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Ancient Egyptian Frogs

Yesterday we had a very special visitor: Joy Kramler. Joy is a Curatorial Assistant at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, and she was visiting us especially to meet some of our curators and to witness for herself our wonderful new ‘Ancient Worlds’ Gallery. It was a real pleasure to meet her, and to also discover that apart from Egyptian art she has another very special interest – Frogs! It turns out that Joy loves frogs, keeps frogs in vivaria at home, and actually focused the research for her Masters Degree especially on the origin and development of Egyptian frog amulets and figures. She had a wealth of interesting related stories to tell…

Apparently, the image of the frog was a most powerful symbol for the ancient Egyptians, and in amulet-form it even pre-dates the scarab beetle, that quintessential Egyptian symbol, by over 1,500 years. Basically, frog amulets were one of the very first amulets to appear in ancient Egypt – before there were even kings! One early ceramic vessel found, which depicts a deceased person in a boat, actually has a frog represented at one end of it  –  it dates to 3,500 BC. Associated with resurrection, the frog as a symbol was also later used by Egyptian Christians on frog lamps, and were also probably one of the last amulets to be made by Romans, therefore spanning over 4000 years of Egyptian history.

Within our Egyptology collections we have several ancient Egyptian frog amulets and artistic Egyptian pieces relating to frogs. Some are included on colourful bracelets and necklaces, others feature as motifs on other significant ancient artefacts. Such frog symbols, which span the ages, also feature on several pieces now included in our fabulous Ancient Worlds.

If you haven’t heard of ‘Ancient Worlds’  at the Manchester Museum then you’re in for a real treat when you next visit, for the transformation of the galleries is just incredible. The combined 3 new galleries highlight our collections from Manchester and the region, and from ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome and Egypt.

Ancient Worlds showcases the best of our outstanding archaeology collections and also reveals the people behind the objects: who made them, who used them, who lost and re-discovered them, who collected, classified and interpreted them. I highly recommend a visit to experience the new galleries for yourself.

Joy appeared to really enjoy Ancient Worlds, and also seeing our live frogs during a tour of the Vivarium. During her visit she met with Campbell Price, our Curator of Egypt and the Sudan, and below you can watch how Campbell and Joy share their interest, over an Egyptian bronze model offering table dating back to approximately 650 BC. Campbell is an extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable senior curator here. To find out more about our Egyptian collection and Campbell’s fascinating work please check out his superb blog at:  Egypt Manchester 


Ancient Worlds         National Gallery of Victoria        Manchester Museum: Egypt

Light for life

Striving to provide the best possible conditions for captive reptiles and amphibians means us continually working towards meeting the animal’s full natural requirements, it has to be paramount. Although much time and effort can be spent on providing the right heating, food supplements, enclosure design and furnishings, it is clear that for these creatures to live healthy lives indoors they also require a sufficient level of ultraviolet light. Providing the correct lighting should be seen as one of the most important things we can provide in supporting reptiles and amphibians in captivity – and not for just keeping them alive, but creating exactly the right conditions for them to thrive, breed, and remain healthy throughout their full lifetime.

Yesterday we welcomed a visit from John Courtney-Smith from Arcadia Lighting (pictured) to Manchester Museum, and what a wonderful experience it was to meet him, show him our collection, and chat with him about specific animal lighting requirements. John is a super nice guy and it was very clear he has a wealth of experience and specialist lighting knowledge to share. What was also evident was that a care for the animals is very much a main focus for him and Arcadia. John made the journey from London to visit us in Manchester particularly to discuss ways in which he and Arcadia support some of our amphibian conservation work.

It was music to my ears to hear Arcadia is investing such interest, time and money on researching the exact needs of the animals to bring real improvements to their health and well-being: The company are committed to incorporating the latest scientific research in order provide uncomparable lighting for the benefit of captive birds, fish, reptiles, and also amphibians. As such, The Manchester Museum is proud to be working with this company and extremely grateful for their interest and support with some of the amphibian conservation work we have initiated. One such project is the Lemur Frog Project, which focuses on conserving one of the world’s most Critically Endangered species: Lemur Frog.org

Lemur Leaf Frog (c) Chris Mattison

One of the new lights Arcadia has developed that John brought to show us was particularly impressive: a special high output T5 lamp that provides a superb and safe UV source. These are a lot more energy efficient that some of the T8 lights we currently use and  they typically emit 3-4 times more visible light (including safe UVA and UVB wavelengths). This represents a massive leap forward in what we can now provide to our animals.

We waisted no time at all in installing one of the new T5 lights over our Madagascar display – and this morning our Panther Chameleon was sunbathing right beneath it in full colourful glory! Matching the output of the lamps to the species concerned, whether it be diurnal or nocturnal, appears to be most important also, particularly with the light-sensitive eyes of many of our amphibians. It seems light and UV exposure requirements between species are highly variable, but obviously all need to have sufficient to allow for providing the production of enough D3. For example, it makes sense that some animals with thicker skin or heavier scale protection will need more exposure to UV, whereas others with thinner skin may need considerably less exposure rates. Even many nocturnal species require a certain amount of UV as its almost sure they will get some exposure during daytime.

Our Panther Chameleon maintained under Arcadia lighting (c) Andrew Gray. Specimen courtesy of Chameloco.co.uk

The other very important thing to consider when exposing any animal to UV is to provide them with a choice, and provide shade – that way the animal can then do exactly what it was designed to do which is thermoregulate and adjust its own UV exposure.


There is still much to learn about providing the correct lighting for different animals, but with people like John committed to focusing on exactly this, and companies like Arcadia dedicated to providing such high quality related equipment, there really is little excuse for anyone denying captive animals their fundamental natural requirements.


Xaali writes:

Ali puncha! (Kichwa for good morning!)

Me with teeny lizard!

My name’s Xaali O’Reilly – or “Ali Sara”, if you live in San José de Payamino –, I’m a zoology undergraduate from the University of Manchester and a former Manchester Museum Vivarium volunteer. Although I’m sorry to be missing all the excitement in the Vivarium, this year I’m taking a break from cleaning tropical frog tanks to live alongside them in their natural habitat. 

Blue-winged Tanager, Ecuador (c) Xaali O’Reilly

Currently I am on placement in the Ecuadorian Amazon, working as Communications Officer for the Timburi Cocha Scientific Research Station, Payamino, while climbing trees to study bromeliads and setting camera traps to monitor mammals. Other activities include footie with the people of San José de Payamino, running through the jungle, canoeing up the river, learning Kichwa, and sampling the fruits and fried delights of Ecuador. And making jam (somethings, not even the jungle can change…).

Phyllomedusa vaillanti (c) Xaali O’Reilly

Payamino is smackbang in the middle of one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. Although I am not studying them specifically, thus far I’ve encountered an array of individuals of some of my favourite animal groups: adorable reptiles, stunning spiders, and incredible frogs..



I shan’t ramble on any further, but if you’d like to know more about what I do and my work in Payamino, feel free to have a gander at my blog: tambarikosy.blogspot.com

Payamino.org      Payamino Project Research      Support the Payamino Project  

Piper Hill High

This is a short note for all the students who visited from Piper Hill High School last week as part of the sensory workshop, just to say how much I enjoyed meeting you all and supporting your visit. The workshop was organised by Sophia Warhurst, and also involved 2 artists, Nicola Smith and Jessica Longmore, as part of The Chinese Art Centre’s Start Education Programme. It was a real pleasure for me to be a part of and I hope to see you all back again at the Manchester Museum very soon!


Chinese Arts Centre 

Piper Hill School

Special sessions