A Future for the Past: Petrie's Palestinian Collection

4 January 2007

A wealth of finds from ancient Palestine housed in the UCL Institute of Archaeology will go on public display for the first time in fifty years in the exhibition ‘A Future for the Past: Petrie’s Palestinian Collection’ that opens on 9 January at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies.

snake-shaped scoop handle

3,000-year-old gold jewellery, ivory amulets in the shape of naked goddesses and pottery dating from the fifth millennium BC up to the 13th-century Islamic period feature in the exhibition, which aims to portray the diverse heritage of Palestine.

The exhibition showcases many of the extraordinary finds made during the 1920s and 1930s by Sir Flinders Petrie, a former Professor of Egyptology at UCL. His excavations explored towns and trading centres that flourished over 4,000 years ago, and which are now divided between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As well as providing an insight into the rich history of the region, the exhibition draws on notebooks, photographs and archive footage of Petrie and his team to give a flavour of what life was like for an archaeologist – and for the local people who worked on the digs – during the 1930s.

Visitors can learn about how archaeologists do their job through interactive elements including a reconstructed 1930s dig-house and a trench, as well as a range of talks and activities for adults and children.

Bedouin women washing pottery

“The images and artefacts tell the complex story of archaeology and identity in the Palestine from ancient times to the present,” said Rachael Sparks, Lecturer and Keeper of Collections at the UCL Institute of Archaeology who curated of the exhibition. “They also recreate the exciting atmosphere of 1930s archaeology.”

“The remarkable pieces on display illustrate the rich heritage of a region repeatedly portrayed in today’s media as a place of conflict and suffering,” added Sally MacDonald, Director of UCL Museums and Collections. “The exhibition aims to be a positive force for change. An understanding of the past should lead to dialogue, tolerance and the courage to take a long-term view.”

From 25 January, ‘The Book 50,320 Names’ – an installation by Palestinian artist Khalil Rabah, – will show alongside ‘A Future for the Past: Petrie’s Palestinian Collection’. It is presented by The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind and is supported by ArtSchool Palestine, a network of artists in the Palestinian Territories.

To find out more about the exhibition and the work of Sir Flinders Petrie, follow the links at the bottom of this article.

Image 1: A snake-shaped handle on an Iron Age ceramic scoop

Image 2: Bedouin women washing pottery excavated on a dig led by Sir Flinders Petrie