Julie Dawson is the former Head of Conservation and Scientific Research at the Fitzwilliam Museum (retired May 2021) and was co-lead with Helen Strudwick on the Egyptian Coffins Project from 2014. She is an archaeological conservator with particular interests in the technology and conservation of ancient Egyptian material. In addition to her role at the Fitzwilliam, she has worked in Egypt, in the tomb of Senneferi (TT99) at Luxor with Helen and Nigel Strudwick (1993-2001) and, from 2007, as co-leader of the coffin conservation project at Amarna. Julie’s focus in the Fitzwilliam’s project is construction and decoration techniques, reuse and recycling of materials to make new coffins and the investigation through computed tomography (CT) and microCT scanning.
In 2021 Julie was awarded a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship for two years to continue her research on Egyptian coffins and she is now an Affiliated Researcher at the Fitzwilliam. This is enabling Julie’s continued contribution to the project as a whole, enhancing the online resource, as well as following up on two distinct research strands that help open up our understanding of Egyptian society, economy and religion:
Studies of coffin reuse (including our own) have concentrated on the late-20th to 21st Dynasty (1090–945 BCE). However, the project has shown that the phenomenon is more widespread. Julie will complete investigation of the original technology and physical evidence of recycling of the Museum’s Middle Kingdom (c.2010–1650 BCE) coffins. This work aims to place coffins more precisely in the social, cultural and religious contexts of this period and will contribute to developing related study of reuse of funerary and non-funerary material culture at all periods of Egyptian history.
Cartonnage is a free-standing moulded material, made of layers of linen, glue and plaster, that was in use in Egypt from at least the Middle Kingdom. The project has shown that a complex structure overlying a 7th century BCE coffin in the collection resembles a ‘true’ cartonnage mummy case of the Third Intermediate Period (1070–735 BCE) but moulded onto a wooden carcass. Numerous variants of this previously unstudied phenomenon have now been observed in other collections. This strand of work will investigate further the technological development and properties of cartonnage and this ‘pseudo-cartonnage’. By establishing a framework of production and use, these materials can be contrasted, enabling evaluation of constructional function as well as religious/social significance.
+H. Strudwick, J. Dawson, J. Marchant, E. Geldhof and C. Hunkeler. Forthcoming ‘Complex layered structures on ‘bivalve’ coffins’. In Proceedings of the Second Vatican Conference 6–9 June 2017. Città del Vaticano: Edizioni Musei Vaticani
+J. Dawson, T. Turmezei, G. Killen and H. Strudwick. (2022) ’Revealing Interiors: CT scanning and microCT scanning of wooden coffins’. In Proceedings of the first international conference for Science of Ancient Egyptian materials and technology (SAEMT), Cairo 4-6 November 2017. Cairo: IFAO, 35–47
+T. Emmett, E. Geldhof and J. Dawson. (2022) ‘A Practical Method for the manufacture of Egyptian Blue for use in the creation of low relief decorations on Third Intermediate Period Coffins.’ In Proceedings of the first international conference for Science of Ancient Egyptian materials and technology (SAEMT), Cairo 4-6 November 2017. Cairo: IFAO, 49–58
+M. Pitkin, H. Strudwick, J. Dawson and S. Hany Abed. (2021) ‘Engaging audiences in areas of low cultural provision: the concept of the ‘Pop-up’ museum experience, CIPEG Journal, 4 https://doi.org/10.11588/cipeg.2020.4.83936
+J. Dawson, and T. Turmezei. (2021) ‘Re-cut, re-fashioned, re-used: CT scanning and the complex inner coffin of Nespawershefyt’. In R. Sousa, A. Amenta, K.M. Cooney (eds.), Bab El-Gasus in Context: Rediscovering the Tomb of the Priests of Amun. Rome: L’erma di Bretschneider, 485–510
+J. Dawson. (2018). How to make an Egyptian coffin: the construction and decoration of Nespawershefyt’s coffin set. Cambridge: Fitzwilliam Museum. (Republished in Arabic (translated by Sara Hanay Abed) in 2019)
+H. Strudwick and J. Dawson (eds.). (2018). Ancient Egyptian Coffins: past, present, future. Oxford: Oxbow Books
L. Skinner, J. Dawson and A. Bettum. (2018). ‘Amarna Coffins Project’. In A. Stevens (et al.), ‘Tell el-Amarna, Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 104, 2, 138-139
+L. Skinner and J. Dawson. 2017. ‘The coffins of Nespawershefyt in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: Technology and conservation’. In Proceedings of the First Vatican Coffin Conference: 19–22 June 2013, Città del Vaticano: Edizioni Musei Vaticani, 582–3
+H. Strudwick and J. Dawson (eds.). (2016). Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt, London: D Giles Ltd
*J. Dawson, J. Marchant and E. von Aderkas (with contributions from C.R. Cartwright and R. Stacey). (2016). ‘Egyptian coffins: Materials, Construction and Decoration’. In H. Strudwick, and J. Dawson (eds.), Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt, London: D Giles Ltd, 75–111.
+H. Strudwick and J. Dawson. (2016). ‘Catalogue’. In H. Strudwick and J. Dawson (eds.) Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt. London: D Giles Ltd, 113–254.
J. Dawson. (2016). ‘Conservation of the shroud of Senneferi’. In N. Strudwick (ed.) The Tomb of Pharaoh’s Chancellor Senneferi at Thebes (TT99) vol. I: The New Kingdom, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 179
J. Dawson and L. Skinner, (2014) ‘Conservation of wooden coffins and three hairstyles from the South Tombs Cemetery’. In B. Kemp, ‘Tell el-Amarna, 2014’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 100, 21-22
J. Dawson and L. Skinner, (2013) ‘Conservation of the wooden coffins (2012 and 2013). In B. Kemp, ‘Tell el-Amarna, 2012–2013’, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 99, 14-16.
J. Dawson and T.F. Emmett. (2012). ‘Plaguey things’: the history and technical examination of two ‘Etruscan’ bronze statuettes in the Fitzwilliam Museum’, Journal of the History of Collections, 24, no. 3, 379-398 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhr049
+J. Dawson, C. Rozeik and M. M. Wright (eds.). (2010). Decorated Surfaces on Ancient Egyptian Materials: Technology, Deterioration and Conservation, London: Archetype Publications
C. Rozeik, J. Dawson, and L. Wrapson. (2010). ‘Are Attic Vases ‘archaeological’? in C. Rozeik, A. Roy and D. Saunders (eds.), Conservation and the Eastern Mediterranean: Contributions to the Istanbul Congress, 20–24 September 2010. London: International Institute for Conservation of Historic Works, 24-29
J. Dawson and S. Rowe. (2010) ‘External supports and coffin trees: experiences in conserving and displaying ancient Egyptian coffins at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge’ poster in C. Rozeik, A. Roy and D. Saunders (eds.), Conservation and the Eastern Mediterranean: Contributions to the 2010 IIC Congress, Istanbul, IIC, London, 2010, 282
J. Dawson and H. Strudwick, (2009) ‘A close-up look: ‘Meet the Antiquities’ in the Fitzwilliam Museum’ in proceedings of the conference Cultural encounters and explorations: Conservation’s ‘Catch 22’. What’s the Damage? Physical Encounters: Increased Benefit or Increased Risk? at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/conservation-c-22/conference
L.M. Burn and J. Dawson. (2009) ‘Redisplaying Greece and Rome at the Fitzwilliam Museum’, Minerva, Vol. 20
J. Dawson. (2006) ‘Conserving Ancient Egypt in Cambridge: the Fitzwilliam’s gallery refurbishment, technical investigation and conservation programme’, Institute for Conservation News, Issue 7, 30-34
J. Dawson. (2006) ‘Medical vacuum cushions – providing total support for large objects’, Institute of Conservation News, Issue 4, 46-7
J. Dawson. (2003). ‘Conservation in the Tombs of the Nobles: aspects of the past, issues for the present’, In N. Strudwick and J. Taylor (eds.), The Theban Necropolis: Past, Present and Future (Proceedings of the conference held at the British Museum in July 2000). London: British Museum Press, 210-217
J. Dawson. (2003). ‘Taking care of Sennefri: the conservation of Theban Tomb 99’ in Z. Hawass and L. Pinch Brock (eds.), Egyptology at the dawn of the twenty-first century (Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists Cairo, 2000). Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, Vol. 3, 157-165
J. Dawson. (1993) ‘New treatments for old? Conservation problems in the Fitzwilliam Museum’, Minerva, Vol. 4, 4, 19-22
J. Dawson. (1988) ‘Ulick Evans and the treatment of bronze disease in the Fitzwilliam Museum 1948-1980’ in Early Advances in Conservation. London: British Museum Occasional Paper No.65, 71-80
J. Dawson. (1988) ‘Conservation for Pharaohs and Mortals’ in S. Watkins and C. Brown (eds.), Conservation of Ancient Egyptian Materials, London: UKIC, 101-106
The Fitzwilliam MuseumRead full bio