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Ancient World

The Ancient Collections contain over 300 artifacts from sites around the world including the Middle East, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Central America, and South America. The largest part of the Ancient Collections consists of 227 Ancient Egyptian artifacts from carved wall fragments to kohl makeup pots. Some of the Museum’s most unique artifacts include two Egyptian mummy masks, an Akaddian (present-day Iraq) cuneiform tablet, Roman glass, and Peruvian textiles.

World travelers and private collectors purchased objects on their global journeys and donated many of the objects to the Children’s Museum between 1913 and 1966. Many of the artifacts are several thousands of years old and come from archaeological excavations. The artifacts range from religious, decorative, or everyday items from cultures including Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Roman, Ancient Greek, Akkadian, Aztec, Mayan, and Chimú (present-day Peru). Below you can explore some of the fascinating ancient artifacts here at Boston Children’s Museum.

A selection of Ancient Egyptian artifacts is currently exhibited in a window display on the third floor near Boston Black until December 2015.

Brittany Contratto is the Collections and Archives Graduate Intern for fall 2014. She is currently finishing her Master of the Arts in Historical Administration from Eastern Illinois University. While at Boston Children’s Museum, she focused on digitizing and rehousing the ancient artifacts and archiving the Museum’s institutional records.


Browse the collection:

Kylix with Cover, 600 – 401 BC

Kylix with Cover, 600 – 401 BC



Herculaneum
Clay and Glaze
EH5 32

A kylix cup was generally used by the Greeks for drinking wine.
Oil Lamp, 1 – 79 AD

Oil Lamp, 1 – 79 AD



Pompeii, Italy
Clay
Purchased by the Children’s Museum, 1930
EI4 76

The lamp came from the ruins of Pompeii where Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city with ash in 79 AD.
Mosaic Fragment, 212 – 216 AD

Mosaic Fragment, 212 – 216 AD



Rome, Italy
Clay, Tile, and Stone
Donated by Frederick Tappen, 1938
EI4 228 S2

This mosaic fragment is from the Baths of Caracalla.
Akkadian Cuneiform Tablet, ca. 1350 BC

Akkadian Cuneiform Tablet, ca. 1350 BC



Excavated at Nuzi, Iraq
Clay
Donated by the Harvard Semitic Museum through Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer, 1951
MH 71

The tablet contains Akkadian cuneiform characters and on the reverse side is a seal impression of the tablet’s owner. The tablet was a court record and translates to, “Qatiri, son of Shennaya, says, 'Taya, son of Arteya, for the payment of sheep the judges committed unto me. Now, in this day, those sheep, as a charge against Taya, I have removed."

Strainer, ca. 1350 BC

Strainer, ca. 1350 BC



Excavated at Nuzi, Iraq
Clay
Donated by the Harvard Semitic Museum through Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer, 1951
MH 72
Carving Fragment, ca. 1350 BC

Carving Fragment, ca. 1350 BC



Excavated at Nuzi, Iraq
Clay
Donated by the Harvard Semitic Museum through Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer, 1951
MH 73
Bottle, 200 B.C. – 200 AD

Bottle, 200 B.C. – 200 AD



Excavated in Samaria, Israel
Clay
Donated by the Harvard Semitic Museum through Dr. Robert H. Pfeiffer, 1951
MH 231

This vase is from the ancient city of Samaria in Israel and was made when the Greeks ruled Israel.
Mummy Mask

Mummy Mask



Cairo, Egypt
Cartonnage, gold leaf, and paint
Donated by William A. Paine, 1916
MR5 79
Mummy Case Fragment, 1000 – 800 BC

Mummy Case Fragment, 1000 – 800 BC



Thebes, Egypt
Wood, cartonnage, and paint
Donated by Mary Washington, 1956
MR5 56-3

This case fragment is from the 22nd Dynasty. It features the owner of the coffin on the far right with two Egyptian gods on the left.
 Fragment of Figure

Fragment of Figure



Mexico
Clay
NU7 26 G
Aztec Charm

Aztec Charm



Mexico
Stone
Donated by Mary Washington Ball, 1956
NU7 56-25A
Mayan Rattle, ca. 1000 AD

Mayan Rattle, ca. 1000 AD



Mexico
Clay
Donated by Jeptha Wade, 1966
NU7 66-4
Pottery Stamp, 500 BC – 500 AD

Pottery Stamp, 500 BC – 500 AD



Mexico
Clay
Donated by Miss. A.S. Pennfield, 1930
NU7 211-5
Coca Bag, 1200 – 1300 AD

Coca Bag, 1200 – 1300 AD



Excavated on San Lorenzo Island, Callao, Peru
Cotton
Donated by Miss Carrie Stone, 1956
SE 56-1

Coca bags held coca leaves which Peru’s indigenous people used as medicine.
 Miniature Tunic, 1100 – 1200 AD

Miniature Tunic, 1100 – 1200 AD



Peru
Cotton and Feathers
Donated by Norman B. Holmes, 1965
SE 65-7
Ancient Egyptian Amulets

Ancient Egyptian Amulets



Djed Pillar Amulet, after 600 BC
Egypt
Faience
MR5 1 B

A Djed Pillar Amulet was commonly placed on a mummy.

Bes Amulet
Egypt
Faience
Donated by Mr. William H. Young, 1957
2014.15.1

Ancient Egyptian women wore a Bes Amulet to protect them during childbirth.

Thoth Amulet
Egypt
Faience
Donated by Miss Mary Bowditch, 1961
MR5 319-S 1B

Bast Amulet
Egypt
Faience
Donated by Mrs. Melvin Thorner, 1956
MR5 56-14

Amulet with Two Birds
Egypt
Faience
Donated by Mr. William H. Young, 1957
MR5 57-4 D

Taweret Amulet
Egypt
Faience
Donated by Mr. William H. Young, 1957
MR5 57-4 B

Ancient Egyptian Wood Carvings

Ancient Egyptian Wood Carvings



Hawk Statue
Egypt
Wood, Gesso, and Paint
MR5 XX-17

Ba Bird, ca. 660 – 30 BC
Egypt
Wood, Paint, and Gesso
Donated by Miss Bertha Langmaid, 1948
MR5 353

Hawk Statue
Egypt
Wood, Gesso, and Paint
Donated by E.H. Bailey
MR5 48

Ptah-Sokar-Osiris
Egypt
Wood, Paint, and Gesso
Donated by the Cambridge Children's Museum, 1966
MR5 XX-41

Greek Lekythoi

Greek Lekythoi



Lekythos, 500 – 401 BC
Greece
Clay and Glaze
Donated by Mrs. John Dane, 1940.
EH5 55

This vase is originally from the Heimpel Collection Athens in 1902. The jar may have been used to store olive oil or perfume.

Lekythos, 500 – 401 BC
Greece
Clay and Glaze
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Dows Dunham, 1961
EH5 XX-9

The jar may have been used to store olive oil or perfume.

Chimú Pottery

Chimú Pottery



Chimú Huaco Whistling Jar, 1200-1400
Peru
Clay
Donated by Mrs. William Kenyon, 1964
SE 65-1 S1

This jar has a bird figure at the top of the spout. When the jar is filled half way with water or when air is blown in the other spout, the jar makes the sound of a whistling bird!

Chimú Stirrup Jar, 1200-1400
Peru
Clay
Donated by Mrs. William Kenyon, 1964
SE 65-1 S2

Chimú Water Jug, 1200-1400
Peru
Clay
Donated by Mrs. William Kenyon, 1964
SE 65-1 S3

Chimú Animal Head Jug, 1200-1400
Peru
Clay
Donated by Mrs. William Kenyon, 1964
SE 65-1 S4

Corinthian Pottery

Corinthian Pottery



Corinthian Pitcher, 700 – 590 BC
Greece
Clay and Glaze
Donated by Charles Burrage, 1949
EH5 99

Corinthian Alabastron, 725-600 BC
Greece
Clay and Glaze
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Dows Dunham, 1961
EH5 XX-10

Cover of Kylix, 700 – 600 BC
Greece
Clay and Glaze
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Dows Dunham, 1961
EH5 XX-2

Roman Glass

Roman Glass



Roman Glass Bottle
Italy
Glass
Donated by Mrs. Frederick Cunningham, 1928
EI4 187

Romans used these glass bottles to hold perfumes or oils. The bottles are also called unguentariums.

Roman Glass Bottle
Italy
Glass
Donated by Mrs. Samuel Mixter, 1950
EI4 451 S2

Roman Glass Bottle
Italy
Glass
Donated by Mrs. Frederick Cunningham, 1928
EI4 198

Roman Glass Bottle
Italy
Glass
EI4 189

Roman Glass Bottle
Italy
Glass
Donated by Mr. and Mrs. Dows Dumham, 1961
EI4 XX-7