An insight into ancient Egypt

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Entering the world of an ancient civilisation, a new exhibition will give the people of Portsmouth a look into Egyptian life right on their doorstep.

Portsmouth’s City Museum, on Museum Road, has welcomed artefacts and objects from ancient Egypt for its new Secret Egypt exhibition that launches tomorrow.

(l-r) Devina Visram, touring exhibition officer, and Ali Wells, keeper of collections, both from The Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry set up the Egyption exhibition at Portsmouth Museum.

(l-r) Devina Visram, touring exhibition officer, and Ali Wells, keeper of collections, both from The Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry set up the Egyption exhibition at Portsmouth Museum.

Along with pots, vases and golden coins, the exhibition also houses the mummified remains and coffin of Namenkhetamun – a wealthy Egyptian from 600 BC.

The collection is on loan from museums in Birmingham and will remain in Portsmouth until February 23.

Rosalinda Hardiman, collections manager at the museum, says: ‘We are so pleased that we are able to host the exhibition of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

‘It is every exciting to have it here in the city and for free so everyone can enjoy it.

‘There are some amazing pieces that range from 2800 BC to 270BC that shine some light on their civilisation.

‘The pieces show their obsession with death and how many jobs were created to help people move on into the next life.

‘They made vases for the organs, shabtis for the after life and coffins for them to be buried in.

‘All these are on display here in the museum.’

And The News can give its readers an exclusive look into the exhibition from the weird to the extraordinary.


The mummified body of Namenkhetamun is one example of how the ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death and the afterlife.

The preserved body would have had its organs removed before being embalmed and wrapped in bandages.

He would have been buried with belongings and objects to enhance his life after death that would range from coins to vases and stone slaves.

Namenkhetamun’s body is one of many mummifications that appear in museums around the world and the coffin gives an insight to the life he may have lived.

He was over the age of 40 and had very decayed teeth. He also suffered from arthritis and has an unexplained hole in his back.

His name was both a male and female name but an X-ray showed he was a man who lived around 600BC - more than 2,500 years ago.

On his coffin, Namenkhetamun was described as the daughter of Amunkhau but this is believed to be a mistake.

This artefact is the most precious on display.


Created in a number of styles, shapes and sizes, shabtis were very important to the ancient Egyptians.

The wooden, clay or stone figurines were made to be slaves in the afterlife.

It was said that once a person died, they needed a slave for every day of the year.

They would range from cooks and cleaners to repairmen.

There was a big industry for shabtis as they were in high demand.

People would order up to 40 at a time to ensure they were looked after when they died.

They were decorated as coffins and would range in size and decoration with some painted in bright turquoise.

Statues and masks

Detail, carvings and intricate patterns were big in the Egyptian civilisation.

One of the statues in the exhibition is of Seti I, who reigned from 1290 BC to 1279 BC.

Seti I was father of Ramesses II and oversaw major building works in his time as king.

The statue is made from granite and shows the skills of the people who made them to get such intricate detail.

These skills are also shown in the death masks that are decorated on the coffins.

The masks depict their owners and were often very colourful with Tutankhamen’s the most famous from the ancient world.

Secret Egypt has a fragmented death mask that is from 1550 BC to 650 BC.

Coins and scarab beetles

Three coins are on show in the Secret Egypt exhibition.

One of them is a gold coin, from 270 BC, that shows a detailed carving of Arsinoe II.

She was the one of the few female pharaohs and wielded power through her husband, Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

Also on show are scarab beetles that were very important to the ancient Egyptians.

They were based on the dung beetle because it looked as though the beetle was rolling the world along with it. It was thought by the Egyptians that it brought the world on.

Many are decorated in turquoise, which was popular with the Egyptians.

Vases and pots

From cases for organs to our equivalent of scrap paper, the ancient Egyptians used vases and pots for a number of thing.

The vases and pots would be made from a number of different materials but, if they were made from wood or clay, they would all be decorated to look like stone or marble.

Many of the vases were used to house the organs removed from mummified bodies. They would use certain patterns and shapes for each organ to make them distinct for the afterlife.

The vases would then be buried in the tomb along with the coffin.

But this is not all they were used for.

The ancient Egyptians would use broken shards of clay pot, called ostraca, as we would scrap pieces of paper.

They would leave notes or other information on the pot because there was a lot of it lying around.

For collections manager, Rosalinda, her favourite piece at the exhibition is a storage jar. She says: ‘As a ceramic expert, a rather fine piece of pottery stands out for me.

‘It is very very early and ranges from 2,800BC to 2,600BC and it has got one of the earliest pieces of writing.

‘We do not know what it is - it could be the name of the owner of the pot or its maker or even the contents it would have held.

‘But the little symbols are a sign of writing.’