Bootle woman's spirit symbol of death in Ancient Egypt revealed for first time in 40 years

By Ben Miller | 23 October 2014

Spirit bird of the dead headlines Egyptology collection heading back as far as 3,000 BC

Click on the picture to launch a gallery of Egyptology

A brightly-coloured feathered bird with a human head, hidden from public view for 40 years having been collected in ancient Egypt by a mysterious Merseyside woman with links to Everton FC, has gone back on display in Southport as part of a haunting 1,000-piece collection.

Paddle Doll © Jo Backhouse
Wooden ba-birds were placed on top of coffins or shrines in 19th century Egypt, allowing the spirits of the dead to gain mobility.

“He looks a bit like a budgie with big feet,” says Jo Chamberlain, of The Atkinson, where the bird has gone on show as part of the Goodison Collection, which has been in storage since the closure of the Bootle Free Museum and Art Gallery in 1974.

“Our specimen is unfortunately missing part of one of his wings, but he’s no comedy character.

“The ba-bird had a very important job and was responsible for looking after what made you ‘you’.

“He could leave the coffin and then return, acting as a spiritual messenger and bringing the deceased sustenance.”

Anne Goodison, an adventurer more than a century ago, kept the collection in a museum room at the beach front home she shared with her husband near Cosby.

Born Anne Padley in West Derby in 1845, she was 22 when she married George, a civil engineer and landowner who curators say had “no interest” in the artefacts, selling them after his wife’s death in 1906.

A mummy mask© Courtesy The Atkinson
No pictures exist of Mrs Goodison, but George – who has the immortal honour of having Everton’s Goodison Park home named after him – found a willing buyer in a local man called Mr T Davies. The benefactor gifted the extensive haul of exhibits to the museum in Bootle.

The ba-bird acts as a chirpy guide and motif around the Atkinson’s enthralling-looking new Egyptology gallery, exploring life in ancient Egypt around the themes of ritual, everyday life, beauty and communication.

Visitors can try on clothes and wigs, receive hair treatments from the era, sample perfumes and weigh human hearts to discover the virtuousness of their former owners.

Pottery, amulets, figurines, jewellery, shoes, children’s toys and moulds will also be highlighted in a revolving display showcasing around 200 items at a time.

  • Open 10am-5pm (8pm Thursday, 11am-4pm Sunday). Admission free. Follow The Atkinson on Twitter @AtkinsonThe.

Gallery images courtesy The Atkinson.

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Bird is not missing part of wing! It's one of a pair, placed on each side of the mummy, the longer wing laid accross it
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