Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Update re hunt for Cleopatra

Dominican Today

The attorney-turned-archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, who’s proud to proclaim that her work is part of a larger effort by a Dominican-Egyptian team, today said that her search for Cleopatra’s tomb continues and is convinced she’ll soon find it.

She said her search in the region, kilometers west of the ancient port city of Alexandria, has lasted four years in 4 to 5-month periods, and in addition to the Egyptian queen, expects to find at her side the mummified body 50 of her lover, Marc Antony. “Important evidence of a royal tomb was found and I affirm that it’s the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.

Martinez also affirms that given the scope and sheer numbers of tombs, her team has found Egypt’s largest cemetery. “It’s the largest cemetery found in Egypt, with its artifacts, a series of 40 to 45 tombs cut into the bedrock 35 meters deep, with tunnels and passageways.”

The archaeologist, interviewed by Huchi Lora on Channel 11, said the digs had to be recently suspended given the extreme summer temperatures and more so from the dangerous conditions they bring about. “The appearance of snakes and scorpions to the surface in the summer season, with 40 plus centigrade temperatures, makes it impossible and risky to continue the excavation.”

See the above page for the full story.

Profit, not learning, drives 'Tutankhamun'

SFGate (Kenneth Baker)

With photos.

Among people with a professional interest in the arts, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," which opens today at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, will merely deepen the tarnish on the reputation of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Although FAMSF curator Renee Dreyfus has swapped out four objects presented at other venues for four of her own choosing, the show in bulk comes here prepackaged by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions International, a subsidiary of corporate impresario AEG Worldwide, which also owns the San Francisco Examiner.

Critics have hammered every art museum that has hosted "Tutankhamun." (A parallel exhibition, "Tutankhamun, the Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" - same size, same sources, same organizers - opens today at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.) But here, as elsewhere - except Dallas, where attendance fell about 40 percent short of projections - a vast audience probably will eat it up, even at $27.50 a head for general admission.


Therein lies a mystery to eclipse the unanswered questions represented by many of the objects on view.

See the above page for full details.

Eight artefacts returned by Switzerland

Egypt State Information Service

Egypt will receive on 26/6/2009 eight archaeological artifacts that were smuggled outside the country in 2002, said an expert in a released statement on Thursday 25/6/2009.

The antiquities have been stolen from the storehouse of Cairo University in Maadi district, a Cairo suburb, said Dr Zahi Hawwas, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

The eight pieces, dating back to the pre-history era, include stone utensils, he added.

The story started when a Swiss bought these artifacts from an antiquities dealer in the United States in 2005. When he came to know that they were stolen from Egypt he contacted the Egyptian embassy in Bern and expressed his willingness to give them back to Egypt.

Book Review: Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religio

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Robert B. Gozzoli)

J. H. F. Dijkstra, Philae and the End of Ancient Egyptian Religion: A Regional Study of Religious Transformation (298-642 CE). Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 173. Leuven: Peeters, 2008.

The book under analysis here is the revised PhD dissertation of the author, originally submitted in 2005 at the University of Groningen, under the title of Religious Encounters on the Southern Egyptian Frontier in Late Antiquity (p. x).1 For readers such as myself, an Egyptologist by formation with a small background in Coptic studies, this book is certainly a welcome contribution for it is a comprehensive analysis of the religious and social developments at Philae and in the First Cataract zone. The chronological boundaries are defined by the withdrawal of Egypt's southern border to Elephantine in 298 AD by Diocletian and the Arab conquest of Egypt. Within this scope, various sources are analysed and comprehensively studied in order to give a picture of how ancient Egyptian religion and the ''new'' religion merged in daily life. The book is set up by these initial questions: "What happened to the cults at Philae in the Late Antiquity? And what was the role played by Christianity on the island? Was Philae an exceptional case?" (p. 14).

For Philae, one of the few established dates for the fate of ancient Egyptian religion is 537 CE, as Justinian ordered the closure of the temples. Dijkstra offers two relevant texts. The first is the petition written by Diodorus in Antinoopolis on behalf of the councilors of Omboi against a man nicknamed as the 'Eater of Raw Meat' (ὠμοφάγος), the so called Blemmyan incident (circa 567 CE). The accused man is blamed for neglecting the taught Christian doctrine and renewing pagan sanctuaries of Philae with the help of the Blemmyes.2 The second text is Procopius' Persian Wars, which states that the temple of Isis was finally closed in 535-537 CE (pp. 11-14), following Emperor Justinian's order. Dijkstra's sees the two documents not necessarily contradicting each other, for Procopius is describing imperial policies while the petition reflects a particular moment of local history. Dijkstra's main thesis is that the negative picture of a rising Christianity fighting against the old religion is fundamentally erroneous, as the ancient Egyptian cults were already dying by themselves, without external intervention.3

Setting his book on such terms, Dijkstra structures it in three parts: Part I is about the developments of Christianity in the First Cataract region during the fourth century CE; Part II is about the survival of the ancient Egyptian cults; and the final part is about Christianity in the region during the sixth century CE.

While the first and second chapters of Part I (pp. 45-119) deal with published historical sources such as the Appion petition and the Patermouthis archive, both of which provide a glimpse of the life of the Christian Community during the fifth century CE, the most interesting and fundamental part is the summary of archaeological fieldwork at Elephantine which makes the third chapter (pp. 85-118).

See the above page for the entire review.

Mummy returns to Belfast display

BBC News, Northern Ireland ()

The Egyptian mummy - a source of fascination for children since she came to Belfast in 1834 - had been in storage as the Ulster Museum went through a major refurbishment over a period of nearly three years.

But she has returned to her home at the corner of Belfast's Botanic Park and will be ready to receive visitors when the new-look museum opens in October.

The mummy has always been a major draw for the museum.

But curators dismissed as "urban myth" a popular story that the mummy once contracted a bad case of nits from the children of Belfast and ended up under glass to protect herself.

"She dates from 660 BC and was the daughter of a priest living in Thebes in the Valley of the Kings," said Dr Jim McGreevy, head curator at National Museums Northern Ireland.

Secrets of daily life among the great pyramids of Giza

Columbus Dispatch (Doug Caruso)

The Egyptians who built the giant pyramids on the Giza Plateau 4,500 years ago ate dense bread, choice cuts of meat and preserved fish.

They slept in military-style barracks and belonged to work gangs with names such as the "Drunkards of Menkaure."

Archaeologist Mark Lehner knows these details because he spent the past two decades digging them up from their lost city.

Nearby are the pyramids and the Great Sphinx, icons most people associate with Egyptian archaeology. But Lehner likens those to what someone might find someday if they dig up the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

"What would you know about their diet or the economy or a crisis in the economy or how much they changed in 300 years since George Washington unless you dig the outlying parts of D.C.?" he asked.

His team's treasures -- grain mills, animal bones and pieces of clay seals -- are found in bakeries, barracks and the homes of scribes.

See the above page for the full story.

Travel: Discover Siwa Oasis

The Press and Journal (Emily Beament)

THERE’S more to Egypt than the Pyramids of Giza – the only surviving wonder of the ancient world – and a trip deep into the western desert reveals one of its lesser known treasures.

A three-hour drive south from the coastal town of Marsa Matruh, and 350 miles south-west of bustling Cairo, Siwa Oasis is a dust-coloured settlement surrounded by date palms and olive groves which appears to have changed little in centuries.

But the “oasis of a million palm trees” is more than a patch of green in the middle of an expanse of sandy desert.

It boasts several ancient ruins, including the Temple of the Oracle consulted by Alexander the Great and its own “mountain of the dead”, with tombs dating back to Roman and ancient Egyptian times.

Climbing that mountain, Gebel al-Mawta, gives a great view of the surrounding town, and there’s a chance to see inside and gain a glimpse of wall paintings which have been preserved for centuries.

Constant excavations have stripped away layers of the mountain, and the remains of bones are scattered around the entrances to what is left of the tombs themselves.

Less ancient, but equally ruined, is the strange old town of Shali, in the centre of Siwa, a multi-layered pile of what look like melted buildings.

And they are: three days of heavy rain in 1926 melted the salt blocks that form much of the building material and forced the townspeople to rebuild in the surrounding area.

The palm trees which give the city its name and character are so important to the area that they cannot be chopped down to make way for new development – so houses are built around them.

As a result, our hotel had several trees protruding through the dining-room and up into the terrace, where they cast a welcome shadow from the sun and provided a handy source of freshly picked dates.

Meals could be enjoyed Western-style at a table with chairs or Bedouin-style on cushions around low tables, and the food was typically north African, with hummus, feta, olives and baba ganoush just some of the options.

See the above page for the full story.

Travel: Q&A re two women traveling in Cairo

The Record

Q. My 30-year-old daughter and a woman friend are travel- ling to Cairo in July. Any safety concerns they should be aware of? Also, any suggestions on places to stay? She says she can get a room for $15 -- how safe is that?

A. Generally speaking, Cairo is a safe city, especially in heavily touristed areas. Women should take the same precautions they would when visiting any urban area: Don't walk alone at night, leave flashy jewelry at home, don't go off with strangers, have the hotel summon taxis, etc.

See the above for the rest of the advice.

Travel: St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai

Billings Gazette (Elizabeth McNamer)

St. Catherine's Monastery is an Orthodox monastery on the Sinai peninsula at the foot of Mount Sinai in Egypt.

It is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world.

The Book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites making a journey under Moses out of Egypt across the Red Sea through the Sinai desert to the Promised Land. It took 40 years.

We are told that Moses ascended a mountain in the desert, where he received the Ten Commandments. Where that mountain is, nobody knows. But massive Mount Horeb dominates the area (its highest peak is called Mount Sinai), and this has long been held to be Moses' mountain.
At its foot, Moses is supposed to have first experienced God in a burning bush.

"God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am.' 'Do not come any closer,' God said.

" 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.' Then he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.' At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."

Jews, Christians and Muslims revere Mount Horeb as the place where God handed down the law.

Christian hermits began to gather around this mount in the wilderness in the middle of the third century.

Many of them lived in caves or built small huts and spent their days in prayer and silence. Often, they were attacked and killed by the Bedouin tribes.

When St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, journeyed to the Holy Land in the early fourth century, she ordered a chapel to be built there. It soon became a popular place of pilgrimage.

Egeria, a Spanish nun, writes about it in her diary: "There is a fine garden and plenty of water."

In 557, Emperor Justinian built a magnificent church and surrounded it by a large wall to protect the monks. Their cells were built along the inner side of the wall.

When Mohammed came on the scene in the seventh century, the monastery was allowed to go on its course. A document signed by the Prophet Mohammed himself, the Actiname (Holy Testament), exempted the Christian monks of St. Catherine's from the usual taxes and military service and commanded that Muslims provide the community with every help.

The monastery now houses a mosque.

When the Byzantine Emperor Leo ordered all icons destroyed in the seventh century, St. Catherine's was so remote that the icons there survived. The magnificent collection of early icons - more than 2,000 of them - can still be seen there today.

When Napoleon conquered Egypt in 1798, he placed St. Catherine's under his protection.

See the above page for the full story.

Exhibition: Indiana unveils Tutankhamun treasures

Inside Indiana Business

Over 130 treasures from the tomb of the “Boy King” and other important rulers from 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history will be on exhibit at The Children's Museum. The exhibit will feature striking objects from some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history, from the 4th Dynasty into the Late Period (about 2600 B.C. – 660 B.C.), many of which have never visited the United States.

Four galleries devoted to King Tut will correspond to the four rooms of his nearly intact tomb where the treasures were discovered by British explorer Howard Carter in 1922. Legendary artifacts from the antechamber, the annex, the treasury and the burial chamber will include Tutankhamun’s golden sandals, jewelry, furniture, weaponry and statuary. This blockbuster exhibit will also feature the largest image of King Tut ever found — a 10-foot statue that may have originally stood at his mortuary temple and retains much of its original paint, one of four gold and precious-stone-inlaid canopic jars and CT scans of Tut’s mummy.

See the above page for more details.

Cairo Museum slideshow


Note: To view the slideshow, click Play. There are 44 photos in this gallery, although links to the first 18 are shown.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo houses thousands of items and thousands of years of history. From statues to mummies it is “the” place to see the artifacts of ancient Egypt…including the treasures discovered in Tut’s tomb.

Video: David Rohl in the Eastern Desert

My Space

Video by David Rohl of the Eastern Desert Survey trip. There's no voice-over or explanatin. it consists of romantic music, pretty sunsets, footage of four wheel drives, rock art and survey members.

Nice to see that excellent Pan Arab Tours are getting a good plug!

Just over four minutes long.

Thanks to the Friends of the Petrie for a great evening

I enjoyed the summer party held by the Friends of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology on Friday night, and it was great to catch up with so many old friends and to meet some new ones. Thanks to Jan Picton for inviting me to take up position behind the bar.

Behind the bar I was definitely the thorn between two wonderful roses - thanks very much to both John and John for keeping me so wonderfully entertained! It was also great to see Lucia, Jean (with whom I was at the Gilf a couple of years ago on a terrific trip), Tass (it was fabulous to see you again) and some of the gang from the Bloomsbury Summer School. A very happy hello too to people who are new to me - Lara, who gave me some brilliant catering tips, Carol, with whom I chatted about Coptic studies whilst filling canapes, Sarah who has a way of carrying tables into elevators which defies description and Abeida (sorry about the guess-spelling) who has a wonderful and completely addictive laugh. I shan't be missing another partyheld by the Friends of the Petrie again!

Daily Photo by Rick Menges

Head from a female sphinx
Middle Kingdom
Brooklyn Museum

There are details and a video about this lovely item on
a dedicated page on the Brooklyn Museum's website

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Friday, June 26, 2009

More re discoveries at Saqqara


Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, announced today that Egyptian archaeologists, performing routine conservation work at the southern side of Saqqara’s step pyramid (2687-2668 BC), have stumbled upon what is believed to be a deep hole full of the remains of animals and birds. The mission has also found that the hole’s floor is covered with a layer of plaster.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), has stated that the mission unearthed a large quantity of golden fragments during their restoration work at the southern tomb of Djoser’s pyramid. These may have been used by the ancient Egyptians of the Late Period to decorate wooden sarcophagi or to cover carttonage. Thirty granite blocks were also discovered, each weighing five tons. These blocks, Dr. Hawass explained, belonged to the granite sarcophagus that once housed Djoser’s wooden sarcophagus - the final resting place of the king’s mummy.

While cleaning the internal corridors of the pyramid, the mission has also found limestone blocks bearing the names of King Djoser's daughters, as well as wooden instruments, remains of wooden statues, bone fragments, the remains of a mummy, and different sizes of clay vessels.

Learning Middle Egyptian with GlyphStudy

Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown)

Thanks very much to Vincent for this excellent summary of the current state of play with the GlyphStudy Middle Egyptian group. I've been away and had somewhat lost track of what was due to happen when:

The Yahoo group GlyphStudy is running three new Middle Egyptian study groups, each starting in July. One of the groups will be using James Hoch’s Middle Egyptian Grammar, another will use James Allen’s Middle Egyptian: An introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, and the third group will be using How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself, Revised Edition by Mark Collier and Bill Manley

The three groups are open to anyone who wishes to participate, the only requirement is that you have the text book for that course and that you sign up for a Yahoo account and subscribe to GlyphStudy. Yahoo accounts are free and so is the subscription to GlyphStudy.

See Vincent's post, above, for the details.

The Mysterious Osiris Shaft of Giza


With photos.

In 1945, the Egyptian archaeologist Abdel Moneim Abu Bakr came across a water-filled shaft inside a small tunnel that runs north-south under the causeway of Khafre at Giza. He explored it sufficiently to learn that it incorporated a number of chambers, but he never excavated or published it. For many years, the shaft had served as a swimming hole and as a source of drinking water for local workmen - it was filled with groundwater to such a high level that no archaeologist was able to excavate it.

The shaft's purpose remained a mystery, although many New Age enthusiasts learned of the it and spread rumors that it hid a secret network of tunnels leading to the Great Pyramid or perhaps to the Sphinx. In the summer of 1999, I decided that it was time to take on the challenge of excavating this shaft to determine its true function and put the speculation to rest.

It was a great challenge to reduce the water level in the shaft to a point where we could work inside. The high water table in the area was the source of the problem. We asked an engineer named Esmail Osman to bring in the machinery needed to pump the water out. Working inside the shaft while the equipment was running was one of the greatest challenges of my life as an archaeologist. The constant noise made it difficult to think, and the machinery was so loud that I almost lost my hearing! We were very worried that pumping out the water would destabilize the shaft, possibly causing it to collapse. I insisted that plaster strips marked with the date be placed across even the smallest crack in the walls. If the cracks began to expand, the plaster would break, and we would know to begin structural interventions right away.

What we discovered as we pumped out the water and excavated the shaft was truly amazing.

See the above page for more.

Saving the Serapeum


With photographs.
The Saqqara plateau served as a burial site to the ancient Egyptians for over three thousand years. It is home to pyramids, private tombs and temples, and is even the burial place of sacred animals. The most famous of the animals buried at Saqqara were the Apis bulls. For over a thousand years these bulls were laid to rest in the darkness of the Serapeum, a massive gallery of tunnels and niches carved into the rock below Saqqara.

The story of the discovery of the Serapeum is as exciting as any Hollywood movie. The Greek writer Strabo, who lived in the First Century BC, described a road of lonely windswept sphinxes, some half submerged in the sand, stretching out across Saqqara to a temple of the god Serapis. Nearly two thousand years later a young man named Auguste Mariette was sent to Egypt by the Louvre to buy manuscripts for the museum’s collection. On a visit to Saqqara he noticed a sphinx emerging from the sand. Suddenly the words of Strabo entered his mind and he realised that if he followed the row of sphinxes he would find the long lost Serapeum. At that moment he decided to ignore his instructions from the French Government and, quietly, and almost secretly, begin his excavations. As work continued he discovered Greek statues marking the path. Then, after having informed the French government of his discovery, he asked for the funds to continue his important work.

His request was successful and for four years his team continued to excavate, uncovering more of the secrets of the Serapeum as they worked. The row of sphinxes led to the remains of two pylons. In turn, these had originally led to a temple, of which virtually nothing now remained. However, they found that one of the chambers in the temple led to a vast subterranean vault. Here Mariette knew that he would find the sacred tombs of the Apis bulls.

From the ancient evidence we know that there was only ever one Apis bull at a time and that each bull was associated with the king when alive and with the god Osiris after death. In the Ptolemaic Period the cult of the Apis was combined with that of a variety of Greek gods; it was then known as the cult of Serapis. The mothers of the Apis bulls were also viewed as gods; these were associated with Isis and buried in North Saqqara.

The bulls were buried at the Serapeum for over one thousand years, from the Eighteenth Dynasty to the Ptolemaic Period, amid great mourning and ceremony. During this long period of time there were three major stages of architectural development.

See the above page for the full story.

Saving the West Bank temples in Luxor

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Good news about the problems of the rising of the water table and destruction of the monuments. The problems is that with the building of the Aswan Dam water is now available to the farmer all year round. The temples were built taking into account they would be flooded 3 months of the year and bone dry for the other 9 months. The farmer would have one crop a year, he would sow his seed as the waters of the inundation receded and the yearly crop would grow and be harvested.

Now water is available all year round. The farmer flood irrigates his field and can crop 2 to 3 times a year. This has risen the water table and the temple foundations how sit in water all year round. This is decaying the stone and sand stone becomes sand again.

See the above page for Jane's complete post.

200 years of the Description de l'Egypte

Al Ahram Weekly (David Tresilian)

THE MAGNIFICENT setting of the église du D¤me at Les Invalides in Paris is the backdrop for a small exhibition, running until September 2009, designed to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of the first volumes of the Description de l'Egypte, the famous account of Egypt drawn up by French scientists during the military campaign mounted by Napoleon Bonaparte in the country from 1798 to 1801.

Occupying a space to the left of the main entrance to the church, which was built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in the late 17th century to glorify the rule of Louis XIV, the exhibition has been placed only a few metres from Napoleon's tomb. The latter, a five- metre high structure in red quartzite, has occupied the open crypt beneath the dome since the French emperor's remains were installed in the church in 1840, and it is surrounded by the names of some of his more outstanding victories, among them at the battles of Marengo, Austerlitz and Wagram, as well as, in 1798, over the Egyptian mamlukes at the Battle of the Pyramids.

As the notes to the exhibition point out, there is something fitting about the location chosen, if only because of Napoleon's personal involvement in the production and publication of the Description de l'Egypte. Originally commissioned in 1802 by Napoleon himself, who saw the work as a fitting memorial to his military expedition in Egypt and wanted it to appear in 1809 to mark the tenth anniversary of his rule, the complete work did not appear until 20 years later when a second edition was completed in 1829, though the first volumes did appear on time and bear the date 1809.

A vast work of description and illustration undertaken by some 160 scholars taken to Egypt by Napoleon in 1798 together with his military forces, the Description consists of nine folio volumes of text, together with a large-format introductory volume. The text volumes contain some 7,000 pages of material by 43 authors on every aspect of Egypt, ancient and modern. Added to this are a further dozen volumes of illustrations, which contain some 836 sheets of engraved illustrations, 60 or so in colour, and required the work of 200 engravers and 62 illustrators, 46 of whom made drawings in Egypt as part of the original military expedition.

See the above page for the full story.

More re discovery that Lady Hor is actually a man

Newsday (Erik Badia)

With a photograph of the upper section of the mummy.
Egyptologists from the Brooklyn Museum and doctors from North Shore University Hospital learned Tuesday through a CT scan that a 2,500-year-old mummy previously thought to be a woman - and named Lady Hor - actually was a man.

Dr. Jesse Chusid said that while the mummy's body wrap of linen covered in plaster, called cartonnage, bore the shape of a woman, the body within had the anatomy of a man.

When Lady Hor's image appeared on the screen, "we knew almost immediately that it was not a woman," Chusid said. "You can actually see there are the pelvic organs of a male."

The discovery was made after Chusid, a radiologist, and Dr. Amgad Makaryus, director of cardiac CT and MRI at the Manhasset hospital, performed a 64-slice computed tomography, or CT scan, on the mummy.

The revelation was startling for those from the Brooklyn Museum, as the mummy for decades was believed to be female.

"The re-gendering is a big deal to us," said Edward Bleiberg, the museum's curator of Egyptian art. He explained that the lack of a traditional male beard on the cartonnage had led him and other Egyptologists to believe that he was a she.

Exhibition: Sculpture Portraits of Nefertiti at Hermitage

Russia IC

The State Hermitage Museum opened the exhibtion “The Beautiful Has Come. Portrait Masterpieces from Egyptian Museum in Berlin” on 23 June.

The exhibits displayed at the exhibition were taken away from Germany during World War Two and were kept in the State Hermitage Museum till 1958, when they were returned to the Egyptian Museum in Berlin.

The highlights of the exposition are three sculptured heads created in the mid 14th century BC in the studio of Thutmose: Head of Young Nefertiti (sandstone, colouring); Head of Nefertiti in Middle Age (granodiorite), and Head of Tsarevna, Daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti (sandstone), as well as Head of Amasis (greywacke), created in the mid 6th century BC.

Exhibition: More re Tutankhamun in San Francisco

SF Examiner (Steven Winn)

Tutankhamun in the present day

Gold, gold and more gold. Ornate jewelry studded with jewels and desert glass. Alabaster and faience. Delicate perfume vases and charming model boats. Game boards and thrones. Footstools and figurines. The mummy of Tut himself, sealed inside three nested coffins, which were in turn tucked inside four gorgeously etched and gilded wooden shrines. Affirmed by some 5,398 objects in all, the legend of the Golden King, the Egyptian Boy King, was born.

Today, the better part of a century later, it’s hard to overestimate the impact of Carter’s discovery. In launching a global fascination with Tutankhamun, and by extension with the grand arc of ancient Egyptian civilization, this great find ignited imaginations everywhere. It led to everything from serious scholarship to hieroglyphic-print miniskirts, a fresh appreciation of Egyptian artistry to the 1937 Three Stooges short “We Want Our Mummy.” It gave us CAT scans of Tut’s remains and a backstory for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Never mind the pop-culture myths and madness about a curse of King Tut that have flourished through the years. Tut’s great, unexpected gift to the modern world is a renewed reverence for history itself; a hunger to comprehend the web of social, economic and spiritual belief systems that evolved and endured for centuries; and an awestruck sense of connection to a distant and fully formed world.

It all began with the marvels that Carter uncovered and, in a period of 10 years, revealed to the public. From the breathless early press reports to the blockbuster exhibition of Tut artifacts that toured North America in the late 1970s, luxury and splendor were the predominant draws. San Franciscans lined up in record-breaking numbers to see the famous gold coffin and death mask that headlined “The Treasures of Tutankhamun” in that show’s 1979 run at the de Young Museum.

But there was always much more to the story and meaning of King Tut than those 55 objects could convey. Now, exactly 30 years later, in a resonant and adroitly timed second act, “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” arrives at the de Young to advance and deepen this beguiling Egyptian narrative.

And Tutankhamun in the past

SF Examiner (Steven Winn)

Thirty years ago, when the first major collection of King Tut artifacts conquered North America, San Francisco was the touring show’s gold standard. The 1,367,000 visitors who thronged the de Young Museum from June to October 1979 set the attendance record for the seven U.S. cities graced by “The Treasures of Tutankhamun.”

People stood in line all night for advance tickets, as if the show were a museum-world version of “Star Wars.” Miniature gold coffins and Egyptian-look jewelry sold out in shops around town. Faux pharaonic dress and tomb-decor parties flourished. KFRC gave Steve Martin’s goofy-funky “King Tut” song plenty of airplay.

But the “Tutmania” that swept the Bay Area that summer almost didn’t happen.

Excluded from the original touring schedule, San Francisco put on a last-ditch, full-court press to bring the exhibition to Golden Gate Park. A delegation headed by arts patrons Cyril Magnin and Walter Newman, and Fine Arts Museums director Ian White, flew to Cairo to plead The City’s case.

The San Franciscans had several things to offer. One was money — a major donation to the Cairo Egyptian Antiquities Museum. The other was an Egyptian frieze the de Young was about to buy from a Parisian dealer. After learning that it had first been taken from Egypt illegally by the British Museum, White promised to return the frieze to Cairo. With a handshake from Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, the deal to bring Tut to San Francisco was done.

That ’79 show was a watershed event. For both serious and casual art lovers, it was the first in a wave of blockbuster exhibits that would transform the museum-going experience in the decades to come. Unprecedented popular attention, timed ticket sales, gusher gift shop sales and a flood of new members all became part of the way art museums connected to the public, raised revenue and funded new ventures. Subsequent huge shows devoted to Picasso, Monet or the collection of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum had the ancient Egyptian Boy King to thank as an advance man.

Travel: "Intermediate Map" of Egypt for drivers


Thanks to Ben Morales-Correa for posting the above news item on this Egypt Then and Now blog.

NAVTEQ, the leading global provider of digital map, traffic and location data for in-vehicle, portable, wireless and enterprise solutions, has announced release of its first map for Egypt. With this Intermediate Map of Egypt, drivers will have access to approximately 50,000 km of roads and more than 42,000 POIs referenced to the map to enhance the functionality of navigation systems.

Egypt has a very complex road network, strong tourism industry and is one of the region’s most populous nations, with an estimated population of 78.3 million inhabitants. The Intermediate Map of Egypt has been designed to meet the evolving needs of the growing user base.

Intermediate Maps are a separate class of map data provided by NAVTEQ to support customers who are interested in introducing LBS and navigation applications in emerging markets.

“With the recent announcement that the Egyptian government has lifted its ban on GPS mobile phones and navigation systems, we expect to see rapid growth in demand for navigation and LBS solutions” stated Frank Pauli, Vice President EMEA Map and Content Products, NAVTEQ. “The availability of an Intermediate Map for Egypt will deliver a significant competitive advantage to NAVTEQ customers as it allows easy and fast integration with a variety of applications and solutions.”

One man's view of Zahi Hawass

SF Examiner (Steven Winn)

It’s never a good idea to keep Zahi Hawass waiting.

“You’re three minutes late,” the celebrated Egyptian archaeologist told a group of San Francisco visitors one very warm April morning at Saqqara, an ancient burial city site dominated by the world’s oldest pyramid (circa 2700 B.C.).

Hawass was standing in full Egyptian sunlight, shielded only by one of the battered, sweat-stained leather hats that have become his trademark costume pieces in public and on numerous History Channel, Discovery Channel and National Geographic TV special appearances. Hawass didn’t smile as he led his guests to the opening of a nearby cave. He rarely does.

Inside the cave, Hawass pointed out a touchingly beautiful wall carving that he believes represents a young Tutankhamun with his wet nurse, Maya, their faces close together and arms intertwined.

“Look at this beautiful young boy,” Hawass said, his steely gaze widening and his voice taking on a cadence both tender and urgent. “He looks about the age of 9. Look at his face. The cobra is in the forehead, protecting him, and Maya is putting her hand out to him in love and affection, like a mother and child. And look — he’s holding the sign of the ahkh [the hieroglyphic character for eternal life]. It’s amazing.”

That was an altogether fitting introduction to Hawass, 62, who has marshaled his passion for the ancient Egyptian world into a one-man force to promote, preserve and protect his native country’s cultural treasures. As secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, a lofty title perfectly suited to his outsized personality, Hawass combines no-nonsense determination, a deep knowledge of his subject and a canny flair for attention-getting publicity and its attendant revenue streams.

If he sometimes comes off as a kind of self-styled archaeological “rocks star,” enamored with the Emmy Award and photograph of himself with Celine Dion that adorn his Cairo office, the sense of purposeful mission is unmistakable. Everything he does — the TV gigs; the current Tutankhamun show he co-curated with David P. Silverman; the audaciously bold, press-baiting claims of forthcoming discoveries that will “reveal the mysteries” of millennia past — serves an ambitious, far-sighted agenda.

See the above page for the full story.

Exhibition: Mubarak sends greeting message to Egypt's "Sunken Treasures Exhibition" in Japan

Egypt State Information Service

President Hosni Mubarak sent a message of greetings to "Egypt's Sunken Treasures Exhibition" to be opened by Egyptian ambassador to Japan Walid Abdel-Naser in Yokohama city.

In his message, Mubarak hoped that the exhibition would help the Japanese people get more acquainted with the Egyptian civilization, along with boosting Egyptian-Japanese ties in the various fields, Ambassador Abdel-Naser said in statements.

The exhibition will coincide with celebrations marking the 150 th anniversary of the opening Yokohama Port and the 130 th anniversary of publishing the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The opening ceremony of the exhibition, to be held from June 27 through September 23, will be attended by Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada.

It is organized by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the Asahi Shumbun newspaper, Japan's TBS television network and the Egyptian embassy in Tokyo and its information and tourism offices.

The exhibition includes 489 pieces salvaged from the Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria.

The artifacts include some gigantic stone statues each up to 5 meters tall and weighing 6 tons.The pieces, dating back to different historical periods, focuses on the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BCE).
They were fished out by Egyptian archeologists in association with a European Institute of Submarine Archeology mission working in Alexandria since the early 1990s.

The Egyptian embassy in Tokyo will organize an Egyptian tourist week in Yokohama city from June 30 through July 5 on the sidelines of the exhibition.

Exhibition video: Egypt Comes to Indy


King Tut and all the magic of the Pharaohs of Egypt will go on display Saturday at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

On Thursday, 24-Hour News 8 will air a documentary that may surprise you and the high definition images will impress. Not only will you see the monuments and tombs, but News 8 also wanted to give you a taste of a modern city in an ancient land.

Click on the video player to watch the complete story.

Trivia: Eating ancient Egyptian


A bit of trivia. The British Museum always has a special menu to complement its standard offerings to tie in with its key exhibition at any one time. In the U.S. the de Young Museum is offering a special menu for Tutankhamun:

For the Tut exhibit, look for a pyramid of greens, a Red Sea fish stew, chicken tagine, lamb and beef kefta and toasted lentil soup on the menu.

And if you fancy giving it a bash yourself click here for a recipe for obelisk breadsticks from the Washington Post.

If the idea of cooking ancient Egyptian type food appeals, the British Museum sells a book on cooking in ancient Egyptian style: Food Fit For Pharaohs by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson.

Finally, if you don't want to eat it or cook it but would like to know more about ancient Egyptian food and drink, you might like to look at Egyptian Food and Drink by Hilary Wilson (Shire Egyptology), available from various online retailers.

New Book: The Pharaohs

The University of Manchester
The Pharaohs by Dr Joyce Tyldesley, Quercus History

Egypt was the best place to live in the ancient world, according to ‘The Pharaohs’, a new book that gives a full but straightforward and colourful account of life there from 3100 BC to 30 BC.
Isis, Queen of the Gods

“The River Nile flooded every year, making the land very fertile, so there was always food,” author Dr Joyce Tyldesley explains.

“The peasants were worked hard but they didn’t have a bad life. Women had better rights than other civilizations – they could own property, live alone, raise children by themselves. The elite lived luxurious lives; they had country estates complete with bathrooms, and well-decorated tombs.

“The ancient Egyptians pitied people who lived in other lands.”

They had some problems – low level diseases such as bilharzia (a worm that lives in the gut, making the host feel unwell if not seriously ill) and respiratory problems from breathing in sand and fire smoke from cooking and lighting were common. Many women died in childbirth.

And the Pharaohs themselves, despite being semi divine, the country’s high priest, leader of the army and head of the civil service, faced many thorny political battles to lead or even just survive. At least two were murdered by ambitious wives and sons, one prostituted his daughter and another was proclaimed a heretic and his reign erased from official history.

See the above page for the full story.

Daily Photo by Rick Menges

12-ton granite Sphinx of Ramesses II
from the
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Copyright: Rick Menges. With my thanks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Archaeological discovery in Saqqara

Egypt State Information Service

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said on 23/6/2009 that a group of Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed a number of ushabtis - an ushabti is a funerary figurine placed in a tomb as a substitute for the deceased, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife - and remains of animal bones and birds inside a hole near the Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities team was originally rehabilitating the southern front of the step pyramid when they came upon this crevice, said SCA Secretary General Zahi Hawwas in a statement issued Tuesday. They also found a layer of cement inside the hole, Hawwas added.

Golden shells were discovered in the southern tomb, the SCA official said, believing ancient Egyptians could have used them to decorate wooden caskets or to place on top of car tonnages (material composing Egyptian funerary masks). Hawwas said that the SCA group unearthed 30 granite blocs that, put together,

Samir Abdel-Raouf, the head of the team, said they found adobe bricks bearing the names of Djoser's daughters and his different titles along the corridor, noting that all pieces are now being renovated to form a coffin in which the wooden casket is placed with the mummy of King Djoser inside.

Egyptian Archaeologists Discover 3,500-Year-Old Tomb

Al Ahram Weekly

(With photo)

During excavation work at the Tombs of the Nobles on Luxor's West Bank an Egyptian archaeological mission has stumbled upon what it believes is the tomb of Amen-Em-Epet, Supervisor of Hunters during the reign of the monotheistic Pharaoh Akhnaten, reports Nevine El-Aref

The rock hewn 18th Dynasty tomb consists of an open courtyard and two halls, one square, the other rectangular. It has a deep shaft where the mission unearthed the remains of mummies, funerary seals and fragments of pottery vessels. In the court, says Mustafa Waziri, director-general of Luxor's West Bank inspectorate, another shaft was discovered containing a well preserved mummy that may belong to the tomb's owner.

The walls of the tomb had been covered with a black substance, and it had clearly been reused on a number of occasions. Yet when a section of the wall was cleaned, says Waziri, it revealed beautiful decorations.


Egyptian archaeologists digging in a necropolis at Luxor where the Pharaohs buried their dead have found a tomb dating back 3,500 years ago that belonged to an official known as the Supervisor of Hunters.

The tomb of the supervisor, known as Amun-em-Opet in ancient Egyptian, dates back to the so-called 18th dynasty of Egyptian Pharaohs between 1570-1315 B.C., the Cairo-based Culture Ministry said in an e-mailed statement today. The west bank necropolis where it was found is called Dra Abu el-Naga.

Two other undecorated tombs were also found northwest of the tomb of Amun-em-Opet in which the names of the Supervisor of the Cattle of Amun and the Royal Messenger and Supervisor of the Palace were found, the statement said.

eTurboNews (Hazel Heyer)

An Egyptian archaeological mission led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), discovered an 18th Dynasty tomb (1570-1315 BC) in the necropolis of Dra Abu el-Naga, on Luxor's west bank. Hawass said the newly discovered tomb belongs to the supervisor of the hunters Amun-em-Opet, and the tomb dates to shortly before the reign of King Akhenaten (1372-1355 BC).

Hawass added that the entrances to two further undecorated tombs have also been found to the northwest of the burial ground.Seven funerary seals bearing the name of Amenhotep-Ben-Nefer, the shepherd of the cattle of Amun, were found in the courtyard of the first tomb; while seals bearing the name of Eke, the royal messenger and supervisor/ care-taker of the palace were found in the courtyard of the second. Furthermore, fragmented remains of unidentified mummies have also been found, as well as a collection of Ushabti figures made of burned clay and faience.

The artifacts of life

USC News (Carl Marziali)

USC’s first pilgrims to a temple of high-energy physics will be seeking answers to worldly questions about ancient commerce.

Archaeologist Lynn Swartz Dodd of USC College and her students are taking trade artifacts from Egypt to the Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source, home of the most powerful X-rays in the country.

The group may be the first from USC to secure precious “beam time” at the celebrated particle accelerator, according to Gene Bickers, vice provost for undergraduate programs. The researchers will spend a week in July at the sprawling complex near Chicago.

By peering past the corroded metal on the artifacts’ surfaces and deep into their cores, Dodd and her team hope to discover the makeup and structure of the finds, which range from a series of bronze axes and swords to exquisitely forged miniature bronze-gold figurines of unknown age.

The answers may help tell the story of ancient Mediterranean trading life, which largely revolved around palatial centers.

The rulers of such palatial centers sent each other loads of gifts to “grease the wheels of trade,” Dodd said.

“(The X-ray) is a way in to understand how things operated and how trade politics, resources, moved in the ancient world. It’s a story of power and money.”

The X-ray analysis should provide clues to some basic questions. How were the figurines made? Was the technology behind the swords and axes tightly controlled or did multiple centers have access to it? If one palace owned a technology, could archaeologists try to measure its influence and wealth by searching for artifacts made the same way at other dig sites?

Unlike traditional sampling methods, X-ray analysis will not destroy or disturb the artifacts.

See the above page for the full story.

Razing the City of the Dead to breathe new life into Cairo

The National (Matt Bradley)

The Egyptian government is studying plans to move the historic Cairo cemetery of Arafa – a neighbourhood in which residents include both the living and the dead – to a location outside the Egyptian capital.

The proposed plan would turn 6,000 hectares of cemetery known as the City of the Dead, which is used as informal housing by tens of thousands of people, into a large public park.

While officials from Egypt’s ministry of housing say the plan would answer the capital’s gaping need for green space, critics of the project, particularly the living residents of Arafa who have made their homes on and among centuries-old graves, contend that the city’s plan will deprive them of hundreds of thousands of their living spaces among the dead.

But in a country where monuments to the long deceased loom as large in the public consciousness as they do on the urban skyline, it is the welfare and final wishes of the dead that elicits as much concern as their living neighbours.

“We’ve heard a lot but where are they taking the people? Lots of tombs are still being built and lots of permits are still being given. It would be impossible for them to demolish this area and build a park,” said one elderly woman, who lives with her husband and one of her daughters in a one-room apartment here that adjoins a private mausoleum. Like many of those interviewed, she refused to identify herself for fear of retribution from government officials.

“Of course I would say no. We’ve been living here for years. It’s a quiet and nice area. Why would they want to move us?”

The answer, said Mostafa Kamal Madbouly, the chairman of the general organisation for physical planning in the ministry of housing, utilities and urban development, should be obvious to anyone who has visited Egypt’s capital.

Brooklyn Museum Mummies CT Scan Project on Twitter

Brooklyn Museum on Twitter

Well, all power to them for embracing the latest fads.

Four human mummies from the Brooklyn Museum's renowned Egyptian collection will undergo computed tomography or CT scanning at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island on June 23. Throughout the day, curatorial and conservation staff will be utilizing Twitter, the free social networking and micro-blogging service, to send updates on the proceedings direct to the Brooklyn Museum Twitter feed. Follow @brooklynmuseum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/brooklynmuseum

The Brooklyn Museum collection of ancient Egyptian art, considered one of the finest in the United States, includes mummified remains of several animals and eleven humans. Through the CT scanning, Brooklyn Museum curators hope to learn more about each of the four mummies and the ancient civilization in which they lived. Each mummy underwent a preliminary examination in the Museum's Conservation Laboratory to assess their stability and general condition in order to determine if the CT scan would yield significant additional information.

The Mummies that will undergo CT scanning are a Royal Prince, Count of Thebes, who is more three thousand years old; the Lady Hor on view in her elaborately painted cartonnage since 1993, some two thousand years old; Thothirdes, over 2,500 years and; and a mummy about which little is known, that dates back to the first century C. E.

Sally Williams, Public Information Officer, (718) 501-6330,
Adam Husted, Media Relations Manager (718) 501-6331,

NY hospital test reveals mummy is a man


It turns out one of four ancient Egyptian mummies thought for centuries to be a woman is actually a man.

North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset examined the mummies belonging to the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday. A CAT scan revealed that one of the mummies, named "Lady Hor," was actually a man.

Researchers conducted the scans with hopes of gaining further knowledge about their identities, cause of death, and ancient funerary practices.


Researchers hope to gain further knowledge about their identities, cause of death, and ancient funerary practices.

Egyptian art curator Dr. Edward Bleiberg says the bodies embalmed for burial by the ancient Egyptians have been packed to survive the 18-mile trip during rush hour.

The mummies range in age from more than 3,000 years old to just over 1700 years old.

Bleiberg said a 2007 hospital scan of a mummy showed the man was 30 years older than estimated and had died from an infected gallstone.

Reconstructing the face of Meresamun

Archaeology Magazine (Eti Bonn-Muller)

With photographs/illustrations

She was more than just a pretty face. The ancient Egyptian Meresamun, who lived around 800 B.C., was a working girl, a priestess-musician who served Amun, the preeminent deity of Thebes. Her mummified remains, sealed 2,800 years ago in a skintight coffin of cartonnage (layers of linen and plaster), were examined by researchers at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute in September 2008 using the latest in CT scanning technology, a "256-slice" machine that produced startlingly vivid images. For months, she has since been the immensely popular subject of the Oriental Institute Museum's exhibition, The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt.

Now, the headline-making CT images have helped two individuals--each working separately with 3-D STL (stereolithography) images of Meresamun's skull produced from the scans, but using different techniques--reconstruct Meresamun's face.

Predynastic pottery at Cincinnati Art Museum


Nearly 6,000 years ago; 4,000 years before the birth of Christ; 1,000 years before the first Egyptian ruler came to power over all of Egypt, there were societies living near the Nile. These early cultures are now referred to as being pre-dynastic and the phases or time-periods as Naqada I, II and III, (also spelled Nagada), named for the area of Egypt where many artifacts were found. Nomadic hunters were beginning to settle and cultivate the land and to create functional items suited to a new lifestyle. Added to the use of stone was work in metal, and the crafts of basketry, pottery, weaving, and the tanning of animal hides.

Naqada I was a time when crocodiles and rhinos, giraffes and elephants roamed the land. In this setting an early Egyptian sat down before a fire to create a piece of art we marvel at today. For him, he is merely creating a beaker, possibly for trade, possibly on commission, we cannot know; but for us, finding it so many thousands of years later, it is a trace of history, a glimpse into a past we can only envision through the various clues unintentionally left for us.

On permanent display in the Cincinnati Art Museum is the earthenware beaker fashioned by hand from rich Nile silt by that pre-dynastic Egyptian. The piece was shaped by smoothing together coils of this clay then dried in the sun, the very same activity many of us experienced in elementary school art class. It was given a wash of red ochre, a pigment made from iron rich red clay and one of the first pigments used by humans. It was fired over open flames as the kiln had not yet been invented. The darkened areas were created using a technique that allowed soot to accumulate on the pot's upper surface during the firing.

More free Internet publications from the Oriental Institute

Oriental Institute

Eleven more Egyptological titles are provided online by the OI, and are available exclusively online

MISC. The Culture of Ancient Egypt. By John A. Wilson. Oriental Institute Essay. Phoenix Edition 1956. Kindly note that this title was first published under the title The Burden of Egypt: An Interpretation of Ancient Egyptian Culture (1951).

MISC. Kingship and the Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. By Henri Frankfort, with a new Preface by Samuel Noah Kramer. Oriental Institute Essay. 1948

MISC. Most Ancient Egypt. By William C. Hayes, edited by Keith C. Seele. 1965

MISC. Ancient Egyptian Paintings Selected, Copied, and Described, Volume III: Descriptive Text. By Nina M. Davies with the editorial assistance of Alan H. Gardiner. 1936

MISC. Quseir Al-Qadim 1978: Preliminary Report. By D. S. Whitcomb and J. H. Johnson. 1979

MISC. When Egypt Ruled the East. By George Steindorff and Keith C.
Seele, revised by Keith C. Seele. 1957

MISC. Ancient Textiles from Nubia: Meroitic, X-Group, and Christian Fabrics from Ballana and Qustul. By Christa C. Mayer Thurman and Bruce Williams. 1979

OIP 3. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, Volume 1: Hieroglyphic Transliteration, Translation, and Commentary. By J. H. Breasted.
Oriental Institute Publications 3. 1930

OIP 4. The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, Volume 2: Facsimile Plates and Line for Line Hieroglyphic Transliteration. By J. H. Breasted.
Oriental Institute Publications 4. 1930

OIP 17. Paleolithic Man and the Nile-Faiyum Divide in Nubia and Upper
Egypt: A Study of the Region during Pliocene and Pleistocene Times. By K. S. Sandford and W. J. Arkell. Oriental Institute Publications 17, Prehistoric Survey of Egypt and Western Asia II. 1933

OIP 34. The Egyptian Coffin Texts 1: Texts of Spells 1-75. By Adriaan de Buck. Oriental Institute Publications 34. 1935

Scan for 2000 year old mummy of child

The Age (Richard Macey)

LIKE an expectant father, Michael Turner paced the floor anxiously yesterday.

A few metres away the mummy of an Egyptian child who died, aged about seven 2000 years ago, was undergoing one of the most thorough examinations modern medicine can provide.

For the senior curator at the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum, the answer to a mystery was about to be revealed.

"Is it a boy?" Mr Turner wondered aloud. "Is it a girl?"

Collected in the 1850s by Sir Charles Nicholson, one of the university's founders, the mummy has been held by the museum for almost 150 years.

The mask covering the face is that of a girl. But a name on papyrus rolls that came with the mummy, thought to be from Thebes, has been translated as Horus. "That's a boy's name," said Mr Turner.

Mummy dealers in the 1800s, he noted, frequently mixed artefacts up for sale, so there was no guarantee that the mask or the name really belonged to the mummy.

ABC News

A 2,000-year-old mystery was solved today when an ancient Egyptian child's mummy was CT-scanned in Sydney in a ground-breaking collision of history and science.

The mummy, named Horus after the ancient Egyptian god, is believed to date from the Graeco-Roman period.

It has been held in the collection of the University of Sydney's Nicholson Museum for nearly one-and-a-half centuries.

Until today, its sex and age have been anyone's guess.

"I'm amazed to actually discover that it is a seven-year-old male," senior curator Michael Turner said.

"For 140 years we thought it was a girl!"

The university holds three mummies, two adults and a child, as well as numerous mummified animals.

While x-rays have long been used to scan mummies, the latest CT imaging technology will reveal much more about the seven-year-old child and his life that has previously remained unknown.

"We can look at the teeth, we can fly through the body to see what is still inside," says Janet Davey, a forensic Egyptologist from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

Exhibition: A Nubian King’s Burial Chamber

NCAAA Museum

This exhibition presents the world’s only fully accurate recreation of a Nubian burial interior.

Created around the legacy of the late 25th Dynasty ruler King Aspelta (600-580 BC) whose excavation records were locally available, the presentation features nearly fifty 2,600-year-old objects from Aspelta’s tomb or times, including such ancient artifacts as pyramid furnishings from the chapel, and jars related to mummification. In the mix are protective amulets, as well as alabaster containers for the scented oils with which the dead were anointed.

In the recreated burial chamber—which has been inscribed with four chapters from the Egyptian Book of the Dead—is a remarkable cast of Aspelta’s huge sarcophagus. Inside it is the King’s outer coffin. Ringing the room are the spell-binding cycle of relief paintings celebrating the daily resurrection of the king. A nearby related auxiliary display focuses on iron-making in ancient Nubia.


The National Center of African American Artists located at 300 Walnut Avenue in Boston's Roxbury section commemorates these black pharaohs. In the only permanent exhibit at the center is the recreated tomb of the Nubian Pharaoh Aspelta. For $4.00 admission you can walk into a tomb housed in a majestic, if dilapidated, mansion in one of Roxbury's prettiest pocket neighborhoods.

The Center also hosts traveling and temporary exhibits, but Aspelta's tomb alone is worth the price of admission.

The Latest Underwater Discoveries

Archaeology Magazine

This is a global look at underwater archaeology but it includes a page entitled "Min of the Desert" (Red Sea, Egypt) re a reconstruction of a ship from the time of Hapshepsut.

In recent years, for-profit underwater salvors have captured the public imagination, garnering breathless headlines announcing their recovery of "treasure" ships. But there's much more to the world of nautical exploration than the giddy promise of gold coins. Every field season, underwater archaeologists make extraordinary discoveries that expand our vision of humanity's past.

On the following pages, we highlight just a few of these ongoing underwater archaeology projects, from the recovery of a sixth-century B.C. Phoenician shipwreck, where excavators found a cargo that included elephant tusks and amber, to work on a 19th-century vessel in Oklahoma's Red River that has given archaeologists their first look at early steamship design.

Exhibition: Out of the vaults


Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto runs an exhibition named 'Out of the Vaults: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead' until October 18, 2009.

Journey to the afterlife through the mystical Book of the Dead of Amen-em-hat. Books of the Dead are funerary manuscripts created by Ancient Egyptians during their lifetime, containing instructions to help the deceased in the afterlife.

Video - Unearthing ancient tombs

ABC7 Local

Thanks very much to Kat for sending me this link and pointing me to the other videos provided on the site. It is one of ten videos available on the ABC7News Tutankhamun page at the moment.

When Dr. Zahi Hawass became Secretary General of Egyptian Antiquities he realized that all the major discoveries in the Valley of the Kings had been made by archeologists from outside Egypt.

He began training Egyptians in the methods of modern archeology -- cultivating a sense of national pride in the discovery and preservation of Egypt's treasures.

But make no mistake, archeology is backbreaking work. Unearthing and restoring a tomb begins with the careful removal of sand and rocks accumulated over more than 4,000 years.

Hawass: "You know, I'm so happy that I'm excavating now in the Valley of the Kings. First of all, we are working three locations now. The first is behind the tomb of King Tut. And we found an area of how the ancient Egyptian redirected the flood. When the flood comes up to the valley, they redirected then it will not disturb the tomb. And we found in this area, graffiti written year nine of one of the names of the kings, Cartouches of kings, we found scene of Queen giving offering. And now we are working in front of the tomb of King Tut, and actually we are demolishing Mustafa Azir's office. Mustafa is the director of the West Bank and he used all his life to sit in this office. We are demolishing it today because I really do believe that the tomb of Nefertiti is there. Why? This is the tomb of King Tut cave 62, and there in this side cave 55 of Egnahton. And here, the most recent tomb we found of Keya, the mother of Tut Ankh Amun. And the other third site is working in the West Valley, or they call it the Valley of the Monkeys. We are excavating there because there is a tomb of I, and Amenhaten III, and I really do believe that the tomb of the wife of Tut Ankh Amun, Ahnkisinbhatun, or Ankhisinamun, who married I after the death of King Tut should be there, and this why I'm an archaeologist and I did major discoveries in my life."

Sixty-three tombs of ancient Egyptian nobles have been opened in the Valley of the Kings. King Tut's was the 62nd discovered and the only tomb to date not pillaged by grave robbers.

More re Hosni campaign for UNESCO

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine el-Aref)

It seems that the curse of the Pharaohs has hit Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni's election campaign to direct UNESCO. A week after facing severe criticism from foreign and Egyptian intellectuals following the apology he published in the French newspaper Le Monde regretting his comment last year on burning Israeli books, Hosni has found himself once more in the eye of a storm.

During a visit to Paris to meet with intellectuals and top officials to discuss his UNESCO election campaign Hosni announced that Egypt's National Centre for Translation (NCT) will publish Arabic translations of novels by the Israeli writers David Grossman and Amos Oz.

Exhibition: King tut returns to San Francisco

Inside Bay Area (Pat Craig)

Back in 1979, Tutmania was akin to Beatlemania. That's when the "Tutafacts," 55 items from King Tutankhamun's tomb, toured America with the blessings of the Egyptian authorities.

Other than a brief visit by a handful to Tut items in 1960 to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, it was the first time anything from the 1923 discovery and opening of the tomb of the Boy King Tutankhamun had come to San Francisco.

But people were ready — teased by pictures in countless books, Steve Martin's novelty song tribute to the Pharaoh, and tasteful and tasteless souvenirs (including a T-shirt emblazoned with "Keep your hands off my tuts") — and by the time it was over, more than 8 million people across the country viewed the exhibition.

There is less Tut buzz today for the return of the exhibit, which opens Saturday in San Francisco's de Young Museum, where it played to crazed crowds and long lines three decades ago.

Why there is less buzz can be tied to any number of reasons, primarily that 1973 marked the first major exhibit of Tut artifacts in the United States. In addition, people had much less access to media 30 years ago — today you can get thousands of hits on an Internet search for King Tut. There was no Internet to speak of in 1979, when people had to go to ticket outlets in person and crowd control was less of a science.

Daily Photo by Bob Partridge

Temple of Edfu

Copyright Bob Partridge, Editor of Ancient Egypt Magazine,
with my thanks

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blog update

I am off to Wales for a week or so and will not be able to update the blog. Apologies! I'll post all the backdated news items on my return.

All the best

Monday, June 15, 2009

Royals in the lab

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

It's all go at Al Ahram this week.

A SECOND facility for testing the DNA and the lineage of ancient Egyptian royal mummies is ready to go into operation, Nevine El-Aref reports.

The laboratory is similar to the one set up two years ago at the Egyptian Museum where the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut was identified. The new lab was inaugurated last Sunday in the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University.

Sally Reda, one of the five scientists who will be working at the laboratory, said that one of the purposes of the facility would be independently to reproduce the results obtained in the first lab. A crucial element of DNA testing, she explained, was that an independent replication of the DNA results of the mummies was different from when applied to living people. "Mummies are very old and very fragile," Reda pointed out. "This necessitates extraction and multiplication before testing."

The DNA samples will be taken from the mummies by entering the same puncture hole from a number of different angles with a bone marrow biopsy needle, a less invasive technique than that used by previous researchers.

At the opening ceremony Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told reporters that it was of prime importance not to use the same lab to analyse the DNA of living and dead people as there could be confusion over the results.

"I used to be against the DNA tests for mummies as it was carried out by foreigners and the mix of DNA of the dead and the living could lead to incorrect and inaccurate results," Hawass told reporters. "We cannot trust results from one lab, so we have established another to compare both results and get precise data."

See the above for more.

Exhibition: Taking a shot at archaeology

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

A photography exhibition highlighting more than a century of archaeological cooperation between Europe and Egypt was inaugurated last Thursday at the Egyptian Museum. Nevine El-Aref went along

From the beginning of the 19th century, archaeology in Egypt has enticed a multitude of European travellers and academics. These pioneers rediscovered the main characteristics of history from the ancient Egyptian to modern eras, and thus contributed to establishing strong scientific links not only between the nations of Europe and Egypt but also between those nations themselves.

To illustrate this early and long lasting common interest and cooperation, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the European Commission in Egypt are holding a two-month- long photography exhibition at the Egyptian Museum entitled: "Europe-Egypt: A long lasting Archaeological Cooperation".

In the temporary exhibition gallery on the museum's first floor, a collection of 40 photographs recreates in images some of the shared projects operated by European and Egyptian researchers. These photographs have been presented for the exhibition by 16 European countries. They are organised around six subjects illustrating the main aspects of European activities in the field of archaeology: background, training, cooperation, excavations, restoration and valorisation.

The exhibition focuses on the main practices prevailing nowadays among Egyptologists.

Pagans, atheists and nature worshippers

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

While walking through Wadi Digla with a group of friends we got to talking about pagans, and found that we were not in agreement, writes Jill Kamil

Wadi Digla is a dried-out river bed lying to the east of the Cairo suburb of Maadi. It was declared a nature reserve some years ago, and is frequented by nature lovers and those who want to take exercise far from the madding crowd. For my group of friends it is also an opportunity to walk together to discuss matters of mutual interest.

On a recent occasion we got to talking about paganism. As an Egyptologist I naturally associate the word "pagan" with polytheism, the worship of many gods before the introduction of the divine or "revealed" religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Characteristic of pagan traditions, I presented, is the presence of a living mythology that explained natural phenomena and religious practice.

However, a friend claimed that paganism referred to atheists and agnostics. A third asked, rhetorically, what of Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and the Bahaai faith, surely they are not pagan, or are they? When I pursued the conversation with others that evening, I heard the remark that the Old Testament of the Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures) contained references to pagans as those communities surrounding the Hebrews, and they included Babylonians, Canaanites, and Philistines.

In fact, everyone I spoke to seemed to have a different definition of the word "pagan", and at some gatherings, as the argument became more and more heated, I realised that while opinions differed, most of my compatriots remained convinced that their meaning of the word was the correct one.

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Competition for UNESCO heats up

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, Egypt's candidate for the post of UNESCO's director- general, was in the spotlight last week as his campaign for the post came under scrutiny in foreign and Egyptian newspapers. Days ahead of the closing of UNESCO leadership nominations a group of well known French and German intellectuals raised objections to his candidacy, pointing to a comment he made last year in parliament. When asked by an MP about the presence of Israeli books in Egyptian libraries, Hosni responded by saying that he would burn such books if any were found.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, director of Holocaust documentary Claude Lanzmann and writer Bernard Henri-Levy used the French newspaper Le Monde to call on the international community to block Hosni's candidacy. They described him as a racist and inciter of hate.

Olaf Zimmermann, chief executive of the German Council of Culture, also announced his concern over Hosni's candidacy. He was quoted in the Times online as saying that "someone who failed to respect the diversity of the world's cultures should not be allowed to turn global cultural and education policy".

Hosni responded in Le Monde with an apology, saying he regretted his comments, which were uttered in the heat of the moment.

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Travel: The Sinai Stones

Al Ahram Weekly (Amira El-Naqeeb)

I've met many mountains and many deserts, yet the South Sinai Mountains -- especially at Saint Catherine -- have a unique power of channelling spirituality. The hike was a tailor-made trek to explore the area of Wadi Jebal, which is known among the Bedouins of St Catherine as the High Mountains area, and lies northwest of Saint Catherine Monastery. The hike involved walking through different valleys and vineyards, as well as visiting some mountains. The area is mostly inhabited by Al-Jebalia tribe, who came to Sinai almost 1,500 years ago.

Ahmed Assem, who is researching human development in Sinai, said that 200 soldiers where summoned to St Catherine by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (who ruled between 483-565 AD), and were charged with serving and guarding the Monastery of St Catherine. These soldiers, mostly from southeastern Europe, are the ancestors of Al-Jebalia.

The Greek Orthodox monastery enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush was built at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush; the living bush on the grounds is purportedly the original. The site is sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Assem suggested that the rocks scattered around the valley are remains of rooms built by Roman monks who sought the spirituality of the mountains to spend their days in prayer and seclusion -- a practice followed by many monks until today.

From Wadi Jebal and Rehibet Nada, and then down to Imesakha trail is the path that Al-Jebalia used to take on foot to Al-Tor city. This route was originally used by Byzantine monks between the fourth and seventh centuries to reach the port in Al-Tor, called Raithu at the time.

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Death of a village

Times Online, UK (James Hilder)

Just outside the Valley of the Kings a set of ancient tombs has created a very modern controversy.

Western archaeologists accuse the Egyptian Government of forcibly displacing thousands of people from a unique local community to open up the site as a new tourist attraction, while the authorities say that the villagers have damaged tombs and stolen mummies.

The village of Qurna, on the outskirts of Luxor, arose more than a century ago when farmers on the banks of the Nile fled seasonal flooding and moved into the shelter of pharaonic tombs that dot the rocky bluffs above the river. People built elaborate houses of mud brick and wood around the caves and, with the advent of tourism, made a living showing visitors their in-house tombs and selling souvenirs.

But five years ago President Mubarak decided that Luxor was becoming a slum, overrun with hawkers and unauthorised buildings that were obscuring and damaging its ancient treasures. He appointed a former army general, Samir Farrag, to clean up Luxor.

“One of the first orders of the President was to transfer the people of Qurna,” said General Farrag, now the city’s governor. So arose the village of New Qurna, a grid of pink and cream concrete terraces farther into the desert, lacking the character of its predecessor but provided with running water, a post office, schools and sewerage for the 3,000 families moved there.

Most families did not go willingly and they complain that the tiny modern houses have broken up traditional, sprawling households and squeezed them into stifling boxes with facilities scarcely better than those of their former primitive homes. “They just wanted us out. There’s no benefit for us to be here,” said Umm Mohammed Tayyeb, a mother of six, who complained that the water ran so infrequently that she had resorted to storing it in large earthenware urns, as she had done in the old village.

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Exhibition: World of the Pharaohs

Arkansas Arts Centre

Thanks to William Peck for letting me know that the Arkansas Arts Centre website has been updated with details of the upcoming exhibition.

September 25 , 2009 – July 5, 2010

Ancient Egypt and its art continues to inspire the world, just as it has fascinated travelers from all over the globe for millennia. World of the Pharaohs: Treasures of Egypt Revealed explores the long-vanished world of ancient Egypt. On view at the Arkansas Arts Center from September 25, 2009 through July 5, 2010, the exhibition features more than 200 magnificent objects including mummies, a majestic colossus of Ramses the Great, jewelry, statues, intricate art and funerary artifacts. The objects, which span 3,000 years of dynastic history, tell the story of not just how the Egyptians died, but how they lived! A visit to World of the Pharaohs: The Treasures of Egypt Revealed is a rare opportunity to explore the mystery of one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

There is also a dedicated section devoted to the exhibition where tickets can be purchased and objects from the exhibition viewed at:

The anonymous Egyptologist

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

Hawass is again defending his position using his Al Ahram Weekly column:

When we announced our discoveries at the temple site of Taposiris Magna near Alexandria four weeks ago, an Egyptologist who chose to remain anonymous began to criticise our work. He said that I was always making sensationalised announcements of my discoveries. I do not understand the reasoning behind his statement, but I suspect that he might be envious.

Martinez and I simply stated that we were currently searching for the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. We never claimed to have discovered the royal tomb. We informed the media of the results of our ongoing work of the past three years, such as finding an alabaster head of Cleopatra, the headless statue of a king, coins stamped with the face of a queen, a stone mask that could possibly represent the Roman leader, Mark Antony, and a temple foundation deposit proving that the temple was constructed during the reign of Ptolemy IV. We also announced the discoveries that we made as we began excavating tombs outside the temple.

Critics like this anonymous Egyptologist have implied that the repeated media announcements lack any significant new information, making it difficult for the academic community to take the excavation seriously. I believe that in their resentment, these critics are blinded as to what is old and what is new information. Perhaps it is difficult for them to know the difference.

See the above page for the full story.