Petrie Museum of
Egyptian Archaeology,
University College London
This page was last updated on July 29th 2017
1. Museum's own labels
2. Museum's web site at
3. Page, Anthea: Ancient Egyptian figured ostraca : in the Petrie collection
Warminster : Aris & Phillips, 1983.
4. Shaw, Ian, Nicholson, Paul: British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt
London: British Museum Press, 1995.
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Deir el-Medina ostraka in the Petrie Museum

Ostrakon, the Greek term for potsherd, is used by Egyptologists to refer to sherds of pottery or
smooth limestone flakes, which were used for less formal purposes than papyri. They were a cheap and
readily available material on which it was possible to write and/or draw. The text and drawings often
consist of letters, bills, personal notes, inventories, sketches and scribal exercises, but also of
literary texts, like love poems and wisdom texts.
The ostraka in the Petrie Museum come from the Flinders Petrie collection, which he obtained mainly in
Thebes, though the exact place and dates of acquisition still remain to be established. The contents
indicate, that the majority of Petrie ostraka did originate in the Theban area - either in Deir
el-Medina itself or in places where the Deir el-Medina workforce were active, e.g. The Valley of the
Kings. A big proportion of Petrie ostraka are small pieces of limestone, while the smaller proportion are
pottery pieces.
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Alongside the figured ostraka,
there is also ostraka inscribed
mainly in
hieratic script... to read
more about hieratic ostraka in the Petrie
Museum click
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The Petrie Museum houses a
collection of
figured ostraka, the
pictorial sherds. The subject of
these varies, from gods and royal
personages to animal scenes...
read more about figured ostraka in the
Petrie Museum click
The collection of Deir
stelae in the Petrie
Museum is represented by
limestone offering stelae and
offering tables and their
to read  more about
the stelae click
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Ancient Egyptian stelae

Stele is a slab of stone or, less often, wood, which on at least one side bears inscriptions,
reliefs or paintings, usually of a funerary, votive or commemorative nature. Often these
categories overlap. The depictions and inscriptions form independent units, but the
monuments need to be understood in its original architectural setting. In ancient Egypt
stelae were most often placed in the wall of a chapel. There are also free standing
examples, sometimes with inscribed separate plinth.

Ancient Egyptian offering tables

Offering tables were usually placed in an accessible location within the private tomb such
as the chapel, so that offerings could be brought to it by the funerary priests or
relatives of the deceased.
© Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL
The text and photography Lenka Peacock