A couple in Cornwall contacted the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
regarding a broken pot in their garage, after seeing a television documentary.
Watching The Man Who Discovered Egypt, about pioneering archaeologist Flinders Petrie, they were reminded of a small black-topped vessel, around 15cm high and complete with a yellowing label, which had been forgotten about for years.
Curator Alice Stevenson was then able to match the number 1754, visible on the base of the pot and the label, to grave records from Petries excavations in Naqada during the 1890s, now held in the museums archives.
The pot had previously belonged to the finders grandfather, a taxi driver in the High Wickham area in the 1950s, and is believed to have been offered as payment by a mystery passenger, in place of the standard fare.
Petrie Curator Alice Stevenson said: We dont know what the pot was originally used for but it may have had a different function in daily life, such as holding a liquid like beer, before being re-used as a tomb offering.
Petries discoveries were widely distributed to museums across Europe and the US but some items found their way into private hands. The fact that effort was put into printing and designing a label suggests that this was not a one off, so its possible that many other artefacts from prehistoric Egypt might be unknowingly concealed in garages, cupboards and attics.
The pot is particularly significant as it marks the discovery of a new era in Egyptology not really known about at the time of excavation. The unusual nature of such pots such as this one, led Petrie to be the first to define the Predynastic Egyptian era, the period before the pharaohs.
The pot is now being conserved by the museum and will go on display with other objects from the same grave as part of the Festival of Pots, an exhibition and public events programme celebrating the 25 years of the Friends of the Petrie Museum, 20 May-14 June.