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Petrie Museum

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Petrie Museum

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

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London is part of University College London Museums & Collections. The museum contains over 80,000 objects and ranks among some of the world's leading collections of Egyptian and Sudanese material.[1] It ranks behind only the collections of the Cairo Museum, The British Museum and the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin in number and quality of items.


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.[2][3] The first Edwards Professor, William Flinders Petrie[4] conducted many important excavations,[5] 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;[6] Amarna, the city of king Akhenaten, known as the first king to believe in one God;[7] 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. Initially, the collection's 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 a former stable, 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)(these are located in the main UCL building); 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.[8] 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, from many other important Egyptian and Nubian settlements and burial sites.[9] The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Roman period mummy portraits (first to second centuries AD).[10]

The collection also includes material from the Coptic and Islamic periods.[11]

The collection has been digitised and the catalogue can be browsed and consulted online.

The museum is at the forefront of 3D scanning in the museum and archaeological world[12] and, through the 3D Petrie project, is researching the use of high quality 3D images of museum collections to engage audiences through models of Petrie Museum artefacts and the development of end-user digital 3D applications.

Visiting the museum

The Museum is located in Malet Place, near the UCL science library and Gower Street.[13] There is a small gift shop. Some parts of the collection are not lit (for conservation reasons) and torches are supplied to see inside the cases.

The museum is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday, 1-5pm, each week, and admission is free.[14] Researchers are accommodated during the times when the museum is closed to the public.

The museum itself is split into three galleries. The third and last is accessed via and along a stairwell. The main gallery (housed above the old stables) contains many of the museum's small artifacts, as well as tablets of writing and mummy portraits and cases. The first gallery contains mainly pottery.

The museum has a very active education programme for adults and families.[15]

The Friends of the Petrie Museum

The Museum has an active Friends organisation whose members enjoy lectures, museum seminars, tours to Egypt and Egyptian collections, social events, etc. The Friends raise funds towards the conservation, publication and display of the Petrie Museum's outstanding collection. You can help by joining the Friends


External links

  • Official website
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Blog
  • UCL Museum & Collections blog
  • Friends of the Petrie Museum
  • Culture24
  • The Visit London website
  • Digital Egypt
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