Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tutankhamun still selling well

A four-month King Tut exhibit at the Children’s Museum has had thousands of ticket orders today.

In the first few hours after the museum opened ticket sales, the museum has sold more than 19,000 tickets, said Jaclyn Falkenstein, public relations coordinator for the museum.

One year ago, the museum announced the “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” exhibit, would come to Indianapolis. The exhibit of more than 130 artifacts from the great tomb in Egypt will open on June 27, along with a new permanent exhibit on modern Egypt. The exhibit ends Oct. 25.

The National Geographic exhibition recently set attendance records in Atlanta, the first stop on a U.S. tour that also includes Dallas and San Francisco.

Serias aventuras arqueológicas y artísticas acercan Egipto a Jaén

Diario Jaen (Claudia Sánchez)

Thanks to the Amigos de la Egiptologia website for bringing the above story to my attention. With photographs.

Profesores de la Universidad de Jaén conforman el grueso de un proyecto interdisciplinar de investigación en Egipto, en el que también colaboran investigadores de la Universidad de Granada, del Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas y de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; lidera el grupo el egiptólogo y profesor de Historia Antigua de la Universidad de Jaén, Alejandro Jiménez, tras varios años de preparativos para la incursión en las tierras del Nilo, el año pasado, bajo los inclementes rayos del sol veraniego, a la altura del trópico de cáncer, iniciaron su primera campaña en el sur del país africano y volverán el próximo otoño a este rincón de Oriente.

Los expedicionarios del siglo XXI, tienen algo en común con los viajeros de finales del siglo XVIII y XIX, con aquellos artistas románticos que a través de sus obras literarias o pictóricas querían mostrar a occidente el exotismo, el paisaje y paisanaje de aquel pintoresco mundo tan diferente.

En la actualidad, el juego de espejos es mutuo, Jaén mira hacia Egipto y Egipto analiza el legado de los españoles que contribuyeron en las excavaciones. Hace sólo una semana que se inauguró en El Cairo, en el Museo de Egipto, la exposición “120 años de Arqueología Española”. La Universidad de Jaén participa con un panel de los logros obtenidos en la pasada campaña y ya queda en la historia su reciente intervención y compromiso patrimonial.

El pintor escocés David Roberts (Edimburgo 1796 –Londres 1864), cuyas obras se exponen en el Museo Provincial de Jaén, fue desde el sur de Egipto (el mismo lugar donde está el yacimiento arqueológico sobre el que trabaja el grupo de la UJA) hasta la Tierra Santa. Viajó en barco desde Londres hasta Alejandría y durante dos meses y medio recorrió el Nilo y a la vuelta se detuvo en El Cairo, para continuar el viaje acompañado de beduinos por el desierto del Sinaí a camello, hasta llegar a Jerusalén el Viernes Santo de 1839, tras pasar por Petra, Hebrón o Gaza. En la ciudad Santa su gobernador turco lo recibió y le manifestó su respeto y apoyo a su proyecto.

También los investigadores jiennenses tienen el apoyo de las autoridades egipcias, pues es muy difícil tener una concesión arqueológica en Egipto y ellos lo han logrado, además, “in situ” también se toman medidas de seguridad, así en el yacimiento arqueológico siempre está con ellos un inspector del Servicio de Antigüedades egipcio atento a que no se produzca ningún altercado, robo o expolio de piezas arqueológicas, además varios trabajadores autóctonos poseen una licencia especial que les permite ser contratados para colaborar en la excavación.

See the above page for the full story.

Book Review: The Lost History of Christianity

Religion and Ethics News Weekly (Review by J. Peter Pham)

The Lost History of Christianity
Philip Jenkins (Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in History and Religious Studies at Penn State University)
HarperOne, 2008

Had the author been satisfied with merely rendering accessible to a broader audience this fascinating, but little known, story, The Lost History of Christianity would nonetheless already constitute an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of the Middle East and Africa. For Jenkins, however, the historical narrative he assembled is but the foundation on which to pose several questions of considerable contemporary relevance.

Shifting focus from Mesopotamia to Africa, Jenkins considers the very different fates of the church in Egypt and elsewhere in North Africa. In the sixth century, there were more than 500 bishops, successors of church fathers such as Cyprian of Carthage and Augustine of Hippo, ministering in what today are Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia; barely two centuries later not one was left, their churches having vanished in the face of the Muslim invasion.

In contrast, in Egypt, which was conquered by the armies of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As in 640, not only did the Coptic church survive, but it continues, even today, to be the faith of at least 10 percent of the population. After discounting a number of explanations, Jenkins concludes that the key factor is “how deep a church planted its roots in a particular community, and how far the religion became part of the air that ordinary people breathed.” Whereas the Latin church of North Africa was essentially a colonial faith, appealing mainly to urban elites, the Coptic clergy translated their doctrine and practices into the idioms readily grasped by ordinary people, both city dwellers and rural peasants. Thus, despite persecutions, the Copts survived and their patriarchate spread Christianity up the Nile, deep into Africa to Nubia in present-day northern Sudan, which remained a Christian kingdom into the 15th century, and to Ethiopia (which also had contact with Syriac Christians), where the local church remains in communion with the see of Alexandria to this day. The lesson Jenkins draws here—although some might well be discomfited by the terms with which he articulates it—is that “for churches as for businesses, failure often results from a lack of diversification, from attaching one’s fortunes too closely to one particular set of circumstances, political or social.”

See the above page for the full story.

Darf Publishers - North African desert titles

Darf Publishers

I recently purchased Harding King's Mysteries of the Libyan Desert (1925), a brand new reprint by Darf Publishers, and discovered that they have many more similar titles in the series.

is a beautifully made and produced hard back which I found by accident on Amazon whilst searching for something else. Other north African titles date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Well worth a look if you like this type of writing. I have a feeling that they are going to cost me a small fortune!

Exhibition: Gates of heaven

Al Ahram Weekly

An article which I missed, about an exhibition at the Louvre which will be open until the end of June:

Ancient Egyptian concepts of this world and the next are the focus of this spring's major exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, writes David Tresilian

This spring's major exhibition at the Louvre museum in Paris brings together a variety of ancient Egyptian artifacts -- sculpture, fragments of papyrus, tomb furniture, mummy cases and mummies -- and uses them to illustrate the ways in which the ancient Egyptians thought about the world and their place within it. It will be very welcome to anyone who has ever wandered through museum Egyptology galleries and been struck by the impressive scale and detail of the materials on display but felt rather lost when it comes to making sense of them.

Entitled Les Portes du ciel, the "gates of heaven," the exhibition investigates the division in ancient Egyptian thought between the visible and the invisible world and the ways in which the ancient Egyptians thought about the boundary between life and death and between the world of the gods and the human world.

Ancient Egyptian tombs and mortuary temples usually featured stone stelae, or markers, which were carved to resemble doors or gateways, and these seem to have had a symbolic function as ways of access to the dead. Investigation of the function of such gateways is one part of the exhibition's remit, but the general idea is much broader than that. Beginning with such points of access between the worlds of the living and the dead, Les Portes du ciel examines many of the basic oppositions that structured ancient Egyptian thought, including the ancient Egyptians' famous preoccupation with preparation for the afterlife.

The exhibition is presented in the Louvre's main temporary exhibition gallery in the Hall Napoléon and is arranged in the form of a loop that takes the visitor through four main parts. Boundaries are established between each as if to underline the exhibition's preoccupation with symbolic lines or crossing points, and the overall design changes as the visitor proceeds through the galleries.

There are some 370 objects on display culled from the major European museums as well as from the Louvre, and these range from sculptures made to a larger than human scale to tiny amulets and various kinds of tomb goods. The exhibition will certainly be a haven for all devotees of ancient Egyptian materials. Families with young children were much in evidence on a recent visit, along with the Louvre's more familiar middle-aged audience, children perhaps always being fascinated by dinosaur bones and ancient Egyptian mummies.

The exhibition's first room, entitled "'first time': the creation of the world," examines ancient Egyptian creation myths, looking in particular at the ways in which the ancient Egyptians seem to have carved up the cosmos into adjoining spaces and how they conceptualised the boundaries between them.

Writers in the characteristically sumptuous catalogue accompanying the exhibition stress what the ancient Egyptians seem to have conceived of as the paradoxically fragile nature of the apparently solid world around them. This world, created according to myths whose details change from place to place and from period to period in ancient Egypt's exceptionally long history, rested upon another, invisible world, the boundaries of which seem to have lain beyond the horizon, in the skies, or beneath the earth. While there was a kind of permanent connection in ancient Egyptian thought between the visible world and this other world, which was the world of the gods and of the dead, there was also a need to foster and strengthen this connection. Ancient Egyptian religion was the principal mode in which such contact and strengthening took place, and a vast priestly caste provided the necessary mediation.

A special role seems to have been played by the ancient Egyptian king or pharaoh, who was seen as the living person closest to the gods. Various materials in the first room of the exhibition illustrate this idea, one of the most striking being a temple relief from the Karnak temple complex in Luxor dating from the Ptolemaic period.

As is well known, the Ptolemaic kings, Greek- speaking descendants of a general of Alexander the Great who conquered Egypt in 331 BCE, took over the role previously played by the Egyptian pharaohs, even presenting themselves in Egyptian guise and maintaining the Egyptian religion. In the relief included in the present exhibition, now itself in the Louvre, Ptolemy VIII Euergetes (reigned 170-163 and 145-116 BCE) is shown making an offering to the god Amun-Re, something which, the catalogue note explains, was part of his "mission to maintain the initial dynamism involved in the creation of the world, as conceived by the ancient Egyptians."

The first room of the exhibition is painted bright yellow in reference to the role played by the sun in ancient Egyptian thought, particularly when conceptualising the solid, visible world. From here, the visitor moves to the second room, darkened throughout, which is given over to the world for which the ancient Egyptians are most famous, that of the dead.

However, "far from being fascinated by death," as popular impressions of them might suggest, writes curator Marc Etienne in the exhibition catalogue, "the ancient Egyptians wanted to be able to do everything in the afterlife that they had been accustomed to doing in this one." The idea was to make all the preparations they could in this life for the life that was to come, though the ways in which they ancient Egyptians thought about the afterlife, particularly their ideas about its topography, seem to have altered over time.

See the above page for the full story.

Travel: Aswan -- what Cairo once was

Al Ahram Weekly

Alaa Abdel-Ghani visits the Upper Egyptian city where time often stands still

The moment I leave Cairo, heading anywhere inside Egypt, I am constantly reminded of the hugely successful 1980s Egyptian comedy play Shahed Mashafsh Haga (The Witness Who Saw Nothing). During a courtroom break, star Adel Imam indulges in light-hearted banter with a lowly clerk who tells Imam he has seven children.

"The kids, my wife and I, and my mother-in- law, we all live in one room."

"All in one room?" a bewildered Imam asks. "You leave all the other rooms in the house and stay in one room?"

"Sir," the clerk replies with similar befuddlement, "the house is one room."

That's Cairo... almost. Egypt actually has many, many rooms, but many of them have been abandoned by their inhabitants in search of better job opportunities in Cairo. In the process, they have crammed the capital to breaking and boiling point, leaving behind endless stretches of both greenery and desert, vastness so great and so under-populated you cannot but wonder how totally better Cairo would be if its wall-to-wall people were to spread out and evenly occupy all that empty territory available elsewhere.

This haphazard migration has tilted Egypt heavily in Cairo's disfavour; too much in the capital, few and far between everywhere else. Sometimes, we in Cairo fight back the only way we know how: by leaving it, if only temporarily. I left my wife and three teenage children to brainstorm where this lucky spot awaiting us for a brief holiday would be. They took aim, fired and, bullseye, they struck Upper Egypt. Aswan to be exact.

Even though this was the end of January, during the mid-year school and university holidays, and the two biggest and most famous hotels in Aswan, the old and new Cataracts, were closed for renovation, we still were able to book a hotel when it would normally have taken at least a month in advance to do so. Our tourist office said we were fortunate because the global economic crisis had started to take its toll. More and more people, here and abroad, were deciding to stay home for the holidays to save pennies and piastres.

We weren't so lucky with the train we wanted to take. Berth trains had all been booked; airfare was LE1,300 a head -- too expensive, we thought, for a four-day trip. So we grudgingly settled for a train without beds.

The seats on board the bedless train were comfortable enough, with ample leg room, but this was to be a 14-hour trip, and on such a marathon, even Lazyboy recliners would not suffice. As we pulled out of Ramses Station, we knew the start of this 680-kilometre odyssey would not be a joy ride.

For me, in particular, such a long-distance journey could have serious repercussions. Being a former blood clot victim suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), inflicted by sitting too long in cramped quarters, another clot could not be ruled out. The avoidance of a second unwelcome clot would mean getting up from time to time, doing Jane Fonda stretch exercises, pacing the aisles every once in a while, and drinking plenty of water.

I did nothing of the sort.

It was the start of night and the monotony of the choo-choo helped me to snore off at regular intervals. Besides, it was dark, and although the diesel made stops at Beni Sweif, Minya, Sohag, Assiut, Qena and Luxor, these cities all looked alike because in the dark everything looks the same. Eerie after eerie scene replicated itself -- dusty, empty roads, greyish shuddered buildings a few storeys tall, and the streets lit meekly by rows of weak street lamps emitting yellowish dull light, incapable of doing the task they are intended for.

In Aswan, we stayed at Basma, a four-star-plus hotel (didn't know hotels had plus and minus categories). But just like I never heard of a plus hotel, I never saw a receptionist escort a patron all the way to his hotel room, and from the Basma lobby to our room stood a daunting 119 steps in the middle. But that's exactly what our kindly receptionist did. And because my wife was nowhere to be found when this extreme courtesy was taking place (she was -- surprise, surprise -- scouring the shops nearby), when she finally appeared, the receptionist made the 119-step trip again. But he took the whole thing in stride, literally, and his smile was genuinely friendly.

Basma was approximately a half hour walk from the city centre. Perched atop a hill, the hotel's venue provided those picture postcard views of the majestic Nile. The bad news was that Basma is situated on a hill so steep that drivers of horse buggies cannot take you all the way to the hotel. They have to drop you off once the gradient becomes too acute for the horse. If horses can't make the climb, you can imagine what it must be like for humans.

The Nubian Museum was located opposite the hotel, providing our first official taste of Aswan's history.

See the above page for the full story.

Hospital helps unravel the mysteries of Eygpt

This Is London

Another older story which I missed from March.

A HOSPITAL has helped reveal the secrets of mummified children from Egypt using state-of-the-art technology.

A team of scientists, led by forensic Egyptologist Janet Davey, scanned three 2,000-year-old Egyptian child mummies at Blackheath Hospital, in Lee Terrace, Blackheath, on Tuesday (March 24).

The three mummies, one of which has an elaborate gold death mask, were part of a collection of 12 housed in The British Museum.

By using the hospital’s CT scanner, the scientists were able to create a 3D picture of the mummies’ skeletons and anatomy without disturbing their delicate wrappings.

Miss Davey, based at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, says the scans will help solve the mysteries surrounding the life and death of children in ancient Egypt.

She said: “Early results show all three mummies were boys, two of which have severe head injuries.

“It’s very unusual for mummies to have holes in their heads.

By using the hospital’s CT scanner, the scientists were able to create a 3-D picture of the mummies

“We don’t know if that has anything to do with mummification and we don’t know if these injuries were sustained before or after death.

See the above page for the full story, with photographs.

Including the 2009 dig diaries.

Welcome to

A visitor to the site before 1975 would have viewed a landscape uncluttered by monuments of any kind ... An observant visitor might have noticed rough rectangular depressions in the sand: the outlines of buried tomb courtyards.
Geoffrey Martin

Welcome to This website is maintained by the Friends of Saqqara Foundation, a non-profit foundation aiming at providing financial support for Dutch archaeological research at Saqqara, Egypt. In particular the foundation supports the joint excavation team of the National Museum of Antiquities at Leiden and Leiden University. This team is advancing the research, documentation, and preservation of the monuments in the area south of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, where a cemetery of important New Kingdom officials is located.

The Leiden Excavations in the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara (Egypt) are a joint project of:

RMO - Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) at Leiden, the Netherlands
UL - Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Egyptology

Gully in the Valley of the Kings

One that I missed from the end of March. With photographs.

In the area in the cliffs between the tombs of Ramesses II and Merenptah, Hawass and his team have found a man-made drainage channel that probably helped prevent the flooding of the royal tombs in the vicinity. Masses of stone piled near a manmade wall at the base of the cliff represent a collection area for runoff from the occasional rains in the high desert that have inundated the Valley of the Kings since ancient times. The area at the base of the channel is probably the location mentioned in an ostracon as the site where a sacred tree once grew, and the “tears of the gods” were collected. A small, sheltered area off to the side of the channel, where the team found a stone basin that may have held food and water, probably served as a resting place for the workmen.

In the central valley to the south of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the team has found the remains of small structures made of stone. These buildings were probably used for storage, perhaps of food and other items intended for offerings or, of embalming materials. The team also also uncovered a number of workmen’s huts, which were identified but never excavated by Howard Carter, and a cave cut into the rock to the south of the tomb. This cave was probably used as a shelter by the workmen. The excavation area is in the vicinity of the Amarna Period tombs KV63 to the southeast and KV55 to the northeast. It is possible that if important figures from this era, such as Nefertiti, for instance, were reburied in the Valley of the Kings after the city of Akhetaten was abandoned, their tombs would be in this area. Hawass’ team is working not only in the area immediately to the south of the tomb of Tutankhamun, but also in the area north and east of the tomb of Seti I. They have found traces of cutting in the bedrock underneath the modern resthouse, which may lead to a previously unknown tomb. Unfortunately, it would be necessary to remove the entire building to explore this area, so they will not be able to do so in the immediate future. A radar survey of the central valley was recently conducted in cooperation with an American team. The radar identified a number of areas of interest, and further analysis of the data may reveal features that warrant archaeological investigation.

Hawass’ team have made a number of remarkable finds. They have found hundreds of graffiti, most of them previously unknown. One unique example tells us that the vizier Userhat built a tomb for his father, the vizier Amonnakht, in the place known as set-maat, or “place of truth.” An inscription mentioning a previously unknown queen, the first part of whose name reads “Weret.” This woman bore the title of “god’s wife,” an important religious office held by royal women beginning in the early 18th Dynasty. A beautiful painted ostracon showing a queen presenting offerings was also discovered, in addition to inscriptions of the cartouches of Ramesses II and Seti I. In addition, the team has discovered pieces of beautiful painted pottery dating to the New Kingdom.

See the above page for the full story.

Travel: Roman amphitheatre in Alexandria

Al Ahram Weekly

A lovely photograph and a short explanation.

THE GLAMOROUS coastal city of Alexandria never stops amazing us, as Mohamed El-Hebeishy finds out.

The Romans cherished art, and it is said that in every Roman city or town there was at least one amphitheatre. By definition, an amphitheatre is an open-air theatre that hosts theatrical performances, sports or shows.

When Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, finally fell to the hands of the Arab army, after a tormenting 14-month siege in 640 AD, the leading commander Amr Ibn Al-Aas wrote to the Muslim Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab to inform him of the good news. In his message, he stressed the fact that among the city's establishments were about 400 Roman theatres and places of entertainment. Unfortunately, time and negligence have all but obliterated these 400 plus venues.

See the above page for more.

The Archaeology of Kurkur Oasis, Nuq‘ Maneih, and the Sinn el-Kiddab

Yale Egyptological Institue in Egypt

By John Coleman Darnell and Deborah Darnell

Nearly one hundred years ago, Arthur Weigall was inspired by the excursions of Harkhuf, the Old Kingdom official who made at least four trips deep into the Western Desert to contact and “pacify” various Libo-Nubian groups, opening up a road to the south. Although Weigall wrote vividly of the routes leading from Aswan across and beneath the Sinn el-Kiddab plateau, accessing the region of the Second Cataract and points beyond,2 his invitation to visitors to leave the attractions of Aswan for the roads of the southwest has attracted relatively few archaeologists and Egyptologists.

The Yale Toshka Desert Survey represents the first investigation devoted to assessing the presence and extent of evidence for activity in the small oasis of Kurkur (Figure 1) during the Predynastic and Pharaonic periods. During the Nubian Salvage Campaign of the 1960’s, an earlier Yale expedition studied Kurkur for about five days; although the expedition achieved considerable results of a geological and climatological nature, its archaeological observations were more modest, and are known only through a number of preliminary reports. Hester and Hobler published some additional archaeological material from Kurkur, as part of an expedition covering a larger area of the Sinn el-Kiddab and its western hinterland.

See the above page for more.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

There's very little news today so you'll find a selection of older items today which I found on my laptop, dating mainly to late March.

The Ramesseum
West Bank, Luxor

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Museum’s Egyptian Mummies: Visit to HUP for CT Scanning

University of Pennsylvania Almanac

PUM II and Hapi-Men, two of the ancient Egyptian mummies on display at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, have had their share of medical scrutiny: PUM II was both x-rayed and autopsied in 1973, while Hapi-Men underwent an x-ray in 1980.

Early Sunday morning, April 19, they traveled to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, for yet another medical procedure, and the chance for researchers to find out more about these 2000-plus year old mummies—this time, through state-of-the-art CT scanning. They were joined by Hapi-Men’s loyal (mummified) pet, affectionately known as Hapi-Puppy. All three mummies were successfully CT scanned, and returned to the Penn Museum before 9 a.m.—and before the hospital’s living human patients’ CT scan appointments began.

They will be followed, eventually, by most of the Egyptian mummies in the Museum’s collection, including the seven additional mummies on display in the Museum’s most popular exhibition, The Egyptian Mummy: Secrets and Science. What scholars learn about the collection from this procedure will eventually inform a new exhibition or segment of the current exhibition.

See the above page for the full story.

Video: Underneath the Step Pyramid with Dr Hawass

A video is now showing on Zahi Hawass's website at the above address. Here's the caption:

Djoser, the first king of Egypt’s 3rd Dynasty, was buried inside a massive, red granite sarcophagus at the bottom of a 30 meter-deep shaft underneath the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. This great tomb, designed by the brilliant architect Imhotep, is Egypt’s first pyramid and the world’s first monumental work of architecture in stone.

For the last year, an all-Egyptian team has been working to conserve and restore this precious part of the legacy of ancient Egypt. The team’s latest achievement has been to clear a deep layer of debris covering the king’s sarcophagus. The surface of the sarcophagus is now visible for the first time in recent memory. In addition, the team has located a passage leading underneath the sarcophagus, allowing scholars to examine it from all sides. A scaffolding will soon be installed in the central shaft to support the fragile walls and ceiling and prevent debris from falling into the burial chamber. This work is challenging and dangerous, and poses many tough issues for conservators.

If urgent action is not taken, however, the Step Pyramid could be lost to future generations. Zahi Hawass has empowered his team to make tough decisions and take decisive steps to protect this irreplaceable cultural treasure.

Who’s Really Buried in Cleopatra’s Tomb?

Emory University Student Newspaper (Asher Smith)

Last week, archaeologists from Egypt and the Dominican Republic began a radar survey of three tombs from the temple of Taposiris Magna, with the hope of unearthing the resting place of the losers of the Battle of Actium, the queen and her Roman lover, Marcus Antonius.

Although there may be two titans of history to be unearthed from those ruins, press reports on the excavations have focused almost exclusively on the subject of Cleopatra. Stacy Schiff, in an otherwise thoughtful and academically astute essay on the subject in Wednesday’s New York Times, dismissed Antony as “a bit player in someone else’s story.” Another report, in the South Africa-based Daily Dispatch, described Antony — conquering general, two-time consul and triumvir — in its lede as a “Roman tribune,” which though true is the rough equivalent of saying that President Obama is known for his work as a Harvard Law Review editor.

This is hardly surprising. On a very obvious (and literal) level, Cleopatra is simply sexier. The brilliant Cleopatra was first the lover of Gaius Julius Caesar and then Antony when both were the most powerful and important figures in the world, and possessed a high degree of political acumen and fluency in nine languages. Her trials in attempting to balance femininity and influence represent a timeless, eminently relatable conundrum.

Furthermore, there’s a significantly higher degree of triviality and contentiousness that has attached itself to Cleopatra’s reputation. Generations have long argued about whether or not she was ugly (after all these years, the most likely estimation seems to be Plutarch’s view that she was neither stunningly beautiful nor shrewdish, but posessed many natural charms). More recently, certain academics have tried to raise the question of how “African” she was, though chances are she was almost wholly Macedonian (if she was of mixed race, the other heritage was likely western Asian, not African).

See the above page for the full story.

More re Nefertiti's change of face

Earth Times

Using 21st Century medical computer technology, German researchers have unveiled the "hidden face" below the surface facial features of the famed bust of 18th Dynasty Queen Nefertiti - dispelling once and for all nagging rumours that the bust might be a duplicate made at the orders of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, and that the genuine bust was lost in the chaos following World War II. The researchers from Berlin's Imaging Science Institute at Charite Hospital made a series of CT scans of the bust and confirmed findings of a less sophisticated CT scan 17 years ago which revealed that the sculpture has a limestone core and is covered in layers of plaster-like stucco, called "render" by Egyptologists.

That finding was not new. But what was new is the fact that the new CT scan revealed that the limestone core was carved with such artistic precision that it forms a veritable inner copy of the outer face.

Now the Berlin experts are wondering whether the original artist originally carved the bust in limestone, but then changed his mind and added a plaster glaze which gave the queen softer and more rounded features. The experts say the limestone facial features are a bit more angular.

See the above page for more.

Vandal threat to Libyan rock art

ANSAmed (Francesca Spinola)

Some time around the middle of April, in an area of the Libyan Sahara on the Algerian frontier known as Tadrart Acacus, seven cave paintings from the Neolithic era, dating back to a period between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago, were vandalised with tins of spray paint. The caves were declared UNESCO world heritage sites more than twenty years ago. The crime was committed by a former tourist guide, a Tunisian citizen whose identity has not been revealed since he was arrested by local police on April 24. The only news to have leaked out from TripolI's Department of Archaeology is that the man is of Libyan origin and had recently been fired by the Italian tourist agency 'Dar Sahara', which has been present in the area for many years, serving the interests of lovers of the desert and cave-painting enthusiasts. ''The red, black and white graffiti written in spray paint consists of abuse addressed to the Libyan government and against Italians'', says Juma Anag, the head of the Department of Archaeology. A mission from the department, together with colleagues from the Italo-Libyan Archaeological Mission from Rome's La Sapienza University, under Professor Savino di Lernia, will be visiting the sites over the coming days to assess the extent of the damage. According to Seif Al Islam Al Gheddafi, a passionate archaeologist and president of the charitable foundation which bears his father's name, the formation of a special commission of archaeologists, security experts and frontier tourist police is already in hand with the objective of affording the country's archaeological sites, especially those in the remote desert, an efficient system of protection as soon as possible. ''The paintings - and the graffiti - are in fact easily accessible to anyone who provides themselves with a simple desert pass'', comes the complaint from the head of the Italian archaeological mission to Acacus, Savino di Lernia, who will himself be on site in Libya to assess the financial and scientific effort involved in cleaning the paintings.

See the above page for the full story.

L’âge atonien : une interprétation politique

Al Ahram Hebdo

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Le pharaon dit premier monothéiste par les uns et hérétique par les autres a le rang de star actuellement à Turin. Stèles, statues, statuettes, amulettes et monuments de différentes tailles, couleurs et matières composent l’exposition « Akhénaton, le pharaon du soleil ». Cette exposition a été inaugurée récemment à la salle de l’institution italienne Palazzo Bricherasio, à Turin en Italie. « J’ai organisé cette exposition au Palazzo Bricherasio, qui se trouve à 500 mètres seulement du Musée égyptien de Turin, qui est en phase de rénovation, car cette institution a reçu plus de trente expositions au cours des dernières années », explique l’égyptologue italien Francesco Tiradritti, l’organisateur de l’exposition. Pour lui, cette exposition met en exergue et focalise la dernière partie du règne de la XVIIIe dynastie, notamment celui d’Akhénaton. Cette période a fasciné, voire subjugué, beaucoup d’égyptologues, les poussant à l’étudier. La présentation actuelle vise à « réinsérer le règne d’Akhénaton dans le contexte social qui caractérise le Nouvel Empire. Cette vision s’oppose à l’interprétation la plus courante qui considère les années du règne d’Akhénaton comme un épisode indépendant, qui n’a rien à voir avec ce qui vient avant et après », renchérit Tiradritti.

See the above page for the full story.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Posting Bob's photos is the next best thing to visiting Egypt in person. I have been really enjoying his recent photos of Hatshepsut's temple and Deir el Medina on the west bank at Luxor. The next batch are all from the mortuary temple of Ramesses II, referred to as the Ramesseum.

Thanks to Ingeborg Waanders for pointing out a great resource for photos about Deir el Medina at If anyone has suggestions for good resources for the Ramesseum it would be great to see them.

The Ramesseum
West Bank, Luxor

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The mastaba of Watetkhethor online


Thanks to Jon J. Hirst and Thierry Benderitter for the great news that the mastaba of Watekhethor is now included on OsirisNet with the usual excellent photographs, site plans, illustrations and explanatory text. It is always a pleasure to see this excellent resource grow:

We are especially happy and proud to announce to you that the mastaba of Watetkhethor, which is part of the fascinating complex of Mereruka, is now online.

With this third section, the mastaba is now covered entirely, since it specifically adds to the pages dedicated to Mereruka, as well as to those concerning their son (and for a time, heir to the throne), Meryteti.

The original pages were created by Jon Hirst. Photographs provided by: Christian Mariais, A.Davies, Verety Endal, Jon Hirst and the ACE Publication. Line drawings created, or adapted from the ACE Publication, by Jon Hirst with the kind permission of Prof. Kanawati.

Video: More re Lahun finds

BBC News

Archaeologists in Egypt are hoping that the discovery of a burial site containing more than 50 mummies will shed light on the development of Egyptian funeral rituals.

Emma North reports.

Newly available online publications at the Oriental Institute

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago announces the publication of eleven older Egyptological titles, most available exclusively online and two also in print. These are the first of the 125 volumes scanned to be released. Internet publication of these volumes was made possible with the generous support of Misty and Lewis Gruber.

MISC. Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. By the Oriental Institute Egyptologists. 1983

OIP 10. Paleolithic Man and the Nile-Faiyum Divide: A Study of the Region during Pliocene and Pleistocene Times. By K. S. Sandford and W. J. Arkell. Oriental Institute Publications 10. 1929. Kindly note that this volume is also available in print.

OIP 49. The Egyptian Coffin Texts, Volume 2: Texts of Spells 76-163.
By Adriaan De Buck. Oriental Institute Publications 49. 1938

OIP 80. Demotic Ostraca from Medinet Habu. By Miriam Lichtheim.
Oriental Institute Publications 80. 1957

OIP 81. The Egyptian Coffin Texts, Volume 6: Texts of Spells 472-787.
By Adriaan de Buck. Oriental Institute Publications 81. 1956

OIC 5. Medinet Habu 1924-28. Part 1: The Epigraphic Survey of the Great Temple of Medinet Habu (Seasons 1924-25 to 1927-28). By Harold H. Nelson. Part 2: The Architectural Survey of the Great Temple and Palace of Medinet Habu (Season 1927-28). By Uvo Hölscher. Oriental Institute Communications 5. 1929

SAOC 1. Notes on Egyptian Marriage Chiefly in the Ptolemaic Period. By William F. Edgerton. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 1. 1931

SAOC 37. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day: Ideas of the Ancient Egyptians Concerning the Hereafter as Expressed in Their Own Terms. Translated by Thomas George Allen. Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 37. 1974

OINE 6. Excavations Between Abu Simbel and the Sudan Frontier, Part 6.
New Kingdom Remains from Cemeteries R, V, S, and W at Qustul and Cemetery K at Adindan. By Bruce Beyer Williams. With a Contribution by William J. Murnane. Oriental Institute Nubian Expedition 6. 1992.
Kindly note that this volume is also available in print.

MISC. Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt: A Study in Cultural Ecology. By Karl W. Butzer. 1976

MISC. United with Eternity: A Concise Guide to the Monuments of Medinet Habu. By William J. Murnane. With a foreword by Kent R. Weeks.

Antiquity vol 83, no.319, March 2009

Antiquity Volume 83 No.319

For those who have subscriptions or academic access, the following article in Antiquity may be of interest:

C.A. Hellier and R.C. Connolly
A re-assessment of the larger fetus found in Tutankhamen's tomb
As noted by Geoffrey Chamberlain, the two baby girls found in Tutankhamen's tomb were probably his stillborn heirs. More controversially he suggested that they were twins, although one appeared to be larger than the other. Here new research on estimating the age of a fetus is shown to support the twin hypothesis, while recent work on Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome explains why they could be such different sizes.

More re balloon accident in Luxor

BBC News

With my thanks to Peter White

Two British women injured when a hot air balloon crashed in Egypt remain in hospital, the UK Foreign Office has confirmed.

Three Egyptian operators and 13 foreign tourists were hurt when the balloon came down during a tour of the ancient city of Luxor.

Several people were taken to hospital with minor injuries after the balloon apparently hit a mobile phone mast.

It is the latest of several recent incidents involving balloons in Egypt.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Two Britons were confirmed injured.

"Their next of kin have been informed and we are providing consular assistance."

BBC correspondent Christian Fraser said he understood the balloon hit the communications tower on the west bank of the Nile, near the village of Gourna.

There were eight French tourists on board, along with the two Britons, a Canadian, a Dane and a Korean.

A fortnight ago seven tourists were injured in a similar crash.

In late February, three hot air balloons carrying 60 tourists crashed on the same day in separate locations. Seven passengers suffered injuries including broken bones.

Mr Fraser said: "The problem appears to be the number of balloon companies that are working in the area - all of them competing on price.

See the above page for more.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

I am going in to town today so I will update the blog this evening. Here's one of Bob's lovely photographs to keep you going :-)

Deir el-Medina,
Tomb of Nekhtmin,
West Bank, Luxor

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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaser - more finds at Lahun?


Ayedi said Egypt would soon announce an additional significant find near the Lahun pyramid, once covered by slabs of white limestone, showing the site could date back to an earlier era thousands of years before previously thought.

"The prevailing idea was that this site has been established by Senusret II, the fourth king of the 12th dynasty. But in light of our discovery, I think we are going to change this theory, and soon we will announce another discovery," he told reporters.

He said teams had made a discovery dating to before the 12th dynasty, but gave no details on what it was and said an official announcement could be made within days.

Ayedi said he had wanted to excavate at Lahun, Egypt's southernmost pyramid, because he was not satisfied with the result of the first excavation there in the 19th century, saying it did not match the significance of the site.

"The size of the site is huge. So I thought that we could unearth a lot of elements in this site. At the beginning of the excavation, I thought that we may rewrite the history of the area, and I was right," he said.

See the above page for the rest of the two-page story.

Google / Associated Press

With some very good photographs.

Archaeologists gave journalists a rare tour of the ancient burial site Sunday, which is next to the nearly four millennia old pyramid of Pharaoh Sesostris II.

"At the beginning of the excavation I said that we may rewrite the history of the site, and I was right," said Abdel-Rahman el-Ayedi, the deputy secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities who oversaw the dig.

Three slim wooden sarcophagi believed to be holding female mummies were laid out in one of the tombs. The innermost coffins were painted to resemble the deceased using blue, yellow, rust and black dyes.

In another tomb, workers slowly removed the lid of one inscribed with hieroglyphic prayers to reveal a colorful mummy case that el-Ayedi said belonged to a woman named Isis Her Ib, the daughter of one of Illahun's mayors nearly 4,000 years ago.

Not much was known about who used the ancient necropolis. El-Ayedi said some of the tombs were just 2,800 years old, while others were from the Middle Kingdom, which dates back 2061-1786 B.C.

Some had a single burial shaft, while others had upper and lower chambers. A funerary chapel with an offering table, painted masks, pottery, statues and protection charms known as amulets were also found at the site, el-Ayedi said.

See the above page for more.

Egyptologists dig into mystery of possible tomb

SFGate (Sam Whiting)

The unearthing of evidence pointing to the lost tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at a 2,000-year-old temple in the Mediterranean has raised skepticism among some Egyptologists even before the first remains are raised.

"I don't see a compelling argument for why they should have been buried in this temple," said Renee Dreyfus, curator of ancient art at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum. The argument is being touted by top Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who hosted a show-and-tell in Egypt last weekend of 22 coins, 10 mummies and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin that may evoke Antony (or if not, at least Richard Burton, the actor who played Antony). The artifacts were discovered in the temple of the god Osiris, according to an Associated Press report.

"It's an interesting idea, but I reserve judgment until I can see that they've actually found the burial," said Dreyfus. "If they are buried there, we congratulate him. He is adding something that archaeologists have been looking for for generations."

Even if a burial site is found at the temple, Dreyfus will want to know, "Did they in fact find cinnamon in her tomb?" she said. "It has come down to us that in addition to great treasures, she also was buried with cinnamon, which was an exotic spice at that time." If there is no cinnamon, Dreyfus would guess that there is no Cleopatra either.

See the above page for the full story. With photographs.

Creative learning: Mummification

Shouts of "eww" and "gross" filled the classroom as Dorothy Baxley pulled the liver, stomach, intestines and lungs out of Pharaoh Bear's body and put them on the table next to her.

The stuffed bear had passed away earlier that morning, Baxley explained, and they needed to take out all of his organs to make Pharaoh Bear into a mummy — that way, he could last forever.

The second-graders at Arthur A. Ware Jr. Elementary School were just starting a unit on ancient Egypt and Baxley, executive director of the Children's Art Network, was leading crafts and activities to introduce them to the topic.

"They love it," said teacher Kim Eldred. "Especially by second grade, because they don't get to do many crafts and sort of get a chance to be little again."

See the above page for the full story.

Egypt balloon crash injures 13 foreign tourists

Google / AFP

The tourists had been floating over the west bank of Luxor, one of Egypt's most renowned archaeological sites and home to the famous Valley of the Kings and the grand Temple of Hatshepsut.

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident although the security official said the balloon might have hit a mobile phone mast.

French consular sources said the gondola had become detached from the balloon, perhaps because it was overloaded. In all, there were 24 tourists on board.

See the above page for more.

Book Review: Egyptian Pyramids and Mastaba Tombs

Egyptian Pyramids and Mastaba Tombs
Philip Watson
Shire Egyptology
Published 2008
64 pages

This is an informal review of one of several books that I have just been given in the Shire Egyptology series. As reviews go it is somewhat lengthy, as it is based on the notes I made whilst I was reading the book.

The author, Peter Watson, is Head of Collections Management at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, having studied at Liverpool University's School of Oriental Studies where he graduated in 1975.

The book opens with a Table of Contents and a chronology of Egypt from the Predynastic through to the Graeco-Roman periods, showing the date ranges and the names of the pharaohs, where known.

Chapter 1 introduces the topic. The focus of the book is on the earliest established forms of burial structures - mastabas and pyramids. There is a brief explanation of the development of tombs during prehistoric times. Watson also gives a short summary of how mortuary chapels were managed on an ongoing basis.

Chapter 2 looks at First and Second Dynasty mastaba tombs. Watson concentrates on First Dynasty tombs due to a lack of comparable data from the Second Dynasty. Two cemeteries are discussed - Saqqara and Abydos. The main components of the mastaba tombs, including the architecture, decoration, furnishings and grave goods are described. Early mastaba tombs are probably the burial structures that are least well known by the general public so it is good to see a discussion of them which gives a good insight into how elaborate they were. The best known of these early examples is probably mastaba 3504 at Saqqara, with its inlaid gold work, pottery vessels and c.300 bull's heads modeled in clay with real horns set on a low bench. This example alone provides a good example of how rich some of these tombs were in both content and symbolism. It becomes very clear that this was a world where elaborate funerary requirements were very much in evidence long before the more famous pyramids. Other tombs are described, giving an insight into how innovations were made to the architecture to combat tomb robbers. At mastaba 3038 the stepped superstructure may have been an early precursor of the step pyramid design. At Abydos the royal tombs of the First Dynasty are notable for subsidiary burials and demonstrate an increasing elaboration of design and construction and the invention of brick built funerary palaces with panelled walls which seem to perform the same role as superstructures at Saqqara. Watson concludes the chapter with a discussion of where royal personages were actually buried, due to the confusion of the dual importance of Saqqara and Abydos.

Chapter 3 looks at the Third Dynasty, a new era of Egyptian funerary tradition established with the multi phased step pyramid of Djoser and his architect Imhotep. This is not only the first known pyramid but also the first to be built in stone. The chapter looks at how the step pyramid was developed from a mastaba tomb in several phases until the final form was completed and faced with Tura limestone. All elements of the superstructure, substructures, pyramid contents and decoration and the associated elements that make up the pyramid complex are described. Although most of Chapter 3 is devoted to the step pyramid Watson touches on other Third Dynasty royal tombs which he compares to the complex of Djoser, finishing with the pyramid of Huni at Meidum.

The longest chapter, Chapter 4, is devoted to the great era of pyramid construction, the highlight of which was the construction of the three royal pyramids on the Giza plateau. The development process that leads to the Great Pyramid begins with Snefru the first king of the Fourth Dynasty. As well as finishing the pyramid of Huni Snefru built two pyramids for himself at Dashur. The Red Pyramid is not discussed but Watson highlights the main points of interest in the Bent Pyramid, named for the change in incline, for which many reasons have been suggested and are discussed here. Another unique feature is the presence of two substructures reached via separate entrances in the north and west faces . A simple mortuary temple, subsidiary pyramid and a causeway leading to a valley temple are the beginnings of a template for future pyramids. The pyramid of Snefru's successor Khufu at Giza, the Great Pyramid, is described in depth together with all its internal and ancillary structures. The next pyramid to be built was built not at Giza but Abu Roash but was followed by the construction of the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, next to the Great Pyramid. Again, these are well described, picking out points of interest like the surviving red granite courses and the internal change in design in the pyramid of Menkaure. Menkaure's successor abandoned the pyramid form in favour of a mastaba. Watson mentions that pyramids were given names from the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty and details these.

Chapter 5 looks at the pyramids of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. These pyramids were much less ambitious in terms of engineering, scale and architectural integrity. Watson describes some of the reasons that have been given for why this change occurred. He emphasises that even though pyramids may have become less monumental, the reverse is true of mortuary temples which appear to have become more important than in the Fourth Dynasty. Although the first king of the Fifth Dynasty, Userkaf, built a pyramid at Saqqara the next four were built to the north of the ancient necropolis at Abusir. According to Watson the decoration of Sahure's pyramid surpassed that of any previous royal tomb. It survives in fragments but although it is described there are sadly no photographs in the book to show some of these images. The Abusir necropolis is not described in any details although there are photographs, plans and some cross section diagrams of some of the pyramids. In the late Fifth and Sixth Dynasties burials were once again moved to Saqqara. The pyramid of the last pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty, Unas, is notable mainly for its two vast boat pits, the decorated causeway and for the earliest known pyramid texts which were inscribed in the burial chamber. Watson gives a short overview of what the pyramid texts were for and some of the subjects. The pyramids of the Sixth Dynasty are mentioned but not described in any detail, with only the complex of Pepi II highlighted.

In Chapter 6 Watson leaves the royal tombs and looks instead at the mastaba tombs of the nobles and officials. Watson usefully reminds the reader of the main components of the First and Second Dynasty mastabas in the Memphite area before discussing the developments of the Third Dynasty. The main innovations in the early Third Dynasty were the reduction in the number of subterranean rooms until, in most cases, only one large chamber was deemed necessary, and the addition of stone for specific features like lintels and door jambs. The concept of the offering chapel evolved in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties with an increasing number of subsidiary rooms being added so that mastaba structures became mortuary chapels. Watson draws parallels between the development of private and royal tombs. Decoration also evolved from the Fourth Dynasty onwards and by the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties some remarkably accomplished examples were produced. Watson goes on to put mastaba tombs into the context of mastaba fields.

Chapter 7 goes straight to the Middle Kingdom, explaining that the First Intermediate pyramids constructed were insignificant during this time of economic collapse. In the Middle Kingdom the earliest kings of the Eleventh Dynasty built their tombs near Luxor and at Dra Abu el-Naga in the form of rock cut tombs with 60ft pyramids on top - a nod to the past. In the mid Eleventh Dynasty Mentuhotep I built an innovative mortuary temple with an integral tomb and valley temple, which was later overshadowed by that of Hatshepsut. This is described in detail, with a site plan. It is thought to have been topped with either a mastaba or pyramid structure, another nod to the past. Larger pyramids were built by later kings of the Middle Kingdom inlcuding Amenemhat I, Sesostris I and Amenemhat II, all of whom introduced new innovations in pyramid building. At the end of the chapter Watson mentions, very briefly, the Second Intermediate pyramids and the late revival of the Twenty Fifth Dynasty by the Nubian pharaohs in Napata.

Chapter 8 looks at the materials and methods of tomb construction. The three pages of this chapter look at what was achieved with the limited technology and the available materials, and how this might have been done. A lot of the discussion about methods of construction is, as Watson points out, purely hypothetical but the details are well described.

The book ends with a list of museums to visit, a short list of further reading and a map of the main locations mentioned in the text and the index. The text is accompanied by many photographs, diagrams and site plans all of which serve to help clarify the topics under discussion.

I enjoyed this book very much. I have only a few comments which I think might be useful to people wanting to know whether this is the book for them.

For a start at 64 pages this is a short book. The topic, covers over a 1000 years of development not just in architecture, grave goods and decoration but in politics and religious ideas. The scope includes both royal and private tombs. This is an awful lot to pack into one small book. My few frustrations begin and end with the fact that the topic seems to be too big for the book. For example one of the interesting developments is the relationship between burial site, mortuary temple and valley temple in royal tombs - but although the change in the relationship is mentioned no real explanation is given for why this happened. The Fifth and Sixth Dynasty tombs are described only briefly and I found that a shame because this is a particularly fascinating period of Old Kingdom development. Another topic that I would have liked to see expanded, which was mentioned only briefly in the introduction, is how these vast complexes were administered and maintained by family, friends and officials. Finally I think that readers who are new to the subject, who can be reasonably assumed to be amongst the potential purchasers of this book, would have appreciated a short description of terms like valley temple, mortuary temple and mastaba field in the introduction.

I think that trying to cover both royal and private tombs in a book of this size was a bit of a stretch and that it would have been better to have divided the two topics into two separate books. This would have allowed for more information about some of the lesser known royal sites to be explored, and for non-royal sites like Helwan to be brought into the conversations.

Having said that I really enjoyed this book and was very impressed at the amount of information that the author managed to pack into 64 pages. It is an excellent overview of pyramid and mastaba building and development and includes many facts and figures that may not be common knowledge. This is a great introductory text with good photographs and illustrations.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge (Ancient Egypt Magazine)

Deir el-Medina
West Bank, Luxor

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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

London Marathon

Quite how I've been dragged into going and watching the London Marathon today, Sunday 26th April, I don't know.

I support the idea whole heartedly and I am sponsoring a friend who is running for Cancer Research UK but I normally manage to be in Wales when the Marathon happens because my area of London is completely closed down for most of the day whilst the runners take over our roads.

But this year I managed to forget the date so I'm here in London and I've been sucked into the festivities - all of which means that the blog will not be updated until Monday.

Site management in Egypt (Zahi Hawass)

I am very proud that since I took office as the Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, I have been able to bring the concept of site management to Egypt for the first time. We are now implementing comprehensive, long-term programs all over the country, combining historic preservation with the construction of facilities that improve the experience of visitors to Egypt’s monuments.

In 2002, I initiated a full-scale effort to implement site management projects all over Egypt. I published the outlines of this plan in the proceedings of the Eight International Congress of Egyptolgists ("Site Management and Conservation," pages 48-61 in Egyptology at the Dawn of the 21st Century: Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress of Egyptologists, Cairo, 2000. Cairo: American Unversity in Cairo Press, 2003). We have concentrated our work on sites that are frequented by tourists, as mass tourism is one of the most serious threats to Egypt's tombs and temples. The main elements of the plan are:

1. Creating safe zones around archaeological sites to protect them from their outside surroundings and environmental threats. We have put this protective measure in place at sites including the Unfinished Obelisk Quarry in Aswan, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Saqqara, Pompey's Pillar in Alexandria, and Kom El-Dikka. We are currenlty working to do so in many other locations, inlcuding Tell Basta and San El-Hagar in the Delta and Marina, to the west of Alexandria.

2. Building visitors' centers to introduce the sites to tourists. We have finished visitors' centers for a number of sites, including the Unfinished Obelisk Quarry, Edfu, Deir El-Bahari, and the Valley of the Kings.

3. Creating access routes to keep tourists away from the walls of monuments and other fragile areas of sites.

4. Building facilities for tourists, including bazaars, cafeterias, and restrooms.

5. Perhaps most importantly, we are putting coprehensive conservations plans in place for the sites, and working to ensure that we have highly trained specialists working in conservation and site management all over Egypt. We are educating our personnel on how to go about the day-to-day business of administering and preserving our monuments.

See the above page for the full story, with photographs.

Painting false doors at Herakleopolis Magna

Al Ahram Weekly

With photograph.

THE HERAKLEOPOLIS false doors, which date back to the First Intermediate Period and Early Middle Kingdom era, display the skills of local artisans. Among these magnificent doors are those belonging to Lady Meret, who held the title of "king's ornament"; Khety, a funerary priest, and Ipy, the king's royal acquaintance.

The door of Lady Meret is very well decorated. Its centre features the deceased with a tight tunic and a tripartite wigs sitting in a short-backed chair with animal feet. She holds a lotus flower on her left hand that she points towards her mouth, while her left arm is stretched towards the offering table. Below the image is the door, framed by inscriptions that mention the seven holy oils used in funerary ceremonies. The door and the picture are surrounded by a cylindrical frame that represents a rolled up mat; above, a reddish cymatium curves slightly and imitate the cornices made with the ribs of palm leaves placed on top of the walls. The different titles and names of Meret are engraved on the jambs and lintels of the door, followed by the names of the gods Anubis and Osiris with their traditional epithets and funerary offerings.

This false door, which faces east, was supported on the west wall of the chapel of the tomb and appeared beside another false door of a man called Khety who may have been Meret's husband, or at least someone close to her, as they both chose the same eternal home to continue living in the Other World.

The door of Khety is extremely important from the point of view of both ritual and documentation, since it offers abundant information about the name and titles of the man who was buried. Archaeologist Carmen Die says this door is a clear example as in it Khety is designated as the "Beloved of his lord", "funerary pries", " uab priest in the chapel" and "overseer of the wine warehouses".

"All these titles bring us closer to the personality and life of Khety, as well as telling us that he was close to the sovereign's entourage and that he carried out priestly, funerary and administrative functions when taking charge of the department related to wine," Die says.

See the above page for the full story.

Painted history in Sinai

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

REMAINS of the largest ancient Egyptian temple yet to be found in Sinai have been uncovered in Qantara, reports Nevine El-Aref.

At Tel-Hebua, known in Pharaonic times as Tharo, the area from which the ancient Egyptian army embarked on military campaigns along Egypt's eastern borders, an Egyptian archaeological mission stumbled upon what is believed to be the largest New Kingdom temple ever discovered.

The temple, which covers an area of 80x70 metres, is built of mud brick decorated with paintings. It consists of four rectangular halls containing a total of 34 columns, three limestone purification basins, and a number of secondary chapels, suggesting that the temple was an important religious centre on Egypt's eastern front.

The site is heavily fortified and surrounded by a four-metre-thick wall. Paintings featuring Horus, Hathor, Tefnut, Montu and Renenutet were unearthed within the temple walls along with others showing kings Tuthmosis II and Ramses II.

On the east and west of the site are two groups of storehouses consisting of 13 rooms each, which probably date to the reigns of Seti I, Ramses II and Seti II. They contain thousands of inscriptions and seal impressions of the three kings.

See the above page for the full story.

More re Taposiris Magna

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine Al-Aref)

Archaeological traces found at Taposiris Magna west of Alexandria may indicate the tomb of one of the most famous couples in history, Queen Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, reports Nevine El-Aref

A joint Egyptian and Dominican Republic archaeological mission working at Taposiris Magna, an area of great archaeological importance on the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria and site of a temple dedicated to the god of prosperity, Osiris, and a number of Graeco- Roman catacombs, has discovered several Ptolemaic objects dating back to the reign of the famous Queen Cleopatra.

The team was searching the site in the hope of locating the tomb of Cleopatra VII and her lover Mark Anthony. Excavation work in the area began two years ago, as it was believed that the famous couple had dug their tomb in an area some distance from Alexandria in order to be out of reach of their enemies.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and head of the archeological team, said the find fuelled the belief that early historians were able to describe the tomb of Alexander the Great (who ruled Egypt 332-323 BC) but made no mention of a name or a description of a tomb for either Cleopatra or Mark Anthony.

See the above page for more.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun in Canada

The Globe and Mail (James Adams)

The boy-king of ancient Egypt who "gave his life for tourism," as comedian Steve Martin famously sang in 1979, returns to Canada this fall for a five-month visit.

The Art Gallery of Ontario announced yesterday that it will be the only Canadian stop for Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, one of two King Tut shows currently touring North America. This one features 130 ancient Egyptian artifacts - 71 from the young pharaoh's tomb - organized by Ohio-based Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society.

While there has been talk over the decades of "the curse of Tut," in reality Tut has proved more terrific than terrifying. His Toronto stay, running Nov. 24 through April 18, 2010, is expected to be a big draw, perhaps as big as the AGO's last King Tut show, a two-month affair in late 1979 that attracted almost 800,000 visitors - still the best-attended single show in the gallery's 109-year history.

"We would like to at least achieve the 1979 success," said Susan Bloch-Nevitte, the AGO's director of public affairs. "Times being what they are, we tend to the conservative for budget planning purposes."

Google / The Canadian Press

King Tut is returning to Canada this fall, some 30 years after a massively popular exhibit about the boy pharoah sparked attendance records and a Steve Martin spoof.

This time around, an extensive exhibition will feature an almost entirely different collection and more than twice the number of treasures - including 130 pieces from Tut's tomb and other ancient sites.

They will be on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario from November until April 2010.

"Tutankhamun's magic still captures the hearts of people all over the world, even though more than 85 years have passed since the discovery of his amazing tomb," Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Thursday in a statement.

"I always say that Egyptian antiquities are the heritage of the world and that we are their only guardians."

Entitled, "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs," the collection includes a 10-foot statue of Tut found at the remains of a funerary temple and the first three-dimensional CT scans of the king's mummy, captured by an Egyptian research and conservation project.

Other artifacts include jewelry, furniture and weapons, as well as Tut's golden sandals - which were created specifically for the afterlife and still covered his feet when his mummified remains were discovered in 1922.


Thirty years after the wonders of King Tut had their celebrated Canadian debut at the Art Gallery of Ontario, an even bigger exhibition - Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs - will make its sole Canadian appearance at the AGO with a members-only preview starting November 21 and public opening November 24. The 1979 exhibition sparked "Tutmania" throughout Canada and brought more than 750,000 visitors to the AGO.

With an almost entirely different selection of treasures and more than twice the number of artifacts as were displayed in the 1979 exhibition, Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs features 130 remarkable pieces from the tomb of King Tut and ancient sites representing some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Derived from temples and royal and private tombs from 2600 B.C to 660 B.C., most of these artifacts had never before been seen in North America prior to this exhibition, which is currently breaking venue attendance records during its U.S. premiere in Atlanta.

This spectacular collection features the largest image of King Tut ever unearthed - a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. The statue still retains much of its original paint.

CBC News

Three decades after he set off "Tut Mania," Egypt's famed boy pharaoh is set to return to Toronto, with Art Gallery of Ontario officials hoping he'll give a healthy boost to the art venue's flagging attendance.

The gallery announced Thursday that Toronto will be the sole Canadian stop for the massive exhibit Tutankhamen: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, beginning in November.

When the Treasures of Tutankhamen went on tour in the 1970s, throngs flocked to the exhibit, including when it hit Toronto in 1979. AGO director Matthew Teitelbaum believes that the pharoah's allure continues.

"He's a young guy who ruled the world. I mean, that's the fantasy for all of us, I think," he told CBC News.

Since reopening after a lavish Frank Gehry redesign about five months ago, just 350,000 people have visited the downtown gallery — nearly 20 per cent behind projections — and officials recently cut back visiting hours. However, AGO public affairs director Susan Bloch Nevitt said she believes the Tut show will turn things around.

See the above pages for the full story.

Why do we have history and archaeology?

History Today (Daniel Lord Smail)

Why do we have history and archaeology? In the light of our understanding of ‘deep time’ Daniel Lord Smail argues that it is high time that the two disciplines were reunited.

Though obscure in other respects, 1936 was an important year for the philosophy of the human past. This was the year in which the Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe published Man Makes Himself, a book that became one of the most widely read works of archaeology ever published. In the same year, R.G. Collingwood, the Oxford don, sat down to pen 36 lectures later published as The Idea of History, a landmark in historiography.

There is nothing to suggest that Collingwood read Man Makes Himself while writing his lectures, though we know that Childe, in later years, read Collingwood. The books themselves could not be more different in form, in substance and in their intended audience. Yet both authors, in their very different ways, had things to say about the curious fragmentation that afflicts the science of the human past. For, when you come to think of it, why do we have history and archaeology? This was not a question that motivated either Childe or Collingwood. But today, more than 70 years on, it is a question that is causing more and more people to scratch their heads. With enough scratching the answer becomes clear: there is no logical way to defend any division of human history. It is high time to reunite archaeology and history.

Yet such a project faces enormous institutional hurdles. Teaching mandates exclude archaeology from the history curriculum and departmental divisions prevent the easy flow of ideas. Visions of a unified history falter in the face of misguided insistence on methodological purity. The division of the human past was set in place more than a century ago, when the logic of ‘deep history’ was not yet apparent. Overcoming the institutional inertia involved will be the great challenge of the next decade.

So, as we work towards the reunion of history and archaeology, it is helpful to know that the growing desire for historical interdisciplinarity is not new. Since 1936, or thereabouts, history and archaeology have been on converging paths. There is a history to be written here, a history of how history and archaeology fell apart in the 19th century and then, with the help of figures such as Childe and Collingwood, came back together.

See the above page for the entire article.

Exhibition: Through Spanish Eyes

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El Aref)

Spanish archaeology in Egypt began as early as 1886 when Spanish diplomat Eduardo Toda Y Gèell took charge of overseeing the excavation and inventory of the artefacts in the tomb of the 19th-Dynasty craftsman Sennedjem at Deir Al-Medina, near Luxor. During the early 20th century, the Count of Galarza carried out excavations in Giza and in 1908, when Cairo University was built, he was the only Spaniard to be appointed as a lecturer.

The Spanish devotion to archaeology in Egypt was firmly established during the Nubia temples salvage operation in the late 1960s, when the Spanish archaeological mission led by Almagro Basch carried out excavations at sites in parts of Egyptian and Sudanese lands, which led to a better understanding of Nubian history from the Neolithic to the Islamic eras. At the end of the campaign, Spain received several thousand items found at the sites as compensation. These are now on display in the National Archeological Museum in Madrid. The Temple of Debod, now erected in central Madrid, was another acknowledgement of Spain's efforts to save the heritage of Egypt.

To highlight such a great contribution to the research and preservation of ancient Egyptian history over the past 12 decades, a gala evening was held two weeks ago in the exquisite garden of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where Spanish and Egyptian archaeologists gathered along with prominent figures such as actor Omar Sharif as well as Spanish and Egyptian ministers of culture César Antonio Molina and Farouk Hosni to celebrate "120 years of Spanish archaeology in Egypt". The event will also host an archaeological exhibition displaying 137 objects unearthed by various Spanish missions since the late 19th century.

See the above page for the full story.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun exhbition opens at Highclere

Newbury Today (Jane Meredith)

A NEW Egyptian exhibition was unveiled at Highclere Castle yesterday.

Invited guests had a preview of the Wonderful Things exhibition, which extends into a tunnel excavated by hand underneath the castle.

Lord Carnarvon said: “You feel as if you are in the Cairo Museum. We wanted to create our own version.”

The exhibits include 3,500 year old artefacts and reproductions of items uncovered by archaeologist Howard Carter, whose discover of the Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 was funded by the present Earl's great-grandfather.

Among the treasures on display are an Egyptian vase discovered behind a garden gnome in the castle 20 years ago, a 3000-year-old calcite jar, a black granite statue of the Egyptian god Amun-Re and his consort Mut, and an Egyptian coffin given to West Berkshire museum in 1911 by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The exhbition also includes photographs and cuttings from the Newbury Weekly News' archives.

Also included is a reproduction of Tutankhamun's golden throne, model boats and the young Pharaoh's mummified remains, alongside original film of the discovery.

Visitors can peek through letter box flaps to view a recreation of his tomb, full of glittering treasures, to get an idea of Carter's exhilaration at discovering the tomb.

Paintings that lined the walls of the tomb have been painstakingly reproduced by Ashmansworth artist Eleanor Fane.

See the above page for the full story.

KV63 embalming bed in its new home

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

With lots of photos.

It was only fitting that something so unique coming out of KV63 should remain in Luxor. KV63 is the most recent tomb discovered in the Valley of Kings and the team have been busy last season 2008/2009 investigating the many huge storage jars. There have been all sorts of things found within these and I am sure we will see some great analysis coming out deciding how, why and where these various articles were used.

One object, actually it was lots of bits, was found with these storage jars, is the Mummification Bed.

It has been put on display with 2 pillows also found in the tomb, it is interesting to speculate just what part they played.

See the above page for more.

Exhibition: The Wildlife of Ancient Egypt

Thanks to John Wyatt for letting me know that wildlife artist Jackie Garner will be presenting over 30 of her beautiful wildlife paintings, inspired ancient Egyptian topics, in the Coningsby Gallery from Sunday 12th to Saturday 18th July 2009. The gallery is open from 10am to 7pm daily, except on Tuesday 14th when it will close at 5pm for a private viewing. I have seen some of her recent work on birds in ancient Egyptian tombs and temples, and it is excellent. Many of the paintings will be used to illustrate John Wyatt's forthcoming book on bird life in ancient Egypt. Entrance is free and all visitors will be most welcome. A sample of her work should be available on the Coningsby Gallery website shortly.

Exhibition: The World Cultures

After an 8,000 km journey by airplane, tractor trailer and ferry, more than 300 artifacts from the British Museum have arrived at the Royal BC Museum (RBCM) in preparation for the opening of Treasures: The World's Cultures from the British Museum.

The exhibition, which runs May 1 - Sept. 30, chronicles the development of human civilization through art and artifacts, spanning more than 1.5 million years of world history.

"You can feel excitement brewing throughout the community as we get set to open Treasures: The World's Cultures from the British Museum," says RBCM CEO Pauline Rafferty. "Our talented staff here at the Royal BC Museum are putting the finishing touches in the Treasures gallery, training docents and line managers and gearing up for what we suspect will be a very busy summer."

Today, a team of conservators from the British Museum set into place the lid of an ancient Egyptian inner coffin. From Akhmim, Egypt and dated 305 - 30 BC, the wooden coffin is adorned with gold leaf and is a classic example of a human-shaped mummy-case made for a man of high-status.

The 930 square-metre (10,000 square-foot) exhibition is arranged by geography and chronology into seven sections - Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Oceania, the Americas and the Modern World.

See the above page for the full story.

Sham Al-Nessim

Al Ahram Weekly (Nashwa Abdel-Tawab)

For Egyptians, Sham Al-Nessim marks the advent of Spring. It falls on the first Monday after Coptic Easter, and it was linked to agricultural activity in ancient Egypt. It included fertility rites and ancient harvest festivals that were later, and unwittingly, attached to Christianity and the celebration of Easter. The date is not a fixed one: it is calculated according to the Coptic calendar -- and here "Coptic" means the Egyptian calendar, which had its origins in the annual Nile flood and the agricultural seasons.

It seems that Sham Al-Nessim is a holiday as old as Egypt. According to the Egyptian Information Service, the name is actually derived from the ancient Egyptian harvest season, Shamo, the "the renewal of life". According to Plutarch's Annals, the ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish, lettuce and onions to their deities on this day.

This is only one of many stories concerning the holiday. Centuries ago people who believed in healing powers and other bits of folklore chose these types of food as part of pagan ritual, yet nowadays, out of the ritual of tradition, Egyptians still choose to celebrate -- and even die for it.

At the centre of the festival is fesikh, grey mullet; caught, piled high in containers, and left out until it is distended. When it is sufficiently putrefied, salt is added and the fish are left to pickle for a few months. Et viola, the fish that Egyptians are willing literally to die for is processed. It is no wonder that dozens are poisoned and several meet their fate every year during Sham Al-Nessim, usually as a result of botulism contracted from the foul-smelling feast.

See the above page for the full story.

The Mummy of the Pharaoh of Moses

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

I recently read on the Internet the story of Ramses II's mummy. We know that during the late 1970s the French president, Giscard d'Estaing, asked President Anwar El-Sadat if the mummy of Ramses II could be sent to Paris for conservation and preservation. Being that this mummy did not require any treatment, the real reason behind their request lay in their search for the Pharaoh of the biblical Exodus whom they believed to be Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, third ruler of the New Kingdom's 19th Dynasty. This ulterior motive, however, was never voiced to the authorities.

According to the holy books, the Pharaoh ruling in Moses's time drowned in the Red Sea during an epic chase after the parting of the waters. The French scientists were seeking evidence to prove the occurrence of this miraculous event.

The mummy of Ramses the Great was given a royal welcome at Le Bourget airport. Even the French president attended the glamorous ceremony. The mummy was then transferred to the French archaeological centre for examination.

One of the scientists responsible for the mummy's examination was a very dishonest man. He stole strands of Ramses II's hair and kept them for himself. Later on, his son attempted to sell the strands of hair on the Internet. With the help of our ambassador to France, Nasser Kamel, we were able to put an end to this and return the strands of hair to Cairo.

On the mummy's return to Cairo, reporters interviewed the French scientist about his findings. He stated that, inside the mummy, he had discovered a strange insect. The reporters laughed and called it a French insect. I seriously believe that sending the mummy of Ramses II to France was a big mistake.

See the above page for more.