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.

p1050186 - Copy (234x282)

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.

GNM Jug side








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:

Face to face with Mummy Portraits

Both the Petrie and the Great North Museum have examples of ancient mummy portraits. The woman on the left is from the Petrie collection in London and the man on the right is in the Great North Museum in Newcastle.

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These portraits are a fascinating example of the blending of ancient cultures in Egypt under the Roman empire. They were made for a community who probably regarded themselves as descendants of Greek settlers. From the 1st to the 3rd centuries AD they buried their dead with highly realistic portraits painted on wood of people wearing Greek or Roman clothing and jewellery, but which were set into mummy bandages or coffins that followed age-old Egyptian burial traditions.

The portraits must have been painted specifically to commemorate individuals who had died. But did they represent them as they really were, or as they wanted to be remembered? The faces appeal to our modern sense of photorealism, but were they originally intended more to evoke memories of class, gender, profession, or cultural background? If you come to our free workshops on 18 or 25 April in London or on 9 or 10 May in Newcastle, you can come face to face with mummy portraits and explore what memories they hold.

An Eastern Empress remembered in the North

Making pots in the form of a moulded human head was a unique Romano-British fashion in the 3rd century. This example in the Great North Museum seems to have the face of the Roman empress Julia Domna, one of the most powerful women in the ancient world.

Julia Domna pot - Copy (364x500)

Julia Domna came from a prominent Syrian family and married the future emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in what is now Libya. She was a patron of writers and philosophers at Rome, and travelled to Britain with the imperial family in AD 208.  She probably lived in York while the army campaigned north of Hadrian’s Wall. They left Britain after Septimius Severus died in York in AD 211. Her sons Caracalla and Geta became co-emperors, but Caracalla soon murdered his brother and ruled alone. Julia Domna remained at the centre of power, managing all imperial correspondence until Caracalla was killed by a bodyguard in AD 217.

Was this pot a souvenir made to commemorate Julia Domna’s time in Britain? What memories would people have had of this remarkable empress when they saw it? What memories does it still hold? We will explore these ideas in free workshops at the Great North Museum in Newcastle on 9 and 10 May. Come along on one of the days or email us in advance to book a place:



This project aims to encourage people to create new memories from old objects and to meet the past through writing, drawing and photography.

We invite people to join in via our workshops or by sending us writing, drawings and photographs from your memorable encounters with the Romans in the Middle East and North Africa.

Contact us:


Twitter: #RetroProject


Please note: this is an academic project and as such does not espouse particular religious or political views.

مرحبا بكم

هذا المشروع يسعى إلى تشجيع الناس لاكتشاف ذاكرة جديدة من شئ قديم وللالتقاء مع الماضي بواسطة الكتابة والرسم والصورة واكتشاف ما تعنى الحياة القديمة لهم في المستقبل

ندعوكم للمشاركة في هذه الفعالية اما بحظوركم معنا أو بارسال ما لديكم من الذاكرات ـ في كتابة و رسم و صورة فوتوغرافية ـ من الرومانيين في الشرق الاوسط و في شمال افريقيا


Twitter: #RetroProject


ملاحظة هامة: هذا مشروع أكاديمي ولايتبنى ولايشجع وجهة نظر ديني او سياسي