Sunday, May 20, 2012

More bad news about looting in Egypt

The Seattle Times (Hamza Hendawi)

Taking advantage of Egypt's political upheaval, thieves have gone on a treasure hunt with a spree of illegal digging, preying on the country's ancient Pharaonic heritage.

Illegal digs near ancient temples and in isolated desert sites have swelled a staggering 100-fold over the past 16 months since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak's 29-year regime and security fell apart in many areas as police simply stopped doing their jobs.

The pillaging comes on top of a wave of break-ins last year at archaeological storehouses — and even at Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum, the country's biggest repository of Pharaonic artifacts.

Horrified archaeologists and antiquities authorities are scrambling to prevent smuggling, keeping a watch on European and American auction houses in case stolen artifacts show up there.

"Criminals became so bold they are digging in landmark areas." including near the Great Pyramids in Giza, other nearby pyramids and the grand temples of the southern city of Luxor, said Maj.-Gen. Abdel-Rahim Hassan, commander of the Tourism and Antiquities Police Department.



Future of EES Delta Survey secure

Egypt Exploration Society

Great news.

Since 2007 the EES Delta Survey has been an Approved Research Project of the British Academy which has given us the opportunity each year to apply for funding of up to £5,000. This has been used to continue field visits and surveys of little-known sites in the Nile Delta for inclusion in the online data-set, and has also funded two seasons of survey and limited excavation at two sites: Tell Yetwal wa Yuksur and Kom el-Daba, as well as contributing towards the costs of two Delta Survey Workshops in 2009 and 2011, held jointly with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo.

In 2011 the Academy asked the Delta Survey Director, Dr Jeffrey Spencer, to submit a proposal for a continued five years of support and funding and on 14 May 2012, Jeffrey heard that the application has been successful, giving the Delta Survey Project a more secure future.


Mummy scan database to launch in the summer

IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project

Thanks to Dr Andrew Wade for letting me know that there is a project collating mummy scans from around the world. The IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database Project (impactdb.uwo.ca) at the University of Western Ontario is curently under way and is expected to go live online this summer.


The IMPACT Radiological Mummy Database is a large-scale, multi-institutional collaborative research project devoted to the scientific study of mummified remains, and the mummification traditions that produced them, through non-destructive medical imaging technologies.

IMPACT focuses on the body,  made artifact through cultural or natural intervention, in bioarchaeology, epidemiology, and social archaeology studies of  past human societies and their genetic and cultural descendents.


Conserving the Amarna coffins

Amarna Project on Facebook 

With photographs

Since 2006, the Amarna Project has been investigating a cemetery for the non-elite of Akhenaten's city. One remarkable discovery has been a group of six decorated coffins. Most are anthropoid-style, bearing on their walls scenes of figures bearing offerings and columns of hieroglyphic text, executed in a creamish or yellow paint on a dark background, with details added in red and blue. Despite their unprepossessing appearance, it is perhaps impossible to overestimate the significance of these objects. The only decorated non-royal coffins found in over 100 years of excavation at Amarna, they form a remarkable new source for the study of the funerary beliefs of Akhenaten’s citizens. 


More re salvaging manuscripts after the Institut d’Égypte fire

American Research Centre in Egypt  (Irfana Hashmi)

On an ‘anything but normal’ work day, I went to the Egyptian National Archives where I found the remains of thousands of manuscripts, books and maps from the Institut d’Égypte laid across its front lawns, in pick-up trucks double-parked on the Corniche el-Nil Road, and on the floor of the lobby of the archives.

When I entered the building, I knew that I would not conduct research that day, not after seeing the activities downstairs. It was another exceptional day in Cairo, like many others preceding it, during my fellowship tenure in Egypt.

In a joint effort, staff and volunteers from the Egyptian National Library and Archives and the American University in Cairo's Rare Books and Special Collections Library were sorting through the remains of the historic Institut d’Égypte collection. 



Independent heritage initiatives: A first step to linking communities to their own histories

Egypt Independent (Fatma Keshk)

Very valuable insight into the work of independent groups working in Egypt to preserve heritage.

Since the 18th century, Egypt has had a public authority responsible for the registration, inventory and security of its antiquities in museums and archaeological sites — currently the Ministry of Antiquities. But it has rarely been able to stir up the general public’s interest in their own rich heritage.

Other than groups such as the friends of the Egyptian or Coptic museums, until recently few people have tried to engage non-specialists. TV programs on the subject remain dull and alienating.

“Government authorities in Egypt have usually preferred giving priority to tourists over Egyptians,” says Yasmine El Dorghamy, editor of Rawi Magazine.

In 2008, when Dorghamy decided to launch a magazine about heritage, she wanted to present an informative publication about history and heritage made attractive through good design and photography.

“I am particularly targeting young bilingual Egyptians, a social segment that needs to know more about our invaluable heritage,” she explains. Covering various topics and most historical periods from Ancient Egypt to contemporary times, Rawi has made its way to Cairo’s newsstands, as well as the bookstores of international museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre. . . . .
“Dozens of people came to help us rescue the books at the Institut d’Egypte when the fire broke out last December,” Dorghamy says. “People were happy to help … This experience made me believe that many Egyptians feel the importance and the value of their heritage, they only need some guidance regarding what they can do to help.” This guidance has never been sufficiently provided by the public antiquities authorities, educational system or media.

Independent groups have recently emerged to try to make up for this lack through lectures and public awareness campaigns, inspired by the positive spirit displayed in the cleaning of Tahrir Square after Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

“Every day new groups are formed,” says Dalia Nabil, who co-founded the Treasures of Egypt at Risk group along with Heba Hosny. “If the revolution has succeeded in anything, then it is regaining our belief in our ability to effect change and combat ignorance and corruption.”
 
 See the above page for more information.

Recent research on Tutankhamun and the restoration of his damaged artefacts

The Eloquent Peasant (Margaret Maitland)

While other Egyptologists such as Champollion and Petrie were famed for their scholarly advances, Carter superseded them in the public imagination with a discovery borne out of perseverance and a bit of luck. The discovery undeniably advanced our understanding of ancient Egypt massively overnight, and the vast range of objects in such a hastily assembled, minor king’s tomb is but a hint of what would have been discovered in the tombs of the greatest kings of the New Kingdom. The discovery has inspired future generations of Egyptologists and archaeologists, and the objects themselves have contributed to our understanding of everything from ancient Egyptian flora and clothing to boats and furniture.

Recording and removing the objects from the tomb took Carter 10 years, and with this sheer volume of objects, the finds are still being published today. It has been estimated that if publication continues at the present rate, it will be another 200 years before thorough records and studies of the finds are made! Luckily the Griffith Institute Archives in Oxford, which I’ve written about previously more fully here, has digitized the thousands of record cards, photographs, and diaries from the excavation and made them publicly available online. 



Mummy's secrets revealed by 3D holography imaging

The Archaeology News Network

Egyptian Mummies shrouded for over 2000 years could be set to give up their inner secrets like never before. Thanks to a 3D hologram imaging process developed by Edinburgh-based Holoxica, the Rhind Mummy has been revealed in true 3D.

Originally excavated from a tomb in Thebes (Luxor) almost 155 years ago, the Rhind Mummy – so named after the renowned Scottish Archaeologist and Egyptologist Alexander Rhind who brought the mummy to Scotland in the middle of the 19th Century – is completely intact in its original black-tarred linen wrapping. The mummy has been in the National Museum of Scotland’s collection ever since.


A history of how limestone became Cairo

Egypt Independent (James Purtill)

 Good to see geology being given some media space!

Under Cairo’s asphalt, under the reverberations of its street traffic, rocks are flowing, compacting, shearing and warping.

The city is built on millions-of-years-old fossil limestone. You have to travel to the outskirts, though, to get a sense of the Cairo’s terra firma — at Moqattam, where the limestone outcrops from the necropolis; on Ain Sokhna Road, where the cuttings hold petrified tree trunks; or at Wadi Degla, a natural valley on the outskirts of Maadi.

One week ago, Egypt Independent joined American oil geologist Bill Bosworth and Egyptologist Ahmed Seddik on a tour of what Seddik called “Egypt’s Grand Canyon,” Wadi Degla.

The story of Cairo’s geology is less well-known than that of most capital cities. The first geologic map was completed in 1983. Since then, the science has improved, but the city has spread outwards, covering the secrets of its underlying rock from prying hammers and eyes.


New Details of Theft Claim in St. Louis Art Museum Ka Nefer Nefer Mask Forfeiture

Cultural Heritage Lawyer (Rick St. Hilaire)

Prosecutors in the case of United States v. Mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer today filed a Reply in Support of Its Motion to Reconsider.  The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri hopes to reverse a judge's April dismissal of the case.  The government ultimately seeks to forfeit the allegedly stolen Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask located at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) and return it to Egypt.  SLAM denies that the mask is stolen and asserts ownership over the artifact.

The museum filed an objection earlier this week to the government's motion requesting the judge to reconsider the dismissal of the case.  Today's pleading by the government responds to the museum's objection.




More re Egytpian astronomical observation

Space Daily

The study of the "Demon star", Algol, made by a research group of the University of Helsinki, Finland, has received both scientific and public attention. The period of the brightness variation of this eclipsing binary star has been connected to good prognoses three millennia ago. This result has raised a lot of discussion and the news has spread widely in the Internet.

The Egyptian papyrus Cairo 86637 calendar is probably the oldest preserved historical document of bare eye observations of a variable star. Each day of one Egyptian year was divided into three parts in this calendar. A good or a bad prognosis was assigned for these parts of a day.


PhysOrg

The study of the "Demon star", Algol, made by a research group of the University of Helsinki, Finland, has received both scientific and public attention. The period of the brightness variation of this eclipsing binary star has been connected to good prognoses three millennia ago. This result has raised a lot of discussion and the news has spread widely in the Internet.

The Egyptian papyrus Cairo 86637 calendar is probably the oldest preserved historical document of bare eye observations of a variable star. Each day of one Egyptian year was divided into three parts in this calendar. A good or a bad prognosis was assigned for these parts of a day.

-The texts regarding the prognoses are connected to mythological and astronomical events, says Master of Science Sebastian Porceddu.




A mummy swtcheroo

Discovery News (Rossella Lorenzi)

Min, the ancient Egyptian god of phallus and fertility, might have brought some worldy advantages to his male worshippers, but offered little protection when it came to spiritual life.

Researchers at the Mummy Project-Fatebenefratelli hospital in Milan, Italy, established that one of Min's priests at Akhmim, Ankhpakhered, was not resting peacefully in his finely painted sarcophagus.

"We discovered that the sarcophagus does not contain the mummy of the priest, but the remains of another man dating between 400 and 100 BC," Egyptologist Sabina Malgora said.

According to the researchers, the finding could point to a theft more than 2000 years ago. The relatives of the mysterious man may have stolen the beautiful sarcophagus, which dates to a period between the 22nd 23rd Dynasty (about 945-715 BC), to assure their loved one a proper burial and afterlife.



Petrie images on Flickr

Egypt Exploration Society

Not to be missed!  These photos are super.


The EES Lucy Gura Archive contains numerous photographs from the digs of Flinders Petrie, the Society's first excavator, and the most prolific. In his 42 year career, Petrie explored more than 35 sites in Egypt as well as sites in Palestine and the Levant, published over 1 000 books and articles, and established the foundations of modern field archaeology. His achievements are too numerous to list, but include the establishment of sequence dating, the discovery of the city of Naukratis, the finding of the Israel Stela of Merneptah, and the establishment of a collection at University College, London which is now part of the collection of the eponymous Petrie Museum, UCL.

The photographs in the EES archive are mainly old glass negatives. Fortunately, these have been scanned, allowing us to make them available to scholars and enthusiasts. A small selection of these photographs have been uploaded to the Society's Flickr stream, and can been found here.



Colloquium Overview: Recent Archaeological Fieldwork in Sudan

Egyptological (Dr Patricia Spencer)

The 2012 all-day colloquium of the Sudan Archaeological Research Society (http://www.sudarchrs.org.uk/) was held in the Stevenson Auditorium of the British Museum on Monday 14 May. This annual event concentrates on presenting up-to-the-minute reports of archaeological fieldwork, both that carried out by SARS itself and by other expeditions, British, Sudanese and from elsewhere, working in Sudan. The colloquium is always well-attended but this year the auditorium (which seats 142) seemed almost full, as numbers were boosted by colleagues in London for the meeting to be held at the Museum on the following day to discuss the additional Nile dams being built in Sudan. A summary of the proposed dams can be found at; http://tinyurl.com/cftedap and the appeal by the Sudanese Ministry for Antiquities with regard to the threatened archaeological sites is at: http://tinyurl.com/bnhluyf.

The proceedings were opened by Vivian Davies, and then Derek Welsby, of SARS and the British Museum, described the SARS fieldwork of the most recent season, when an early Kerma cemetery in the North Dongola Reach was excavated. 



Exhibition Review: The Dawn of Egyptian Art

California Literary Review  (Ed Voves)

With lovely photos.

Ancient Egypt, the world’s first nation-state, really was “the gift of the Nile.” But much of the form and content of Egypt’s art can be traced far back, beyond the time of pyramids and pharaohs, to a distant age when nomadic peoples migrated from what is now the Sahara Desert to create settled communities along the thin ribbon of fertile “black land” that bordered the northward flowing Nile.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is presenting an exhibition of rare artifacts from what historians call the “Pre-dynastic” period of Egyptian history. This is a conventional, confusion-free way of describing Egypt before there was an Egypt.

Some of the treasures on display in The Dawn of Egyptian Art date back as far as 3800 BC, perhaps even to 4400 BC given an understandable margin of error in radiocarbon dating. It is a sobering thought that if Cleopatra, the last ruler of an independent Egypt, could somehow be restored to life and invited to view this very fine exhibition, she would be examining works of art more ancient to her, than the time she lived in, the 1st century BC, is to us today.




Why do museums collect… shabtis?

Egypt at the Manchester Museum (Campbell Price)

One of the most popular and ubiquitous items of ancient Egyptian funerary equipment is the small servant figurine – or shabti. Most museums with an Egyptian collection, however small, include at least one or two of these figurines. At the Manchester Museum, we have over 1000 complete and fragmentary examples. These are currently being studied by shabti expert Glenn Janes in preparation for a book in his series cataloguing the shabti collections of museums in the North West of England. So, why are shabtis so popular and why have so many of them ended up in museum collections?

A major reason is simply because so many shabtis were produced. 


Interview: Giza 3D - Peter Der Manuelian and Mehdi Tayoubi

Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown)

Yesterday the Giza 3D Project was launched at a gala event at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

After the event I caught up virtually with Peter Der Manuelian, Giza Archives Director at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University, and Mehdi Tayoubi, Vice-President Digital & Experiential Strategy at Dassault Systémes to find out a bit more about the project.

Welcome Peter and thank you for taking the time out for this interview. 



The EES Publishing Blog

The EES Publishing Blog

This is a place to find out about the publishing department of the world's pre-eminent Egyptological Society. This blog is run by Patricia Spencer and Rob Tamplin, who are responsible for running the Egypt Exploration Society's publishing programme.  Follow us on twitter @TheEES

Book reviews: Medicinal properties of corpses

Smithsonian.com (Maria Dolan)

The last line of a 17th century poem by John Donne prompted Louise Noble’s quest. “Women,” the line read, are not only “Sweetness and wit,” but “mummy, possessed.”

Sweetness and wit, sure. But mummy? In her search for an explanation, Noble, a lecturer of English at the University of New England in Australia, made a surprising discovery: That word recurs throughout the literature of early modern Europe, from Donne’s “Love’s Alchemy” to Shakespeare’s “Othello” and Edmund Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” because mummies and other preserved and fresh human remains were a common ingredient in the medicine of that time. In short: Not long ago, Europeans were cannibals.

Noble’s new book, Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, and another by Richard Sugg of England’s University of Durham, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians, reveal that for several hundred years, peaking in the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including royalty, priests and scientists, routinely ingested remedies containing human bones, blood and fat as medicine for everything from headaches to epilepsy.


 



Howard Carter: "Miraculous," Misunderstood Man

National Geographic (Ker Than)

With a lovely Harry Burton photograph of Carter inspecting the coffins.  This was posted to coincide with Carter's birthday the week before last.

The King Tut find brought Carter overnight—and lasting—fame, but it was anything but a stroke of luck, experts say.

When talking about the tomb discovery, "everyone likes to use the phrase 'stumble upon,' and that always ticks me off a little bit," said Yale University Egyptologist John Darnell.

Carter spent decades as an archaeological excavator exploring burial sites in ancient Thebes (now Luxor) before finding the roughly 3,000-year-old resting place of Tutankhamen, Darnell pointed out. (Take an interactive tour of Tut's tomb.)

"Carter found [the tomb] in a methodical way ... He did all the necessary background work," he added. "He didn't simply look for the door of a tomb, but rather he went at it in a way that we would probably characterize today as a form of landscape archaeology.

"Carter really worked himself into the lives of ancient Egyptian necropolis workmen. He knew the hills, he knew the paths, he knew what happened when rainstorms hit the area"—allowing him to identify the most likely sites for finding long-buried tombs.





New Book: The Shape of Script

SAR

The Shape of Script. How and Why Writing Systems Change
Edited by Stephen D. Houston

This book builds on earlier projects about the origins and extinctions of script traditions throughout the world in an effort to address the fundamental questions of how and why writing systems change. The contributors—who study ancient scripts from Arabic to Roman, from Bronze Age China to Middle Kingdom Egypt—utilize an approach that views writing less as a technology than as a mode of communication, one that is socially learned and culturally transmitted.


Preserve the Middle Nile

Preserve the Middle Nile

A blog whose purpose is to raise awareness about the potential damage to ecology and heritage in the Middle Nile region, where new dams are being constructed.

We are a group of people who are concerned that the building of more dams on this the stretch of the Middle Nile in northern Sudan will displace tens of thousands people, severely damage the river ecosystem, and destroy a heritage of vast importance – not only for the local people, but for mankind.


Baron Empain's legendary palace is to be converted

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine el-Aref)

Baron Empain's legendary palace is to be converted into an international cultural centre and museum after restoration, Nevine El-Aref reports

When Edouard Empain arrived to Egypt in 1904 to construct a railway line linking the lower Egyptian city of Mansoura to Matariya on the far side of Lake Manzala, he became entranced by the country and its distinguished civilisations. Although his company, S A des Chemins de Fer de la Basse-Egypte, failed to generate the intended project, Empain remained in Egypt and married an Egyptian, Yvette Boghdadi. Two years later he established the Cairo Electric Railways and the Heliopolis Oases Company which laid out the plans for the new town of Heliopolis 10 kilometres to the northwest of central Cairo.

When it was finished, Heliopolis was a luxurious and leisured suburb with elegant villas with wide terraces, apartment buildings, tenement blocks with balconies, hotels and facilities as well as recreational amenities including a golf course, racetrack and large park.


AERAGram Spring 2011 - Giza newsletter

AERAGram Newsletter Spring 2011 PDF
AERAGram (Previous issues)

The Spring 2011 newsletter from AERA (Ancient Egypt Research Associates) is now available for download as a PDF on the above page.  It has 20 pages full of articles, plans, illustrations and some terrific photographs about AERA's ongoing work at Giza.

Contents:
  • The OK Corral
  • The Luxor Study Field School
  • Bringing an Ancient House Back to Life
  • The Buried Basin and the Town Beyond



Karnak Online Bibliographical Project

CFEETK

Many thanks to Chuck Jones and his Ancient World Online blog for this link.

The development of a new CFEETK archives database started in 2009 has required a new unified bibliographic management tool.
To allow a wider diffusion of the researches on the temples of Karnak and offer the online library as complete as possible, a first version of this project, developed since 2010, is now available online.
The Cahiers de Karnak available (PDF files) on the website of CFEETK since 2008 and a series of monographs and articles dedicated to Karnak temples are the core of this project. The resources freely available on other websites (Oriental Institute Chicago, IFAO, HAL-CNRS, etc) or resources with subscription (BiblioSHS, Jstor, etc) are also included.
The Bibliographic Project of the CFEETK includes now around 900 digitized resources and will be progressively increased.
In order to provide as complete and comprehensive an online library as possible for the Karnak temples, authors are encouraged to contact the head of the documentation of the CFEETK (sebastien.bistonmoulin@gmail.com) to have their publications posted here.

Online: Sudan and Nubia bulletin 1997

Sudan Archaeological Research Society 

The Sudan Archaeological Research Society website (SARS) have made first (1997) issue of their bulletin Sudan and Nubia available free of charge and available for download as a PDF (http://bit.ly/K682hp). 60 excellent pages of information, photographs, diagrams, maps and plans. It is an annual publication, free to SARS members.

Online: Jean-François Champollion and ancient Egyptian embalming

The Lancet (Andrew Robinson)

Thanks very much to Yvonne Buskens for this link

The Lancet, Volume 379, Issue 9828, Pages 1782 - 1783, 12 May 2012

200 years ago this year, the future founder of Egyptology, French linguist and archaeologist Jean-François Champollion (1790—1832)—the first person since classical antiquity to be able to read the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs—conducted a primitive experiment. It turned out to be one of the initial scientific steps on the long road to unravelling the mysteries of mummification, first described in the fifth century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.
In 1812, Champollion was an impecunious 21-year-old assistant professor of history at the University of Grenoble and an assistant at the city's municipal library. A teenage prodigy in Oriental languages, he had become obsessed by understanding ancient Egypt, as a result of his schoolboy exposure to fascinating antiquities brought back from Egypt by the scientist and prefect of Grenoble, Joseph Fourier, who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte's army on its expedition in 1798—1801.

Posters: Fit Bodies

Egyptian Sporting Exports and Imports
Petrie Museum
Looking at Ptolemaic sport and sporting spaces in Egypt.

The Athletic Pharaohs
Petrie Museum
Exploring the idea of the ideal athlete in Egypt.

Online: Amheida I: Ostraka from Trimithis, Volume 1

Ancient World Digital Library

Thanks to the What's New in Papyrology blog for this link.

AMHEIDA I: OSTRAKA FROM TRIMITHIS, VOLUME 1
Texts from the 2004–2007 Seasons by Roger S. Bagnall and Giovanni R. Ruffini with contributions by Raffaella Cribiore and Günter Vittmann


Exhibition: Replicas of items from King Tut's tomb (Frankfurt, Germany)

Stars and Stripes  

A mummy, a chariot, numerous carvings and statues are among the items spotlighted in a King Tut exhibit in Frankfurt, Germany. The items are replicas of the artifacts discovered in his tomb 90 years ago.

Intricately crafted and scientifically accurate in size, composition and function, the pieces are described by exhibit organizers as “faithful reproductions” of the artifacts Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1922.

More than 1,000 items are on display, some arranged to re-create the boy king’s burial chamber as Carter found it, packed with gilded mementos and good luck charms for the afterlife. There’s even a dismantled chariot.

Originally scheduled to close in April, the exhibit, “Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures,” has been extended to June 24.


Friends of the Petrie - favourite objects

Petrie Museum Unofficial page on Facebook  

The Petrie Museum Unofficial page has asked for people to nominate their favourite item from the Petrie Museum collection.  The above page has a sample of some of those selected, and it's a really good mixture. 

Travel: There's always something to see on a tour down the Nile

Daily Mail (Wendy Gomersall)

The main reason for posting this is the lovely photograph of the tomb of Sennefer.

It was a bit of a schlep up the dusty hillside to the tomb's entrance, and we were pooped out and perspiring after just a few minutes. But it would be well worth the effort, our guide promised, though I had my doubts.

Surely anything really worth looking at would have been included in the group sightseeing during our week's river cruise on the Nile?

But, he explained, the final resting place of Senefer, one-time Mayor of Thebes, among the Tombs Of The Nobles in the Sheikh Abd el-Qurna district on the West Bank of Luxor, was far too tiny to accommodate big numbers of tourists.






Photo for Today - Mummy case, British Museum


Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Egypt turmoil, thieves hunt pharaonic treasures

Ahram Online

Google / Associated Press

Illegal digs near ancient temples and in isolated desert sites have swelled a staggering 100-fold over the past 16 months since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak's 29-year regime and security fell apart in many areas as police simply stopped doing their jobs. The pillaging comes on top of a wave of break-ins last year at archaeological storehouses - and even at Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum, the country's biggest repository of pharaonic artifacts.

Horrified archaeologists and antiquities authorities are scrambling to prevent smuggling, keeping a watch on European and American auction houses in case stolen artifacts show up there.

"Criminals became so bold they are digging in landmark areas." including near the Great Pyramids in Giza, other nearby pyramids and the grand temples of the southern city of Luxor, said Maj.-Gen. Abdel-Rahim Hassan, commander of the Tourism and Antiquities Police Department.

"It is no longer a crime motivated by poverty, it's naked greed and it involves educated people," he said.

In a country with more than 5,000 years of civilization buried under its sands, illegal digs have long been a problem. With only slight exaggeration, Egyptians like to joke you can dig anywhere and turn up something ancient, even if its just pottery shards or a statuette.

But in the security void, the treasure hunting has mushroomed, with 5,697 cases of illegal digs since the start of the anti-Mubarak uprising in early 2011 - 100 times more than the previous year, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press from the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police.

Police arrest illegal excavators in Luxor, Aswan

Egypt Independent  

Tourism and antiquities police in Upper Egypt have seized 17 artifacts while on a mission targeting illegal excavators in Luxor and Aswan.

A security source said police had received a tip that illegal excavators were searching for ancient relics in Luxor and Aswan.

Two such attempts were foiled in Esna, south of Luxor and a third attempt was foiled in Aswan.

The same source said the relics belonged to the Roman era.


University of Basel King's Valley Project - Perliminary Report 2012

University of Basel  (Susanne Bickel, Elina Paulin-Grothe)

A very useful report on the work being carried out by the University of Basel in the Valley of the Kings (including KV64). With photos, including a lovely coloured fragment of 18th Dynasty glass from KV64, the tomb whose discovery was announced in January..

Preliminary Report on the Work Carried out During the Season 2012

In the undecorated tombs KV 26, KV 29, KV 30, KV 31, KV 32, KV 33, KV 37, KV 40, KV 59, KV 61, and KV 64 in the Valley of the Kings

This year’s season of the University of Basel in the Valley of the Kings started on January 07th, 2012 and lasted until April 15th, 2012. . . . .

KV 64

The principal event this season was the discovery of a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

During the season of 2011, three edges of an unknown man-made feature were revealed at 1.80m north of KV 40, on the 25th of January, the first day of the Egyptian revolution. Due to the situation, work was stopped and the feature was covered with an iron door (Fig. 1).

As this structure is so close to KV 40 and since it was impossible to know whether it was merely an unfinished shaft or a real tomb, we gave it the temporary number 40b. As soon as it became apparent during this year’s work that the structure was actually a tomb, the Egyptian authorities decided to give it the final designation KV 64. The discovery was officially announced on January 15th.


Much needed makeover for three goddesses

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

The temples of the Karnak complex stand majestically on the east bank of the Nile at Luxor, their awe-inspiring architecture flaunting the great and noble civilisation of ancient Egypt. We know from historical records that Karnak's vast medley of temples, chapels, columns, pylons, obelisks and above all the sacred lake have fascinated visitors for at least 2,000 years.

To the south of the Amun-Re temple complex, beneath the tenth pylon, stands the ruined temple of the mother goddess Mut. Since its construction by Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1388-1360 BC) the temple became a centre of interest for the pharaohs of the New Kingdom up until the Ptolemies (310-30 BC), who built several temples associated with the original Mut temple and its crescent-shaped lake.

The Mut precinct preserved its importance even after the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, but its decline began not long afterwards. Regrettably the temple has been devastated over time; it has lost some of its features completely, and most of its blocks were usurped in antiquity and reused to construct other structures at Karnak. Except for some walls, foundations and no less than 600 black granite statuettes of the lioness goddess Sekhmet found scattered at the courtyard. Some Theban residents even built residential houses within the precincts of the Mut temples.






WWII archaeology in the Western Desert

The Telegraph, UK (Richard Alleyne)

With two photographs.  

A friend who is an expert on aviation history says that this plane has actually been known for some time, and that removable odds and ends have been taken from it as souvenirs.  The eternal story of the Western Desert - pristine archaeology being denuded by tourists and collectors.

WWII fighter plane hailed the 'aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun's Tomb' found preserved in the Sahara.
A Second World War aeroplane that crash landed in the Sahara Desert before the British pilot walked to his death has been found almost perfectly preserved 70 years later.

The single-seater fighter plane was discovered by chance by Polish oil company worker Jakub Perka exploring a remote region of the Western Desert in Egypt.

The Kittyhawk P-40 has remained unseen and untouched since it came down on the sand in June 1942 and has been hailed the "aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun's Tomb".

It is thought the pilot survived the crash and initially used his parachute for shelter before making a desperate and futile attempt to reach civilisation by walking out of the desert.

The RAF airman, believed to have been Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping, 24, was never seen again.

The single-seater fighter plane was discovered by chance by Polish oil company worker Jakub Perka exploring a remote region of the Western Desert in Egypt, about 200 miles from the nearest town.



Ancient Egyptians Tracked Eclipsing Binary Star Algol

Discovery News (Jennifer Ouellette)

Turn your telescope to the constellation of Perseus and you might note an unusual star called Algol, dubbed the "Demon Star" or the "Raging One." You wouldn't notice anything much different at first, unless you happened to be looking during a window of a few hours -- every 2.867 days -- when Algol's brightness visibly dims.

This unusual feature was first noticed back in 1667 by an astronomer named Geminiano Montanari, and later confirmed -- with a proposed possible mechanism -- in 1783 by John Goodricke, who precisely measured the period of variability: it dims every 2.867 days.

But a new paper by researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, claims that the ancient Egyptians may have recorded Algol's periodic variability 3000 years ago, based on their statistical analysis of a bit of papyrus known as the Cairo Calendar.

This isn't the first time people have hypothesized that Algol's variable nature was known prior to its discovery in the 17th century. Certainly it was a familiar object, prominent in mythology and lore. In the second century, Ptolemy referred to Algol as the "Gorgon of Perseus," and associated it with death by decapitation. (In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus slays the snake-headed Gorgon, Medusa, by chopping off her head.)

Science News (Nadia Drake)

The blinking of a distant star may be chronicled in an ancient Egyptian calendar created more than 3,000 years ago to distinguish lucky days from unlucky ones.

Known today as the Demon Star, the three-star system Algol sparkles in the constellation Perseus, near the eye of Medusa’s severed head. Observers on Earth can see Algol twinkling when the two closest members of the system eclipse one another: Every 2.867 days, as the dimmer star crosses between Earth and the brighter star, the Demon Star’s light appears snuffed.

A repeating pattern of similar duration appears in the Cairo Calendar, a roll of papyrus dating to 1271 B.C. that characterizes each day as all good, all bad or a mix. The occurrence of all-good days matches Algol’s brightness fluctuations, researchers from the University of Helsinki report in a paper posted April 30 on arXiv.org.

“They seem to have established rather clearly that there is a periodicity,” astrophysicist Peter Eggleton of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, says of the team’s analysis of the calendar. “What they haven’t established to my mind is that it is most likely due to a variable star.”  




 

The Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira, Egypt: Landscape, archaeology, threats and conservation

Per Storemyr Archaeology and Conservation

Since the publication of the threats to the Palaeolithic rock art in Wadi Abu Subeira three weeks ago, there has been much response through e-mail and social media, and the case has been covered by many online magazines and blogs. People in Egypt and elsewhere are concerned, and I wish to thank you all for your interest and for bringing the case along to friends and colleagues, as well as to administrators and politicians. There now seems to be a need for an “unbiased”, comprehensive overview of what is actually known about the landscape, the archaeology, the rock art, the threats, current conservation efforts and options for the future. The overview below is based on published literature, and information that otherwise belongs to the public sphere. It is written in close cooperation with Adel Kelany, and we have benefited from input by Dirk Huyge.



Potential impacts of Toshka project on ancient sites

With thanks to Per Storemyr for this link.

Green Prophet (Bushra Azhar)   

The Toshka Project is supposed to be completed in 2020, and according to Ministry of water Resources and Irrigation in Egypt, the valley will attract investment in terms of industrial, agricultural and tourism investment. It is also intended to house than three million residents and to increase Egypt’s arable land area by 10%. However, on-ground reality paints a completely different and dismal picture.

There is no documented environmental impact assessment done on the sight before the project was launched. An assessment of the possible positive or negative impact that a proposed project may have on the social and environmental landscape helps determine the feasibility of the project. According to the report in the Egypt Independent,  “A look at some technical requirements show that not everything was taken into full consideration before the first ploughs started digging, and to this day, the Water Resources and Irrigation Ministry — responsible for the project — does not make public the different studies related to Toshka it may have conducted over the years”.

Cynicism over the supposed wisdom of reclaiming land in an area with extremely hostile and unpredictable weather has also been expressed. Temperatures ranging from 0°C to 50°C are routinely experienced in the area and this makes a number of construction activities a virtual impossibility. According to Conservationist Mindy Bahaa Eddin claims that Toshka would have caused great damage to the many ancient sites found in Kharga Oasis.



Resultados excavaciones investigadores UJA en Egipto superan las expectativas

ideal.es

With thanks to Amigos de la Egiptologia for this link.

Alejandro Jiménez, director del equipo multidisciplinar de dieciocho investigadores de las universidades de Jaén, Granada y Londres, que ha estado trabajando desde el 2008 en la necrópolis de Qubbet el-Hawa (Egipto), ha asegurado hoy que los resultados obtenidos han superado todas las expectativas iniciales.
El director de este equipo de investigadores y profesor de Historia Antigua de la UJA ha presentado en Jaén los hallazgos de la última campaña de excavación, finalizada en marzo y que han descubierto la tumba más grande y monumental de esta necrópolis con más de cuatro mil años de antigüedad.

Según ha explicado a Efe el arqueólogo, esta última campaña dará para seis tesis doctorales de muy distintos campos, no solo de la arqueología o la geología, de hecho una de las características de este grupo de investigadores es el uso de nuevas tecnologías como el escaneo de piezas en 3D o una mejor lectura de jeroglíficos a través del RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging).

Asimismo, ha señalado que los egipcios están muy satisfechos con su grupo, con el compromiso, la metodología y las nuevas tecnologías utilizadas que marcan una diferencia con el "típico proyecto tradicional" de arqueólogos que llevan años excavando en la zona.


Ministry of Antiquities Receives 80 Monuments From Belgium

Ahram Online (Nevine Al-Aref)

With photos.

The story started in April 2010 when Customs at Brussels Airport caught an Egyptian woman trying to smuggle 80 genuine objects concealed inside two large replica Egyptian statues.

The objects were confiscated by the Belgian police while Brussels National Museum verified their authenticity. According to routine, the museum referred the case to a Brussels court and Egypt succeeded in obtaining a court order that the artefasts be retrieved.


AllAfrica.com

Minister of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim said that a committee has been formed to receive the artifacts that were smuggled by an Egyptian woman inside two wooden replicas of ancient statues to Brussels in 2010.

He added that a series of legal procedures and measures as well as negotiations with the Belgian side were carried out since then until the monuments have been handed over to the Egyptian embassy in Brussels.




A walk through the Institut d'Egypte wreckage

Egypt Independent (Ola El-Saket)

With photos.

Since the Institut d'Egypte burned down in December during clashes resulting from a sit-in by the cabinet being violently dispersed by police, people have been concerned about the national treasures of rare books damaged by the fire.

Few knew of the books hosted in the historic building, except for the famous “Description de l'Égypte” (Description of Egypt). Thankfully, several copies of the 20-volume book written by a team of French scientists who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte during his invasion of Egypt (1798 – 1801) lie safely in the country’s old libraries. Several more important, yet less known, books, however, have been tragically damaged. And at Dar al-Kotob (The National Library), where the books have been moved, conservators continue to work diligently.

“More than 10,000 books have been completely burnt,” says Dar al-Kotob Director Zain Abdul Hady. About 20,000 books were damaged by the fire and water, while another 20,000 arrived in good shape, he adds.

“This is one of the largest book restoration initiatives that have taken place in modern times,” says Abdel Hady, adding that it's even more difficult than the major flood of the Arno River in 1966 that damaged nearly one-third of the holdings at the National Central Library of Florence, which consisted of about 25,000 books including, most notably, its periodicals and Palatine and Magliabechi collections.



Virtual Giza

The Giza 3D website is at: http://giza3d.3ds.com/#discover


Fast Co Design  (Cliff Kuang)

With photos.

Last November, three American students studying in Egypt were arrested as they watched the protests leading up to parliamentary elections from a rooftop in Tahrir Square. That’s sure to freak out parents whose budding Egyptologists are lobbying for Cairo-based study abroad programs.

Rest easy, 'rents. With new 3-D software, developed by the French firm Dassault Systèmes, Harvard University, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, anyone with a computer can roam the famous Giza plateau and wander through its pyramids for an archeologist’s close-up look at the mummies, tombs, shafts, and artifacts as they look now--and might have looked when pharaohs were in residence--without worrying about ending up in a damp cell in Cairo.

Giza 3D was officially unveiled at the Boston museum earlier this week. 

Enhanced Online News

Harvard Egyptology students are being offered innovative courses using an immersive 3D real-time virtual reconstruction of the Giza plateau, based on actual archeological data gathered by Harvard and MFA expeditions to Egypt in the first part of the 20th century.

Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University, uses the immersive 3D experience to virtually transport his students to the Giza plateau itself and enhance the way ancient Egyptian history and archaeology are taught.

“The virtual environment provides a new means for learning about Egyptian civilization. The project has allowed my students and colleagues to visualize the Giza data and update and integrate them in a way that was not possible in the past,” stated Der Manuelian.

“Students transition from an environment where the instructor essentially drives the learning process to one where the students are immersed in the environment and drive the dialogue and discussion themselves,” added John Shaw, chair of Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “The technology associated with the project helps researchers portray their understanding of the past and show interpretations of the applicable science to students.”


Remembering Carter: The man who found King Tut's tomb

Ahram Online (Nevine el-Aref)

With three B&W photos.

When Howard Carter left his home in Kensington in London at the tender age of 17, abandoning a career in his family business to join the Egypt Exploration Fund as an illustrator, he didn’t know that he would fall under the spell of Egypt and its ancient treasures.

At Beni Hassan archaeological site, Carter began his career as a tracer, copying scenes from the walls of the tombs of royal princesses for further study. He worked with pioneer Egyptologists at the time, and succeeded in recording the wall reliefs in Queen Hatshepsut’s temple at El-Deir El-Bahari on Luxor’s west bank.

Carter learned the nascent science of Egyptology from William Flinders Petrie, and, during his training courses at Tel Al-Amarna, he unearthed several important artefacts.

He then continued his training under Gaston Maspero, and in 1894 at the age of 25 he became the first inspector-general of monuments for Upper Egypt. In 1905, he was forced to resign from the post following an incident between Egyptian guards at Saqqara and a handful of drunken French tourists.

Seeking private funding for excavation work, Carter became supervisor of excavations for Lord Carnarvon V, who owned one of the most valuable collections of Egyptian artefacts in private hands at the time. Carter succeeded in discovering six tombs in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's west bank, but was obsessed with finding the tomb of a relatively unknown Pharaoh named Tutankhamen.


Object biography #5: A double-sided painted mummy portrait

Egypt at the Manchester Museum (Campbell Price)

With photos.

This delicate wooden panel (41 x 32.5 cm) is one of 13 painted mummy portraits in the Manchester Museum. Such panel portraits were produced during the Roman Period (c. 55-220 AD) and are amongst the most evocative images to have come from Egypt. Most were painted using an encaustic method, in which pigment is mixed with hot wax and applied directly onto the surface of thin wooden panels. The panels were attached over the head of the mummy, held in place with bandages around each edge. Whether they were painted during life, and if they were displayed prior to being attached to the mummy, has caused much debate.

The practice of creating portraits developed out of the Pharaonic tradition of covering the head of the mummy with an idealised image of the deceased. 



Exchange of Prisoners With Metropolitan Museum of Art

Penn Museum (Pam Kosty)

When Penn Museum agreed to lend objects from its Egyptian collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for their new exhibition, The Dawn of Egyptian Art (April 10 through August 5, 2012), Penn Museum’s Egyptian section curator made one special request—for a temporary “exchange of prisoners.”

Metropolitan Museum’s curator of the exhibition and University of Pennsylvania alumna Diana Craig Patch requested­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ 10 objects from the Penn Museum, one of which is a spectacular stone door socket carved in the form of a captive, regularly on view in the Penn Museum’s Upper Egyptian Gallery. With his body flattened to the ground and his hands bound behind, the figure on the door socket bears the unhappy likeness of a prisoner of Egypt under Pharaoh’s domination. Once, part of a temple at the ancient cult site of Hierakonpolis, a heavy wooden door turned on a pivot that would have fit into the depression on the captive’s back. The artifact dates to the first or second Egyptian dynasties—between 3000 and 2675 BCE.



Curator’s Diary 7/5/12: CT-scanning the mummies (I)

Egypt at the Manchester Museum (Campbell Price)

Does anyone know if there's a project collating the various mummy scan results world-wide?

Last week I followed in a proud Manchester Museum tradition when I accompanied four of our mummies to the Manchester University Children’s Hospital to be CT-scanned. The use of Computed Tomography (CT) has become an established method of non-invasive investigation of Egyptian human remains. The current work is part of a wider programme of investigation, using state-of-the-art methods, undertaken on the Museum’s Egyptian mummies by Prof. Rosalie David, former Egyptology curator at the Museum and authority on mummy studies, and Prof. Judith Adams, Professor of Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Manchester’s School of Medicine. It was thanks to Judith’s previous work with Rosalie – and continuing interest in mummies – that we were able to book our ‘patients’ in when the scanner was not otherwise in use.

Objects in Met’s Egyptian wing temporarily removed

The Art Newspaper (Laura Gilbert)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has unexpectedly closed around a quarter of its Egyptian wing, and removed some of the most fragile objects from galleries that remain open as a precaution against intense vibrations caused by drilling beneath the wing, The Art Newspaper understands. No public announcement of the drilling, closures or object removals was made in advance. 



Cairo's other pyramids emerge

The National (Rebecca Bundhun)

If you follow the Nile south of the smog of Cairo, and drive on for about 40km past the occasional donkey and herd of goats before heading west out into the desert, two large pyramids eventually come into view.

These are a long way from the famous Pyramids of Giza, which are right on the edge of Cairo, have a KFC and Pizza Hut on their doorstep, and attract millions of tourists each year.

Still, some 100,000 visitors make the journey annually to the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid, more than an hour from the city. Most only spend a couple of hours at the site before returning to Cairo.

But now all that could change with a multimillion-dollar eco-lodge and sustainable tourism project to try to get tourists to spend more time and money in the rural villages in Dahshur. This will help to reduce poverty in the communities through training the locals to work in the tourism sector. The plan is supported by the United Nations and Egypt's government.


Huffington Post (Andrew Burmon)

With photos and slideshow

The only English words heard in Said Gomaa's coffee shop are expletives shouted by the action stars blasting their way through a satellite network's afternoon feature. The TV hangs on a braided hemp wall that lets in the fertile smell of the farm next door.

"I would like tourists to come in greater numbers, but they have not come since the revolution," says Gomaa, 26, in Arabic.

He seems anxious. Unlike his nearby clothing stores or his share in a local sand and gravel mine, Gomaa's cafe in downtown Dahshur, a Cairo exurb, represents something of a gamble. He is betting that tourists will be willing to venture off the well-beaten path between Cairo and Giza, that they want more from their visits to the pyramids than snapshots and souvenirs.

If he's right, Gomaa will become a notable person, a young leader who helped Egypt usher in a new age of sustainable tourism, but his vision remains radical.

To appreciate just how radical, drive a little farther. Only a mile or so after passing the cafe and the concrete heart of town, the ribbon of pavement weaves past an empty parking lot, an oil refinery, the short dunes marking the edge of the Sahara and the two oldest pyramids in Egypt. The road is as empty as the desert.

Dahshur has a 4,600-year-old miscalculation to thank for its ancient endowment.




Online article: Igai - a little-known deity of Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt

Rosetta online journal

Complete article available free of charge.


Igai - a little-known deity of Dakhleh Oasis, Egypt
Caroline Hubschmann
Monash University

Abstract

The scarcity of artefacts and documents attesting the cult Igai justify his classification as one of the more enigmatic deities of the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Nevertheless, his identification as 'Lord of the Oasis' and the presence of his name on artefacts from Dakhleh Oasis, demonstrates the importance of his cult in this region of the Western Desert of Egypt. This article documents the artefacts of the cult of Igai and, via comparison to other deities venerated in the Western Desert, hypothesises the likely aetiology of this god.


Online Article: A Journey Through The Egyptian Amduat

AncientPlanet Online 


To Live Forever: A Journey Through The Egyptian Amduat by Dr. Lisa Swart

Abstract: The ancient Egyptian Amduat is the oldest of several funerary texts depicted on the walls of the pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom. The Amduat was one of the first completely illustrated texts that defined what the Egyptian underworld was imagined to look like, and depicted the nightly journey of the sun god, Re through the twelve hours of the underworld. Through looking at the Amduat in the tomb of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, this article takes the reader along on the journey through the Egyptian underworld.

Did Ancient Germans Steal the Pharaoh's Chair Design?

Spiegel Online (Matthias Schulz)

Roughly 3,500 years ago, folding chairs remarkably similar to ones found in Egypt suddenly became must-have items in parts of northern Europe. Scholars are now looking into this potential case of ancient industrial espionage.

When Tutankhamen died, his tomb was filled with all manner of precious objects, including two folding chairs. The more attractive one is made of ebony and has ivory inlays.

Such ingenious chairs were already being used in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. The brilliantly simple design consists of two movable wooden frames connected to each other with pins and with an animal hide stretched between -- a kind of ur-camping stool.

It isn't surprising, given the advanced nature of their society, that the Egyptians were familiar with such comfortable seating. Astonishing, however, is that the gruff chieftains of northern Europe also sat on such chairs.
. . . .

The fact that the design reached so far north led many scholars to posit that northern Europeans developed it independently and in parallel to the Egyptians. But that view has now been challenged. "The design and dimensions of the chairs are too similar," says Bettina Pfaff, an archaeologist from Nebra, near the eastern German city of Halle, who specializes in prehistory.



Book Review: Cracking the Egyptian Code

The Independent, UK (Review by Brian MOrton)

Cracking The Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life Of Jean-François Champollion, By Andrew Robinson 

More of a summary of Champollion than a review of of the book.

This is the first full biography of Champollion in English. Robinson has previously written about Young and about Michael Ventris, decipherer of Linear B, but he isn't blinded by knowledge of his subject and he lacks the faintly sensational touch of Lesley and Roy Adkins' book The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphics. He presents instead a convincing and warm-hearted intellectual portrait of Champollion, who died at 41 after transforming our understanding of the ancient world.


New Book: Egyptian Magic

The American University in Cairo Press

Egyptian Magic. The Quest for Thoth’s Book of Secrets. Maarten J. Raven

Maarten J. Raven is curator of the Egyptian Department of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden (the Netherlands). He has organized numerous exhibitions on pharaonic culture.

Objects and artwork from an exhibition in the Netherlands, along with explanatory text, on various aspects of ancient Egyptian magic, sorcery, superstitious beliefs and the occult

The ancient Egyptians were firmly convinced of the importance of magic, which was both a source of supernatural wisdom and a means of affecting one’s own fate. The gods themselves used it for creating the world, granting mankind magical powers as an aid to the struggle for existence. Magic formed a link between human beings, gods, and the dead. Magicians were the indispensable guardians of the god-given cosmic order, learned scholars who were always searching for the Magic Book of Thoth, which could explain the wonders of nature. Egyptian Magic, illustrated with wonderful and mysterious objects from European museum collections, describes how Egyptian sorcerers used their craft to protect the weakest members of society, to support the gods in their fight against evil, and to imbue the dead with immortality, and explores the arcane systems and traditions of the occult that governed this well-organized universe of ancient Egypt.




Book Review: Alexander the Great: Myth, Genesis and Sexuality

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Thomas M. Banchich) 

Daniel Ogden, Alexander the Great: Myth, Genesis and Sexuality.   Exeter:  University of Exeter Press, 2011.

Daniel Ogden’s book is as much about the dynamics of the appropriation and retrojection of myths and symbols as is it is about Alexander the Great. As such, it will repay the attention of a readership far broader than the community of Alexander and Hellenistic scholars to which it is obviously directed. To its principle target, in particular to those Alexander scholars keen on employing psychoanalytic or gender-driven approaches, Ogden offers a long-overdue, though not entirely new, corrective. Regardless of their specific interest and approaches, though, most readers will profit from a preliminary look at and regular referral to Ogden’s pp. 185-188, where they will find an admirably clear overview of each of the book’s chapters and of its conclusions. 



New Albums on Egyptological

Photo Albums, Egyptological  

We have posted some lovely Albums of photos recently on Egyptological.  Have a look at the above page.  We have had a Horemheb theme running, with photographs from his tomb at Saqqara and of objects from the Leiden Museum and the British Museum.   The beautiful illustrations of the Qustul Incense Burner by Jac Strijbos are particularly unmissable.

  • Qustul Cemetery L (Nubia) Incense burner by Jac Strijbos
  • Wooden figures from the Tomb of Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings
  • Photos of Karnak Temple by Glyn Morris
  • Reliefs from the Tomb of Horemheb in Leiden Museum by Yvonne Buskens
  • The Saqqara tomb of Horemheb by James Whitfield, Part 2
  • The Saqqara tomb of Horemheb by James Whitfield, Part 1
  • The Akhmenu, Hall of Sokar by Glyn Morris
  • Headrests in Brighton Museum, Sussex, England

Exhibition: Fascinating Mummies, Edinburgh

The Press and Journal 

For centuries, people have been fascinated by the complex rituals which surrounded death and the afterlife in ancient Egypt, especially mummification and burial.

The National Museum of Scotland, having undergone a huge multimillion-pound refurbishment, is currently hosting its first international exhibition, Fascinating Mummies.

It features treasures from two of the world’s great ancient Egyptian collections with objects dating back as far as 4000BC helping guide visitors through Egypt’s past.

Items on display have come from The Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Netherlands, which has one of the world’s leading ancient Egyptian collections, with an extraordinary range of material including human and animal mummies.

There’s also a small selection from National Museums Scotland’s own collections, including mummies and coffins collected in the mid-19th century by Scottish archaeologist Alexander Henry Rhind. 



Exhibition: Pharoah: King of Egypt, Birmingham UK

Edge Magazine  

14th July – 14th October 2012

This summer, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is hosting the UK’s largest ever exhibition of ancient Egyptian artefacts on loan from the British Museum. PHARAOH: King of Egypt features amazing objects from the British Museum’s world-class collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts, and allows visitors of all ages to explore the myths and realities of being a king in ancient Egypt.

Andy Horn, Exhibitions Manager at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery comments: “We are very proud to be hosting this amazing exhibition in Birmingham this summer. The exhibition showcases some of the UK’s most fascinating ancient Egyptian artefacts, and it complements Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s own impressive Egyptian collection. And alongside the exhibition throughout the summer break, we will have lots of Egyptian-themed family activities on offer.”

John Orna-Ornstein, Head of London and National Programmes at the British Museum, said: “I am delighted that PHARAOH: King of Egypt is coming to Birmingham. It’s the largest group of Egyptian objects ever lent in the UK – a real once in a lifetime opportunity to see some extraordinary objects at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.’

The New Ashmolean Egyptian Galleries

Collecting Egypt (Angel)

With photos.

A trip to visit friends in Oxford was the perfect opportunity to visit the Ashmolean Museum to see the newly renovated Egyptian galleries.  With barely concealed excitement, I joined a crowd of people coming in from the wind and rain and headed straight to the Egyptian rooms like a well practiced homing pigeon!  It was disconcerting not to see the colossal statues of Min in their old resting place, but on entering the galleries there they stood like old friends. 

The galleries have been completely restyled and the result is a fresh and spacious atmosphere, clearly labelled and beautifully displayed.  Though there were a lot of visitors there with me, it didn't feel crowded and we could all enjoy the impressive selection of objects without getting in each other's way.



Interview: Myriam Seco Álvarez, arqueóloga y egiptóloga

Ushebtis Egipcios (Jorge Munnshe) 

Explorar el pasado lejano, reconstruir la historia de civilizaciones ya desaparecidas como tales, y sacar a la luz las reliquias del ayer, es un trabajo apasionante, pero también difícil, agotador y a veces peligroso. Por eso, dedicarse a la arqueología casi siempre requiere tener una vocación intensa.

La arqueóloga y egiptóloga sevillana Myriam Seco Álvarez posee esa vocación desde su infancia. Y eso le ha dado la fuerza necesaria para abrirse camino por las procelosas aguas de la arqueología de campo; procelosas a menudo más por los obstáculos económicos y políticos que por los obstáculos físicos.

Luchadora infatigable, no se ha rendido ante las dificultades, y gracias a su capacidad de iniciativa ha logrado poner en marcha importantes proyectos arqueológicos y dirigirlos a buen puerto. Entre ellos, cabe citar al de la excavación y restauración del templo funerario del faraón Tutmosis III (siglo XV aC), que codirige junto con el profesor Mohamed El-Bialy.

A kangaroo at the pyramids

Arabist.net  

Go to the above page to see a great photo of a kangaroo at the Giza pyramids.  The caption suggests that it was the mascot of Australian troops stationed in Egypt before being deployed to Gallipolli.  I guess that it wouldn't have been fazed by the heat!


Photo for Today - A-Group egg-shell vessel, Ashmolean Museum



I've only just realized that I forgot to update the blog last weekend - I had posted so many odds and ends on Twitter and Facebook that I guess I thought that the job had been done!  Apologies for the delay.




Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tomb 5, of Ahmes son of Abana, at el-Kab now on Osirisnet

Osirisnet


Update:  Apologies for the incorrect title on the original post, and for Thierry for pointing it out!

Thanks to Thierry Benderitter for letting me know that Osirisnet has been updated with yet another excellent in-depth analysis.

Tomb N°5 of el-Kab was created by the nomarch Paheri for his maternal grandfather, Ahmose, son of Abana. It includes a famous historic autobiography of this great soldier and sailor, which has been the object of numerous studies. This is because it is one of the only documents relating the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the military campaigns of the first sovereigns of the XVIIIth Dynasty.
But the rest of the monument has never been the object of publication to this day.  This is why it seemed interesting to us to present on OsirisNet the entire chapel.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Curator’s Diary: Ancient Egypt for the visually impaired

Egypt at the Manchester Museum 

On Thursday I met with a group of around 30 visitors from Henshaws, a charity that provides support for blind and visually impaired people.

I confess to a little trepidation at the task of describing in sufficient detail objects that I am used to presenting in primarily visual terms – through photos or line drawings. We tend to speak of Egyptian ‘visual culture’ rather than ‘tangible culture’, and most museum displays assume that objects – because they are usually behind glass – are only viewed by sight. But what if you are blind or visually impaired?

The selection of objects for the session was dictated mainly by texture. Along with Conservator Irit Narkiss, Andrea Winn, the Museum’s Curator of Community Exhibitions, and I chose objects that provided a range of surfaces.



Debod: The pharaonic temple in Madrid

Ahram Online (Mohammed Elrazzaz)

With two photos.

In the Parque del Oeste in Madrid tourists can visit the Temple of Debod, which originally stood on land that was flooded after the building of the Aswan High Dam

It’s a sunny day in Madrid. In the Parque del Oeste (Western Park), a couple of teachers herd a group of excited young school kids dressed as Pharaohs into the long queue to enter Debod, one of three Pharaonic temples in Europe.

A visit to this ancient Egyptian site, reassembled in a European city, raises questions about whether  sacredness is site-specific. Is it lost when the geo-cultural context is altered?

The temple of Debod may provide an answer. The setting is a perfect one from an aesthetic viewpoint: the temple dominates a beautiful park, surrounded by an artificial pond, in an attempt to recreate the original context.

A closer look reveals that it is not that perfect from a conservation perspective, because – unlike other Pharaonic temples outside Egypt - Debod is set in the open, subject to Madrid’s polluted air and extreme weather conditions.

Why Madrid then? What brought the temple to Spain in the first place? The answer takes us back to the Egypt of the 1960s, and to the epic UNESCO campaign to save the monuments of Nubia from being lost forever.

G. A. Hoskins watercolours and drawings

Griffith Institute

With thanks to Jan Picton on the Petrie Museum Unofficial page for posting this. It's a brilliant page on the Griffith Institute site showing watercolours and pencil drawings from the - do take the time to have a look.

Hoskins was a British traveller, antiquary and amateur artist. Born, 1802. Died, Rome 1863. Visited Egypt in 1832-3 and 1860-1. Worked with Robert Hay at Qurna. Secretary and Treasurer of the White Nile Association, 1839. Published Travels in Ethiopia above the Second Cataract of the Nile (1835), Visit to the Great Oasis of the Libyan Desert (1837), and A Winter in Upper and Lower Egypt (1863).

Egypt in London

UCL Museums and Collections (Debbie Challis)

With a great map of some of the highlights of Egyptian influences (and an obelisk from Heliopolis) in London.

As part of the Petrie Museum’s A Fit Mind in a Fit Body season of events for summer 2012, we are encouraging you to explore Egypt in London. We have run walks in London for some time now; visiting cemeteries, factories, cinemas, parks and mausoleums in the search for Egyptian influences on London monuments, architecture and places.

We’d love to hear about any more places that you think are a bit of ‘Egypt in London’  – visitors have suggested the Homebase on Warwick Rd for example. Tweet pictures and places to @PetrieMuseEgypt.

 

Hatshepsut and Avaris

The Time Traveler Rest Stop  

In her inscription at the Middle Egyptian shrine called the Speos Artemidos in Greek, Hatshepsut had something to say about people living at the Delta city of Avaris. Her assertions have been the source of some controversy, both linguistic and historical. Right from the outset of the section where she refers to the Hyksos, Sir Alan Gardiner chose to begin the phrase with the word “Dr”, which he translated as meaning “since” in this case. [Egyptian Grammar, page 131, where he supplies the entire phrase: “Dr wn aAmw m-qAb-n TA-mHw Hwt-wart”, rendering it “since the Asiatics were in Avaris of Lower Egypt”.] After that comes “SmAw m-qAb=sn”. Because the determinative of the plural noun “SmAw” is a man holding a stick with a bundle on his shoulder, it is clear that “wanderers” are meant, they being "in the midst of" the “aAmw”.



The Carter Carnarvon Connection

Egyptians blog (Tim Reid)

At the heart of the Golden age of Egyptology stands archaeologist Howard Carter a talented artist with a keen eye for beautiful objects and the good fortune to excavate the tombs of a number of kings in the Valley of Kings including the semi-intact tomb of Tutankhamun with it's beautifully preserved objects.

The former head of Egypt's Supreme council of Antiquities has praised Howard Carter for his work on the tomb though a series of great men took part in the excavation including the Metropolitan Museum of art expedition photographer Harry Burton who's photo's of the excavation are now famous.

The problems really started in the early 1920's during a dispute between Howard Carter and the head of the Egyptian antiquities service Pierre Lacau who suspected that Carter and his financier Lord Carnarvon were smuggling out objects from Tutankhamun's tomb believing that the contents of the tomb belonged to them and not Egypt's antiquities service.


Luxor in 2012

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

An update about the current state of Luxor, with its new upgrades for tourism, from a Luxor resident.  With photos.

What is Egypt like in 2012 after the revolution, well to be honest not much different here in Luxor. The temples and tombs are still here, the tourists still come although numbers are down. The sun still shines. The redevelopment of Luxor centre has almost come to a close as most things are finished and those that haven’t money is needed in other areas. The new cornice is a pleasant place and as it matures it will get more character.

The plaza in front of Luxor temple has successfully held a number of events like Egypt Moving Forward and the Conference Centre had a great celebration of the anniversary of the revolution. The changes as a result of the revolution are minimal, people do seem to have to the courage to demonstrate but the many of the changes they demand are beyond the gift of the government, council and employers because of the state of the economy. As tourism recovers these will be achievable but Egypt’s revolution will not happen overnight. It will take time but the signs are promising.

Here on the West Bank a new dewatering project has started protecting the temples for the rising ground water.

The April/May issue of Ancient Egypt is now available.

Ancient Egypt Magazine


With thanks to Mke Hubbard on the Official Ancient Egypt Magazine Facebook page

CONTENTS - 71 - Volume Twelve Issue Five April/May 2012

News from the Editor - Egyptological news from Egypt and the UK, including a report on the Pharaoh King of Egypt Exhibition in Leeds.

Outstanding Egypt - Alan Jeffreys brings readers some beautiful nineteenth century stereo images of Egypt.

Egypt’s Green Pump for All Time - The story of the sakiyya is told by Bill Key.

The KNH Centre - The role of teeth in reconstructing life from the skeleton is described by Roger Forshaw.

Egypt in 1931 - Anne Midgley recreates her grandfather’s adventurous visit.

Egypt in 1949/50 - Ivan Sparkes describes his experiences as a soldier stationed in the country.

Meroë: The Last Outpost of Ancient Egypt - The history and monuments of this region in Sudanese Upper Nubia are examined and illustrated by Dr. Aidan Dodson.

Osiris: King of the Dead - The second in a series about Egypt’s gods and goddesses written by Dr. Joyce Tyldesley.

Egypt’s Heritage as Gifts - Hend Abd el-Rahman tells readers about the many treasures given away to foreigners.

Per Mesut: for Younger Readers - Hilary Wilson describes the use of horns in the iconography of ancient Egypt.