Thursday, March 31, 2011

More re reappointment of Hawass

Also see yesterday's posts here and here.

New York Times (Katie Taylor)

Zahi Hawass, who resigned as Egypt’s minister of antiquities less than a month ago under criticism for his close ties to former President Hosni Mubarak, was reappointed to the post on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported, citing an Egyptian news report; Mr. Hawass, reached by phone, confirmed his reappointment.

Mr. Hawass, a powerful figure in the world of Egyptology, was promoted to a cabinet position in the early days of the uprising, and drew the animosity of the revolutionaries by saying at the time that Mr. Mubarak should be allowed to hold power for another six months. He also said that Egypt’s museums and archeological sites were largely secure and that cases of looting were very limited. In the weeks that followed, that turned out not to be the case: several dozen objects were stolen from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during a break-in on Jan. 28 — many have been recovered, though 37 are still missing — and hundreds more were taken from tombs and warehouses elsewhere in Egypt.

Egypt State Information Service

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf assigned on Wednesday 30/3/2011 head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawas to hold the antiquities portfolio.

In statements after meeting Sharaf, Hawwas said the ministry will immediately start an ambitious program to renovate Egyptian antiquities.

The Egyptian civilization is the greatest worldwide, Hawwas said, urging the Egyptians to help preserve the country's ancient history.

Hawwas has pledged to protect Egypt's antiquities against looting.

Hawwas said his first mission in the job is to preserve Egypt's antiquities against plunder. He urged the Egyptian people to assist him in this mission.

Several archaeological sites in Egypt have come under looting in the wake of the January 25 revolution.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf will open several important archaeological projects soon in both the capital and other governorates, Hawwas said.

Amigos de la Egiptologia

En Egipto no hay que dar a nadie por muerto, y menos a Zahi Hawass. Con una capacidad de resurrección digna de Imhotep, el malo de La Momia, el exministro de Antigüedades vuelve a serlo cuando ya todo el mundo bailaba sobre su tumba. Habrá que ver ahora cómo rebobinan todos los que han dicho pestes de él o expresado críticas a su labor y su carácter. Habrá muchos que se digan que no tenían que haber hecho tan pronto astillas del árbol (uy, el obelisco) caído.

Conociendo a Hawass, habrá tomado buena nota de los enemigos que se le han destapado y antes o después pasará cuentas. El episodio tiene el sabor de esos cuentos antiguos en los que el rey (el faraón) se fingía moribundo o muerto para ver qué hacían los cortesanos. Una estrategia que usó por ejemplo sin ir mucho más lejos en la antigüedad Calígula.

Armed men dig for artifacts in Faiyum

Al Masry Al Youm (Mohamed Farghaly)

Armed groups have been digging for ancient artifacts at the Garza archeological site in Fayoum, said eyewitnesses. Watchmen guarding the area said the armed groups came to the site several times at night with automatic weapons, forcing them to leave the area so that they could dig and search for artifacts.

The watchmen complained that the small number of watchmen and their inadequate weapons facilitates made it difficult to protect such archeological sites.

UNESCO visit to Egypt

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

Following favourable reports on Al Mary Al Youm and Ahram Online about UNESCO's visit to Egypt (22nd March), Hawass says that UNESCO was upset by the damage that he showed them at sites in northern Egypt.

Following his short visit to Abusir and Saqqara necropolises, Zahi Hawass former minister of state for antiquities affairs launched an appeal asking field marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the supreme council of army to stop all encroachment on Egypt’s archaeological sites, which reached 500 encroachments during the past two months.

Abusir sits opposite to the famed city of Memphis on the river Nile just before the delta opens.

Hawass told Ahram Online that what shocked him the most during his visit to both necropolises was the damage inflicted on the archaeological sites by neighbour inhabitants since Egypt’s January revolution. . . .

Hawass pointed out that all of these illegal structures were seen by the UNSECO delegation during their visit last week. They were really upset and asked for the immediate removal of these encroachments.

Millions of canine mummies revealed at Saqqara

LiveScience (Wynne Parry)

The excavation of a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the Egyptian desert has revealed the remains of millions of animals, mostly dogs and jackals. Many appear to have been only hours or days old when they were killed and mummified.

The Dog Catacombs, as they are known, date to 747-730 B.C., and are dedicated to the Anubis, the Egyptians' jackal-headed god of the dead. They were first documented in the 19th century; however, they were never fully excavated. A team, led by Paul Nicholson, an archaeologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, is now examining the tunnels and their contents, they announced this week. [Image of mummified puppy remains]

They estimate the catacombs contain the remains of 8 million animals. Given the sheer numbers of animals, it is likely they were bred by the thousands in puppy farms around the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, according to the researchers. The Dog Catacombs are located at Saqqara, the burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis.

Daily Mail (Fiona MacRae)

With some good photos.

A labyrinth of sacred tunnels packed with the mummified remains of millions of dogs has been excavated under the Egyptian desert.

The catacombs are estimated to contain the remains up to eight million dogs, many of which would have been offered to the gods when they were just hours old.

Others would have been treated as living representatives of the dog or jackal-headed god Anubis and would have lived out their lives in the nearby temple before being preserved and laid to rest in the network of tunnels.

The fascinating details come from Cardiff University scientists, who along with Egyptian colleagues are the first to examine the structure and contents of the complex underground network built 2,500 years ago under the Saqqara desert.

The catacomb, which lies ten to 12metres underground, consists of a long central corridor and a series of smaller passages that branch off it.

Sampling of small areas and bone examination of their contents suggest that the entire network is home to eight million dogs, as well as a handful of cats and jackals.

Spurlock mummy back under the scanner

The News-Gazette (Debra Pressey)

The first time a CT scan was done on a 2,000-year-old Egyptian mummy from the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois, medical technology wasn't sharp enough to help solve some of the mysteries about the body inside.

Now, experts are hoping today's more advanced CT-scanning equipment will help answer some of the vexing questions that remain.

Such as: Is this mummy, already determined to be a child, a girl or a boy? And what was the cause of death?

A new CT scan, done Tuesday at Carle Foundation Hospital, will help provide the first three-dimensional, noninvasive look beneath the ancient wrappings since 1990.

Exerpt from Wilkinson's "Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt"

New York Times

See the above page for the full exerpt.

Chapter 3
Absolute Power
Command Economy

Ideology is never enough, on its own, to guarantee power. To be successful over the long term, a regime must also exercise effective economic control to reinforce its claims of legitimacy. Governments seek to manipulate livelihoods as well as lives. The development in ancient Egypt of a truly national administration was one of the major accomplishments of the First to Third dynasties, the four- hundred- year formative phase of pharaonic civilization known as the Early Dynastic Period (2950–2575). At the start of the period, the country had only just been unified. Narmer and his immediate successors were faced with the challenge of ruling a vast realm, stretching five hundred miles from the heart of Africa to the shores of the Mediterranean. By the close of the Early Dynastic Period, the government presided over a centrally controlled command economy, financing royal building projects on a lavish scale. Just how this was achieved is a story of determination, innovation, and, above all, ambition.

Photo for Today - more from Deir el Medina

Stone vessel in the corner of one of the mudbrick-
and-stone built rooms at Deir el Medina

There's a good description of Deir el Medina housing
on the website at

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

And more about the reappointment of Hawass . . .

Ahram Online

A very short post from Nevine El-Aref:

Zahi Hawass, after stepping down early in the month, is‎ re-‎appointed as minister of antiquities following a meeting with Egypt PM‎

Zahi Hawass‎, chief of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, announced that he had been re-‎appointed as Minster of Antiquities following a meeting with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ‎on Wednesday. ‎

Hawass first took up the newly-created post in the cabinet when ex-president Hosni ‎Mubarak installed him late in January.‎

After a number of artefacts had been declared missing in the wake of the 25 January revolution the Egyptian archaeologist had stepped down from his post.

Breaking News - Zahi Hawass reappointed as Minister of Antiquities?

Al Masry Al Youm

Dated today, there is an article on Al Masry Al Youm which says that Egypt's interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has appointed Zahi Hawass to the position of head of the new Ministry of Antiquities.

I have not seen this confirmed by Egyptian sources (particularly Hawass himself). I'll post more when I hear anything.

This story comes as Egyptian archaeologists threaten to strike over the unfilled position and Nevine El-Aref in Al Ahram Weekly points to the potentially dire consequences of leaving the position unfilled.

Egypt's antiquities still at risk

npr (Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson)

Among the casualties of Egypt's revolution are many of its famous historical sites and artifacts.

Vandalism and looting at these sites skyrocketed in the weeks after the Egyptian police force — including those responsible for tourism and antiquities — vanished from their posts.

Even now, as the security forces resume their duties, archaeologists and experts complain that far more needs to be done by Egypt's new government to protect the country's heritage.

Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum suffered some of the worst damage. It is home to famous ancient Egyptian artifacts like the golden mask of the boy King Tutankhamen.

This heritage should be protected by everyone in Egypt and outside Egypt because this is for the whole world. It's the heritage of mankind.

- Tarek al-Awadi, director of the Egyptian Museum

Tourists, who are slowly returning, see few signs of the damage and looting that took place at the museum in late January. But the museum's deputy director, Mahmoud el Halwagi, says it feels like it happened yesterday. The veteran curator cringes when he recounts the events.

Hawass - Current news on sites and objects

Hawass comments about findings at Dashur, Abusir, and five objects recovered from the looting at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

On Sunday I went to Dahshur to visit my excavations in an area south of Saqqara. We began this work when satellite images showed a pyramid hidden below the sand. We have found several unique 6th Dynasty tombs at this site, but the most important discoveries we have made is a large mud brick enclosure wall measuring three meters high. Inside this enclosure we expected to find tombs that reach down to bedrock; these tombs were built in this style to decrease the chances of tomb robberies. Tombs such as this have previously been found in the area.

Another interesting site that we have been working on is to the north of the pyramid of Khendjer, where we found the limestone enclosure wall of the pyramid. We know that this area had previously been excavated by Gustave Jéquier, but his work went unifinished.

The other site is the unknown pyramid, also found by Jéquier; satellite images show one pyramid with its superstructure above ground. Components that may reveal the name of the owner of the pyramid have been discovered and we are working on piecing them together. We have found the remains of a mud brick structure, and while at this time it is difficult know what purpose it served, this structure may have served as a funerary temple. Excavations have stopped due to revolution, but we hope to continue in the near future.

What shocked me the most during my visit to the area was the damage inflicted on the archaeological sites by modern people since the revolution started in late January.

Looting at Met’s Excavations in Dahshur

Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown)

Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art speaks of how the looting has effected their excavation site in Dahshur:

JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us about the site. What kind of work goes on there? And the attacks, what do you know about the attacks at this point?

THOMAS CAMPBELL: It’s a middle kingdom pyramid, a brick pyramid, now in a state of partial collapse. We’ve been excavating there for the last couple of decades, recreating, rediscovering the causeway that led down to the Nile, painstakingly recovering fragments of stones that’s chipped off the blocks lining the causeway and the other buildings. These fragments, they belong to the Egyptian government; they don’t belong to us. It’s this site that we fund really for scholarly purposes. And many of these fragments are stored on site, and so far as we understand the warehouse has been broken into at least on a couple of occasions.

A poor boy’s grave – How did a teenage Egyptian weaver end up with a “very nice” coffin?

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

About 3,200 years ago, at a time when Egypt was recovering from civil war, a boy named Nakht worked as a weaver for a funerary chapel.

His diet was poor, he suffered from malaria and ultimately he died in his teenage years, likely not much older than 14.

His occupation may have contributed to his poor health. . . .

But now new research suggests that Nakht`s story is quite a bit more complex.

The Braves made a fish farm in Tell Tanis

Luxor Times

Tarek Ibrahim Hoseni, manager of Behira and Port Said antiquities, asked for help to protect Tell Tanis site by Lake Menzalla.

He said that a group of armed men violated the site in the area by the lake and established a fish farm and built few huts. That group called themselves the Braves and they have kettle and animals over there beside that they are digging for antiquities.

Mr. Tarek said that he filed a report to the tourism and antiquities police on 21st February and 10 days later he files another report but the threat still exist.

Egyptian antiquities - a "smokescreen"?

Looting Matters (David Gill)

Vernon Silver has published a reflective piece on the recent looting of antiquities and the debate about cultural property ("Looting in Egypt Arms Critics of Sending Antiquities Back Home", March 9, 2011). Has the looting of the Cairo Museum during the recent political upheavals changed the nature of the debate?

Silver has interviewed William Pearlstein who is seen as opposing claims by Egypt: "My clients will have an easier time against retention laws”. Silver also quotes Ursula Kampmann, the press officer for the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA): “The incidents during the Egyptian revolution could be taken as basis for a change of discussion ... It comes to the question, what is the best way to protect our world’s cultural heritage?”

The repatriation of the St Louis Mask again under discussion


A fight between the US government and the St Louis Art Museum over a death mask from ancient Egypt intensified last Wednesday as the government formally demanded the museum hand over the disputed object.

The 3 200-year-old mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, a 19th Dynasty noblewoman, sits on display in the basement of the museum.

The federal complaint contends the mask was stolen from Egypt before the museum obtained it for $500 000 in 1998.

The complaint, which included a request for a restraining order preventing the museum from disposing of the mask during the legal proceedings, came a month after the museum sued the government to try to block the seizure of the mask.

Officials with the St. Louis Art Museum are fighting an attempt by the U.S. Attorney’s office to have an ancient mummy mask returned to Egypt, from where it was allegedly stolen decades ago.

The artifact in question is the 3,200-year-old mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, first discovered in 1952 by an Egyptian archeologist, Mohamed Zakaria Goneim, near the step pyramid of Saqarra. The Egyptian government claims the mask was stolen after it was shipped to a Cairo museum.

Last month the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) sued the US government to claim ownnership of the ancient mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer. The US government yesterday sued to forfeit the mask.

Fearing that federal authorities could seize the Egyptian mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, SLAM filed a preemptive complaint on February 15 to have a federal district court declare that the mask is the museum’s property. US Attorney Richard Callahan responded on March 16 by initiating a lawsuit against the mummy mask.

In a complaint titled United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, Callahan petitions a Missouri federal court for forfeiture of the ancient object pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1595a. That statute permits officials to seize and forfeit items that have been illegally stolen, smuggled, or clandestinely imported into the United States. Callahan also asks that a restraining order be placed on the mask so that it remains available while the court case progresses.

Exhibition: Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization

Chicago Now

Chicago, Monday, March 21, 2011. A new exhibition, "Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization", opens Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at the Oriental Institute Museum. Nearly 130 artifacts from the Predynastic and Early Dynastic periods (ca. 4000-2685 BC) in Egypt will be showcased in the exhibit.

The exhibition offers visitors a rare look at beautifully constructed statues, vessels, figurines and other artifacts that document the birth of the most fundamental aspects of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

"It has been decades since there was an exhibit devoted to earliest Egypt," said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute. "By showing us the origins of the Egyptian state, this gem of an exhibit only enhances our sense of wonder at the later achievements of this civilization when it reached its zenith."

Pride cometh before a fall

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Apologies that this is so out of date (6th March), but it may be useful to anyone who missed it.

Zahi Hawass, the international face of Egypt's archaeology for some 10 years, has admitted that he was no longer able to protect the country's antiquities because of the absence of police protection, and because he believes he is the victim of a campaign against him by senior officials at his ministry. What he doesn't admit is that members of his own staff have accused him of dictatorial polices concerning findings, unfairness in taking credit for the excavations of others, punishing any whose opinions do not square with his own, of hampering the aspirations of qualified graduates, of nepotism and even, in the words of ex-director of the Egyptian Museum Wafaa El-Saddik, of overseeing a system of corruption.

Days before he resigned as president in February 2011, Hosni Mubarak elevated Hawass from his position as secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) to head a new Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA) -- which separates it from the Ministry of Culture -- something he has long been pressing for. As a member of the old guard, however, his name indelibly linked with those of Suzanne Mubarak and ex-minister of culture Farouk Hosni, so he could not expect to remain a cog in the wheel of a discredited state apparatus no matter how often or how vociferously he defended himself on his website and in public interviews.

In NatGeo Newswatch posted on 22 February, he vowed to stay on as Egypt's antiquities chief, "so that I can continue to do everything in my power to protect Egypt's cultural heritage." That he has failed to do.

Amara West - looking back at the 2011 season

British Museum (Michaela Binder)

After seven weeks in Sudan, we’ve just returned to England, and are looking back on a very successful season full of interesting new results. During the 41 days of excavation, Dyan Semple, Carina Summerfield-Hill and I were able to excavate 25 graves, 42 more or less complete skeletons and a large range of small finds and pottery.

Most importantly, in the chamber tomb G234 we found evidence that Cemetery C was already in use during the New Kingdom, much earlier than previously thought.

The last few days at Amara West were quite busy, as is usual in excavation projects like this. On one hand, all the fieldwork has to be finished.

Centenary Awards 2010-11 - From Jenny Cromwell in Copenhagen

Egypt Exploration Society

Jenny Cromwell has recently been in Copenhagen to study a series of unpublished Coptic documents in the University's collection. The project is funded by the EES through the Centenary Fund and Jenny has sent the following summary of the first phase of her work.

Tutankhamun arrives at Melbourne, Australia

Herald Sun (Simon Plant)

Right now, it's as barren as an Egyptian desert. But as Mark Lach traverses the wide open spaces of Melbourne Museum's touring exhibition hall, another world looms before him like a mirage.

A world of giant chambers where the awesome power of an ancient civilisation speaks to us through theatrically lit stones, statues and sarcophagi.

"I can see it all now," he says. And no wonder: Lach is exhibition designer for Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.

"Of the eight cities we've been to, this is the best space yet," he tells me.

"No columns for one thing, which is almost unheard of, and lovely high ceilings. That gives us enormous freedom."

Touring since 2005, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs boasts 130 Egyptian artefacts, including 50 from Tut's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Lach, creative director of Arts and Exhibitions International, has been on every leg of the journey. He brings years of experience in theatre, music and TV to the task.

Initiative To Protect Egyptian Antiquities

The George Washington University Capitol Archaeological Institute announced today that it has launched an initiative to protect Egyptian antiquities from illicit trade around the world. The institute identified specific actions that the U.S. government and international law enforcement authorities should take to help prevent the illegal trade of Egyptian antiquities. In addition, many of the most respected Egyptologists in the United States and the world and other respected scholarly organizations have joined the GW institute in calling for action by government and law enforcement authorities. To view the call to action, please visit this link.

“As an institute located in the heart of our nation’s capital, we have a special responsibility to help ensure that issues and solutions are highlighted for policy and law makers,” said Eric Cline, director of GW’s Capitol Archaeological Institute and associate professor and chair of GW’s Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

London museums urged to show more 'hidden' artefacts

BBC News

Museums in London are being urged to get more of their collections out of storage and on display as funding cuts will mean fewer landmark exhibitions.

Many museums in the capital keep more than 90% of their collections stored away.

The Museums Association says despite the current economic climate it wants to challenge venues to offer more to the public.

The government says national museums will face a funding cut of 15%.

A BBC Freedom of Information request found the British Museum had spent £86,280 in 2009 and 2010 keeping 99% of its collection in storage.

The mystery of ‘The Starving of Saqqara

Past Horizons

Grotesque or beautiful? – Rare antiquity or outright fake? – For more than a decade Concordia University has investigated the origins of a mysterious sculpture. Once part of the Diniacopoulos Collection of Mediterranean antiquities, it has been in the university’s possession since 1999.

The 67-centimetre-high limestone work, with traces of pigments, depicts two nude seated figures with large heads. It also features inscriptions in an unidentified language.

To learn more about the artwork, Concordia’s Director of Special Projects and Cultural Affairs, Clarence Epstein, has consulted experts from Cambridge University, the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Israel Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum.

So far, no authority has been able to confirm the sculpture’s pedigree.

Photo for Today - Deir el Medina

Deir el Medina settlement
View from west to east

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another call for Egypt's PM to save antiquities

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

An official letter, signed by top officials and legal consultants in the ministry of state for antiquities affairs, call for the Egypt’s PM Essam Sharaf to appoint a minister of antiquities immediately.

Three weeks following Sharaf’s decision for antiquities to separate antiquities from the ministry of culture, leaving it an independent body among the cabinet echelon, the antiquities department is leaderless. To date the cabinet has not yet appointed a leader for the Antiquities Department, and at this point whether the title is ‘minister’ or ‘director’ seems to be of secondary importance to those working in the antiquities field in Egypt.

“No one is responsible for Egypt’s antiquities,” Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, director of the central administration for antiquities in Alexandria and Lower Egypt, told Ahram Online. He continued that this has led to the absence of security and administration. These have been halted as there is no leader to take decisions on antiquities or to continue working.

Further investigations into the Norwich Shroud

British Museum (Janet Ambers)

The British Museum's fascinating ongoing investigation of the Norwich Shroud, with photos.

With the shroud unfolded for the first time (although still in need of much conservation attention) David Saunders, Keeper of Conservation and Scientific Research, Emma Passmore, Mellon Research Fellow, Caroline Cartwright, scientist, and I made our first visit to see what had been revealed on the inner surface.

David has a longstanding interest in the use of imaging techniques to enhance and investigate painted surfaces, and our main objective was to examine areas where text has been applied.

Using specialist cameras, we took both infrared and ultraviolet images of the shroud. Infrared reflectography is often employed in research into paintings to reveal initial sketches under the final images. For the shroud, it will make the black text clearer. This will help John Taylor with his interpretation of the hieroglyphs while the conservators continue to treat the shroud, and also allow the hieroglyphs to be published clearly for international scholars.

Alleged artifact thieves referred for military trial

Al Masry Al Youm

The Tourism and Antiquities Police referred two suspects accused of stealing artifacts from the Egyptian Museum for military trial, according to an Interior Ministry statement released Monday.

The statement said the antiquities police, coordinating with the military, have recovered five artifacts that had been stolen from the museum during the 25 January Revolution.

Original copy of La Description de l'Egypte to be sold at auction


Christie’s proudly announces the sale of the Michel Wittock Collection, Part IV, which will be held in Paris on May 11. As well as an exceptional copy of the famous Description de l’Egypte, bound by Jean-Joseph Tessier in polished and richly decorated calfskin, the collection includes a fine selection of French literature in master bindings from the late XIXth to the XXIst century, by or after design by Marius-Michel, Rose Adler, Pierre Legrain, François-Louis Schmied and Paul Bonet. Jean de Gonet is represented in a unique selection of more than 30 examples ranging from 1977 to 2006.

Collection Michel Wittock, Part IV
Jean-Joseph Tessier and the Description de l’Egypte

The highlight of the sale is the Description de l’Égypte, 23 volumes in their original mahogany display case, which is expected to realize €500.000 to €700.000. This is the first edition of this monumental publication, which is considered to be the foundation of modern Egyptology: a virtually complete set of the large paper issue, printed on woven paper with handcoloured ornithological plates.

Book Review: The Last Pharaohs

Scholia Reviews (Review by John Atkinson)

For some reason all Scholia Reviews pages come up with nonsense in my Firefox browser, but load perfectly in both Chrome and Safari.

J. G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Manning, with numerous previous publications in the field of Ptolemaic studies to his credit, here plunges straight into the issues which he proposes to address, and dispenses with the customary historical survey of the Ptolemaic period. His brief historical introduction is entitled 'Egypt in the First Millennium BC’ (pp. 19-28), and picks up the story from the end of the New Kingdom, giving more space to Persian rule than to the period of Alexander and Ptolemy. This is appropriate as he identifies with the trend in scholarship over the last three decades to lay greater stress on Egyptian culture in the Ptolemaic era, and on Persian administrative practices (p. 2).

EES Minufiyeh Survey

EES Minufiyeh Survey (Joanne Rowland)

Jo is back in the Minufiyeh district of the Delta reporting on the long term project to survey the area. See the above page for all her posts to date.

Wednesday 23rd March

Today was the first real day of survey work - we set off from the apartment at 7.30am, a later start than usual, as we have to ensure that our inspector can travel from Tanta in good light! We met as usual under the bridge at Quesna and headed off to the area of el-Rimaly where we made our first stop - as usual on the first day of survey in a new area - in the town centre for tea, to await the arrival of our colleague. Our colleague having arrived, we began to walk around the area, which is in close proximity to the Delta Survey sites of Tell Mustai and Umm Harb. The fields are mainly planted at the moment, although there are a number of clear fields, giving us the opportunity to take a closer look at the range of ceramics that have been turned up through ploughing. A selection of diagnostic sherds will be examined by our ceramicist, Ashraf el-Senussi during the last week of this short season. Tell Mustai was once a high kom and has been heavily built upon; Umm Harb is the highest point on the kom, surmounted by the tomb of the Sheikh Umm Harb (Arabic for ‘mother of war’). We also worked with the total station surveying equipment, and were able to plot the fields that were examined and measure the height of each of the remaining koms.

Toby Wilkinson book wins prize

The Bookseller

Bloomsbury's The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt: The History of a Civilisation from 3,000 BC to Cleopatra has won this year's £3,000 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History.

Written by Toby Wilkinson, the book was commended by the judges for its "boldness, vivacity and authority".

Chair of judges Richard Davenport-Hines said: "We were captivated by Wilkinson's book . . . in describing remote societies, [he] has a deceptive lucidity which belies the precision of his expertise. His subject matter and his sensibility are both unusual."

Returning to the Delta

EES Delta Survey

The EES Delta Survey have started updating on Tumblr again this season.

This is my last day at work before we leave on Monday for Egypt - flying on Egyptair this time after the problem we had at the end of the last season with the BA strikes! With the support of the grant given to the EES Delta Survey by the British Academy we hope to survey a large tell, Kom el-Daba, in Kafr es-Sheikh Governorate which we first visited in 1990 and which has substantial brick remains.

In Egypt, crowd-free travel is the new normal

The National (Susan Hack)

Two months after the start of largely peaceful demonstrations that drove former president Hosni Mubarak from power on February 11, foreign tourists are returning to Egypt in a trickle rather than a flood. Uncrowded beaches, the lack of queues at tombs and museums, plus discounts offered by hotels and Nile cruise ships make the next six months a unique time to travel to the cradle of civilisation, according to officials hoping that exhilaration over the country's youth revolution - and Egypt's compelling combination of sunshine and pharaonic antiquities - will eventually translate into a tourism rebound.

"Welcome back," reads the optimistic cover of this month's issue of Horus, the in-flight magazine of Egyptair, which was forced to cancel 75 per cent of its flights in February. As Egypt lost an estimated US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) in tourism revenue amid an 80-per-cent drop in tourist arrivals compared with the February to April period last year, tour operators diverted clients to cultural destinations in Turkey and beaches in the Canary Islands. (Russia, yet to lift its Egypt travel warning, has sent many of its sun-seeking holidaymakers to Dubai).

Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt

The Wall Street Journal

Toby Wilkinson's "The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt" stands in the great tradition of Breasted but incorporates much new archaeological information. With a literary flair and a sense for a story well told, Mr. Wilkinson offers a highly readable, factually up-to-date account of what we know about Egyptian political history. He organizes his narrative by ruling family or "dynasty," following a design first set down by the Egyptian priest Manetho, whose account of Egyptian history (written in Greek ca. 270 B.C.) survives in summary form.

Tomb of prince Montuherkhepeshef on Osirisnet


We have the pleasure to present to you today the tomb of prince Montuherkhepeshef, which is in the Valley of the Kings and bear the number KV19. It amounts to an entry and a corridor, but the scenes which decorate it, although repetitive, are of a good pictorial quality.

Dig-it-al NEA

The American Schools of Oriental Research

The new online complement to NEA is now available, free of charge, with a Museum Review relevant to Egypt - but see the above page for other Near Eastern topics.

Near Eastern Archaeology is pleased to announce its new online venture: Dig-it-al NEA. This online forum features original essays, reviews, and other content to complement the print publication of the journal.

Enchanted by an Exposition: Magical Antiquities from Egypt at Leiden
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden, Netherlands
October 16, 2010 – March 13, 2011

New Book: Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt Vol 2

Coptic News and Archive (Howard Jones)

The 2008 St Mark Foundation Symposium contribution papers are now published in the regular series of "Christianity and Monasticism in Upper Egypt" - the current one is Volume 2: Nag Hammadi-Esna
Here are the details and contributors:

Edited by Gawdat Gabra
Hany Takla

New studies in Christianity in the Sohag region

Christianity and monasticism have flourished in Upper Egypt from as early as the fourth century until the present day. The contributors to this volume, international specialists in Coptology from around the world, examine various aspects of Coptic civilization along the Nile Valley from Nag Hammadi (associated with the famous discovery of Gnostic papyri) through Luxor and Coptos and south to Esna over the past seventeen hundred years, looking at Coptic religious history, tradition, language, heritage, and material culture in the region through texts, art, architecture and archaeology.

Photo for Today - Deir el Medina

Deir el Medina settlement
View from the Ptolemaic temple end towards the capark
(roughly north to south)

Monday, March 28, 2011

UNESCO delegation reassured after first day in Egypt

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

Yesterday, a UNESCO delegation led by Christian Manhart, chief of the Museums and Cultural Objects Section within UNESCO, embarked on a three-day tour of archaeological sites subject to looting during and since Egypt’s 25 January Revolution. The tour includes the Egyptian Museum as well as the Memphis necropolis, and covers the Giza plateau, Saqqara, Abusir and Dahshur archaeological sites.

The first place on the delegation's visit list was the Egyptian Museum. Following three hours of touring the museum’s exhibition halls and labs, the delegation's members expressed their satisfaction with what they saw.

“The status of the Egyptian Museum in totally different from what has been said in the media,“ director Tarek El-Awadi told Ahram Online Manhart had said while admiring the museum.

Ancient Egyptians made the arduous trek to Chad new research suggests

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

A trip across the desert of southwest Egypt is not for the faint of heart.

Modern day travellers departing southwest from the Dakhla Oasis will find themselves hitting their flasks as they traverse the Egyptian wilderness. Water sources are scarce, the area is sparsely populated and the lack of landmarks means you’ll want to keep your GPS system in good order.

Passing by Gilf Kebir, a plateau the size of Puerto Rico, you’ll find prehistoric cave paintings, evidence of a time when the climate was much more favourable to human life. Assuming you keep a southwest direction, and don’t get lost, you’ll come across a mountain range called Jebel Uweinat. Straddling the Egyptian-Libyan-Sudanese border, travellers will find springs there and – if you know where to look – a recently discovered 4,000 year old inscription, written in the name of Mentuhotep II, a pharaoh credited with reuniting Egypt.

If you continue southwest you’ll cross the border into southeast Libya and, if you keep on going, venture into the northeast corner of Chad, in Central Africa.

It’s a daunting, perilous, journey. And now, thanks to a body of new archaeological, textual, environmental and linguistic research, we have evidence that the ancient Egyptians undertook it.

A Swiss Egyptologist on Her Majesty’s Service

Egypt Exploration Society

With photos.

From the time of his first contact with A.B. Edwards and R.S. Poole until the end of his excavations in Lower Egypt (1880-1892), Edouard Naville wrote approximately 200 letters to the joint honorary secretaries of the EEF, which are now kept in the Society’s Lucy Gura Archive. Writing in a fine and fast hand and in perfect classical English (a skill inherited during 1862-1863 when he attended King’s College, London), Naville mentions his researches at major sites in the Delta such as Tell el-Maskhuta, Saft el Hinna, the famous site of Bubastis (Tell Basta) and Tell el Yahudieh.

This scientific correspondence contains precious details about his everyday life as an Egyptologist, how the hard work was divided between Naville and the engineers Achille Jaillon and the Count Riamo d’Hulst and eventually about the editing of the final publications, in which his wife, Marguerite (née de Pourtalès), played a great part thanks to her skill in drawing.

Archaeologists threaten strike over unfilled ministry position

Al Masry Al Youm

Egyptian archaeologists threatened to organize a strike and sit-in on Sunday if a ministry official is not immediately appointed to take charge of archeology-related affairs. The threat came in light of the repeated thefts and lootings of Egyptian artifacts and relics.

The archeologists sent a letter to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in which they demanded the appointment of either a minister or a head of an independent body affiliated to the Council of Ministers.

In the letter, Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, the director of the Central Administration for Antiquities in Alexandria and Lower Egypt warned of the seriousness of the situation, saying that it “has resulted in the total paralysis in the decision-making process needed for the continuance of archaeological work.”

Prolonged conflict a threat to Libyan heritage sites

Monsters and Critics (Kate Thomas)

The track leading to Al Bayda's forgotten Temple of Aesculapius is shingled with rocks and rubbish.

Sheep doze beneath juniper trees, graffiti tags blight nearby buildings and, in the distance, the ample family home of Safia Farkash, wife of Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, spills over the hillside.

The remains of the Temple of Aesculapius, a medical school that dates back to 4BC, is one of eastern Libya's cultural treasures and one of the heritage sites threatened by the ongoing conflict.

Earlier, it was a lack of state funding to the Department in Antiquities, that cast doubt on the preservation of the site with its white marble columns, topped with carvings of the ancient wonder-drug Silphium.

The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) says the Libya government and allied forces implementing the no-fly zone must respect the rich cultural sites.

More re items missing from Qantara East

Ahram Online

With photo.

Following a detailed archaeological inventory on the collection of artefacts stored in the Qantara-East warehouse, some 800 objects from the ancient Egyptian, Graeco and Islamic eras were found missing.

The objects derived from archaeological sites in Ismailia as well as North and South Sinai, which have been scientifically documented and published. The missing objects include of a large collection of clay vessels, bronze coins, scarabs, and amulets, as well as wooden arrows, textiles, amphora and a headless limestone statue inscribed with hieroglyphic text.

Tales from the Egyptian revolution

The Art Newspaper (Sarah Marei)

Scrambling in the glaring sun we lifted heavy wooden boxes laden with antiquities to safer locations at the site where hopefully they would be easier to protect at night. The director had his sleeves rolled up and, covered in dust, was booming spontaneous orders. The entire, hurried operation was guided by the levelheaded and reasonable decisions of the high-ranking officials responsible for the site now acting as patriotic Egyptians struggling to protect their history.

Giza, home to the Great Pyramids, had two storage facilities broken into in the wave of attacks on antiquities overtaking Egypt during the revolution. As the news broke I rushed to the site (where I am based as an antiquities inspector) to offer my help. I was not alone: many other inspectors and other employees had left the safety of their homes with the same thoughts.

Egypt is riddled with archaeological sites and many remained virtually unscathed due to the inspectors and residents of the surrounding towns and villages endangering their lives to protect sites, storage locations and museums, as was the case at Beni Suef and Fayum.

Wart on the forehead of Queen Tiye?

Online Journal

King Tut's grandmother Queen Tiye may have been a legendary beauty, but she had an ugly wart on her forehead, a mummy expert says. The small, flat protuberance was located between the eyes of the so-called Elder Lady (KV35EL).

The bump had gone unnoticed for centuries until Mercedes Gonzalez, director of the Instituto de Estudios Cientificos en Momias in Madrid, saw it while viewing the mummy during a trip to the Cairo Museum.

"I got a high resolution image of the mummy's face from the Egyptian museum. From the enlargement, the small growth appears compatible with a flat wart or verruca plana," Gonzalez told Discovery News.

Gonzales believes that the bump is a hyperplastic epidermal lesion, a harmless bump produced by the papilloma virus. These bumps typically appear on the face, neck and back of the hands... But they're not typically found on the faces of ancient Egyptian mummies.

"Until now I haven't seen anything similar," Gonzalez said.

But Frank Ruhli, head of the Swiss Mummy Project and Center for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, isn't sure whether the bump is really a wart, and whether the mummy is even really Tiye.

More re missing artefacts found

Ahram Online (Nevine El Aref)

Today, with the help of Egypt’s armed forces and the tourism and antiquities police, five artefactes from 42 objects missing from the Egyptian Museum were recovered.

The five items include four bronze objects depicting different ancient Egyptian deities, such as Osiris, the cat goddess Bastet, Abis Bull and Neith. All the returned objects are in good condition except the Abis Bull, which was broken into several pieces. With restoration, archaeologists hope, it can be restored to its original form.

Interview with Barry Kemp re looting

New Scientist (Jo Marchant)

A thriving market for antiquities in the west is behind the looting of Egypt's heritage, says Barry Kemp, who describes the fraught situation on the ground

Where is your dig site?
I work at Amarna, the short-lived capital built by "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century BC. The site is a beautiful stretch of desert, bordered by high cliffs. We are working to map, excavate and repair the ancient buildings.

How did you hear about Egypt's uprisings?
On Saturday 29 January we received a police order to close down. We packed up our equipment on Sunday and most of the expedition was evacuated to Cairo on Monday. I and one other team member stayed behind.

What steps did you take to protect Amarna?
Because of attacks on archaeological sites elsewhere in Egypt, the police asked us to block the entrances to our storerooms. Workmen built a wall of limestone blocks across the iron doors, covering the main one with cement so it appears impregnable. On 5 February we finally travelled to Cairo, where I live. As we drove through the western desert, life seemed to be proceeding as normal, although the trains were not running.

Mediaeval settlement found in Sudan

A major stronghold and a Mediaeval settlement have been discovered by Polish archeologists in Sudan at the start of a three year research project realized by the Prehistory Institute of Poznan University and the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums of Sudan.

The Hosh esh-Sheitan strongold, or Satan’s Court, is situated in the Nile valley.

“There is no written mention of it and yet it is one of the biggest strongholds in this part of the Nile Valley”, says Polish archeologist Mariusz Drzewiecki.

Another interesting find is a settlement on the Nurein hill.

Book Review: The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt

Winnipeg Free Press (Review by Matt Gibbs)

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt
By Toby Wilkinson
Random House, 611 pages,

Recent events in Egypt, culminating in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, largely as the result of popular indignation and revolt, have provided a rather fortunate news hook for this magisterial work of popular history.

Neither author Toby Wilkinson, an academic at England’s University of Cambridge, nor his publishers, likely expected Egyptian politics to take a significant turn at the time of publication.Neither author Toby Wilkinson, an academic at England's University of Cambridge, nor his publishers, likely expected Egyptian politics to take a significant turn at the time of publication.

Nevertheless, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt highlights several themes prevalent in the Middle Eastern nation's history that will almost certainly play upon the minds of those who followed Mubarak's downfall.

At 486 pages (not including notes and indices), the book is a daunting read, to be sure. But Wilkinson's narrative is clear, refreshing and, at times, amusing. His take on Egyptology and Egyptian history is not only relaxed and approachable, but also entertaining.

Exhibition: Nubia, Ancient Kingdoms of Africa

New York Times (Karen Rosenberg)

“Nubia: Ancient Kingdoms of Africa,” an exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, takes you deep into the history of a currently volatile part of the continent.

The show occupies just two small galleries, but spans a 500-mile stretch of the Nile River Valley (now Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt) and more than 2,250 years (from about 3000 B.C. through 750 B.C.). During that time conquerors became the conquered; trading partners were reborn as bitter enemies.

A brief summary of the period: Beginning in about 3000 B.C., Southern Nubia developed into a powerful kingdom known as Kush. Egypt, increasingly nervous about this neighbor, conquered a large swath of it in 1500 B.C. Four centuries later the Egyptian empire collapsed; a dark age followed. Then, around 900 B.C., Nubia rose again. By 750 B.C., its Napatan kings had control of Egypt — at least until the Assyrians arrived, in 650 B.C.

Book Review: Herakleides

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Jane Draycott)

Lorelei H. Corcoran, Marie Svoboda, Herakleides: A Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011.

Herakleides: a Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt not only provides the results of a series of scientific analyses, but also those of a comprehensive classical, Egyptological and art historical, study undertaken on the Herakleides portrait mummy. Consequently, it serves as an extremely informative and useful case study with regard to funerary practice in Egypt during the Roman period.

The Herakleides portrait mummy was first acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1991, and was subject to a full study by the Museum’s Antiquities Conservation Department in 2003, before finally being exhibited for the first time at the Getty Villa in 2006. The questions raised by the study were numerous and comprehensive: whether the portrait attached to the mummy represented the mummified individual; the precise state of preservation of the body inside the wrappings; whether there were any inclusions such as jewels or amulets within the wrappings; what materials had been used in the mummification and subsequent adornment process; and whether a precise date could be attached to the mummy and the portrait respectively. Additionally, in 2006 the Herakleides portrait mummy was included as part of the "Getty Red-Shroud Study Group", a project which aimed to determine whether similar materials were used to manufacture nine red-shroud mummies. It would appear, based on the information presented here, that both studies were resounding successes, and have added immeasurably to our knowledge not only of mummy portraits, but also of portrait mummies, beliefs about the afterlife, funerary practice and the mechanics of the mummification process in Egypt during the Roman period.

Photo for Today - Deir el Medina

Deir el Medina

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Updates from Dr Hawass on sites and museums (Zahi Hawass)

Here's an exerpt but see the above page to see reports on museum restorations and more about Qantara East where 800 items haev been stolen (mostly, according to Hawass, pottery).

At Lischt, a famous site containing the Middle Kingdom pyramid of Amenemhat I, looters have broken into tombs many times, and there are illegal excavations taking place at night. I have heard rumors that in one village a statue measuring 1.5m high was found, and in another village inscribed blocks have been found. In Dahshur, antiquities inspectors were able to recover two large blocks with colored scenes from the funerary temple of Amenemhat I. They are also struggling to prevent people from moving onto archaeological land and digging illegally at night. I received a report on Saturday from inspectors saying they had found looters inside of a tomb! In Saqqara, I had previously reported that magazines and tombs had been broken into. Now, eight acres of land near the Mastaba el-Faraun and the pyramid of Merenre I has been overtaken by people. At Abusir a new cemetery has been built over twelve acres in an area containing 1st and 2nd Dynasty tombs. What upsets me the most is what is happening at Giza. The site is being taken over by camel and horse drivers; they are even attacking tombs. I do not know I anyone can stop people from damaging these sites.

News re the looting at Abusir

Many thanks to Jakub Malina for the following summary of the above news article.

Czech egyptological expedition in Abusir had to change its program. Former chief of Czech expedition, professor Miroslav Verner, told for press agency CTK that only a small group of Czech archaeologists is carrying out rescue works in the stores and counting what was lost or damaged. "When members of our team arrived at Abusir, they were horrified by a number of illegal excavations," told egyptologist who spent more than 40 years of his professional life by Abusir excavations. "So we will have to perform rescue research in the dozens of places. It will not be easy, it will not be cheap, and it will divert us from our program." According to Verner, thieves broke into expedition stores and heavily damaged the site. They looted also the tomb of priest Rahotep, where one cultic stela is stolen. Verner expects that the expedition will not be able to continue in original research program until the autumn elections in Egypt.

And again, thanks to Jakub for this link too, and his summary of the main points:

With photos.

  • more than 200 illegal excavation pits on the site, some of them (4 - 5 meters deep) found some ancient tombs (now they are all empty)
  • rare stella (found in 1991) from Rahotep‘s tomb is stolen, all the tomb is damaged
  • most of objects in the expedition store are irretrievably damaged (including Old Kingdom objects from Raneferef‘s tomb and the vase of Pharaoh Huni)

Items stolen and recovered from Luxor's Temple of Amenhotep III

Dr. Maria Nilsson & Dr. John Ward (West Bank, Luxor) reported on Saturday 19th March that the magazines next to the colossi of Memnon were broken into early that morning after having tied up the guards. Preliminary reports said that 15 items are missing from a German magazine. The objects that were stolen from the area of the colossi of Memnon were unearthed by archaeologists earlier in March, items that had not yet been published. Amongst the items missing is a of a head of a statue of Amenhotep III and a head of a statue of Sekhmet.

Jane Akshar provided news from the Luxor antiquities department too, with photos of the stolen items. Luxor News Blog.

Times have changed in Egypt. I read on Facebook about the theft from the Amenhotep III storerooms and phoned Mostafa Wazery to find out what had happened. I immediately got the entire story and he invited me to go to his office. There he showed me pictures of the stolen objects. What a change from pre revolutionary days when everything would have to be referred to Cairo for permission. The story. At 3:35 am the 4 guards at the storeroom at Kom el Hetan, the area behind the colossus of Memnon were attacked. Two objects were stolen.. One statue was 38 cms high and a portrait of Amenhotep III the other was more damaged. Armed men attacked the guards with sub machine guns and chloroform, the guards defended the storeroom but were unable to stop the robbery. Mostafa Wazery was on site by 4am and has been there ever since.

Luxor Times also reported on the break-in, with the great news that the stolen items seemed to have been recovered.

As it was the early hours of Saturday when they did their attack, it was also the early hours of Sunday when the police in co-operation with the army arrested 3 men of the group and working on arresting the other. The 2 statues were retrieved from the main suspect’s house in Nag’ Khalifa,Qurna where one of the thugs lives. The arrested men names as follows: Ahmed Zot (Sculptor), Shaban Taya Ahmed (Farmer), Hassan El azb Hassan El rawi (nephew of the main man) and Mahmoud Hassan Abo Elmagd (drives a microbus No. 2963 Luxor). They are going to stand for a military trial in Qena.

As exclusive news to Luxor Times, our reporter, Nermeen Nagdi, got a statement from a police source said there were only 8 men with machine guns not 11 nor 15 men with sticks as it was mentioned in some media sources and they attacked the 2 guards who were on the eastern side of the site, tied them with their own scarves before they drug them and when another guards went over to bring his colleagues tea he was attacked and tied up too and they were locked in the security cabin.

And finally, Nevine El Aref on Ahram Online covered the recovery of the items, with an excellent photograph of the Sekhmet statue head.

Within 24 hours the Antiquities and Tourism Police, in collaboration with the Military Police Forces, succeeded in retrieving the two ancient Egyptian statues stolen yesterday from a warehouse on Luxor’s West Bank.

The statues were found hidden inside the home of Ahmed El Zot, the head of an armed gang, who is infamous for his dishonesty. Three other members of the gang are also in custody.

Mansour Boreik, supervisor of Luxor’s monuments, relates that last night an armed gang attacked the warehouse of the European/Egyptian excavation mission of Amenhotep III’s temple. The gang members gave the guards anaesthetic shots, tied them up and entered the warehouse with ease. They stole a bust of the lioness god, Sekhmet, deity of war and another granite statue of an ancient Egyptian god. They also broke several while escaping with the goods.

Boreik said that the police came onto the site immediately and with comprehensive investigations succeeded in catching the head of the gang and three other members.

The situation at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Rather than post a series of links in my usual way I have aggregated all the news items about the Egyptian Museum from the last two weeks to form some sort of narrative. I hope that this helps readers to get a coherent idea of what has been happening.

On 15h March, according to Al Masry Al Youm, it was announced that a total of 54 items had been stolen from the Museum, contradicting earlier official reports that at first no items and then 18 items had been stolen.

On March 15th Hawass addressed UNESCO, asking for assistance from the international community in ensuring that looted items failed to reach the antiquities market.
Fortunately many organizations and institutions had raised awareness of this issue from the first unofficial reports that looting might be taking place, and hopefully their hard work will benefit Egypt in the long run.

On 18th March Hawass announced that 12 items had been returned to the Egyptian Museum, thanks to careless behaviour of these in posession. The items returned included six Late Period bronze statuettes to the Late Period, a small limestone statue of a sphinx, and five necklaces. Those in possession of the items attempted to verify their authenticity with a young archaeologist who alerted the authorities.

On 19th March Paul Barford reported on his recent visits to the Egyptian Museum on his Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues blog (Paul, couldn't you have come up with a shorter name? :-) ). He says that additional security checks are made, that the museum is full of tourism police and plains clothes security people and that "the museum is in about the same state as it was a month ago, except the blood stains have gone from the floor and showcase glass". He raises a number of interesting points about the security of the museum when it was looted.

On 20th March the SCA released what they say is the complete list, in PDF format, of the missing items, complete with photographs, catalogue numbers, provenance and other useful information concerning each item. There are 42 items on the list.

On 27th March Hawass said that he was organizing descriptions and photographs of all missing items (from the museum and elsewhere) so that they could be recognized and hopefully located.

Also today, the 27th, Paul Barford has written an assessment of the looting of the museum, on his blog, gleaned from all the available data released so far and observed by himself at the museum, focusing on the pattern of the thefts. With diagram.

Resistance to the recent UNESCO visit to Egypt

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref, 21st March)

A little bit out of date now, but interesting.

A UNESCO delegate is set to visit Egypt to help recuperate looted ancient artefacts post-revolution, but there is no Egyptian antiquities minister, and to boot the delegate faces scepticism of 'antiquities colonisation'.

With the absence of the relatively important role of minister of antiquities in Egypt due to a massive restructuring of ministerial positions post-revolution, archaeologists are wondering who will escort the UNESCO’s delegate that will visit Egypt’s archaeological sites Tuesday.

Some archaeologists are uneasy with the visit, which they consider as unexpected and in bad timing, one of whom is professor of Egyptology at Cairo University, Abdel Halim Noureddin. He confessed to Ahram Online that “I am wary of the UNESCO visit to Egypt. Why this delegate is coming now, during this transitional period is not clear. Could it be to inspect the Egyptian museum after the break-in? Or to collect information about Egypt’s archaeological sites that were susceptible to looting? Who invited the delegate to come to Egypt? Or by this visit is UNESCO making a statement that it is coming to protect Egypt’s antiquities?” Noureddin wonders.

He continued that if the delegate is coming to check up on the Egyptian museum that this is not its responsibility, but rather the task of the International Committee of Museums (ICOM). “We are keen on our heritage and we are totally able to protect our monuments and we don’t need curatorship from anyone,” asserted Noureddin.

Repatriation issues raised in response to the chaos

Business Week (Vernon Silver)

The day before Egypt's revolution began, the nation's then-antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, demanded that Berlin's Neues Museum hand over its bust of Queen Nefertiti. Three weeks earlier, Hawass warned New York that he'd try to take back an obelisk in Central Park unless the city took better care of it.

Then came the revolution, when riots raged in front of Cairo's Egyptian Museum. On the night of Jan. 28 thieves broke in, with at least one descending into the Victorian-era building through a skylight. The looters made off with 18 objects, including statues of ancient-world celebrities King Tutankhamun and Nefertiti.

Some in the art world have seized on the chaos to oppose Egypt's demand for the return of its antiquities and to question the idea that ancient artworks and artifacts should be concentrated in their countries of origin (Italy and Greece are also seeking the return of national artworks). "The incidents during the Egyptian revolution could be taken as basis for a change of discussion," the Cologne (Germany)-based International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art said through its spokeswoman, Ursula Kampmann.

Discovery News (Benjamin Redford)

When visitors to museums see artifacts from cultures all around the world, an uncomfortable question sometimes arises: Why are they here?

Why should museums in Paris, London, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere contain objects that are important to the history of other (usually poorer) plundered lands? Many see the practice as an extension of Western imperialism. Though some items were purchased from the countries in which they were found, many were simply taken by European archaeologists and researchers. The repatriation of antiquities has been a sensitive issue for decades, and raises difficult questions.

Those who defend the practice point out that the treasures in Western museums are very accessible to the public, and allow people to see things they would never be able to examine otherwise. Furthermore, they point out, the historical artifacts are well preserved and protected for future generations of all cultures, and that (as condescending as it may seem) Western governments and countries are simply better equipped to properly care for the world’s historical treasures.

Hawass address to UNESCO (Zahi Hawass)

See the above page for the full address.

Although I have resigned from my position as head of the antiquities department, due to the current situation, I will continue to do everything in my power to help my country fight against the illicit trafficking of antiquities. In these dark days, when some of our most important sites are suffering from the depredations of the looters and opportunists who are taking advantage of the current power vacuum, we call upon the international community for help. The antiquities department has issued lists of antiquities known to be missing from the Egyptian Museum and from storage magazines that have been robbed; we call upon you to help us circulate these lists and watch out for these pieces should they appear on the black market. As we struggle to restore order to our sites, we call upon you for ideas and support, which we will welcome gladly.

Photo for Today, and update

Deir el Medina,
looking towards the Ptolemaic Temple of Hathor

I tried to go up higher for this and other photos but I was
removed firmly from my spot by a guard.

With 161 news items saved in my Blog folder it is going to take longer than usual to pull together the archive of stories from the last couple of weeks. Today's is the first batch, but I'll be adding more in the days to come.

Aayko Emya, who founded and runs the invaluable Egyptologists Electronic Forum, gave me permission to report on some of the stories that have been posted to the Forum. Thanks Aayko. I will be summarising some of the older reports but if you want to keep up to date with the news as it comes in you will neeed to subscribe to EEF.

Thanks very much for the comments and emails. I've been up in Wales for a bit of R & R and got back to London yesterday. My eyes are still not right, and I still cannot wear contact lenses, but the dreadful light sensitivity has diminished substantially and I can now use a computer screen for periods at a time so I should be able to catch up within a few days.

On a personal note has anyone had their eyes laser-corrected? I am planning to get mine done in a couple of months time, just as soon as my doctor says that my eyes are fit, and I would be very interested to know of the experiences of anyone who has had theirs done, and hear any advice that you might have for me. andie [at] oddthing. co .uk

For those of you in the UK who, like me, didn't realize it until a friend mentioned it - the clocks went forward today!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Just to let everyone know that Kat is absolutely fine. She got in touch earlier today to confirm that she is well, that the reason for falling out of touch is that her computer went into complete meltdown and had to be sent away for repair and that her computer was only returned today. She is back online and is catching up with emails from what sounds like an Inbox from the dungeon zones! I don't have my usual email address book with me so if you are reading this and know of anyone who has been asking after her please do contact them and let them know that she is great.

A very relieved and much happier Andie

Monday, March 21, 2011

Off sick :-(

Apologies for the absence of posts but I have been slightly under the weather recently with eye infections and other unpleasantness.

If anyone hears from Kat Newkirk, please can you get in touch to let me know? It has been impossible to contact her recently and I am very much concerned.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

More re the move of Qantar East antiquities to Cairo

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

The transported collection includes artefacts that belong to the planned Port Said, Sharm El-Sheikh and Taba museums as well as Sinai artefacts that were retrieved from Israel following the singing the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.

The transported objects filled 30 trucks and arrived safe at the Egyptian Museum with the protection of police and army forces.

More re new position of Antiquities Dept in Egyptian ministries

Ahram Online (Nevine El Aref)

Contrary to Paul Barford's comments about the new organization of the government with regard to the Antiquities department (which I posted about yesterday), Nevine El-Aref reports that the current organization will continue, with Culture and Antiquities in different departments. This decision apparently took place following pressure from archaeologists in Egypt. I daresay nothing can be considered definitive at the moment and we will just have to wait and see what is decided not just in the immediate future but over the coming months as well.

Egyptian Archaeology (EES) No.38, Spring 2011

Egypt Exploration Society

Egyptian Archaeology 38

EA 38 (spring 2011) was published in February. In addition to articles, it contains reports on the EES Centenary Awards, recent EES events and details of a new edited film of the Society's work at Amarna in the 1930s. Aidan Dodson contributes an appreciation of Barry Kemp after he was awarded a CBE in the New Year's Honours List, and this issue also includes an interview with Kent Weeks.

EA 38 contains the following articles:

Angus Graham - Ancient Theban waterways
Theresa Steckel - A statue of Ramesses II from Tell Basta
Khaled Daoud - The tomb of the Royal Envoy Nakht-Min
Joanne Rowland - A new era at Quesna
Maria Correas-Amador - A survey of the mud-brick buildings of Qena
Richard Bussmann - Seals and seal impressions from Hierakonpolis
Christophe Thiers and Pierre Zignani - The temple of Ptah at Karnak
Christiane Ziegler - Undisturbed Late Period tombs at Saqqara
Joanne Rowland and Christopher Bronk Ramsey - Online C14 database for Egypt
Richard B Parkinson - A papyrus from the House of Life at Akhetaten

Bookshelf has reviews by Karen Exell (Stephen Quirke, Hidden Hands), Andrew Bednarski (Jason Thompson, Edward William Lane), Aidan Dodson (Herbert Winlock and Dorothea Arnold, Tutankhamun's Funeral) and Morris Bierbrier (Jason Thompson, A History of Egypt and Robert Tignor, Egypt. A Short History).

Digging Diary has brief reports on recent fieldwork in Egypt.

JAEI Volume 3 2011

University of Arizona

Publisher: The University of Arizona. The Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections (JAEI) is a wholly online scholarly publication integrating Egyptian archaeology with Mediterranean, Near Eastern, and African studies—providing a new venue for this growing field of interdisciplinary and inter-area research.

Review: Late Egypt and Her Neighbours: Foreign Population in Egypt in the First Millenium BC, by J.K. Winnicki and John Bauschatz, University of Arizona

Review: Minoan Kingship and the Solar Goddess: A Near Eastern Koine, by N. Marinatos and Gerald Cadogan, Culworth, U.K.

Review: Tree-rings, Kings, and Old World Archaeology and Environment: Papers Presented in Honor of Peter Ian Kuniholm, edited by S.W. Manning and M.J. Bruce, Pearce Paul Creasman and Bryant Bannister, University of Arizona

Review:Syro-Palestinian Deities in New Kingdom Egypt: The Hermeneutics of Their Existence, by K. Tazawa

Review: Metal, Nomads and Culture Contact: The Middle East and North Africa, by N. Anfiset and David Killick, University of Arizona

Review: Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean During the Old Kingdom: An Archaeological Perspective, by K. N. Sowada and Anna Wodzińska, University of Warsaw

Future Workshop: Alexander the Great and Egypt: History, Art, and Tradition, University of Wroclaw, Poland, November 18-19, 2011

Photo for Today - The Great Pit

The Great Pit is the name given to the vast hole in the ground
behind the temples of Deir el Medina. To give you some idea how
vast, see the stone hut to the top left of the uppermost photo.
According to Kent Weeks (The Illustrated guide to Luxor,
American University in Cairo Press) it is over
50m (164ft) deep and 30m (98ft) wide.

The most popular theory is that it represents an attempt to
dig a well to supply the area with water, but even that theory
seems to leave the question of why it was quite so big in doubt.

Monday, March 07, 2011

More bad news from the Ministry of Antiquities (Zahi Hawass)

See the above page for the full story.

On Friday night, a group of 35 criminals attacked the storage magazines at Tell el-Fara'in (Buto) an ancient and important former capital of Lower Egypt, the Delta. Here the remains of the ancient city walls, a temple of Ramesses II, many great statues of that king and others of gods, such as Sekhmet and Horus, have been found. Both foreign (notably, German and British teams) and Egyptian missions have worked there, excavating the stores and settlement of a New Kingdom town as well as discovering Predynastic remains, making it one of the most important archaeological sites in the Delta. The magazines that were looted contained all of the artifacts of that area, such as finds from el-Monufia, el-Gharbia, Kafr el-Sheikh and El-Beheira.

As they do almost every night at many sites across the country, the looters arrived carrying automatic weapons, overpowered the guards and broke in. I have built 40 storage magazines all over Egypt, that are well guarded with computerized systems, and which are equipped with photographic departments and conservation rooms as well. Unfortunately, however, these thieves got in, opened five boxes of objects, throwing some of them to the ground and breaking three of the doors inside the store. They took the smaller handguns of the guards, but thankfully neighboring people came to get them and successfully captured four, who are now being detained. Today I have asked for a team from the Ministry of Antiquities to inspect the site and report back to me on what has been taken.

Almost every day at the moment, there are attacks on archaeological heritage sites all over Egypt.

Other areas that Hawass says have been harmed are:
  • At the el-Zoulien archaeological site, near San el-Hagar (Tanis), villagers have farmed the land and built houses.
  • At Abu el-Hummus and Borg el-Arab walls and buildings have also been built.
  • A group attacked the Kléber Tower in Gamalia last night
  • Unspecifed sites in Upper Egypt have been harmed

Replacements for Hawass being appointed?

Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues (Paul Barford)

Paul Barford says on his blog that the professor of archival studies at Cairo University, Dr Emad Abu Ghazi, will be the newly appointed Minister of Culture and Antiquities in Egypt, replacing the recently formed Ministry of Antiquity Affairs. He adds that the SCA will be retained in one form or another and will be headed by Dr Abdel (Mohamed Abdel) Maqsoud, former head of Alexandria and Lower Egypt under Hawass. See the above page for more. There is no indication of where this information has been sourced from.

Paul Barford also considers the implications of the new ministerial organization on the management of antiquities and heritage tourism.

Interview with Miroslav Barta about the state of Abusir

Ceske Noviny

Thanks EEF for the above link. I've put it through Google Translate with mixed results, but the gist of it seems to be as follows:

The Czech archaeologists working at the Abusir pyramids have found that the site has been badly damaged by lotters. It was broken into by thieves during the recent political unrest. Objects scattered on the ground were trampled upon. Worse, Miroslav Barta who is the director of the work at Abusir says that years of work to extract valuable scientific information has been undermined, following an assessment of the extent of the damage last week. He says that thieves have excavated in various places in tombs and burial pits and they accessed the stores. Some records have disappeared and thieves threw objects and samples on the floor, mixing up and stepping on anhropological, organic and ceramic materials together with decorated blocks.

According to Barta the culprits are mainly people from surrounding villages, where tens of thousands of people live. Bara says that they are poorly educated and that they were looking for objects made of precious metals. were after the smaller items of precious metals which, even had they been excavated, would not have been stored at the site but sent to the Egyptian Museum. Barta believes that the situation may be repeated at any time and that there is a real need to improve communication with local people to expand their awareness. They are considering starting an educational program for teaching children in schools. He says that it is very unlikely that the stolen items will be sold because they have no market value; instead they have probably been discarded or buried.