Dreams of Amarna – a Crest for the dig

Mary Chubb recounts in “Nefertiti Lived Here” that on the first evening that they were at Amarna, John Pendlebury doodled a coat of arms for the dig. She tells us that he had something of an enthusiasm for the medieval period, and when I was a teenager I was rather a heraldry enthusiast myself, so that little story struck a real chord.

The key elements in a coat of arms are the shield, the crest, and the motto.

Doodled Crest

Doodled Crest

The crest was a Gufti’s head. The Guftis were expert excavators and overseers, people from a particular village, originally trained in excavation techniques by Flinders Petrie, who passed on the knowledge and the career from father to son. As I discovered in the BBC4 programme about Petrie, “The Man Who Discovered Egypt“, the Guftis are still in demand in Egyptian archaeology today, which is very good to know.

The motto – suggested by Mary herself – is “Infra Dig”, which I take as a very bad pun. They’ll be digging below the surface, of course, but the term would more usually be taken to mean something like “Beneath Our Dignity”.

On the shield, first and third quarterly, Pendlebury placed crossed touriehs. The tourieh was a sort of mattock, used to pull back the sand  into a basket propped up against the digger’s legs. Second and fourth quarterly, he placed a basket.

Eventually I intend to stitch the crest design in couched gold onto one of the dark teal corner panels. As it is such a simple design it would be a good one to do while I’m planning something else, but unfortunately I’ve not quite worked out what size I want it to be!

I’ve prepared my sketch using drawing apps on my tablet, and I’m really quite pleased with the result. Although I have moments in watercolour that are really successful, I’m not as good with line as with form, and the Gufti’s head, drawn from one of the photos the Egypt Exploration Society provided, turned out much better than I expected!


  1. Janice says:

    Little by little, this is all falling into place, isn’t it. Your crest has turned out really well. I agree – the head is particularly good.

  2. Lady Fi says:

    That is a bad pun, isn’t it? I like your sketch.

  3. Penny says:

    I can imagine it all stitched in gold — this will be a wonderful example of your skills – from the drawing to the stitchery. Thanks for the story behind this crest.

  4. coral-seas says:

    The things you learn on textile blogs 🙂

    I’m really impressed that you drew that on a tablet and can imagine it in goldwork.

  5. Carolyn says:

    That is going to look good. And beware of drawing on your tablet. I have found that I LOVE the precision I can achieve and now turn to the tablet first before the pencil and paint. I’m not sure that is a good thing.

  6. I am most impressed with your sketch – way beyond my capabilities. It has started me thinking about creating my own coat of arms …… perhaps with scissors, rotary cutter, bolt of fabic?

  7. Megan Hodges says:

    Great terrible pun. Looking forward to seeing the Crest in the ‘flesh’.

  8. karen says:

    Gold? I love when you work in Gold because you do it so beautifully

  9. That IS a dreadful pun! Brilliant, though. 🙂 And I’ve always loved heraldry.

  10. cathy daniel says:

    Your sketch is really effective and am sure you will make a lovely job of the stitching – as you always do. Its always best to keep preliminary sketches, etc as simple and straight forward as possible – over-complicating it just makes your task that much more difficult. xCathy