The first volume of Egyptian Treasures in Europe: 1,000 Highlights was favourably
reviewed by Bob Partridge for ANCIENT EGYPT July/August 2000. A re-examination
of the background to the CD ROM series may be useful before we consider
volume 4: Liverpool. Egyptian Treasures in Europe is published by the Centre
for Computer Aided and Egyptological Research (CCER), Utrecht University
as part of the Champollion Project. The goal of the series is to provide
access to a variety of information about the Egyptian collections of ten
The CDs are meant to be of interest to the public as well as students and
scholars of Egyptology. Each CD will offer 1,500 objects from a different
European museum. In addition to Liverpool, the museums of Egyptian Treasures
include: the Allard Pierson in Amsterdam, the KoninkliAe Museum/Museums
of Art and History in Brussels, the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin,
the Egyptian Museum of Florence, the Roemer and Pelizacus in Hildesheim,
I’Institut de Papyrologie et d’Egyptologie in Lille, the National Museum
of Archaeology in Lisbon, the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid,
and the Kunsthistorishes Museum in Vienna.
The goals and standards for the sharing of automated Egyptological information
are derived from Informatique et Egyptologie, a working group of
the International Organisation of Egyptologists. The ultimate product
of Informatique et Egyptologie was the Multilingual Egyptological
Thesaurus, which was developed at CCER under the direction of Prof.
Dr. Dirk van der Plas. The thesaurus is the ‘industry standard’ for museum
documentation of ancient Egyptian collections, and not surprisingly, it
is at the heart of the Egyptian Treasures series. All the participating
museums have effectively selected the same information system and data
base. This makes data sharing between the institutions seamless, with
no language problems, and also allows for compatibility between all the
volumes of the CD series. The groundbreaking Egyptian Treasures
volumes are edited and co-ordinated by Prof. Dr. van der Plas, with funding
from the European Commission and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific
The Liverpool collection numbers 15,000 objects, thus those on the CD represent
10% of the total. The objects include art treasures as well as less spectacular
objects derived from archaeology. Approximately 806 of the objects are
unpublished, in the traditional sense. The museum’s Curator of Egyptian
Antiquities participated in the selection of the objects, so we assume
that the high percentage of unpublished objects were those most important
Since Liverpool is the first museum in the Egyptian Treasures series
to be reviewed in ANCIENT EGYPT, it provides the opportunity
to explain what the CD series offers and how it works. The primary feature
of the CD is the textual and visual documentation of the objects, in the
choice of seven European languages, with the capability to extract information
by inquiry with the user-friendly Search Menu. To define a search, one
category may be selected from each of the menu items: Object, Material,
Period, Site. A pull-down menu for each category includes the option to
SELECT ALL and choices specific to the category, as broadly defined in
the Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus. The Site selection is
from a map of Egypt, and may be made at a regional level or for one specific
site. A search may be refined narrowly by selection of specific values,
such as jewellery, gold, Ptolemaic, Alexandria, or defined broadly, such
as jewellery, gold, all periods, all sites. The menu includes the choice
,advanced mode’ for each category, intended principally for scholars and
students. Advanced Mode enables the design of an extremely specific inquiry,
as per classification and terms in the thesaurus. The Advanced Mode title
is somewhat misleading, as it is limited to the most fine-tuned search
- not a more all-embracing one.
The order in which the objects of the search are displayed is by ascending
inventory number. It is not possible to specify a different order of the
objects when defining an inquiry. The objects from the search are displayed
in a mosaic of thumbnail images. The image may be clicked on to reveal
an enlarged view and all of the information. Many of the objects may be
rotated to show the view from several sides.
Textual documentation for the objects includes a description, information,
with hieroglyphic transliteration and translation where available, the
bibliography and ‘advanced’ information. The last option lists all of
the data base entries recorded for the object, as recommended by the Multilingual
Egyptological Thesaurus. At any point, the information or the images
may be printed.
The beauty of the Egyptian Treasures in Europe project is seen in
‘Themes’, a sophisticated yet easy-to-use refinement upon the basic search.
A set of 8 pre-programmed topics, agreed upon by the participating museums,
groups related classes of objects together. The themes include: Arts and
Crafts, Jewellery and Amulets, Daily Life, Script, Life After Death, Personal
Piety, Temple Cult, and Kingship. This means that the themes and the objects
which relate to them will be available for each of the museum collections
in the CD series.
This feature is a short-cut to creating multiple individual searches. For
example, selection of the Life After Death theme provides easy
access to objects within all of the following subjects: Ba; False Door;
Heart Scarab; Hathor; Funerary Cone; Tomb Equipment; Isis; Sons of Horus;
Amset; Duamutef., Hepi; Qebehsenuf, Model; Mummy; Offering Table; Osiris;
Ptali-Sokar-Osiris; and Stela.
Additional features of the CD which are fun to try out, and technologically
impressive as well as informative, include:
Views of the display rooms of the Liverpool collection,
where the viewer may move about the gallery. Zoom in on objects for closer
examination. It is not, however, possible to call up the object and all
its information by selection from this feature.
A ‘guided tour’ spoken commentary of 15 key objects from
A glossary of 400 Egyptological terms, which may be consulted
directly from the menu, or by selecting highlighted words within an object
Panoramic ‘virtual reality’ views of sites in Egypt.
The Egyptian Treasures in Europe collection of CDs is a reference
tool quite different from conventional catalogues. The Liverpool volume
provides a private slide show and a wealth of written commentary in more
detail than a catalogue could, and at the same time it complements the
catalogue Gifts of the Nile by Bienkowski and Tooley (1995). The
inclusion of a high percentage of unpublished objects, and reproduction
of information and drawings of objects which were destroyed during the
Second World War are a real plus. In addition to private viewing of the
objects, with the right audio visual equipment the images could be
projected to offer a slide show, say for a lecture. It is useful
to be able to print a colour view of the object for future reference or
to include with an essay. For collections which do not have a catalogue,
or for those viewers who may not read the European language of the museum
catalogue, Egyptian Treasures is an indispensable primary tool.
The virtual reality of views of the museum display rooms is interesting
and shows the way the collection is displayed and organised. It is especially
of interest to people who may be unable to visit the museum in person.
Likewise, the panoramic views of the sites are interesting for veterans
of travel in Egypt as well as for those who have yet to visit Egypt or
the specific sites.
As wonderful as the CD concept is, there are limitations to the searches.
This would most likely be noted by the professional Egyptologist. But
then again, Egyptian Treasures does not promise the capabilities
of a full-blown museum documentation system. It offers more objects, information
and explanatory information than it is currently possible to access from
the average museum collection on the internet. The reviewer has much respect
for the far-sighted planning behind the design of compatible data bases
for all of the museums, which in turn made the design of the compatible
CD series possible. Along with MacScribe and other innovative products,
it is another success for CCER and the individual museums.
The Liverpool CD is a wonderful, affordable addition to the library of those
interested in Egyptology, which the reviewer wholeheartedly recommends.
The CD will never replace the museum catalogue or documentation in books,
but it is an invaluable addition. It will be interesting to learn how
the entirely compatible CDs within the series may be used together for
institution-wide searches. Equally, we look forward to the next volumes
and in the long run, to the ‘next generation’ of Egyptian Treasures
in Europe with enhanced capabilities.
Practical product information
System requirements for the CD-ROM: PC with Windows 95/98 or Macintosh with
system 7.5 or higher, with at least 32MB RAM and a 4X CD-ROM player. The
price is €69 or US $69, equivalent to £45. There is a discount for INTERNET
orders (€60 / US$60). An institutional license, single-user price is €225
/ US$225. For further information and purchase details for the CD or series
An Egyptian Bestiary
This volume is a typical product of the Thames & Hudson stable of Egyptology
books; a lively beast, well turned-out, with a glossy coat. Or, to apply
a bolt-gun to the head of what could easily become an irritating metaphor,
it combines an authoritative yet accessible text with first class illustrations.
It is divided into two roughly equal sections; the Secular World where
human relations with animals are described, and the Sacred World. The
latter, though subtitled ‘Animals as Representatives and Repositories
of the Gods’, is effectively another aspect of human relationships with
animals in the projection of divine attributes on animals as part of the
It would, of course, be impossible to give equal space to each animal and
bird known to the Egyptians and it would be easy for lovers of particular
animals to find gaps (virtually no mention of ostriches!!). But this would
be to miss the point. Germond’s specifically stated aim is not to produce
an encyclopaedia of Egyptian fauna but to provide a coherent framework
with which to look at this aspect of Egyptian culture.
The selection of illustrations is excellent, with use of a broad chronological
range from Predynastic to Mediaeval and all classes of material from animal-shaped
trinkets to royally-commissioned statuary and temple walls. Most readers
will find their favourite what-are-they-doing-in-that-tomb-scene here,
be it weaning a piglet(?) from Kagemni or forcefeeding (?) hyenas from
Mereruka. In a work so lavishly illustrated it is inevitable that at least
one will be inaccurately captioned but, equally, it is the duty of the
reviewer to point out this error to prove he has read the book – the food
offerings on plate 75 are to be found on the wall of the Ramesses II cenotaph
temple at Abydos rather than the tomb of Userhat.
The lack of an index is irksome for readers wanting to look up less common
animals (e.g. giraffes, not noted in the chapter listing and only traceable
by scanning through text and illustrations), and a more detailed bibliography
relating to specific subject sections (at the back of the book?) would
have been very useful while not detracting from the over_ all appearance
of the book. But, overall, this volume can be recommended as a treat for
the eye and a rewarding read.
Title: An Egyptian Bestiary
Author: Philippe Germond
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
ISBN: 0500 510598
Price: £39.95 (HB)
click on image to purchase
The Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt
The language and writing of the Ancient Egyptians never ceases to fill people
with awe and wonder. The demand for courses to learn to read hieroglyphs,
and the texts to translate rapidly thanks to some brilliant publications
– ‘That-Black-Book-By-Manley and Collier’ being a particular favourite.
As with many topics, specific areas are covered in detail by more than
one book. Discussions of the signs by Wilkinson and Betro, translations
by Lichtheim, Parkinson, Foster, Wente, MacDowell, Simpson and Faulkner,
and ‘teach-yourself’ text books by Manley and Collier, Gardiner, and Allen
(to mention just a few) are all readily available. However it is still
hard to find a book that touches on everything briefly.
Filling this gap seems to be the aim of Aidan Dodson’s new book -The
Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt.
In the Introduction the author states that ‘This book is intended to explore
some of the wide range of topics that surround Egyptian Hieroglyphs. It
is not about how to read them ... It is intended to reveal what hieroglyphs
meant to the ancient inhabitants of the Nile Valley’.
Well, ‘some’ of the topics are covered. Chapter One ‘The Origins of Egyptian
Language’ begins with a brief introduction to the geography of the Nile
Valley and goes on to identify Naqada III pot marks from Urnin el-Qaab
as the earliest manifestations of the hieroglyphic script. This moves
into an introduction to the royal titulary, and official titles. Chapter
Two discusses the related languages and scripts and includes a brief introduction
to the translation and grammar of hieroglyphs. Chapter Three ‘Three Millennia
of Writing’, covers some of the various forms of text - Autobiographies,
Historical Inscriptions, Chronicles, Administrative Documents, Expedition
Records, Wisdom and Philosophical texts, Stories and Medical and Magical
texts. Chapter Four covers the loss of understanding of the scripts, and
Chapter Five gives a very detailed account of the translation by Champollion
and subsequent studies by people such as Lepsius and Erman. There is also
a helpful list of ‘Where to see Hieroglyphs’ and a brief glossary of terms.
It is a highly illustrated volume boasting many beautiful photographs, timelines,
‘quick reference’ pages, and some helpful tables.
However, there are rather a lot of problems present in the book. On the
page ‘The Texts of Burial’ there is barely a mention of the Pyramid Texts,
and I was unable to find any discussion on the inherent ‘magical’ power
of individual signs - surely something that was very important to the
Ancient Egyptians? Chapter 2 ‘The Ancient Egyptian Language’ is the most
confusing part of the book, attempting to address the basics of grammar
on one page, and presenting an advanced table of hieratic variations on
another. Sentences are frequently broken by the ‘quick reference’ pages,
thus irritatingly breaking the flow of the text. The final chapters on
the loss of knowledge and subsequent decipherment are by far the most
detailed, I would have liked that level of discussion to have been introduced
earlier. I also felt that a further reading list would have been very
I would certainly recommend it to the interested tourist or beginner in
Egyptology, but not to those hoping to carry out a serious study of the
Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt.
Title: The Hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt
Author: Aidan Dodson
Publisher: New Holland
Price: £16.99 (HB)
click on image to purchase
to Ancient Egypt Magazine - Volume 2 Issue 6 contents