Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Life and Death in Ancient Egypt

http://tinyurl.com/llop5 (The Courier-Mail)
"The Queensland Museum launched its show Life and Death in Ancient Egypt yesterday, cashing in on the enduring fascination with Egyptian mummies.It follows the story of Keku, a rich young woman who died in Thebes 2700 years ago. It took about 70 days to prepare her body for the afterlife, and every step of the way, from mummification to the spells adorning her sarcophagi, was aimed at helping her transition through the treacherous underworld to the afterlife. . . . The show features a mummified head, feet and hand, animal remains, amulets, spells and detailed papyrus funerary texts from the Book of the Dead (rules for the afterlife), jewellery and extravagantly decorated sarcophagi. Keku lived a well-to-do life about 660BC and was in her early 20s when she died, most likely from disease."
See the above web page for the full story.

Identifying the Hyksos

Georgeos Díaz-Montexano escriptólogo y egiptólogo amateur, ha conseguido identificar los nombres de los reyes hicsos como pertenecientes al grupo de lenguas y dialectos proto-griegos o micénicos. El verdadero origen étnico de los misteriosos hicsos . . . . ha sido siempre un verdadero reto para los egiptólogos. No obstante, es que los Hicsos serían pueblos semitas, fundamentalmente habitantes de la franja costeras sirio-palestina, o sea, canaanitas o proto-fenicios. . . . Díaz-Montexano ahora ha conseguido identificar con un mayor grado de aproximación los seis nombres de los reyes hicsos, y sus equivalente casi exactos se hallaban justamente en dialectos indoeuropeos proto-griegos."
Rough Translation: Georgeos Díaz-Montexano, scriptologist and amateur Egyptologist, has managed to identify that the names of the Hyksos kings belong to the same group of languages and dialects as proto-Greek or Mycenaean. The true ethnic origin of the mysterious Hyksos, . . . . has always been a real puzzle for Egyptololgists. However, long held conventional wisdom has believed that the Hyksos were Semitic, from the coastal areas of the Levant, Canaanites or proto-Phoenicians . . . . Díaz-Montexano has now managed, with improved accuracy, to identify the six names of the Hyksos kings, and their equivalents are alsmost exactly the same in Indoeuropean and proto-Greek dialects".

The full analysis of how he came to this conclusion continues in Spanish at the above website, or can be found in translation (also quite rough) at the following web address, on the General Stuff forum on the Rowley-Regis website:
And at

Short update re the St Louis Mask

"Nefer's mask was purchased by the museum in 1998 for nearly a half a million dollars, but now the Egyptian government wants it back. 'About 10 days ago, we received a letter from Dr. Zahi Hawass, who is head of the Supreme Council on Egyptian Requisition, that the mask, which is in the museum's collection, is stolen from Egypt,' says Brent Benjamin, Director of the St. Louis Art Museum. 'That's a very serious charge,' says Benjamin.Benjamin says he has sent Egyptian officials proof that the mask was carefully researched before the purchase."
For more about the mask, see the above web page

Museo Egizio, Turin

A description of the ancient Egyptian collections in the Turn museum of Egyptology, which has opened a new gallery in time for the 2006 Winter Olympics, and has one of the biggest collections outside Egypt: "Opened in 1824 in a 17th-century Jesuit building, the Museo Egizio has about 6,500 artifacts on display and more than 26,000 in storage. The massive collection was started by Bernardino Drovetti, a Turin-born French diplomat who amassed a hoard of artifacts during his time in Egypt. Later, pieces came from Italy's share in joint archaeological projects with Egyptian authorities, while the museum's latest acquisition, the rock-cut Temple of Ellesija, was donated by the African country. Most of the insight the museum offers into the daily lives of the Egyptians comes from what they left behind for their dead."

More re Wadi Gawasis

Another item covering the find made by Boston University and the University of Naples l’Orientale, who uncovered remains of sea-faring ships and cargo boxes containing goods from the lost-land of Punt, in caves at Wadi Gawasis on Egypt’s Red Sea coast: "In remarkable condition, the unique artifacts of cedar planks and decking timber – some with the mortises and tenons, and copper fastenings still in place – demonstrate that the Ancient Egyptians were excellent ship builders and provide further evidence that they reached Punt by sea. The findings may also help researchers determine the location of Punt, a long-time source of debate among scholars. In addition to the ship timber and cargo boxes, the archaeologists discovered five parallel rock-cut rooms that served as storage areas for ship equipment. 'One of the rooms contained coils of ship rope, all neatly tied and knotted – just as the sailors left them almost 4,000 years ago,' said Kathryn Bard, associate professor of archaeology at BU and co-director of the excavations. 'The view into this cave is truly astonishing.' A large stone anchor, shards of Egyptian storage jars, and a limestone tablet, or stela, of Pharaoh Amenemhat III inscribed with all five of his royal names were also found." The team will renew investigations in December. See the above page for the full story.

Andrew Sherratt - Obituary

http://tinyurl.com/jbvhz (Ancient Near East.net)
Posted with sincere regret. "British prehistorian, Andrew Sherratt, died Friday afternoon (24 Feb). Andrew had a massive heart attack, and was alone, having just parked his car, when he died. He was apparently unaware of his illness. Plans for a memorial are pending. Andrew was a student of David Clarke’s at Peterhouse College, Cambridge and the long time Assistant Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. He recently had moved to the Department of Archaeology and Prehistory at the University of Sheffield where he held the post of Professor. Andrew’s research was remarkable for its scope. He was interested in the big questions of European prehistory and he addressed them on a continental scale. He is perhaps best known for the concept of a ‘Secondary Products Revolution’, which stressed the critical social and economic transformations that accompanied the exploitation of domestic animals not for meat but for the other products that derived from livestock, such as milk, wool, and traction. Andrew directed the first international collaborative field research project in eastern Hungary and his limitless enthusiasm inspired generations of students to work in East Europe. The current blossoming of archaeological research in Hungary and Eastern Europe can trace its origins to Andrew’s pioneering efforts."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pharaonic temple discovered in Cairo

http://tinyurl.com/ejf2e (The Globe and Mail)
"Archeologists discovered a pharaonic sun temple with large statues believed to be of King Ramses II under an outdoor marketplace in Cairo, Egypt's antiquities chief said Sunday. The partially uncovered site is the largest sun temple ever found in the capital's Aim Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis — the centre of pharaonic sun worship — was located, Zahi Hawass said. Among the artifacts was a pink granite statue weighing 4 to 5 tonnes whose features 'resemble those of Ramses II,' said Dr. Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Also found was a two-metre-high statue of a seated figure with hieroglyphics that include three tablets with the name of Ramses II — and a 3-tonne head of royal statue, the council said in a statement."
See the above page for the full story and location.

Also covered by:
Yahoo! News (with thanks to Carolin Johansson for sending me the links)
The Egyptian Gazette

Climbing the pyramids

A recent update on the Go Africa section of About.com in response to an email requesting information about climbing the pyramids of Giza: "Since the 1980's the Egyptian authorities have put a stop to it. It isn't just about thousands of sweaty, climbing tourists damaging the Pyramids -- it's also downright dangerous. The Pyramids used to be covered in limestone, which has eroded over the years. The steps were never made for climbing. They're uneven, crumbling and quite large -- at least five feet high in some places. Inevitably, the fact that climbing the pyramids is forbidden doesn't stop everyone from doing it."
See the complete post at the above site.

Discovery of Djed-Khonsu-efankh (Part 3)

Third part of the story describing the discovery in Bahariya of Djed-Khonsu-ef-Ankh, the Governor of Bahariya by Zahi Hawass:

"We know about the governor Djed-Khonsu-efankh from the temples of Ain-El-Meftella where he built chapels with his brothers to the kings Apries and Ahmose II of the 26th Dynasty.
During the sixth century B.C., a power struggle between King Apries and Ahmose, the head of the Egyptian army, sent troops to the Western Desert, where he victoriously defended Egyptian interests against the Greeks and Libyans. Ahmose was crowned Ahmose II. He understood the importance of Bahariya as a gateway to Egypt from the west and protected it vigilantly.
To honour him, two temples and many chapels near Ain el-Muftella (an ancient site near El-Bawiti) were erected in his name by the second priest of Bahariya. Wahibranefer, the son of Arknakht, under the supervision of Prince Soteckh-erdies, who appears on the temple walls with a feather on his head. His grandson, Djed-Khonsu-efankh would later make addition to this temple.
These chapels were discovered in 1900 by the German scholar George Steindorff. In one of three chapels, Djed-Khonsu-efankh is shown as the second priest and the third priest of Amon.
The governor is depicted equal in size to the king, showing he is an important man and could be second to the king. The name of his father, Ped-Isis, and his brother, Shepen-Khonsu, who was also a governor of Bahariya, were also mentioned. Therefore, the whole family lived in Bahariya, and should be buried there. I never thought that the tomb of Djed-Khonsu-efankh would be found.A week after, we demolished the house of the old women, and the tombs were consolidated. I entered inside. As I entered the burial chamber, I saw a very large anthropoid sarcophagus. I shall never forget that moment..."

Parts one and two are located on the blog as follows:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Rumours and slow work at KV63

Sharon Nicols updated her blog yesterday, Saturday the 25th February, with details of some of the recent work at KV63, including how the storage vessels are going to be removed. She also mentions some of the conversations she overhears amongst the guides and the tourists at the site: "It’s been great fun to listen to what tourists and tour guides say about what we’re doing. Today, the rumor was that KV 63, the new tomb, was robbed in antiquity through a passage that had been cut from the tomb of Amenmesse (KV 10). That’s funny! I can honestly say that neither KV 10 nor KV 63 show evidence of a connecting tunnel!"
See Sharon's blog for the full post.

Digitization of Description de l’Égypte

Thanks to Geoffrey Tassie for the following news item. The preservation of the valuable collection of Description de l’Égypte has been completed by the International School of Information Science (ISIS) at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The 11 plate volumes, owned by the BA, and nine text volumes, owned by l’Institut d’Égypte, have been fully digitized, integrated on a virtual browser and are available in DVD format to the public through this pioneering endeavor. Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, stated that the importance of this project stems from this collection being considered a rich reference for researchers and scholars. He added that digitizing such a collection is an achievement toward the preservation of heritage . . . .The Description de l’Égypte DVD is available at the BA Bookshop for EGP 120."
See the full item at the above URL, but after a hunt around the biblioteca's website I couldn't find the DVD for sale online.

The background story to the creation of the Description can be found on the Tour Egypt website at:

Translating the Assassif Tomb article

Bob Wickland has moved up in my estimation from "good guy" to "all out hero" for re-translating the Italian article about the new tomb found by Francisco Tiradritti near Deir el Bahri, which tied me up in such knots. It took him an age to translate the article, so sincere thanks. Here's what Bob wrote, with his own comments in squared brackets:

Your bullet points are about right except that the article doesn't say anywhere that the tomb "contained one internment"
Here goes my attempt:
It deals with the tomb of Wahibra-neb-pehty, a priest contemporary with Harwa. It's entrance is by the east side of the entrance portico of the very monumental tomb of Harwa and the scholars had to remove a considerable quantity of debris to enter it. In the process of which they found evidence of the activities of tomb robbers. Thus came to light the wall that had sealed the tomb, in part already removed by the robbers. And beyond was a short corridor giving onto a room with diagonal walls , (one of which) uniquely formed a common wall the the earlier(constructed) well known tomb of Kheruef. Inside was the first great discovery after millennia of oblivion: the remains of a decoration [relief?,painting?,sculpture?] with the complete figure of a sacred calf and the posterior part of a bull which precede it [I think this is the key part: a bull not a cow]. A substitution of great importance for a greater understanding of the rich mythological pantheon of Ancient Egypt. In addition a preliminary analysis of the plastered ceiling of the entrance [here I'm not sure if 'soffitto dell'entrato' simply means that or more specifically what we would call the soffit of the doorway] - [painted] plaster of a curiously floral character (similar decoration is scarcely attested in the entire history of Egypt). It was possible to ascertain that the very beautiful fragment of ceiling with a lotus flower and papyrus plant found in the courtyard of the tomb of Harwa had it's origin in the new(ly found) tomb. At the end of the exploration of the entire funerary complex were found two funerary masks of painted wood. Dating from the early Ptolemaic period (IV-III centuries B.C.) and made in the "Phoenician" style (so-called because the the form of the eyes, which resemble the faces of Phoenician statues and masks) they constitute the first true examples of the passage from the classic "hieratic" mask style (used from the first dynasties) to the "anthromorphic" (style) which reproduced the appearance in life of the face of the dead exemplified by the Fayum portraits of the Greco-Roman period.

Thanks again Bob. MUCH apreciated.

New pages on Osirisnet

New from Thierry Bendereitter: "The new pages on the temple of Merenptah and its museum have benn launched in French. Jon is working hard to provide the English version. You can already have a look at the more then 100 photographs. Some of them show stunning polychrom blocks coming from the temple of Amenhotep III."

Travel: Land of the pharaohs

"Egypt is truly the land of the dawn of civilisation. Therefore, no amount of armchair reading or intelligent study, can truly substitute a visit to see the wonders of this ancient and glorious civilisation." Travel piece pulling out the main places that a visitor should make time to visit, from Cairo to Aswan and beyond.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Amenhotep III lost eye

At the bottom of one of numerous short pieces about Egypt's request for the return of the St Louis mask, was this short paragraph on the Kansas City Star website, from the Associated Press: "The Supreme Council of Antiquities said it also asked Basel Museum in Switzerland to return the left eye of a statue of king Amenhotep III, which it said was stolen from a temple in Luxor several years ago."

KV-63 and other Luxor Caches

Egyptian Gazette writer Hassan Saadallah on the subject of KV63 and the other Luxor caches.

"The recently discovered catacomb in Luxor is the first intact tomb to be discovered in over 80 years. The tomb, unearthed by an American team of archaeologists, lies very close to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, making experts wonder why the Ancient Egyptians collected so many mummies in one place, known as a catacomb.
The stunning discovery was made in Luxor's Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile. The tomb lies to the northeast of King Amounmes' tomb. A rectangular chamber cut into the mountain side, 1.3m wide and 1.95m long, the tomb contains five mummies dating back to the 18th Dynasty (1767-1320 BC), lying in wooden sarcophagi bearing coloured human faces and funerary masks. The archaeologists also found 20 sealed pots there.
Asked why the Ancient Egyptians used to gather lots of mummies in one place, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Zahi Hawass attributed this to the many robberies of mummies and their treasures in the past. 'This was because the kings had little power. They could neither protect the country nor even the mummies and tombs of their forefathers,' he explained.Much has been revealed about these robberies and the trials of the thieves from ancient papyri. Priests would wrap the mummies in their sarcophagi and rebury them in secret places, so secret in fact that so far only four have been found.
As for the other three catacombs, a senior archaeologist called Mohamed Megahed says the first was discovered in AD 1881 inside the tomb of a woman called In-Habi, south of Al-Deir Al-Bahari. This catacomb is thought to date to one of the Intermediate Period dynasties.'It was the biggest catacomb discovered in the 19th century,' adds Megahed, head of the Technical Office for Scientific Research at the SCA General Secretariat.
The catacomb contained 40 mummies, most of which were in good condition, and they are now in the Egyptian Museum. Among the mummies were those of Ahmose; Thutmose I; Thutmose II; Thutmose III; Ramses I, II, III and IV; Seti I; King Ahmose's wife, Nefertari; Sand Merit Amoun and wife of King Amenhoteb I.
It was later found that members of an influential local family had explored the catacomb three times before it was officially discovered and announced that they had royal antiquities for sale. Investigations soon led to the family and the catacomb. 'Happily, the same member of the influential family who guided the authorities to the first one, reported the second cache in January 1891. He led director of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority at the time to the cache located at the foot of the mountain near Queen Nefro's tomb, very near Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple,' Megahed explains. 'At a depth of about 35 feet, they reached the bottom of a well that took them to a hole leading to a little corridor where many wooden sarcophagi were found. The way the sarcophagi were made show they date to the 21st Dynasty. The mummies belonged to ordinary priests of the god Amoun.' The catacomb contained 153 sarcophagi, 110 funerary statues and 77 other statues, as well as eight wooden placards, a wooden bed and 16 pots containing the intestines from the mummified bodies. As for the third cache, it was also found in the Valley of the Kings in 1898, in one of the side rooms of the tomb of Amenhoteb II. It contained 13 mummies, nine of them ancient Egyptian kings, which are now all in the Egyptian Museum."

Repatriation of stolen artefacts

An article about how the Greek and Italian authorities are teaming up to tackle the repatriation of illegally traded artefacts: "Greece has joined forces with Italy in a joint attempt to locate and repatriate priceless stolen antiquities, an effort that could have serious ramifications for Europe's leading museums." Of course, the ramifications won't be confined to Europe's museums, and the status of claims of national governements seeking to repatriate artefacts may also be impacted by the Italian and Greek actions and their outcomes.

A bit more on Assassif tomb

A number of people have now asked me about the Francisco Tiradritti find of a new tomb near the excavation of the tomb of Hawra in the vicinity of Deir el Bahri. I haven't seen any new information. However, here here are some bullet points that summarize the main points of the original Italian article - or at least the bits I could piece together. I don't speak a word of Italian - after failing with the online translation engines, I've done this using my very rusty Spanish, and an Italian dictionary which doesn't really cater for Egyptology. Anyone who can provide something rather better than the following hatchett job would be very welcome indeed!!
  • The new tomb was found near the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and in the immediate vicinity of the tomb of Harwa, which is itself the focal point of a funerary complex
  • The team that found the tomb was headed by Francisco Tiradritti, in the course of excavating the tomb of Harwa who was an important official of the 25th Dynasty
  • The new tomb, which had not been explored previously by archaeologists, contained one interment
  • The tomb was robbed in antiquity
  • The tomb was behind a wall that sealed the interment, which had already been partially removed by the above-mentioned tomb robbers
  • A short corridor leads to a wall, which is unique in being shared with the well known tomb of Kheruef.
  • On the inside of the tomb there are the remains of decoration, including the complete figure of a sacred year-old calf and the posterior part of a bovine
  • The exploration of the entire funerary complex also revealed two funerary masks in decorated wood dating back to the Ptolemaic period (IV-III century to C.)

There are many other references which I simply couldn't decipher, including one to a ceiling with lotus and papyrus depictions - but I couldn't work out if this was the new tomb or the tomb of Harwa.

Saturday Trivia

A short history of flowerpots
"Though flowerpots are thought to have existed as early as 2000 BC, the first concrete evidence of sustained potted plant growth seems to have developed in Egypt at the bequest of Ramses III, born in 1198 BC. The Egyptians at this time were avid gardeners though very practical and systematic in their layouts. Rather than waging wars, Ramses III engaged in building palaces, temples and gardens. He was actually responsible for the creation of no less than 514 semi-public gardens. The walkways of these gardens were lined with great decorative earthenware pots planted with dazzling flowers and shrubs as well as papyrus. These stimulated the use of flowerpots in many temples and palaces not just in Egypt but also in nearby Greece".

Book review (fiction): The Season of the Hyaena
http://tinyurl.com/p5k77 (Monsters and Critics)
"Set in Ancient Egypt during the tumultuous times when the govenment is in the hands of a Royal Council acting on behalf of the boy king Tutankhamum. All on the Council are jostling for power, and strains are emerging between those advocating a return to old forms of worship and those supporting the Aten. Then news comes that the Pharaoh Akenhaten has returned, together with Nefertiti. But all had thought Akenhaten & Nefertiti were dead? Or were they? When armed supporters start arriving at Akenhaten's side, the Royal Council has to investigate. Who better to send than Mahu, Chief of Police & Keeper of the Secrets of the Heart along with the priest and fervant Atenist Mery-Re?" See the rest of the review on the above page.

The Luxor, Las Vegas
http://tinyurl.com/jlayd (Sydney Morning Herald)
There's a super photograph of the sphinx and pyramid, features of The Luxor casino and hotel in Las Vegas, accompanying this short bulletin (one of five reviewed casinos in Vegas): " A giant sphinx with a flawless nose guards the entrance to this 30-storey pyramid, which should have any self-respecting pharaoh turning in his sarcophagus. Slot machines and decor compete for tackiness: there are Egyptian statues, hieroglyphics on the walls and a re-creation of Tutankhamen's tomb. Despite being unpopular with Asian tourists - historically, the design is that of a grave - the 4408-room Luxor is mostly filled to capacity. At night, a beam said to be visible from space shoots up from the pyramid's tip while inside, signs ask guests to save electricity and switch off room lights. Viva the hypocrisy of Las Vegas. See http://www.luxor.com."

Bricks of Egypt
A new game for your mobile phone. April "The Egyptian theme touches everything in this Bricks title. You are trying to discover the hidden treasures of Tutankhamen by breaking through eight different areas of themed action -- such as Fire on the Rocks, Echo Chambers, Pyramid of Madness, and Nefertiti -- for a grand total of 96 levels. In these levels, you'll see bricks dressed up with hieroglyphics and cartouches. The game, as you can see from these screens, is certainly loaded with personality.To succeed, you need to pick up power-ups that affect your ball's performance, such as Slow Down and Fireballs. You can also grab icons that affect the size of your bat, as well as make it extra sticky so you can better aim your projectiles. Cannons can flank your bat and add extra destruction with each movement. The need for these power-ups is augmented by tricks and traps you find in the game, such as falling spikes." Images and a video accompany the rest of the review at the above site.

Tutankhamun at the Olympics
It was only a matter of time: "Having seen the sarcophagus of the Boy King years ago in London, I know Tut was a little guy. He was born at a time when there were no steroids, no human growth hormone, no Victor Conte, no affordable home gyms to give you the body you've always wanted in just 20 minutes a day, three times a week. Research suggests Tut was about 19 years old at the time of his death, in the neighborhood of 5-foot-6 and slightly built. That makes him an ideal candidate for ski jumping."

Friday, February 24, 2006

National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation

"An up-to-date storehouse, similar to the ones at the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London, has been built on site. Egyptologist Ayman Abdel-Moneim, who is directing the project, told Al-Ahram Weekly that such museological storage, with a very sophisticated security system connected directly with the police commissariat, was the first of its kind to be built in Egypt. . . . A laboratory to restore pieces in the museum's chosen collection was also among the achievements in the first phase. . . . The planned four-storey building -- of which the first two floors will be devoted to exhibits, the third to a documentation centre and the fourth to an archaeological and historical library -- has an exceptional architectural design to integrate with its surroundings as well as to symbolise the ages in Egypt's past."
See the full story by Nevine el-Aref on the Al Ahram website, above.

Former temple?

Here's something a bit different. Currently setting up the Norfolk Ancient Egypt Society, Glen Fricker has emailed me a photo he took in 2001 from a hot air balloon (lucky thing - I still haven't managed to organize myself onto one of those!). He emails as follows:

"In August 2001 I took a balloon flight over the west bank at Luxor, starting from a field across the main road in front of Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahari. The balloon went south towards the collossi of Memnon statues of Amenhotep III, then the pilot managed to do a U-turn and back-tracked from where we had came from, but a little nearer to the Nile. When nearly in a straight line between Hatshepsut's temple and Karnak temple I looked down in a cultivated field and couldn't believe what I was seeing - see attached photo. This building is parallel to the Nile, or in other words on a north-south alignment like Luxor temple. Maybe worth posting it to get views on it I think?. I'd be curious to know what others think."

Cairene concerns

An article looking at past reports in the Al Ahram Weekly newspaper concerned with the identity and image of Cairo, including some suggestions for improving Cairo's museums: "On the front page of Al-Ahram 's 11 September 1937 issue was a long article under the headline City of Museums. The article included an interview with 'the prominent antiquities expert Atienne Dritone, director of the Egyptian Antiquities Department'. The most significant part of the article was a call to establish a museum city within the Egyptian capital that would include a museum of art history, a museum of antiquities, the palace of Tutankhamen, and a tomb for mummies. The argument of the prominent French antiquarian was that the museum at that time had become piled up with antiquities, causing them to lose their splendour and glory. This occurred because the original design had not taken into consideration the success excavations would have. Not a year passed without the museum acquiring new treasures, and the department grew perplexed as to whether to exhibit or store them. When the latter choice was taken, 'some treacherous hands reached out and stole.' "
See the above page for the complete story.

Sekhment statues at Temple of Amenophis III

I was actually looking for details of the new tomb next to that of Harwa but found this instead, which I apparently missed, dating to the 13th February: "El secretario general del Consejo Supremo de Antigüedades, Zahi Hawass, revisa varias estatuas de Sekhmet (diosa con cabeza de león), descubiertas por un equipo de arqueólogos españoles y alemanes durante los trabajos de conservación del Templo Amenofis III y del Colossi de Memnon, en la antigua Tebas, Luxor, en el norte de Egipto."
Roughly: Head of the SCA, Zahi Hawass reviewed a number of statues of the lion goddess Sekhment, found by a team of spanish and german archaeologists during work on the conservation of the Temple of Amenophis III and the Colossi of Memnon in ancienct Thebes, Luxor.

Third Symposium on Coptic Studies

For anyone following Coptic studies, see a good summary on the Al Ahram website of the recent coptic conference in at the White Monastery of St Shenoude near Sohag: " The symposium at the White Monastery, which concentrated on a single Upper Egyptian monk who became abbot of two monasteries, played an important part in the history of Christendom, and reputedly lived to the ripe age 118 (an age that Emmel considers entirely possible), drew together scholars from as far afield as Australia and Canada. It caused a stir among the population of Sohag that will long be remembered. Already other bishoprics in Middle and Upper Egypt have expressed a desire to host the next symposium in two years' time, and it seems that Nagada, between Qena and Luxor, is high on the list of possibilities."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

KV 63 web links

A round-up of some of the most useful resources for KV63 for those struggling to keep track of the most useful websites. Others will doubtless become available when the excavation has finished and the details become available for official publication. The Theban Mapping Project website, for example, will doubtless be an excellent resource at that time.

KV63 on the University of Memphis website
The University of Memphis page dedicated to the KV63 excavation, with a list of links to news articles and photographs, together with brief details of the team.

KV63 Blog
A blog written by Sharon Nichols, one of the student team members from the KV63 excavation, with as-it-happens accounts of the dig.
The dedicated website for KV63, currently under construction, as of February 2006.

National Geographic Summary
http://tinyurl.com/e2uy8 (National Geographic)
A good summary of the find immediately after its discovery in early February 2006

KV63 Location
Some annotated photographs showing the site's location on the EEF website.

Luxor News

Some news items by Jane Akshar on her Luxor News Blog

The Temple of Mut
First, Jane has been lucky enough to visit the Temple of Mut, next to Karnak, where excavations are being carried out by two teams: " I had to get special permission from the SCA and felt a bit like Prime Minister Chamberlin with my bit of paper in my hand. It certainly worked it’s magic. The dig inspector was expecting me and conducted me round the site."

Lecture by Jose M Galan
Second, a summary of a recent lecture by Jose Galan at the Mummification Museum in Luxor: "They have been excavating TT11 the tomb of Djehuty and TT 12 the tomb of Hery. These two tombs are connected at the transverse rooms yet at the front are separated by TT399. The tomb was recorded by Champollian in 1829 and shows whippet like dogs hunting in the desert and a superb funnery scene where the mummy of the deceased is being transported across the Nile by boat." See Jane's full summary, above.

More on new Nubia exhibit

http://tinyurl.com/rg5hv (Chicago Tribune)
As reported earlier, the Oriental Institute, in Chicago, U.S., has opened a new permanent exhibit dedicated to ancient Nubia. "The Oriental Institute has long been involved with preserving Nubia's legacy. During two harrowing expeditions from 1905 to 1907, founder James Henry Breasted was one of the first scientists to document Nubian ruins and record hieroglyphic inscriptions carved into their walls.In the 1920s and 1930s, institute excavations of royal temples and tombs in Egypt's City of the Dead at Thebes yielded scores of Nubian artifacts from an era when Nubia was ruled as an Egyptian colony. Among them is a striking sculpture of an African face, the realistic likeness of a Nubian slave, that is displayed in the exhibit. The bulk of the institute's Nubian holdings came from excavations of great Nubian archeological sites from 1961 to 1968, before they were covered by a manmade lake created by damming the Nile at Aswan. Egypt and Sudan at that time invited archeologists to come and retrieve as much as they could before the sites were inundated. As an enticement, they were allowed to keep most of what they found."
See the above artice for the full story.

See the museum's website for details about the collection:
A photo gallery showing some of the photographs in the collection is at:

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

KV63 NEWS - Three more mummies found

"As has been widely reported in the local dailies, five mummies were discovered a few days ago in a catacomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile. But now the number has risen to eight, as three more have since been found in the same cache. The discovery of the catacomb, very near to Tutankhamun's tomb, was announced almost a fortnight ago. At first, it was found to contain five mummies with coloured funerary masks enclosed in sarcophagi. A number of large sealed storage jars were also discovered. The head of the Upper Egyptian Antiquities Department, Atef Abul Dahab told this newspaper that his staff have started work on investigating the first intact cache to have been located since 1922. 'There are various indications that the catacomb dates back to the 18th Dynasty [1570-1320 BC], but still we are trying to find something that helps us establish the exact date,' said Abul Dahab, adding that they will eventually remove the 21 jars found in the cache and then the mummies, some of which are in poor condition."
This is the full story on the Egyptian Gazette website.

KV63 Blog

Thanks to Jane Akshar's blog for pointing to this KV63 blog, which has details of what is going on at the site on a day by day basis, written by one of the team digging at the site.

Where is KV63?

Members of the Electronic Egyptology Forum (EEF) have been contributing photographs and maps to the EEF's web pages, and some are very useful for visualizing where the site actually is.

On this page there are some excellent views of the valley showing KV63, one of which is helpfully annotated to provide a very clear view of precisely where the site is located.

More annotated maps and photographs

The European Fine Art Fair, Netherlands

The European Fine Art Fair, taking place at the MECC in Maastricht (The Netherlands) from March 10th to 19th 2006, is to feature some Egyptian items, including a winged scarab pectoral from the Third Intermediate Period from a private collection in Paris, and a wooden and bronze ibis from the Late Dynastic period, formerly in an American private collection.
The Fair's website at the address below, claims to include dealers by invitation only: "the most illustrious of the world’s art and antique dealers – nearly 218 eminent dealers from 15 countries – are invited to exhibit at TEFAF. These dealers bring to the Fair a wide range of exceptional and exquisite pieces of the very highest quality. TEFAF is also special because of the vetting process, which is second to none. Each piece is scrutinised for authenticity, quality and condition, by a team of over 140 international experts covering all specialities. The accuracy of the description is verified, and the provenance checked against the Art Loss Register."

In the light of recent legal cases against the Getty and the Met, together with requests for items obtained as a result of illegal trading to be returned, fairs like this are presumably under mounting pressure to vet both the dealers and the artefacts traded.

Speculation - Who's in KV63?

Just for fun, because we will know much more when the mummies have been examined and the coffin texts translated, here are some speculations about which individuals may be in KV63 by Georgeos Díaz-Montexano, Just one of many guesses currently being aired, but this one seems to have been missed by the English language media.

"Investigador hispano-cubano identifica uno de los sarcófagos como perteneciente a un miembro femenino de la familia real de TutAnjAmon. El escriptólogo y profesor de jeroglíficos egipcios Georgeos Díaz-Montexano cree haber identificado a uno de los cinco sarcófagos descubiertos recientemente en el Valle de los Reyes como destinado a contener los restos de una mujer que, a juzgar por las características del rostro representado bien podría ser Kiya, la presunta Madre de TutAnjAmon, o bien su propia esposa AnjesenAmon."
Roughly translated as: Hispano-cuban teacher of hieroglyphs, Georgeos Diaz-Montexano, has suggested that one of the coffins belongs to a female member of the royal family of Tutankhamun. He believes that the coffin was intended to house the remains of a womean who, to judge from the facial characteristics depicted, culd well be Kiya, the possible mother of Tutankhamun, or perhaps his own wife Ankhsunamun.
The article is quite long (too long to translate in full here) but the gist of it is as follows. Díaz-Montexano. Neither of the above-mentioned royal wives have been found to date. He believes that the mummies represent five members of the royal family, directly related to Tutaknkhamun, whether an ancestor or successor.

In another longish article, at the above URL (also in Spanish), Georgeos Díaz-Montexano adds some other details to support some of his speculations, including confirmation of the 18th Dynasty date from the fact that the colour of all the sarcophagi is predominantly black with dark green toning (the colours of Osiris resurrected), which correspond with New Kingdom practises, particularly in the 18th Dynasty. He points out the damage to the mummies, which he says lends support for the idea that this is a cache, placed here for safe keeping after receiving damage elsewhere by tomb robbers. Finally, he points to holes or cracks in a mummy which he believes is male, one of which is right by the forehead, where a Cobra or Ureus could been have inserted, one of the symbols of the Pharaoh.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

KV63/The Amarna Royal Tombs Project

Thanks very much to Dr Nicholas Reeves for copying me in on an email that made his position on the subject of recent rumours very clear. In a statement on his website, at the above page:

Dear friends and colleagues
Because of various rumours now circulating I think it's best I respond to events formally on the Valley of the Kings Foundation/Amarna Royal Tombs Project website:
The site will continue to be updated over the course of the next few weeks and

With all good wishes
Nicholas Reeves

Congratulations to Dr Reeves firstly for the fact that his name was cleared officially in 2005 in relation to false allegations of artefact smuggling, and secondly for his new HQ at lovely Chiddingstone Castle. Chiddingstone claims to have the largest private Egyptology collection in the UK.

The ARTP website has comprehensive details of previous seasons's work, details of the team, articles, and promises of more pages to come.

Egyptian pottery identified

Thanks a million to Aayko Emya from EEF for pointing me at this article on the BBC website: "A box of pottery, long-untouched and undocumented, turned out to contain numbered items, many of them from the Middle Kingdom of 2040-1750 BC. The items were collected by the Egyptologist John Garstang at Esna, Upper Egypt, in the early 20th Century. The British Museum is to date and analyse the collection. The pottery came to light after an assistant keeper in the department of Ancient Egypt and the Sudan at the British Museum sent a request for information on Ancient Egyptian collections held by local museums." It is an odd place for the vessels to materialize, as the Hawick, in Scotland specializes in displays of the manufacturing and domestic life of the local area. See the above URL for the rest of the story.

KV-63 ongoing

A short piece about team member Earl Ertman and the work being carried out at the site: "Ertman and other team members will move slowly into the single chamber, cleaning, photographing and cataloging everything as they go. So precise should the work be that they can put everything back where they found it. . . . Unfortunately, team members can see several termite trails near the wooden sarcophagi, even though they were covered with a black resin that was supposed to protect them. Conservators will determine what can be done to preserve the sarcophagi; staff will reconfigure bits and pieces of pottery into complete-as-possible vessels. Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities will determine what will happen to all of the finds. Probably, Podzorski said, they will go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Some pieces may eventually go on tour."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Lost Pharaohs

"With the discovery by archaeologists earlier this month of the first truly 'new' tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since Howard Carter found King Tutankhamen's in 1922, the question arises of who's still missing in the Valley of the Kings. . . . some important New Kingdom rulers are missing. One of them is Queen Hatshepsut, one of the first powerful female rulers in world history. Also not accounted for are the pharaohs Ay and Horemheb, who successively seized the throne after King Tut's death, and Ramses VII and Ramses VIII, obscure kings of the late New Kingdom. But perhaps the most sought-after missing mummy is that of Akhenaten, the pharaoh who turned Egypt upside down and introduced the nearest thing to monotheism ancient Egypt ever knew, and his beautiful queen, Nefertiti, who is portrayed in a famous bust in Berlin."
See the above URL for the full story.

Records provide clues to ophthalmic care

http://tinyurl.com/8b7v6 (Opthalmology News)
Thanks to David Meadows and his Explorator newsletter, for this item. Information from the Ebers and Edwin Papyri has been used to identify some of the eye-related complaints suffered by ancient Egyptians. Unlike many other parts of the anatomy, the eye does not survive well following the mummification process: "Chronic trachoma was most likely a serious disease of the period. Eye blurriness in both acute and chronic forms is mentioned in the Ebers papyrus. The condition was treated with oily or fatty ointments, which contained myrrh, resin, malachite, yellow ocher, and red natron. These treatments were used by Greek and Arab physicians later."
See the above site for other conditions, including leukoma and blindness, and the ingredients in medicines used to treat them.

To see the entire Explorator newsletter (a weekly updated list of worlwide archaeology news headlines, with links to full articles on the web) see it at its new web location:

Discovery of Djed-Khonsu-efankh - Part 2

Second part of the story of the discover of Djed-Khonsu-efankh, the Governor of Bahariya (Part 2) by Zahi Hawass (reproduced here in full due to a lack of archive on the site)
For those who haven't read it, Part 1 is at:

"After the re-discovery of the three tombs, we searched everything that Fakhry referred to in his work on the oasis; I felt that there had to be another room on the other side. If so, it was an area that had never been excavated. Could it be the missing tomb of Djed-Khonsu-efankh for which Fakhry had searched?April 20, 2000 I went to bed and dreamed of what would happen in the morning. In my dream I saw a room with end. It was full of smoke and I could not see anything. I was afraid and I called for help but no one came. Suddenly, I saw a face coming toward me. I was ready to fight but I could not move my arms or legs. The face came closer, and then I screamed, screamed again ...at that moment, I woke up-my face and body were sweating...I could not understand the meaning of this dream.At 5:30am, I took part of my team to Sheikh Soby, the town built over the archaeological remains. I decided we would work on the consolidation and restoration of this tomb. Before we could open the burial chamber I first had to meet with the old lady who owned the house above the tomb. She agreed to demolish her house and we told her we would build her a new house made of stone, not mud brick, and that we would electrify it. All this would be done at our expense. I oversaw the construction and made sure it was everthing that I had promised. She was pleased with her new house and we did the demolition and started excavating the site.During the work, I kept thinking of Ahmed Fakhry's work written in his book about Bahariya. He said he hoped that the tomb of the governor of Bahariya, Djed-Khonsu-efankh, would be discovered. We were close..."

Prime minister tours museum site

http://tinyurl.com/ncehu (Egyptian State Information Service)
"Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif toured on Saturday the site of the Civilization Museum in Old Cairo. Nazif told reporters that the museum, which is being built on a vast area of 70 feddans in historical Al-Fustat area, was one of the achievements carried out by the Ministry of Culture, which will attract more tourists to Egypt. The musuem will exhibit the history of Egyptian civilization back to the Pharaonic era."

Saving the Great Pyramid in the 19th Century

This brief article keeps popping up: "An Albanian with Macedonian origin, Muhammad Ali Pasha, ruler of Egypt, Syria and Arabia in 19th century, had ordered his French engineer Linan to pull down the Cheops Pyramid. . . . According to documents, the then Egypt ruler Muhammad Ali wanted to remove stone blocks from their pyramid in order to build a dam on the Nile River. French engineer Linan along with the then French consul in Cairo, were well aware of the historic value of the pyramid and they told the pasha of Egypt that pyramid's stones are four times bigger than the ones needed for dam construction."
See the above short item for more. The reason that I've repeated it is that I've remembered a very entertaining and much more detailed account of the full story on the American Scientist website, at

Travel: Giza on a budget

Travel article looking at the costs of getting to Giza. "Direct EgyptAir flights from New York to Cairo cost roughly $800, plus a $15 visa fee paid upon arrival. Taxis downtown are $10 (be firm on the price) and buses cost 50¢. Giza and the pyramids are an hour's bus ride (12¢ on air-conditioned minibuses #83 or #183), or 40 minutes in a taxi ($7, with airconditioning), from Cairo's main Tahrir Square, where relics from ancient times are housed in the Egyptian Museum. But in this case, an air/hotel package trumps going solo. One of the best deals in traveldom is Misr Travel's $899 package from New York."
See the full article for more information on what to do on arrival at the pyramids and how to get to Saqqara.

Speaking from personal experience, the air conditioned buses from Tahrir Square are great if you speak the language and can ask where the bus stop is, but the stops aren't maked and are sometimes in the most improbable places. It is much easier on the return journey because the bus for Tahrir Sq departs from outside the Mena House and is easy to identify - and Tahrir Sq is easy to identify when you want to get off.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

KV 63 - ongoing discussions

Sorry to dissapoint those who are waiting for the identification of the KV63 occupants to be announced. Speaking last week to Al Ahram Weekly, Zahi Hawass did indicate it might be as long as three weeks before anything is announced, but I will keep you posted.

Previous discovery
Thanks very much to a knowledgeable friend in Egypt for the information that the claim that Nicholas Reeves and his team did indeed locate the tomb by GPR is apparently correct, although I should point out that there has still been nothing official released on the subject. Apparently, a Japanese team working with Nicholas Reeves operated the GPR equipment and found a large anomoly that they surmised was a tomb, in precisely this area.

8 holes
The Al Ahram article that I posted last week, summarizing the KV63 find, suggests that there are 8 holes that might have been used for entering and leaving the tomb. However, an alternative and informed suggestion from Robert Wickland (with many thanks, Robert) suggests that these are probably simply footholds or postholes for horizontal or diagonal cross beams, and are actually very common. He suggests that they may have been used for workmen to lower those incredibly heavy full storage jars and the coffins into the tomb without damage. As he points out, from what is visible only one jar is broken, which is an amazing feat.

As ever, I'll be posting more news as I find it, or as people update me (thanks guys, please keep it coming).

More on the St Louis Mask

http://tinyurl.com/bsyg7 (St Louis Today)
"A top Egyptian antiquities official is demanding the St. Louis Art Museum return the museum's mummy mask amid allegations that the mask (one of the museum's most prized antiquities) was stolen from Egypt in the late 1980s. In a letter dated Feb. 14, Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, writes that the 3,000-year-old mask was 'clearly stolen' from a storage room near the site where it was excavated in 1952 . . . . Hawass, who could not be reached for comment, threatened in his letter to contact Interpol if the museum does not begin returning the mask within two weeks. The museum bought the mask in 1998 from an international antiquities dealer for $499,000, and museum Director Brent Benjamin said that the museum at the time checked with Interpol, a stolen art registry and the director of the Cairo Museum to ensure the piece wasn't reported stolen. And, while the museum has great respect for Hawass' Supreme Council of Antiquities, Benjamin wrote that the museum wants proof, including copies of inventory listings and notations when the mask was first reported stolen."
See the above page for the full story.

Archaeological Diggings February/March

The February/March 2006 issue of Australian archaeology magazine Archaeological Diggings is available, featuring two articles on ancient Egypt as well as several other archaeolgocial stories from around the world. The Egyptian features in the print issue are:
  • Mummies found in the basement
  • Egypt: tombs found at Saqqara
  • Amarna: the rock cut tombs

The website also features a number of short articles about ancient Egypt, in PDF format, on their Resources page, including :

Review: Tutankhamun exhibition

A late review of the Golden Age of Pharaohs exhibition, showing at Fort Lauderdale until the end of April: "The most exciting gallery is the one dedicated to five gleaming treasures Carter found on Tut's body within the wrappings of the mummy: a gold-sheathed dagger with a cloisonne handle; a royal diadem of gold, glass, obsidian and carnelian; an inlaid diadem in the shape of a cobra in gold, glass, obsidian and semiprecious stones; an inlaid broad collar and counterweight of gold, carnelian and glass; and a gold pectoral in the shape of a falcon."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

A trade older than the pyramids

A fascinating and revealing paper, written by Geoffrey Tassie of the Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organization (ECHO). I have published the entire paper on the above web page, and it will soon be added to the ECHO website. Here's a summary with extracts.

The paper looks at one of the world's oldest trades - the theft of heritage and artefacts in Egypt. It starts with the robbing of tombs in antiquity: "So serious was tomb-robbing considered in Dynasty XX and XXI that many other papyri record the statements of convicted robbers."

Tass then takes us on a tour of historical theft and smuggling: "Egypt’s royalty lay relatively undisturbed for many thousands of years, with only the odd Luxor West Bank villager, particularly those from Qurna, using the mummy wrappings, old furniture and papyri as good burning material for their cooking fires. However, with the influx of Western tourists after the Napoleonic Expedition, the local West Bank villagers, many of whom actually lived in the tombs, found that they could make a small fortune by selling items from the tombs that they lived among. The trade in antiquities soon caught on, with every visitor wanting a souvenir of their visit." He goes on to explain the role of the notorious Abd el-Rassul family.

Bringing us up to date, the paper looks at some of the more recent issues regarding this subject, including the vexed subject of the St Louis Mask, the SCA's laudible and pivotal attempts to resolve the situation, and the role of organizations like ECHO in helping to investigate in an impartial way: "Hawass’ attentions are now focused on the St. Louis Art Museum and the repatriation of the Mask of Kanefernefer. . . . ECHO has been very proactive in following the rights of legal ownership of the mask of Kanefernefer, and in co-operation with Dr. Zahi Hawass (Secretary General of the SCA), Dr. Hany Hanna (Elected Chair, ICOM and General Director, Department of Conservation, SCA), and a legal representative in the USA are now convinced that there is a legal case for the Egyptian Government to pursue."

This informative paper raises important issues. See the URL at the top of the page to read the entire article.

Thanks to Tass for permission to publish the entire paper, and to post extracts from the paper here.

Pesed: Peeling back time

The mummy Pesed has been mentioned more than once on this blog. She was donated in 1885 by the Reverend John Giffen, a missionary to Egypt and a Westminster graduate, to the Westminster College in New Wilmington. CT scans carried out in summer 2005 have helped to reveal details about the mummy. Jonathan Elias, an archaeologist and director of the Harrisburg-based Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium, which paid for the CT scans and is leading the project has provided details: "Pesed was hunchbacked, her 5-foot, 5-inch frame wracked by osteoporosis, and 60 percent of her teeth were missing by the time of her death. Abscesses might have caused an infection that eventually killed her".
The daughter of a priest and temple musician, Pesed was probably a member of a privileged class in Akhmim. See the above article for more details.

Book: The Rock Art Topographical Survey

Thanks to Francis Lankester for the information that a new edition of The Rock Art Topographical Survey (RATS) is going to be published, hopefully in May: "BSS has decided to press ahead with the publication of a second edition of DESERT RATS, Maggie and Mike Morrow’s invaluable catalogue of rock art sites in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. This will be a significantly enhanced edition of the first one since the book will include new information about Hans Winkler’s recently rediscovered Site 18 and a CD of the complete volume. This CD will also contain over 50 additional plates of the most prominent images in full colour. The book and CD will be sold for £45, the CD on its own for £15, with discounts for EES members."
For the full story, and for updates re a publication date, see the above web page.

Review: Museo Egizio

A description of the Turin museum of Egyptology. The presence of this article on a sports-focused website is due to the Winter Olympics, which are based in Turin. "Although the Greeks invented the Olympics, the ancient Egyptians were no couch potatoes in athletic feats. Pharaoh Amenhotep II -- an accomplished horse rider, runner and archer -- bragged that he was the greatest sportsman of all time and made sure royal sculptors captured his massive biceps and pecs.The granite colossus of the 15th century B.C. ruler is just one of the ancient marvels that Turin's Egyptian Museum offers to visitors looking for a break from the Winter Games hosted by this northern city and the surrounding Alpine slopes. The Museo Egizio claims one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities outside Cairo. Just in time for the Olympics, it opened a new pride-and-joy gallery set up by Dante Ferretti, Oscar-winning art director for The Aviator. The new exhibit gives visitors a who's who of ancient Egypt through 56 monumental statues, bathed in soft light and reflected in ghostly images by opaque mirrors."
See the above website for more details.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Condition of sites deplored

"Archaeologists and officials meeting in Cairo on Wednesday deployed the deterioration of the country's ancient sites, which they attributed both to government agencies and to private individuals. The assault, they said, runs from illegal construction activities to farming. Zahi Hawass, director general of the Supreme Council for Antiquities, said that there were 6,000 such cases in 2003 but gave no more recent figures . . . . Hawass said that part of the problem is that the current law does not allow the antiquities council to intervene in matters involving buildings under the aegis of the ministry for religious endowments, or waqf. However, he said that a bill drafted by the ministry of culture would amend the current law, adding stiffer penalties of up to life in prison for offenses and allowing sites less than 100 years old to be protected. The conference of local experts is due to end on Thursday."
For the full story see the above page on the Middle East Times website.

KV63 update

The above summary appears on this week's Al Ahram Weekly: "Hawass told the Weekly that the vessels found in the cache had been arranged haphazardly, suggesting that the burials took place in haste. This was more likely, he continued, than that the cache was used as a storeroom for sarcophagi moved later from other tombs, either by priests to protect them from thieves, or by thieves to be stashed before being completely removed. This is the fourth cache to be discovered in Luxor. The first was stumbled upon sometime before 1887 by the Abdel-Rassoul family, who found 40 hidden intact royal mummies. The second was the cache found in 1891 containing 100 sarcophagi of priests of Amun, while the third discovery was made in 1898 with 12 royal mummies being uncovered inside the tomb of Amenhotep II. . . . Hawass believes that further excavation will lead to more revelations about who these people were, and says that within three weeks more details will be announced. These may also specify details about eight pits the team has located inside the tomb."
See the above page for the complete account.

Official Website
Thanks very much to Jane Akshar for pointing me at the official website for KV63. The site is under construction, and will be updated when Otto Schaden returns to the States. Details of how to donate to the project are shown on the page.

Previously located by geophys?
I have been sent a press release, by email, and have no idea to what extent it is or is not based on fact. The magazine that the press release says is making the claim is not a conventional scientific, historical or archaeological publication, and is not one that I have come across before, but the edition shown on the site's home page has a picture of a silver alien on the front, which isn't exactly encouraging (www.mysteries-magazin.com). However, I don't speak a work of German, so I can't honestly assess it. The press release claims that respected British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves and the Amarna Royal Tombs Project team first located the tomb during the course of a ground-penetrating radar survey of the area in 2000 and that the American team were provided with copies of the radar data in mid-2005. Unfortunately, I don't have a URL for the above claims, the source of which the email says is Luc Buergin (Editor of the above magazine). I daresay something else will be published soon, either to confirm or deny the claims.

Ancient Nubia in Chicago

"Some of the world’s most significant artifacts from Nubia, an ancient African civilization that had important connections to Egypt, will go on display Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Museum of the Oriental Institute at the University. Many of the artifacts, including one of the world’s oldest saddles, will be on display for the first time as the museum opens the Robert F. Picken Family Nubian Gallery. Photographs taken during University expeditions 100 years ago in Nubia, now Sudan, also will be on display. . . . From 1960 to 1968, teams from the Oriental Institute worked intensively in the Nubian Salvage project, excavating numerous archaeological sites in both Egypt and Sudan in a race against the flooding of this part of the Nile valley, as construction of the Aswan High Dam was about to begin, said Stein. . . . The 650 pieces that will be on display are drawn from the 15,000 artifacts brought back from the salvage operation and represent a broad time period."
The article, with photographs, describes some of the artefacts and explains how they present a view of Nubian life at different periods of time, explaining the relationship with Egypt, but emphasising the Nubian culture's unique development and distinctive facets.
The website for the Museum of the Oriental Institute (Chicago, U.S.) can be found at:

Momias egipcias vuelven a ser exhibidas

Thanks to the EEF newsletter for the above article, which I had missed: "Ya son varias las momias egipcias que han vuelto a su lugar en el Museo de El Cairo, en el Salón N° 56. Estaban amenazadas por la inexorable descomposición, razón por la cual no se permitía visitarlas desde 1980. Pero gracias a la labor de un reconocido científico, Nasry Iskander, esos tesoros arqueológicos pueden ser exhibidos nuevamente."
Rough translation: A number of ancient Egyptian mummies have returned to their home in room number 56 of the Cairo Museum. They had been under threat from inexorable decomposition, which is why they have not been available to visitors since 1980. But thanks to a renowned scientist, Nasry Iskander, these archaeological treasures can once again be exhibited.
See the above URL for the full story.

Amenhotep III temple red granite head

Hourig Sourouzian, director of the German conservation project for the Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III's temple, has been interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly: "She explained that since excavation of the site began in 1998 the mission had consistently stumbled upon homogenous New Kingdom statuaries until last week, when a well-preserved red granite royal head with Kushite features -- full cheeks and bulging lips -- was unearthed. The 50-cm-tall head was found among several decaying granite block on a sandstone slab at the north end of the temple. Its top and right side were damaged, the nose was lightly chipped and the chin was broken. 'It is a very beautiful head wearing a nemes (regal headdress),' says Sourouzian, who asserts that it does not belong to the area where it lay buried.
See the above web page for the full story on the Al Ahram website.

Sailing to Punt

"The long-held belief that the Ancient Egyptians did not tend to travel long distances by sea because of poor naval technology proved fallacious last week when timbers, rigging and cedar planks were unearthed in the ancient Red Sea port of Marsa Gawasis, 23 kilometres south of Port Safaga. The remains of seafaring vessels were found in four large, hand-hewn caves which were probably used as storage or boat houses from the Middle Kingdom to the early New Kingdom periods. Early examination revealed that each cave measured 60 square metres and had an entrance constructed of reused anchors, limestone blocks and wooden beams. Other stone anchors were located outside the entrances. One of these caves contains more than 80 perfectly preserved coils of different sized ropes which were once used on ships."
See the above page for the full story.

King Tut and the American tourist

Zahi Hawass, in his Al Ahram column, talking about the relationship between Egypt and American tourism: "We always say that we do not have many American tourists in Egypt because they think it is dangerous to travel here. Whenever there is a terrorist incident it receives a good deal of coverage in the American media, making Americans more and more afraid. They believe that Egypt is not safe. Once, during the question and answer session at the end of my lecture at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, a man stood up and asked why he should travel to Egypt, because he was always hearing about Egyptians killing tourists. I explained that terrorists do bad things everywhere -- in the main squares of famous European cities, in the streets of Los Angeles, and in New York. People are killed all the time. I told him that last New Year's Eve I had invited my friend Betsy Bryan from Johns Hopkins University to a party at the Capital Club in downtown Cairo. When Betsy wanted to leave and go back to her hotel, which was about a mile away from the club, I told her to wait and said I would take her, but she insisted on going alone. She told me that she often walked through the streets of Cairo after midnight, and felt absolutely safe. But in the end I told the questioner at the lecture that when he died and went to heaven, he would never go to paradise because he hadn't visited Egypt. Everyone in the audience laughed a lot."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The St Louis Mask controversy

The mysterious voyage of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask
A long feature (10 pages - easier to read in Print view) about the discovery and subsequent travels of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask now in the St Lousi Art Museum: "Unlike the smooth-sided pyramids of later dynasties, Djoser's is built of smaller stone blocks that incline toward a central core of rubble. As Goneim's excavation progressed, the new site's structural similarity to Djoser led the archaeologist to believe he might have uncovered the 'buried' pyramid of a hitherto-unknown pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. . . . Fueling his excitement were the scores of more recent burials his crew had encountered atop the pyramid's core, the earliest of which dated from the Nineteenth Dynasty (1293-1185 B.C.). . . . Among the many burials Goneim discovered atop the pyramid, one in particular caught his eye: the unmummified body of a woman, wrapped in a simple reed mat. Her remains, which dated to the Nineteenth Dynasty, were badly decomposed, but she wore an elaborate mask over her head and shoulders. Her face, covered by a thin sheet of blended copper and gold, peeked from beneath an intricate resin wig molded into plaits. The diadem that crowned her head was made of glass, as were her eyes and nipples. In each hand she held an amulet symbolizing strength and welfare; etched across her folded arms was a scene depicting the encounter between Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead, and the woman's spiritual double in the afterlife, known as her ka. Goneim dubbed the woman Ka-Nefer-Nefer: the Twice-Beautiful Ka. So taken was Goneim with Ka-Nefer-Nefer (pronounced caw nef-er nef-er) that he would publish photographs of the mask in three subsequent books about the excavation. But amid the excitement of the dig in 1952, her fate was obscured. She would disappear from public view for nearly 50 years. More precisely, until 1998, when the Saint Louis Art Museum purchased the mask for a half-million dollars from Phoenix Ancient Art, an antiquities dealership owned by the Lebanese brothers Hicham and Ali Aboutaam. . . . But while the story of Ka-Nefer-Nefer's discovery is well known, her flight out of Egypt remains a mystery.
See the above article for the entire story.

Who owns the St Louis Mask?
"The St Louis Art Museum is facing allegations that an ancient Egyptian mask in its collection was stolen from a warehouse in Saqqara, Egypt in the 1980s. Dr Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told The Art Newspaper that he believes the so-called Mask of Ka-nefer-nefer was removed from Egypt illegally and that the SCA is now taking steps to launch an official restitution request. Questions about the mask’s provenance were first raised by Ton Cremers, the Dutch moderator of the on-line Museum Security Mailing List, who sent an open letter to St Louis Art Museum director Brent Benjamin requesting information about how the mask had made its way into the museum collection. . . . Dr Raven says the storeroom at Saqqara, which contained finds from the Anglo-Dutch excavations (organised by the Egypt Exploration Society in London and the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden), was looted 'after 1985'. Dr Raven, who witnessed the damage to the warehouse first-hand, says that after this theft, the storage facility was dismantled and the remaining contents relocated."

The Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organization are currently taking an interest in the fate of the mask and further information should be available shortly.

White wine with Tutankhamun

http://tinyurl.com/cjzvf (IOL)
"King Tutankhamen, the teenage king of ancient Egypt, headed into the afterlife with the help of a rather decent white wine, the British weekly New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue.University of Barcelona researchers in Spain used liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to get the chemical "fingerprint" of residues found in six wine jars found in Tut's tomb. All six contained tartaric acid, which is characteristic of grapes, but only one contained syringic acid, which is only found in the skin of red grapes and gives red wine its colour.Their conclusion is that the other five jars must have contained white wine - a surprise, given that until now the first evidence of white wine in Egypt dated from the third century AD, about 1 500 years after the young pharaoh died."
See the above article for more.

Journal of the Serbian Archaeological Society

Thanks to Dr. Branislav Andelkovic for the following contents list of the Journal of the Serbian Archaeological Society (21, 2005). The annual peer-reviewed Journal was established in 1984, and is dedicated to the branches of study (Prehistoric, Classical, Medieval and Near Eastern archaeology) covered by the Society.
  • A preliminary view on the appearence of Canaanites at Chalcolithic Buto I, Lower Egypt - by Sava P. Tutundzic
  • On the post-firing incised potmarks with human figures form Nagada - by Marcelo Campagno
  • Explorations and excavations in the mines of the Timna Valley (Israel): Palaeomorphology as key to major problems in mining research - by Beno Rothenberg
  • Notes on the cemeteries of Tell Beit Mirsmim and some reminiscences at the site - by Eliot Braun and Leticia Barda
  • Further remarks on the Montevideo Mummy - by Juan Jose Castillos
  • The coffin of Nesmin: Construction and wood identification - by Branislav Andelkovic and Maria Victoria Asensi Amoros
  • REVIEW: [The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Serbian edition] (B. Andelkovic, in Serbian)
  • REVIEW: Joseph G. Manning, Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Structure of Land Tenure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. XXI + 335 pp. (O. Pelcer, in Serbian)
JSAS (ISSN 0352-5678) is published by the Serbian Archaeological Society, Cika Ljubina 18-20, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Mystery of Unkown Man E

Bob Brier uses all the available data to speculate on the identity of a mummy found in 1886 in the Deir el Bahri Cache: "On a day at the end of June 1886, Gaston Maspero, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, was unwrapping the mummies of kings and queens found in a cache at Deir el-Bahri, near the Valley of the Kings. Inside a plain, undecorated coffin that offered no clues to the deceased's identity, Maspero found something that shocked him. There, wrapped in a sheepskin--a ritually unclean object for ancient Egyptians--was a young man, hands and feet bound, who seemed to be screaming. There was no incision on the left abdomen, through which the embalmers normally removed the internal organs; the man had not been afforded the traditional mummification. Maspero was convinced there had been foul play."
See the rest of this abstract, complete with photographs, for the possible identification of this unusual individual. The full text is available in the print copy of Archaeology Magazine March/April 2006 edition.

Ancient Egypt Magazine - February/March edition


Thanks very much to Ancient Egypt magazine editor Bob Partridge for emailing me the following. The latest issue of “Ancient Egypt” is now out (February/March 2006) and includes the following articles:

  • Featured Pharaoh: Neferhotep I. Following the discovery of a statue if this king in the foundations of the temple of Karnak, Wolfram Grajetzki looks at what is known about the reign of this Thirteenth Dynasty king.
  • Supporting Egyptological causes 2006: The Friends of Nekhen. AE brings you the first of a series of reports on the work being done at the site of ancient Hierakonpolis. The Director of the Hierakonpolis Expedition, Renée Friedman, introduces the town and its houses and temple.
  • Past Articles and News Re-visited. The Headless statue of Rameses III at Medinet Habu, has its head located. News on the moving of the statue of Rameses II in the centre of Cairo and more information on a lion of Amenhotep III.
  • Ancient Egypt in Madrid. Cathie Bryan discovers a fascinating Egyptian collection and visits a genuine ancient Egyptian temple.
  • Granite? Gneiss? Greywacke? ... What stone is that? Geologist Birgit Schoer examines some of the different rock types used by the ancient Egyptians for their buildings and sculptures.
  • Archive Image: Egypt Then and Now. The Colossi of Memnon.
  • The Cleaning of “Cleopatra’s Needle” in London. The obelisk of Thutmose III on the Thames Embankment has recently been cleaned. This is a full report by Iain McLean, the Director of the specialist cleaning company who explains the process and also the results of a study of the condition of the monument.
  • Per Mesut: for younger readers, looks at “Sons and Daughters”.

Plus the usual:

  • News from the world of Egyptology, “From our Egypt Correspondent” Ayman Wahby Taher
  • “Netfishing” – exploring the World Wide Web for good sites on ancient Egypt.
  • Listing of Egyptology Societies and meetings. Lectures and exhibitions.

Book reviews:

  • “Tutankhamun – Speak my Name”, a novel by Anthony Holmes
  • “Egyptology: The Missing Millennium, Ancient Egypt in Medieval Arabic Writings”, by Dr Okasha El Daly
  • “The British Museum Concise Introduction to Ancient Egypt” by TGH James
  • “The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Ancient Egypt” by Toby Wilkinson
  • “Francis Frith’s Egypt and the Holy Land” Frith’s own account of his pioneering photographic journeys.
  • “Mereruka and his Family. Part 1, the Tomb of Meryteti” by N. Kanawati and M. Abder-Raziq and others
  • “Amenemone the chief Goldsmith: A New Kingdom Tomb in the Teti cemetery at Saqqara” by Boyo Ockinga and others.
  • “Pocket Dictionary: Pharaohs and Queens” by Marcel Maree
  • “The Pocket Timeline of Ancient Egypt” by Helen Strudwick

A special readers trip to Egypt in 2006 with the magazine Editors
A subscriber’s competition in every issue, with the chance to win a book.

Some of the articles coming up in future editions - NOTE, the news of the new tomb in the Valley of the Kings arrived too late to be included in the current issue. In April the magazine will feature the latest news on this important discovery.

  • Vivant Denon and a Cache of Mummies: Marianne Luban looks at Denon’s time in Egypt at the end of the Eighteenth Century.
  • The God’s Father, Ay: Marshall Hindley examines what is known about the pharaoh who succeeded Tutankhamun.
  • Tombs at Heirakonpolis: The Director of the Hierakonpolis Expedition reveals the discoveries at the site of many very early burials, which can tell us much about the formative period of ancient Egyptian history.
  • A New Museum at Saqqara: Dr Zahi Hawass reports on the opening of the “Imhotep Museum” at Saqqara.
  • Ancient Egyptian Wine: New scientific investigations by Dr. Maria Rosa Guasch Jane have revealed the nature of Egyptian wine.
  • Byzantine Egypt: Crucible of Christianity: Sean Mclachlan looks at the Egyptian origins of Christianity and how some ancient Egyptian thoughts and traditions still affect the way millions worship today.
  • Egypt and Malta: Anton Mifsud and Marta Farrugia investigate ancient links between Egypt and Malta.
  • The Late Roman Army in Egypt: Ross Cowan tells the story of Sinful barbarians and part-time Legionaries in the Aswan area of Egypt.
  • Restoring a painting in the tomb of Anen: Lyla Pinch-Brock describes her work in restoring a damaged painting in the important Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Anen at Thebes.

Museums on Trial

An Archaeology Magazine special interview with Ellen Herscher about the trial of key J. Paul Getty representatives, and its implications for other purchasing policies of US museums in the future: "As ARCHAEOLOGY went to press, Marion True, former antiquities curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and art dealer Robert Hecht were on trial in Italy and facing possible jail time, charged with conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities. Their partner Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2004 on similar charges, is currently appealing his 10-year sentence. Ellen Herscher, former director of international programs for the American Association of Museums and past chair of the AIA's cultural property legislation and policy committee, spoke to ARCHAEOLOGY about what ramifications the case may have on the future acquisition practices of America's most powerful museums."

Book: The Archaeology of Early Egypt

Thanks to Geoffrey Tassie for the information that a new book on early Egypt is forthcoming: The Archaeology of Early Egypt: Social Transformations in North East Africa, 10,000 to 2650 BC by David Wengrow (Cambridge World Archaeology S.). It is due for release on April 30th 2006. The summary on the Cambridge University Press website reads: "In this fresh, authoritative and compelling survey of the archaeology of early Egypt, David Wengrow offers a new interpretation of the emergence of farming economies and the dynastic state, c.10,000 to 2,650 BC. Exploring key themes such as the nature of state power, kingship and the inception of writing, Wengrow illuminates prehistoric social development along the Nile through comparison with neighbouring regions. Detailed analysis of the archaeological record reveals the interplay between large-scale processes of economic and political change and intimate material practices through which social identities were transformed, focussing upon ritual treatments of the dead. Employing rich empirical data and engaging critically with anthropological theory and the history of archaeological thought, Wengrow's work challenges the current theoretical isolation of Egyptian prehistory and breaches the methodological boundaries that separate prehistory from Egyptology. It is essential reading for anybody with an interest in ancient Egyptian civilisation or early state formation."
For a listing of the contents, see the above web page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Preventing archaeological encroachments

"Zahi Hawass is to open the First Conference on Encroachments on Archaeological Sites tomorrow. 'The conference will tackle the problem of encroachments and their impact on antiquities,' said Hawass, stressing the need for the concerned bodies to play an active role in this. Hawass noted that the conference will also discuss the possibility of introducing new laws and legislation to stop the encroachments, which are increasing all the time. 'The conference aims to decide on a plan to deal with the problem,' added Hawass, who is expected to suggest that participants adopt a bilateral protocol between the SCA and the concerned bodies, different governorates, the Antiquities and Tourist Police and local councils, in a bid to expedite the removal of the encroachments and preserve the country's archaeological heritage. The conference will also focus on enhancing archaeological and the cultural awareness of public and non-governmental organisations, as well as the role the media can play in preventing encroachments."
This is the complete item on the Egyptian Gazette website.

Discovering KV63

http://tinyurl.com/bggwc (Tennessean.com)
No new information, but this is a short, nice piece about the discovery of KV63 by the team Amenmesse team from Memphis: "Led by institute research associate Dr. Otto Schaden, the team was there for their annual excavation of the tomb of King Amenmesse. They got sidetracked after a team member, Irish archeologist Alistair Dickey, unearthed a precisely cut corner stone. He cleared more earth away and found the start of a vertical shaft. Other team members gathered around. They watched the shaft get deeper as more earth was cleared. . . . The door, about 20 feet below ground level, was blocked by limestone chips. The diggers cleared an opening about 6 inches high. Dickey and team photographer Heather Alexander peered inside. In the darkness, they saw forms. Alexander, flat on her stomach, aimed her flashlight inside."
Corcoran is quoted saying that the it could take five days before the burial chamber is cleared. See the article for the full story.