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Coordinates: 51°31′25″N 0°7′59″W / 51.52361°N 0.13306°W / 51.52361; -0.13306

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Science Library, Malet Place

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, England, is run by the Institute of Archaeology, which is part of University College London. The museum contains over 80,000 historical items and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian ancient historical items.[1] It ranks behind only the collections of the Cairo Museum, The British Museum and the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin in number of items.


Visiting the museum

The Museum is located in Malet Place, near the UCL science library and Gower Street.[2] There is a small gift shop. Some parts of the collection are not lit (for preservation reasons) and torches are supplied to see inside the cases. The museum is open all week, except Sundays and Mondays, and admission is free.[3 ] The museum itself is split into three galleries. The third and last is accessed via and along a stairwell. The second gallery (housed above the old stables) contains the museum's small artifacts and clothing collections, as well as tablets of writing and mummy cases. The first gallery is at the entrance to the museum, and contains mainly pottery.


The museum was established as a teaching resource for the Department of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology at University College at the same time as the department was established in 1892. The initial collection was donated by the writer Amelia Edwards. The first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie conducted many important excavations, and in 1913 he sold his collections of Egyptian antiquities to University College, transforming the museum into one of the leading collections outside Egypt. Petrie excavated dozens of major sites in the course of his career, including the Roman Period cemeteries at Hawara, famous for the beautiful mummy portraits in classical Roman style;Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten, sometimes called the first king to believe in one God; and the first true pyramid, at Meydum, where he uncovered some of the earliest evidence for mummification.

The collection and library were arranged in galleries within the university and a guidebook published in 1915. Most of the visitors were students and academics; it was not then open to the general public. Petrie retired from UCL in 1933, though his successors continued to add to the collections, excavating in other parts of Egypt and the Sudan. During the Second World War (1939-1945) the collection was packed up and moved out of London for safekeeping. In the early 1950s it was moved into an old stables building, where it remains adjacent to the science library of UCL.


The collection is full of 'firsts': One of the earliest pieces of linen from Egypt (about 5000 BC); two lions from the temple of Min at Koptos, from the first group of monumental sculpture (about 3000 BC); a fragment from the first kinglist or calendar (about 2900 BC); the earliest example of metal from Egypt, the first worked iron beads, the earliest example of glazing, the earliest 'cylinder seal' in Egypt (about 3500 BC); the oldest wills on papyrus paper, the oldest gynaecological papyrus; the only veterinary papyrus from ancient Egypt, and the largest architectural drawing, showing a shrine (about 1300 BC).

Costume is another strength of the collection. In addition to the 'oldest dress' there is a unique beadnet dress of a dancer from the Pyramid Age (about 2400 BC), two long sleeved robes of the same date, a suit of armour from the palace of Memphis, as well as socks and sandals from the Roman period. The collection contains works of art from Akhenaten’s city at Amarna: colourful tiles, carvings and frescoes, and from many other important Egyptian and Nubian settlements and burial sites. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD).

The new building

University College is currently constructing a new building which will house the Petrie Museum and also serve as a public entrance from Gordon Street to the college as a whole. This building, which will be called the Panopticon, will also have space for temporary exhibitions, a café, lecture facilities, a reading room and a display area for the University of London's collection of rare books and manuscripts. Three floors will be devoted to the Petrie Museum, and for the first time the entire collection will be on display or in visible storage. It is due to be finished in 2010, with the move happening in 2009.[4]

See also


External links



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