Making a 3,000 year old bed I Curator’s Corner Season 5 Episode 9

Making a 3,000 year old bed I Curator’s Corner Season 5 Episode 9


Hi, my name is Manuela Lehmann and I work as a project curator for the Amara West project at the British Museum, Welcome to my corner. That was horrible, nevermind…. So Amara West is a pharonic settlement in
what we call now Nubia. This is modern northern Sudan and this is a settlement of pharonic Egyptians and we also excavated some of their tombs, so it is very nice to have a comparison of the material between the finds from the settlements and from the tombs. When we look at the pharonic Egyptian culture we can see that the people were often buried in coffins in tombs and these people often get things from their daily lives placed with them in the tombs. So for example beds
but also chairs or boxes or things like that. And if we look at the Nubian culture we can
see that in Nubia people are also buried with beds but in a different way. So in Nubia the bodies are often placed directly on top of the beds, they are buried with example leather hides or something like that. So we can see that in both cultures we find beds in the tombs but they are treated in a different way. So when we excavate in Sudan we usually have an inspector from NCAM with us and for many years Mohamed has been working for us in Amara West. My name is Mohamed Saad from National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums Sudan. Excavation at the Amara West cemetery provides us with many wooden objects and most important is the bed, we call it angareeb bed, it is sometimes well preserved and sometimes it is fragmented. The work in the cemetery for the Amara West project is sometimes very easy and sometimes is really difficult it depends on how they bury their relatives and sometimes it is very deep and sometimes it is shallow, sometimes
it’s not far from the surface but with some hard work we get through and dig all the graves there. I like working in tombs because I found myself
there, [laughs] or I find myself there…. People usually think that we find complete, very nicely preserved beds but it’s not always the case so most of the bark material we find look
like this so we have to go through each and every fragment and see if we can identify what one of this was originally. Yeah? I love Jigsaw puzzles (laughs) Comes in handy when you get the job! So yeah by starting to study these wooden fragments the beds were easiest to identify and if you walk around in the modern Nubian
villages you will see a lot of wooden beds that are very similar. They are not identical
but they have a lot of things in common. So of course while I worked on them it was just natural to go round and see because almost any Nubian house, also the house where we live, will have one old wooden bed in a corner somewhere. So just walking around and looking at these beds you start comparing them and see what is different, what is the same. So it started to get very interesting for me to understand my ancient fragments better. We tried to find local Nubian carpenters and that actually turned out to be really difficult because in the last 20 years or so people
switched to metal beds. And less and less people asked for wooden beds because they have termites in their houses, they don’t last as long, so we started realising that this is a really important cultural tradition and it’s just completely dying now. Eventually we were lucky and found several carpenters. One of these carpenters, his name is Mustafa, lives on the island of Maqasir by Kerma and on an island context often traditions are kept up a bit
longer than on the main land. So, on Maqasir island people still ask to get wooden angareeb beds made. So, he had much more in-depth knowledge of how to make these beds and what materials to use for the stringing and all sorts of stuff. It was successful to find Mustafa, because
he is a really patient guy and he is really nice and he is intelligent at making angareeb and is really super fast. We asked him to make modern angareeb beds compared with to the older angaeeb I think this give also an idea how the old people how they make their angareeb and also we can provide for, we can just open the mind of many students they can look for the other things similar to angareeb, they can do their studies for this heritage as now they are being lost because of modern things, plastic and metals and similar. Obviously when you study these objects you come up with a lot of questions and you can’t really ask anybody anymore but for a modern carpenter it’s really nice because you can ask ‘why do you do this like this’ and ‘why do
you take this tool and not that tool’ and things like that. So that was really a big advantage for us. Mustafa came to us, and lived with us for
10 days on Aneta island and so we showed him our ancient fragments to see what he thinks
about them we showed him drawings of them as well Yeah, he was very surprised because the fragments
are quite small. So the modern bed legs are a bit more, are larger in size also are a bit sturdier so he was also very impressed by the fine decoration of the ancient peoples. we asked him to reproduce some of them and he came from this modern
perspective and we kept saying ‘ can you make this a bit smaller’ and he was always afraid that it would break in the end. And that is one of the big questions we also had for our ancient fragments. So some of them are so small and it happens sometimes that objects are only made for the tombs, they were not really used in life so one of
the questions we had: Could these ancient beds actually support the weight of a full body and a coffin? or would they just be made for the tombs and then you would close the tomb and hope that it doesn’t collapse. And so I don’t know if any of you have made
a bed, I haven’t, I would just go to my local store and buy one. But if I would ever have to make one, I would probably go to a do-it-yourself store and just buy planks. As a Nubian carpenter you just go and start with a piece of tree, So you don’t have the planks you actually have to make the planks He brought chunks of wood that he would make into planks and he brought Halfa grass with him and showed us how to make the rope as well so he also showed us how to twist the rope, how to tighten it, how to string it and how to do different patterns. So what I thought was really interesting is
that they don’t use any measurement tools but all measurements are based on pieces of
your body, so they use cubits and hand spans, and fingers so when we came and said ‘oh Mustafa can you make this bed like 35cm high?’ and he was like ‘HMMM, how many hand spans or fingers is that, actually?’ So that was really interesting to see and that is something that we can see in the ancient Egyptian times as well. So all the measurements are based on exactly the same parts so it would be the cubits, the hand spans and the fingers that are still used nowadays. So he would produce one leg and then the other three legs he would always lie next to the first one and then take the measurement from the first one to make sure they are all the same size. The English introduced the so called Neem tree to Egypt and that’s a tree that according to Mustafa tastes very bitter so the termites don’t like it so much so that’s why carpenters really like to use Neem tree nowadays but they also still use Acacia that is a local tree and that’s a very hard wood so it’s very good for the bed legs and we identified some of our ancient fragments and they are also sometimes made out of Acacia wood. Its really nice to have this modern Nubian
bed now as part of our collection so that future generations can come and do research
on it and also for us still doing the research on the ancient fragments it is still very useful to have a comparison material within our collection. I would just like to thank everybody who helped us doing this project and thank- you for watching. We hope you enjoyed it and this was just
a small sub-project from one excavation that the British Museum is doing so let us know if you are interested in other digs or want to hear other stuff about digging. Thanks for watching! I feel like a news reporter, this is so stupid,
blah blah blah….

88 thoughts on “Making a 3,000 year old bed I Curator’s Corner Season 5 Episode 9

  1. Yall need to give your audio engineers a raise. Every one of your videos is so pleasant to listen to. Very interesting content always as well!

  2. He likes "working in the tombs" because he "finds himself" there.

    Proof of the Confucius proverb "Where ever you go…..There you are" 🙂

  3. Thank you for showing us the project and how it was done. It's so important to remember such knowledge in these days of high tech, so we don't forget our skills and relationship to our environment and history. [I too love jigsaw puzzles ;-)]

  4. This is an excellent example of preservation of knowledge through action instead of the written word. It is easy to see how Mustapha was utilizing ancient ways in performing his craft. As an interesting aside…did you see the video of the orangatan sawing wood on another channel? She intuitively braced the wood with her feet in the same manner as the skilled carpenter in this video. Fascinating.

  5. That video was amazing! The carpenter is a wealth of knowledge and tradition! That reed assembly is beautiful. It looks so strong. Thanks for sharing.

  6. may i ask a question, in the countries you(british museum) excavate, do you acknowledge the country of origin of all you find or buy it from the country to display in Britain and can a country claim bavk any artifacts from the british museum

  7. So Mustafa works, by' Rule of Thumb'. A Craftsman worthy of respect. Nice to see him treated as such. Knowledge has no bounds.

  8. Manuela Lehmann is soooo cute! If I wasn't married and old, I'd take a trip so I could meet her. Besides that, the information in the video was very interesting and made me want to try the rope making technique for myself. Keep up the good work!

  9. Such a delightfully charming girl! I hope this comment puts a smile on her face. I wish I could ask her out for dinner.

  10. Many cultures in many continents buried people on beds. The Celts, Norman's, Vikings Brits, all buried with beds as well.

  11. why on earth do I find Egyptology pretty dire? as for the egyptian kingdom being strewn across Africa… I surmise Egypt, as was, covered a larger land mass than previously thought????

  12. I love the background music. It was very interesting to see the local craftsman at work and his reproduction was exceptional. I would love to see the actual digs now that Time Team is gone. With this age of Go pro cameras you should be able to get video from lots of angles with only 1 camera guy.

  13. Very cool. More from this project, please? Excited for the Boston Museum Of Fine Art's brand new Nubian exhibit. Will keep my eyes peeled for any bed related artifacts.

  14. I remember an episode of 'This Old House' where they compared wooden window muntins (the pieces between panes of glass) over the last few hundred years of American history. The muntins have gotten progressively thicker since the 1700's because the quality and strength of available wood has steadily declined. Wood from trees that grow slowly in a healthy standing forest has finer grains and is stronger than farmed or replanted wood, or even wood from a forest that has had selective logging.

  15. This was just sublime. A mixture of modern scientific principles on how to acquire knowledge coupled with a respectful attention to the practical knowledge acquired by craftsmen. These videos should frequent science and history classrooms throughout the world.

  16. I wonder if the wood was denser in the past, allowing the old beds to be smaller yet strong enough. Perhaps modern cultivation promotes faster growth. You'd be able to see the difference in the size of the growth rings.

  17. This is fascinating. Were people smaller/lighter/younger when they died? Was the wood less intensively harvested therefore older/stronger? More please!

  18. What a great culture the middle East had at one time. Then an illiterate liar made people believe his lies through war,murder and fear. Then the Mohamadins were in power and all the wonderful things died and only fear and ignorance followed. Such a shame.

  19. I love your videos and would like to see many more! This one was very enjoyable, thank you very much for your great work!

  20. Awesome video — it's also so rare that we get to meet and hear the perspectives of people who actually live in these places — too often, we just get to meet the westerners transplanted there. Would love to learn more about this site and get to meet the host country staff and other people involved in the project.

  21. As an older chap I love how it's OK now for smart girls to geek out. When I was younger that wasn't the case, sadly. I've encouraged both my kids the same way.

  22. I enjoyed your presentation as much as the content – well done – do more immediately! So, was the bed functionally sound?

  23. I wanted to see the bed, but I skipped through, saw the pretty lady yes, but where is the bed? Yawn. I couldn't be bothered to watch all the way through, listening to what? So for me, the video was a waste of time, yet I would happily have watched with focus 12 minutes of detail about the bed. 🚮

  24. Good presentation. I didn't see any lathe; yet I saw lathe-type markings on the legs. Did they have any kind of early lathe?

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