Overseas archaeology

Our collection of overseas archaeology contains a fascinating variety of objects from the great civilisations of Western Asia, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Cyprus.

The 18th and 19th centuries were a heyday for collecting foreign archaeology. People were fascinated by the mystery and glamour of the ancient world, and they were inspired to collect pieces of history. Some collectors were tourists, military officers or colonial officials who picked up antiquities on their travels. Other people lived in Devon and bought objects from dealers and auction houses. Private collections such as these were donated to the museum and form the core of the collection. You can see objects from this collection in RAMM’s Ancient Worlds gallery.

Helen Hartstein, RAMM’s Audience Development Lead, talks about why she loves the Corinthian helmet

Classical archaeology

RAMM’s classical archaeology collection includes finds from Greece, Cyprus and Italy, including Etruscan and Roman objects. Some of these items were used by people in their everyday lives. Other objects were more special and were used in religious services, or buried with loved ones. The collection includes objects made from pottery, stone, glass and metal.

You can see wonderful objects from this collection in RAMM’s Ancient Worlds gallery.

Why not explore this collection online? Delve into Ancient Cyprus, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire on our Collections Explorer website.

The Montague collection

The largest part of RAMM’s collection was donated by Lt. Colonel Leopold Montague. He was passionate about collecting archaeological objects, and gathered together over 800 antiquities. The majority of his objects are from Greece, Rome, Egypt and Western Asia. One of his finest pieces is a Greek hoplite helmet found in the Straits of Euboea in 1870. Montague published many objects in the magazine ‘Bazaar’ to share his discoveries with other interested people.  He was also passionate about local archaeology, and organised some of the first scientific archaeological excavations in Devon and Exeter.

Objects from Cyprus

RAMM has a fine collection of Cypriot antiquities. Nearly 200 of these were collected by Claude Delaval Cobham, who was a Commissioner for Cyprus. Most of the objects were grave goods from tombs, or offerings at sites called ‘sanctuaries’. The location of Cyprus in the meant it was ideally placed for trade with the Greek and Roman civilisations. But it was also ideally placed for invasion. The objects in RAMM’s collection show the people of Cyprus were influenced by Egypt, Western Asia, Greece and Rome.

Egyptian archaeology

RAMM’s collection contains around 600 objects from ancient Egypt, dating from the Predynastic to Medieval eras. Many of these objects were collected by Victorian and Edwardian people who were fascinated with the mystery and glamour of Ancient Egypt. Some collectors bought items when they worked or travelled in the country. Other people stayed in Britain and purchased items from dealers or at auction. The museum isn’t actively collecting ancient Egyptian material, so this collection represents a heyday of Victorian exploration of the world.

Come and explore daily life in ancient Egypt in our Ancient Worlds gallery, and explore death and the afterlife in the Egyptian Tomb gallery.

Why not explore our online Ancient Egypt collection?

Highlights of the Egyptian archaeology collection

  • The mummy, coffin and cartonnage of Shep-en-Mut
  • A fragment of hieroglyphic text from the tomb of Khaemhat in Thebes
  • A silver-coated breastplate from a mummy, collected by Giovanni Belzoni – a circus-man who became a pioneering explorer and archaeologist
  • Grave goods from Saft-el-Henna, excavated by Flinders Petrie in 1906
  • Brightly-coloured pieces of Coptic textiles, excavated by Rev. Greville Chester

Mesopotamian archaeology

RAMM’s collection of archaeology from Mesopotamia is small but contains some fascinating objects. These include a marble inscription from the royal site at Nineveh, the world’s earliest form of writing is preserved on our cuneiform tablets, and cylinder seals show images of gods and mythical scenes. Why not explore this collection online? Delve into Ancient Mesopotamia on our Collections Explorer website.

Corkill collection

The museum’s Mesopotamian collection is largely based on the collection of one man, Dr Norman Lace Corkill. He worked as a doctor in Iraq, the Sudan and Saudi Arabia. While in Iraq he met the famous archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife Agatha Christie, and this meeting developed his interest in archaeology. Dr Corkill gave his collection of Sumerian and Sudanese antiquities to RAMM in 1961.

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