Encyclopaedia of  Wondrous Objects

Your daily dose of awe and wonder from our encyclopaedic collection of over 4.5 million objects

Glass Lens from Hawara


1. This convex glass lens from Egypt is around 2,0000 years old. It is only 5.3cm in diameter but it is a remarkable testament to a technology we think of as modern.



2. This simple object was found by Egyptian workers during excavations directed by archaeologist Flinders Petrie at the site of Hawara in the late 1880s, alongside mummies covered in gold and with striking painted portraits. It is made from perfectly clear, man-made glass, and dates to the first centuries CE.



3. Petrie suggested that it could be used as a 'bulls-eye', to direct and concentrate light on a point, perhaps to start a fire. But it could also magnify surfaces, such as writing on papyrus sheets - well over 1000 years before it was assumed this technique was discovered.



4. This object is one of 107 Manchester Museum currently on tour in the United States as part of our 'Golden Mummies of Egypt' exhibition. 




5. And for more about Egypt and Sudan, don't forget to tune in to Egyptology in Lockdown LIVE on Periscope at 3pm today with Curator Campbell Price, @EgyptMcr on twitter.