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Triumph, Protection and Dreams: East African Headrests in Context

This online exhibition focuses on a collection of ancient Egyptian headrests in the Fitzwilliam Museum. We aim here to offer visual evidence for the extraordinary diversity of the headrest in African cultures and to raise questions with regard to continuity, development and change, rather than to present a single social theory to explain the continued use of this iconic object over a period of almost 5,000 years.

In addition to showing material from an ancient African culture, the exhibition includes a selection of more recent headrests, dating to the first half of the twentieth century, from other East African cultures, now in private collections. The later headrests have the same functions as, and sometimes even similar forms to, the examples from ancient Egypt, which raises the question of whether there is continuity of use across time and cultures.

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