Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3,000-yr-old mummy crying for attention

Times of India (Neha Shuckla)

The state museum's 3,000-year-old mummy, one of the six in the country, is wearing off.

The chipped off outer peel of the mummy's skull is for everyone to see. The curious onlookers might wonder at the sight of a lock of hair visible from outside the glass-case that contains the mummy while few would try hard to pry if it is a shred of unwrapped linen.

The museum authorities, however, deny any such thing. "It's not wearing off," said Rakesh Tiwari, acting director of the museum.

The curators maintain that it was always like this. But this doesn't deny the mummy's need for restoration. It's the mummy of a 13-year-old girl with unwrapped toe in one of the feet.

The Lucknow museum had purchased it in 1952 from a UK national, J J E Potter. But after all these years, the frayed edges of its cotton bandage might be unwrapping. The environmental factors like humidity, temperature, light and pollution are gradually affecting the preservation of this mummy.

Help with the care of Amarna’s ancient buildings

Amarna Project Donation Site

Thanks to Dr Anna Stevens for letting me know about the new Amarna Project donation page on the Just Giving website. An excellent idea, it has been set up to allow people to help out with the completion of repairs to the Royal Suite. The thing I like most about the project is that they are asking for a realistic sum, and that every donation, no matter how small, will help them to carry on with their excellent work. The site shows both the target amount and how much they have raised so far. If every one of last Monday's visitors to this blog donated just a single pound each they would be well along the way to reaching their target.

I've used the Just Giving site several times to donate to friends who have done various sports things for charity, and it works really well.

Here's the summary from the Just Giving site:

Help us to take care of Amarna’s ancient buildings.

Since 1997, the Amarna project has been engaged in a programme to record and restore one of the ancient city’s most important buildings: the North Palace.

In Spring 2011 we will return to the site with the aim of meeting a major milestone – the completion of repairs to the Royal Suite – and we are asking for your help in reaching this goal.

Your donation will pay for the established teams of skilled local workmen who will undertake the rebuilding under the supervision of Conservation Architect Surésh Dhargalkar. In this way you will also be supporting the local community.

More information on the North Palace can be found here:

And details of the restoration work here:

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity and make sure Gift Aid is reclaimed on every eligible donation by a UK taxpayer.

Thank you for taking the time to visit our JustGiving page.

The Amarna Project Team

Cairo's villas crumble

BBC News

Video. Very sad.

Cairo's glorious old villas are relics of a time when the city was the Paris of the Middle East - a fashionable destination for Egyptians and Europeans alike. Now many are under threat from modern development. Jon Leyne reports from Cairo.

New Book: Contesting Human Remains

Profile of Tiffany Jenkins available on the LSE's website, which includes an overview of the book.

The Guardian, UK (Emine Saner)

In a book published yesterday, Tiffany Jenkins, a sociologist, highlighted how uneasy museums are becoming when it comes to displaying human remains. Jenkins gave examples including the Museum of London, which removed bones showing the effects of rickets, and Manchester University Museum, which took the head of an iron-age human, Worsley Man, off display; in 2008, it briefly covered its mummies with sheets.

Jenkins claims that museums are bowing to pressure from organisations such as the pagan group Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD).

The Guardian, UK (Maev Kennedy)

Museums are increasingly getting cold feet about exhibiting human bodies and body parts – despite surveys showing the public is fascinated and quite untroubled by such displays.

In a book published today, Tiffany Jenkins, a sociologist who is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics's law department, argues mummies and other human remains have been displayed covered by linen wrappings, in dark cases that have to be illuminated by pressing a button, displayed with warning notices or been taken off display completely.

Examples she has uncovered in her book, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections, include bones showing rickets – a disease of poverty and malnutrition which produced deformity of the legs – taken off display at the Museum of London and the head of an iron age bog body, Worsley Man, removed at Manchester University Museum. Manchester also covered its mummies with linen sheets, but uncovered them after public protest.

Daily Mail (Sarah Harris)

Museums are hiding away mummies and human remains for fear of offending pagans and other minority groups, it has been revealed.

They are putting up warning signs, closing previously opened coffins and displaying exhibits in darkened cases.

This is despite the fact that such displays are among the most popular attractions.
Covering up: Dr Rosalie David, keeper of Egyptology at Manchester Museum, pictured with the Mummy of Asru. Mummies at museums are being covered up to avoid offending faith groups

The move is designed to give the skeletons and mummies ‘privacy’ and to avoid upsetting faith groups and even some museum staff, according to academic findings.

Research shows how 17 museums have drafted policies on human remains, with most advocating that signs are put up to warn visitors of their presence.

Manchester University Museum’s policy requires consultation before displaying human remains, particularly with what it calls ‘marginalised communities and faith groups’.

At the insistence of a pagan group called Honouring the Ancient Dead, it removed the head of an Iron Age bog body – the skull of Worsley Man, which was found buried near Manchester 50 years ago – from display.

It also covered up the unwrapped mummy of Asru, the partially-wrapped mummy of Khary, and a child mummy with sheets. The three mummies were uncovered only after a public protest.

Meanwhile, the Egypt gallery at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery has changed its display of Egyptian human remains.

Instead of the previous display of mummies in open coffins, it now exhibits them with half closed lids, which it considers more respectful.

And the Royal Cornwall Museum, in Truro, does not show any images of human remains, other than wrapped mummies, in its online or publicity material. The trend towards political correctness in museums has been highlighted by Dr Tiffany Jenkins, a sociologist who is a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In her book, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections, published today, she reveals the radical change in policy on ancient human remains, including Egyptian mummies, skeletons and bog bodies.

The Telegraph (Louise Gray)

Already museums around the country have been forced to close coffin lids, remove skeletons and respectfully replace the shroud on mummies in order to placate protesters. There are fears such artefacts could be banned altogether.

Small groups such as the Pagan Organisation Honouring the Ancient Dead claim that it is against the religious beliefs of our ancestors to put bodies on show.

Museums are becoming increasingly nervous about displaying human remains. Seventeen have drawn up guidelines advising curators to warn the public and only display photographs of mummies with a shroud.

The Egypt gallery at Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery now has half-closed coffin lids on its display of mummies.

Satues repatriated from Canada

Asharq Alwasat (Zahi Hawass)

This is perhaps one of the best pieces of news that I have received over the past few months. I am, of course, talking about the return of an ancient statue from Canada to Egypt. The story of this statue begins with the Canadian authorities arresting a foreign traveller arriving in Canada from Egypt. This traveller had a Greek-era statue in his possession which he had bought from an antiques dealer in Egypt. The Canadian authorities contacted Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities [SCA] in order to pursue this case and complete the procedures in order to return this statue back to Egypt. This was around three years ago.

The statue is a marble bust approximately 13 cm in height. The Canadian Heritage Foundation looked after this statue, however after the Canadian authorities confirmed that the traveller in question had no legal right of ownership of this statue, the SCA had the right to claim it in accordance with 1970 UNESCO convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Exhibition: Haremhab, The General Who Became King,


One of the most fascinating pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Haremhab (reigned ca. 1316-1302 B. C.) was a strong leader in a time of political and religious transition. As commander-in-chief of Tutankhamun's army, he oversaw important military campaigns at the border with Nubia and in the Levant; later, as the last king of Dynasty 18, Haremhab instituted laws that secured the rights of civilians and curbed abuses perpetrated by powerful groups. A statue that was created before he became king shows the general as a scribe and thus an administrator and wise man. This statue-the most famous three-dimensional image of Haremhab-is the focus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition Haremhab, The General Who Became King, opening November 16. The display will feature some 70 additional objects in various media-wall reliefs, works on papyrus, statuettes, and garment fragments-from the holdings of the Metropolitan, with the addition of a pivotal loan from the Louvre and another from a New York private collection. Haremhab, The General Who Became King is the inaugural presentation in a series of exhibitions that will spotlight masterpieces from the Museum's collection of Egyptian art.

The Metropolitan Museum's magnificent life-size statue of Haremhab as a scribe is the centerpiece of the exhibition.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures,

The Guardian, UK (Jonathan Jones)

"What can you see?" asked the people behind archaeologist Howard Carter as he peered through a newly dug hole into the tomb chamber of the boy king Tutankhamun in 1922. "Wonderful things!" gasped Carter. And it was true.

Up to then it seemed that all the tombs of the pharaohs of Egypt in the Valley of the Kings had been ransacked by graverobbers long ago: archaeologists found mummies, but no gold. Somehow this young ruler's tomb had never been touched. Carter found its treasures piled around the walls inside the secret chamber, perfectly preserved in the sealed vault, just as they looked the day the tomb was closed. Now you can see them, quite as perfect, in Manchester – with one catch.

The exhibition Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures, which opened at the Trafford Centre on Friday, boasts the very room that amazed Carter 88 years ago. Golden beds, chairs, chariots, chests and portraits are heaped as they were when he peeked through that tiny aperture: the death mask of Tutankhamun, one of the most astonishing works of art on earth, is here. The only trouble is, none of it is real. All the marvels are reproductions, modelled with digital technology and expertly crafted to mimic the originals, at a cost of £4.4m.

Does it matter?

Exhibition: Journey through the afterlife

The Guardian, UK (Vanessa Thorpe)

When it comes to scary monsters, the ancient Egyptian Devourer is always going to be hard to top. With the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion and the hindquarters of a hippo, it is certainly more exotic than the average Halloween outfit. And, though it sounds risible now, for centuries in Egypt the grim fear of meeting this evil, "cut'n'shut" beast on the other side of death helped to shore up an entire system of belief, a system shared by pharaohs and artisans. In fact, the devourer played a key part in one of the most intriguing tenets of faith humankind has yet come up with: The Book of the Dead.

Next month, the most comprehensive exhibition to be staged on this ancient doctrine of denying death will open inside the Reading Room at the British Museum. It will showcase, for the first time, the entire length of the Greenfield Papyrus, which, at 37 metres, lays out each detailed stage of a journey the ancient Egyptians believed they would all have to make when mortal life had slipped away.

On display, too, will be a succession of paintings taken from the papyri of Hunefer and of Ani, probably the two most famous works to depict the many episodes, or trials, that together constitute The Book of the Dead.


With a link to the full online Papyrus of Ani

For four thousand years it was the cornerstone of Egyptian religion. It started as a few prayers said in prehistoric times before a body was laid to rest in the desert next to the Nile. As the civilization in Egypt grew the prayers and spells became more elaborate, as did other rites for the dead. They were written inside pyramids and other tombs. Eventually the various rituals and spells were gathered together to create what we call the Book of the Dead. It's made up of numerous chapters in no set order. Individual chapters or groups of chapters were written on tombs, sarcophagi, and rolls of papyrus. The book survived, with various changes and variations that Egyptologists are still puzzling out, until the Christian era.

Photo for Today - More from the Walters Art Museum

Woman with Lotus

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Date (Period): ca. 2170-2020 BC (First Intermediate)
Medium: limestone with traces of paint
Measurements: 17 11/16 x 18 5/16 in. (45 x 46.5 cm);
framed: 20 1/2 x 21 1/4 x 2 15/16 in. (52 x 54 x 7.5 cm)

Item Description:
At the end of the Old Kingdom, the authority of the king and court had eroded, and Egypt split into at least two distinct regions. Without a great royal court to patronize workshops, artists and artisans worked for local governors and officials. Lively regional styles developed, usually showing elongated, fluid figures with features such as the hands, eyes, and ears emphasized. Here, the inscriptions are an invocation to Anubis, god of embalming and mummification, requesting funerary offerings of food and drink for the deceased.

This stela, carved in sunk relief, depicts a woman named Nefer-khabet. She wears a long, narrow, tight-fitting garment, a long wig, a collar, an armlet and a bracelet, and anklets. Her skin is painted pale yellow, her garment is pale blue, and her various pieces of jewelry are painted a darker shade of blue. She faces to the right and holds a blue lotus blossom with her left hand in front of her face, while her right arm hangs down at her side. In front of her is a short, small table heaped with offerings (two basins and two loaves, a shoulder of meat, vegetables, and more loaves); beneath it are ewer and a basin. More offerings (two baskets with food, four pottery jars on stands, loaves, and bunches of onions) are placed to the right of this table. The offerings are painted in red, yellow, and pale green, and are surrounded on three sides (all except the bottom) by a thin black rectangular border. Three rows and one column of inscription in blue are placed above her and to her right. Surrounding the scene on three sides (except for the bottom) is a border consisting of pale green, yellow, red, and black boxes, with an outline of black around them. The stela is broken on all four sides, breaking off three areas (upper left, lower left and right) of the colored-block border. The yellow, green, red, blue, and brown colors are well preserved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The miners' goddess

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

As world attention was focussed on a gold and copper mine in Chile, it emerged that there may have been a failed bid to steal one of the remaining sandstone statues of the goddess Hathor, the ancient Egyptian protector of miners. Nevine El-Aref accompanied the statues as they were transferred to a Sinai gallery for restoration.

Some few thousand years ago, ancient Egyptians made their way overland to the Sinai peninsula -- or travelled there across the Red Sea -- in search of minerals. Their chief targets were the turquoise and copper veins which had been mined in the Sinai mountains since time immemorial.

Once they had achieved mastery over Sinai, the Egyptian overseers set up a large and systematic mining operation at Serabit Al-Khadim in South Sinai, where they carved out great quantities of turquoise which was so highly valued that it became an important part of ritual symbolism in their religious ceremonies. Even today, pure, unveined turquoise is weight-for-weight more costly than gold.

More photos from the tomb of Rudj-Ka

Hawass Facebook (Zahi Hawass)

Zahi Hawass has placed a good collection of photographs from the newly uncovered tomb on his Facebook site at the above page.

New tomb will be one of many

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

A PAINTED tomb of an important member of the ancient Egyptian court was recently discovered on the Giza Plateau, reports Nevine El-Aref.

Archaeologists stumbled on the tomb while excavating at the southern end of the pyramid builders' necropolis at Giza. The team from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) believes it to be the Fifth-Dynasty tomb of Rudj-Ka, who primarily served as a purification priest for King Khafre and his mortuary cult.

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni says that the Khafre pyramid complex and mortuary cult continued to function well after the king's death thanks to an assembly of priests and administrators who were provisioned through royal endowments.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said the tomb was the first to be found in this area, and added that its distinguished architectural design made it unique. Its superstructure is constructed of limestone blocks, which create a maze-like pathway to the main entrance. The burial chamber itself is cut directly into the cliff face.

Egypt's Plans for Luxor: Vegas on the Nile?

Time (Abigail Hauslohner)

Luxor has long been Egypt's prize possession. It was here that the ancient Egyptians at one time built their capital of Thebes; where Pharoahs dedicated massive temples to their gods; and where Howard Carter unearthed the world-famous boy King, Tutankhamen, in his tomb full of riches in 1922. "It has been one of the biggest and most famous tourist attractions for at least 200 years."says Francesco Bandarin, the head of the World Heritage Center at UNESCO. Adds Mansour Boraik, who oversees Upper Egypt for for the country's Supreme Council of Antiquities, "30% of world monuments lie in Luxor, and 70% of the monuments in Egypt are in Luxor."

In an effort to preserve the riches — and beef up the number of tourists they attract — local authorities have been pressing an ambitious project to reinvent and revive Luxor; rehabilitating tombs, and expanding the city's tourist infrastructure at a dizzying pace to the tune of hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars. Egyptian authorities are in the process of excavating an ancient "Avenue of the Sphinxes," a 2.7 kilometer pathway once lined with the human-headed lion statues from the pharaonic past; after it has been resurrected, the avenue will link the Luxor Temple on one end to the colossal Karnak temple on the other. The plan is to turn the city into an open air museum by the year 2030. "Luxor needs a pioneer project like this to preserve it for the new generation," says Boraik of the ongoing work.

However, all this construction may be at the expense of the current generation of Egyptians living in Luxor.

Sotheby's New York to Offer Property

With photo.

Sotheby’s announced a single owner sale of important Antiquities from the Collection of the late Clarence Day to be held on the evening of 7 December 2010. The sale will include approximately 40 lots and is expected to raise $5/8 million.* Proceeds from the sale will benefit The Day Foundation. Among the highlights will be A Marble Portrait Bust of the Deified Antinous, Roman Imperial, Reign of Hadrian, Circa A.D. 130-138 (est. $2/3 million) and A Green Porphyry Figure of an Egyptian Royal Sphinx, Roman Imperial, Circa 1st Century A.D. (est. $800,000/1.2 million). In addition to the Antiquities sale, A Marble Portrait Bust Of The Deified Antinous, Roman Imperial, Reign of Hadrian, Cira AD 130-138 (est. $2/3 million) Housatonic, a major work on paper by Arshile Gorky, will be included in the Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York on 9 November (est. $800,000/1.2 million).

Mummy's hand to be auctioned

BBC News

With photos (somewhat grizzly!)

Staff at a Newcastle auction house have been a little nervous of late, refusing to do anything that means being in the building on their own.

The reason is a 2000-year-old mummified hand which they'll be auctioning in December.

It comes in its own glass-covered, mahogany box but is far from the prettiest thing the company have sold.

It's claimed it's the hand of Queen Cleopatra - though the auctioneers can't yet guarantee which one.

Andrew McCoull, from Anderson and Garland, says: "The hand itself is what can only be described as a yellowy, leathery colour.

"It's a lady's hand, a left hand, with manicured fingernails which are still there and evidence of what was possibly a ring on one of her fingers - there's a sort of a dark patch - but, all in all, it's a pretty gruesome looking object."

Book review: Egypt 1250 BC: A Traveler's Companion

Al Masry Al Youm

Even those with a particularly strong sense of national pride would probably agree that Egypt’s Golden Age is a thing of the distant past. Home to one of the earliest recorded civilizations and architectural monuments that continue to astound the modern world, Egypt has a unique and varied history. Given its unstable present and uncertain future, it is understandable that one might consider the wonders of Egypt’s earlier days with curiosity, and even a little envy. For those who have ever wondered what life was like when the Egyptian empire was the heart of the civilized world, some answers can be found in Donald P. Ryan’s book, Egypt 1250 BC: A Traveler's Companion.

Published this year by AUC Press, Egypt 1250 BC takes the reader back in time to an age when Egypt was “prosperous, energetic, and full of ambition.” Written in the style of a contemporary travel guide, Ryan’s book describes the sights and sounds of a theoretical journey up the Nile river during Ramesses II’s fifty-fourth year of reign.

Lecture notes: Festivals of Drunkenness in the New Kingdom

The Retriever Weekly (Vanessa Rueda)

As part of Ancient Studies Week (and the Humanities Forum Lecture Series), Dr. Betsy Bryan gave a lecture entitled Festivals of Drunkenness in New Kingdom Egypt. Visiting from Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday, October 13, 2010, Dr. Bryan gave an interesting lecture on Egypt. Despite the fact that Dr. Bryan's talk sounded more like the typical lecture, it kept all the Ancient Studies majors enthralled for an hour.

Retelling myths matter-of-factly, Dr. Bryan presented her knowledge and findings of a restoration and excavation she and her team had done. With impressive credentials, the speaker demonstrated her fascination with all things Egypt. As her presenter established, Dr. Bryan has been the curator for a number of exhibits, including her most recent work in Johns Hopkins University as the curator for the Egyptian Art Collection. . . .

Heavy on the Egyptian mythology, the speaker told her stories straightforward, and as easily as if they were everyday occurrences. Although a bit complex to follow, the mythology proved to be just as important as the presentation of the results of the excavations and restorations. Bryan explained the origin of the Festivals of Drunkenness (or A Great Excuse to Get Wasted as I call it) as easily as she if she was telling a ten-year-old the story of "Little Red Riding Hood."

Exhibition: Ramesses in Budapest

A rather vague piece about an exhibition re Ramesses II in Budapest, if you happen to be there before February.

The purpose of this exhibition in Hungary is to guide the visitor as a member of an exploration group to the feet of pyramids, and to provide an insight into the excavation works in progress.

Photo for Today - More from the Walters Art Museum

Woman Kneeling Before an Offering Table

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Date (Period): ca. 1450 BC (New Kingdom)
Medium: distemper paint on mud plaster
Measurements: H: 11 5/8 x W: 9 3/16 x D: 1 1/8 in. (29.5 x 23.4 x 2.8 cm); H within frame: 11 x W: 9 in. (27.9 x 22.8 cm)
Item Description:
Traces of red grid lines can be seen in this fragmentary painting from a tomb wall. It depicts a half-kneeling, half-squatting, woman in front of an offering table. The grid was used in ancient Egypt to assure the right proportions and layout of paintings and reliefs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Discovery of the tomb of Rudj-Ka

Press release with photos.

A Fifth Dynasty tomb (2465 - 2323 BC) of the priest, Rudj-Ka was recently uncovered in an area south of the pyramid builders’ necropolis.

Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny announced that the discovery was made during routine excavation work at the necropolis by an Egyptian archaeological team from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, said that Rudj-Ka had several titles and would have been an important member of the ancient Egyptian court. Primarily Rudj-ka served as a purification priest for Khafre (2520-2494 BC) and his mortuary cult at Giza. Khafre’s pyramid complex and mortuary cult remained functioning well after the king’s death thanks to a group of priests and administrators who were provisioned through royal endowments.

Hawass pointed out that the tomb is the first to be found in this area and that it is very unique because of its distinguished architectural design. The superstructure of the tomb is constructed out of limestone blocks, which create a maze-like pathway to the main entrance. The burial chamber itself is cut directly into a cliff face.

Hawass continued that the tomb’s walls are beautifully decorated with painted reliefs featuring Rudj-ka with his wife in front of an offering table filled with gifts of bread, goose and cattle. Daily life scenes depicting Rudj-ka fishing and boating are also shown.

“This tomb could be the first of many in the area. Hopefully we have located a new necropolis dedicated to certain members of the royal court,” said Hawass. He also suggested that this area could be a continuation of the western necropolis at Giza, which may have resulted from overcrowding in the Giza plateau.

Discovery News (Rossella Lorenzi)

With photos of the painted interior.

Archaeologists have unearthed a more than 4,000-year-old tomb of a pharaonic priest near the Giza pyramids, Egypt’s authorities announced on Monday.

Beautifully decorated, the burial site is located near the tombs of the pyramid-builders.

It belonged to Rudj-Ka, a priest who lived during the Fifth Dynasty (2465 - 2323 B.C.) and was responsible for the mortuary cult of the pharaoh Khafre, also known as Chephren.

The son of Khufu, or Cheops, the Fourth Dynasty king Khafre is best known as the owner of the second largest of the Giza Pyramids.

According to Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Khafre’s pyramid complex and mortuary cult remained functioning well after the king’s death, thanks to a group of priests who conducted rituals and prayers in honor of the dead pharaoh.

Rudj-Ka was one of those priests. An important member of the ancient Egyptian court, he was provisioned through a royal endowment to serve as a purification priest.

Built from limestone blocks, which create a maze-like pathway to the main entrance, Rudj-Ka's tomb is cut directly into a cliff face and boasts walls painted with beautiful scenes of daily life in ancient Egypt.

Luxor Times has two additional photographs, one of the tomb's exterior.

And in Spanish.

Stone baboons returned to Cliveden

The Guardian, UK (Maev Kennedy)

The faintly smiling stone baboons look so modern few could guess they watched the Roman legionaries march into Egypt, the fall of the Roman empire – and almost 2,000 years later – a scandal begin that almost brought down a government.

The unique pair– 2,500 years old and originally made to flank the entrance to a temple of Thoth in ancient Egypt – have been reinstated by the National Trust in the gardens at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, after an absence of half a century. The gardens around the mansion were the setting for the 1961 Profumo affair, where Christine Keeler, mistress of a Soviet naval attache who was also a spy and John Profumo, the war secretary, fatefully met. Their triangular affair, and Profumo's denial of it to parliament, ruined his career and led to the suicide of Stephen Ward, the society osteopath who introduced them all.

There is nothing like the granite baboons in any garden in Britain, or as far as curator and Egyptologist Wendy Monkhouse can discover, in any garden or museum in the world.

Vatican Coffin Project


With thanks to Amigos de la Egiptologia for the link.

Ciudad del Vaticano, 14 oct (EFE).- Los Museos Vaticanos han sacado a la luz los misterios que esconden una veintena de sarcófagos egipcios, que datan de entre 1070 y 712 antes de Cristo, con un ambicioso proyecto de investigación que pretende estudiar la técnica, los materiales y el origen de su fabricación.

Un total de 23 sarcófagos pertenecientes al Tercer Periodo intermedio de Egipto y provenientes de la ciudad imperial de Tebas, donde se erigen los templos de Karnak y Luxor, que se exhiben en los Museos Vaticanos, son el objeto de estudio del "Vatican Coffin Project", cuyos primeros resultados fueron presentados hoy.

El proyecto, que arrancó en 2008, reúne a un grupo de expertos, egiptólogos y restauradores liderados por la directora del departamento de antigüedades orientales de los Museos Vaticanos, Alessia Amenta, que pretenden construir un protocolo de estudio sistemático de los sarcófagos así como identificar los talleres y lugares donde fueron fabricados.

The Vatican Coffin Project aims to study the technical, material and origin of manufacture of coffins from 23 Theban tombs dating from between 1070 and 712 BC, the Third Intermediate Period. The project, which began in 2008, brings together a group of experts, restorers and Egyptologists led by the director of the Oriental Antiquities department of the Vatican Museums, Alessia Amenta, who wants to build a protocol for systematic study of the sarcophagi and to identify workshops and places where they were manufactured.

Playing ancient Egyptian games

The Eloquent Peasant (Margaret Maitland)

This past weekend was the first time I’d played or watched people play senet in years (see the post below for an introduction to ancient Egyptian board games). It was a really fascinating experience and it made me think about how the actual game play is perfectly in tune with the ancient Egyptian conceptualization of society. But before all of that: first of all, it’s rather amazing that people are playing a game 5000 years after it’s invention, in a completely different part of the globe. And that it’s not just because that game has been around for that long, but that it’s actually been resurrected from the ground: rather amusing for a game about rebirth! Our fascination with the past led people to dig up these game boards and reconstruct the rules through painstaking research, and has captured people’s imaginations enough for several different commercially sold editions to be released over the past few decades.

Long Island Museum director sentenced for theft

New York Post (Mitchell Maddux)

The former director of a Long Island museum who stole Egyptian artifacts from the institution's collection -- and later sold the rare antiquities through Christie’s auction house -- was sentenced today to serve time in federal prison.

Barry Stern, who headed Long Island University’s Hillwood Museum, was sentenced to serve one year and a day behind bars and slapped with a $5,000 fine during a hearing in Central Islip's federal court.

To disguise his theft from the museum, which is located on the university's C.W. Post campus in Brookville, L.I.., Stern deleted files concerning the nine objects from the museum's computer database.

He then delivered them to Christie's in August 2008 to be sold on consignment. Catalogs from the auction house described the precious objects as coming "from the Collection of Barry Stern."

Among the antiquities that Stern furnished to Christie's was a bronze statuette depicting Apis, a bull that in ancient Egypt was kept in lavish accommodations, watched constantly for signs of divine messages, and consulted in efforts to foretell the future.

1.2 million visitors admired Nefertiti in the last year

Monsters and Critics

The bust of ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti, whose ownership is a point of dispute between Germany and Egypt, has drawn some 1.2 million visitors since the Neues Museum where it is displayed re-opened last year, museum officials said Thursday.

The museum, on Berlin's UNESCO World Heritage Site-awarded Museum Island, was shut for 70 years after being badly damaged in World War II bombing, and will celebrate its first anniversary since re-opening on Saturday.

And in Spanish here.

Mummies examined for rates of cancer

The Telegraph, UK (Richard Alleyne)

Researchers looking at almost a thousand mummies from ancient Egypt and South America found only a handful suffered from cancer when now it accounts for nearly one in three deaths.

The findings suggest that it is modern lifestyles and pollution levels caused by industry that are the main cause of the disease and that it is not a naturally occurring condition.

The study showed the disease rate has risen dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, in particular childhood cancer – proving that the rise is not simply due to people living longer.

Now it is hoped that it could lead to better understanding of the origins of cancer and to new treatments for the disease which claims more than 150,000 lives a year in the UK alone.

“In industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death," said Professor Rosalie David, a biomedical Egyptologist at the University of Manchester.

Save Giza before 2012

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

I thought that the days of the "pyramidiots" were over and that they had finally left us to carry out some serious archaeology in peace. Over the last decade, many people have contacted me thinking they have located lost civilisations and imagining rooms under the Sphinx at Giza giving evidence that would solve these mysteries, but I have worked hard to demonstrate to them that these ideas are not true and to put a stop to this nonsense. In debates with them, I would show them the real evidence of how the Pyramids were constructed and that the Sphinx belonged to the ancient Egyptians, not to Atlanteans or aliens. I have excavated at Giza for a long, long time, and I have discovered a wealth of information about the workmen, nobles and officials who built the marvels at this site and who maintained the religious cults there.

Two years ago, however, I began to hear about those people who believe that in year 2012 evidence will be discovered at Giza and Al-Lahoun that will save the world! I found out that an expedition was working at Al-Lahoun that was funded by those who believe in this hallucination. The expedition leaders collected money from those they had convinced to follow them and began to spend huge amounts of it without keeping records of their expenditure. Even worse was the discovery that they were conducting their work without using any scientific methodology. I had to stop this work! In addition to this, there is no archaeological evidence for the so-called "labyrinth" of Amenemhet III's 20th-Dynasty pyramid that they were trying to find at Al-Lahoun.

Now another team has appeared to deceive the world with a new crackpot theory.

UNESCO scheme to conserve Fathy's village

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Although the heat makes work in Luxor over the summer difficult, a committee of international architects gathered early last week on Luxor's west bank in order to inspect Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy's New Gourna village, launching a comprehensive scheme to help preserve this village consisting of mud-brick domiciles for the poor.

Constructed between 1946 and 1952 by pioneering architect Fathy, New Gourna aimed to provide housing for the population of the village of Old Gourna. Villagers from the latter had lived for generations above ancient Egyptian tombs, and they were moved in order to prevent damage to the tombs and to provide a model for low-cost and sustainable housing.

The main characteristic of New Gourna consists of its reinterpretation of the traditional village setting, using local materials and techniques that are extraordinarily sensitive to the climate. The type of architecture Fathy developed at New Gourna was recognised internationally as an appropriate solution for housing low-income rural communities, and it was presented in a major architectural work published in 1976, Architecture of the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt.

Fathy's ideas inspired a generation of architects and planners worldwide through his integration of vernacular technology with modern architectural principles.

Lecture notes: Tutankhamun's Footwear

The Independent Collegian

Most would almost never expect a well-established archaeologist who lives and works in both Europe and Egypt to say anything along the lines of "I don't fancy seeing the mummy."

However, those were the words of Dr. André Veldmeijer on Oct 8, when he came to the Toledo Museum of Art to give a speech entitled "Tutankhamun's Footwear."

Veldmeijer, originally from Amsterdam, is the author of the new book "Tutankhamun's Footwear: Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear" and has conducted the first-ever study of the shoes found in this pharaoh's tomb. He is also the chairman of the web-based Netherlands scientific journals, PalArch, and is a part of the Archaelogical Institute of America (AIA), as well as the Ancient Egyptian Footwear Project (AEFP).

While this archaeologist may not be intrigued by any part of tightly wrapped corpses, his interest is certainly piqued when it comes to their foot's accessories. Tutankhamun, more commonly known as King Tut, unknowingly provided an ample amount of style and variety for use in Veldmeijer's studies. Excavated from King Tut's tomb alone were 94 pairs of sandals and shoes made with anything from cured leather, to bark, to strong and durable cords constructed from palm leaves.

Egypt's Coptic Museum

Al Masry Al Youm

One that I would really love to visit!

The Coptic Museum in Cairo has more to offer its visitors than is generally thought. Still, only a small group of Egyptian school children and Coptic families, who visit the museum after church service, get to realize that the Coptic period is not only about Coptic Christian theology and art. The museum’s collection--the most comprehensive collection of Coptic artifacts in the world--records around eight centuries of Egypt’s diverse social, cultural, economic, religious and political life in the first millennium. Alongside icons of the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and monks, crosses constructed in stone reliefs and biblical manuscripts, are representations of Greek mythology, Roman iconography and Coptic styles that are very connected to Islamic art.

As soon as visitors pass the Gallery of the Masterpieces, they are met with a pilaster (a flat column) of a scene from a Greek myth in which Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, is portrayed along with Heracles, the Greek divine hero, dressed up in his wife’s robes. The inclusion of pagan art might surprise visitors who are familiar with the words Copt or Coptic pertaining only to the Christian faction that follows the Egyptian Orthodox Church. In reality, the history of Coptic art is much more inclusive.

The Coptic Museum is located in historic Old Cairo next to the Roman Fortress of Babylon and surrounded by Cairo’s oldest churches.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun replicas on display in Manchester

With photos.

Amid the eye-catching gold and glitter, there is no escaping the eerie stare from Tutankhamun’s death mask. Its ancient all-seeing gaze seems to follow you around the tomb.

This is what it must have felt like when explorer Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon first entered the treasure-filled chambers in Egypt in 1922 – and that is exactly the effect this exhibition intends to create.

Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures is the world’s largest travelling historical exhibition featuring 1,000 artefacts that you can get right up to for a close look – because they are all incredible replicas.

So far, the £5million spectacular which brings Ancient Egypt to life in the 21st century has been seen by 1.7 million visitors across Europe.

11 sentenced over museum theft

Bikya Masr (Joseph Mayton)

An Egyptian court late Tuesday sentenced 11 culture ministry officials to three years in prison over their negligence in the theft of a Vincent van Gogh painting from a Cairo museum. Despite the guilty verdict, all have been given bail pending an appeal.

Among those sentenced is Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shaalan and the museum’s director.

Shalaan, the deputy culture minister responsible for the fine arts department, is the most prominent official to face charges in the robbery of the painting, Poppy Flowers that was stolen in August from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo and estimated to be worth some $50 million.

US to return sarcophagus to Egypt

Associated Press / Google

Egypt's chief archaeologist says the United States will return a number of sarcophagi smuggled out of the country 50 years ago.

Zahi Hawass says U.S. authorities seized the sarcophagi on American soil and will return them to Egypt in the next two weeks. He didn't provide any further details about the antiquities or say what sites they were taken from.

Egyptian/Chinese Agreement for Cultural Repatriation

Press Release

On Tuesday, October 12, 2010, Egypt and China will sign a collaborative agreement for the Protection and Restitution of Stolen Cultural Property Transferred Illicitly. Shan Jixiang, General Director of Chinese State Administration of Heritage, and Dr. Zahi Hawass will sign then agreement tomorrow at the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ (SCA) offices in Zamalek. This will be the sixteenth agreement signed between Egypt and other countries to prohibit illicit trade in antiquities and the protection of the cultural heritage. Other countries that have signed similar agreements include: Jordan, Italy, Switzerland, Cuba and Ecuador.

Hawass said that the agreement reflects the duty of each country to protect its cultural heritage and their obligation to stand against illicit antiquities trafficking. The agreement highlights the regulation and articles of the 1970’s UNESCO convention that prohibits the importing, exporting and possession transferring of cultural properties.

The Chinese-Egyptian collaboration began after China’s attendance at the first annual Conference on International Cooperation for the Protection and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage last April. This conference focused on the restitution of cultural and archaeological objects, which had been illegally smuggled out of their homelands.

Ashraf El-Ashmawi, SCA legal consultant, said that the article of the agreement stipulates the prohibition of antiquities trade, importing or transferring the possession of cultural, art, historical and archaeological properties and the prohibition of its illegal entrance into other countries. The article also provides guidelines for the safe return of any antiquity to its native country. El-Ashmawi continued that the agreement also prohibits the illicit entry of any plant or animal species without the required licenses. He also pointed out that this agreement with China is very important because China is currently one of the greatest markets for illegally traded antiquities.

Exhibition: Eton College objects at JHU

The JHU Gazette

With photo.

A renowned collection of Egyptian decorative art from Eton College in Windsor, England, has arrived at The Johns Hopkins University for long-term research and display in the university’s Archaeological Museum.

Glazed blue ceramic vessels, ritual amulets and a gilded mummy mask are among the approximately 1,900 pieces of small-scale artifacts on loan for 15 years from the Eton College Myers Collection and other collections of Egyptian antiquities. A number of the objects have been exhibited around the world over the last decade.

During their extended stay in Baltimore, many of the objects will be on display in the Archaeological Museum, beginning in late October, while the rest will become part of the curriculum through a long-term project to create an online catalog in collaboration with the University of Birmingham in England, according to Betsy M. Bryan, the Alexander Badawy Professor of Egyptian Art and Archaeology and director of the Archaeological Museum.

Scan reveals crocodile mummy contents

Copenhagen Post

With photos.

Scan reveals surprise content of museum’s crocodile mummy

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum made an exciting find this week.

The museum, in conjunction with the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, scanned two 2,000-year-old crocodile mummies in its collection for the first time and found to its surprise that one contained the remains of an actual crocodile.

Egyptologist Tine Bagh explained that the ancient Egyptians made many crocodile mummies but they were often filled only with hay. She described the discovery of the mummified remains of a 20-cm long baby crocodile as ‘exciting’.

White Desert slideshow

A lovely slide show of Egypt's White Desert.
Accompanied by music.

Photos of First Dynasty burials

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for posting Richard Sellick's excellent set of photographs of the First Dynasty burials of Djet, Den and Khasakemway, taken in 1999.

Photo for Today - More from the Walters Art Museum

Offering Table

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Date (Period): ca. 1280-1220 BC (New Kingdom)
Medium: white limestone
Measurements: 12 3/16 x 12 13/16 x 2 1/16 in. (31 x 32.5 x 5.2 cm)

Item Description:
The offering table was an essential element of the funerary cult and was usually placed near the deceased's tomb in an offering niche or chapel. If the cult ceased to function, the carved images of food and drink on the table served as magical substitutes, thus insuring the survival of the deceased's ka, or spirit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Discovery of Osiris representation at TT28

Tendencias21 (Francisco J. Martin Valentine)

With photo.

Rough tranlsation of entire news item:
Excavations being carried out in the tom of Amenhotep-Huy (TT-28) near Asasif continue to produce new Pharaonic period discoveries. One of the most recent finds is an effigy of the god Osiris, shown facing to the front, painted on linen fabric. This is a mummy covering of the second century BC. Its beauty is remarkable for its polychrome colours and the blue color of the face of God, symbolizing the regeneration of the deceased after death.

King Tut’s shoes tell a personal story

Toledo Blade (Tahree Lane)

With Photo

King Tut’s treasure-packed tomb included 81 pairs of shoes in varying stages of decay. With their heat and humidity, Egyptian tombs aren’t the ideal places to store one’s footwear for the afterlife.

A few were crafted with gold and jewels, some with colored beads; many were made from grass and leaves; the most decayed were made of leather. Three unusual pairs may have been created to accommodate the boy king’s club foot, which may have left him hobbling. They have horizontal straps just below the toes, and one pair has supportive panels around the sides of the shoes, says Andre Veldmeijer, author of the new, 310-page Tutankhamun’s Footwear: Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear.

He will speak and show pictures of the sandals at a free 7:30 p.m. talk Friday in the Little Theater of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Some of the shoes probably would have fit Tutankhamun when he became king 3,300 years ago at the age of about 10. He continued as ruler, though not a significant one, until his death at 19. His grave, discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, is the only royal tomb to be found almost intact, and there’s nothing else to compare the shoes with.

Veldmeijer is a Dutch archaeologist who also studies ancient scraps of leather, roping, and cords. He spoke with The Blade from his home in Holland.

“I was working with everything made of cordage, such as fishing nets, and I found sandals made of string,” he said.

Public outcry after Salafi preacher’s fatwa on antiquities

Al Masry Al Youm

A group of Egyptian citizens have filed a complaint to the office of the attorney-general demanding the cancelation of a Salafi preacher’s television program after he issued a fatwa (a religious edict) on the sale of antiquities.

A Facebook group has been set up by those concerned on which they say that they have filed a complaint to attorney general Abdel Maguid Mahmoud to ban the live television program presented by Sheikh Mohamed Hassan.

Hassan, a prominent preacher, currently presents a program on the Salafi-affiliated al-Rahma channel. The program, which is aired live, features inquiries via phone calls and he answers them on the spot.

In response to a telephone call regarding Islam’s position on selling antiquities, Hassan said, “If it is found on land that you own, or in your house, then it is yours by right and you are not doing anything wrong.”

As for antiquities which are found on a public land, Hassan explained, a Muslim is prohibited from selling them, advising that he should re-bury them.

Book Review: Riot in Alexandria

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Peter Van Nuffelen)

Edward J. Watts, Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities. The Transformation of the Classical Heritage 46. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press, 2010.

The past was hugely important in Antiquity, and also in Late Antiquity. Claims about moral and intellectual superiority, for example, were staked on arguments about the priority of Moses and Plato. In his latest book, Edward Watts explores another dimension of the engagement with the past, namely its importance in shaping and sustaining group dynamics. He focuses on a riot in Alexandria, which started in 485 with the beating of the student Paralius who had questioned the authority and beliefs of his pagan teachers. After he had been saved by Christian students, the incident was seized upon by the bishop of Alexandria, Peter Mongus, to shore up his own position by challenging paganism in his city. It led to the destruction of the shrine of Isis at Menouthis. Watts shows how events are shaped by stories told about the past, how they are re-interpreted in the light of these stories, and how new traditions can develop to deal with traumatic events. As such, this book is a contribution to the social, religious, and literary history of Late Antiquity. It continues Watts's previous interests in late antique intellectual history and its social context, as exemplified in his 2006 monograph City and school in late antique Athens and Alexandria and it digests and expands various recent articles.

After the first chapter has set out the events of 485, the book falls into three parts, each focusing on how historical memory shaped the self-understanding of three particular groups and individuals involved in the Paralius incident: the Neoplatonist school, the monastic community, and the bishop of Alexandria.

Photo for Today - More from the Walters Art Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks


Fragment in Sunk Relief of Male Fecundity Figure Bearing Offerings

Date (Period): ca. 1270 BC (New Kingdom)
Medium: limestone with paint
Measurements: 10 1/4 x 14 3/16 x 2 3/16 in. (26 x 36 x 5.5 cm)

Item Description:
These two (together with Walters 22.93) well-preserved painted relief sculptures originally belonged to a depiction of a procession of gods, who represented the 42 nomes, or regions, of Egypt. They once decorated the lower part of the southeast wall of the First Hall, containing eight columns, within a temple dedicated to the god Osiris, built at Abydos by Ramesses II. The lower portion of both figures remains in place in the Ramesses temple, where they are exposed to the elements. The reliefs shown here, however, have retained their vivid color.

The deities bring offerings for the cult of Osiris in Ramesses' name. Their faces follow the portrait style of Ramesses II, with oval eyes, slightly hollowed eyelids, a small mouth, and a prominent, beaked nose. Note the remains of the hieroglyph above each figure's head, indicating that he or she is the personification of a region. The raised area of these nome-signs retains red pigment. A portion of the abundant offerings the male deity bears is preserved. His blue skin associates him with the forces of creation. Original pigments also include yellow on the female deity's face, blue on her wig, and light green on the plant stalks she holds in her right hand.

Friday, October 08, 2010

More re granite statue of Tutankhamun's grandfather Amenhotep III

Al Ahram Weekly

A granite statue of Tutankhamun's grandfather Amenhotep III was unearthed this week on the west bank at Luxor, reports Nevine El-Aref

Egyptian excavators from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) unearthed a granite statue depicting the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III this week in the Kom Al-Hittan area of the west bank at Luxor, where the Pharaoh's temple would once have stood with its many vast halls and gigantic statues.

The statue, depicting the Pharaoh seated on a throne and accompanied by the god Amun, shows Amenhotep wearing the double crown of Egypt decorated with the uraeus. the stylised, upright form of an Egyptian spitting cobra often used on ancient Egyptian royal regalia.

According to Zahi Hawass, secretary- general of the SCA, the statue is one of the most important recent finds to have been made at Luxor because of its expert craftsmanship that reflects the skill of ancient Egyptian artisans.

Amenhotep III is a well-known Pharaoh because of the many other surviving statues of him, Hawass said, many of these showing him with various deities, such as Amun-Re, Re-Horakhti, Bastet and Sobek.

Saving Heliopolis?

Al Ahram Weekly

Once the hallmark of architectural elegance and a rare example of a well-planned suburb, the Cairo district of Heliopolis is today under threat from property developers. When will the government act to save it, asks Mohamed Mursi

It's not so painful, perhaps, when a villa is pulled down in the Cairo district of Mohandessin and replaced by a high-rise. But when the same thing happens in Heliopolis, it is more distressing. Mohandessin is a new suburb, one that took shape in the 1970s with the resurgence of the luxury housing market. But Heliopolis is an older neighbourhood and an architectural treasure, and it is being ravaged.

The demolition of old villas built in the distinctive style of the beginning of the last century when Baron Edouard Empain created the suburb is nothing short of criminal, according to Mohamed Abdel-Baqi Ibrahim, a prominent architect who has recently carried out research on Heliopolis.

The architectural model on which Heliopolis was based offers a damning contrast to the random development to which we have since grown accustomed, Ibrahim says, pointing out that the suburb was built at the beginning of the 20th century to answer to the rising demand for housing in Cairo.

It's all about the stones

Times Live, ZA (Andrew Unsworth)

IN no other country do you spend quite so much time gazing at stones as you do in Egypt. Yes, you can lounge on the deck of a cruise ship sailing up the Nile, wonder at the river's ancient majesty, and wave at peasants fishing or working the fields as they have done for thousands of years, but it's all on the way to the very next pile of stones.

And they are, surely, the most stimulating stones on the planet because you not only admire the buildings of which they are a part, as you might a Gothic cathedral, but you can also read them. You can read millennia of a civilisation's history carved, etched and painted on them. You don't even have to read the hieroglyphs - no one could before Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered them off the Rosetta Stone as recently as 1822. You can just look at the pictures they present, like ancient comic books: the scenes of pharoahs smiting their enemies, making offerings to gods and becoming one after death, the scenes of enemies cowering in bondage, the scenes of every single facet of life from hunting and fishing to farming, gardening and baking bread.

In a side chamber of the layered temple of the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri, west of Luxor, there is a beautiful painted fresco showing workers carrying myrrh trees in large baskets from the land of Punt (Somalia) to the temple - in all, 31 were imported and planted in an avenue, one long-dead stump remains.

At Kom Ombo, south of Edfu, the temple dedicated to healing has inscriptions of medical instruments used in 150BC, and they are remarkably familiar to any modern surgeon.

Walk into the fabulous Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and you face a vast collection of carved stones filling the entire ground floor: so many more fill the basement that they are building a new Grand Egyptian Museum to house them and more recent discoveries from tombs, at Giza, opening in 2013.

Even at the familiar pyramids of Giza, it's the size of the stones that hits you first - 2.3 million of them in the great pyramid of Cheops (2585BC), weighing between 1.3 and 10 tons each. The rose granite rocks in the king's burial chamber weigh between 40 and 50 tons each, and came from Aswan, 900km up the Nile.

TV: Royal Tomb of Psusennes I


Tanis, Egypt, circa 1939. On the brink of World War II, an excavation team led by French archaeologist Pierre Montet unearthed an intact royal burial chamber containing treasures that rival the riches found in Tutankhamun's tomb almost two decades before. But while the Tut discovery created an international sensation, the opening of the tomb in Tanis made barely a ripple in a world focused on impending war.

Now for the first time, we can examine this remarkable and long forgotten find. One of the most spectacular discoveries inside the crypt was the exquisite silver sarcophagus of Pharaoh Psusennes I, an, up till now, obscure ruler who governed Egypt more than 3000 years ago during one of its most difficult periods. As far as we know, this is the only time a pharaoh's mummy was entombed in silver. The story of the sepulcher and of this virtually unknown pharaoh helps fill in some of the gaps in ancient Egypt's history.

After Montet made his discovery, he raced to get his family back to Europe before the outbreak of war and the treasures he found were transported to Cairo for safe-keeping. There, they remained vaulted and unstudied, until now. In the season premiere of THIRTEEN's Secrets of the Dead, a team of Egyptologists decodes hieroglyphic clues and pieces together forensic evidence left behind by Psusennes I, whose lost legacy could rewrite Egyptian history.

UNESCO Scientific Committee meeting in Luxor

Luxor Times

UNESCO, in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and the Governorate of Luxor, organising the first Scientific Committee meeting on the safeguarding project of New Gourna Village in Luxor, Egypt. The UNESCO initiative aims to assist the Government of Egypt in its efforts to preserve this precious heritage situated within the World Heritage property of Ancient Thebes. New Gourna Village was designed and built by the famous Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy (1900-1989), to shelter the community of Old Gourna.

Rosetta Stone Unlocks Egyptian History (Jason B. Jones)

1822: Jean-François Champollion shows a draft translation of the mysterious Rosetta stone and demonstrates to the world how to read the voluminous hieroglyphics left behind by the scribes of ancient Egypt.

The story of the Rosetta stone is one of coruscating intellects and petty rivalries, of ancient mysteries and quite modern imperial politics. The stone dates to 196 B.C., and was recovered in 1799 by a French soldier in Rosetta, aka Rashid, a port on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast. Discover is a noble word — the stone was part of a wall in a fort!

Despite being an Egyptian artifact, and despite the fact that it was recovered and ultimately translated by the French, the Rosetta stone currently resides in the British Museum, as it has done since 1802.

The importance of the Rosetta stone can’t be overstated: It enabled the translation of Egyptian hieroglyphics, a skill which had been lost for more than a thousand years. It is a stele, or commemorative slab, announcing a cult of Ptolemy V, who was to be seen as divine.

Such an announcement would have been politically necessary for the 13-year-old Ptolemy, who had already been ruler for 8 years following the death of his parents at the hand of his father’s mistress. The child-king oversaw a land plagued with enemies without and within, and the decree was an attempt on the part of priests and the king to restore stability.

What was so helpful, from a translator’s perspective, about the Rosetta stone was the fact that the decree was written on the stele three times: in hieroglyphics (the formal communication medium of the priests), Egyptian demotic script (the everyday notation used by most of those who could read and write), and Greek (used by the administrative apparatus of Egypt during the Ptolemaic dynasty).

There were, in effect, two key breakthroughs in the translation of the Rosetta stone. The first was by an English polymath, Thomas “Phenomenon” Young (1773-1829), famous for such other discoveries as the wave properties of light, Young’s modulus, and numerous other researches in optics, engineering and medicine.

Egypt's history in photographs

Al Ahram Weekly (Rania Khallaf)

Presenting Egypt's history through photography is a recurrent theme in today's art galleries. However, it can be hard to get a sense of Egypt's long history through a single exhibition, since the country's modern history can be divided into many periods and these cannot be done justice to in a single exhibition.

"One Hundred and Fifty Years of Egypt's Modern History" was the title of a photography exhibition recently held at the Music Library attached to the Cairo Opera House. But which part of Egypt's modern history does the title refer to?

Visiting the exhibition, which ended last week, I was surprised to find that only 130 black-and-white pictures were on show to cover this long period. Though the exhibition was organised by photographer Samir El-Ghazouli, not a single picture had his name on it. When I met El-Ghazouli, I found that the whole collection consisted of photographs taken by his father, pioneer photographer Mohamed El-Ghazouli (1900-1963).

El-Ghazouli Senior was the private photographer of King Fouad until the latter's death in 1936, and he was also one of the first photographers to work at the photography section of Al-Ahram in the 1930s.

Hierakonpolis website address changed

Hierakonpolis Online

The Hierakonpolis Online website address, complete with the Nekhen News archive, has changed to:

Making Egypt 'accessible' for tourists

The Daily News Egypt (Tamim Elyan)

Claudia Ehlers has always dreamed of seeing the pyramids – a dream dismissed by almost everyone she told given the challenges she would face as a physically challenged tourist.

“But I followed my dream in defiance of all difficulties,” Ehlers said.
The German tourist stayed in Egypt for eight days and went on a safari trip on Al-Ryan Lake in her wheelchair. She says her trip exceeded all expectations.

“Everything was so unbelievable, so experience-rich, so fantastic and most importantly so problem-free,” she said, describing her trip.

Ehlers’ adventure started at Cairo Airport where she was carried off the plane by two men. “I was carried out of the airplane in a manner I never experienced before, namely without any utilities; normally the transport in and out of the plane is done with a very small chair, but here it seemed that they didn’t have anything like that. I worried about the two men who carried me because I’m not very light weighted but then I saw a wheelchair in front of the plane.”

Ehlers visited the Cairo Tower where she was helped by her tour guide up the tower to enjoy the view from the top. The next day she paid the pyramids a visit.

The highlight of her trip was when Ehlers gave up her wheelchair and took a ride on a camel with the help of her guide.

Ehlers’ seamless trip was made possible by Egypt for All, the only Egyptian travel agency dedicated to physically challenged tourists, designing programs specifically to cater to their needs.

Established by Sherif El-Hendi and Martin Gaballah in 1999 as an associate of Grabo-tours in Germany, Egypt for All comprises a professional staff devoted to the services of the physically challenged tourist.

El-Hendi received his first delegation in 1999 formed of six tourists on wheelchairs and his client list has been only growing ever since.