Lost Collections of the Ancient World

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From: The London Free Press, Friday March 31, 1950


Gifts of pottery fragments, bone and leather, dating back to the first and second centuries A.D. have been received by University of Western Ontario Museum from London, England. 

Wilfrid Jury, curator of the museum recently sent a gift of Indian tools, arrow heads, skinning stones and knives to a group interested in Indian archaeology in England, with G.O. Knight of London. When Mr. Knight returned he brought the Roman articles with him.

Exchange of the gifts creates a link between the stone age of the Wyandot (Hurons) and the Attawandaron tribes of Ontario and the bronze age of the Romans. 

Saw the Relics Excavated

Mr. Knight actually saw some of the relics excavated from a bomb crater at the site of Salter's Hall Court on Walbrook, in east Central London. 

Arcaeologists worked in a race with builders who wished to fill the crater and rebuild on the site.  Many discoveries have been made in London where bombs laid bare ancient ruins. 

Among the spicimens now at the U.W.O. Museum are several fragments of glazed and coarse pottery which are patterned after the style of Greek pottery of the island of Samos. The fragments bear inscriptions showing the Egyptian influence. 

From Potter's Wheel 

A variety of handles, bases, spouts and necks of jars and other vessels are included.  Two or Three small pieces of bone are believed to be from the skulls of horses. 

The pottery bears proof that it was on a potter's wheel, whereas Indians moulded their pottery. Some of it is Belgic ware from Northeast France and is a coarser type than the Samianware. 

Roman Show Pieces

Pieces of leather dating to the first or second centuries are parts of a buskin-type shoe which differs from the Roman sandal as worn in Italy. the buskin shoe is Roman, but adapted for the damper climate of Britain. The sole is thin and it is apparent the wearer did not do much walking. The leather is remarkably well preserved, due to the fact that as soon as it was uncovered it was immersed in warm oil. 

Although Mr. Knight was in London less thank two weeks, he provided a link of courtesy between the two archaeological groups. 

Photo caption: Roman pottery, bone fragments and leather from a bomb crater in Old London, have found their way to the University of Western Ontario. Wilfrid Jury, curator of the museum, sent a gift of Indian tools, arrow heads and skinning knives to a group interested in archaeology, in ngland and received the 1,900-year-old pottery in return. 

Above, at left of the picture is a fine example of glazed pottery called Samian ware. In the Centre is a jug and handle of Belgic ware and at right part of a shoe believed worn by a Roman about A.D. 120. The relics were found at Salter's Hall Court on Walbrook, in East-Central London. 

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Archived Newspaper Articles

(London Ontario) relating to the collections:

London Free Press,
Wednesday February 15, 1933

Ur Antiquities Arrive in City

Gift From The British Museum To Local University Are Rare Collection Reported Only One of Kind in Dominion

Mementoes of the world’s oldest civilization presented to one of the youngest of the [continent’s] universities as a gift of the British Museum have arrived in the city for permanent possession of the University of Western Ontario.

Sent from Mesopotamia, the box which contains antiquities from Ur, the home of Abraham, was shipped by the Office of the Canadian High Commissioner Hon. G. Howard Ferguson.

The invoice of the articles includes the information that the cockle shells which were vanity cases in the long dead centuries, pieces of painted pottery from several eras in the history of Ur, metal utensils and other specimens of great museum value, are included in the gift. It is likely that the box will be opened for official inspection tomorrow and some place made available for the display of the collection, which is claimed the only one of its kind in any Canadian University.

The University of Western Gazette, February 17th, 1933

Ur Antiquities Received at “U"

Gift Here From Mesopotamia With Many Fine Articles For Display

The University of Western Ontario received a gift of Ur antiquities from the British Museum yesterday. The box, which was sent from Mesopotamia, was forwarded by the Canadian High Commissioner, Hon. G. Howard Ferguson, and the antiquities have now come into the permanent possession of this university. At the present time a suitable place for the display of the collection is being sought and it is quite likely that it will be publicly exhibited sometime in the near future.

The invoice for the box includes the information that such rare antiquities as cockle shells which were vanity cases in the long-dead centuries, pieces of painted and plain pottery, metal utensils and other articles which any museum would be proud to have, are included in the list. This collection is said to be the only one of its kind in the Dominion and this university, which is Canada’s youngest, should be justly proud of the great fortune which has befallen it.

London Free Press,
Friday February 17, 1933

Gifts of Ancient Periods Arrive

Articles 35 Centuries Old Are Brought from British Museum To University Here


Specimens Will Probably Be Put In Cases For Study By Interested Public.

From a big wooden box splashed with labels and tags and sealed in a city that was old when Noah built the ark, officials of the University of Western Ontario today carefully and with ceremony removed pieces from the collection of antiquities unsurpassed in Canada for their archeological and historical value. While a camera clicked and interested graduates oh’d and ah’d pottery and metal utensils, queer colored implements, fantastically shaped figures of old gods forgotten in the 35 centuries which have passed since their burial in the home of Abraham were taken from paper and excelsior wrapping to be surveyed.

President W. Sherwood Fox, Col. J. Brown, Arthur Culham of Toronto and Prof. Fred Landon were present to study the gift from the British Museum under whose auspices C. Leonard Woolley conducted his excavations shortly after close of the war and which he is continuing.

No one article in the collection, which includes curios from 10 periods in the history of Ur of Chaldees, seemed at first cursory examination to be more valuable than the rest. At present time no attempt is being made to label specimens which will probably be put in case for public study.


The Flood Period which offers to historians a definite proof of a great flood is represented by flint implements and shreds of painted pottery. Something like the arrowheads of the weapons used by the North American Indians. The flint heads of different sizes and shapes were probably battle axes whose handles have worn away into thin dust by the centuries which have passed. Sharp edges some of there, of dull and sturdy as a modern hammer head, they offer silent reminder of the wars and struggles that took place in the first civilization of the world.

Fifteen beautifully shaped cockle shells, with stains of green, dull red, brown or a plain white finish, prove that the women of the days of the Patriarchs were as feminine as the women of today who seek to beautify their natural gifts. For these cockle shells were the vanity cases of the women of Ur; they contained the cosmetics for the women who laughed and lived and loved when Babylon was a dream.

A large portion of the entire collection includes rare pottery vases and vessels. Urn-shaped and flat, tall and slender, squatty and shell-shaped there pots were apparently turned on a slow moving wheel. For time although it thinned their walls, did not erase evident machine marks.


Copper which the air has coated with bluish compounds and bronze tools represent the cemetery period which also contributes to a gorgeous stone dish, of dull lapis-lazuli shade.

Like tiny dolls buried for years the quaint figurines. Some are shaped like miniature sphinxes, remarkably well preserved so that expression in the eyes is easily discernible. Others are like mummified old men with pointed beards or women with huge coiffures, and decidedly flat noses. These figurines of terra cotta are about three inches long, of gray colour.

Animals whose species is purely mythological in the present day are perpetuated in the tiny statues hand modeled in the pre-cemetery period. Bits crockery with brown and black painted designs are included in the gift. The figures are form the Larsa periods when scribes took matters into their own hands and studied the meaning of signs in the demi-gods and of the flood.

These antiquities old when King Tut was buried, are the first to be received by the local college and come as a result of a visit paid some time ago to London by Woolley, the eminent archeologist.

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The University of Western Gazette, February 21st, 1933

Gasps of Astonishment Greet Opening of Box with Ur Relics

Great was the excitement among the handful of spectators when, on Friday, President W. Sherwood Fox opened the large wooden box, containing the Ur antiquities, a gift of the British Museum to the University of Western Ontario. As the box yielded up its treasure piece by piece, gasps of astonishment and admiration arose, and the excitement increased each time the paper and excelsior wrappings disclosed a new wonder from the valley of the Euphrates

Dr. Fox, Col. W.J. Brown, Arthur Culhan and Professor Fred Landon were present to witness the unpacking of the specimens of Sumerian civilization.

Oldest Pieces

The oldest pieces were flint axe-heads and arrowheads and sherds of painted pottery of the Al’Ubaid type (Flood period). The Flood period is dated about 5000 B.C. Al’Ubaid was a settlement near Ur. Ur is situated on the Euphrates river about a 100 miles from its junction with the Tigris. In the Al’Ubaid period, copper was known, but was still a luxury, and for most purposes stone was still used. Al’Ubaid flourished long before the semi-historic age of Ur and Kish. Kish was another settlement about 175 miles north of Ur.

Pottery Vessels

Next were revealed beautiful pottery vessels of all shapes and sizes. Fat and squat, tall and slender, with spouts and without spouts, painted and unpainted, these vases were moulded chiefly by hand.

More rarely were they turned on a slow moving wheel, the tournette.

Western is very fortunate in having a specimen which clearly shows the circular tool-marks of the wheel-turned vessel. These vases vary in age from 2000 to 6000 years. Each one is marked according to the period when its type was most prevalent. Each of the following eight periods is represented: Archaic (pre-Royal cemetery), Royal Cemetery, c. 3500-c. 3000 B.C.; Sargonid c. 2872 – c. 2500 B.C.; 111rd Dynasty of Ur, c. 2474-c. 2000 B.C.; Larsa c.2167 - c.1800 B.C.; Kassite, c.1746 – c.1000 B.C.; Neo-Babylonian, c.1000 – c.538 B.C., and the Persian Period, which began in 538 B.C. and ended when the Persian Empire was overthrown in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great.

Bronze and Copper

A further digging down into the treasure chest revealed bronze and copper tools and weapons, and stone vases, all of the Royal Cemetery Period; terra-cotta figurines of men and women, which may have been gods or toys, chiefly of the Larsa Period; some hand-modeled animal figurines of the Pre-Royal Cemetery age, one of which looks like a dog, another to a remarkable degree like the head of the famous Egyptian sphinx, and over a dozen cockle-shells,which were used by the women of the Royal Cemetery Period to hold their cosmetics.

These products of ancient Sumerian civilization, which was old when Greece was founded, have been awaited with eager expectancy. They were donated to Western as a result of a visit paid some time ago to London by C. Leonard Woolley, the eminent archaeologist, whose work in Mesopotamia, done under the auspices of the British Museum, has greatly increased our knowledge of ancient peoples.

If expected donations from interested citizens are large enough to buy suitable showcases, Dr. Fox informed the Gazette, the antiquities will be displayed as soon as the cases are purchased.

From: London Free Press, February 22, 1933




University Having No Fit Place To Display Valuable Collection

Repacks Articles In Big Wooden Boxes

Buried for centuries while the world forgot the civilization which created them, the antiquities of Ur, presented to Western by the British Museum, have been resurrected only to be re-buried, for a short time at least, in a university thousands of miles from their origin.

Specimens of Ghaldean culture as old as the stories recounted in Genesis, were received at Western this week and carefully unpacked for study and investigation by university officials.  Undergraduates were privileged to view the figurines, the bronze tools of battle implement, the stone and pottery utensils.  But because there is no place available at the present time the majority of the collection has been returned to the new wooden box which contained the specimens in their journey from Mesopotamia to this city.

University officials stated today that it will require many hours of work to correctly label each individual piece.  However, steps will be taken to provide suitable cases for the public display of a collection unequalled in any Canadian university or college.


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