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Our Favorite Things 2018

Broken eggshell inscribed in gibberish

Parthian Period (248 BC–AD 226)
Seleucia, Iraq
U-M Excavations, 1927–1932
KM 19050

“Overflowing with its enchanting aura, I was allured by the vessel of a creature who once inhabited a tiny shell. The compact words were precisely engraved on the thin, ivory-pigmented layers that compose the shell. Behind the recovery of its delicate existence, there is an enigmatic tale beyond the broken fragments. This eggshell was intended to shatter hexes. While some people may express their unfathomable emotions in a journal instead of ‘bottling it up,’ inhabitants in Iraq demonstrated eliminating their evil omens in a distinctive way. In the end, I wondered, what was the nature of the curse that they sought to put to rest?”

Thuy Nhi Jenny Truong, First-Year Student, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts


Gold, glass inlay, pearls
Middle–Late Parthian Period (141 BC–AD 115)
Toledo Museum of Art 1931.303

“This earring was found in a cache; a hidden place. The woman who owned this earring hid it during the Roman siege, in which Emperor Trajan was leading the Roman army closer to this woman’s valuables. She was held captive within the Parthian capital of Seleucia by the circumvallation wall, a trench and barriers that the Romans built around the city, cutting off the city’s supplies. This scared woman, in hopes to still be the possessor of her items, hid it in a cache.

“The beauty of this earring is not reflected in the story it holds. Yet, it represents her hope in another tomorrow, that she could come back to her cache. It’s inspiring to me that she was not going to give up.”

Olivia Ziemer, First-Year Student, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Oinochoe with handle

Clay, white painted ware
Cypro-Archaic I or II (ca. 750–500 BC)
U-M College of Architecture transfer, 1960; formerly Cesnola
KM 26776

“As a designer, I often find myself attracted to striking shapes and have always been drawn to round objects and circles in particular. So of course I was charmed by the oinochoe the moment I saw it. When I started working here, I had just moved to a new state without knowing anyone. It was a stressful and lonesome process and it was a relief to be greeted by such a cheerful artifact every day. It’s just so fat and happy and I love it!”

Emily Pierattini, Assistant Exhibition Designer at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Coffin of the priest Djehutymose

Wood, plaster, paint
Saite Period (26th Dynasty, 685–525 BC)
Nag el-Hassaia, Egypt
A. Todd gift, 1989
KM 1989.3.1

“The Djehutymose coffin gives life to the dead. It’s not just a generic coffin. It’s like a book. It tells part of the life he lived. The colors bring it to life. The hieroglyphs, the drawings like the falcon, and the symbolic things that are put in the coffin are believed to guide him to his afterlife. The coffin was made especially for Djehutymose.”

Sandra Malveaux, Secretary Senior at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Mummy of a child

Human body, cloth, resin, wood
Roman Period (1st century AD)
Fayum Region(?), Egypt
Bay View collection, 1971
KM 1971.2.179

“Rarely do I see something that startles me into an odd mixture of sadness and relief; however, when I witnessed the dark cloth, resin, and wood encased corpse of a child, these emotions overcame me instantaneously. It is painful to be reminded of a time when so many people would die at such young ages, a time when life was so dangerous that living another day was never guaranteed. However, by comparing the harsh realities of our past to our relatively gentle present, I have learned that change is not always something to be terrified of. The Kelsey’s mummy of a child has demonstrated that change can sometimes lead to a better and safer future, and for that reason it is my favorite exhibit in the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.”

Sidney Popp, First-Year Student, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Wooden wheel horse toy

Wood, paint, twine
Roman Period (1st–4th century AD)
Karanis, Egypt
U-M Excavations, 1926
KM 3312

“I like the recognition that this is an interesting toy. It had no other purpose but to entertain kids. And it was important enough back then to have something to entertain kids, just like today. Toys are not a new thing. To me, this looks like the closest thing to a modern toy.”

Charles Brown, Custodian at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Marble inscription of a young boy

Marble, pigment
Roman Period (late 2nd–early 3rd century AD)
Pozzuoli, Italy
G. De Criscio collection, 1899
KM 1039

“I like this beautiful stela of a mother remembering her child in such a sweet and dear way much as we would remember and cherish our own family members. Archaeology of the deceased provides great detail into the lives of the Roman people. It begins with the Latin words Dis Manibus meaning ‘to the Spirits (Shades) of the Underworld.’ Here again a connection to the gods and mythology saying now ‘in god’s hands.’ It’s a piece of ancient history that I use in my tours again and again.”

Jean Mervis, Docent at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology

Grain mill

Volcanic stone
Roman Period (1st century AD)
Villa Vona, Boscoreale, Italy
Michigan State Millers’ Association gift, 1923
KM 1935

“The Romans started using grain mills around the 3rd century BC and they were used by farmers to grind grain into flour. The way the Romans did this was by attaching mules to the mill and having them turn it by walking in a circle, which would grind the grain. This caught my attention because of its size and stone structure. I read that it was a grain mill and instantly had more of a connection to it because I am from an agricultural area of Michigan. Gratiot County is home to three of the largest farms in the state. Next to the highway that passes through, there are huge grain mills. The Roman grain mill reminded me of home because I could picture the mills and fields that were ever present in my surroundings.”

Adam Culp, First-Year Student, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Head of Silenus

Roman Period (1st or 2nd century AD)
Museum purchase with Cummer and DuMouchelle funds, 1984
KM 1984.5.1

“Before you is the head of an elderly man. Notice his broken nose, his carefully constructed ears, and chiseled face dressed with fine coils. The profuse details of the early 2nd-century AD Roman marble masterpiece resemble a well-groomed, well-nurtured patrician (Roman aristocrat) that many of us today cannot identify. I, for one, love uncertainty. It allows the brain to ponder all possibilities, both practical and wildly imaginative. Some believe the head is Silenus, an acquaintance to the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. Others think the figure is not Silenus. There’s no way of knowing who the sculpture of the man really is, so regardless of where you stand, we can all agree that marveling at its elegance, intricacies, and delicacies provokes satisfying thought.”

Cam Turner, First-Year Major in Psychology and Business, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts