Friday, November 30, 2007

Exhibition: John Feeney Photography

Egypt Daily Star News

John Feeney was quite an amazing fellow — a well-traveled photographer, Academy Award nominated director, cookbook author and lieutenant in the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserve Feeney.

It was a family merging of sorts in The American University in Cairo’s Sony Gallery at John Feeney’s “River Man” photography exhibit opening. New Zealand’s Feeney, who passed away this time last year at age 84, lived in Egypt for 40 years. On this night, his relatives from New Zealand and Feeney’s closest Cairene friends were finally able to meet each other.

During what was to be a one-year stay in 1963 to make the documentary “Fountains of the Sun” at the Ministry of Culture’s request, he fell in love with Egypt and didn’t leave for 40 years.

In 2005 Feeney wrote that “most of life’s dreams are not carefully plotted; they just happen and we must be ready.”

Feeney’s photos are a perfect collaboration of all Egypt’s idiosyncrasies, and many pictures capture significant moments now lost from reality forever. . . .

John Feeney photography will be on display at AUC’s Sony Gallery until Dec. 12. His books “Egyptian Soups: Hot and Cold” and “Photographing Egypt: Forty Years Behind the Lens” are available at the AUC Bookstore.

The above page is accompanied by several of the photographs in the exhibition.

Howard Carter: el enigma era él

El Pais (In Spanish - Jacinto Anton)

El descubridor de la tumba de Tutankamón tuvo una vida llena de sombras.

En el cementerio de Putney Vale, en el extrarradio de Londres, yace enterrado un misterio tan grande como el de Tutankamón: el de su descubridor. No sabemos quién fue en realidad Howard Carter, un hombre desconcertante, ambicioso y arribista, perseverante y sensible, con facetas inquietantemente oscuras y al que debemos sin embargo uno de los hallazgos más dorados y luminosos de la historia.

Roughly translated: "The man who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun had a life filled with shadows. In the cemetery of Ptuney Vale, in the suburbs of London, lies interred a mystery as great as that of Tutankhamun: that of his discoverer. We don't know who Howard Carter really was, a man who was amazing, ambitious and self-seeking, assiduous and sensitive with disquietening dark facets and to whom we owe, nevertheless, one of the most golden and luminous finds in history.

See the above page for the full story.

Tourism: Egypt Tourism Industry Set to Grow

PR Minds

Egypt’s ancient beauty, efficient tourism infrastructure and strong government support are alluring the tourists from all over the world to explore this mysterious country of mummies.

RNCOS, the leading market research consulting services company, has recently published its comprehensive report “Egypt Tourism Sector Analysis” to present a rational analysis of the tourism industry of the North African country, Egypt. According to the report, the tourist influx in Egypt is expected to register growth at a CAGR of over 7% for the period 2007-2011.

As per the report, the rapid growth of the Egyptian tourism industry in future will be driven by strong government efforts. Besides long-standing tax holidays in select tourism areas for the investors, the Egyptian government has shown keen interest in the development of tourism industry, campaigning intensely in chief Gulf and European countries, and offering lucrative incentives to foreign operators.

Apart from the government initiatives, rising tourism sponsoring campaigns, such as “Egypt… the Incomparable” and “The Gift of the Sun”, geographical location, rising FDI, and increasing personal disposable income, coupled with favorable age group will add substantially to the future growth of the Egypt’s tourism industry.

See the above page for more.

Bloomsbury Summer School 2008 Programme

Bloomsbury Summer School

The draft programme for the Bloomsbury Summer School is now available online, and full details will be available in the form of both the printed brochure and a complete online update shortly. Last year the Summer School had attendees of all ages from Europe, Australia, Africa and the U.S., and we hope to welcome a similar mix of nationalities, ages and interests in 2008.

Daily Photo - Western Desert Sunset

Nothing archaeological about these photographs - they are just pretty! But every time I see a sunset in the Western Desert I do wonder what the Prehistoric or Pharaonic occupants of the oasis areas were thinking when they were looking at the same celestial colours and textures.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Siwa fighting for survival

Egypt Daily Star News

Potential mismanagement of Siwa’s water resources are a growing concern among residents. Siwa sits on a huge salt water well and attempts to minimize flooding have led to the drying out of some areas, such as the near side of Fatnis Island.

Everyone acknowledges that it is difficult to strike a balance between flooding protection and maintaining a consistent water supply, particularly when many local residents rely on plentiful wells to irrigate their crops. The harvesting of olives and dates is still the main livelihood for this agricultural community.

However, visitors to Fatnis Island fear that the delicate water balances needed to sustain such fragile ecosystems are not being met . . . .

With pressures on agricultural production and with Siwa’s inherent natural beauty and archeological treasures Siwans, Egyptians and international development experts are looking to tourism as Siwa’s economic future.

Siwa, perhaps the most beautiful of Egypt’s oases, plays host to an ancient mud brick town, numerous Greek and Roman tombs and the ruins of the famous Oracle. Even if claims by Greek amateur archeologist Liana Souvaltzi that she had found the lost tomb of Alexander the Great seem to have been widely disproved, it is clear that Siwa has much to offer the tourist.

A historically isolated and culturally unique town, Siwa is a fragile community where 25,000 residents of Berber and Bedouin origin farm and make handicrafts.

Mahdi Huweiti, head of the local tourist information office, fears that growing tourist numbers could have a disastrous impact on both the community and the landscape. He particularly fears the possible construction of an airport. Siwa is a small town, and the streets are narrow.

ESB News Update Nov 2007

Egypt Society of Egypt

The Egyptology Society of Egypt has issued its latest news update (no.22, November 2007). As usual they have generously shared some of their experiences with the rest of the world. This issue includes a summary of some of their recent lectures and includes a short and positive review of the Tutankhamun exhibition. The lectures summarized are:
  • The Columns of Egypt, by Peter Phillips
  • Bristol’s New Egyptian Gallery, by Sue Giles
  • The Sphinx Revealed: A forgotten record of pioneering excavations by Dr Patricia Usick
There's a lovely photograph of a watercolour the Egyptian collection in Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery in 1834.

Book Review: Mirage

The Canadian Press

Mirage - Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt by Nina Burleigh (Harper)

Napoleon Bonaparte had an idea for winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim people he invaded: He told the Egyptians that he and his army wanted to be Muslims, too.

It wasn't true, but that didn't bother Napoleon. What might have bothered him was that the idea didn't work.

He delayed revealing that he had targeted Egypt until hundreds of troop carriers were plowing through the Mediterranean, vainly hunted by Britain's navy. Some in France already knew what he wanted. He thought Egypt could be the start of an empire rivalling the one Alexander the Great conquered 2,000 years earlier.

As Nina Burleigh's "Mirage" describes it, the 28-year-old general lacked intercultural savvy. It may not have occurred to him - or it may not have mattered - that people dislike being invaded, especially when they get shot at, even if the invaders come from a country with democratic institutions.

UNESCO award for Farouk Hosni

Egypt State Information Service

On the sidelines of the opening of Cairo International Film Festival yesterday 28/11/2007, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted Culture Minister Farouk Hosni the Gold Medal of Fellini, the highest medal of the UNESCO in the field of culture, in an appreciation for Hosni's long contributions to promoting culture in Egypt and the role he played at the international level in this respect. For his part, the minister regarded the step as a great honor which came on time. Hosni is seeking to win the post of the UNESCO director general in the vote scheduled for 2009.

More re desert art in danger

The Daily Star Middle East

This is the same article that has been posted elsewhere, but it has an image on the page of several paintings on rock which have been covered in oil to make the colours stand out.

More re return of artefacts to Egypt from U.S.

Egypt State Information Service

This is a somewhat confusing account, but here it is anyway:

"Egypt's efforts will continue to retrieve our antiquities which were illegally taken," Dr. Zahi Hawas Secretary General of the Antiquities Supreme Council said.

He added that international contacts by the Council managed us to retrieve thousands of antiquities pieces.

Hawas added that he received assurances from the U.S (FBI) on the spotting of Egyptian antiquities stolen from Cairo University stores in Maadi years ago.

Egypt will send a delegation to receive the stolen antiquities pieces following the legal measures taken by FBI , he added. 12 states including Egypt and China will issue the lists of stolen antiquities seeking to have them back.

Foreign teams on missions in Egypt

Egyptian Gazette

As ever with the Egyptian Gazette this story will only be available for a few days.

More than one hundred foreign archaeological teams are currently working in Egypt and all are hoping to discover new monuments and artefacts that might answer some of the big questions. Foreign archaeologists have been coming here during the last two centuries.

Giovanni Belzoni (1778-1823) was an Italian adventurer who made numerous discoveries, many of which were procured for European collectors and museums. In 1815, Belzoni came to Cairo to offer Mohamed Ali Pasha, the founder of modern Egypt, a hydraulic machine he had invented. While in Egypt, he met British Consul General Sir Henry Salt, who engaged him to travel to Thebes to remove the colossal stone head of Ramses II prior to sending it to the British Museum in London. His success prompted Salt to follow Belzoni's expeditions to the temples at Edfu, Philae and Elephantine. He cleared the great temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel, excavated at Karnak, and discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Seti I in the Valley of the Kings in 1817. Belzoni was the first person to penetrate the second pyramid at Giza in 1818 by using his engineering genius to locate the entrance to the inner chambers. He was also the first European to visit the Siwa Oasis and identify the ruined city of Berenice on the Red Sea.

Sir Henry Salt was keen to make his name as a collector. In 1815, he was appointed British Consul-General in Alexandria, where he prepared an extensive collection of antiquities for sale to the British Museum. During his time as Consul-General, he sponsored many excavations in Egypt and Nubia. He acquired many valuable antiquities for the British Museum and added to his own already immense collection. Through the help and services of Giovanni Belzoni, he procured several important monuments from Thebes.

See the above page for the full story.

Trivia: Egyptology on the go

Gear Log

Yeah, yeah, this latest generation of cell phones can sure do some impressive stuff, but as countless proponents of edutainment gaming titles have taught us time and again, a technology ain't worth its weight in silicon until it becomes a harbinger of serious learnin'.

Japan's Cyber University (Sequoia Institute, eat your heart out) is taking charge of the matter by harnessing the power of cell phones to offer college courses on the go. The first class at the university--which is, incidentally, owned by mobile provider, Softbank--to be offered via cell phone is "Mysteries of the Pyramids" (sounds like it should be taught by Robert Stack). According to Engadget, it will be available as a streaming Power Point presentation viewable on mobile devices

Daily Photo - 8 Bells

The word "Eight Bells" and an arrow pointing north are spelled out in empty cans of aviation fuel at the south of the Gilf Kebir. The cans mark an aircraft landing site, which was used during the Second World War by the RAF in Egypt. The need for a landing area in this remote part of the world was due to the importance of the Libyan oasis of Kufra. It had been agreed that intermediate landing grounds would be required which would store petrol, and two of these were established by the Long Range Desert Group. The other was at Bir Terfawi, 200km to the east. Eight Bells is named for a topographical feature in the desert - outliers of the Gilf Kebir plateau itself, isolated from the main plateau by the actions of ancient drainage systems. Today nearly all of the cans, which themselves represent wartime archaeology, have been pierced with dots that spell out messages and signatures from visitors who want to be part of the story.

One of the best books that explains the modern history of the Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uweinat areas is Saul Kelly's excellent The Lost Oasis: The Desert War and the Hunt for Zerzura. If you want to see some classic photographs from this era taken in the area you need look no further than Andras Zboray's pages on the FJ Expeditions website (under the side heading Libyan Desert in the left hand menu bar, go to the subheading History and Explanation, and then use the expanded set of titles in the menu bar to visit different sections showing lots of different photographs).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Russian archaeologists find mummies in the Faiyum

NOVOSTI - Russian News and Information Service

Russian archaeologists have found well-preserved mummies in Egypt dating to the country's Ptolemaic era, the head of the Russian Academy of Science's Egyptology department announced on Tuesday.

"Well-preserved mummies of this period are extremely rare," Galina Belova said.

The discoveries were made in the Egyptian oasis of Al-Fayum, where several mummies, combining traits of Hellenic and Egyptian traditions, have previously been found.

Teams of Russian archaeologists are currently carrying out excavations in Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt, in Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, and near Luxor in the country's south.

"Burials from the Greco-Roman period are laid at the depth of two meters or lower," Belova said, adding that as a rule, coffins of the period are not decorated.

However, the Russian team found a 2,000-year-old family tomb containing three well-preserved mummies from the Ptolemaic era. The wooden coffins were ornamented with colored paintings and carved with hieroglyphs, recounting the family's story.

A man, probably the head of the family, was buried with a gold-plated mask. The remains will be x-rayed to establish the man's true age and to reconstruct his appearance.

The tomb also contained 1.4-meter coffin made of compressed papyrus. Judging by the illustrations adorning the coffin, it contains a mummy of a child, probably a girl, but researchers have decided not to open it 'in the field'.

A mummy of an old woman with well-preserved hair has also aroused interest, as well as a tomb of a baby, buried with mummified dogs, cats, monkeys and ibises (long-legged wading birds).

Polish archaeologists have completed another season of excavations in Saqqara

Nauka w Polsce

About 20 burials, including a few fully preserved mummies, were discovered by Polish archaeologists at a necropolis dating back to the Ptolemaic dynasty in Saqqara (Eqypt) during the 13th excavation season. Some of them have beautiful cartonnages – plaster cases which are covered in religious paintings. “They are extremely valuable as they confirm that there was a special ‘school’ of producing cartonnages and decorating mummies in Saqqara” – said Prof. Karol Myśliwiec, heading the excavations.

“In various museums in the world, there are groups of mummies similar to the ones discovered by us – but their origins are unknown. Thanks to our discovery, many museums from different countries will be able to link their artefacts with the Saqqara necropolis” – he explained.

The tombs were discovered under a layer of sand at the site of the “upper necropolis” located on the west side of the oldest pyramid in the world built for pharaoh Djoser. The aim of the excavations was to find more materials to add to the already existing ones for publication.

See the above page for the full story, which is accompanied by photographs.

No calculators, just a brush and papyrus

The Signal

David Reimer, associate professor of mathematics and statistics, presented "The Strange Math of the Egyptians" at the College on Nov 14.

The lecture focused on re-evaluating how modern mathematicians view ancient Egyptian mathematics.

Reimer, who is currently writing his own textbook, has studied the history of math going back to simple calculations by cavemen, but ancient Egypt "is really a favorite subject," he said.

"I maintain that Egyptian math is faster than our math," Reimer argued. "I can perform Egyptian math nearly twice as fast at my best."

Reimer backed this statement with a brief history on ancient Egypt and how its math was created. Two texts on ancient Egyptian math currently exist, the Rhind and Moscow papyri, however, half of the Moscow papyrus has disappeared.

See the above page for more.

More re Tabula Peutingeriana

Further to yesterday's posting about the Tabula Peutingeriana, there is an online image of the complete map on Wikipedia. Click on it to expand it and use the scroll bars to navigate.

Oxbow Book News 73 (Winter 2007)

Oxbow Books

Oxbow have released their most recent catalogue. There are some great new and older titles if you dig around- here's a very biased selection of some of the ones that tempted me:

  • Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists (edited by J.-Cl. Goyon and C. Cardin)
  • The Ancient Economy: Evidence and Models (edited by J.G. Manning and Ian Morris)
  • Lives of the Ancient Egyptians (by Toby Wilkinson)
  • The archaeology of mobility: Nomads in the Old and New World (edited by Hans Barard and Willeke Wendrich)
  • Egyptian Bestiary (by Phillipe Germond)
  • New Kingdom Pottery Fabrics: Niile Clay and Nile/Marl Clay Fabrics from Memphis and Amarna (by Janine Bouriau, L.M.V. Smith and P.T. NIcholson)
  • Calendars and Years: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient Near East

Egyptomania/Trivia: Temples of Damanhur

Daily Mail

Thanks to Tony Cagle's blog for this item. An underground folly in Italy has been found created by an insurance broker who decidecd to create temples from his visions of a past life.

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque.

But it is deep underground, buried into the ancient rock, that the region's greatest wonders are concealed.

Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret - one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed 'the Eighth Wonder of the World' by the Italian government.

For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

Constructed like a three-dimensional book, narrating the history of humanity, they are linked by hundreds of metres of richly decorated tunnels and occupy almost 300,000 cubic feet - Big Ben is 15,000 cubic feet.

Few have been granted permission to see these marvels.

Indeed, the Italian government was not even aware of their existence until a few years ago.

But the 'Temples of Damanhur' are not the great legacy of some long-lost civilisation, they are the work of a 57-year-old former insurance broker from northern Italy who, inspired by a childhood vision, began digging into the rock.

It all began in the early Sixties when Oberto Airaudi was aged ten. From an early age, he claims to have experienced visions of what he believed to be a past life, in which there were amazing temples.

See the above page for the full story - and lots of images of all sorts of strange visions!

Daily Photo - Book of the Dead of Nakht

This lovely papyrus is held in the British Museum. Unfortunately the light isn't great (it is in a dim corner and the glass cabinet reflects the lighting) but these should give some idea of the details shown on the papyrus. This scene shows Nakht (a scribe and overseer of the armed forces) in the Field of Reeds, Spell 110. The spell is from the Book of Going Forth by Day, more commonly known as the Book of the Dead, and shows the deceased engaging in agricultural activities.

The papyrus can also be seen on the British Museum's website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ancient Roman road map unveiled

BBC News

The Tabula Peutingeriana is one of the Austrian National Library's greatest treasures.

The parchment scroll, made in the Middle Ages, is the only surviving copy of a road map from the late Roman Empire.

The document, which is almost seven metres long, shows the network of main Roman roads from Spain to India.

It is normally never shown to the public. The parchment is extremely fragile, and reacts badly to daylight.

But it has been on display for one day to celebrate its inclusion in Unesco's Memory of the World Register. . . .

The Tabula Peutingeriana was included in the Unesco Memory of the World Register this year, and was on limited view in Vienna on 26 November 2007.

Exhibition: The Divine Cat

British Museum

Until 27th January 2008 in Room 3 of the British Museum (London, UK). Admission Free.

This display uses both ancient sources and scientific analyses to explore a unique and intriguing bronze statue from Ancient Egypt: the Gayer-Anderson Cat. It shows that there is often more than one way of looking at a museum object.

Bronze statues such as this cat were used in Ancient Egypt to communicate with the gods. Inscriptions surviving upon some of these statues reveal the different types of requests made to the gods by the person dedicating the statue. Donors sought a long life, good health, and other such wishes through leaving the statue in a temple.

In 2007, scientific research carried out at the British Museum revealed new and surprising information about the statue including how it was made, and also how the original owner in modern times, Major Gayer-Anderson, repaired and modified the cat.

Alexandria Quartet 50th Anniversary celebrations

Egypt Daily Star News

Generations of writers have been inspired by the multi-cultural, outward-looking city of Alexandria. In recent history, the most famous literary work about Alexandria by a non-Egyptian author is Lawrence Durrell’s “Justine,” the first volume of his classic “Alexandria Quartet.”

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of this book, the British Council and the Alexandria and Mediterranean Research Center are co-hosting a program of events about Durrell, the man, and Alexandria’s continuing influence on writers today. The event is sponsored by the British Egyptian Society.

See the above for more.

Book Review: Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction

London Review of Books

Review by James Davidson: Bonkers about Boys
Alexander the Great in Fact and Fiction edited by A.B. Bosworth and E.J. Baynham

A rich and highly enjoyable review, which is a feast in itself. It dates to November 2001 (hence the reference to millennial panic), but I found it so entertaining that I've added it anyway:

For those suffering from millennial panic about the current state of history – all those Postmodernists on the non-fiction bestseller lists, all those fact-deniers occupying important professorial chairs, all those poor students who know what Marie Antoinette had for breakfast but not how she died – classics departments all over the country are offering courses of therapy: Alexander the Great.

In Alexanderland scholarship remains largely untouched by the influences which have transformed history and classics since 1945. Some great beasts, having wandered in, can still be found here decades later, well beyond reach of the forces of evolution. Secluded behind the high, impassable peaks of prosopography, military history and, above all, Quellenforschung, Alexander historians do what Alexander historians have done for more than a hundred years: try to discover the facts about Alexander the Great between his accession to the throne of Macedon in October 336 and his death in Babylon on the evening of 10 June 323 BC; what really happened on the expedition, what really happened during the three big battles against the Persians, what really happened during the march into India and back again, what happened to Alexander, what happened at Court.

Unfortunately, the facts come, in A.B. Bosworth’s words, from ‘derivative writings from the Roman period which draw upon the lost histories of Alexander’. These derivative writings are carefully ranked.

See the above page for the full article.

Daily Photo - Treasures from Sudan exhibtion

The Treasures from Sudan exhibition was held at the British Museum in London in 2004. Its purpose was to celebrate the centenary fo the founding of the first museum in the Sudan in 1904, and to help to promote more awareness of the country's heritage. These are a few images from a super exhibition. There was a good article in The Guardian by Jonathan Jones at the time (Riddle of the Sands, September 9th 2004). The article not only reviewed the exhibition and what it revealed, but also asked whether or not the archaeology displayed in the exhibition could reveal anything about the area's "bloody present".

If you're interested in current projects being carried out in the sudan you might find the following sites of interest:
Meroe Dam Archaeological Salvage Project
The Sudan Archaeological Research Society
The International Society for Nubian Studies

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tamil Brahmi script in Egypt

The Hindu

A broken storage jar with inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi script has been excavated at Quseir-al-Qadim, an ancient port with a Roman settlement on the Red Sea coast of Egypt. This Tamil Brahmi script has been dated to first century B.C. One expert described this as an “exciting discovery.”

The same inscription is incised twice on the opposite sides of the jar. The inscription reads paanai oRi, that is, pot (suspended) in a rope net.

An archaeological team belonging to the University of Southampton in the U.K., comprising Prof. D. Peacock and Dr. L. Blue, who recently re-opened excavations at Quseir-al-Qadim in Egypt, discovered a fragmentary pottery vessel with inscriptions.

Dr. Roberta Tomber, a pottery specialist at the British Museum, London, identified the fragmentary vessel as a storage jar made in India.

Iravatham Mahadevan, a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, has confirmed that the inscription on the jar is in Tamil written in the Tamil Brahmi script of about first century B.C.

Hawass reveals new discovery

Egypt State Information Service

Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawwas has revealed more Pharaonic discoveries at a seminar at AL-Ahly Club, Al Ahram reported.

"A new cemetery dating back to the 16th dynasty has been unearthed," Hawwas told an attentive audience.

"A Japanese researcher has also found a sarcophagus dating back to the same dynasty, and another Czech one found a masterpiece produced 4200 years ago."

Hawwas also said that the first Egyptian archeological mission will head for the Valley of Kings in Luxor to start exploration.

Smuggled antiquities to be returned to Egypt

Egypt State Information Service

Dr. Zahi Hawas, Chairman of the Supreme Council for Antiquities has received lately a letter from the United States saying the FBI has discovered the secret behind disappearance of 90 antiquities from Cairo University antiquities storehouse 12 years ago.

According to the FBI, the antiquities have been smuggled by an international gang.

Hawas said that a delegation will visit the US to get the antiquities back after completion of the procedures proving Egypt's ownership of the antiquities.

More re Farouk Hosni nomination for UNESCO

Egypt State Information Service

Culture Minister Farouk Hosney began yesterday 25/11/2007 in Algeria his nomination campaign for the position of the Secretary-General of the UNESCO. This campaign was attended by 22 culture ministers of the Arab countries.

The Egyptian nomination gained matchless success, and many Arab countries expressed their backing and support of choosing Egypt for this position. They also emphasized the necessity of approving on one Arab nominated this time to preserve the Arab right in assuming the headship of the UNESCO for the first time according to the geographical division.

Farouk Hosney said that he made many consultations and meetings with his Arab counterparts during the exceptional meeting currently in Algeria in which he felt great support and welcome in boosting the Egyptian nomination for the next round.

Moreover, Hosney said that his contacts in addition to the Egyptian Committee's contacts in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry with several countries, international and regional organizations, and the Arab League achieved great success in supporting the Egyptian nomination.

Hosney added that these contacts succeeded in gaining the approval of many countries in Europe, USA, Asia, South America, Russia, the Commonwealths and China.

On the other hand, Hosney revealed that his contacts with the German side succeeded in reaching an agreement of hosting Nefertiti's head statue in the Egyptian Museum for 6 months.

Auction: Reviving Egyptian Arts

Egypt State Information Service

Bonhams the world's fastest growing auction house decided to open January 23, 2008 anther Egyptian exhibition entitled "Reviving Egyptian Arts". The works which will include books, furniture, paintings and jewelry feature from Europe and ME will be inspired by Ancient Egyptian Art. This came as a result of the great influence of "King Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibition which Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak opened on November 15, 2007.

The British Newspaper, the Times stated on 24/11/2007 that the exhibition will include hundreds of pieces. One of the mot colorful pieces is a contemporary carved wooden chair inspired by those in Tutankhamun tomb. In bright reds and blues with hieroglyphs all aver it and wings at the top; it has an estimate of $ 900. There is also a 20th-century Egyptian head cameo, set in a gold frame and covered with hieroglyphs and diamonds at $ 400.

The Times article referred to in the above SIS post can be found on Times Online:

Books, furniture, paintings and jewellery feature, including works from Europe and the Middle East. There are pieces from the Grand Tour period, which coincided with the first Egyptian Revival, to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the 1920s and subsequent second Egyptian Revival, all the way to the present day.

“People have been fascinated by Ancient Egypt since the Battle of the Nile between Nelson and Napoleon in 1798,” says Madeleine Perridge, of the Bonhams antiquities department.

“That was when the Rosetta stone was found. French and English scholars raced to translate the hieroglyphs on the stone. Although the French won that race, the British won the battle, which is why the Rosetta stone is here, in the British Museum. However, Napoleon had a fascination for Egypt, and in France the Empire style began utilising aspects of Egyptian design, heralding the first Egyptian Revival.

“From there it came to the UK, and the interior designer Thomas Hope fell in love with Egypt, creating interiors using sphinxes and Pharaohs’ heads. By the late 1890s the passion for all things Egyptian was stronger than ever, and when Nefertiti’s head was found, it came to define female beauty. In fact, Ancient Egypt fitted in well with Victorian sensibilities, with its ghoulishness and seances – they used to hold meetings in which they would unwrap mummies in front of the public.”

There was a further frenzy when Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922, and the Art Deco movement, especially jewellery, utilised Egyptian design.

Bonhams, in the UK, has a website which has details of the sale location and dates and highlights.

Tourism: Rise in Swiss tourists visiting Egypt

Egypt State Information Service

Egypt's Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana said the number of Swiss tourists visiting Egypt increased during the last five years.

In 2006, some 120,000 Swiss tourists visited Egypt, Garana said in a speech at the inaugural session of the annual conference of Swiss Travel Agencies Federation.

The gathering is being held in Egypt for the first time.

Garana underlined great development in the Egyptian tourism sector during the past two decades.

Tourism became one of the main sources of income, he said, citing non-stop investment in infrastructure and sustainable development in human resources in the tourism sector.

Tourism Minister Zuhair Garana said some 9.1 million tourists visited the country last year.

They spent 89 million tourist nights, he added, estimating revenues from tourism at $ 7.6 billion.

Garana expected the number of tourists visiting Egypt to reach 14 million by 2011.

Hans-Jorg Leuzinger, the head of the Swiss Travel Agencies Federation, thanked Garana for hosting their annual conference in Egypt.

Tourism: Egypt wins best history country brand

AME Info

Egypt has topped the Best Country Brand for History category in the 2007 Country Brand Index (CBI), putting the country ahead of a renowned group of historically rich locations that include Italy, China and Greece, reported BI-ME. CBI examines how countries are branded and ranked according to key criteria and also provides an extensive overview of the challenges and opportunities within the world's of travel, tourism and country branding. Egypt also figured prominently in the Best Country Brand for Art and Culture category, joining Italy and France in the top three, while placing it ahead of India and UK.

Daily Photo - More lovely bits from the British Museum

Funerary Stela of Renefseneb (shown with two relatives)
Limestone, Late Middle Kingdom c.1800BC
Traditional offering formula

Tomb slab of Neferseshempepy, Denderah
Limestone. Late Old Kingdom, c.2150BC

Limestone stela of Khnumhotep
5th Dynasty, c.2400BC, Saqqara

Inscribed fitting of Amenhotep IV in bronze
Eighteenth Dynasty
"There exists the sun of the sungod whom he loves,
Amenhotep, divine ruler of Thebes"

Limestone door from the tomb of Tjetji, Giza
Fourth Dynasty, c.2500BC
Tjetji is shown with his wife Debet

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fakes and Counterfeits

Guardian Unlimited (James Fenton)

The recent court case of a family of counterfeiters, who successfully passed off a fake statue as an Amarna period piece and sold it to a UK museum, has generated not only interest but a lot of thought on related matters. James Fenton has written a good insight into the psychology of fraud:

There is a neat moral point about falling victim to forgeries in general (not in the Bolton case). We are never more likely to be vulnerable to a cheat than when we ourselves are trying to diddle someone out of a masterpiece. You go into a shop and see a Rembrandt on the wall (so you think). You casually ask the price. The vendor mentions a figure that, though not small, is very cheap for a Rembrandt. At this point, the sensible thing might be to get an expert to examine your "Rembrandt" and give an opinion. But you are too greedy to do that. You want to own the thing first, and not alert anyone else (least of all the vendor) to your find. But this means that you are on your own; and if you are on your own, you are vulnerable.

You are also vulnerable if you are in a hurry. Fraudsters know this very well, and they often like to rush the customer, to take advantage of that moment of greed and bad judgment. And then there is the business of secrecy: the vendor gives the impression that the transaction must remain highly confidential, otherwise the deal is off. But secrecy means isolation.

More Tutankhamun - this time in Vienna

Suite 101

Thanks to Stan Parchin for the link to this update:

"Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs" will be on view at Vienna, Austria's Ethnological Museum from March 17 to September 28, 2008.

Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs, organized by Austria's Kunsthistorisches Museum in collaboration with the Egyptian Administration of Antiquities and the National Geographic Society, will be on view at Vienna's Ethnological Museum from March 17 to September 28, 2008.

See the above page for details.

Don't trust wives or laugh at cats

Times Online

More from George Hart on hieroglyphs, this time looking at some of the tales they weave:

Scenes of daily life on tomb walls with accompanying hieroglyphs (such as the man carrying an offering, right), and vivid stories and letters provide many illustrations of the Egyptian imagination and sense of humour. In fact, they convey a sense of joie de vivre and correct the mistaken perception that the Ancient Egyptians were morbid people who were obsessed with death. They wanted life to be unending, with a happy existence for the whole family in the hereafter.

But they were also human beings with imperfections and tempers. In one letter to a scribe who had self-important notions, the writer accuses him of being a skinflint and adds the insult that he is not a “real man” as he cannot get his wife pregnant.

See the above for the full story.

Book Review: Adventures of Wenamun


Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

Wenamun, the Egyptian priest of Amun of Thebes, traveled through Sais to Byblus of Phoenicia to get the precious cedar wood that was needed to have a holy boat of Amun sculpted in Thebes. It seems that Horihor, the local ruler of Thebes, was not internationally recognized as Pharaoh, and Wenamun "forgot" to ask Smendes, Pharaoh of Lower Egypt only (so, eventually a competitor to Horihor), a letter of recommendation for Tsekker Baal of Byblus, facing therefore great difficulty to convince the semi-barbaric ruler of the Phoenician city about his good intentions.

The image of a divided Egypt in decay comes in striking contrast with what was Egypt approximately 100 years before Wenamun, at the days of Ramses III, who fought successfully against the Sea Peoples, and ultimately dispersed them in the Mediterranean. The name of Tsekker Baal itself suggests his "Sea Peoples" origin, Tsekker being one of the attacking peoples.

An ideological differentiation between the two persons, Wenamun and Tsekker Baal, becomes evident thanks to details we find in the text. Yet, the most striking subject is the disdainful way Tsekker Baal addressed Wenamun, who was serving in a temple larger than the entire city Tsekker Baal was ruling!

Tourism: 27 percent increase of tourists in Egypt

Egypt State Information Service

Tourists coming to Egypt increased by 27 percent during last September.

The report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics said yesterday number of the incoming tourists reached 481,301 scoring an increase of 27 percent during the same month of the previous year.

European tourists topped others then came Middle East tourists and later East Asia and the Pacific.

Weekly Websites - Egyptian glass

Yet again, David Petersen has been sending me some great news items and resources on the Web. This week he has focused on Egyptian glass. Here are some of his links:

Archaeologists Discover an Ancient Egyptian Glass Factory (John Noble Wilford)
New York Times

In Egypt and the rest of the Middle East in the 13th century B.C., bronze was the heavy metal of power, and glass the rare commodity coveted by the powerful, who treasured glass jewelry, figurines and decorative vessels and exchanged them as prestige gifts on a par with semiprecious stones.

But definitive evidence of the earliest glass production long eluded archaeologists. They had found scatterings of glassware throughout the Middle East as early as the 16th century B.C. and workshops where artisans fashioned glass into finished objects, but they had never found an ancient factory where they were convinced glass had been made from its raw materials.

Two archaeologists now report finding such a factory in the ruins of an Egyptian industrial complex from the time of Rameses the Great. The well-known site, Qantir-Piramesses, in the eastern Nile delta, flourished in the 13th century B.C. as a northern capital of the pharaohs.

Glass Making
Tour Egypt

There is still some doubt as to when and where glass was invented. The tradition passed on by Pliny locates the event on the Phoenician coast, in modem Lebanon, where there later grew one of the most important glass-making centers.

In Egypt, the first glass we know of, as a component of faience ware, dates from as far back as the Neolithic Badarian culture at the turn of the 5th and 4th millennia BC. Glass is produced from a mixture of silica-sand, lime and soda, colored with the copper ore malachite and fused at a high temperature.

In the oldest Egyptian faience ware a skin of this substance was applied to a core made of silica-sand and clay, or of the stone steatite. This was used at first only for beads, but later on for amulets, shawabtis (the little figurines of the attendants of the deceased), other figures and inlays (shapes inserted into the sides of vessels, wooden objects, or into plaster). Particularly in the Middle and New Kingdoms a faience glaze was often applied to complete vessels and statuettes.

Pure glass as a separate material came later, in predynastic times, in the form of translucent beads.

The Chemical Composition of Glass in Ancient Egypt (Mikey Brass)
The Antiquity of Man

It was only during the time of the Romans that glass became common place in the Mediterranean world. The people of the preceding periods considered its function to be decorative rather than utilitarian. Glass in the ancient world usually appears in the form of semi-precious stones made from materials as various as turquoise (pale blue glass) and fluorite (purple glass) (Freestone 1991). The precious quality of glass is captured in references from Mesopotamian cuneiform texts to "artificial lapis lazuli"; lapis lazuli is a gemstone that originated in Afghanistan and was traded as far afield as Ancient Egypt.

Glass in the ancient world was manufactured by melting a combination of an alkali (potash or soda) and silica (raw materials such as quartz cobbles and sand).

Amarna Glass in the Egypt Centre

The earliest glass in Egypt dates to around 1500 BC and is of a very high quality. That some of the words for glass in Egyptian are Hurrian or Arkadian has led to the belief that the early glass was imported. Indeed, the Amarna letters mention imported glass and there is some suggestion that it was a royal monopoly. Soon after its first appearance there is some evidence of actual working but no experimental period leading to the suggestion that this glass was made by foreign glass workers, perhaps brought over by Tuthmosis III (1479-1425 BC).

Early glass is often treated like stone and may be cut like a gemstone rather than blown or moulded. An 18th Dynasty kohl pot of glass in the British Museum was solid cast and then had its interior drilled out like stone. Glass sickle blades were made in the same way as flint sickle blades in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Indeed, one of the words for glass in ancient Egyptian is ‘the stone that flows’.

Petrie believed the glass was made at Amarna and outlined a possible method. However, there has been some dispute as to whether this was the case and some recent commentators believe that during the Amarna Period glass was imported into Egypt.

See the above pages for full details.

One of the earliest known glass sculptures is Egyptian. It is a portrait of Amenhotep II and is held at the Corning Museum of Glass. It can be seen on the Museum's "Origins of Glass Making" web page.

Daily Photo - More from Grenoble Museum

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Renovated Christian rock painting from Sudan exhibited

Nauka w Polsce

A unique mural dating back to the 9th/10th century, which was discovered during excavations on the outskirts of the Sudanese village Banganarti, representing the “Descent of Christ into Hell” has been restored and displayed at Poznań Archaeological Museum. The depiction of Christ among sinners, descending into hell to redeem them is painted on a piece of plaster measuring 1.2 metres by 2 metres. It can be viewed in Poznań over the coming year.

“This painting, uncovered three years ago, was gradually deteriorating and conservators needed to intervene. The painting was made using watercolours and starch paints on plaster-clay slipware. An outline of the picture was preserved, making restoration possible” – said Dorota Moryto-Naumiak who, as a grantee of the National Centre of Culture, restored the unique artefact.

Travel: The Nile in even more style

Times Online (Bettany Hughes)

Sunbathing with two sub-machineguns near by is a curious experience. There I was, lazing along the Nile, when our luxurious liner was boarded by armed tourist police. Docked, things got even more exciting. Special operations officers, dressed in black, drove us in convoy, horns blaring, through roadblocks to the Temple of Dendara.

Essential security or showing off? Whichever – the original occupants would have approved: the Pharaohs loved a grand entrance.

I was doing Egypt as I’ve never done it before: expensively. A night beneath the silhouette of the Giza Pyramids in the superlative Mena House Hotel, followed by a week on the new Nile cruiser The Zahra.

Now I’ll confess. Much of this trip indulged every fantasy I’ve ever had. For years I’ve tramped around the Eastern Med and North Africa, so dusty and drenched with sweat that tiny rivulets of mud run from my shoulders to my toes. Back then even a functioning shower was a blessing.

See the above page for the full story.

Travel: Downtown Cairo hotels

Al Ahram Weekly (Nagal Nkrumah)

A downtown Cairo hotel might not be the place to put down new roots, but there are notable exceptions. Most of the hotels in this part of Cairo have seen better days and are run-down, dilapidated lodges that house rucksack European and East Asian tourists stopping over in Cairo for a week or so. They hark back to the good old days of Khedive Ismail's belle époque. He tried to construct a "Paris along the Nile" fashioned in the unique style of the Parisian architect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, commissioned by Napoleon III to revamp the French capital.

Contemporary Cairo tenaciously holds onto some of the stuccoes, impossibly high ceilings and marble lounges and reception halls of those long bygone days. Like an indefatigable belle who bewitches her beholders -- the rose fades, but its scent lingers on, as an Egyptian saying tells of ageing beauty. After its turn-of- the century heyday, the fortunes of downtown Cairo declined. It was, however, an unhurried fall from grace. Today, the central part of the city is invariably kitsch -- at best, and at certain places alarmingly so. The pensions of downtown Cairo are on the whole miserable, bleak resting places. More suitable, perhaps, for drunkards, who just want to lie down and slumber to ward off the frightful impact of hangovers. But dipsomaniacs toying with the notion of visiting the country ought to be forewarned that downtown Cairo is fast becoming short of watering holes.

Worn and threadbare sheets and old, uncomfortable mattresses in dingy hotels should come as no surprise, so do inspect the bedrooms before you check in. Do not be fooled by the marble and mahogany bourdoir sumptuousness of some establishments. Many were almost written off as a lost cause decades ago. Some are ugly enough to satisfy a certain type of backpacker's appetite for visual offensiveness and discomfort.

See the above page for the full story

Saturday Trivia

This will be the last Saturday Trivia - a necessary cut-back due to shortages in time! I will cover Egyptomania (interesting modern takes on ancient Egypt) in the main blog as and when I find articles.

Review: First thoughts re The Lost Tomb
Wired Online
Amazing Adventures: The Lost Tomb is definitely not a casual game that everyone is going to enjoy. It's one of those find-the-image games, where you must locate a list of specific objects in a room crammed to the rafters with random junk, which for some players amounts to little more than eyestrain. Others may find its simple challenge to be oddly relaxing, despite the ever-present timer.

The rooms of The Lost Tomb are all related to the game's Egyptology theme, but that aesthetic largely ends with the backdrop for the scenes you'll search. The objects you have to find have little to do with tombs, lost or otherwise, unless King Tut stashed a fire extinguisher, high heels, and a harmonica in his sarcophagus and I just don't know it.

Turquoise and gold: An Egyptian moment
International Herald Tribune

From the vivid turquoise prison bars in a colorful "Aida" to the gold-striped funeral mask of the boy king Tutankhamun, this is an Egyptian moment.

An exhibition opening this month in London and a new version of the opera's doomed love triangle, as seen by the designer Zandra Rhodes, have put Egypt back in style.

Not since Verdi's tragic opera was inaugurated in Cairo in 1871 and the design world exploded with excitement over the original discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 has the Pharaonic seemed so fashionable.

"It was such a wonderful civilization," said Rhodes, referring to the cult of Isis and Osiris, to the pyramid shapes that shift across the "Aida" backdrop and the bold hieroglyphics worked with a fashionable flourish. In her striking design for the English National Opera production, the prison gates, wrought into an "evil eye" in lapis lazuli and turquoise, are a backdrop to priests' gilded pleats, floating capes and Cleopatra hairdos that illuminate the somber story with imagination and flair.

Warhol's hoard a treasure trove
Sydney Morning Herald

Andy Warhol had a phenomenal foot fetish. The weirdest thing he owned was a mummified human foot from ancient Egypt. It was probably from a tomb-robbing, a victim of the Tutankhamen craze of the 1920s. Who knows how Warhol acquired it.

This was just one of 400,000 objects he collected in the last 15 years of his life. He became a compulsive hoarder. Restaurant bills, newspaper clippings, unpaid invoices, pornographic pulp novels, airline tickets, supermarket flyers, postage stamps, Chubby Checker LPs - you name it, he kept it.

Game: Cleopatra, A Queen's Destiny
Adventure Gamers

The title actually proves to be misleading, as Cleopatra herself is quite tangential to the story. Luckily, in her supporting role she adds greatly to the time period and historical setting. The events of the game all take place before her stint with Caesar and Mark Antony, in the city of Alexandria (the then-capital of Egypt). Due to Cleopatra’s rivalry with her husband-brother Ptolemy, the city is in the middle of a civil war. You play the game as Thomas, an astrology student during Cleopatra’s rise. Thomas’ mentor, Akkad, is said to be busy with a commission, but Thomas walks to the observatory to find nothing but blood (and, of course, a few clues). This begins a search for Akkad and his daughter Iris, with whom Thomas is quite smitten. Starting only with a toga, sandals, and his wits to guide him, it’s up to Thomas (and you) to uncover the mysteries behind their disappearance.

Tutankhamun movie to be filmed in Malta

A multi-million dollar Paramount epic movie, Tutankhamen, will be filmed in Malta, has learnt.

A few weeks ago, revealed that a blockbuster is scheduled to commence shooting in Malta.

Tutankhamen will be the most expensive movie ever filmed in Malta, sources said. The film will be in pre-production in Malta for around six months as the set building will involve hundreds of several local craftsmen. The filming is expected to be completed in August.

Daily Photo - The Giza Pyramids

These were taken in November 2006, the first two from Le Meridien Pyramids hotel.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Desert art in danger at Egypt's new tourism frontier

Middle East Online (Charles Onians)

I have been nagging recently about the impact of irresponsible tourists on the Egyptian deserts. I am delighted to say that this has been excellently highlighted by the article on the above page, which points explicitly to the problems being experienced in Egypt, Libya and the Sudan. I have quoted from it more than I would usually, but there is a lot more to read on the above page.

A rising tide of travellers seeking out the new frontier of Egyptian tourism is threatening priceless rock art preserved for millennia in one of the most-isolated reaches of the Sahara.

In Egypt's southwest corner, straddling the borders of Sudan and Libya, the elegant paintings of prehistoric man and beast in the mountains of Gilf Kabir and Jebel Ouenat are as stunning in their simplicity as anything by Picasso.

But lying 500 kilometres (330 miles) from the nearest habitation, the desert offers little sanctuary for these masterpieces and any effective protected designation first requires a deal between the three sometimes quarrelsome nations.

Not only the rock art is at stake, but the region's entire cultural and natural heritage.

"You can't estimate the amount of damage done," says Dr Rudolph Kuper, a German archaeologist involved in trying to protect the art, mostly dating from when the desert was a receding prairie 5,000-7,000 years ago.

"People put water or oil on the paintings to make the faded colours look brighter, causing irreparable damage," he says.

The story is even more tragic just across the border in Libya, where the delicate brush strokes of human figures at Ain Dua appear to have been shot at by bored soldiers. . . .

With untold damage already wrought, getting Egypt, Libya and Sudan to agree on policing the militarily sensitive area is a conservation conundrum.

The hope is to have the area designated as a trans-boundary cultural landscape UNESCO World Heritage site, but that requires the three nations to all first declare individual national parks.

So far, only Egypt has designated a park, but officials from all three countries are due to meet in Cairo in December in the hope of hammering out a deal, despite their occasionally fraught diplomatic relations.

With the support of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Kuper and Prof Mustafa Fouda from the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency want to build a museum-cum-educational centre in the oasis of Dakhla, the jumping off point for most trips to Gilf Kabir.

"Hopefully we can make our dreams come true, with a museum to explain the relationship between man and the desert, to explain how man can make use of the resources in a sustainable way," says Fouda.

Pending the politicians' decision, Kuper says that recently some tourists have returned to the Cave of the Swimmers to try to erase their names. For the desert's desecraters, it seems the writing is on the wall.

See the above page for more details, including two photographs, one recent and one fifty years old, juxtopositioned to show how the art has changed.

I was at a conference about Saharan prehistory in Poland earlier this year, where I was privileged to be present when two experts on the Gilf Kebir area of Egypt (where the Cave of Swimmers is located) had a discussion about how to manage this type of tourism in these remote areas. Although the difficulties are considerable there were some very good ideas emerging. Dr Rudolph Kuper was one of those experts, and it is very good to see that he is having an active role in attempting to resolve some of these issues in the Western Desert of Egypt at least. Problems are by no means restricted to the Western Desert - vandalism has also been recorded in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, where quarrying also poses a potential threat to the archaeology.

For those interested in the Gilf Kebir area, there is an article on the Al Ahram Weekly website by Mohamed El-Hebeishy, who toured with Colonel el-Mestekawi (one of those who discovered the Mestekawi-Foggini Cave). He also highlights some of the problems:

I lost track of time as I stood in complete amazement in El-Mestekawi Cave, seeing priceless pieces of art as old as rock art. Indeed, this constituted an unmatched experience that left my soul indulged in mystical harmony.

Most unfortunately, some irresponsible tourists spray water on rock art in order to secure a more vibrant photograph. Although it works, there is also a hefty price to pay in the form an accelerated deterioration of the art itself. Having been dry for thousands of years, the sandstone on which most of the rock art is painted reacts negatively with water. Soon enough, the colours start to fade and the paint starts to peel. Water spraying and camera flashes are lethal when it comes to rock art, so please be very careful whenever present in such a crucially important site.