Friday 8 October 2021

More Presentation of the "Past-as-Cool-Loose-Objects"

"Open Culture" claim to make the web a more intelligent place... In a recent post users are shown "a 4,000-Year-Old Student ‘Writing Board’ from Ancient Egypt (with Teacher’s Corrections in Red)". the text and the nature of the corrections are not explained, presumably the expected reaction on social media is supposed to be an asinine, "wow, they were just like us four thousand years ago! Cool!"

That's probably what Edward S. Harkness was thinking when he acquired it before 1928 and later donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number: 28.9.4). 

We should ask of each these "hey that's cool, just like today!" Pieces Of The Past that are joyfully splattered across the internet by archaeologists and others to "provoke interest in our past" if it can be grounded in reliable archaeological context- otherwise it could just as easily be a modern fake made to appeal to a tourist. 

A problem that is seldom discussed is that many Egyptian artefacts in old museum collections today were not sourced by excavation, but bought from a bloke in a souk near a 19th/early 20th century traveller's hotel. This one is no exception: "Geography: From Egypt; Said to be from Upper Egypt, Thebes or Northern Upper Egypt, Akhmim (Khemmis, Panopolis)". Hmm. 

The 1920s were exactly the period when the Egyptians started to be very concerned about how much of the country's heritage was being exported. Has the Met got any kind of an export permit for this item? 

Retweeters take note.

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