Object Biography: Meet ‘Felix’ one of our mummified cats

E.5425 a.k.a. 'Felix'

E.5425 a.k.a. ‘Felix’

This is ‘Felix’ one of our mummified cats, or more officially E.5425. Felix often goes with us on outreach activities though he is fairly quiet and doesn’t really eat much even when on the road! Really we should probably call him a more Egyptian name such as ‘Ta-miu’ (literally ‘the girl cat’, think meow), which is the name of the pet cat of a Prince Thutmose, but Felix rather stuck.

However, Felix was not buried in such a lofty location as the Valley of the Kings, in fact we are unsure of where he was originally buried. Instead, we know where he spent a portion of the 20th century- in an attic. On Thursday 12th November 1992, workmen were clearing the loft areas of one of the university buildings not too far from where the museum stands today; as they cleared the space they found some ancient pottery, basketry, mummified pieces and Felix. The building they were clearing, 11 Abercromby Square, had been part of the Institute of Archaeology before the 1940s and it appears that these objects were placed under the eaves for safe keeping and forgotten about for fifty years! An unusual find, but only last year another mummified cat was found lurking in an attic: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2278585/B-B-owner-finds-stuffed-cat-hidden-attic-2-000-year-old-EGYPTIAN-MUMMY.html (although the daily mail suggests that it was a mummified pet- keep reading and we will let you decide whether this is correct).

Scarcophagus of ‘Tamiu’, the pet cat of Prince Thutmose ©Madam Rafaèle

Scarcophagus of ‘Tamiu’, the pet cat of Prince Thutmose ©Madam Rafaèle

Why mummify a cat?

There are two reasons to mummify a cat, the first of these is to provide a pet with a caring burial (like Tamiu), and the second, more common reason is for ritual purposes. A number of animals including cats were mummified to serve as ritual offerings to the gods. Felix is probably one of these offerings. Cats were often offered to the cat-headed goddess Bastet as votives, with the practice of mummifying animals peaking in the 1st Millenium BC.  Huge numbers of animals were often stored on mass in underground galleries. As this was done on such a large scale, most of the mummified cats which were offered as votives were kittens, this was so that the temple could continue to produce these votives without spending unnecessary time raising an adult cat.


Wholesale cat mummies for fur-tiliser

Cartoon from "Punch" (15th February 1890)  showing a grizzly result of using the mummified cat fertiliser

Cartoon from “Punch” (15th February 1890) showing a grizzly result of using the mummified cat fertiliser

Liverpool also has an unusual link with mummified cats, on 10th February 1890, 19.5 tons of mummified cats (approx. 18,000). Found by accident in 1889 in Speos Artemidos, this large shipment was auctioned off in Liverpool and caused quite a stir in the media. The reports of the sale vary but they seem to agree that the cats were sold off wholesale when they had disintegrated (for use as fertiliser), with the more well preserved cats being sold whole or just as heads/bodies. There are even reports of the auctioneer using the skull of one such cat as a gavel!

For more on this, see:






The making of our Beni Hasan Mural

Our empty wall!

Our empty wall!

Ever since we began the redesign and redevelopment of our galleries here at the museum we knew we wanted to do something a little different in our Egyptian Afterlife gallery, instead of another text panel we decided to have a more artistic element in the form of a tomb mural.

Linking our idea to our collection we decided to look at images from tombs from the site of Beni Hasan at which our very own John Garstang excavated early in his career. Furthermore, one of our most beautiful and prized objects, the box coffin of Userhat (E.512) sits right in front of the mural.

The scene we settled on is from the tomb of Khnumhotep II (II because the locals of Beni Hasan during this time weren’t particularly original with their names), dating to early 12th Dynasty (1985-1773BC) the scenes which decorate this tomb are complex and beautiful, showing elegant variations on what are often seen as classical themes. We started with a 20th Century line drawing of the chosen scene published by Percy Newberry (who also had long standing Liverpool links), we passed this over to our talented mural artist Matthew a.k.a. Monsieur Mural (https://www.facebook.com/MonsieurMural?fref=ts) and he blew it up to the size required. Throughout the process, Matt used traditional sign-writing techniques to apply the image to the wall.

STEP 1: Applying the outline of the images to chalk-backed paper, this is done by tracing the elements onto the paper after applying soft pencil to the reverse.

The outline of one of the hieroglyphs through the soft pencil.

The outline of one of the hieroglyphs through the soft pencil.

The full-sized outline, ready for the wall.

The full-sized outline, ready for the wall.






STEP 2: Pouncing the image onto the wall. This is a traditional technique of applying chalk lines to the surface. When completed it leaves a rather ghost like version of the scene.

Matt pouncing the image.

Matt pouncing the image.

Khnumhotep as a chalk figure.

Khnumhotep as a chalk figure.






STEP 3: Once the chalk lines were up on the wall, Matt started the longest part of the process, the painting. It took around a day and a half to get from a blank wall to having a completed mural and a lot of this was taken up by the painting. As this is only around half life size, one can only imagine the time it would have taken to create the original piece at Beni Hasan as not only was it larger but also carved in sunken relief and finally painted in a garish array of bright colours.


Nearly there!

Nearly there!




The finished mural

The finished mural

We will be putting the students through their steps reading the text here as soon as the new academic year begins!

Photo 17-07-2014 10 55 14


We are open Friday and Saturday for the Festival of Ideas


As part of the University wide Festival of Ideas, we are happy to announce that we will be open to the public this coming Friday and Saturday (25th and 26th July). Opening times are 10am-6pm, we are of course FREE admission. So take the chance to view our beautiful new galleries as well as joining in with a great number of other events within the museum.

For more about the Festival of Ideas have a look at  http://www.liv.ac.uk/the-festival-of-ideas/

there’s also a programme of events and a map here http://www.liv.ac.uk/media/livacuk/the-festival-of-ideas/Festival,of,Ideas,Programme.pdf

Murals, the Museum and Bridget Riley

As we get ready for some artistic work within the museum, we have just noticed the news of Bridget Riley’s latest Egypt inspired mural in St Mary’s Hospital in London.

Inspired by the colour schemes used within a number of tombs in Luxor, Egypt, Riley began to experiment with her palette to replicate the sense of richness and light found in these underground structures. Ultimately resulting in what has been named the “Luxor Palette”.

A corridor decorated by Bridget Riley in the Royal Liverpool Hospital

A corridor decorated by Bridget Riley in the Royal Liverpool Hospital

Bridget Riley also has links with Liverpool, as during this time Riley was commissioned to decorate two corridors within the Royal Liverpool University Hospital (the decor sadly no longer survives but is shown here)- a precursor to the news which has spurred this post!

Sea Cloud (1981) by Bridget Riley Walker Art Gallery (No. 10639)

Sea Cloud (1981) by Bridget Riley
Walker Art Gallery (No. 10639)


Never fear though, as you are still able to view some of her work in Liverpool through “Sea Cloud” (1981, Acc. No. 10639) at The Walker Art Gallery. The Walker collection also has has a number of other paintings inspired by the Ancient past.

Our mural isn’t being done by Bridget though, but by the very talented Monsieur Mural -with the Garstang Museum Palette!! Work will be starting soon so keep an eye on here for progress reports and of course pictures!

For more about Bridget Riley’s latest murals see:


Object in Focus: A Meroitic Lion Statuette- E.8003



The object in focus this week is a small limestone statuette of a Lion from the ancient capital of Sudan, the city of Meroë (around 200km northeast of modern Khartoum). He is 14.8cm tall and was discovered by Prof. John Garstang during the 1912 season of excavations. Garstang excavated extensively at Meroë on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology between 1909 and 1914. His excavations revealed a complex layout of houses, temples and palaces built of stone and mud brick, with the remains of earlier periods being buried by later constructions as the city continued to be occupied for nearly a 1000 years. Meroë had a big impact on Garstang’s life, shown by the fact that he named his daughter after the city, which he had spent so long excavating.

The Kushite Empire was long lived and dates from between 890 BC and AD320. Whilst it was centred in the cities of Meroë and Napata, the rulers of Kush also held Egypt for around a century during the period known by Egyptologists as the Late Period. During this time a number of Kushite kings, such as Piye (Piankhy), Shabaqa and Taharqa also ruled over the Nile Valley as the 25th Dynasty of Egyptian kings. Despite losing their territory within the Egypt during the Assyrian conquest of the country, the Kingdom of Kush remained a major power in East Africa well into the early fourth century AD.

The art and culture of these kings was a fusion of the classically Egyptian and that of their native Sudan, both of these traditions living side by side. The golden age of the Kushite rulers within Egypt is often focused on the reign of Taharqa, who rebuilt temples within the Nile valley and attempted to extend the borders of his kingdom north of the Sinai. However, it was not to be, and the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal eventually expelled these rulers from the Egyptian Nile valley. Taharqa also produced one of the best known objects from this time, a sphinx in the British Museum which clearly shows the fusing of Egyptian and Kushite artistic traditions.


BM EA 1770 -The Sphinx of Taharqa (Trustees of the British Museum)


Whilst the mythical sphinx is not unusual within Ancient Egypt, after all there is an exceptionally large example hewn into the Giza plateau itself, the lion also held a special significance within the Meroitic culture for a number of reasons. In fact, lions are a recurrent element found in the artefacts of this culture. As such, this statuette is only one of many leonine artefacts within our collection.

One of the primary functions of the lion was as a marker of royal authority, often shown devouring captives, or in this case seated regally.  The lion headed god Apedemak was worshipped as “the Lord of Royal power” in his temple at Naqa (south of Meroë). One famous relief in this temple shows a three-headed, four-armed Apedemak being adored by Queen Amanitore and King Natakamani.


In addition to this, lions were also hunted, along with rhinoceroses. This dangerous game hunting was a sign of the power of the individual. The burial of animals with the Kings of Kush is well attested- with the first King buried at the site of el-Kurru, King Kashta, with a number of chariot horses. In this tradition, there is also evidence for the burial of three young lions at Sanam- though why this was done is unclear.This statuette will be displayed in our new galleries in 2014 with a range of Ancient Sudanese material from Gartang’s excavations. He will be joined by a whole pride of lions both small and large!


An Unknown Official and an Unseen Statuette (E.7804)



During the course of the work we are currently doing on the redevelopment of the Garstang Museum of Archaeology, a number of interesting artefacts have been found languishing in the museum stores. Many of these objects have been in storage for decades, and some may never have been seen by the public.

This elegant, yet sadly damaged, statue is one such object. It is carved from a relatively soft stone known as steatite, or soap-stone, and is a beautiful matte-green in colour. Even though the head and the bottom of the figure’s legs have broken away and been lost, it is nonetheless possible to tell that the figure was male and in the ‘active pose’ – with his left leg extended as if in mid-step.

This pose was highly popular throughout Pharaonic history, for kings and commoners alike. The stance, along with the youthful physique of the statue (with highly defined muscles) was intended to convey the “go-getting”-attitude and vitality of the deceased individual.



The dating of the object is not too difficult, even though it does not have any archaeological context. The pointed wig and posture is highly reminiscent of late Middle Kingdom private sculpture. Examples of this style are found in museums all over the world, such as this basalt statue currently residing in the Petrie Museum of Archaeology (UC8711).

Attached to the back of the figure is a pillar containing a hieroglyphic inscription of the offering formula. The purpose of this formula was to ensure a perpetual supply of foodstuffs and goods in the afterlife, and is a very common feature of ancient Egyptian funerary material. A similar back-pillar and inscription is also found on the now-famous “spinning” Middle Kingdom statue of Neb-Senu from the Manchester Museum. Despite keeping a close eye on E.7804, we have not yet witnessed any spinning – perhaps due to the loss of his legs!

E.7804 Inscription

E.7804 Inscription

The inscription on E.7804 is dedicated to “Osiris, Lord of Ankh-Tawy” which is quite an unusual combination of god and epithet. Ankh-Tawy was the necropolis district of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis and is almost always associated with the god Ptah. However, on occasion Osiris, as the Ruler of the Dead, was associated with this vast cemetery during the late Middle Kingdom, which adds further support to our suggested date for the figure.

Unfortunately the inscription breaks off just before the point where one would normally expect the name of the statue’s owner to appear. Egyptian statues were highly stylised, rather than being accurate portraits of the individual they commemorated. For this reason the inclusion of the individual’s name on an object of this type was of critical importance as it allowed the owner’s ka (spirit) to identify, and subsequently inhabit, the statue.

E.7804 will be going on display with a number of other funerary statuettes in the new gallery of ancient Egyptian funerary beliefs, opening in 2014.

Gaius “Caligula” Aureus from AD40

As we have been discussing Roman coins today with one of the researchers at the University, here is a particularly eye-catching gold Aureus.

Gaius "Caligula" Aureus (AD40)

Gaius “Caligula”
Aureus (AD40)

The coin dates to AD 40 and it shows the Emperor Gaius (known to us by his nickname “Caligula”). Caligula wore the purple from AD 37 up until his assassination in AD41. This particular coin also shows the first Emperor of Rome, Augustus (Also Caligula’s adoptive Grandfather) on the reverse.

The text reads C CAESAR AVG PON M TR POT III COS III (Gaius Caesar Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, held Tribunician Power three times, Consul for a third time)

And DIVVS AVG PATER PATRIAE (The divine Augustus, Father of the country)

It was donated to the Museum in a bequest of the Royal Institute (Liverpool) and it weighs 7.64g

R.1384 Cat. 399