Thursday, January 31, 2008

More re Neolithic settlement found in the Faiyum


Here is another version of yesterday's story - thanks to Thierry Benderitter for fowarding it to me. This is a truly exciting discovery which may answer many unresolved questions about the Faiyum Neolithic.

A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.

"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said.

The remnants of the city are "still buried beneath the sand and the details of this discovery will be revealed in due course," Hawwas said.

"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations of ovens and grain stores," he added.

The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 BC.

The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said the site was just seven kilometres (four miles) from Fayyum lake and would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited.

Also on Zawya

Discoveries and restoration at Karnak

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

At Karnak a new Ptolemaic bath house has been discovered. Jane says that there will be a lecture about it at the Mummification Museum in the next few weeks, so hopefully she will be able to report on it for us.

Jane has also reported that the restoration work at the Temple of Khonsu, and there will also be a lecture about this work.

See the above page for Jane's photographs.

UN vandals spray graffiti on Sahara’s prehistoric art

Times Online (Dalya Alberge)

OK, so this is all the way over the other side of the Sahara, but it makes me so cross. And it is exactly the type of problem that rock art all over the Sahara, including Egyptian rock art, is being subjected to. Just look at the photographs.

Spectacular prehistoric depictions of animal and human figures created up to 6,000 years ago on Western Saharan rocks have been vandalised by United Nations peacekeepers, The Times has learnt.

Archaeological sites boasting ancient paintings and engravings of giraffes, buffalo and elephants have been defaced within the past two years by personnel attached to the UN mission, known by its French acronym, Minurso.

Graffiti, some of it more than a metre high and sprayed with paint meant for use for marking routes, now blights the rock art at Lajuad, an isolated site known as Devil Mountain, which is regarded by the local Sahrawi population as a mystical place of great cultural significance.

Many of the UN “graffiti artists” signed and dated their work, revealing their identities and where they are from. Minurso personnel stationed in Western Sahara come from almost 30 countries. They are monitoring a ceasefire between the occupying Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front, which is seeking independence.

One Croatian peacekeeper scrawled “Petar CroArmy” across a rock face. Extensive traces of pigment from rock painting are visible underneath. Another left behind Cyrillic graffiti, and “Evgeny” from Russia scribbled AUI, the code for the Minurso base at Aguanit. “Mahmoud” from Egypt left his mark at Rekeiz Lemgasem, and “Ibrahim” wrote his name and number over a prehistoric painting of a giraffe. “Issa”, a Kenyan major who signed his name and wrote the date, had just completed a UN course, Ethics in Peacekeeping, documents show.

See the above page for the full story.

For a recent story about damage inflicted on rock art in Egypt and Libya, see:
Desert art in danger at Egypt's new tourism frontier (Charles Onians)

For a truly disturbing scene of a tourist tracing rock art in Egypt's Gilf Kebir, see:
Gilf Kebir Expedition on You Tube

Review: War and Peace in the Ancient World

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Peter Hunt, University of Colorado, Boulder)

Kurt A. Raaflaub (ed.), War and Peace in the Ancient World. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

This book has one chapter dedicated to ancient Egypt:

Lanny Bell's chapter on "Conflict and reconciliation in the ancient Middle East: the clash of Egyptian and Hittite chariots in Syria, and the world's first peace treaty between 'superpowers'" provides a historical account of the conflict between the Hittites and Egyptians over their spheres of influence in Syria. The most famous episode in this war was the indecisive battle at Qadesh. But as both sides became concerned with more immediate threats than each other, they decided to make peace (108-9). The peace treaty lasted until the Hittite empire fell, about 80 years later. A contrast concludes Bell's treatment: despite Egyptian royal "propaganda" which continued to celebrate military victories, largely imaginary, over the Hittites, "the success of the treaty was a milestone marking Egyptian recognition of peace as an acceptable alternative to war as a means of resolving conflict"

Sarawak Cat Museum, Malaysia

Brunei Online

The Sarawak Cat Museum in Kuching is the world's first cat museum, with more than 2,000 feline exhibits collected and donated from all over the world. It is also a research centre that documents the history of cats and the legends and beliefs that surround them. Laboratory assistant Anne Ganyang is seen showing one of the museum's prized possessions, a mummified cat dating from 3,000BC to 3,500BC found in Beni Hassan, an Egyptian village on the east bank of the Nile River. It was a gift from the Natural History Museum in London when the Cat Museum, the brainchild of Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his wife Laila Taib, opened in 1988. When the mummified cat was discovered, its face was covered by a wooden mask with a cat face painted on it.

Kuching is in East Malaysia.
More about the musem can be found on an article on the website. It looks like a very strange mixture!

Request for info - which Giza pyramids are open?

I have been asked to find out which pyramids at Giza are open in 2008.

If anyone has visited Egypt recently, could you let me know which of the pyramids are open for a visit into the interiors?

Or if you have any information about which ones are planned to be open/closed later this year I would also be grateful.

Daily Photo - More Dakhleh Oasis excavations

Thanks again to Page for permission to use her fascinating photographs. Page is an undergraduate student working towards a specialized major in Archaeology. Currently, she is studying abroad in Egypt and is currently in the Dakhleh Oasis studying ancient Egyptian history. Here members of the team are shown excavating pottery from the desert sand. To see all of the photos that Page has published so far, go to her Mac Web Gallery Album. There are no explanatory details on the site, but the photographs are very entertaining.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Neolithic settlement found in the Faiyum

If anyone finds any other publicly available information about this story PLEASE let me know.

Arabian Business

A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.

"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said.

The remnants of the city are "still buried beneath the sand and the details of this discovery will be revealed in due course", Hawwas said.

"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations of ovens and grain stores."

The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 BC.

The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said the site was just seven kilometres from Fayyum lake and would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited.

El Universal

Thanks to the Amanuense email group for the above story. Here's a rough translation of some of the main bits. U.S. experts have discovered the remains of a human setlment dating the the Neolithic period, approximately 5000BC, in the province of Faiyum to the southeast of Cairo, according to a notice issued by the Egyptian news agency MENA. The announcement was made by Zahi Hawass. The discovery was made by a University of California (UCLA) team in the area of Kom Aushim. In the area there were the remains of settlement structures made of mudbrick and dressed blocks of granite. They also found various types of vessel and stone tools. The remains were covered with a layer of calcium carbonate, which indicates that they had at some stage been covered by the waters of Lake Qarun.

Expertos estadounidenses han descubierto vestigios de un asentamiento humano que data de la época neolítica, (5.000 años a.C.), en la provincia de Al Faiyum, al suroeste de El Cairo, informó hoy la agencia egipcia de noticias MENA.

El anuncio lo hizo el secretario general del Consejo Superior de Antigüedades (CSA), el egiptólogo Zahi Hawass, en un comunicado difundido por la agencia.

El hallazgo fue realizado por arqueólogos de la Universidad de California en excavaciones en el área de Kom Auchim, precisó el responsable egipcio.

En el sitio fueron encontrados restos de muros de viviendas construidas con adobes de barro y bloques de granito ornamentado, y varios cantaros y vasijas de cerámica, además de utensilios fabricados de roca, afirmó Hawass.

Esas piezas estaban recubiertas con una capa de carbonato de calcio, lo que indicaría que el área antiguamente estuvo cubierta por las aguas del lago Qaron, próximo a Kom Auchim.

See the above page for the full story, which goes on to say that Graeco Roman finds have also been discovered in the area.

Hawass chides anti Akhenaten statements

Egypt State Information Service

Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme council of Antiquities(ESCA) Zahi Hawwas slammed statements by British Professor Barry Kemp and Professor Jerry Rose, of the University of Arkansas, USA, distorting the history of pharaonic King Akhenaten and the construction of his city in Amarna. . . .

Hawwas termed as nonsense the statements on Akhenaten that, he sid, were not based on any admissible scientific proofs.

Building Akhenaten city was an obsession for ancient Egyptians like the Giza Pyramids and workers wanted to realise a national achievement to be proud of, he said.

He added that ancient labourers used to live beside the royal palace and get the best food daily to be able to continue their work.

The rest of this post describes some of the points made by the BBC programme (which has been covered on earlier posts).

Russian Egyptologist to Exhibit Their Finds in Moscow

Russia I.C.

The Egyptologist Research Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences is planning to bring the exhibition of finds made by Russian archeologists in the course of diggings in Luxore (the ancient Phoebe).

The exhibition “Crypt of Royal Mummies: Life and Death of Great Pharaohs” is expected to present sculptures of the pharaohs Ramesses II the Great and Tutmos III, the sarcophagus of Ramesses II, jewelries and other articles related to the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, as well as household items of common Egyptians. Altogether about a hundred and a half exhibits will be displayed there. Presently they are being kept in the Egypt Museum in Cairo.

From Moscow the Egypt finds will go to museums of Germany, France and Britain.

All the exhibits of the future exposition were discovered in 1998-2005 during examination of the crypt of royal mummies, known as tomb TT 320.

Video: Treasure Wars - Who owns the past?

National Geographic

Video report about the ownership of treasures, with brief contributions from many experts (including Hawass). Only two and a half minutes long, but well worth watching because of the important issues that it highlights.

For centuries, treasures have been taken from their homelands. Should the artifacts go back? Who should decide?

Egypt Gazette article about the Agricultural Museum

Egyptian Gazette

Thanks very much to Helen Strudwick for letting me know that the Egyptian Gazette piece that I posted on the blog a couple of days ago has a rather more enduring web address than the one I posted. It's an interesting article, so worth posting again with the new address (above).

New website: Grand Egyptian Museum

Grand Egyptian Museum

Thanks to Fred Sierevogel for the link to this website for the new Grand Egyptian Museum, of which I was previously unaware. Most of the links lead to a message saying "Under Construction", but it's one to keep an eye on. Here's the text from their "About Us" page:

The Grand Egyptian Museum holds in trust for Egypt and the World a chronological statement for the ancient story of Egypt over the past 7000 years of history. Neighboring a timeless wonder, the Giza Pyramids, the new museum is to pay homage to eternal Ancient Egyptian monuments, treasures, and history hosting over 100,000 artifacts 3500 of which belong to the famous King Tutankhamen.

The design for the Grand Egyptian Museum was reached as a result of an international architectural competition initiated by the Ministry of Culture on January 7th, 2002. The competition was under the patronage of the UNESCO and supervised by the UIA. The museum complex furnishes all its visitors with a uniquely enjoyable, educational, and cultural experience.

The Grand Egyptian Museum will allow Egypt to become a major worldwide hub for Pharonic history and the most seek place for Egyptologists. The museum aims at taking grasp of the diversity of Egypt 's heritage of monuments and arts needed to be shown in one place in one location to maintain and preserve this huge legacy all at once.

The site chosen for the GEM is only 2km from the legendary Pyramids. Nested between the ancient Great Pyramids and the modern city of Cairo , at the junction between dry desert and the fertile floodplain, the Grand Museum is a portal to the past. The Giza plateau Memphis and its Necropolis nominated by the UNESCO among the world Cultural Heritage Sites, belonging to the people of the world containing irreplaceable monuments that lived across time and had a strong impact on human history. The museum complex will be built on a plot of land approximately 117 feddans, about 480,000 square meters.

With its unique position on the cusp between the past and the present, the Grand Egyptian Museum will lie at the repository for ancient artifacts that creates an interactive experience for the visitor; it will build a bridge between the past and the future.

The image on this post is taken from the GEM project web page.

Ancient Artifact at SIU Museum to Return to Egypt


Video report re the return to Egypt of the lovely cat coffin, which has some nice shots of the artefact under discussion. This requires the most recent version QuickTime (an older version on my machine played the talk-over but didn't show the video footage).

Amarna statuette forgery sentences

The Scotsman

A PENSIONER who fooled the art world for years by selling fake antiques his son had "knocked up" in his garden shed avoided a jail sentence yesterday. Wheelchair-bound George Greenhalgh, 84 – dubbed the "artful codger" – was given a two-year suspended jail sentence at Bolton Crown Court. . . . Judge William Morris told the court that the prison service could not look after Greenhalgh because of his age and infirmity. . . .

Police calculated that George and Shaun Greenhalgh benefited through the sale of their work by £644,081.35 and Olive Greenhalgh by £430,392, the court was told.

Shaun Greenhalgh was jailed for four years and eight months last November.

Olive, 83, was given a 12-month jail term suspended for 12 months at the same hearing, after pleading guilty to the same offences.

Officers have now seized their assets and the court ordered £404,250.24 be confiscated from the family – most of it, £384,003.38, from Shaun's Halifax bank account.

The money will be shared out among various claimants who were defrauded.

See the above page for the full story.

Daily Photo - Dakhleh Oasis excavations

Thanks very much to Page, who is an undergraduate student working towards a specialized major in Archaeology. Currently, she is studying abroad in Egypt and is currently in the Dakhleh Oasis studying ancient Egyptian history. In February they expect to begin excavating at Graeco-Roman sites, but here are some really super photographs of prehistoric stone tools that the team have found in the area. To see all of the photos that Page has published so far, go to her Mac Web Gallery Album.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Nurturing interest in the Agricultural Museum

Egyptian Gazette

The story on this site will expire shortly. From the home page select the "Tourism" link to see the article. Here's a somewhat lengthy extract (about half of the complete article):

'Egypt is the gift of the Nile' is a famous saying we've all heard of. Agriculture has played a major role in Egyptian history, affecting the lives of Egyptians since the days of the Pharaohs. This is because the Nile is the major source of water used in agriculture in Egypt.

Although this is something everyone knows, very few people are aware of - and fewer still have visited - the Agricultural Museum in Giza. In the 1930s, the Egyptian Government decided to build an agricultural museum. It was constructed in the reign of King Farouk to mainly serve two purposes: providing agricultural and economic information and recording the history of agriculture from prehistoric times to today. The palace of Princess Fatma, daughter of Khedive Ismail, was chosen to house the museum in November 1930. The Ministry of Agriculture made a lot of changes in the palace to make it suitable as a museum, which opened on 16 January 1938, the first of its kind in the world. “When I was appointed as the Director in 1988, the conditions in the museum were miserable. It was full of stray dogs and the displays were in a pitiful state, dirty and not even arranged according to categories,” recalls Mohamed Hussein el-Aqqad.He adds that his generation were brought up to love museums and history. "Nowadays children like coming here because it's nice to get out of school for a few hours, but history is the last thing they're interested in," he comments.

The façade of the old palace was adorned with engravings and other decorative designs of plants and animals, while additional buildings, all designed in the style of the original palace, were constructed to serve various functions. The grounds of the museum are huge, covering about 125,000 square metres, with the actual buildings occupying 20,000 square metres. More than 15 per cent of this space is occupied with gardens that contain a lot of different flowers and plants, including trees, bushes, rare plants, green areas and greenhouses, in addition to two Pharaonic gardens. It also has a cinema, a lecture hall and a library, as well as laboratories for repair work and maintenance, embalming, preserving and storing. The museum is located in the upmarket area of Dokki in Giza, an LE2.50 taxi ride from Doqqi Tube Station. It only costs PT10 (two US cents or the price of a small box of matches) to get in, although your camera will cost you an additional 20 piastres.

The museum contains ten halls or what might be considered subsidiary museums. Some of them are open for visitors, while others are closed for maintenance, and still others are under construction or not ready to be opened yet. Perhaps the most interesting halls are the New Museum of Ancient Egyptian Agriculture and the Museum of Acquisitions. Unfortunately these halls are not open yet.Another fascinating hall is the Museum of Bread. It includes information about bread-making in Egypt since ancient times, as well as wonderful old photos of peasants, waterfalls and agricultural implements. All kinds of bread that Egyptians eat from different regions are displayed in the main hall of the museum. The tasty Egyptian pastry called a meshaltet (rather like a croissant with both sweet and savoury varieties) is also on display there, along with maps and statistics about the development of bread nationwide.

See the above page for the full story (it will expire shortly).

Medicine in Ancient Egypt


Historically, many Egyptologists focused primarily on the very visible aspects of ancient Egyptian society, such as the pyramids, much to the bain of those interested in more than just monumental architecture. From the beginning of the scholarly study of Egypt’s past there have been few scholars who recognized the importance of the process of disease and health on a population. With the turn of the century, new archaeological discoveries, increased knowledge of Egyptian language and writing, and the advent of more sophisticated medical techniques, new life was breathed into the study of disease and health in the ancient Nile Valley. It was this period that saw the academic study of Egyptian disease segregated into three distinct categories.

See the above page for the full story.

Notes: Lost City of the Pharaoh

This is not a formal review, but here are a few notes that I took whilst watching the BBC 2 programme Lost City of the Pharaoh, about recent finds at Amara, last night.

If you want to see the programme you can see it FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS ONLY on your computer at the BBC page i-Player page.

Known today as Amarna, the ancient city of Akhetaten (Horizon of the Aten) is located 200 miles south of Cairo and 250 miles north of Luxor. It has been investigated by a number of different researchers, and most latterly by a team lead by Professor Barry Kemp, who has been working there since 1977.

Akhetaten was constructed from the ground up as a brand new city in c.1350BC when the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten decided to move the religious centre and capital city to an empty desert Nile-side location. The vision of the Pharaoh for his new city is known almost exclusively from boundary markers placed at the edges of the newly planned site, which give details of the buildings he intended to construct - as Barry Kemp said, it was "a direct statement from Akehnaten himself" about what he wanted to create at Amarna. The hieroglyphic texts say that the new god, the Aten, drove the pharaoh to build the city, that it was not the idea of Akhenaten himsel. 50,000 followers of the pharaoh moved there, but the city was abandoned 20 years later, and the eventual fate of Akhenaten and his wife Nerertiti is unknown.

Although the Aten is most closely associated with Akhenaten, the solar deity, represented as a sun disk with radiating rays terminating in hands often holding ankh symbols, first makes its appearence late in the reign of Akhenaten's father Amenhotep III (Amun is Content). The reign was a period of prosperity and internatl stability, expressed in the form of building projects which created temples and statues. when Akhenaten took the throne, he was originally named, like his father, for the god Amun. However, after four years of ruling from Luxor Akhenaten (Glory of the Aten) decided to move the capital to a new location, revolutionize the religion and changed his name to honour his chosen deity. The worship of the Aten was monotheistic - the hundreds of other Egyptian gods were outlawed.

Most of the buildings in Akhetaten were made of mudbrick, and many were painted with beautiful scenes in bright colours. Stone was quarried for other buildings (temples and palaces) from a number of quarries. One of these, the Queen Tiy Quarry, was shown. It is a mind-bending thing - the quarried stone had left a vast open space held in place with columns which had been quarried around. The most complete surviving building was the North Palace. Buildings of rich and poor were located side by side. The centrepiece of the city was the Great Temple to the Aten which was not enclosed with a roof, but was open to the sun. 1800 offering tables were found, some of which are depicted in the tomb of Mery-Ra (Beloved of Ra).

Although royal and noble tombs are known from the Amarna area, the remains of ordinary residents of the city only came to light in 2005, and this discovery is the main focus of the documentary. Desert floodwater washed out the human bones of workers who lived in the city, the "lower end" of Ancient egyptian life. Most of the remains were quite badly damaged, with the bones disturbed and intermingled, but a fiar amount of soft tissue survived. Professor Jerry Rose from the University of Arkansas described how all the tombs had been robbed in ancient times, with the heads removed and thrown on one side, the torso lifted out and the legs and feet left in situ. This meant that the first of the remains were found without legs.

The bodies were buried in shallow graves, in coffins made of sticks tied with rope to form a shell. It was originally speculated that life at Amarna was healthy. It therefore came as quite a surprise to find that amongst those buried in this cemetery an unusual number of teenagers were found amongst the dead, and many of these were far from fit. Some of them had suffered from spina bifida (a genetic condition exacerbated by trauma - in this case apparently caused by extreme hard work) and pitted vertebrae (also a symptom of a heavy workload).

It is possible that these signs of physical labour were the result of the work required to build a vast city in a short period of time. The main form of building material was mudbrick but stone was also used for the most important buildings. It was necessary to excavate this from the above-mentioned quarry which was 1.5 miles away, and bring them to the site. Working conditions would have been hard - summer temperatures can reach over 40 degrees centigrade.

As well as signs of a very heavy work load, there is considerable evidence for other types of health problems including anaemia (the result of an iron poor diet), parastites and infectious diseases. Infectious disease was particularly high amongst children who would have been born within Amarna (60%, which is unusually high) with adults, who were born outside Amarna at only 18-20%. There was an unusually high mortality among individuals aged between 12 and 20 years. There are signs that food was not abundant or of high quality for these individuals - as Rose put it, this was "not the city of being taken car of". Life was apparently worse for those born into the new community, and one possibile theory is that this was the result of an epidemic which swept disease through Amarna.

The documentary, produced by Timewatch, was a far better visual experience than many modern docu-dramas. There were some dramatic reconstructions, and quite a bit of footage of the sun, but the emphasis was on footage of actual sites, and of the specialists who contributed the good quality data about the Amarna period, its background, and the discoveries at the site.

The Amarna Project has its own website, which is absolutely excellent - would that there were more archaeology websites which too the idea of communicating their work to the public so seriously and professionally.

Ushabti to be sold at TEFAF

Art Daily

Magnificent works by the finest artists of every era from classical antiquity to the 21st century will go on show when TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is held in the Dutch city of Maastricht from 7th to 16th March 2008. . . .

Charles Ede Ltd of London will exhibit a rare ushabti, a figurine placed in the graves of ancient Egyptians, made for Prince Ramesses-Mentuherkhepeshef, son of King Ramesses IX, and dating from about 1100 BC.

There is also a statuette dating to the Middle Kingdom (reign of Senwosret III), inscribed for Inyotef (sold by Rupert Wace Ancient Art) .

Sad news: Emma Brunner-Traut

Egyptologist Prof. Dr. Emma Brunner-Traut passed away on January 18. The funeral will be on January 29 at the Bergfriedhof, Tübingen. If you would like to send an expression of sympathy, the official Traueranschrift (mourning address) is:

Frau Ute Waeldner, Hodlerstr. 8, 72401 Haigerloch,Germany

Brief details of the career of Dr Brunner-Traut can be found in German at the following address:

Blogging Archaeology and the Archaeology of Blogging

Archaeology Magazine

William R. Caraher decided to start a blog about his archaeology project in Cyprus. Never having run or visited a blog before, he set out to find out more about it. This entertaining article, in four parts, is his review of the whole subject of blogging in academic archaeology. Part 3 is also a great way of finding out about new archaeology blogs - I found several, of which I had never heard of before, that were of considerable interest to me. Here's an extract from his conclusion:

This uneven character of blogs is what distinguishes them from more formal academic writing, but is also what makes them such a compelling medium. Most academics, after all, drift between the mundane world of daily life and the obscure concerns of their research and writing. The idiosyncratic and uneven cadence of academic blogging perhaps brings out these juxtaposed facets of their lives better than anywhere else.

See the above page for the full story.

Daily Photo - The northern shaft at the Pyramid of Khufu

More entertaining and unusual photos from Fred Sierevogel, with my thanks. Fred calls this set of photos "The Mankiller" - the north shaft of the King's Chamber in the pyramid of Khufu. The outlet is at 83 metres high. The last of the photographs shows Ulrich Kapp squeezing through the opening of the upper northern shaft (not for the claustraphobic!). The story of the investigation of the air shafts is shown on the Upuaut Project website. There are no photographs but the site specializes in rather fine diagrams and architectural drawings of the shafts - it makes good use of CAD too.

Don't forget - I am always on the look out for photographs for the blog. If you have any that you would like to share with this blog's visitors please email ( or add a comment. I won't be blogging tomorrow, but a new set of photographs will be posted as from Wednesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city

BBC News (John Hayes-Fisher)

A review of last night's programme on UK's BBC 2 television channel, which I saw and enjoyed very much. There is also a video on the above page.

Evidence of the brutal lives endured by some ancient Egyptians to build the monuments of the Pharaohs has been uncovered by archaeologists.

Skeletal remains from a lost city in the middle of Egypt suggest many ordinary people died in their teenage years and lived a punishing lifestyle.

Many suffered from spinal injuries, poor nutrition and stunted growth.

The remains were found at Amarna, a new capital built on the orders of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, 3,500 years ago.

Hieroglyphs written at the time record that the Pharaoh, who was father of Tutankhamun, was driven to create a new city in honour of his favoured god, the Aten, with elaborate temples, palaces and tombs.

Along with his wife Nefertiti, he abandoned the capital Thebes, leaving the old gods and their priests behind and marched his people 200 miles (320km) north to an inhospitable desert plain beside the River Nile.

The city, housing up to 50,000 people, was built in 15 years; but within a few years of the Pharaoh's death, the city was abandoned, left to the wind and the sand.

For more than a century archaeologists looked in vain for any trace of Amarna's dead.

See the above page for the full story. I'm rushed off my feet today but I'll try to post some additional comments later or tomorrow.

Mrs. Mubarak tours Fostat Museum

Egypt State Information Service

Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak tours Saturday 26/1/2008 the newly opened Civilization Museum at Old Cairo's Al-Fostat district. The museum is built on 90 feddans and cost LE750 million, financed by the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Nubia Fund. The museum displays some 50,000 artifacts under the supervision of UNESCO.

Renfrew on DNA and looting

Scotsman (Susan Mansfield)

The link here to Egypt is a bit tenuous, but it is an interesting piece which does reference the Egyptian civilization so I have included it:

FEW of us realise we carry around in our bodies the seeds of our most distant past. But recent developments in science indicate that the analysis of the DNA of living people can shine a light on the earliest history of the human race.

Professor Colin Renfrew, a leading archaeologist, will describe how advances in molecular genetics in the past ten years have improved our understanding of human origins in a lecture in Edinburgh on Monday, part of celebrations of the Society of Antiquities of London's tercentenary.

Lord Renfrew has been described as having "an almost unequalled influence in the world of western archaeology". A former Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University, his recent books include Figuring It Out: What Are We? Where Do We Come From? and Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind.

"Very often, the further back you go, the murkier things become," he says. "But with recent developments in molecular genetics, we've got a very clear idea of the outlines of the very beginning of the human story."

Nothing to do with archaeology . . .

. . . . But it's a slow news day, so here's something a bit interesting (I have an interest in prehistoric climate change, but I accept that this may not be interesting to everyone). It is being proposed that a new epoch should be named in response to the impacts of humans on climate change.

Geologists from the University of Leicester propose that humankind has so altered the Earth that it has brought about an end to one epoch of Earth’s history and marked the start of a new epoch.

Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams at the University of Leicester and their colleagues on the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London have presented their research in the journal GSA Today.

In it, they suggest humans have so changed the Earth that on the planet the Holocene epoch has ended and we have entered a new epoch - the Anthropocene.

They have identified human impact through phenomena such as:

· Transformed patterns of sediment erosion and deposition worldwide

· Major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature

· Wholesale changes to the world’s plants and animals

· Ocean acidification

The scientists analysed a proposal made by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen in 2002. He suggested the Earth had left the Holocene and started the Anthropocene era because of the global environmental effects of increased human population and economic development.

Daily Photo - Amarna at the Petrie

Saturday, January 26, 2008

KV64 Update

Luxor News

For those of you unfamiliar with KV64, it is the most recently published discovery in the Valley of the Kings, identified so far only by radar. Dr Nick Reeves revealed the existence of the site on the Amarna Royal Tombs Project (ARTP) website, in the wake of the KV63 discovery. There was some bad feeling in the SCA about the way in which the presence of another possible tomb had been revealed, but Nick has outlined his reasons for doing it this way on the ARTP's home page. The ARTP page also shows images of the new site, its location and the background to its discovery.

There's a good summary of the KV64 story on The Times Online, and there's an interview with Dr Reeves on the same subject on the Archaeology Magazine website.

Up until this point in time there has been considerable speculation about what decision the SCA will make about investigation of the site. Jane Akshar has posted some recent information on her blog on the above page, which is brief but looks hopeful:

On my trip back to the UK I got hold of a copy of Horus magazine. It carries a regular feature by Dr Zahi Hawass which is always interesting. This time is said……….

"This winter, the Supreme Council of Antiquities will begin new excavations in the Valley of Kings. ……We will also use radar in the area around the tomb of Tutankhamun to see if Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves is correct or not in his previous identification of a radar anomaly here as ‘KV64′"

N.B. The image shown on this page is copyright of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project 2006.

More re SIUC museum returns artifact

Southern Illinois Homepage

The University Museum at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is doing the right thing, with just a touch of reluctance.

Museum director Dona Bachman is working on final details to return a Ptolemaic bronze cat reliquary to the Egyptian consulate's office in Chicago. It will eventually return to Egypt, where more than 5,000 artifacts have been retrieved through its Supreme Council of Antiquities. The council was established in 2002 to retrieve artifacts that were illegally shipped or smuggled out of the country.

"It's a lovely piece. We'd love to keep it. But we also feel bound to respect people of other countries who want their artifacts back. We feel obligated to give it back," Bachman said.

The University Museum received the reliquary more than a year earlier from the estate of the late SIUC music professor Steven Barwick. A friend of Barwick's bought the reliquary, believed to have held feline remains, in 1996 in Paris. He gave it to Barwick as a gift.

The reliquary is surmounted by two cats seated side by side and is believed to be traced back to the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt sometime between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C., said SIUC spokesman Rod Sievers.

See the above page for more details, plus a photograph of the item.

Results of Egyptian Revival Sale at Bonhams

Bonhams Egyptian Revival Catalogue
Bonhams Sale Results

If you were interested in the Revival sale, Bonhams have now put the results online at the second of the above addresses (it takes a few seconds for the full results to load). The revival catalogue is at the top address if you need to check the catalogue Lot number, and is marked with some of the sale results in red.

Barry Kemp talking about Amarna burials

Timewatch: The Pharaoh's Lost City

Just a brief note about a TV programme on UK's BBC 2 tonight at 2010 (The Pharaoh's Lost City).

Barry Kemp was interviewed on BBC News 24 this morning, where he was talking about the discovery of a cemetery dating to the Amarna period.

He said that researchers had been pondering the location of the dead of Amarna for many years, but that the cemetery was only discovered when bones were revealed by floodwater on a part of the site that had never been looked at before. He said that he first thought that the cemetery was much more recent in date, but that a pottery specialist identified that the ceramics accompanying the human remains were eighteenth dynasty. Around 68 individuals have been idenfitied, and these represent only a sample of the true total.

In the interview Kemp said that he has had a personal interest in Egypt since he was 13 years of age, and that many people now working in the field are there because of a childhood interest that they took with them into adulthood.

Details of tonight's programme are available on the above page, where there's a trailer and programme summary.

Hazards of recreating ancient Egyptian faces

National Geographic (Chris Sloan)

Thanks again to David Petersen for this link. This page looks at the difficulties and controversies of trying to recreate the faces of the ancient Egyptian kings.

I’ll never forget attending opening night of the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles in June 2005. As I approached the exhibit entrance with Elisabeth Daynes, the French sculptor who created a likeness of King Tut for the cover of National Geographic magazine, we passed a patch of animated demonstrators whose placards read “King Tut’s Back and He’s Still Black.” A few steps further I was informed by other National Geographic staff attending the event that Dayne’s sculpture, which she had traveled from Paris to see on display, was out of the show.

I was disappointed, but not surprised. Every time the magazine’s art department attempted to depict ancient Egyptians, we received letters complaining about their appearance. This was despite every effort of talented artists and hard-working researchers to be accurate and fair. For the King Tut reconstruction we went to the extreme of commissioning a second model by a team that was not informed of the identity of the skull cast we provided. . . .

Our story about ancient Egypt’s 25th dynasty in the February issue of National Geographic provides an opportunity to look again at questions about the appearance of ancient Egyptians and whether Egypt’s, ergo Africa’s, contribution to civilization has been ignored. If you’d like to comment on our story or this topic, here’s the place.

Before you respond on the skin color issue, I recommend that you review how scientists currently view race at

See the above page for the full story.

The Black Pharaohs photo gallery

National Geographic

Many thanks to lovely David Petersen for this link to a National Geographic photo gallery to accompany its recent article re the Nubian pharaohs who ruled Egypt for a time.

Trivia: Mummy tomb cake

Flickr (main view)
Flickr (other views)

Thanks very much to Kat Newkirk for sending me this excellent photograph of a cake made in the form of a New Kingdom tomb by a lady whose online name is Nightbird382 - it is huge fun. Do have a look.

Trivia: Museum station makeover

Eye Weekly (By Marc Weisblott)

Who is paying for the Museum station makeover and what are those hieroglyphs embedded in the lettering supposed to say, anyway?

Coming soon to the Museum subway station is some TTC signage like no other.

“I was loved by my father, honoured and praised by my mother. I gave them a proper burial — by royal decree because I was honoured by the king — so that they could praise the god forever. I was a good son from my childhood until their demise, never causing them anger. Moreover, my opinion was considered in every royal project.”

So reads the inscription that will be contained with the letters on the track walls, once they are unwrapped, taken from a limestone relief from the tomb of an ancient Egyptian nobleman by the name of Met-jet-jy, dating to around 2300 BC and housed in a gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Daily Photo - Queen's Chamber, Pyramid of Khufu

Thanks very much to Fred Sierevogel for another set of unusual photographs from Giza. These photographs show the interior of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, specifically the two shafts leading out of the Queen's Chamber, views that most of us don't have the opportunity to see in person.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Graeco-Roman mummies found in the Fayoum

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Nevine El-Aref reports about the Graeco-Roman necropolis at Deir Al-Banat in the Faiyum Depression (to the southwest of Cairo).

This year the mission located and studied 154 rectangular shaped tombs with rounded corners partly dug in compact sand and partly cut in rock. Their depth ranged from 1.5 and 1.7 m and each contained an unpainted wooden sarcophagus with an anthropoid mask on the lid and a cartonage inside covering the head, shoulders and feet of the mummy. In one of the graves an intact mummy of a young lady was found while

four Ptolemaic graves, which appeared to have been looted, contained the lids of painted coffins along with mummies with their feet torn off.

"Despite these mummies being footless they are very well preserved and wearing gilded masks," says Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA .The eastern side of the necropolis, the site of Graeco-Roman burials, contained three more mummies, this time wrapped with eight layers of linen and tied with ropes. These corpses, explained Hawass, were mummified using much cheaper materials than in the first type of burial.

See the above page for more details, including a photograph of one of the mummy masks.

100 years of Hungarian excavation in Egypt

Egypt Daily Star News

Hungarian Culture and Education Minister Hiller Istvan is to arrive in Cairo on a three-day visit Friday.

During the visit, Istvan will sign an executive protocol with his Egyptian counterpart on cultural, scientific, and educational cooperation between the two countries, Hungarian Ambassador in Cairo Peto Tibor told Daily News Egypt. . . .

The visit also marks 100 years of Hungarian monument excavations in Egypt, the ambassador said, noting that Budapest is interested in celebrating the event as well as organizing an exhibition in Hungary on Islamic and Pharaonic culture.

Hungary gives a priority to its cultural cooperation with Egypt, which hosts the only Hungarian Cultural Center in Africa,” the ambassador said.

Istvan is to open the renovation works of the Hungarian Cultural Center in Abdeen Street, Downtown Cairo. He will also attend a show by Hungarian artists at the Opera House on Saturday.

See the above for more details about the purpose of the visit

Egyptomania: Cleopatra in ballet

Aiken Standard

William Starrett, artistic and executive director of the Columbia City Ballet, said "Cleopatra" has been two years in the making. It was created as a companion piece to a new exhibition opening this weekend at the Columbia Museum of Art, "Excavating Egypt," featuring artifacts from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College-London.

"The light bulb went on, and I got the idea of researching the story and seeing if I could create a Cleopatra ballet," said Starrett, who began researching the legend of Cleopatra last spring.
One challenge, he said, was striking the delicate balance between legend and the historic realities of Cleopatra, who ruled Egypt from 51 B.C. to her death in 30 B.C.

"A lot of what we've come to expect about Cleopatra is what we've learned through motion picture. I have to balance between telling the historic story and how the movies have depicted Cleopatra through the years," Starrett said.

See the above page for more details.

Exhibition: 1930s watercolours of ancient Egypt

Watford Observer

Mummified cats, jarred organs and tomb walls came to Bushey this week as an exhibition about life and death in ancient Egypt opened at the museum.

The collection contains watercolours painted by local artist and Egyptologist Myrtle Broome between 1929 and 1935, mummification and hieroglyphics activities and ancient artefacts including jewellery, figurines and pottery.

Miss Broome (1887-1978), lived in Grange Road, Bushey, from 1907.

See the above page for the remainder of this brief article. Bushey is to the northwest of London in the UK. The Bushey Museum and Art Gallery, focusing mainly on local history, has its own website. The website has an exhibition page giving the exhibition dates, and showing a photograph of one of the watercolours (impressive).

Cairo Tower is being revamped

Al Ahram Weekly

For the past 47 years, Cairo Tower has looked down haughtily on the city from Al-Gezira, unrivalled by any buildings in sight and a landmark for Egyptians. Its concrete building, inspired by the lotus flower, is 187 metres high, 43 metres higher than the great Pyramid of Giza. In 1961, when the tower was finished, the building was the highest in the Middle East and Africa.

The tower, although a tourist site, has more to it than just a location from which to watch the city's sites. It is rather a reflection of a historical era that marked its own achievements strongly.

According to one tale, after the 1952 Revolution, the state was planning to build a communication tower to be used by the Foreign Ministry and the Egyptian Intelligence Services. Meanwhile, the CIA was hoping to draw the head of state to the American side in its fight against communism, so according to Ahmed Hamroush, one of the free officers of the 1952 Revolution and a writer, $3 million was offered to the Revolutionary Command Council, as a bribe. "As a patriotic man, he refused and the money was channelled to fund the Cairo Tower," said Hamroush, attributing the decision to president Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Construction work began in 1954, stopped two years later, then was resumed in 1959.

The building, designed by Egyptian architect Naom Shebib, who passed away in 1985, remains a landmark in the capital, from where visitors are able to watch the city with telescopes.

See the above page for more details, plus some really terrific photographs (click on the thumbnail to see the bigger photos).

Jsesh Update


Serge Rosmorduc has recently uploaded version 2.4.16 of his free hieroglyphic editor, JSesh. See the above page to download it. This release mainly adds new signs to JSesh. There is also an experimental window executable installer is provided, for people with windows Vista (it also works on XP) and abug fix with Mac OS X Leopard, which made JSesh very slow on this system.

See the above page for full details.

If you have never heard of Jsesh, it is, in the words of its designer "a free, open source, editor for ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts. It's currently quite powerful, and it covers most of the so-called Manuel de Codage".

Daily Photo - Views from the pyramids at Giza

I asked if anyone could supply some new and/or unusual images for my Daily Photo spot, and Fred Sierevogel has certainly helped out with this request, with these these two photos. Instead of being photographs of the pyramids they are taken from them! I don't know the background story to these photographs, but they are very striking.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Cleo is both hit and myth

Manchester Evening News (Helen Tither)

Joyce Tyldesley talking about Cleopatra:

THE thick kohl eyeliner, the raven black hair, those sultry, seductive eyes - for most of us Elizabeth Taylor is the embodiment of Cleopatra. Oozing sex appeal in her legendary on-screen performance opposite real-life love Richard Burton, she caught the imagination of millions as she brought the tragic Egyptian queen to life.

So, in some ways, what a disappointment to discover the real-life Cleopatra may not have been such a gorgeous creature after all. In fact, the woman who seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony could have been more fearsome than fair.

"Everyone has this Elizabeth Taylor image in mind but the truth is we don't really know what she looked like," explains author Joyce Tyldesley, whose new book - Cleopatra: The Last Queen of Egypt - looks at the myths behind the real-life ruler.

"If you look at the statues of her that survive, for instance, the classical ones portray her as a Greek queen, while the Egyptians portray her as typically Egyptian. On the other hand, on surviving coins she looks stern and fierce with a big nose and a big chin."

What of those stories about bathing in ass's milk then? A ruse which has tempted countless women to order a few extra pints from the milkman. "I'm a bit unconvinced by that too, I'm afraid," she sighs.

See the above for the full story.

Ancient Egyptian art

Egyptian Gazette

Navigate to the Tourism page. The story will expire on this page shortly. This is a long piece, but here's an extract:

Egyptian art is 5,000 years old. It emerged and took shape in Ancient Egypt, in the Nile Valley. Expressed in paintings and sculptures, it was highly symbolic and fascinating - this art form revolved round the past and was intended to keep history alive. Ahmed Abdel Hamid Youssef, an antiquities expert, says that many Egyptians only know about huge pyramids, the gold of Tutankhamoun, the big temples in Luxor and Karnak, with the Valley of the Kings. “Egypt's ancient artworks are among the finest worldwide and cannot be ignored,” he stresses. Mohamed el-Sagheer, Chairman of the Pharaonic Department at the Supreme Council of Antiquities says that, in a narrow sense, Ancient Egyptian art refers to the 2D and 3D art developed in Egypt from 3000 BC and used until the 3rd century AD.

Most elements of Egyptian art remained remarkably stable for over 3,000 years, representing the ancient civilisation without strong outside influence. The same basic conventions and quality of observation started at a high level and remained near that level for several millennia. Homeometric regularity, keen observation and exact representation of actual life and nature, and strict conformity to a set of rules for three-dimensional forms dominated the character and style of the art of Ancient Egypt. Completeness and exactness were preferred to prettiness and cosmetic representation.

Mohamed Ibrahim Bakr, former Chairman of the SCA, says that, because of the highly religious nature of Ancient Egyptian civilisation, many of the great works of Ancient Egypt depict gods, goddesses and Pharaohs, who were also considered divine. Ancient Egyptian art is characterised by the idea of order. Clear and simple lines combined with simple shapes and flat areas of colour helped create a sense of order and balance. Ancient Egyptian artists used vertical and horizontal reference lines in order to maintain the correct proportions in their work. Political and religious, as well as artistic, order was also maintained in Egyptian art. In order to clearly define their social hierarchy, figures were drawn to sizes based not on their distance from the painter's point of view but on relative importance.

Exhibition: More re Excavating Egypt at Columbia

Free Times (Ron Aiken)

Sometime in or about the year 2400 B.C., a wealthy Egyptian noblewoman rose from her bed in the ancient capital of Thebes, greeted the morning sun and donned a beautiful beaded-net dress — likely the best she owned — to wear to the year’s biggest festival honoring the sun god, Ra.

Now, some 4,400 years later, that exact same dress has traveled to the Columbia Museum of Art, painstakingly preserved as part of the exhibition Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, which opens Sunday.

“When they found that dress, all that was left was a box of beads and shells since the string had long since decomposed,” says Todd Herman, chief curator at the Columbia Museum of Art. “It took researchers decades to figure out how it fit together, and it wasn’t until 1994 that the dress finally came together in the form it is now.

“The dress is really spectacular both because of how beautiful it is but also because of how it managed to survive for so long. You just don’t see things like this very often.”

See the above for the full story.

Mummification Museum Lecture - Geological and Geochemical Analysis

Luxor News

Jane Akshar has again shared her notes re the latest Mummification Museum lecture on her blog. In this lecture Dr Hany Hamroush spoke on the subject of Geological and Geochemical Analysis of Nile Sediments and Ancient Ceramics.

This was one of the not to missed lectures, Dr Hany was superb communicator who brought the complicated subject to life and made it fascinating. He is very well qualified and has worked with many equally well qualified geologists.

The lecture was sufficiently complicated that I think without his slides my notes make no sense so I will précis.

The Nile has three main tributaries and then goes on for some time with none. This makes it suitable for analysing and identifying the deposits: sand, mud and gravel as to their location. So you can find out whether the main deposits were coming from Central Africa or East Africa. The rock of central Africa is Precambrian but that of East Africa is Tertiary Igneous. Natural weathering of these rocks means that the broken fragments of these old rocks go down to the delta. Dr Hany has investigated Nile silt of all ages and by normal methods it is impossible to identify differences.

See the above page for the rest of Jane's notes.