After many years of excavating in the ancient town of Bubastis, situated on the outskirts of Zagazig, as well as in an Early Dynastic cemetery near the village of Kufur Nigm, about 25 km north of Zagazig, it was decided to display some of the most important finds in a small and special museum. This plan was realised, thanks to the efforts of Prof Dr Mohamed I. Bakr, formerly President of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization. And so it is today that over 2000 artefacts, forming the study collection, are on display in the Archaeological Museum of the University of Zagazig.
One of the rooms is dedicated to finds from the Early Dynastic (ca. 3025-2700 BC) cemetery at Kufur Nigm. At this site a preliminary survey and several seasons of excavation were carried out by the Sharqeya Inspectorate between 1961 - 1962 and again in 1978 - 1979. In 1984 work at the site was resumed, carried out by the University of Zagazig under the directorship of Mohamed I. Bakr, and it continued for three further seasons in 1985, 1988 and 1990. In the course of these excavations 134 tombs were found, most of them dating to the Early Dynastic Period.
The tomb equipment of this period consisted mainly of clay vessels. There were small and huge storage jars, vessels in the shape of corn granaries, pot stands, bowls and plates. Some of the storage vessels had hieroglyphic signs incised into the clay, one of which can be interpreted as the name of an Early Dynastic king. More precious were finely carved ointment jars made of calcite-alabaster, siltstone, breccia, basalt, or diorite; cosmetic palettes used for the preparation of eye-paint and multicoloured necklaces. One of the most interesting exhibits is a rectangular coffin made of clay. During the Pre- and Early Dynastic Period the dead were buried in a contracted, foetal position, hence the rather small dimensions of this coffin.
(click on the pictures to enlarge them)
A large number of the museum’s exhibits have been recovered from the various ancient cemeteries as well as the great temple of Bastet at Bubastis (Tell Basta). Besides pottery vessels from nearly all pharaonic periods, there is also a large variety of funerary objects excavated in or near the still-preserved mud-brick “mastabas“ of the Old Kingdom and from other local burials.
A focal point of the museum’s current exhibition is a group of eighteen face lids belonging to pottery coffins (“slipper coffins“) of late New Kingdom date, some of which display grotesque facial features. Similar to more expensive, wooden anthropoid coffins they would originally have been painted with bright colours, though only traces of this former decoration are preserved. A variety of smaller funerary goods – shabti figures, amulets, scarabs and colourful faience beads belonging to necklaces – provide an insight into the burial customs and funerary beliefs of the ancient Egyptians at Bubastis. Some important objects were recovered in the Old and New Kingdom necropolises at Bubastis between 1981-1989, during a joint venture between the University of Zagazig and the Academy of Sciences of the former German Democratic Republic.
In 1990, the tradition of German participation in archaeological work at Bubastis was continued by Dr. C. Tietze, who established the Tell Basta Project at the University of Potsdam. Excavations and restoration work then focussed on the area of the main temple of Bubastis which was mainly dedicated to the feline divinity Bastet. This goddess was usually depicted as a woman with lion’s head but also, as in some bronze figures, as a cat or a woman with cat’s head. Her cult culminated in great annual festivals. It is she who is depicted in two of the remarkable art works of the museum, a fragment of a quartzite temple statue and a well-preserved bronze figure which may have been a votive offering. During this period of Egyptian-German excavations a well belonging to the Roman Imperial Period was discovered in the central area of the Bastet temple. The finds from the bottom of this well included two block statue fragments. One of them is the extremely well-carved statue of Nefer-ka which dates to the reign of Amenhotep III (Dynasty 18, 14th century B.C.) .
A spectacular hoard, also known as the "New Treasure“ from Bubastis, was discovered in the central area of the ruins of the temple of Bastet in 1992. It consists of 139 pieces of jewellery, most of them being amulets and decorative beads made of gold, silver, a variety of semi-precious stones, glass, steatite and faience. These pieces were stowed in two small vessels made of calcite-alabaster. As a group they show a surprising degree of iconographical variation as well as a remarkably high quality of workmanship. The museum’s catalogue, written by members of the M.i.N.-Project and published in 2010, includes almost all the objects from this hoard (many of them previously unpublished) as well as other rare antiquities from Kufur Nigm, and from the necropolises and temple of Bastet at Bubastis.Several of the most important objects of the so-called „New Treasure“ from Bubastis have been discussed by Professor Dr Mohamed I. Bakr in an article which appeared in "The Realm of the Pharaohs. Essays in Honor of Tohfa Handoussa", a special volume of the Egyptological journal Annales du Service des Antiquités de'l Egypte (ASAE), Cahier 37, Vol. 1 (2009).