The collection of Egyptian artefacts in the Nicholson Museum is the largest and most important of its kind within Australia. It includes artefacts representing ancient Egyptian history from the Neolithic through to the late Roman period, with mummies, monumental sculpture, inscriptions and ancient organic materials, contributing to the unique nature of this collection.
The core of the collection began in 1856-57, when Sir Charles Nicholson travelled down the Nile acquiring artefacts of artistic and archaeological importance from dealers and at sites. Most of these objects were shipped to Sydney via England, where they were assessed by Joseph Bonomi of the British Museum. In 1860, they were donated by Nicholson to the University’s new Museum of Antiquities.
The Egyptian collection expanded during the late 19th and early 20th century through the Museum acquiring objects from the Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society) in London. In return for an annual subscription to its work, the Fund sent many objects to the Museum – some, such as the 3.4 metric tonne Hathor capital (right), were transported with considerably more difficulty than others. Many of these artefacts came directly from the excavations of the renowned Sir Flinders Petrie, the father of modern archaeology. Today the collection includes artefacts from well known archaeological sites across Egypt including Abydos, Alexandria, Bubastis, Fayum, Heliopolis, Memphis, Saqqara, and Thebes.
Many of the artefacts from the Egyptian collection are now on display in the exhibition Egyptians, gods and mummies: Travels with Herodotus