Personal memories of our workshops

Christel and Carl took part in our first workshop at the Petrie Museum in London on 18 April.  They have kindly agreed to let us post their diary entries, so that you can share in the memories they created on the day:

Christel diary

Carl diary

To see the photographs and drawings that Christel and Carl talk about in their diaries, take a look through our gallery.

There’s still an opportunity to join one of our workshops at the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 or 10 May. Come and meet ancient Roman objects with a Middle Eastern connection, and create your own new memories by drawing, writing and photographing, guided by our experts. The workshops are free, and we will provide all the materials, lunch and refreshments. Let us know which date suits you best at:

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Participants at the first workshop having fun decorating their drawings with silver leaf.

More new memories at the Petrie Museum

Our heartfelt thanks once again to Alice Stevenson and the staff at the Petrie Museum in London for all their help with the second of our workshops on 25 April. Once again we had the museum to ourselves, and were treated to special access to several items not usually on public display. Here we are being shown examples from the museum’s large collection of ancient Egyptian papyri, including an exquisite copy of the Book of the Dead.


Participants again had the chance to handle Roman objects from Egypt, and to consider how best to photograph them, with the help of Rory Carnegie, our professional photographer.

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Everyone found it inspiring to explore the huge and varied collection at the Petrie Museum, and to have the time to examine thoroughly those objects that caught their imagination. Often, with the assistance of Sarah Ekdawi, they wrote about memories that the objects had evoked in them, or they created new stories about an object’s history, or they imagined how the objects themselves might feel about being in a museum.


Above all, people enjoyed drawing the objects they had selected and, guided by our artist, Miranda Creswell, applied silver leaf to enhance their creations.


As always, the participants could take home with them the drawings, photographs, writings, and memories that they had created. They also gave permission for us to post their creations on our Gallery page.

It’s quite sad to leave the Petrie Museum after meeting so many interesting new people at the workshops, and creating such wonderful new memories about the Romans in ancient Egypt, but the project now moves to the North. We are holding two new workshops in the Great North Museum in Newcastle on the 9th and 10th of May. The format will be the same, with writing, drawing and photography, assisted by our experts. Once again there will be Roman objects to handle and examine up close, but also some wonderful galleries of objects from Hadrian’s Wall and elsewhere with connections to the ancient Middle East.

The workshops are free, and we supply all the materials, lunch and refreshments. What new memories will you create? Let us know which workshop you would like to attend at:

Meet someone new at the Great North Museum on 9 or 10 May

This bust of a man in the Great North Museum in Newcastle is from Palmyra and dates from the second century AD. We know that he was a priest because of his tall cylindrical hat, known as a ‘modius’. These hats were probably made of felt, and although some were plain, others were decorated with wreaths and small objects. This one has a wreath with an oval stone at the front.

The type of hat used in ancient Palmyra differs from those worn by priests elsewhere in the Near East, which were usually conical in this period.  Palmyrene priests also shaved off all their hair and did not grow beards, unlike other priests in the region. These differences existed before the Romans took control of Palmyra, and all the evidence suggests that there were few changes in any of the religious institutions in the city as a result of Roman rule.

Come and meet this priest and other objects from the Roman period with a Middle Eastern connection at a free workshop in the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 or 10 May. Create new memories by drawing, writing and photography, assisted by our experts. We’ll supply all the materials, lunch and refreshments. Just let us know which date you prefer:

And, after you’ve been to our workshop in Newcastle, don’t forget to visit the other archaeological collections in Durham and elsewhere.

New memories made at the Petrie Museum

Huge thanks to Alice Stevenson and all the staff at the Petrie Museum in London who helped make our first workshop on 18 April such an enjoyable success.

We had the museum to ourselves, and were treated to special access to mummy masks that are not on public display, and a guided introduction to their large and fascinating collection of all sorts of objects from ancient Egypt.

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We were also given special permission to handle some selected objects, all of which date from the Roman period.


Participants at the workshop took turns to consider how best to light and photograph these objects, guided by Rory Carnegie, our professional photographer.

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Meanwhile, the others explored the collection and drew inspiration from particular objects that they discovered. It was particularly exiting to be able then to sit and create new memories surrounded by mummy masks and other precious objects from thousands of years of history.


Everyone had a go at drawing objects that had caught their eye, and with the help of our artist, Miranda Creswell, used silver leaf and other techniques to enhance what they had created. People also produced creative writing, assisted by Sarah Ekdawi. Sometimes this was about memories evoked by seeing certain objects, and sometimes it expressed how they imagined the objects might feel about their new life in the museum.

Everyone could take home with them the drawings, photographs, writings, and memories that they had created during the day. They also kindly gave permission for us to post copies of what they produced on our Gallery page.

If you would like to join us at our other workshop in the Petrie Museum, on 25 April, or at one of the workshops at the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 and 10 May, please let us know at: The workshops are free, and we supply all the materials, lunch and refreshments. What new memories will you be inspired to make?

The face of Caesar and Cleopatra’s son?

This statue head in the Petrie Museum in London might well represent Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. He was born in 47 BC, and later appears as co-ruler of Egypt with Cleopatra. His official name was Ptolemy XV, but he was often referred to in Egypt as ‘Caesar’, using the Greek pronunciation ‘Kaisaros’, as in this hieroglyph cartouche (an oval frame that indicated a royal name) on a stele which is also in the Petrie Museum.

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After the death of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Mark Antony supported Caesarion’s claim to be Caesar’s successor. Following the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC, and their suicides in Egypt in the following year, Caesarion tried to escape to India. He was captured and executed by Octavian, who went on to become the first Emperor of Rome under the name Augustus, and Caesarion was never officially recognised as Caesar’s son.

There are still a few places left at our free workshops in the Petrie Museum on 18 and 25 April, where you can create new memories by drawing, photographing, and writing about ancient objects like these, helped by our experts. Let us know if you would like to join us:

The earliest Zodiac in Britain

This sculpture from the Mithraeum at Housesteads on Hadrian’s Wall shows the god Mithras being born from an egg. His body rises from the lower part of the shell, and the upper part is still on his head.

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Mithras is usually shown being born from a rock, but the most exciting thing about this third-century sculpture is that the god is surrounded by an egg-shaped frame with the signs of the Zodiac on it. This is the earliest surviving depiction in Britain of the twelve signs of the Zodiac as we know them today.

The egg was a symbol of eternity, and the Zodiac was normally associated with Aion, the god of endless time. These cosmic symbols show that, on this section of Hadrian’s Wall, Mithras was worshipped as the eternal ‘Lord of Ages’, the perpetual creator of all things.

Come and see this sculpture at our free workshops in the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 or 10 May, and create new timeless memories by drawing, photographing and writing about ancient objects and what they mean to you. For more info or to let us know which date you would like to come:

An Eastern Sun-god on Hadrian’s Wall

The ancient god Mithras was popular with Roman soldiers and minor officials. His cult probably developed from Zoroastrianism, in the area that is now Iran. There is a lot of evidence for his worship along the western Roman frontier, from Hadrian’s Wall to the Danube. Worshippers had to be initiated into (exclusively male) groups, who met in a distinctive type of building called a ‘cave’, which we now describe as a ‘Mithraeum’.

Mithras was often identified as ‘the invincible sun-god’. The altar on the left of the picture is from a Mithraeum (a temple to Mithras) on Hadrian’s Wall and shows him in this guise. The altar has a niche cut into its back, so that the light from a lamp could have shone through the openings cut around the god’s head, giving the impression of the sun’s rays in the gloom of the Mithraeum.

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If you come to our free workshops at the Great North Museum on 9 or 10 May, you can see this altar and handle the examples on the right of the picture. One is a small altar to Mithras from a Roman fort by Dere Street, and the other is a fragment of a relief from Vindolanda showing the sun-god’s face and the rays around his head. Why might people have worshipped the sun in ancient Northumberland? Come and be inspired by these objects to draw, photograph, or write down your thoughts, helped by our experts. Just let us know which date suits you best:

Meet someone new at the Petrie Museum

There are still a few places left at our free workshops on 18 and 25 April at the Petrie Museum in London. Come and meet some ancient objects and create new memories by drawing, photographing, or writing about them, helped by our experts. We’ll provide all the materials and refreshments.

We’ll have several ancient objects that you can examine up close, and even handle, but you’ll also be able to look round the whole of the Petrie Museum, the UK’s largest collection of objects from ancient Egypt. The museum will be closed to the public, so we’ll have it all to ourselves.

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Perhaps you’ll be inspired by an object like this rather mysterious terracotta head. It depicts someone with short, dark hair and a beard that is neatly trimmed under the chin. It was found in Memphis in Egypt, but it looks more like the way that ancient Egyptians represented people from the Middle East rather than the Nile valley. Was it a portrait of a foreign merchant who had come to live in Egypt? What memories would it have evoked in people who saw it? Let us know if you can join us in exploring these ideas on 18 or 25 April.

Memories of Palmyra

GNM Palmyrene busts

These portrait busts from ancient Palmyra are in the Great North Museum in Newcastle.  We are holding free workshops there on 9 and 10 May, when you can come and meet objects like these and create new memories using photography, drawing and writing, helped by our experts. Come on the day or email us in advance, if you would like to join in:

These reliefs were made to seal burial chambers in tombs outside the important and wealthy trading city of Palmyra in the Syrian desert. The way the individuals are depicted blends Greek, Roman and local artistic traditions. They weren’t really ‘portraits’ in the modern sense, but conventional representations of how people wanted to be remembered. The inscriptions in the local language would have enabled people to identify them.

The woman on the left is Malakt. She is shown wearing local clothing and jewellery, and was buried some time between about AD 150 and 200. The man on the right is Wahballat. He is wearing a Greek cloak and holding writing material in his left hand. The depiction of a curtain behind him suggests that his bust was carved earlier in the second century. The frontal style of the reliefs looks normal now, but was unusual at the time. It appears in eastern Syria and Mesopotamia in the first century AD, and may have spread from there throughout the Roman empire. It had become a normal feature of Roman art by the fourth century, and continued to be used into the early Middle Ages.

How would you photograph an object?

When I look at an ancient pot, I see an archaeological artefact and I photograph it like this, so that I can see its design and decoration, which help me determine when and where it was made.

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When Rory Carnegie, the professional photographer on our project, looks at the same pot, he sees a work of art and photographs it like this, because looking at it differently can sometimes bring out how beautiful an object is.

GNM jug

How would you photograph it? Come and meet Rory at our workshops in London on 18 or 25 April, or in Newcastle on 9 or 10 May, and have a go at creating new perspectives of old objects – we’ll provide the camera and print the results for you. Come on the day or let us know which workshop suits you best: