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Romans in Barnsley

October 2, 2013

As was to be expected in this part of the world, the Romans have been here. There is no escaping them.
I have already confessed in my post about Neues Museum in Berlin that I am not a fan of the Romans, to put it mildly. So why on earth am I now posting something titled ‘Romans in Barnsley’?

The Romans in Barnsley is a temporary exhibition currently on at Experience Barnsley, a local museum which opened earlier this year. I say local, because I happen to live in Barnsley. Guest curator for this temporary exhibition is Joann Fletcher, who, of course, is an Egyptologist…from Barnsley. When it became known that possibly Egyptian mummies are buried around Barnsley, the press went a little mad (as they do). The result is that a lot of people are confused and they now believe several Egyptian mummies are on display in Barnsley and several more will be dug up soon. Eh…no.

Gypsum mummy cast
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At the exhibition you can see this gypsum mummy cast which used to cover a child ‘mummy’. I put the word mummy between quotes because it’s not even mentioned under that term in the information at the museum.
The theory is this: Romans, as you very likely know, ruled in Egypt for some time. They took over some aspects of Egyptian culture, like mummification. Some of the Romans who lived in Egypt ended up in England, but still wished to be mummified. And there you have it: ‘Egyptian’ mummies in Yorkshire.

So it is genuine, albeit a bit odd when you first hear it.

Silver denarius of the emperor Hadrian
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This link between Romans and Egypt shows in other objects as well. At the museum you can see a few denarii, like the one above. Mark Antony and Cleopatra apparently used this type of coin to pay their troops. On this example you can see ‘Egypt’ holding a sistrum. Very Egyptian, isn’t it?

There’s also this merchant’s weight in the shape of the head of Isis. I have to admit she doesn’t look very Egyptian to me, but an Egyptian goddess she is.

Head of Isis
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I still don’t like the Romans and I doubt I ever will, but it is very nice for an ancient Egypt enthusiast to be able to go to a museum a few roads away and see some things which are at least inspired by Egypt. I like to think the Romans found the Egyptian culture so fascinating they let themselves be influenced by it.

If you are interested to see the exhibition, it is on until 5 January 2014. And on 19 October Joann Fletcher will give a lecture at the museum, called The Romans: Barnsley, Egypt and beyond.

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