Thomas Hikade on Sir Flinders Petrie’s Diopolis Parva seriation chart

May 21, 05:36 AM
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) is an important and somewhat controversial figure in the history of archaeology. The grandson of Matthew Flinders, Petrie rose from a surveyor to becoming the Professor of Egyptology at the University College London, where the Petrie Museum was named in his honour. He excavated more than 60 sites in Egypt during his career and a number of others in the Levant in his twilight years, pioneering a range of methodologies and techniques that would become standard practice in archaeology in the 20th century. 

Under the auspices of the Egyptian Exploration Fund (EEF), now Egyptian Exploration Society, Petrie worked at the sites of Hu and Abadiyeh (Diospolis Parva) near Naqada in Upper Egypt for a single season from 1898-1899. His 1901 publication of the excavation contained a plate featuring illustrations of ceramic pots laid out in a chronological sequence that would revolutionise archaeology. From thousands of objects excavated from more than 2200 pit graves dated to the fourth millennium BC, each recorded on small bits of card, Petrie was able to develop the concept of sequence dating; that is that particular styles of pottery were associated with specific time period so a relative chronology could be developed where objects were older or newer than other objects from other graves within the sequence.
 
The Pharaonic Obsessions exhibition in the Chau Chak Wing Museum has a carefully recreated version of the published sequence-date chart including objects found during the EEF excavations at Diopolis Parva. The Nicholson Collection is home to hundreds of pots found by Petrie in the pre-dynastic graves of the cemeteries. 
 
Chart details: Flinders Petrie “Diospolis Parva: The Cemeteries of Abadiyeh and Hu 1898-99” Plate 2. Courtesy of the Egypt Exploration Society.

Guest: Dr Thomas Hikade is an archaeologist who specialises in Egyptian prehistory and occasionally lectures for the University of Sydney. In this special episode of Object Matters for National Archaeology Week 2021 he joins Dr Craig Barker to talk about the influence Petrie would have on archaeology, the importance of this chart in the way subsequent generations of archaeologists processed materials and his own work researching stone tools and ceramics from the fourth millennium BC in Egypt and the Middle East.

Host: Dr Craig Barker, Head, Public Engagement, Chau Chak Wing Museum and Director, Paphos Theatre Archaeological Excavations. Follow @DrCraig_B on Twitter and Instagram.

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