Ashmolean Reading Nubia

The third stop on our trip in England brought us – again after 18 months – to Reading, where our friends, Mohanad, Jess, Idriss, and Mikal have their family residence. The weekend was wisely balanced between the relaxed moments of parents and children from the one hand, and of passionate debates between individuals from both groups from the other hand! Now, one of the finest moments of that balance was when the prams were being pushed at competitively equal speeds… but always arriving together either atop a hill or at more refined destinations…

This is where Medieval Sai Project zooms in.

And reveals that the goal of the pilgrimage of seven humans and two vehicles from Reading to Oxford was the visit of the new galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia at the Ashmolean Museum. Rather than pilgrimage, though, one could call it the “Presentation to the Temples of the Fatherland” of the two-months-old Mikal ibn Mohanad. This fatherland is not Egypt. Although Mohanad’s paternal grandmother comes from Egypt and his parents nowadays live there. It is not even Nubia, but then, is Meroe – included in the Ashmolean display – a Nubian capital!?! Mikal, son of Mohanad Hashim, is half-Sudanese half-English/Swedish (!), and there was the wish that his father would proudly show him a new display that would have granted Sudan and Nubia the air and space that it naturally deserves in an institution like the Ashmolean; for the space alloted to the cultures of the Middle Nile Valley is disproportionally smaller than those hosting Egyptian artifacts…

Imagine: if the new dams along the Middle Nile Valley are implemented, too many rooms will be needed in the museums of the world to exhibit the hidden treasures of the ancestors of Nubia that will have been retrieved from the ground to be flooded of Nubia. A sort of in-heritance from the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums to the ones who will run again to “save” the cultural heritage of the Nile for a fifth time (previous campaigns in 1907-1911, 1929-31, 1959-69, 1996-2008)…

Let’s hope that this restriction of Sudanese Nubia in the new display at the Ashmolean – a display that treats “Nubiology” as a branch of Egypt and Egyptology – means that this museum declares its wish not to see more antiquities from the Nile Valley brought to Europe in such ways. Otherwise, we wonder whether in twenty years, another new Ashmolean would be setting the columns of some temple of Soleb next to the kiosk of Taharqa (brought from Sudan to England by Griffith).

Irrespectively of how the objects were retrieved, though, there is undoubtedly a high quality in the museological displays, as well as some degree of originality. This originality is especially obvious in the unconventional choice of Egyptian statues to welcome the visitors to the Galleries in form of the famous Coptos Colossi dated to the Predynastic period. It is certain that a less aware visitor would immediately be taken by surprise and amazement and would not notice the fault that we see in the new display.

In fact, the choice of these statues to ornament the entrance to the Galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia represents on a monumental scale the periods that in our opinion are best showcased in the new display at the Ashmolean – the Predynastic and Early Dynastic – which includes world famous artifacts such as the oversized and elaborately carved ceremonial mace-heads of king Scorpion and Narmer and the small statue of King Khasekhem of the Second Dynasty. All three objects, as well as many others in this gallery, were found in the ‘Main Deposit’ at Hierakonpolis.

In any case, the spirits were high and the discussions enlivening. Under a clear night sky over Oxford, we had nothing to complain about, as we walked back to the train station, and the sign in that sky that the good times in England were  coming to an end passed almost unnoticed…

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One Response to Ashmolean Reading Nubia

  1. chirine nour says:

    ενώ εσείς ασχολείστε με τα Νουβικά του Ashmolean Museum, το δικό μας εδώ το Μουσείο ορφάνεψε από τα δικά σας Νουβικά και αυτό δεν άρεσε σε κανένα μας…
    ευτυχώς που μείνανε κάποιοι “φίλοι” στον τελευταίο όροφο να αγναντεύουν μαζί μας την Ακρόπολη και τον Κεραμικό.

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