Blog Archives

Object of the Month – May 2012

Egyptian necklace with beads and amulets

Egyptian necklace

This necklace isn’t as old as you might think. It was made in Egypt for a tourist 100 to 200 years ago. In the 1800s Egypt became an increasingly popular tourist destination and these visitors were keen to bring back souvenirs of their trip. This could be something made as a souvenir, or a fake made to look much older than it was.

However, in this case the beads themselves are much older than the necklace.

As the beads were restrung relatively recently we cannot be certain where in Egypt they were originally found. However, we do know what all the larger beads – or amulets – stood for. These figures provided magical protection for the wearer, in this life or the afterlife.

The amulets include two eye of Horus (wadjet), Isis (recognisable by the throne on her head), four Tawerets (pregnant hippopotamus), two Anubis figures (with jackal head), two Bes figures (who protected children) and four striding men.

This fascinating necklace belonged to a professor of Egyptology at Oxford who worked in Egypt with Flinders Petrie, a famous archaeologist.

The Herbert has about 30 objects from ancient Egypt, all donated by individuals. You can see some of them on display in the History Gallery and a drawer of small objects in What’s in Store.


Object of the Month – March 2012


Anglo Saxon shield boss

Anglo-Saxon Shield Boss

Anglo-Saxon warriors are typically pictured wearing a helmet, brandishing a spear or axe and holding a shield. These iconic objects were sometimes buried with the person when he died. From archaeological remains such as these, we have a good idea what people in the past may have looked like.

This shield boss would have formed the centre of a shield and protected the warrior’s hand. It was hand beaten out of a piece of iron. It dates from between 550 and 650 AD. It was found by Jack Edwards during archaeological excavations in Baginton in the 1930s.  

We know little about Saxon Coventry. However, we believe there was a settlement at Baginton near the present day church. It is known their cremation burial ground was on the north side of the village. This settlement was no longer used by 700 AD, at around the same time that people may have built houses on or near what is now Coventry city centre.

This shield boss along with cremation pots from the cemetery can be seen in What’s in Store our accessible store in the Herbert.

Object of the Month – September 2011

Stone mould

This object on display in the History Gallery is a stone mould for casting a small figure, possibly that of a saint. During the 1400s Coventry was a thriving city with many trades including metal casting.

This unique object is one part of a three-piece mould used to cast a pewter devotional figure. The figure would have been made hollow to act as a container or reliquary. It’s likely this was a souvenir of a visit perhaps by someone on pilgrimage. Pilgrims visited Coventry because the Cathedral held relics including a fragment of the true cross and the arm of St. Augustine of Hippo.

On the reverse side is part of a heraldic motif for a badge or belt fitting with crowns and quatrefoil design. This is evidence of secondary usage as the stone was expensive to quarry and carving a mould’s design must have taken a day or even two. The stone probably came from around Southam and Long Itchington about 15 miles from Coventry.

Coventry holds over 200 stone moulds from archaeological sites all over the city centre. These demonstrate a vibrant industry which supported both religious and secular visitors during the late medieval and early Tudor times. There is a selection of these interesting objects on display in the History Gallery.


Paul Thompson, Keeper of Collections (By day anyway….)

Lisa and Paul (in ARP uniform) taking cover in the Herbert's Anderson Shelter

Today’s guest blog is from Paul Thompson, Keeper of Collections.

The telephone rang and I gingerly picked it up expecting trouble – however, it was an enquiry from the front desk. Someone had brought in an object for identification and, as I had a hot cup of tea in front of me cooling, I thought I would go and see what it was! It turned out to be a 14th century medieval tile with a pattern, so I gave as much information as I could and then returned to my desk. I sat there with my tea and thought back over the last few weeks of my curatorial life here at the Herbert.

Secret Egypt has taken up a good deal of my attention. I’ve been searching for suitable images and thinking about how they will be displayed in the final exhibition next year.

I gave a paper on recent archaeological work undertaken in Coventry at the Society of Museum Archaeologists conference which the Herbert hosted in mid-November. I wrote a new talk about Iron Age and Roman remains never before encountered within the city as well as the expected medieval remains. It was well received by all. On the final conference day, I took a group around the city to show them our three cathedrals, St. Mary’s Guildhall, Golden Cross, Stone House and Whitefriars. These events are always networking opportunities and a chance to catch up on current archaeological academic gossip. Read the rest of this entry

%d bloggers like this: