Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Egyptian Enigma: The Starving of Saqqara

World Archaeology (Caitlin McCall)

Standing 67cm high, the limestone figures are intriguing and haunting, with their elongated skulls, their slack mouths, and their painfully thin limbs. Squatting naked opposite each other, one rests a hand on the arm of the other. Traces of red pigment hint at decoration; small streaks of green paint are probably a more recent, possibly accidental, addition. Graffiti, in a language as yet undeciphered, has been carved onto the base.

Fake or genuine antiquity? The jury is out. Now, the University of Concordia in Montreal, Canada, which acquired the sculpture in 1999 and where it has been on public display earlier this year, is determined to find out. Little is known of its origins other than that it was brought over to Canada to be included in an exhibition of Egyptian artefacts at the Galleria Ars Classica in Montreal by the Diniacopoulos family – collectors of antiquities in an era when trade in ancient treasures was casual and poorly monitored. As, however, the artefacts in this consignment were legally authorised for export, experts at the university believe the statue is a genuine antique and that it may have come from one of the tombs of Saqqara.

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