Update from the Garstang: two pots and the Festival of Archaeology

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If you were looking for this post on the Retrograde Photography website, I’ve combined the two sites into one. All content from Retrograde is now here. Enjoy!

My last session at the Garstang was another busy one. As well as getting on with more artefact photography, the museum was hosting a talk by Roland Enmarch on the Book of the Dead as part of the Festival of Archaeology.

Festival of Archaeology

The Festival of Archaeology is an annual UK-based festival organised by the Council for British Archaeology. Every July, museums, universities and other heritage-based organisations run events based around the theme of archaeology.

This year, Dr Roland Enmarch did a couple of talks on the Book of the Dead as part of the festival. I wasn’t around for the first talk, but I was for the second one. There was a great crowd of people – about as many as you’d want to fit into the exhibition space in one go.

Roland gave a great talk, giving the low-down on the Book of the Dead and some funerary practices in general. He even took the group into the rest of the museum, and an hour-long talk turned into two-and-a-half hours!

A guided tour of an ancient Egyptian exhibition, led by Egyptologist Roland Enmarch
Roland describing the inscription on some coffin panels
A guided tour of an ancient Egyptian exhibition, led by Egyptologist Roland Enmarch
Fascinating his attendees
A guided tour of an ancient Egyptian exhibition, led by Egyptologist Roland Enmarch
"This big"

Two pots

At the request of the museum, I photographed a couple of pots.

The first was this Predynastic marl-clay pot, decorated with geometric, red criss-cross painted lines and a moulded, wavy line. The colour of the pot and the red-painted decoration make this pot undeniably and immediately recognisable as (late) Predynastic in date.

A tall, thin ancient Egyptian Predynastic pot with red criss-crosses painted on it
A Predynastic marl pot (Garstang Museum of Archaeology, c. 20 cm)

Although I do love the Predynastic marl pottery and its wonderful decoration, my favourite of the day was actually a very plain, white alabaster pot.

Why?

Well, although not immediately obvious, alabaster is a bit translucent.

Knowing this, I decided to try lighting the pot a little differently:

A mobile phone propped up behind a small ancient Egyptian alabaster jar to light it from behind
High-tech photography...

If you’re struggling to work out the photo above, it’s my mobile phone propped up (gently!) against the back of the pot and held in place by a spare lens. (The DIY Photographer would be proud of me!)

I had the phone’s LED flash light turned on. And, adding in the tiniest bit of light from my panel light from the front, this is the result:

A small, ancient Egyptian alabastar jar, lit from behind
The beautiful translucency of alabaster

I must say I’m very happy with the results. The lighting has turned what would be a fairly plain, uninteresting pot into a thing of real beauty. It also helps bring out the texture and density of the stone itself.

I would love to be able to photograph more alabaster pieces, perhaps make a whole project out of it … anyone got any spare alabaster pieces hanging around …? 😀

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Unless otherwise stated, all content and photos on this site are © Julia Thorne. It’s a common misconception that images online are free from copyright. Copyright laws still stand. Please feel free to share online, but only with a link back here or to the relevant social media account. If you’d like to use any of my photos, please email me at julia@tetisheri.co.uk. Thank you.

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