By Nylah Byrd
In preparation for the new Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries the conservation department began a survey of the current Upper Egypt gallery to understand the condition of the objects and anticipate treatment time. Part of this survey includes performing archival research on the excavation and exhibition history of the monumental pieces in the gallery. This research will help us better understand previous treatment and display decisions to inform future treatment decisions.
One of the monumental pieces is the “Triumphal Stela” (29-107-958) from the Bet Sh’ean expedition directed by Clarence S. Fisher, Curator of the Egyptian Section at the time. The Penn Museum Archives contain records from the expedition, including Fisher’s field diaries handwritten in cursive. I was able to locate the diary entries from when the stela was found and transcribed them to the best of my ability for easier reference later. Called the “Ramses II stela” during excavation, this rounded top stone pillar was found toppled, underneath the “Seti I stela” on May 31st, 1923.
“The discovery of a second Egyptian stele at Beisan and one with such a nicely cut and clear inscription is of immense importance and we all eagerly await the turning over of the stones” – Page 167 Fisher Diary
The excitement of the find is clear in Fisher’s journal entries. He asserts that the stelas were toppled purposefully as they once stood on stone bases next to each other. The Ramses II stela was found in two pieces. Alan Rowe completed a drawing of the bottom portion of the stela, and a close-up image was taken of the top portion.
The stela was recently de-installed from the current Upper Egypt gallery and will be on view in the Eastern Mediterranean galleries (opening at the end of this year) before being installed in our new Ancient Egypt and Nubia galleries.