Saturday, July 31, 2010

Whale fossil stuck in Egypt customs wrangle

BBC News

With photos

Its name in Arabic is Wadi Hitan but it is known as the Valley of the Whales.

For years archaeologists have been unearthing a remarkable collection of whale fossils, all the more surprising because the area is now inland desert in upper Egypt.

It is believed that about 40 million years ago the area was submerged in water, part of the Tethys Sea. As the sea retreated north to the Mediterranean it left a series of unique rock formations and also a cornucopia of fossils.

One of the most exceptional finds was a 37 million-year-old whale from the species Basilosaurus Isis, unearthed by a team led by Prof Philip Gingerich of the University of Michigan in the United States.

But now it has become the subject of a bizarre customs wrangle at Cairo airport.

Solicitudes para legalizar restos arqueológicos


Translating Spanish with toothache is something I simply cannot face this morning. If you don't speak Spanish try Google Translate.

Egipto ha recibido cien solicitudes de particulares para legalizar restos arqueológicos en su poder, de los que el ochenta por ciento son auténticos, en un proceso facilitado por una nueva ley que entró en vigor hace seis meses, publicó hoy el semanario Al Ahram.

"El resultado ha sido verdaderamente inesperado", dijo el director de la Administración de la Colección Arqueológica, Husein Basir, en una entrevista con el semanario en inglés del diario estatal Al Ahram.

El pasado 1 de febrero, el Parlamento egipcio aprobó una nueva y polémica legislación que modificaba una normativa de 1983 que penalizaba la venta, compra o tráfico de antigüedades en manos privadas.

Una de las enmiendas, que suscitó la controversia entre los egiptólogos, permite a particulares y entidades privadas legalizar sus piezas arqueológicas, si lo notifican por escrito al Consejo Superior de Antigüedades egipcias (CSA) en el plazo de 60 días, con la condición de que no se saquen de Egipto.

Petrie Museum closure

Petrie Museum

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London is closed for refurbishment from 2nd August to 21 September. Their hugely valuable online collection is of course still available and can be accessed from their newly redesigned website.

Garbage Dreams documentary captures Cairo's zabbaleen

The National (Ursula Lindsey)

Modern history rather than Egyptology, but a fascinating insight into an area of Cairo society. Here's a short excerpt.

As far as anyone knows, organised rubbish collection began in Cairo at the turn of the 20th century, when the wahiya, a Bedouin tribe from the Dakhla oasis, contracted with building owners to collect their tenants’ refuse. The wahiya charged the tenants a small fee, and resold the domestic waste – compacted into dry patties – as fuel that heated the city’s public baths and cooked its morning foul medames.

By the 1930s, the residents of Cairo were switching to fuel oil for their heating and cooking needs and the wahiya were looking for new customers to buy the garbage they held the rights to. They found them among poor, pig-breeding Christian immigrants from southern Egypt. The wahiya farmed out garbage collection to the soon-to-become zabbaleen, who fed their pigs the city’s discarded leftovers and learnt to recycle its paper, tin, rags, glass, plastic and bones.

In the 1970s, a group of zabbaleen were evicted from Cairo and forced to resettle in an abandoned quarry at the foot of the Moqattam cliffs. The barren spot had no water or electricity. One in four infants died in the settlement’s early days. But over the years, thanks in large part to various international assistance programmes, conditions have improved. Basic services were introduced. NGOs and schools were established. Once electricity arrived, the zabbaleen started small workshops specialising in recycling plastics, metals and fabrics.

If you are interested in modern Egyptian history there are a set on interesting stories in this week's Al Ahram Weekly, two of which look at the revolutions of 1919 and 1952 (in Opinion). There's also a piece about the Arabia exhibition at the Louvre (in Culture).

Deir el-Medina in the Days of the Ramesses

The Louvre

Thanks to ongoing toothache and the inevitably resulting sleepless nights I have been pottering around some websites that I don't usually visit very often. I have found one or two old and newer items that, although hardly news, may be of interest. Hence this six-page article on the Louvre website and the earlier post today about the Faiyum and Saqqara. Others will be forthcoming.

Here's the introduction:

Nestled in a desert valley in the hills of Thebes across from Luxor in Upper Egypt, the site of Deir el-Medina contains vestiges of the dwellings and necropolis of the laborers and craftsmen who dug and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Uncovered in the early nineteenth century and methodically excavated from 1922 onward by the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale, the site of Deir el-Medina has made a unique contribution to our knowledge of pharaonic Egypt thanks to the secular, civilian nature of its remains. The village homes and objects discovered there allow us to reconstruct he daily lives of the families whose breadwinners devoted themselves to the "Grand and Noble Tomb of Millions of Years," a euphemism for the royal tomb then being built in the Valley of the Kings. Family life took place within the village of Deir el-Medina, while work was carried out in the Valley of the Kings or the Valley of the Queens, both located in the nearby Theban hills.

Objects discovered during the excavations, partly conserved in the Louvre, offer insight into the world of Deir el-Medina and provide unique access to a more intimate understanding of the ancient Egyptians. The sum of these vestiges—sometimes spectacular, sometimes modest—is nothing less than an overview of human deeds, personal aspirations, artistic creation, professional activities, fears and thoughts attributable to the community of individuals who lived in Deir el-Medina over three thousand years ago.

Institutional Support To SCA. Saqqara and Faiyum

An old paper, dating back to 2002, but I thought that it might be of interest to some readers. PDF file (77 pages).

Institutional Support To SCA for Environnmental Monitoring and Management of Cultural Heritage Sites: Applications to Fayoum Oasis and North Saqqara Necropolis

The project, titled: "Enhancement of the organisation and capabilities to preserve Cultural Heritage Assets of Egypt", started on July 2000 with the purpose of:

a) Creating an integrated system to support the Egyptian public administration in its efforts to prevent environmental risks and to develop, with a socio-economic approach, the cultural resources of the country.

b) Developing an information model to support analysis and all proposals aimed at reducing the environmental negative impact on the state of preservation the Egyptian archaeological sites.
After the collection and analyses of all available data, the information model (referred to at point b) was developed and tested at the North Saqqara site (chosen by the SCA) leading to the drawing up of “North Saqqara site Risk Map". The project will end on February 2003.

The project has been so successful that the Egyptian Government has requested to carry on with it, by establishing a technical office entrusted with the management of the archaeological sites exposed to environmental stress. Management of these sites implies interventions and projects, aimed at limiting environmental decay and promoting the development of these areas in their socio-economic context.

UNESCO relaxes its rules - again - this time in Turkey

Hurriyet Daily News

Although this does not concern Egypt directly I thought that this story was particularly useful in the light of Caroline Simpson's recent paper about Qurna on the west bank of Luxor (Theban Blindness - the Case of Qurna). UNESCO made all sorts of rulings and recommendations which were ignored by Egypt - but Egypt has not been in any way penalized. It is difficult to see the value of either such status awards or such rulings if countries are allowed to ignore regulations but are permitted to maintain their privileged status.

UNESCO’s decision not to remove Istanbul from its World Heritage List is a win for the city, but should not excuse complacency in protecting its historical sites, experts said after the decision was made public Friday.

“Having not been excluded from the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List, after all the mistakes we have made, once more shows Istanbul’s value,” Tayfun Kahraman, chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Urban Planners, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Friday, adding that the decision came as a surprise to him, but was very good news for Turkey.

Photo for Today - Amarna relief, Lyon

Piece of an Amarna relief with cartouches and solar motif
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Friday, July 30, 2010

A concise report on the expedition to the Gilf Kebir National Park

PDF file. 63 pages with maps and some beautiful photographs.

Steps are being taken to make the Gilf Kebir a World Heritage site. The above report summarises the main findings and recommendations following an expedition to the area. It looks at archaeology (from the prehistoric period to WWII), flora and fauna and the damage caused by a number of different factors - including tourism.

Exhibition: Digitize your World


"Digitize your World" Exhibition, 26 July - 9 Aug, 2010

The use of technology in the documentation and analysis of the different aspects of heritage is an inevitable approach for the preservation and conservation of cultural and natural heritage is. Although the range of documentation methods vary from traditional to advanced techniques, from measuring tapes, photography, Totalstation surveying, Laser scanning, GPS, DGPS, Photogrammetry, Multi-Spectral Imaging & Analysis and Ultrasound Microscopy, our main concern is to use and apply traditional and advanced documentation and analysis methods in a fully integrated paradigm.

Technology does not work separated from the scientific strong background of the different aspects of the Egyptian rich heritage. Our approach is basically a multidisciplinary integrated solution which comes into action in four stages; research and references, precise and thorough documentation of the current state, building a comprehensive knowledge base of the extracted data to reach the visualization, dissemination, and awareness phase.

”Digitize your world” focuses on issues related to the use of advanced techniques in the documentation of cultural and natural heritage. The exhibit is preceded by a lecture given by Ibrahim El-Rifai, head of Advanced Documentation Techniques Lab.

Distance learning BA in Egyptology?

Facebook - We want an Online BA in Egyptology

Thanks for Jane Akshar for letting me know that there is a new Facebook site which has been set up to explore the level of enthusiasm for an online distance-learning BA. in Egyptology. Manchester University are assessing the possibility of establishing one but will need some idea of the numbers it is likely to attract. This unofficial site is hoping to get some idea of those numbers. If you would be interested please have a look at their Facebook site. Here's the introduction:

Manchester University have started to look into doing an online BA in Egyptology. They have done this because of pressure from students of the Certificate in Egyptology who wanted to carry on with their studies.

I believe there is a great demand for this course and thought it might be a good idea to give them an idea of potential numbers. Also what issues would be of concern to students e.g. cost, full or part time.

So if you would like to do an online BA in Egyptology join up. This is not an official page of Manchester University.


Just a quick note re Kat. If anyone is in regular contact with her please note that I received an email from her daughter Sarah to let me know that her computer is down at the moment and she is not sending or receiving email. She'll let people know when things are up and running again.

Photo for Today - stela of Houyou

Stela for the family of Houyou, singer of the king
Top register - solar barque with reliquary of Osiris
Middle register - Houyou making offerings to Osiris
Bottom register -
Ameaemheb, Supervisor of Archers, and his wife, receiving family offerings
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

King Tut's Chariot travels to New York (Zahi Hawass)

Press Release. When the exhibition visited London I took a friend to see it and he had a number of observations which I posted about in a review at the time, but one of his main criticisms was that the large furnishings, shown in photographs on the walls of the exhibition, were entirely absent.

Mr. Farouk Hosni, Minister of Culture, made a major announcement today that one of King Tutankhamun’s chariots would travel to New York City. This is the first time that a chariot from the tomb of Tutankhamun will be allowed out of Egypt. The High Council of Culture decided to sent the chariot to be part of the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibit at the Discovery Times Square Exposition. Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said that the chariot will arrive in New York City on Wednesday and will be accompanied by a conservator and the Director of the Luxor Musuem, where the chariot is currently displayed.

Hawass stated, “This is the first time that the chariot will travel outside Egypt. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of New York to see something of such great significance from the boy king’s life.” This particular chariot is very unique and stands out among the other five chariots found among Tutankamun’s burial equipment. Howard Carter found the chariot in the south-east corner of the Antechamber along with three other chariots. It is completely lacking in
decoration and has a very light, open sided construction. The tires are also extremely worn, suggesting that this chariot was used frequently in hunting expeditions by the young king. Carter described the chariot as, “of more open, lighter construction probably for hunting or exercising purposes.”

Recently the medical report detailing the testing done on Tutankhamun and members of his family was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article, “Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun’s Family” describes how Dr. Hawass and his team uncovered the long-debated members of Tutankahmun’s family, as well as his cause of death. A research team from Hamburg’s Bernhard Noct Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI) however have disputed the claims that King Tut died of malaria, and instead believe that sickle-cell disease is to blame for his death. While some of the symptoms between malaria and sickle-cell disease are similar, Dr. Hawass and his team, stand behind their findings and reaffirm that Tutankhamun died of complications from malaria and Kohler’s disease, an ailment that effects blood supply to the bones.

During recent CT scans and DNA tests, Hawass and his medical team discovered that King Tutankhamun had an accident a few hours before he died, which caused a fracture in the king’s left leg. This makes the inclusion of Tutankhamun’s chariot to the New York exhibit even more interesting as the young king may have fallen from this very chariot. Hawass added, “As we discover more about Tutankhamun’s death, we may find that this very chariot is an important piece of the puzzle that we’ve been working for decades to solve.”

Donkey DNA


Genetic investigators say the partnership between people and the ancestors of today's donkeys was sealed not by monarchs trying to establish kingdoms, but by mobile, pastoral people who had to recruit animals to help them survive the harsh Saharan landscape in northern Africa more than 5,000 years ago.

The findings, reported today by an international research team in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, paint a surprising picture of what small, isolated groups of people were able to accomplish when confronted with unpredictable storms and expanding desert.

"It says those early people were quite innovative, more so than many people today give them credit for," said senior author Connie J. Mulligan, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida and associate director of the UF Genetics Institute. "The domestication of a wild animal was quite an intellectual breakthrough, and we have provided solid evidence that donkey domestication happened first in northern Africa and happened there more than once."

Sorting through the most comprehensive sampling of mitochondrial DNA ever assembled from ancient, historic and living specimens, scientists determined that the critically endangered African wild ass -- which today exists only in small numbers in eastern Africa, zoos and wildlife preserves -- is the living ancestor of the modern donkey.

What's more, researchers found evidence to suggest that a subspecies called the Nubian wild ass, presumed vanished late in the 20th century, is not only a direct ancestor of the donkey -- it may still exist.

The ancestors of the domestic donkey were considered vital for collecting water, moving desert households and creating the first land-based trade routes between the ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians, according to study co-author Fiona B. Marshall, Ph.D., a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

New EES publications

Egypt Exploration Society

The Society has just released four new publications. They can all be purchased through The Society Bookshop.

I'll have Ian Shaw's book on my Christmas list!

Fred Aldsworth. Qasr Ibrim. The Cathedral Church
EES Excavation Memoir 97. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-85698-1876. Price: £65.00 EES Members’ Price: £55.00

This book records the results of excavations and investigations undertaken by the Egypt Exploration Society between 1963 and 1998 on the largest surviving building, the Cathedral Church, on the significant site of Qasr Ibrim, one of the very few not totally destroyed by inundation following the construction of the Aswan Dam and the creation of Lake Nasser. It sets out the archaeological evidence, which has resulted from excavations and a detailed study of the surviving fabric, and provides an interpretation of that evidence for the construction of the Cathedral Church including its subsequent abandonment and use as a domestic dwelling and then an Ottoman Mosque. It also places the building and the site within the context of Medieval Nubia. This volumes includes a CD-ROM.

David Jeffreys. The Survey of Memphis VII. The Hekekyan Papers and other sources for the Survey of Memphis
EES Excavation Memoir 95. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-85698-192-0. Price: £65.00 EES Members’ Price: £55.00

The site of Memphis preserves the archaeological remains of the first capital of a unified pharaonic Egypt, including the site of the temple of Ptah which gives its name to the city and the country (Hikuptah – Aigyptos – Egypt). The Egypt Explorations Society’s survey of Memphis began in 1981 and has run up to the present. An exceptionally rich textual and pictorial archive is one important source of information available to us, and is presented here, highlighting the work of Joseph Hekekyan, a talented and pioneering archaeologist who worked at Memphis and many other sites in the 1850’s but who is – surprisingly – almost unknown today.

Janine Bourriau. The Survey of Memphis IV. Kom Rabia: The New Kingdom Pottery EES Excavation Memoir 93. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-85698-193-7. Price: £65.00 EES Members’ Price: £55.00

This volume is a study of ceramic change in a stratified settlement at Kom Rabia, Memphis, during the New Kingdom. Ceramic chronology of this period has traditionally relied on pottery associated with dated individuals, usually from burials. In contrast, this study presents quantified evidence from a random sample taken from all contexts. A corpus has been made up for each level or phase. Appendices show the distribution of pottery within single contexts and of types within the sequence. Dating, fabric, surface treatments and shape are described in detail and there is a critical appraisal of the methodology used.

Ian Shaw. Hatnub: Quarrying Travertine in Ancient Egypt EES Excavation Memoir 88. 2010. ISBN: 978-0-85698-187-6. Price: £65.00 EES Members’ Price: £55.00

This book, the fieldwork for which was undertaken between 1984 and 1990, concentrates on the travertine (Egyptian alabaster) quarries at Hatnub, some 25 kilometres southeast of the modern town of Mallawi, in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Most of the archaeological remains date to the Old and Middle Kingdoms (c.2575-1650 BC), but there was also a significant encampment dating to the New Kingdom (c.1550-1070 BC). The book uses archaeological and textual evidence from Hatnub as a means of addressing some of the social and economic issues relating to ancient Egyptian procurement of materials from remote sites. Among the research questions addressed here are the provisioning and organization of Egyptian quarrying and mining expeditions, the nature of the key groups of workmen involved in quarrying, and the ritualisation of areas of remote, liminal human activity in the pharaonic period.

More re Cleopatra's pearl cocktail

USA Today

Interview with classicist Prudence Jones.

USA TODAY asked classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair (N.J.) State University to comment on her Classical World study suggesting the ancient Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII, may have indeed cooked up a cocktail consisting of a pearl dissolved in vinegar, long seen as a Roman myth by scholars. Her responses, by email:

Q. Any general lessons you draw from the study? The ancients seem a little more clever than they were credited by scholars, what do you take away from that?

A: Ancient peoples had a lot of practical scientific knowledge. From Egyptian mummification techniques to poisons to Cleopatra and the pearl, there was a great deal of experience with and observation of natural phenomena. While the reaction between a vinegar and a pearl might not have been called an acid-base reaction, there was a practical understanding that some substances could destroy others.

A visit to Early Kushite Tombs of South Asasif

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

As a bit of background reading do have a look at this link not only does it fully describe the tomb and general area but it also has some great photographs. Obviously I was not allowed to take any.

After stopping by the inspectors office to be ‘officially cleared’ I made it to the site just after 8. The team are working on three tombs Karakhamun, Karabasken and Irtieru, Karakhamun being the major one and they had been there since 6. When I got there some of them were busy recording and photography a buffalo skull, not quite treasure but it just shows you how archaeology has changed. Belzoni et al would have probably just thrown these things away but everything is recorded, photographed and stored. Digging is a whole different ball game these days.

Exhibition review: Cleopatra

Obit (Julia M. Klein)

A better than usual review of the Cleopatra exhibition in Philadelphia. Warning, though - she couldn't resist an Indiana Jones reference!

The Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, whose adventurous zeal evokes Indiana Jones, is digging for artifacts and the tombs of both Antony and Cleopatra amid the ruins of the temple of Taposiris Magna, about 30 miles west of Alexandria. An equally exuberant French archaeologist, Franck Goddio, has spent nearly two decades planning and leading underwater expeditions off the Egyptian coast. There he has uncovered the sunken remains of ancient Alexandria and the lost cities of Heracleion, a religious center, and Canopus, a site of both religious pilgrimage and erotic revelry.

These discoveries form the core of an over-hyped but still intriguing exhibition titled, “Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt.” The traveling show, premiering at Philadelphia ’s Franklin Institute through Jan. 2, 2011 , has been organized by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, with cooperation from Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology.

Despite the title, and a hokey audio tour that purports to be narrated by Cleopatra herself, few artifacts in the show can be linked definitively to the queen. The most notable (found near Cairo, in 1904) is probably an ancient scrap of papyrus, describing a tax break for a friend of Mark Antony’s. A scrawled command in Greek – “Make it happen” – is believed by scholars to be in Cleopatra’s own hand.

Most of the 150 or so other artifacts have a murkier provenance, dating to sometime in the Ptolemaic period (304-30 B.C.), or to the Roman period that followed.

Obit is a curious website as a whole: "Death gives life its immediacy. Because we know it will end, we savor and value life all the more. Obit examines life through the lens of death. Whether it’s the loss of a person, a place, an object or an idea, life’s constant change presents an opportunity for examination, discussion and even celebration. By examining the transformations we face, we can understand how the past influences our time and our future. Obit aims to offer a forum for ideas and opinions about life, death, and transition that you will find nowhere else." Interesting idea.


Apologies for the lack of posts this week - I've had toothache. Two and a half years ago I had to go to the dentist to get a molar rebuilt. If I was sorry for myself then I am even sorrier for myself this week because I have had to have the same tooth drilled out for a root canal job - of which only half has been done and I am up for a rematch next Monday. Ugh. Why anyone as nice as my dentist would want to become a dentist I really don't know but he assures me that he had the vocational urge from childhood.

Anyway, the last time that I went through this particular nightmare I posted a set of links to dentistry in Ancient Egypt, which you can find here.

Since then there has been a major reveiw in the Journal of Comparative Human Biology of over 3000 mummy analyses (summarized on the Discovery Channel website by Rossella Lorenzi) which shows that dental problems were a common feature of life in Egypt:

Worn teeth, periodontal diseases, abscesses and cavities tormented the ancient Egyptians, according to the first systematic review of all studies performed on Egyptian mummies in the past 30 years.

After examining research of more than 3,000 mummies, anatomists and paleopathologists at the University of Zurich concluded that 18 percent of all mummies in case reports showed a nightmare array of dental diseases.

"Evidence of dental disorders is plentiful because usually teeth are among the best preserved parts of a body. As for other diseases, the published studies do not always provide in-depth details. Nevertheless, we came across some interesting findings," senior author and medical doctor Frank Ruhli, head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich, told Discovery News.

There's also a complete article about analysis of nine human skulls, including dentition, complete with scan photos, entitled Head and Skull Base Features of Nine Egyptian Mummies: Evaluation with High-Resolution CT and Reformation Techniques by Heidi Hoffman and Patricia A. Hudgins on the American Journal of Roentgenology.

There's a whole chapter on Egyptian dental problems and dental surgery in Joyce Filer's book Disease, which quite makes my hair stand on end. Fascinating stuff though!

Finally, here are some health and beauty tips from Paula Veiga - wise lessons learned from ancient Egypt!

All I can say is that if I am a basket-case about dental work in this day and age I simply wouldn't have survived ancient times anywhere on the planet. It's the first time I've felt any real sort of emphathy with the likes of Ramesses II whose teeth must have been giving him serious pain at the time of his death.

Photo for Today - Offering stela of Nes-Henou, Lyon

Offering stela in the name of Nes-Henou
Old Kingdom
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cleopatra's pearl cocktail recipe

USA Today (Dan Vergano)

Cleopatra, fabled final Queen of Egypt, packed a pretty mean pearl cocktail, according to legend.

To win a bet, the story goes, Cleopatra quaffed a vinegar martini made with a dissolved pearl, "the largest in the whole of history," according to an ancient scribe. Doubted by scholars for centuries, Cleopatra's canny chemistry trick may have actually come off, suggests one researcher, based on her own experiments.

"There's usually a kernel of truth in these stories," says classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair (N.J.) State University. "I always prefer to give ancient sources the benefit of the doubt and not assume that something that sounds far-fetched is just fiction."

Lecture notes: Popular Worship at Luxor Temple and the Rekhyt Rebus

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for sharing her notes from the Mummification Museum lecture in Luxor. See the above link for the rest of her post.

Mummification Museum
Popular Worship at Luxor Temple and the Rekhyt Rebus
By Ken Griffin

This lecture was different to our normal ones as Ken presented a new theory. I have read his published paper on this so if you want to know more I do suggest you read this. You can also search Google using “Rekhyt rebus” as keywords. His argument was convincing and well presented. This link is a picture of the rebus which will help understanding the lecture. The lecture was divided into three parts; who were the Rekhyt, the Rekhyt rebus and the people’s gate.

Who were the Rekhyt?
In 1868 Brugush was the first to define the word as people and many others have come after using definitions like volk, plebeians, mankind, and common folk, lowest level of people. There is also another word, ‘Pat’ people which means nobility. Others have had more controversial ideas but these are not widely accepted, Nibbi thought they are Libyans and Hodge Indo-Europeans They are symbolised by the lapwing bird with its wings pinned back and human arms raised worshiping. Birds are still seen in this position in markets in Egypt today.

The Rekhyt Rebus
The rebus itself consists of a bird – the people, a basket – all, and star – worship.

Exhibition: Pioneers to the Past

Chicago Public Radio

Radio inverview (audio) for which the introductory paragraphs are below:

“Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” is on display at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute through August 29th. The exhibit follows Illinois native and Institute Founder James Henry Breasted's daring travels through Egypt and Mesopotamia during the unstable aftermath of WWI.

Breasted's journey placed him in the Middle East at a pivotal time. The region was occupied by British and French troops who opposed the stirrings of nationalism which ultimately led to the creation of today's Middle East states.

Breasted's story is told through never-before-exhibited photos, artifacts, letters, and archival documents including his elaborate passport and even the wind-torn American flag that he carried on his trip.

Breasted's letters refer to the luminaries of the time, many of whom he met on this trip - Faysal, who became the first king of Iraq; Gertrude Bell who founded the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad; Lord Allenby, the general who recaptured Jerusalem and Damascus during the War; and T. E. Lawrence "of Arabia".

Orit Bashkin, Assistant Professor in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Geoff Emberling, Research Associate and Chief Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum join us to share the story of the Oriental Institute’s Founder…

Exhibit: Coffin of noblewoman on display in Kansas City

Journal Star (L. Kent Wolgamott)

With photo.

Want to see some artifacts from ancient Egypt but not planning to head to Denver to catch the King Tut show? Then drive south to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and take a look at its newly refurbished Ancient Art Galleries.

In what previously was a cloakroom, the Heartland's encyclopedic art museum has created a dark marble space to display its newly acquired 2,300-year-old coffin of an Egyptian noblewoman named Meretites.

Actually, there are two coffins: the outer box with a curved top and some slight breakage and the inner coffin, topped with a painted depiction of the woman, albeit an image with blue hair and a golden face. Ancient Egyptians believed that skin was made of gold in the afterlife and that was where Meretites was headed.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun in Denver

Journal Star (L. Kent Wolgamott)

A thorough overview of the exhibition for anyone contemplating a visit.

In the United States, King Tut is the most famous of all the Egyptian pharaohs. In Egypt, it's a different story.

"We don't pay that much attention to him," said Amira el Nakeeb, travel writer for Cairo's Al-Ahram Weekly Newspaper. "He's not that important."

Historically speaking, el Nakeeb is spot on.The boy pharaoh ruled for just a decade and died as the result of some kind of accident at about age 19.

For political/cultural reasons rooted in the ancient Egyptian religion, his successors did their best to purge him from history, going as far as to put their names on some of the statues that were made to commemorate Tutankhamun, who was born about 1343 B.C. and was pharaoh from about 1333 B.C. to his death in about 1324 B.C.

Photo for Today - Vases, Lyon

Vases with banded decoration
19th Dynasty, New Kingdom
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lake Qarun searched for antiquities

Yahoo! News

Egyptian experts have begun to explore the depths of Lake Qarun south of Cairo using remote sensing radars in search of sunken artefacts, antiquities officials told AFP on Wednesday.

Antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass said the work was launched a few days ago. "It is the first time ever that the antiquities department carries out an archaeological mission in Lake Qarun."

Khaled Saeed, who heads the department of pre-historic affairs at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the team under his supervision hopes to pinpoint "huge basalt rocks" at the bottom of Lake Qarun.

According to Saeed, the discovery of the rocks was first made by Egyptian-American scientist Faruq al-Baz, a veteran of NASA's Apollo programme, five years ago.

Baz, who now runs the Centre for Space Studies at Boston University, was carrying out a satellite survey of Egypt's Western Desert when he and his team discovered in the Lake Qarun area "a large number of huge blocks of rock."

"I believe that these huge slabs are made of basalt (volcanic rock) which were eventually moved upstream to the Giza plateau for the construction of the Great Pyramid," Saeed said.

Teams of divers are examining a 10-kilometre (6.2 mile) long stretch of sea bed in Lake Qarun, Saeed added.

Also on Google / AFP.

Online paper: Examining the Grand Gallery in the Pyramid of Khufu


Luca Miatello. 2010. Examining the Grand Gallery in the Pyramid of Khufu and its Features. PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt/Egyptology, 7(6) (2010)

The explanation of the symmetrical features on the west and east sides of the grand gallery in the pyramid of Khufu has always been an intricate puzzle for researchers. The existence of such peculiar features is generally related to the function of parking the granite plugs, but only three or four granite blocks were presumably used to plug the ascending corridor, while a much larger number of slots and niches are found in the gallery. Previous investigations of niches, slots, cutting and grooves are unsatisfactory, and the present investigation focuses on important, formerly neglected aspects. The analysis of numerical patterns in the design of the grand gallery provides crucial evidence, and a new interpretation of the features in the gallery is, therefore, proposed, by considering the numerous variables implied in the problem.

What to do with a degree in Classics

The Guardian (Craig Scott)

As experts warn the ongoing cuts in the public sector could result in record levels of graduate unemployment; despondent graduate jobseekers may find comfort in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Of course, Nietzsche was a great philosopher, but not many people know he originally studied classics; it was only after a book he authored on the subject was rubbished by a rival that he switched disciplines.

For today's classics graduates, Nietzsche's famous quote may be particularly relevant. Six months after leaving university, only 51.6% of 2008 classics graduates were in employment compared with 61.5% of graduates in other subjects.

Old photos of Egypt

Kate Phizackerley on Squidoo

Kate has added a lovely page of old photographs of Egypt on the above page - a small but lovely collection.

Photo for Today - Funerary model, Lyon

Two donkeys with loads
Assiyut, 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Friday, July 23, 2010

EES Delta Survey

Egypt Exporation Society

With photos.

The online publication of the EES Delta Survey has been updated recently by Jeffrey Spencer to reflect recent activity by the Society and by other expeditions. Links to the dedicated websites of non-EES projects have been inserted, examples being Tell ed-Daba, Tell Billa (Tebilla) and Kom el-Ghuraf. The presentation of selected sites in Google EarthTM has also been improved with the addition of several more sites and a revision of the site notes in some of the placemark windows.

Routine updates to bibliographies have also been continued.

A full report on the EES work at Tell Yetwal wa Yuksur in March 2010 has been added in the update, and photographs of the Yetwal season can be seen on the Society’s Flickr page.

Two of the Society’s Delta Survey Projects sent back blogs from the field in the Spring of 2010 and these can still be read on-line. Patricia Spencer’s blog from Tell Yetwal wa Yuksur is here and Dr Joanne Rowland’s blog from Quesna can be read here.

Photographs from the Quesna work are also on the Society's Flickr page.

SCA website

Supreme Council of Antiquities (English (Arabic)

There's been a lot of talk recently about the SCA website and the information it contains about which sites are open and what ticket prices cost.

The site is available in both Arabic and English. It is nicely designed and easy to navigate.

Whilst there is a lot of very good material on the website my advice would be to take the information about which sites are currently open, their opening hours and ticket prices with a pinch of salt. The last time that the "breaking news" column was updated was back in March and I have heard from a number of people that the site opening hours and ticket information are out of date and should not be relied upon when planning a holiday. Having said that, using the ticket prices shown as approximate prices might be a useful guideline for those trying to stick to a budget. Other site information, such as how to get to sites, tends to be unchanging and should be of use to many visitors. There's also a set of guidelines to visitors about how to conduct themselves at sites, which includes details of how to get access to sites that are officially closed.

The SCA website has many things in its favour, including a list of current and recent foreign missions working in Egypt. I don't know how complete it is, but it gives a good idea of who is working in different parts of Egypt at the moment, and gives web addresses for a few of the missions. There is also a list of museums in Egypt, some of which are linked to pages on the site which offer more details.

Of particular value is the list of SCA rules and regulations - for exhibitions, media, missions and museums. If you've never looked at the SCA's 5 page regulations for missions before they are worth a read. Here are the General Guidelines.

General Guidelines:
1. Until further notice, no new excavations will be permitted in Upper Egypt (defined as from Giza to Abu Simbel). Missions already working in this area may continue excavating in their original concessions, but no new excavations will be authorized there. Concessions will only be granted in this area for restoration, preservation, archaeological survey, documentation, and epigraphic work.
2. New applications for excavation concessions will be accepted only for the Western Desert, Eastern Desert, and the Delta, areas that are seriously threatened by the increasing population, rising ground water, and other human and environmental pressures, for the next ten years.
3. No new concession will be given to a current team member wanting to create a new excavation area within the site granted to the mission.
4. No concessions will be given to graduate students. Graduate students can obtain permission for study or research on archaeological sites through his or her thesis advisor.
5. No concession will be granted to any expedition director who does not have significant experience in the field.
6. The SCA prohibits missions from working at more than one site at the same time.
7. It is absolutely prohibited for any member of a mission to be involved in any way with the trade in stolen artifacts. Members of foreign missions are expected to provide any information they have regarding stolen artifacts directly to the Secretary General of the SCA. Anyone determined by a court of law to be involved with stolen artifacts will be removed from the excavation. If the director is involved, the mission will be terminated.
8. Egypt will not cooperate with any museum or institution that buys stolen artifacts from Egypt.

Exhibition at the Museu Egipci de Barcelona, Spain

La Vanguardia

El Museu Egipci de Barcelona exhibe desde este martes 180 obras de arte, entre piezas arqueológicas, fotografías y libros, procedentes de la Colección Arqueológica Egipcia Jordi Clos que no se habían mostrado antes al público y que desvelan algunos aspectos clave de la vida cotidiana del país de los faraones.

La muestra 'Secretos del Museu Egipci', que se podrá visitar hasta el 30 de diciembre, ha sido comisariada por el conservador del museo, Luis Manuel Gonzálvez, y arranca con un muestrario de los inicios de la fotografía en Egipto, a partir de 1840.

En este apartado queda el testimonio de los primeros viajes de los exploradores y artistas europeos al país del Nilo, como Maxime du Camp, que entre 1849 y 1851 emprendió una "aventura oriental" con su amigo Gustave Flaubert; un joven Auguste Bartholdi -el escultor de la Estatua de la Libertad de Nueva York- y el inglés Francis Firth, que en sus tres expediciones a Egipto reunió alrededor de 4.000 imágenes.

La atmósfera de esos primeros viajes queda impregnada en las páginas de libros de referencia, como 'Album du Musée de Boulaq' (1872), del creador del Servicio de Antigüedades de Egipto, Auguste Mariette, y la monumental edición de 'L'Egypte et la Nubie' (1887), del fotógrafo Emilie Béchard.

Sin embargo, la parte más llamativa de la exposición llega con el segundo ámbito, el de la joyería.

As from Tuesday the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona from will be exhibiting 180 works of art, including antiquities, photographs and books, from the Egyptian Archaeological Collection Jordi Clos which have not been displayed to the public before and which reveal some key aspects of everyday life in the land of the pharaohs.

The exhibition Secrets of the Egyptian Museum, which will be open until 30 December, has been organized by the museum's Luis Manuel Gonzálvez, and starts with a sample of early photography in Egypt from 1840 .

This section preserves the testimony of the early voyages made by European explorers and artists to the country of the Nile, for example Maxime du Camp who between 1849 and 1851 carried out his "oriental adventures" with his friend Gustave Flaubert, the young Auguste Bartholdi (sculptor of the Statue of Liberty in New York), and the Englishman Francis Firth, who in his three expeditions to Egypt produced 4,000 images.

The atmosphere of those first trips is steeped in the pages of reference books such as Album du Musée de Boulaq (1872) by the creator of the Antiquities of Egypt Auguste Mariette, and the L'Egypte et Nubia (1887) by the photographer Emilie Béchard.

However, the most striking part of the exhibition comes with the second focus of the exhibition, the jewelry. There are necklaces made with all kinds of materials, from humble terracotta to semiprecious stones like turquoise and lapis lazuli.

Most of them were purchased at auction in lots, mixed up in bags, and Clos himself was responsible for re-shaping the necklaces based on earlier designs.

Some of them incorporate forms of Egyptian deities including the god Bes, who named the island of Ibiza, and characters with hypertrophic phalluses, which evidently belonged to the Ptolemaic period, since, as reported Gonzálvez, Greeks and Romans were "far less restrained" the Egyptians in sexual matters.

Apart from the formal beauty of the pieces, some of them hide a unique history as is the case with a set of necklaces recently acquired by the Egyptian Museum which belonged to Baron Hans von Wolfgang Herwarth Bittenfeld, an intellectual from Nazi Germany who became Chief of External Relations in the Ministry of Propaganda managed by Goebbels.

The world of cosmetics and beauty is represented by small containers with kohl, and a sumptuous stone ware pottery of the First and Second Dynasties (2920-2649 BC). These vessels belonged to Colonel Irvine, the personal physician of Princess Mary of England, who was charged with the task of accompanying her when she visited the tomb of Tutankhamen.

The last part of the exhibition is reserved for funerary matters and is dominated by a ceramic jar of the XVIII dynasty (1350 BC) very similar to those found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, which, is, however, not surprising, since that the grave goods of the Pharaohs was produced in a "pseudoindustrial" manner, Clos once explained.

There also alabaster canopic jars, which stored the viscera of the deceased after they were mummified. Within the jackal was the stomach, in the hawk the intestine in the humans headed jars the liver, and the baboon was tasked with preserving the lungs.

Google funding for discovery of ancient texts online


A University of Southampton researcher is part of a team which has just secured funding from Google to make the classics and other ancient texts easy to discover and access online.

Leif Isaksen at the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is working together with Dr Elton Barker at The Open University and Dr Eric Kansa of the University of California-Berkeley on the Google Ancient Places (GAP): Discovering historic geographical entities in the Google Books corpus project, which is one of 12 projects worldwide to receive funding as part of a new Digital Humanities Research Programme funded by Google.

The GAP researchers will enable scholars and enthusiasts worldwide to search the Google Books corpus to find books related to a geographic location and within a particular time period. The results can then be visualised on GoogleMaps or in GoogleEarth. The project will run until September next year.

Petrie book for sale at auction

Live Auctioneers

Lot 1144
Petrie, W. M. Flinders. Naqada and Ballas. First Published by Bernard Quaritch,1896. Reprinted by Aris & Philips and Joel L. Malter. Warminster, England. / Encino, Calif.1974. 4to, hard cover, ¾ leather with marbled boards, x, 79 pp. with 86 plates with mostly line drawings and a few photographs. In choice condition and part of a set of the volumes Joel republished and had rebound for his library.

New Book: What Makes Civilization

Oxford University Press

What Makes Civilization? The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West
David Wengrow

Renowned archaeologist David Wengrow creates here a vivid new account of the "birth of civilization" in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, bringing together within a unified history the first two nations where people created cities, kingdoms, and monumental temples to the gods. But civilization, Wengrow argues, is not exclusively about large-scale settlements and endeavors. Just as important are the ordinary but fundamental practices of everyday life, such as cooking, running a home, and cleaning the body. Tracing the development of such practices, from prehistoric times to the age of the pyramids, Wengrow reveals unsuspected connections between distant regions and provides new insights into the workings of societies we have come to regard as remote from our own. The book obliges us to recognize that civilizations are not formed in isolation, but through the mixing and borrowing of culture between different societies. It concludes by drawing telling parallels between the ancient Near East and more contemporary attempts to reshape the world according to an ideal image.

More details of the book are available on the above page and, if you missed it in an earlier post, Wengrow's own comments on his book are available on the OUP Blog.

Journal: Sahara, July 2010


Contents of volume 21 (published July 2010), 240 pages, 459 black and white illustrations, 46 colour plates. Abstracts are available for the Papers.


Steven E. Sidebotham and Iwona Zych
Berenike: Archaeological fieldwork at a Ptolemaic-Roman port on the Red Sea coast of Egypt 2008-2010

Malika Hachid, Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Safia Agsous, Ali Amara, Lucile Beck, Frédérique Duquesnoy, Michel Grenet, Abdelkader Heddouche, Evelyne Kaltnecker, Norbert Mercier, Souhila Merzoug, Anita Quiles, Hocine Sahnoun, Hélène Valladas, Daniel Vigears, avec la collaboration de C. Gauthier et Frank Bassinot
Premiers résultats du projet algéro-français de datation directe et indirecte des images rupestres dans la Tasili-n-Ajjer

Savino di Lernia, Marina Gallinaro and Andrea Zerboni
UNESCO World Heritage Site vandalised. Report on damages to Acacus rock art (SW Libya)

Mohssine El Graoui, Youssef Bokbot, Högne Jungner et Susan Searight-Martinet
Datation radiocarbone sur des ossements mis au jour dans un tumulus à l’Adrar n’Zerzem, Oued Eç-çayad, région de Taghjijt (Sud marocain)

Alec Campbell and David Coulson
Big Hippo Site, Oued Afar, Algeria

Victoria Waldock
The Taleschout Hippos: An enigmatic site in the Messak Settafet, southwest Libya

Giancarlo Negro and Massimo Cammelli
The flint quarries of Wadi El Sheikh (Eastern Desert of Egypt)

Azhari Mustafa Sadig
Neolithic Settlement Patterns and Cultural Sequence of Nubia (Northern Sudan)

Alain Rodrigue
Le domaine rupestre de Taghjijt (Maroc)


Documenti rupestri / Documents of rock art / Documents rupestres

Aldo Boccazzi, Donatella Calati e Adriana Scarpa Falce
Tcherughé, un sito rappresentativo dell’arte rupestre pastorale del Tibesti orientale

Gianna Giannelli e Fabio Maestrucci
Cacciatori di elefanti: il riparo di Ihetsen (Tassili-n-Ajjer settentrionale, Algeria)

Bernard Fouilleux, Moussa Machar et Sarmi Machar
Quelques images inédites de la Tassili-n-Ajjer. Traits culturels de la population “Tête Ronde” : défenses de phacochères et bovidés masqués.

Bernard Fouilleux
Un animal énigmatique chez les «Têtes Rondes» (Tassili-n-Ajjer,Algérie)

Flavio Cambieri and Maria Emilia Peroschi
Report on new rock art sites in the area of Jebel Uweinat, Eastern Sahara

Victoria Waldock, Mohamed Ali Suliman and Pier Paolo Rossi
Horse, Hartebeest or Hybrid? A puzzling engraving in the Acacus

András Zboray and Mark Borda
Some recent results of the survey of Jebel Uweinat

Mark Borda
Observations concerning new rock art sites at Gebel Arkenu and comparisons with Uweinat

Documenti preistorici /Prehistoric documents /Documents préhistoriques

Jean-Pierre Duhard et Tamara Glazyrina
Statuette humaine en pierre dure provenant d’El Khatt (Mauritanie)

Alessandro Menardi Noguera, Paolo Carmignoto, Nicoletta Contavalli and Ettore Grugni
The stone lines of Upper Wadi Mashi (Gilf Kebir, Egypt)

Monumenti preislamici / Pre-Islamic Monuments / Monuments préislamiques

Maria Emilia Peroschi and Flavio Cambieri
Noteworthy stone structures and monoliths recently found in Wadi Abd el-Malik (Gilf Kebir, Egypt)

Mark Milburn
Three sojourns in the West Sahara

Scritture / Writings / Écritures

Werner Pichler
The Latino-Canarian rock inscriptions – a short review of the latest history of research and interpretation

Dibattiti / Debates / Débats

Tony Judd
“Lancer” petroglyphs at Egyptian temples and in the Eastern Desert

Jean-Loïc Le Quellec
Fac quod dico, non quod facio

Ahmed Achrati
Womanhood without the Bull: Venus of Laussel, Inanna, and the Lady of Tin Tilizaghen

Friedrich Berger
A Paradise off Rules? – A different view

Gebel Kamil Crater analysed

Ogle Earth

With photos.

Researchers scouring Google Earth for impact craters have discovered a new one in Egypt, National Geographic reports. Dubbed the Kamil Crater, it is small but very special, because it really is new, in geological terms — just a few thousand years old. So new, in fact, that the elements have not yet been able to erode the ejecta rays. On site, the researchers have been able to collect thousands of space rocks.

These findings were published just yesterday in the journal Science. The full text article requires a subscription, but the supporting online material does not. This material includes satellite images of the crater that contain coordinate information.

See above page for Google Earth photos and links to the Science article and the supporting material.

National Geographic

With photo.
A small impact crater discovered in the Egyptian desert could change estimates for impact hazards to our planet, according to a new study.

One of the best preserved craters yet found on Earth, the Kamil crater was initially discovered in February during a survey of satellite images on Google Earth. Researchers think the crater formed within the past couple thousand years.

The Italian-Egyptian team that found the crater in pictures recently visited and studied the 147-foot-wide (45-meter-wide), 52-foot-deep (16-meter-deep) hole. The team also collected thousands of pieces of the space rock that littered the surrounding desert.

Based on their calculations, the team thinks that a 4.2-foot-wide (1.3-meter-wide) solid iron meteor weighing 2,267 to 4,535 pounds (5,000 to 10,000 kilograms) smashed into the desert—nearly intact—at speeds exceeding 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers) a second.

There are no hard numbers for how many meteors this size might currently be on a collision course with Earth, but scientists think the potential threats could be in the tens of thousands.

Current impact models state that iron meteors around this size and mass should break into smaller chunks before impact. (Related: "Comet 'Shower' Killed Ice Age Mammals?")

Instead, the existence of the newfound crater implies that up to 35 percent of these iron giants may actually survive whole—and thus have greater destructive power.

More re Chasing Mummies

Thanks to Jane Akshar's Luxor News Blog for pointing me at this review. The reviews on my earlier posts about this show, which I haven't seen, have been consistently negative. Here's another to add to the list. You can find most of the previous comments about the show that have been posted on this blog here.

Chasing Mummies" (10 p.m., History, TV-PG) may not uncover the next King Tut, but it may have discovered the next big
reality-TV personality.

From Jon and Kate to Snooki and the Situation, documentary-style shows represent a cheap fishing expedition for outsized personalities and exhibitionists, "real" people fake enough to compete with high-priced unionized actors for our attention.

Shot outside of Cairo, "Chas ing Mummies" does indulge us with sporadic dips into archaeology, Egyptology and all those other dusty ologies, but it devotes much of its time to the manufacturing of fake tension and convoluted drama. Within minutes of meeting series "star" Dr. Zahi Hawass, we're told that a cameraman and shapely Canadian intern have been forgotten in a pyramid and face asphyxiation -- or worse! The scenario could not have seemed more contrived had the intern been tied to a railroad track. But the situation did allow us to see Hawass dragged out of a Cairo book signing, which made me reflect on just how many reality shows feature book signings.

Later, we stumble upon a long-buried and happily unmolested tomb located just below a village of squatters. Sadly, in addition to living in hovels, these poor folks risk tumbling into archaeological sinkholes at any given moment. The "Chasing Mummies" crew placates the impoverished with candy bars.

Hawass is a very big deal in his field and a superstar in his country. And he didn't get there by being Dr. Nice Guy. He's a tyrant with a short fuse, and he detonates in nearly every other scene.

You Tube

Zahi Hawass is shown apparently in an interview (?) defending some of his more extreme outbursts in the Chasing Mummies documentary. I am not sure of the source (although it appears to have been distributed by the Associated Press) and as such I only add it because it seems only fair to give Dr Hawass a chance to answer some of the criticism - although, to be honest, I'm not sure it does him any favours.

Photo for Today: Mummy cases, Lyon

Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon
21st - 30th Dynasties

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Law, New Effects

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Two months after the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) launched a new administration to document all the antiquities held in private possession, what are the results?

Under the new Antiquities Law 3/2010, passed in mid-February, the SCA set up the Archaeological Collection Administration (ACA) as part of its professional echelon. The new body aims at inspecting the authenticity of all unregistered antiquities that are in the possession of members of the Egyptian public, and ensuring that they are properly documented.

The law appears to be working. "It was really unexpected," Hussein Bassir, director of the ACA, admitted to Al-Ahram Weekly. He said that over the last two months the SCA had received 100 requests from people possessing historical articles and asking for their collections to be examined. Following inspection, 80 per cent of the artefacts were found to be genuine while the rest were replicas.

Seti, please tell us your secret II

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

For the first time we can now say that we have revealed the secrets of the tunnel in the tomb of Seti I. The tunnel was first excavated by Sheikh Ali Abdel-Rassoul and his workmen to a depth of about 130 metres. They did not continue past that point, however, because the tunnel did not continue straight and they did not turn to cut and excavate into the mountain. However, when we went through this section of the tunnel we were able to discover new artefacts that dated to the reign of Seti I, such as pottery, ushabti figurines and blocks inscribed with the name of Seti I. We also uncovered steps with graffiti in red writing.

The excitement of the excavation started when we began to clean out the tunnel and remove the debris left behind by Abdel-Rassoul's workmen. As we progressed through the tunnel, we had to support the ceiling with a series of iron beams and also construct a wooden walkway for us to use. I was very interested in a railway with cars which we used to bring out all the debris and stone rubble that was removed from the tunnel.

Upon reaching the end of the 130-metre section which had been partially excavated by Abdel-Rassoul, we were shocked to uncover a descending passage which measured 25.60 metres in length and 2.6 in width.

Edgar Cayce

Just out of interest, the subject of Edgar Cayce was raised recently and I hadn't heard of either him or his institution. So, for those of you who are equally uninformed here's a very short summary of Cayce and how he relates to Egyptology.

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) thought of himself as a devout Christian who, in a condition of self induced trance, would answer questions on subjects on the subject of illness and diagnosis. He also made readings in response to specific questions (including what had happened to Amelia Earhart) and made prophesies, including the timing and nature of catastrophic events. He was nicknamed "The Sleeping Prophet".

One of Cayce's visions was of Atlantis and its people. He believed that Atlanteans populated both Pre-Columbian America and Predynastic Egypt. He also believed that he had been a priest in the Egyptian past, responsible for the establishment of healing and educational centres. The Atlanteans were also supposed to be responsible for the Great Pyramid at Giza and a library of Atlantean documents beneath the Great Sphinx called The Hall of Records.

Cayce is often associated with the ideas that make up much of New Age spirituality although he died before the term New Age was generally used. He did, however, establish the Association for Research and Enlightenment which is still going strong, and which has always been interested in investigating Cayce's claims about ancient Egypt. To this end they have funded work carried out on the Giza Plateau, including some of the field work carried out by Cayce follower Mark Lehner on the Giza plateau. They are reputed (though I have seen nothing that confirms it) to have funded part of Lehner's college education. The Association are said to put no conditions on their investement in field work.

Mark Lehner had visited Egypt in 1972 and in 1974 published a pro-Cayce book on Egypt entitled The Egyptian Heritage based on the Edgar Cayce readings. It was in 1974 that Lehner met Zahi Hawass and introduced him to the Edgar Cayce Foundation. Hawass has always stated that although he became lifelong friends with Lehner he never shared his beliefs in the Cayce prophesies. Hawass will be one of the featured speakers at the A.R.E.’s annual Ancient Mysteries conference which will take place between October 8th and 10th in 2010.

The Edgar Cayce Center’s Archeological Research Fund also funded Andrew Collins, who relocated the entrance to a cave system first found in 1837 by Sir Howard Vyse. According to his published findings Collins found the entrance and managed to enter the massive cave system and journey 328 feet into the system under the plateau.

Photo for Today - Funerary model, Lyon

Cattle and handler. Funerary model.
Assiyut, 12th Dynasty (Middle Kingdom)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Companies compete to establish Grand Egyptian museum

Egypt State Information Service

As many as 40 international companies have applied to an international competition to establish the Grand Egyptian Museum, Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni said on July 19th 2010.

The applicants were cut down to 10 by an international company supervising the construction works, Hosni said.

Arab Contractors Co. and Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) are on the final list, he said, wishing them best of luck in the international competition.

Selection of the construction company will be finalized in August and the operation will kick start as of December, he said, noting the operation will take 26 months.

Book Review: Beneath the Sands of Egypt

Thanks to Donald Ryan, author of Beneath the Sands of Egypt for sharing the following reviews of his book with me.

Barbara Mertz, Egyptologist (a.k.a. Elizabeth Peters, New York Times bestselling mystery author): “Don Ryan is a rare bird – a field archaeologist who can write with verve and immediacy. I heartily recommend his book to all Egyptology buffs.”

Booklist (coveted starred review!): This book should do for Egyptology what Donald Johanson and Maitland Eddy’s Lucy (1981) did for paleontology…It’s a thrilling book, not because it's full of Indiana Jones heroics but because Ryan's enthusiasm for what he does (more dirt-sifting than bullwhip-wielding) is manifest on every page, and—again like Johanson and Eddy—he catches us up in his excitement, makes us wish we weren’t just reading about this stuff but were actually doing it…This wonderful adventure story should be must reading for anyone aspiring to become an archaeologist, but even those of us who harbor no such dreams will be aching to get a little dirt under our fingernails.

Publishers Weekly: “Ryan’s observations are intimate, frank, and perceptive, and his spirited adventures in underappreciated avenues of exploration are a boon for armchair and budding archeologists.”

Library Journal:“American archaeologist Ryan…is best known for his projects in Egypt, most recently in the Valley of the Kings, Thebes. In this action-packed memoir, Ryan's aim is to "share the adventure and perhaps educate, entertain, and even inspire." He accomplishes this with evocative writing and excellent, detailed descriptions of fieldwork in Egypt, be it clearing mud brick in the Fayyum or excavating a series of tombs in the Valley of the Kings. He captures well the joys and hazards involved in fieldwork, as well as the rapport that develops with colleagues and workers…VERDICT: An enthusiastically written book for readers from young adults to armchair adventure lovers who dream of being archaeologists or Egyptologists.”

Volunteers required to feed back re 3D exhibtion at the Petrie

Dr Margaret Serpico, the Petrie Museum Curator of 3D exhibitions has asked for help :

As some of you may know (reported in the last Magazine), the Petrie Museum has formed a partnership with multimedia company IET and the museum now has its own 3D laser scanner. We are very excited to have just installed in the museum our first mini-exhibition using real objects and 3D 'virtual' images of some them. It is called 'Crossing Over' and looks at the identity and appearance given to the wrapped mummified body.

We know how much the Friends love and value this collection, so we would especially like your thoughts and comments on the 3D images and how we might take this forward. We would be most grateful to any of you who could spare a few minutes to come explore the images and fill out a brief one-page questionnaire. We are hoping to continue to install new exhibitions like this one, and also to create major exhibitions and resources using both objects and 3D images. Your opinion will very much help us plan the future and we hope you enjoy this new way of exploring the objects!

If any of you would like more information on the 3D scanning project, please contact Margaret :

Artefacts donated to Yaounde National Museum

The Egyptian Ambassador to Cameroon, Ibrahim Hafez, has made a significant donation of the art objects to Cameroon’s Minister of Culture, Ama Tutu Muna.

The consignment of Ancient Egyptian artefacts are composed of a collection rare art objects from ancient Egypt including their authenticity documents.

The objects have been placed at the National Museum in Yaounde to enrich the museum of historic objects from Egypt’s ancient civilisation.

The objects on display at the museum have boosted the existing stock of Cameroonian and other artefacts.

While receiving the artefacts, Minister Ama Tutu Muna said the museum will soon be opening of the museum to the general public.

She also saluted the bilateral relations between Cameroon and Egypt.

Photo for Today - Hathor lintel from Coptos, Lyon

Hathor flanked by Isis and Osiris
The name of Min is contained within the cartouche and Horus is on the far left.
Temple of Cleopatra and Cesarion, Coptos
Fragment of lintel
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photos from the recent Saqqara discovery of two tombs


Six photographs of the two tombs recently discovered at Saqqara.

Repaint for Cairo Museum

Luxor Times

With photos of the museum.

After 113 years of establishing the Egyptian museum in Cairo, a re-paint is being done. Dr. Wafaa Sadek (the museum manager) confirmed that the re-paint process is being done according to the original designs of Marcel Dourgnon (The French architect who designed the museum) who recommended using gray and mauve.

This ambitious project is facing a problem which is the construction work nearby to make a new garage as there is no space in downtown Cairo to park but the dust from this work spreads on a wide area including the Egyptian museum.

The Art of Counting

The Art of Counting (Amy Calvert)

If you haven't found the Art of Counting blog yet you are missing some good posts. Amy has targeted some important points and includes photographs to support her comments.

One of her series of posts is called Tacky Tourists and hits the nail on the head so well concerning the way some tourists behave in Egypt. See, for example, The Fondler, a single photograph which is an alarming shot of a tourist stroking one of the Hatshepsut temple frescoes. My own experience of tourists in Luxor and elsewhere has been equally staggering at times - my personal all time "is this really happening?" moment came when a German tourist in Siwa was found with a geology hammer in the act of digging fossils out of one of the columns of the Temple of Amun. One of the aspects of tourism that she highlights in her Tacky Tourist series is the habit of female western tourists of going around half dressed in an Islamic country, something that has bothered me in visits to Luxor for a very long time - there has to be a balance between enjoying the benefits of tourisms and showing respect for the country visited.

She is also working to make Factor Analysis and other statistical methods digestible to the archaeologist, and other interested people.

The God's Wives of Amun

Em Hotep! (Keith Payne)

The God’s Wives of Amun – Royal Women and Power Politics in the Eighteenth Dynasty

Another good piece from Keith Payne, with photographs and a list of literature cited at the end (two of which are available online).

During the Middle Kingdom Period, having a daughter appointed as a God’s Wife in your local temple meant that you were a member of the upper crust of Egyptian society. But at the dawn of the New Kingdom, Pharaoh Ahmose I drafted a legal contract that made the God’s Wife of Amun arguably the second most powerful person in the kingdom. Before all was said and done, one God’s Wife would use the office to become the most powerful person in the kingdom.

With Amun now the King of the Gods, his earthly consort came into her own wealth and authority in a way that would ultimately shatter the glass ceiling of Egyptian politics, at least for a while…

When studying religious and political institutions in ancient Egypt, very rarely can we point to a specific person, time, and place and say “that is where it all began.” The God’s Wife of Amun is unique in that aspect. True, the genesis of the title and its original purpose are lost in the murky traditions of overlapping and often contradictory provincial religions. And true, we are not 100% certain of who the first royal God’s Wife may have been. But there are some things we do know.

We know, for instance, that the office of God’s Wife of Amun underwent a complete restructuring in the early years of the New Kingdom, when it was endowed with wealth and status that elevated it to one of the most powerful institutions in ancient Egypt. We know the individual who set these changes in motion was none other than Ahmose I, Hero of Thebes and Champion of Amun. And we know that the first person to hold the reinvented office was his queen, Ahmose-Nefertari.

Hawass denies being anti-Semitic (Zahi Hawass)

It has come to my attention that questions about my views on Jewish heritage were raised during a recent interview I gave at the History Channel. It seems that several people had written in with comments suggesting that I am anti-Semitic. I would like to state for the record that I am not anti-Semitic at all, and clarify the following:

This ridiculous accusation first arose after an interview I gave in Arabic for Egyptian television. The interviewer made claims that the Jewish community was trying to control the world and was engaged in a “Zionist conspiracy.” Unfortunately, these comments were attributed to me. My only role in this interview was to discuss the history of the Jewish community in Egypt through the archaeological record. I did not, and do not, agree with the statements made by the interviewer.

Exhibition: Cleopatra at the Franklin Institute

Delco News Network (Christina Perryman)

After Egypt fell to Rome in 30 B.C. and Cleopatra famously took her own life following the suicide of Mark Antony, the new Roman rulers did their best to wipe Cleopatra and her legacy from Egyptian history. Historians believe the Romans attempted to destroy all artifacts, including statues, documents, etc., and tried to rewrite history by spreading malicious rumors about the former queen, potentially causing a general misunderstanding of Cleopatra and her time governing Egypt.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Egypt’s pre-eminent archaeologist, and French underwater archeologist Franck Goddio, director of European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) are attempting to correct the misconception and learn as much as possible about Cleopatra, her life and legacy. While Dr. Hawass searches Egyptian land for Cleopatra’s and Mark Antony’s lost tomb, Goddio leads an extremely ambitious underwater expedition, looking for clues to Cleopatra’s every day life. Since beginning his search in 1992, Goddio has uncovered Cleopatra’s royal palace as well as two ancient cities, Canopus and Heracleion, buried beneath the sea for almost 2,000 years after a series of tidal waves and earthquakes.

Tourism - Time keeping during Ramadam

Luxor Times

With an explanation and a helpful diagram.
The Egyptian government decided few hours ago to stop working with the summer timing during Ramadan. It may sound simple but what does this mean?

What killed Alexander the Great?


An extraordinarily toxic bacterium harbored by the "infernal" Styx River might have been the fabled poison rumored to have killed Alexander the Great (356 to 323 B.C.) more than 2,000 years ago, according to a scientific-meets-mythic detective study.

The research, which will be presented next week at the XII International Congress of Toxicology annual meetings in Barcelona, Spain, reviews ancient literary evidence on the Styx poison in light of modern geology and toxicology.

Photo for Today - Osiris with atef crown, Lyon

Osiris, with atef crown and row of uraeus emblems
Ptolemaic period, First Century BC
Museum of Beaux Arts, Lyon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Study the contents of Tutankhamun's tomb online

The Guardian, UK (Jo Marchant)

From the circular main hall of the Sackler Library in Oxford, an unassuming corridor leads to a staircase that takes you down below street level. Through a door marked "archive", office ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights stare down on a cheap blue carpet and a row of grey rolling stacks.

The hum of the air-conditioning lets slip that this ordinary-looking room is hiding something special. The temperature is held at 18.5C (65F), several degrees cooler than the sunny July day outside, while a humidifier keeps the moisture level tightly controlled. For those grey stacks contain the forgotten secrets of the most famous find in Egyptology, if not all of archaeological history: the tomb of Tutankhamun.

This is the Griffith Institute – arguably the best Egyptology library in the world. One of its most prized collections incorporates the notes, photographs and diaries of the English archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun's resting place in 1922. The only intact pharaoh's tomb ever discovered, it contained such an array of treasures that it took Carter 10 years to catalogue them all. Yet despite the immense significance of the discovery, the majority of Carter's findings have never been published, and many questions surrounding the tomb remain unanswered.

Jaromir Malek is the soft-spoken keeper of the archive whose own Tutankhamun project is nearing completion. By making all of Carter's notes available online, Malek wanted to ensure that the public would have access to the full extent of the discovery – and to spur Egyptologists into finishing the job of studying the tomb's contents. He has ended up creating a model that other researchers hope will transform the field of archaeology.

Grant received to preserve remains of 4000 year old ship

North Myrtle Beach Online

Coastal Carolina University professor Cheryl Ward has received a $25,000 grant from the Antiquities Endowment Fund (AEF) of the American Research Center in Egypt for a project to document and conserve the remains of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian ship.

Ward, director of CCU's Center for Archaeology and Anthropology, plans to travel later this year to Mersa/Wadi Gawasi, the site of an ancient Red Sea harbor on the coast of Egypt where planks and equipment from the world's oldest seagoing vessels have been uncovered.

Easton Selby, assistant professor of visual arts at Coastal Carolina University, will also visit the site in order to photograph the artifacts as part of the documentation part of the project.

The artifacts, which include wooden planks and the largest amount of ancient rope ever discovered (with the original knots intact), are in serious danger of fungal decay after being removed from the sand that has acted as a protective covering for thousands of years, according to Ward.