samaika assembled the wide array of objects which revealed different ethnic influences, it presented him with a dilemma: how to put them into some semblance of order? He opted for the easy way out. He grouped the objects into media -- stonework, metalwork, tapestries, manuscripts, woodwork, pottery, glassware, etc. A few galleries were devoted to objects from a single source, like those
from the fifth-century monasteries of St Jeremais at Saqqara and St Apollo at Bawit, but there were also galleries of "miscellaneous objects".

See the above page for more.