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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

A is for Alphabets

The Sun Lounge has recently become home to some new displays! They are part of a series of changing displays that will explore the weird and wonderful objects in our collection by going through the letters of the alphabet. As the displays move through the various letters of the alphabet, more and more unusual objects will come out of storage and into the cases.

The Alphabets display, currently in the Sun Lounge

The first case, ‘A is for Alphabets’, looks at how different alphabets and writing systems have been used throughout history. Each of the objects shows different writing systems, including Latin, Arabic, Chinese, cuneiform, and hieroglyphs.

Not all of the writing systems displayed here are technically alphabets! Cuneiform, hieroglyphs and Chinese are not ‘true’ alphabets. These were developed earlier and the symbols represent parts of words, or whole words, as opposed to single sounds. Latin and Arabic are the only ‘true’ alphabets displayed as each symbol represents a single sound.

The case shows that writing has been used for similar purposes in different cultures and time periods.  The objects on display include a Roman curse tablet, a number of Chinese coins, a cuneiform tablet and cone, and a bank note. The artefacts broadly fall into 4 categories; trade, religion, organisation, and food and drink. 

Egyptian shabtis

My favourite objects are the two shabtis. These ancient Egyptian figurines represent agricultural workers who would serve the deceased in the afterlife. The hieroglyphs on the front are typically from the Book of the Dead. The Book was made up of spells to help the deceased navigate the underworld.

Alphabets and writing systems give us a fascinating insight into different civilisations throughout time and across the world. I really enjoyed putting together this display. Pop into the Sun Lounge to see this display and keep an eye out for the next installation; the letter B!

Alex
Collections Volunteer

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