Saturday, March 28, 2009

Happy birthday to the blog

And I'm feeling its age! :-)

Thanks so much for all the good wishes for my birthday - they were great!

for the Oscars-like length of this, but this year there have been so many contributors.

Many, many thanks to everyone listed below, either for contributing directly to the blog, for sending me links, news, photographs or commenting with interesting observations about posts. As I've observed many times before, this blog would be a very pale thing without the efforts of all its contributors and supporters.

Special thanks, of course, to Ben for keeping the blog running whilst I was away at the end of last year by taking over the blog, and for Kat for helping him to do it.

Kat Newkirk
Ben Morales-Correa
Chris Townsend
Bob Partridge
Diane Leeman

Stan Parchin
Thierry Benderitter
David Petersen and Oxford
Rhio Barnhart
Tony Marson
Simon Clenell
Geoff Carter
Jonathan Calvert
Jane Akshar
Vincent Brown
Geoffrey Tassie
Rinus Ormerling
David Gill
Nick Reeves
George Stilwell
Ingeborg Waanders
Pierfranco Dotti
Rick Menges
Andrew Humphreys
Kate Phizackerley
Peter White
Paul Rymer
Huib Bennekom
Richard Vijay
Angela Brown
Lin Wang
John Wyatt
Debra Conway
Brian Hunt
Fred Sierevogel
Patricia from Texas
Paula Veiga
Noreen Doyle
Roy Pool
Helen Strudwick
Alan (Robot 9)
Brian Yare
Mark Fox
John Rauchert
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for permission to use photos

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Apologies to anyone I've missed out!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blog update

I am off to Wales this morning for my annual birthday celebration. 45 this year! Eeeeek. How time flies.

I may be able to udpate the blog whilst I'm there, but don't be surprised if I don't get the time. I will be back in London on the 30th but I will be on email if needed.

All the best

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Karnak 2008 Report

Thanks very much to Jane Akshar's Luxor News blog for this link to a 25-page report about work carried out at the Temples of Karnak. The report is accompanied by a site map, some excellent photographs and illustrations.

Here's an extract from the introduction:

During the year 2008, the programs of research, documentation and restoration of the Center and of the French and foreign missions occuring within the framework of the CFEETK were able to be done in a suitable conditions. The programs submited to the Joined Committee in December 2007 took place according to the planned calendar and were realized in good conditions.

The program concerning the Osirian cults were devoted to the excavations and studies of the area of the chapel of Osiris Wennefer Neb-djefau including the neighbouring area, the temple of Osiris from Coptos, the temple of Opet and the temple of Khonsu.

Among the important topics developed these last years, the archaeological investigations of the central zone and of the south-eastern sector of the Sacred lake led to important results which need now more precise examination. Several missions were thus devoted to the study of the uncovered materials for the final publications.

The study of the scattered limestone blocks belonging to monuments of Amenhotep I continued. Many checks allowed to confirm or to revalue the epigraphical and architectural hypothesis firstly proposed last season.

In the hypostyle hall, the program of photographic survey of columns was able to be brought to a successful conclusion thanks to a close collaboration between CFEETK, the national School of the geographical sciences (ENSG) and ATM3D company, allowing within a month to acquire a complete photographic survey of the 134 columns.

The study of the landscape evolution at Karnak during the Antiquity continued, using core drillings and tomographic profiles.

The important work realized in front of the temple as well as those developed in the city of Luxor (sphinx avenue) led by Mansour Boraik (CSA) was followed with attention and specially concern the excavations of the ptolemaic baths and the quay. This work brought to light new informations about the history of the entrance area of the Amun precinct.

One of the main activity on the field was to reassembly the wire saw (used to cut the stones) on the eastern side of Karnak temples. However, the anastylosis of the calcite chapel of Tuthmosis III was begun in the Open Air Museum. The programs of restoration and conservation were able to develop normally (temple of Opet, limestone blocks, archaeological materials…). These restoration efforts and anastylosis programs are making the site more inviting for numerous tourists coming at Karnak.

See the above page for the full report.

Embalming bed photograph

KV-63 Photos 2009

The Photos 2009 page on the KV-63 website has been udpated with a large photograph of the reconstructed embalming bed, which enables viewers to see some of the finer details.

Other photos from the 2009 season are also featured on the page.

New Book: Mons Claudianus. Ostraca graeca et latina IV

What's New in Papyrology

Adam Bülow-Jacobsen, Mons Claudianus. Ostraca graeca et latina IV

The international excavations at Mons Claudianus (1987-1993) in the Eastern Desert with the collaboration of the IFAO produced over 9000, mostly Greek, ostraca. This fourth volume in the series contains texts that are directly concerned with the technicalities and the daily administration of the quarrying. All texts are from the second century of our era. There are lists of distribution of workers to individual quarries, letters and requisitions concerning tools, texts concerning the forges and the maintenance of tools. There is a series of drafts of letters to the procurator Caesaris concerning finished works, and a number of more private letters illustrating the life in the quarries.
At the end there are three appendices: a dictionary of termini technici, many of which are new, one concerning the number of people working in the quarries, and one concerning the transportation of the stone down to the Nile.

See the above page for more details, plus a summary in French.

Desert Driving #1

New Stuff from the Explorer School

Those of you who have heard of Robert Twigger are probably aware of his interest in travel in the Western Desert of Egypt. He is one of the owners of the Explorer School, which produces this blog.

When people think about desert driving they usually think about getting stuck in the sand. But actually in the desert you can spend as much time driving over gravel, rocks, and vegetation albeit sparse vegetation as you do driving over sand. Hard tyres are fine for hard surfaces but if your tyres are too hard then you will sink when you do finally hit the sand. On the other hand, if they don’t have enough air in them then you are likely to get a puncture when you weave your way through an area of sharp rocks. Many people carry a small compressor to reinflate tyres. A foot pump is not very good because it will get sand in it and chances are it will eventually break. In Germany and France you can get quite effective handpumps which though there are time consuming you can refill the air in a tyre. One of the advantages of driving with a wide tyre such as Pirelli scorpions 10.5 inchx15 tyres such as I use is that you can let a lot of air out of them without there being a significant collapse on the side wall. I often only reinflate my tyres when I am at an Oasis having driven 100 or more road km on tyres at 20PSI. In four years and 30,000km on the same tyres I’ve suffered only one sidewall blow out on tarmac. I’ve driven extensively on sand and on rocky surfaces that are quite sharp and not suffered many punctures. People with narrower tyres than mine, such as 7.5 inchX16 have in my experience suffered more punctures.

See the above page for lots more details about desert driving.

Book News: Paperback release of Silent Images

Hawass has announced on his website that his book Silent Images has been re-released by the AUC in paperback. Here is what he says about it:

I am very happy to announce that my book Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt has just been re-released by the American University in Cairo Press in a beautiful new paperback edition. I am honored that the new edition includes a foreward by H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's First Lady, who inspired the original work.

The book was born in 1995. At that time, Dr. Forkhanda Hassan, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh who was assisting Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak in organizing events dedicated to women’s issues, asked to meet with me. Dr. Forkhanda told me that Mrs. Mubarak was planning to attend the Fourth UNESCO World Conference on Women in Beijing, and wanted me to write a book on women in ancient Egypt.

At that point, I was not working at Giza, for reasons that I have written about before. I had time to research the subject in great depth, and I feel that the book turned out extremely well.

See the above page to read more.

Interview with Zahi Hawass

SCAD District (Megan Kirby)

There is an inverview with Hawass on the above page. The following is an extract for the introduction. For a good summary of some of the important points made in the interview see Kate Phizackerley's blog.

Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, oversees the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and all the temples, monuments and artifacts in Egypt. He controls all archaeological activity at Giza, Saqqara, and the Bahariya Oasis. He is, as Time magazine wrote, when naming him to their 2005 list of the 100 Most Influential People, “The Man.”

For his work in the field of Egyptology Hawass was recently named a Goodwill Ambassador to Japan, on top of his titles of Commander and Officer in the Italian and French governments, respectively. In 2001 he was named the eighth ‘Explorer in Residence’ by National Geographic, and for his work on a 2006 documentary, he won an Emmy award.

Balancing his time between archaeological fieldwork, traveling the world, speaking about his latest discoveries and personal experiences in the study of ancient Egypt, Hawass is constantly busy. His visit to SCAD was the icing on the cake for what turned out to be a very ancient Egyptian-influenced winter quarter for the Art History Department.

See the above page for the interview.

Fiction Review: The Smiting Texts

Egypt Then and Now (Ben Morales-Correa)

Author: Roy Lester Pond
Published by Austin Macauley

A controversial Egyptologist is hired to avert a clash between two world superpowers thousands of years apart

Mr. Anson Hunter is an Egyptologist not so comfortable with the term. A phenomenologist who specializes in what the author calls fringe Egyptology, Hunter interprets arcane Egyptian belief in a way that still poses a threat to the stability of modern western civilization. For Hunter, Ancient Egypt was the world superpower of its day, much like the U.S. in present times. Like its present counterpart, Ancient Egypt had its own version of weapons of mass destruction in the form of smiting rituals and execration texts with the potency to destroy enemies at long distances. This supranormal “remote killing” power was capable of transcending the boundaries of space and time. Upon this premise the author constructs a thriller that takes us on a journey that includes Egypt’s most visited “pharaonic” attractions, action packed with murder, chase scenes, cliff hangers and love among the ruins, accompanied by US Homeland Security agents, spies, Coptic monks, a young attractive female Egyptologist, government officials, hit men in gallabeyahs and a cold-blooded female assassin in full black hijab.

See the above page for the full review.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Temple of Hatshepsut
Deir el Bahri, Luxor west bank

With many thanks to Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
Copyright Bob Partridge

Friday, March 20, 2009

UNESCO celebrates 1960s Nubian salvage project


UNESCO is commemorating the mammoth combined effort by archaeologists, engineers and researchers from across the globe which led to the salvaging of extraordinary temples and Pharaonicc monuments which would otherwise have disappeared under the waters of Lake Nasser with the construction of the Aswan High Dam.

Fifty years on from the earnest appeal sent out from Egypt and Sudan for an international salvage campaign for the Nubian monuments, UNESCO will be celebrating this important anniversary with the conference: 'Lower Nubia: Revisiting memories of the past, envisaging perspectives for the future' to be held on March 21-24.

With the construction of the great dam - approved by the Egyptian government in 1958 to allow the country's economy to be modernised, and built between 1960 and 1964 - 360 kilometres of territory in Egypt and 140 in Sudan were to be irretrievably transformed into a great inland sea. Which is why the Cairo and Khartoum governments resolved to sign an official request for an appeal to UNESCO.

So it was that in 1960 the organisation turned to its member states and what was later to be called the greatest archaeological salvage operation of all time got underway. Over 70 separate archaeological missions from 25 countries explored each of the Nubian regions that were due to be flooded, both in Egypt and in Sudan. ''Hundreds of sites were inventoried and thousands of objects were identified and conserved'', recalls Professor Giuseppe Fanfoni, director of the Italo-Egyptian Centre for Restoration and Archaeology in Cairo.

See the above page for the full story. The photo above shows Wadi es Sebua and is one of many on display in the Nubia Museum in Aswan.

More re unveiling of embalming bed

AFP on Google

This is the same article as the one I posted yesterday, but has a much better photograph of the embalming bed that was reconstructed from wood located in KV63.

Luxor antiquities director Mansour Bouriq told AFP that unlike most beds found in tombs, this one was not ceremonial but actually used for embalming.

"We believe this was a room used for embalming because we found some embalming materials, including herbs, oils and pottery vessels," he said.

Tomb KV-63 was discovered by Egyptian and US archaeologists in 2006, the first to be found in the area in more than 80 years.

It is believed to date from the 8th dynasty (1570-1304 BC), although there was no mummy found inside to enable the tomb to be dated more precisely.

Nebamun: A happy ending with a pinch of Salt

Al Ahram Weekly (Jenny Jobbins)

UPDATE: Jenny Jobbins correctly pointed out that I copied the word "Salt" as "salt". I have corrected it above. Apologies to all.

I thought that we had seen the end of reviews of the Nebamun gallery at the British Museum, which opened some weeks ago. But here's a good feature by Jenny Jobbins, which puts the paintings into both their Pharaonic and more modern historical contexts.

Thousands of miles and thousands of years apart, a son pays homage to his dead father. In a bright new limestone tomb-chapel on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes, the son of the Scribe and Grain Accountant Nebamun offers his father a bouquet of flowers. In the British Museum in the heart of London, a wealthy Egyptian-born financier builds a memorial to his late father, Michel Cohen.

The two events are linked by a series of wall paintings that have been likened to the genius of the Sistine Chapel, but the story of how the paintings came to be in the museum is worthy of an adventure of Indiana Jones.

We begin with Nebamun -- whose name means "My Lord is Amun" -- described as "a Scribe and Grain Accountant of Amun in the Gallery of Divine Offerings". We do not know exactly who he was, but he probably died at some point in the later 18th Dynasty during the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV (1400 to 1390 BC) or Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1390 to 1353 BC). Nebamun and his wife, Hatshepsut, had two sons and a daughter; the elder son, Netjermes, a priest, seems to have taken over his father's office on the latter's death.

Nebamun prepared for himself a tomb-chapel of shining white local limestone on the opposite side of the river from Karnak Temple. He had the walls painted with vivid images of life, death and the afterlife as seen and understood in the world he knew. The scenes of domesticated animals and wildlife, of dancing girls, of Nebamun counting tributes, and even of his pet cat catching birds in the reeds, are among the finest and most realistic ever found in Egypt.

After Nebamun's burial the tomb below the chapel was sealed, although it may have been opened to permit other family burials. The chapel was left open so that Nebamun's friends and relatives could pay visits and admire the splendid art, just as worshippers in Rome enjoyed the wonderful visions created by Michaelangelo.

Amenhotep III's reign was followed by a period of instability caused when his heir, who called himself Akhenaten, overthrew the priests of Amun and created a new religion and a new seat of rule -- albeit temporary -- at Amarna. This chaos continued until the end of the 18th Dynasty, and Nebamun's tomb was among those attacked by iconoclasts.

Inevitably, as time went by anything of value was removed, and Nebamun and his tomb-chapel were forgotten. As the centuries passed the tomb and its fabulous paintings appear to have escaped further disturbance. In the early 19th century, however, in places a long way from Egypt, interest in the ancient world and its antiquities was growing.

See the above page for the full story.

Exhibition: Excavating Egypt opening in Kentucky

Excavating Egypt, opening Sunday at The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky, has been the arts equivalent of a Miley Cyrus concert tour as it has traveled to nine cities in three years.

"It actually broke a lot of box office records in cities where it has been," said Peter Lacovara, a curator at Emory University who is handling exhibit arrangements for Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries From the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology for the Petrie in London, England.

The previous success of the exhibit — which features 221 artifacts and is the most extensive display of Egyptian objects to come to Central Kentucky — points to both the need for spectacular show-stoppers for the arts community and the draw of an ancient culture that is mysterious but accessible.

For museums in general, a big show "is really important to bolstering the bottom line but also to fulfill the mission of the museum," Lacovara said.

The American Association of Museums reports that some 885 million people visit museums and zoos each year. But entrance fees account for only about 33 percent of museums' expenses, the group says, making the venues dependent on charitable donations and sponsorships.

So museums work hard to get people outside of a built-in audience of art lovers to come through the doors.

See the above page for the full story.

New Book: Whose culture?

Princeton University Press

The international controversy over who "owns" antiquities has pitted museums against archaeologists and source countries where ancient artifacts are found. In his book Who Owns Antiquity?, James Cuno argued that antiquities are the cultural property of humankind, not of the countries that lay exclusive claim to them. Now in Whose Culture?, Cuno assembles preeminent museum directors, curators, and scholars to explain for themselves what's at stake in this struggle--and why the museums' critics couldn't be more wrong.

Source countries and archaeologists favor tough cultural property laws restricting the export of antiquities, have fought for the return of artifacts from museums worldwide, and claim the acquisition of undocumented antiquities encourages looting of archaeological sites. In Whose Culture?, leading figures from universities and museums in the United States and Britain argue that modern nation-states have at best a dubious connection with the ancient cultures they claim to represent, and that archaeology has been misused by nationalistic identity politics. They explain why exhibition is essential to responsible acquisitions, why our shared art heritage trumps nationalist agendas, why restrictive cultural property laws put antiquities at risk from unstable governments--and more. Defending the principles of art as the legacy of all humankind and museums as instruments of inquiry and tolerance, Whose Culture? brings reasoned argument to an issue that for too long has been distorted by politics and emotionalism.

In addition to the editor, the contributors are Kwame Anthony Appiah, Sir John Boardman, Michael F. Brown, Derek Gillman, Neil MacGregor, John Henry Merryman, Philippe de Montebello, David I. Owen, and James C. Y. Watt.

James Cuno is president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago and former director of the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Harvard University Art Museums. His books include Who Owns Antiquity? and Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust (both Princeton).

See the above page for endorsements and a table of contents.

Exhibition: More re impact of Egpyt on sculpture of Giacometti

The Canadian Press

He is called "the Egyptian," but Alberto Giacometti never was in Egypt. A Zurich show just gives him that name to focus on the intense fascination ancient Egyptian art exerted over the Swiss sculptor.

The exhibition highlights for the first time the lasting impact anonymous Egyptian craftsmen who worked millennia ago had on the work of Giacometti, one of the most outstanding figures in 20th century art.

In the Kunsthaus museum, which houses the most comprehensive collection of the artist's works, some 20 Egyptian items are placed together with almost 100 Giacometti sculptures and countless drawings.

The result is an artistic dialogue that transcends thousands of years and opens a little-known perspective on the unique style of the artist who broke with surrealism early in his career. It allows visitors of the show, which runs until May 24, to discover astounding similarities between such ancient art and Giacometti's approach in sculpturing.

Giacometti was in his late teens when he first saw samples of Egyptian art in Florence's Archeological Museum in 1920. It left him more impressed than anything else in the "city of Michelangelo." After studying more Egyptian pieces in Rome's Vatican museum, he felt convinced that such art as unsurpassable.

"For me, the most beautiful statue is neither Greek nor Roman and certainly not from the Renaissance - it is Egyptian," he wrote his parents from Rome in an enthusiastic letter. "The Egyptian sculptures have an excellence, an evenness of line and shape, a perfect technique that has never been mastered since."

See the above page for the full story.

Modern Egypt: Visions of the material world

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

I was in Aswan just one week late for this last year!

Eleven artists from across the world gathered in Aswan for this year's International Sculpture Symposium, carving their thoughts into blocks of granite, Nevine El-Aref looks on.

"Every block of stone encloses a sculpture, and the task of the sculptor is to reveal it," said the Italian artist and sculptor Michelangelo.

Participants at the 14th Aswan International Sculpture Symposium (AISS), which took place in the southern Egyptian city recently, certainly seem to have been working with Michelangelo's words in mind. Eleven sculptors from six countries including France, Germany, Bulgaria, Korea, Hungary and Egypt, arrived in the city armed with electric saws, drills, files, pins and hammers, in order to contemplate huge granite blocks, as if in search of the statues that according to Michelangelo lie within them. Among their visions for the material were a bedroom, an ancient red fountain, a black solar clock, an image of the sea complete with foam and bubbles, a statue of an ancient Egyptian queen, a huge pile of papers, and a garden of stones.

See the above page for the full story.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Temple of Hatshepsut
Deir el Bahri, Luxor west bank

With many thanks to Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
Copyright Bob Partridge

Thursday, March 19, 2009

KV-63 Update


17 March 2009

Sorry for the delay, for I had intended to have this update out much earlier.

My lecture on March 14th at the Mummification Museum went well as I managed to present sixty-eight images in 45 minutes!

As mentioned in my 7 February update we discovered a very unique wooden bed inside Jar #13. In addition to finding the bed in the jar we also found three wooden boards (wrapped in linen) with 4 “prongs” or “legs” which may have served as supports for the bed. We now have enough such “legs” for four bed supports, but only 3 wrapped boards (ca. 50 cm in length) have been uncovered.

During a brief visit to KV-10/KV-63 on March 1st by Dr. Zahi Hawass, he called attention to one of our SCA conservators, Amany Nashed, for her good work on the restoration of the bed. Dr. Hawass also suggested we try placing the bed on the supports--- which we did the following day and they appear to be a good fit. The KV-63 website already has a few images of the bed and supports posted (*plus some new ones added today) but more images will be made available soon.

During the last two months the conservators have been hard at work removing resin off the KV-63 coffins in the hope of finding names and/or titles. In the beginning stages of removing the resin off Coffin E’s lid, it appeared we had the name of a woman, Btau or Butau, a fairly common woman’s name already in the Middle Kingdom and into the New Kingdom. But after further removal of the resin off the box (or base), it became clear that her name is Henut-wadjbu, a common female name from the New Kingdom. Her full description is: “The Osiris, Henut-wadjbu, true of voice.”

As we are currently copying the texts, we must address the order of the decoration, for traces on the front vertical column do not indicate that Henut-wadjbu’s name was ever present there but it does appear on the cross bands and end panel.

See the above page for the full story.

The first ever 3D cataloguing of Hatshepsut's temple

Nauka w Polsce

Experts from the company Leica Geosystems in Warsaw, together with Wrocław's Technology University will create the first ever 3D cataloguing of Queen Hatshepsut's temple in Deir el-Bahari, in Egypt. One of the most advanced high-tech lasers in the world will be used to do this - informs Waldemar Kubisz from Leica Geosystems. "3D laser scanning is currently used globally in construction and architecture, industrial engineering, geodesy, conservancy and archaeology, crime detection and many other fields" - says Kubisz.

He adds that laser scanning is irreplaceable when you need to quickly catalogue the object where no such cataloguing exists or is out of date. The technology allows to get data for a 3-D model in a fast, precise and safe way.

"3D scanners, from the point of view of their construction, can be compared to high quality motorized electronic tachometers total stations - explains Leica Geosystems' representative. - Upon being launched, a laser beam scans the surrounding area, by measuring the distances and angle displacements it marks out the X,Y, Zcoordinates". The range of the scanner is up to 300 meters, and its precision for the range of 50m is +/-6mm. Creating the full visualization of the object is possible through the integration of the cloud of points gathered by the 3D scanner with photos of the given object.

Outdoor works began at the end of February and lasted 9 days. The preliminary results and information about the technology that was used were presented at two lectures entitled "3D Scanning technology". One took place on March 7th in the Museum of Mummification in Luxor, the other on March 10th in the Cairo station of the University of Warsaw's (UW) Mediterranean Archaeology Center.

The Polish-Egyptian archaeological-conservational mission, that is working under the auspices of UW's Mediterranean Archaeology Center currently led by Dr Zbigniew Szafrański, has been restoring Hatshepsut's temple for the past few decades.

Pharaonic brain drain bed

Egypt Daily Star News

With photo.

Egyptian antiquities authorities on Thursday revealed an ancient Pharaonic embalming bed unearthed from a mysterious tomb near Luxor used to prepare bodies for mummification more than 3,000 years ago.

The wooden bed was painstakingly restored after being discovered in pieces in the KV-63 tomb in southern Egypt’s famous Valley of the Kings, next to Tutankhamun’s tomb, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement.

The bed, featuring carved heads of a lion and a lioness at its foot, slopes downwards five centimeters from head to toe to help drain bodies being prepared for mummification.

Bodies had their organs removed as soon as possible after death, including the brain which was thrown away as it was thought to serve no purpose in the afterlife.

The heart was left in the body, with other organs cleaned, perfumed and preserved in jars to be buried with the mummy.

Afterwards, the corpse spent 40 days on the bed for draining of fluids, and another 15 days being bandaged.

Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in a statement that the 170-cm-long bed had been reconstructed from pieces of wood found scattered around tomb KV-63.

See the above page for the full story.

Video: Djehuty tomb discoveries

Spanish. It helps if you speak Spanish, of course, but even if you don't speak the language some of the footage is excellent.

La Capilla Sixtina del Antiguo Egipto ha salido a la luz. Un equipo de arqueólogos del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) ha descubierto en Luxor una cámara sepulcral con pinturas decorativas, de 3.500 años de antigüedad.

La capilla sepulcral, que pertenece a Djehuty, un alto cargo de la época, tiene las paredes y el techo completamente pintados con dibujos y jeroglíficos con pasajes del Libro de los Muertos.

Los descubrimientos se han realizado durante los trabajos de la VIII campaña del Proyecto Djehuty, patrocinado por la Fundación Caja Madrid desde el año 2004.

«Esto es el sueño de cualquier egiptólogo», declaró José Manuel Galán, director del equipo de especialistas, que ha trabajado en condiciones «muy duras y difíciles» para sacar a la luz la que probablemente sea la primera cámara sepulcral decorada con profusión, para que Djehuty, un escriba de la faraona Hatshepsut, tuviera una fácil transición al más allá.

See the above page for more.

Neolithic archaeology under threat in Egypt

Following on from my recent posts about the threat to the prehistoric archaeology of the Faiyum Depression it is very sad to hear from Josef Eiwanger, the excavator of the related site Merimde Beni Salama in the 1980s, that in spite of it having been declared an Antiquities area, most of the site has been cultivated over the last 25 years.

Josef Eiwanger (German Institute in Cairo) was responding to a request by Mrs. Ungureanu on the Egyptologist Electronic Forum.

Merimde and several Faiyum sites provide the earliest evidence of mixed farming in Egypt. They are therefore of fundamental importance to the understanding of the development of Egyptian civilization, which was based on the agricultural components that were employed and developed at that time.

It is sad to see so much disrespect for the earliest evidence of Egypt's development within Egypt itself.

I was once told that Zahi Hawass had a home on the edge of the site. My informer must have been wrong about that because I am sure that he would not have watched the site's destruction without intervening.

Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes 2009

Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News

One of the nine winners was Dr. Angelika Lohwasser (41), Egyptology, Free University of Berlin:

Angelika Lohwasser is seen, in German-speaking countries, as one of the most outstanding researchers in the field of Sudanese archaeology. Taking a very broad subject-specific and also inter- and transdisciplinary approach, she analyses artefacts from this ancient intercultural region, and in so doing has developed new stimuli and pioneering methods. One of these pioneering methods, for instance, is her markedly sociological methodology, with which she literally brought about a new approach in Egyptology, without losing sight of the field of traditional Egyptology. In terms of the subject matter addressed she has also tackled innovative topics, for example the previously underestimated role of women in the Kingdom of Kush. With this work, Angelika Lohwasser has given her subject a new status in Germany, both in the scientific community as well as amongst the general public. Her many lectures, in Germany and internationally, which gave her the opportunity to prove herself as a successful science communicator, have contributed to this achievement. In addition she has also received numerous distinctions for her teaching work in academia.

Creative Spaces

Creative Spaces

Thanks to Tom Gray for letting me know about the new Creative Spaces venture. Tom is working with the British Museum and 8 other major British galleries and museums on a new social media project called Creative Spaces.

Creative Spaces throws open the collections of: The Royal Armouries, The V&A, The Imperial War Museum, British Museum, Tate, National Portrait Gallery, Natural History Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum and The Wallace Collection. Obviously the British Museum is going to be of most interest to Egyptology enthusiasts but I'm sure that there are people who read the blog who, like me, will also be interested in the other collections.

The site allows you to search all the collections at once, tag and store items in notebooks and groups, and upload your own images, videos and notes to share creative inspiration with others - effectively creating your own collection from some of the world's greatest museum collections.

The site is still in beta, but you can find it at the above address.

This is a nonprofit, public sector project, and it’s the first time that national museums have collaborated in this way.

As I said on a recent post, social networking is not my thing but this looks like a good idea and if anyone has anything to report about their experiences please post your comments in reply to this post so that I can let Tom know.

Paintings retrieved

Egypt Daily Star News

Nine antique paintings that were stolen earlier this month were retrieved by police officials after they were tipped off by an “anonymous” phone call, an official statement released by the Ministry of Culture said on Thursday.

Ahmed Salah, the ministry’s spokesperson, told Daily News Egypt that the ministry cannot disclose any details pertaining to where the paintings were found.

He also declined to confirm or deny whether an investigation about the theft was still ongoing.

“All we can say now is that police officials found the paintings where the anonymous caller said they would be,” he said.

The ministry’s statement said the paintings, which date back to the Mohamed Ali era, will not be displayed again in their original location, the Mohamed Ali Palace in Shubra El-Kheima, but will be safely stored at the Ministry of Culture.

The statement said replicas of the paintings will be displayed at the palace instead.

See the above page for more.


Suite 101 (Lito Apostolakou)

If you're interested in the explorer and treasure hunter Belzoni then this new article on the Suite101 website may be of interest.

Giovanni Belzoni, the 19th-century explorer and Egyptian archaeologist, started out on his adventures as a circus strongman.
Giovanni Battista Belzoni, copyright expired

Howard Carter, the archaeologist who discovered King Tutankhamun's tomb, sums up Belzoni as "one of the most remarkable men in the history of archaeology" (Beese, 1999). Belzoni was a man “of good figure, gentlemanly manners, and great mind” (Thornbury, 1878), a "circus clown" but "of serious and lofty purpose, and imbued with the great desire of bettering the knowledge of the world" (Cooke, 1915).
Early Adventures of Belzoni

Born in 1778 to a barber of Padua, Italy, Giovanni Battista Belzoni, one of fourteen children, has always been of a “truant disposition”, an ardent reader of “Robinson Crusoe” with a “purpose of rambling” (Harpers 1851). As a young boy he travelled with his brother to Ferrara to seek his fortune. This was the first adventure of the 19th-century explorer from which he returned home in a bad state. But at 18 he left again this time for Rome to exercise the profession of his father.

In Rome Belzoni entered the Capuchin order and became a monk. It was there that he studied hydraulics and built an Artesian well for the Capuchins. When Napoleon occupied Rome in 1798, Belzoni escaped to the Netherlands where he earned a living as a barber as the Dutch were not interested in his hydraulic inventions. He did not know that hydraulics would prove useful to becoming an Egyptian archaeologist.

See the above page for more.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Temple of Hatshepsut
Deir el Bahri, Luxor west bank

Thanks very much to Stan Parchin for letting me know that the Hatshepsut galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopened sometime recently. He will be writing a feature
article on them as soon as Beyond Babylon closes after and
objects that belong in them are returned to their usual vitrines.

With many thanks to Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
Copyright Bob Partridge

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sister of Cleopatra may have been found

Times Online

ARCHEOLOGISTS and forensic experts believe they have identified the skeleton of Cleopatra’s younger sister, murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of the Egyptian queen.

The remains of Princess Arsinöe, put to death in 41BC on the orders of Cleopatra and her Roman lover Mark Antony to eliminate her as a rival, are the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified.

The breakthrough, by an Austrian team, has provided pointers to Cleopatra’s true ethnicity. Scholars have long debated whether she was Greek or Macedonian like her ancestor the original Ptolemy, a Macedonian general who was made ruler of Egypt by Alexander the Great, or whether she was north African.

Evidence obtained by studying the dimensions of Arsinöe’s skull shows she had some of the characteristics of white Europeans, ancient Egyptians and black Africans, indicating that Cleopatra was probably of mixed race, too. They were daughters of Ptolemy XII by different wives.

BBC News

Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh, renowned for her beauty, was part African, says a BBC team which believes it has found her sister's tomb.

Queen Cleopatra was a descendant of Ptolemy, the Macedonian general who ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great.

But remains of the queen's sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an "African" skeleton.

Experts have described the results as "a real sensation."

The discovery was made by Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

"It is unique in the life of an archaeologist to find the tomb and the skeleton of a member of Ptolemaic dynasty," she said.

"That Arsinoe had an African mother is a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra's family and the relationship of the sisters Cleopatra and Arsinoe."

Yahoo News

Hawass said archaeologists believe the 4th dynasty founder Pharaoh Sneferu's burial chamber lies undiscovered inside the pyramid.

The inner chambers of the nearby Red pyramid, also built by Sneferu, are already accessible to visitors. Hawass said several other nearby pyramids, including one with an underground labyrinth from the Middle Kingdom, would also be opened in the next year.

"It is amazing because of a maze of corridors underneath this pyramid — the visit will be unique," said Hawass, about the pyramid of Amenhemhat III, who ruled during Egypt's 12th dynasty from 1859-1813 BC.

"Twenty-five years ago, I went to enter this pyramid, and I was afraid I would never come back, and I had to ask the workmen to tie ropes around my leg so I wouldn't lose my way," he recalled.

Only 5 percent of tourists coming to Egypt visit the three pyramids of Dahshur, Hawass said.

He hoped increasing access to the monuments would bring more visitors. But he also cautioned that the Western fast food restaurants and hundreds of hawkers selling kitschy souvenirs near the Giza pyramids would not be allowed at Dahshur, which is currently surrounded by agricultural fields on one side and open desert on the other.

Bent pyramid chamber to be opened to public

Associated Press

Travelers to Egypt will soon be able to explore the inner chambers of the 4,500-year-old "bent" pyramid, known for its oddly shaped profile, and other nearby ancient tombs, Egypt's antiquities chief announced Monday.

The increased access to the pyramids south of Cairo is part of a new sustainable development campaign that Egypt hopes will attract more visitors but also to avoid some of the problems of the urban sprawl that have plagued the famed pyramids of Giza.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the chambers of the 330-foot-pyramid outside the village of Dahshur, 50 miles south of Cairo, will be opened for the first time to tourists within the next "month or two." "This is going to be an adventure," he told reporters.

Dahshur's bent pyramid is famous for its irregular profile. The massive tomb's sides rise at a steep angle but then abruptly tapers off at a more shallow approach to the pyramid's apex.

Archaeologists believe the pyramid-builders changed their minds while constructing it out of fear the whole structure might collapse because the sides were too steep.

The pyramid is entered through a cramped 80 meter-long tunnel that opens into an immense vaulted chamber. From there, passageways lead to other rooms including one that has cedar wood beams believed to have been imported from ancient Lebanon.

What Scents Did The Ancient Egyptians Use?

Science Daily

The Ancient Egyptians cherished their fragrant scents, too, as perfume flacons from this period indicate. In its permanent exhibition, Bonn University's Egyptian Museum has a particularly well preserved example on display. Screening this 3,500-year-old flacon with a computer tomograph, scientists at the university detected the desiccated residues of a fluid, which they now want to submit to further analysis. They might even succeed in reconstructing this scent.

Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a power-conscious woman who assumed the reins of government in Egypt around the year 1479 B.C. In actual fact, she was only supposed to represent her step-son Thutmose III, who was three years old at the time, until he was old enough to take over.

But the interregnum lasted 20 years. "She systematically kept Thutmose out of power," says Michael Höveler-Müller, the curator of Bonn University's Egyptian Museum.

Hatshepsut's perfume is also presumably a demonstration of her power. "We think it probable that one constituent was incense – the scent of the gods," Michael Höveler-Müller declares.

Development of pyramids of Dashur

Egypt State Information Service

Dr. Zahi Hawas Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities announced the start of an international project to develop the area of Dahshor Pyramids, South of Sakkara. The job is to be carried out with five international organizations, the United Nations Development Program, World Trade Organization, International Labour Organization and UNESCO and Culture Ministry.

Addressing an international press conference on Monday 16/03/2009, Hawas said that the work would be completed in just a year and half, with $ three million costs received as a grant.

La mascota más longeva

Diario de Navarra

La momia egipcia de un gato perteneciente a una colección particular navarra está siendo restaurada estos días. Por ahora, se sabe que este animal era venerado como un dios y puede tener 2.600 años. En el antiguo Egipto los gatos eran considerados protectores del hogar, ya que evitaban la peste.

LA esperanza de vida de los gatos callejeros va desde los 2 a los 4 años. Y los domésticos pueden cumplir 14 con buenos cuidados. Sin embargo, un propietario navarro particular, que no desea desvelar su identidad, tiene uno que supera los 2.600 y se encuentra como en sus mejores años, sólo que no se mueve ni maúlla.

Se trata de una momia que fue descubierta en el siglo XIX en una tumba de la ciudad egipcia de Bubastis, conocida antiguamente como Per-Bastet, cerca del Mediterráneo. La mascota se cree que pudo vivir hacia el siglo VI a.C, según apunta Joaquín Martinena Lorente. Este restaurador tafallés de 54 años está estos días valorando al felino y los cuidados que necesita para su mejor conservación.

De momento, la mascota duerme aislada en una urna hermética de metacrilato. "Mantenemos el ambiente equilibrado gracias a cristales de fenol (un anticorrosivo), resina y gel de sílice", explica.

Un equipo multidisciplinar de veterinarios, radiólogos y arqueólogos navarros procederá en las próximas semanas a despejar interrogantes sobre cuándo y dónde vivió este felino.

La momia, de gran valor, participó en San Sebastián, entre marzo y diciembre, en la exposición Egipto, el río y el mar, organizada en su centenario por la Sociedad Oceanográfica de Guipúzcoa.

Kurdistan's Tutankhamun faked

Kurdish Aspect

Kurdistan archeologists union on Thursday announced that the statute of Tut Ank Amun recently found in the city of Duhok was faked.

Last month, sources from Kurdistan’s Duhok city declared that a statute of Tut Ank Amun, the well known pharaoh of Egypt, was found and raised speculations about possible historical relations between the ancient Egyptians and the authorities in Kurdistan thousands of years ago.

Historians said that finding the statute could be only interpreted as a sign of two possibilities, either the possibility of having diplomatic relations between the Egyptians and Kurds or that of Kurdistan’s invasion by the Pharaohs.
However, time and investigations proved the interpretations incorrect.

New Technology For Dating Ancient Rock Paintings

Science Daily

A new dating method finally is allowing archaeologists to incorporate rock paintings — some of the most mysterious and personalized remnants of ancient cultures — into the tapestry of evidence used to study life in prehistoric times.

In the study, Marvin W. Rowe points out that rock paintings, or pictographs, are among the most difficult archaeological artifacts to date. They lack the high levels of organic material needed to assess a pictograph's age using radiocarbon dating, the standard archaeological technique for more than a half-century.

Rowe describes a new, highly sensitive dating method, called accelerator mass spectrometry, that requires only 0.05 milligrams of carbon (the weight of 50 specks of dust). That's much less than the several grams of carbon needed with radiocarbon dating.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Colossi of Memnon

With many thanks to Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
Copyright Bob Partridge

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Karanis Cemetery Survey Project

Cotsen Institute of Archaeology

Spending an entire field season roaming a cemetery and looking at bones may seem morbid to many, but to me it was a dream. Over the past several years, Willeke Wendrich, Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, has lead an international team of archaeologists in excavations at the ancient city of Karanis. The project seeks to explore and understand the ways Karanis used the rich and lively landscape of the Fayum, a region known even in present day for its agricultural fertility. Specialists analyze the botanical remains to see what was living and growing over a thousand years ago, and excavations of an ancient granary this season help us understand life and prosperity in the past. So why am I sitting across the street immersed in the skeletal remains of the people of Karanis? How does studying the dead shed any new light on the project’s goal of understanding the living and growing landscape?

Contrary to popular opinion, the dead are actually quite talkative. Through analysis of their bones, they tell us the kinds of diseases people had to face, the daily work they had to undergo, their toothaches in old age and broken legs from their youth. While excavations can bring back into our public knowledge the growth of the city and activities of Karanis, skeletal analysis can populate Karanis with the real lives and struggles of its people.

See the above page for the full story.

Keeping the Great Sphinx’s Paws Dry (Zahi Hawass)

Includes diagrams, photographs and a map.

Perhaps the single greatest threat to the preservation of Egypt’s monuments is the rising level of underground water throughout the country. Runoff from sewage and agriculture, along with overall environmental changes, is resulting in the stone of temples and tombs that were dry most of the year in ancient times becoming saturated with water seeping up from below.

This weakens the architecture, and damages wall decorations. Rising groundwater is a problem faced not only by pharaonic monuments, but by Greco-Roman, Coptic, and Islamic period structures as well. Under my direction, the Supreme Council of Antiquities is working to reduce the groundwater level around antiquities sites throughout Egypt. We have completed a USAID-funded effort to de-water Karnak and Luxor temples, and work is underway in many other places. One of our greatest recent successes has been the development of a system to prevent the Great Sphinx at Giza from getting its paws wet!

See the above page for more.

Controversy re return of Egypt's artifacts following theft of paintings from palace museum

Middle East Times (Joseph Mayton)

Items have been stolen from Egypt's museums before. In 2000, 619 Pharaonic artifacts were taken from the Egyptian Museum and smuggled into London via Switzerland. Five years earlier, thieves broke into a storeroom housing a number of artifacts at the Temple of Montu in Karnak and looted 55 scarabs and statues.

"Certainly, we have had a history of thefts, but this happens anywhere in the world where there are valuable items. Egypt is not alone in this," the aide said, after conferring with the culture minister.

Egypt is a prime target for international bandits due to corruption within the government and among the police guarding the national treasures.

A policeman who works near the famed Giza Pyramids told the Middle East Times last summer that his monthly salary was barely enough to keep his family from going hungry.

"So, I let the foreigners pay me a little extra and they can go places that are supposed to be off-limits," he admitted. He was adamant that he did not allow people to take items from the sands near the three massive structures.

"But I know some other policemen who work in other places who get a lot more money, because they let people take stuff while they look the other way," he said.

In recent years, Cairo has gone out of its way to pressure European nations to return artifacts that had been taken from the country during the colonial period beginning with Napoleon's invasion in 1798.

The international community has expressed apprehension about returning items currently being shown in their museums. They argue that Egypt is not able to safely house all the priceless artifacts.

See the above page for the full story.

New law expected to impose penalties for antiquities trafficking and copyright of Egypt's heritage

Al Ahram Weekly

Parliament is shortly expected to endorse a draft law outlining severer penalties for antiquities trafficking and copyright of Egypt's heritage, Nevine El-Aref reports

Protecting Egypt's cultural heritage from treasure hunters, retrieving looted and illegally-smuggled antiquities and generating the revenue necessary to restore and conserve this country's heritage are key priorities in a new antiquities law soon to be reviewed by the People's Assembly.

The new law, if passed, will also restrict photography of archaeological sites and artefacts and impose intellectual copyright controls on key Egyptian images such as the pyramids.

"The current law, 117/1983, is no longer suitable since the penalties it imposes for antiquity trafficking are not harsh enough. We need to stiffen penalties in order to stop further trafficking," Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), says.

Egypt first issued an antiquities law in 1835. This has been modified five times, most essentially in 1912 and 1983. The 193 law contains several loopholes, and the penalties did not prevent looting and urban encroachment on archaeological sites.

In the 19th and the early 20th centuries, treasured objects were shipped abroad in response to European interest. To mention just a few, the first collection in the Vienna Museum was granted by Khedive Abbas I and Said Pasha to the Austrian Prince Archidum Maximium, while the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde in Paris was given to the French King Louis Philippe by Mohamed Ali in return for the clock in the Citadel. The offering of Egyptian antiquities to foreign governments became a diplomatic trend.

Foreign excavation missions working in Egypt at that time acted as antiquities traders and sold vast numbers of Egyptian artefacts to their own national museums, creating great ancient Egyptian collections in the Louvre, the British Museum and the Berlin Museum, among others. Another opportunity for foreigners to obtain artefacts was through applying the division policy on newly-discovered antiquities. National and international laws at that time approved the trading of antiquities, and monthly auctions were held in one of the Egyptian Museum galleries.

After the completion of the Nubian temples salvage operation, the Egyptian government offered a large number of monuments to foreign countries as a gesture of thanks for their efforts. The Dabur Temple was given to the Spanish government and reconstructed in a gallery at the Madrid Museum, while in 1974 the small Dendereh Temple was handed to the American president Richard Nixon. The Egyptian government continued to offer items of its heritage or to sell them on the international market until the last modification of the law in 1983, which prohibited all such activities. All antiquities in Egypt became the property of the state and their unlawful removal from the country subsequent to that date is theft.

See the above page for the full story.

Screaming Mummies

Archaeology Magazine (Mark Rose)

There's a full length feature on the above page by Archaeology Magazine's Mark Rose, complete with diagrams and photographs. Fascinating stuff.

For well over a century, the contorted features of ancient mummies have led to speculation of untold pain and horrible deaths. The examples quoted above are from the examination of Egyptian mummies more than 120 years ago. Today, similar descriptions can still be found in television programs and academic writings. "Is this the face of a queen? What kind of terrible end did she meet?" and "a terrible head wound, an agonized scream," intones the narrator of "Secrets of Egypt's Lost Queen," a 2007 documentary. A photo caption in the scholarly volume Mummies and Death in Egypt (2006) reads "mummy of a boy five years of age, fixed in agony." And the widely covered 2007 discovery of Chachapoya mummies in Peru prompted this newspaper headline "Moment 600 years ago that terror came to Mummies of the Amazon" and copy "Hands over her eyes and her face gripped with terror, the woman's fear of death is all too obvious."

Mummies with their mouths agape or lips pulled back as if they are screaming or writhing in pain are truly startling. Two of the most famous--designated Unknown Woman A and Unknown Man E--are from a cache of royal mummies found in 1881 at Deir el-Bahri in Egypt. When first unwrapped in the late nineteenth century, they provoked the shocked reactions quoted above.

Such mummies, however, are found not just in Egypt but worldwide, in Palermo, Sicily, Guanajuato, Mexico, and, as noted above, in Peru. Some of these bodies were purposefully preserved, though by various methods, while others are natural or, you might say, accidental mummies. What does that say about the supposed frozen-mask-of-agony phenomenon? Are screaming mummies really testaments to horrific deaths? Or are they the result of natural processes, botched or ad hoc mummification jobs, or the depredations of tomb robbers?

Historical representations of the dead offer a clue to answering, why do mummies scream? In particular, Victorian depictions and, later on, film portrayals of the ghost of Jacob Marley come to mind. The deceased business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," Marley is often shown with a cloth tied around his head and under his jaw. (You can read "A Christmas Carol" and view John Leech's illustrations at the Gutenberg Project website.)

See the above page for the full story.

EES News Update, 12 March 2009

Egypt Exploration Society

Dear all,

This is just a very short note to alert you to a couple of additions to the Society’s online presence.

For some time we have been trying to think of new ways of keeping you all more immediately up-to-date with our activities in the field. The Society’s Director, Dr Patricia Spencer, is currently in Egypt to undertake, with her husband, Dr Jeffrey Spencer, a short season at the site of Yetwal wa Yuksur, for the EES Delta Survey. It is not always easy to find a usable internet connection in the Egyptian countryside (!) but we think we may have found a way round this: Patricia will be sending short updates to a specially created page on the web, in the form of text messages from an Egyptian mobile phone. If possible, longer updates will be sent via e-mail to the London office for staff to upload.

The new page is here: Please do have a look, and let us know what you think! You can subscribe to the updates via RSS (what is RSS?) and a comment facility is provided at the bottom of each entry for you to leave your thoughts. We will be monitoring traffic to the site, and if it generates sufficient interest and proves not to be technologically impossible, or too onerous for Patricia, we will certainly consider expanding the idea to our other field projects.

Lastly, a short story on our events of the last few weeks has just been uploaded to our news page. Please take a look!

Best wishes,
Chris Naunton

Christopher Naunton
Deputy Director

The Egypt Exploration Society
3 Doughty Mews
London WC1N 2PG
Tel. +44 (0)20 7242 2266

Kelsey Museum of Archaeology Dig Diary

Two short updates have been added to the Dig Diary for the Kelsey excavations at Abydos. In Week 2 painted blocks were found, which the conservators quickly went to work on. In Week 3 the conservation team set to work achieving their goals. The use of databases is discussed and the data collection form has been reproduced on the site - lots of data required!

Donors react fast to save site in the Faiyum

Cotsen Institute of Archaeology (Willeke Wendrich)

Our primary goal in archaeology is to collect information, but academic archaeology has moved beyond just survey, excavation and analysis to include the protection of cultural heritage in its broadest sense. Working in the Fayum, an Egyptian desert oasis south of Cairo, poses many struggles for the preservation of sites due to both wanton destruction by treasure hunters and plowing activity by local farmers. When the threat is imminent we go into rescue mode and quickly record as much as we can. But sometimes giving up the site equals allowing material remains with world heritage value to be destroyed. In these cases, immediate action is the only option, like building a protective fence. This is a costly decision that never comes at the right moment, and is never foreseen in the budget.

Last December, two weeks before we were scheduled to wrap up our work in the Fayum and leave Egypt, we discovered that agricultural development had encroached upon Kom W, one of the most famous Neolithic sites in Egypt. In 2003 and 2006, members of the Director’s Council of the Friends of Archaeology, the highest-level support group at the Cotsen Institute, had visited the site and knew of its importance. An e-mail with the subject header “HELP” was sent out to this group and within 24 hours we received the comforting message: “go build your fence, we'll take care of it.” The Cotsen Institute has a donor base, which lives archaeology, understands fieldwork stress and panic mode, and is there when most needed. Within two weeks the fence was in place, and because it looks very much like the fences surrounding mine fields throughout the desert, we have good hopes that it will be utterly effective in protecting Kom W and its fragile remains. Thank you Charlie Steinmetz, Debbie Arnold, Patti and Roger Civalleri, Harris Bass, Jeanne Bailey and Tracy Johnson, for fencing in the Fayum.

Willeke Wendrich is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Excavations at the tomb of Ay

Luxor News ( Jane Akshar)

Visiting my favourite tomb the other day and expecting to find it deserted and quiet I was surprised to find dozens of people excavating. I managed to chat with the geophysics chappy called Dash. He said they were searching for the Amarna tombs which made a lot of sense to me as the Western Valley only has two known tombs Amenhotep III and Ay (possible originally built for Tutankamun). He said lots of interesting things.

1) the Eastern Valley deceives you, cut surfaces are identified but these led nowhere, tantalising and mysterious why are there

2) there are 4 bore holes at the tomb of Ay, nobody knows why they are there. Could possible by some kind of marker. Either old or new Belzoni or anything as nobody kept a record

3) geophysics has not developed as much as DNA so his ability to identify things is still primitive

He had just started work but there was also lots of excavations goign on as well.

Howard Carter's Egypt notes to net £4,000

This Is London

Archives relating to great discoveries in ancient Egypt, including the tomb of Tutankhamun, are to go to auction.

The cache of letters and photos collected by Egyptologist Rex Engelbach could sell for up to £4,000 at Bonhams in Mayfair later this month.

It includes letters from Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, who uncovered the tomb of the boy pharaoh in 1922.

The Bonhams sale is on 31st March 2009: Sale 16779 - India and Beyond, Antiquities, Greece and the Near East, 31 Mar 2009, New Bond Street:

Lot No: 167
Papers of Rex Engelbach
Papers and photographs of the Egyptologist Rex Engelbach, comprising:

(i) Letters to Engelbach by Lord Carnarvon (22 March 1921 - "I heard the latest news from Luxor when Carter arrived here yesterday, he told me you would be kind enough to look after the tomb - please accept my best thanks - I hope one will find something. I had hoped to have had a little private conversation with you at Luxor & therefore I hope what I am going to write you will treat as quite confidential... We shall then have to find a new 'Master Digger' & I have hear rumour that Mr Brunton might like to take it on. I would be no party to taking him away from Petrie if he wanted to keep him... but I should like to know what you think of him..."), Howard Carter ("...I am pleased you have managed to reconstruct the wee marquee. I failed to put it together. There is a small gilt tone which belongs to it - Rather like a box, which had (originally) a feather cushion on top, but which was completely destroyed by insects..."), Sir Aurel Stein (two autograph letters - "I have often thought back with gratitude to all you did to make my 'globe-trotting' tour profitable in an archaeological way. Those were glorious days spent between Kala Siman in the North and Deir Sita in the South with ruins of all sorts to provide archaeological 'feasts for the eye', as the Indian expression has it. I took a considerable number of photos at sites which had remained beyond the area of the Princeton Univ. expedition's operations..."), Rudyard Kipling ("...I greatly want to see the new treasures of the museum: and with whom could I see them better than with you?..."), Flinders Petrie, under whom Engelbach had trained (series, including one written while excavating at Gaza - "I am now hard at it, clearing up all the flow of pots & bronzes that comes in, typing, & drawing all new types; beside that doing much of the field plans, & the arrangement of the work. My wife does all the book-keeping & pay, so with 300 people slogging away we are kept pretty busy. Our five helpers each take a part of the superintendence. My girl is an omnium, does the best inking of drawings, doctors all the damaged folk, & takes turns at holding the diggers when other people are off..."), Carter's assistant Richard Bethell, George Reisner ("...I am deeply grateful for your intermediation with the Egyptian Army Air Force in securing for us the beautiful photographic mosaic of the Gaza Necropolis..."), Somers Clarke (long illustrated letter about their Egyptian Masonry), the Crown Prince of Sweden (series, about "acquiring duplicates for the Egyptian Museum for the Egyptian Museum in Stockholm out of the store rooms of the Egyptian State Collections" [for which Engelbach was made a Knight of the Polar Star]), P.G. Elgood, Dorothy Mackay, S.R.K. Glanville, General C.W. Spinks ("...glad everything went well with the Royal nocturnal body snatching..."), Enoch E. Peterson, J.I. Craig, Sir Alan Gardiner (series), Percy Newberry, Battiscombe Gunn (series), H.V. Morton (2), and others; together with a series of 16 letters by Engelbach to his wife Nancy ("...I took Ibrahim over to the Tombs of the Kings yesterday and saw Carter. He tells me the Times copyright is still on. They all leave in about a week as the steamboat is to arrive tomorrow. Carter tells me that Derry is to have the examination of Tut. I am glad as I cannot stick Elliot-Smith...")

(ii) Photographs, including a series of snapshots taken in late in 1922 and early 1923 of the comings and goings around the tomb of Tutankhamun ("Tut's tomb valley of Kings Luxor Rex's back". "Gold Coffin of Tut Amkh Amun lying on sarcophagus", "Carrying box from Tomb of Tutankh Amun", "Luxor 1922 Lord Carnarvon leaving Tomb of Tutankhamun", "Rex & M. Lacan at Tut's Tomb", Engelbach standing outside the tomb, etc.); together with photographs of the burial chamber of Queen Hetepheres at Gaza as first found, of the Cairo Museum staff, the Unfinished Obelisk as discovered by Engelbach at Aswan in 1922, and much else

(iii) Articles, papers and other documents, including a revised typescript of 'Tutankhamun's Tomb: An Account of its Discovery' ("...Carnarvon arrived on November 23rd, with his daughter, then Lady Evelyn Herbert, and the tomb was actually opened when I was away for the night at Qena...This was, strictly speaking, irregular..."), list of books in his library, various certificates of award for foreign honours, royalty statement for his Ancient Egyptian Masonry, etc.

Estimate: £2,000 - 4,000

Exhibition: The Dream of Eternal Life

BBC News

One of the biggest exhibitions of mummies ever staged is opening in the northern Italian town of Bolzano.

The show, called the Dream of Eternal Life, features more than 60 mummies from Egypt, Asia, Europe and South America, assembled from 27 museums.

They include animals as well as humans, and the artefacts connected with them.

Mummification Museum Lecture - News from Kom el Heltan

Luxor News blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for yet again making her notes available from the Mummification Museum lecture in Luxor:

Mummfication Museum lecture - News from Kom el Heltan - Dr Hourig 28/2/9

The area under excavation is the colossus of Memnon and the temple of Amenhotep III and they have been working for 6 years with lots of backing.

A very interesting slide was shown with the original temple superimposed on the existing site. There were three pylons with colossal statues in front of them, an avenue of sphinxes leading to a peristyle court, the sanctuaries. The width of the pylons is known but not the length. The site is 3 m above the original temple floor but after excavating 8 cm they hit water. The site desperately needs the dewatering project. There is a fantastic stele showing Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The temple was part of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley. In 1998 it was designated on of 100 most endangered monuments.

The colossi came from Gebel el Amar and show 2 ladies his wife Queen Tiye on the south and his mother Mutemwiya on the north. They monitor it yearly to check for tilting. As well as looking after the monuments they also collect old documents. She showed a painting by Verner 1873 which showed the statues with water at their feet, people around then with fires going. Combine that with the damage of the salts, the vibrations from the parking lot and the road it is amazing they have survived. They want the road to be moved (the slides show quite clearly the road goes through the southern side). The statue also suffers from the changes in temperature as much as 40 degrees between day and night which make it peel like an onion. They had over 1000 fragments that needed consolidation. An Armenian seismology report shows an earlier earthquake than the Roman one. Liquefaction gives evidence of earthquake.

The 1st court was 100m deep, the second pylon had 2 colossal similar to the Memnon statues. They have had to work on preservation and documentation. The north colossus of the 2nd pylon was fallen and eroded. In 2002 the found the right leg with a statue of Queen Tiye. In 2004 they lifted the 450 tons and moved it 11 ½ metres north to a dry area. They needed pumps day and night.

They found the south colossus fallen east south east, a hand was broken in 3 parts.

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

Tourism: Egypt enjoys golden year


Egypt’s promise of sun, sea, sand and culture brought German tourists in record numbers last year. In total, 1.2 million Germans flocked to the Land of the Pharaohs, a figure topped only by the Russians. However, with a total of 14.3 million room nights, Germans stayed longer, representing a jump of nearly 26 per cent over 2007.
The German performance contributed to a buoyant year for Egypt, which attracted 12.8 million visitors in total, a rise of 15 per cent over the previous year. Speaking at ITB, Egyptian tourism minister Zoheir Garranah said the country enjoyed 25 per cent growth until September when the economic downturn started to bite.

“What will happen in 2009 is the million dollar question, but we realise it is going to be a very tough year,” he said. “We need to work quickly and very aggressively to minimise losses from the business.”

The minister explained such measures include close co-operative marketing with tour operators, organising press and trade familiarisation trips to the country, and working to attract incentive groups and charter packages. The decision by German travel association DRV to hold its annual conference in Port Ghalib and Luxor in December is set to bring in another 1,000 or so industry visitors.

See the above page for the full story.

Nine paintings stolen from northern Cairo museum

The Earth Times

Nine paintings were stolen from Mohammed Ali Pasha's palace, a museum that lies on the Nile banks in northern Cairo, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture said on Tuesday. "Officials at the palace say the paintings were last seen Monday afternoon just before the palace was closed," Egypt's Minister of Culture Farouq Hosni said when he went to inspect the crime scene on Tuesday along with head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Zahi Hawas.

Hosni expressed his sorrow and deep concern at the theft, which had happened at a time when "Egypt is implementing several projects to restore its museums and protect its legacy."

See the above page for more.

Exhibition: How Giacometti's Art Walks Like An Egyptian

The Journal of Turkish Weekly

Alberto Giacometti, the leading Swiss artist and sculptor of the 20th century, has a previously little known side – he was obsessed with ancient Egyptian art.

A new exhibition at Zurich's Kunsthaus fine arts museum sets Giacometti's modern works against the backdrop of relics from ancient Egypt. The similarities are striking.

Giacometti (1901-1966) is most famous for his sculptures of slender, elongated figures, including his "walking men".

His work is highly prized - his Grande femme debout II (Tall woman standing II) sold for $27.5 million (SFr29 million) in New York in May last year, confirming him as the most expensive Swiss artist.

Giacometti's use of the "Egyptian style", however, is little known and it has taken a collaboration between art – the Kunsthaus – and Egyptology – the Egyptian Museum in Berlin – to bring it to life.

See the above page for more details.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Colossi of Memnon

With many thanks to Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine.
Copyright Bob Partridge

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gold jewelry found in tomb of Djehuty on the west bank of Luxor


Spanish archaeologists digging on the west bank of Luxor, Egypt, have discovered jewelry in a tomb of a state treasurer who lived some 3,500 years ago under the reign of Queen Hatshepsut.

The team found five gold earrings and two gold rings that probably belonged to Djehuty -- the so-called overseer of treasury, who supervised works under Hatshepsut -- or his family in a newly discovered burial chamber in his tomb, the Egyptian Culture Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today.

The chamber, the second in the tomb, is the fourth dating to this period that has been found with painted walls, the statement said. Two of its walls are decorated with texts from the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the ceiling bears a mural of the goddess Nut.

Associated Press

With photographs

This undated photo released Tuesday March 10, 2009, by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, shows walls of a tomb thought to belong to a senior official under Egypt's most powerful queen, on the west bank of the Nile river in Luxor, Egypt. The Supreme Council of Antiquities says five golden earrings and two rings were found in the tomb of Gahouti, the head of the treasury under Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt some 3,500 years ago.

Yahoo Espana

With photograph.

Una misión de arqueólogos españoles ha descubierto cinco pendientes y dos anillos de oro de la dinastía XVIII del Imperio Nuevo (1539-1075 a.C) en la ciudad monumental de Luxor, en el sur de Egipto, anunció hoy un comunicado oficial.

El Consejo Supremo de Antigüedades (CSA) explica en la nota que las piezas se encontraron en la cámara mortuoria de Gehuti, responsable de la Hacienda durante la época de la Reina Hatchepsut (1482-1502 a.C), en la zona de Derá Abu al Naga, en la orilla occidental del Nilo en Luxor, a 600 kilómetros al sur de El Cairo.

Según los primeros estudios de los arqueólogos españoles, es posible que estas joyas pertenezcan al propio Gehuti o a un miembro de su familia, ya que era un funcionario importante que se vestía con joyas como los reyes, agregó el texto.

Estos estudios han probado también que la tumba de Gehuti fue saqueada en distintas épocas faraónicas.

Además, los contenidos de la tumba como el ataúd y la momia fueron quemados en un incendio en el periodo entre 725 y 1081 antes de Cristo.

El secretario general del CSA, Zahi Hawas, explicó que es probable que los pendientes y los anillos hallados fueran extraviados por los ladrones durante el robo de la tumba, por lo que pudieron ser encontrados ahora, mientras que otras joyas han desaparecido.

A Spanish mission working at Dra Abu El-Naga on the West Bank at Luxor has discovered a second, painted burial chamber in the tomb of Djehuty (TT11). Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni announced the discovery, adding that the Spanish team, led by Dr. José Galán of the National Research Center, Madrid, has been working at the site since 2002.

At the end of their 2008 season, the mission came across a 3 meter-deep shaft inside the burial chamber of Djehuty, an overseer of the treasury and overseer of works during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut (ca. 1479-1458 BC). At the beginning of 2009, they discovered a second burial chamber at the bottom of this shaft. The chamber is decorated on two of its walls, mostly with texts from the Book of the Dead. An image of the goddess Nut adorns the ceiling (photo).

The discovery is remarkable, as only four other decorated burial chambers dating to this period are known. Although the names of Djehuty, his father, and his mother were intentionally erased in the upper part of the monument, they are intact in the newly discovered lower burial chamber. At the entrance to the lower chamber, the Spanish team found five gold earrings and two gold rings, which date to the early- to mid-18th Dynasty and probably belonged to Djehuty or to a member of his family.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, commented that only a few other objects from the tomb are known, as most of Djehuty’s funerary equipment was destroyed by fire in antiquity. Galán added that the discovery of this decorated chamber adds to our understanding of the religious and funerary beliefs of the mid-15th century BC, and of the elite of Queen Hatshepsut’s court.

What happened to Pharaoh's workers?

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

We are gradually beginning to understand what happened to the elite body of artisans that worked on the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings after they ceased to be built, says Jill Kamil

It appears that the workers, or should we say workmen and artisans, the people who built the rock-cut tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings from about 1500 BC onwards, may have later been employed on a project aimed at "emptying" and "recycling" their contents -- or that, at least, is what Rob Demaree of Leiden University thinks.

In his recent talk at the Dutch Institute in Cairo, Demaree said that an impressive number of texts on papyri, ostraca and graffiti had provided researchers with extensive information on the workers' community at Deir Al-Medina, especially from the Ramasside Period and the second half of the New Kingdom, but that in spite of all our knowledge we did not know what happened at the end of this period when the Ramasside line of kings was no longer in power and no more royal tombs were built. "Now, thanks to a largely unpublished dossier of texts, we are gradually beginning to understand what happened to them," he said.

Demaree, who studied Egyptology in Leiden, Copenhagen and Oxford, and who obtained his PhD on "Ancestor Worship in Ancient Egypt", was aware that not all members of the audience were au fait with the earlier phases of the workmen's village on the Theban necropolis, let alone the final phase, so he started his presentation by outlining what had taken place earlier. To recap, he said that the settlement was founded some time in the early 18th Dynasty, in the reign of Tuthmosis I (1550--1525 BC), the first Pharaoh definitely to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, and that in its earliest stage there was no resident community -- just a village of some 40 houses to accommodate itinerant workmen hired for short periods of time. Later the settlement was expanded to accommodate a special group of artisans -- "expert artists" might be a better word -- and, from literary evidence recovered from the village, it appears that more than 100 people, including children, lived in the village, off and on, for several centuries.

See the above page for the full story.