Saturday, December 29, 2007

Weekly Websites

I am tidying up my bookmarks in Firefox, which are outrageously out of hand. Here are a selection of some of the more interesting rediscoveries of articles and papers available online - it is quite a mixture (more to follow next week).

Towards an AMS Radiocarbon Chronology of Predynastic Egyptian Ceramics
By Steven H. Savage
Radiocarbon Library


The wide and varied connections between Israel and Egypt during the Early Bronze Age/Predynastic are frequently calibrated through ceramics that depend to a large degree on two seriation methods developed for Predynastic Egypt.

Petrie’s seriation technique and Kaiser’s Stufe dating method utilize whole forms from mortuary contexts. Because of the ways they were developed and deployed in Predynastic research, a logical tautology exists that makes their usage highly problematic.

Radiocarbon dating of the Predynastic is vital if we are to untangle existing ceramic chronologies. But up to now, almost all 14C dates have come from domestic contexts where whole vessels are not usually found and which differ significantly from cemeteries in their ceramic assemblages. A 14C-based chronology of whole forms in the Petrie Corpus is thus highly desirable, but has proven elusive until now. Samples of organic materials and Black-Topped Red Ware vessels from over 100 graves in the Predynastic Cemetery, N7000, at Naga-ed-Dêr have recently been submitted for dating with AMS methods, providing the first comprehensive 14C chronology of a Predynastic cemetery. The results are compared to a suite of recalibrated dates from Upper Egyptian Predynastic domestic contexts, which allows the 14C chronology for the region to be further refined. Absolute date ranges for a number of ceramic forms can be estimated for the first time, and results of early analysis are discussed.

A Case of Prefabrication at Giza? The False Door of Inti
By Peter Der Manuelian
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt

The entire 14 page paper is available in PDF format from the above address, complete with photographs, plans and diagrams.

So impressive is the layout of the various cemeteries at Giza that one cannot ignore the fascinating subject of how the necropolis came into being. Many have written on the development of funerary architecture at Giza, the extent of Khufu's personal influence, and the innovations versus the parallels with earlier necropoleis at Medum, Saqqara and Dahshur.1 One of the more intriguing questions is: Who got to be buried where? How were these decisions made and when were they made in the course of construction of the cemeteries?

mtDNA analysis of Nile River Valley populations: A genetic corridor or a barrier to migration?
By M Krings, A E Salem, K Bauer, H Geisert, A K Malek, L Chaix, C Simon, D Welsby, A Di Rienzo, G Utermann, A Sajantila, S Pääbo, and M Stoneking
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, and Department of Zoology, University of Munich, Munich, Germany.
Am J Hum Genet. 1999 April; 64(4): 1166–1176.
PubMed Central

Abstract (full article available at the above address):

To assess the extent to which the Nile River Valley has been a corridor for human migrations between Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa, we analyzed mtDNA variation in 224 individuals from various locations along the river. Sequences of the first hypervariable segment (HV1) of the mtDNA control region and a polymorphic HpaI site at position 3592 allowed us to designate each mtDNA as being of "northern" or "southern" affiliation. Proportions of northern and southern mtDNA differed significantly between Egypt, Nubia, and the southern Sudan. At slowly evolving sites within HV1, northern-mtDNA diversity was highest in Egypt and lowest in the southern Sudan, and southern-mtDNA diversity was highest in the southern Sudan and lowest in Egypt, indicating that migrations had occurred bidirectionally along the Nile River Valley. Egypt and Nubia have low and similar amounts of divergence for both mtDNA types, which is consistent with historical evidence for long-term interactions between Egypt and Nubia. Spatial autocorrelation analysis demonstrates a smooth gradient of decreasing genetic similarity of mtDNA types as geographic distance between sampling localities increases, strongly suggesting gene flow along the Nile, with no evident barriers. We conclude that these migrations probably occurred within the past few hundred to few thousand years and that the migration from north to south was either earlier or lesser in the extent of gene flow than the migration from south to north.

Beyond collapse: the role of climatic desiccation in the emergence of complex societies in the middle Holocene (Extended Abstract)
Climatic Research Unit
By Nick Brooks (Saharan Studies Programme, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK). In Leroy, S. and Costa, P. (Eds.) Environmental Catastrophes in Mauritania, the Desert and the Coast. Abstract Volume and Field Guide. Mauritania, 4-18 January 2004. First Joint Meeting of ICSU Dark Nature and IGCP 490, pp 26-30.
Abrupt climate change is often invoked as a trigger for the collapse of civilisations. The fall of the Akkadian Empire and the end of the Egyptian Old Kingdom around 4200 years before present (BP) have both been attributed to climatic change resulting in regional desiccation (Cullen et al., 2000; Hassan, 1997; Weiss, 1997). However, there is widespread evidence that climatic and environmental stress played a major role in the emergence of early civilisations, and that aridification in particular acted as a trigger for increased social complexity associated with urbanisation and state formation. This paper argues that the highly urbanised, state-level societies of the sub-tropical arid belt that emerged in the middle Holocene did so as a result of a process of adaptation to water scarcity.

Egypt Satellite Image
A terrific satellite photograph of Egypt, whcih makes it very easy to pick out some of the most interesting geomorphological features of the desert regions - including the beautiful lines of the Great Sand Sea to the west.

Interview with Coptic scholar Gawdat Gabra
Al Ahram Weekly

Interview by Jill Kamil, herself the author of a very accessible book on Coptic Egypt (Christianity in the land of the Pharaohs).

The chief editor of the St Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, active participant at International Congresses on Coptology, and author of several books on Coptic history and monasticism, Gawdat Gabra gives courses in the USA and lectures at various universities worldwide, "but my heart is in Egypt," he says. "When Zahi Hawass invited me to participate in the development of the Coptic Museum into a state-of-the-art landmark in Cairo, I was happy to oblige, and I confidently expect that within two years half a million tourists will visit it. But," he adds on a more sombre note, "although the revolution in the media in recent years has led to more awareness of Coptic culture and heritage, and major conservation and restoration have been carried out at monastic sites, there are still few Egyptians who specialise in Coptic archaeology, art, language and heritage. Too many Egyptology students become so absorbed in the Pharaonic era that they have allowed foreign specialists to run ahead of them in the study of early Christianity. This is changing, but not fast enough. The Supreme Council of Antiquities is not being provided with professionals, and it is our fault.

Ancient Egyptian Science: A Source Book
By Marshall Clagett (1989)
Google Books

Full book available online:

This volume continues Marshall Clagett's studies of the various aspects of the science of Ancient Egypt. The volume gives a discourse on the nature and accomplishments of Egyptian mathematics and also informs the reader as to how our knowledge of Egyptian mathematics has grown since the publication of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus toward the end of the 19th century. The author quotes and discusses interpretations of such authors as Eisenlohr, Griffith, Hultsch, Peet, Struce, Neugebauer, Chace, Glanville, van der Waerden, Bruins, Gillings, and others. He also also considers studies of more recent authors such as Couchoud, Caveing, and Guillemot.

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