Sunday, January 31, 2010

In the field: The week of the brick

Brooklyn Museum

Tracing mud brick takes skill, patience and lots of scraping and brushing. It is paying off for Ayman and his team, though. By Tuesday, they had already uncovered quite a bit of brick in the center of the square north of the Taharqa Gate. This is surely the enclosure wall into which the Taharqa Gate was set, but we can’t yet connect it to the gate directly.

The lighter area in the center of the photo is the brick as it was on Wednesday. The row of 5 bricks visible here against the center of Chapel D confirms that this chapel was built against the east face of the Taharqa Gate enclosure wall as we’d always assumed. There is more brick in the gap to the north but at a lower level.

Even when you can see bricks clearly, the faint color differences between brick, mortar and surrounding earth can make them hard to photograph, particularly in strong sunlight. A large bedsheet makes a good shade cloth, providing even, subdued light where needed.

Dig Diaries 2010

The following is a list of dig diaries which you might want to follow

KV-63 (updated intermittently) (updated weekly)
Brooklyn Museum 2010 dig diary (updated weekly)
Djehuty (updated daily - in Spanish)

If anyone knows of any others please forward me the links. Thanks.

Feature: I discovered pharaoh's gold

The Guardian, UK (Paul Sussman)

In 1972, when I was six, my aunt took me to see the T­utankhamun exhibition at the British Museum. I've been hooked on Egypt and archaeology ever since – I spent most of my childhood looking for tombs in our garden in Watford.

Although I make my living as a writer and hold no formal ­archaeological qualification, I have worked on digs whenever I can and learned on the job. The one I'll ­always ­remember took place more than 10 years ago, working as a field ­archaeologist and diarist with a team digging in the Valley of the Kings.

I was part of the Amarna Royal Tombs Project and we spent four years excavating in the valley, around the tombs of T­utankhamun and Ramesses VI. As well as ­digging new ground, we were given ­permission to re-excavate a small existing tomb, KV56. I was in charge of this re-excavation.

Discovered in 1908 by English archaeologist Edward Ayrton, KV56 had yielded one of the most ­spectacular arrays of ­jewellery found in the valley, hence its ­nickname: the Gold Tomb.

Journal: Society for the Study of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities


Volume 36 (2009) is now online at the above address. Abstracts are free of charge to view. PDFs are available by paying the annual membership fee.

Magazine: Ancient Egypt Feb/March 2010

Ancient Egypt Magazine

The February/March 2010 issue of “Ancient Egypt” magazine (published in the U.K.) is now published.

“Ancient Egypt” is also available as an electronic version which can be found at the web site This may be useful for anyone with a broadband connection who may have difficulty in getting hold of a paper copy of the magazine, or who might want to see a copy before subscribing.

Contents of this issue include;

News from Egypt and the World of Egyptology: Another bumper report ‘From our Egypt Correspondent’ brings the latest news and information – you won’t find this anywhere else! This issue includes reports on new work in and around Luxor, including the opening of Howard Carter’s house and new discoveries in and around Karnak and Luxor temples, from Islamic Cairo and on a new exhibition in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. There is also a report from the Director of the Oriental Institute in Luxor and the work being done there.

The history of the Rosetta Stone

The Missing Link: Mile Neilson from the British Museum, reveals how a statue fragment, discovered at Saqqara has solved the problem of identification of one of the earliest and best-known statues to enter the museum’s collection in the nineteenth Century.

The Cult of the Apis Bull: The worship of the Apis Bull was one of the longest lasting of all the cults in the ancient Egyptian Pantheon, as Maxwell Stocker explains.

Investigating Early Mummification
: Dr. Vicky Gashe describes her work looking at the origins of mummification in Egypt, revealing all is not as straightforward as is sometimes thought.

The ‘Belly of Stones’
: ancient Egypt’s Southern Frontier: Betty Winkelman describes some of the great Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, some of the most amazing military structures in the world, now lost beneath the waters of Lake Nasser.

Into Egypt’s Eastern Desert: In the second of two articles, Colin Reader takes readers on a trip into the eastern desert looking at the geology and the ancient remains to be found there.

Featured Pharaoh: Senusret III.

Architectural Gems: “Pharaoh’s Bed” at Philae.

: in our regular feature for younger readers, Hilary Wilson looks at ancient Egyptian Flowers.

Net Fishing: our regular look at Egyptology on the Web, tracing the history of ancient Egypt. This issue Victor Blunden looks at the reigns of Pinudjem and Psusennes.

New Books featured in the December issue
Swifter than the Arrow: The Golden Hunting Hounds of ancient Egypt, by Michael Rice.
Thutmose III: the Military Biography of Egypt’s greatest Warrior King, by Richard A. Gabriel.
The Ancient Egyptian “Tale of Two Brothers”, by Susan Tower Hollis.
Egyptian Art, by Regine Schultz and Matthias Seidel.
Rock Art of the Eastern Desert of Egypt: Content, Comparisons, Dating and Significance,, by Tony Judd.
The Pyramids, by Miroslav Verner.
Abusir XIII: Tomb Complex of the Vizier Qar, his sons Qar Junior and Senedjemib and Iykal, Edited by Miroslav Barta.
Soldiers, Sailors and Sandlemakers: A Social Reading of Ramesside Period Votive Stelae, by Karen Exell.
Refugees for Eternity: The Royal Mummies of Thebes, Part Four, Identifying the Royal Mummies, by Dylan Bickerstaffe.

(Previous book reviews can all be seen on the magazine’s web site,

Plus full Egyptology Society listings and UK lectures from February to April 2010 and listings of exhibitions and Egyptological events and now including listings of Egyptological Societies around the world.

Seminar Report: Demystfying myths

UAB (Jennifer Ghandhi)

The ancient Maya have been busted. So have King Tut and the entire population of Atlantis. For that you can thank students in a UAB “Mythbusters” honors seminar led by archaeologist Sarah Parcak, Ph.D. Last fall, they went hunting for the facts behind popular archaeological myths, debunking everything from cursed Egyptian tombs to cities lost beneath the sea.

“I always wanted to take a class like this as an undergraduate, and I’ve been wanting to teach it for a long time,” says Parcak, who hopes to make the course available as a 200-level offering by spring 2011. While most academic archaeologists avoid discussing untruths in the classroom, Parcak believes it is crucial to educate students and the public about what she calls “pseudoarchaeology.” Students investigate hoaxes to identify their origins and the reasons why the myths are so believable and pervasive in modern culture.

Travel: An oases road trip

Al-Masry Al-Youm (John Harris)

With photos.

In the past, the problem wasn’t the spectacular scenery along the way, but the transport and accommodation infrastructure that made it all accessible. Until recently, accessing the Western Desert was better left to the most intrepid of travelers. A patchy road with limited services connected oases with spartan accommodation and dining options. Planning for a trip through this part of the country required the tenacity of the hardcore adventurer, equipped with satellite phones, and enough canisters of gasoline crowded onto the roof-rack of your battle-hardened jeep to get you from one island of civilization to the next.

Thankfully, all this has now changed. The first upgrade involved the road. All the oases are now connected by a quality, undivided road that places Bahariya under four hours from Cairo, Farafra another two hours down the road, Dakhla under three hours further on, and finally Kharga another two hours beyond that. From Kharga, it’s a straightforward transfer back to civilization via Assiut or Luxor. Decent services can be found along the way, making the trip accessible to anyone with a tolerably tuned up car. Along the way, you’re bound to pass a slew of adventurous desert rats emerging from multi-week adventures deep in the desert. Just make sure you’re well prepared before joining them. If your car’s not equipped for the exploration you have in mind, it’s easy to hire a jeep in any of the towns you’ll visit.

Exhibition: The Treasures of Egypt in Las Vegas


The Treasures of Egypt exhibit is a recreated Egyptian village and marketplace which allows one to experience the life of ancient Egyptians from gathering water, grinding wheat, using ancient carpenter's tools and bartering for food and supplies.

Visitors then explore how archeologists in the early 20th Century unearthed some of Egypt's most renowned treasures, including the Tomb of Tutankhamun. The exhibit includes a trip through the realistic entrance to Tut's Tomb and the opportunity to view artifact recreations of best-known pieces including the Golden Throne, chariots, the Golden Shrine and outer sarcophagus. These replicas are one of only two sets that were authorized by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The other set resides in Luxor, Egypt while the actual artifacts remain entombed in the Valley of the Kings and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Visitors have the unique opportunity to explore an Egyptian mummy by using state-of-the-art technology that allows the user to "scan" a mummy replica in real time and view actual medical imaging taken of a real mummy.

New Book: Amarna Sunset

American University in Cairo Press

Amarna Sunset. Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian Counter-Reformation
Aidan Dodson

This new study, drawing on the latest research, tells the story of the decline and fall of the pharaoh Akhenaten’s religious revolution in the fourteenth century BC. Beginning at the regime’s high-point in his Year 12, it traces the subsequent collapse that saw the deaths of many of the king’s loved ones, his attempts to guarantee the revolution through co-rulers, and the last frenzied assault on the god Amun. The book then outlines the events of the subsequent five decades that saw the extinction of the royal line, an attempt to place a foreigner on Egypt’s throne, and the accession of three army officers in turn. Among its conclusions are that the mother of Tutankhamun was none other than Nefertiti, and that the queen was joint-pharaoh in turn with both her husband Akhenaten and her son. As such, she was herself instrumental in beginning the return to orthodoxy, undoing her erstwhile husband’s life-work before her own mysterious disappearance.

Photo for Today by Lucia Gahlin

Small Aten temple at sunrise, Amarna

Copyright Lucia Gahlin

With my thanks

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Egyptological": online magazine update

Kate and I had a meeting earlier this week and decided that we are in complete agreement that the magazine, Egyptological, is a viable proposition, so we are going ahead with it.

We have agreed on the type of content and how it should be managed, Kate has done some amazing mock-ups for the navigation and page layouts and we are working to a clearly defined web development process. All technical and operational issues and legal concerns are being handled as part and parcel of the development process.

As there are many issues to handle and a lot of work to be done this is not going to be a quick process. We will be posting all updates on our Egyptologcial Magazine Site Status blog, so please go there for all news on the subject but I'll also post a link here each time we update that blog.

A big thank you to all of you who have contributed ideas, advice, warnings and who have offered to contribute content, photos and practical assistance with the running of the site. Do keep the comments coming - they are seriously valued. Many of your ideas have found there way into our documentation.

In the field: Brooklyn Museum at the Temple of Mut, Karnak

15th January 2010 (Mary McKercher)
22nd January 2010 (Richard Fazzini)

With some great photos

On Sunday, Abdel Aziz began looking for more of the mud brick found last week. He had no luck, as the northern part had been completely destroyed by the Roman pit and extensive animal burrow we found in 2008. In the pit, however, Abdel Aziz did turn up a large piece of what would once have been a very nice diorite statue; he was quite proud of his find.

Here it is a few days later, somewhat cleaned up. When complete, it depicted a kneeling man holding an offering bowl bigger than he was. The text around the bowl would have named him and included an offering formula to a god (or goddess). Unfortunately all we have left is the tail end of the inscription. Even though his face is gone, the high quality of the carving of the wig, kilt and hieroglyphs is evident.

The right side of the “bowl man”; on the right a cowrie shell (about 2 cm long) whose back has been carefully sawn off to make it lie flat. It immediately put me in mind of the symbolism in Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party. According to our inspector, Hassan, cowrie shells are still used by fortune-tellers who throw shells on the ground and read the future in the patterns they form.

Online resources: Oriental Institute Open Resource Publications

Ancient World Online

See the above page for the full list of OI resources, most of which are focused on Egypt, with thanks to Chuck Jones for yet again for indexing them and to the OI for making them available.

The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago is a leader in open access publishing of scholarly work on the Ancient World. In 2009 they published some 114 titles online, many of which are long out of print, rare, and hard to find. These are listed below in the order in which they appeared online, earliest at the top. The Electronic Publications Initiative of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago outlines the forward thinking policies which guide this effort.

For an up to date list of all Oriental Institute publications available online see AWOL - The Ancient World Online - 2: The Oriental Institute Electronic Publications Initiative. All told, nearly two hundred fifty volumes are now accessible.

Development: More re Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor

IOL (Alexander Dziadosz)

The remainder of the buried avenue will be uncovered in the next few years.

"In the area that we restored, we found many sphinxes," Hawass said. "We'll be excavating the rest of the road until it can go to Karnak, and this will take years."

Home to many of Egypt's most renowned antiquities, Luxor attracts thousands of sightseers to a country where tourism is a vital source of jobs and foreign currency.

In 2006 Egypt began a plan to demolish and relocate Gurna, a village near the Valley of the Kings, to access and preserve tombs buried beneath nearly 3 200 homes.

The government built the villagers new houses about 3km away, but many complained the new homes were too small for big families, and that people would lose their livelihoods in the tourist business.

"We are not moving anyone by force," Hawass said of the Sphinx Avenue project.

Book Review: Abydos: Egypt's First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

David O'Connor's Abydos: Egypt's First Pharaohs and the Cult of Osiris. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo (2009)

Abydos is situated on the western bank of the Nile about seven kilometres west of the town of Balyana in Middle Egypt. It made its debut on the stage of Egypt's ancient history even before the dynastic period, and it retained its aura of sanctity longer than any other site in Egypt. It houses the tombs and mortuary cult enclosures of the rulers of the First Dynasty. It was the cult centre of Osiris, Egypt's most beloved hero and the central figure of the country's most popular myth. And it is an archaeological site that casts light on the origins of the Egyptian civilisation before the dynastic period, a subject on which scholars argue to this day.

It is a debate which reminds O'Connor, an internationally recognised Egyptologist with 40 years' experience of excavation and research at Abydos, "of Pieter Bruegel's wonderful etching depicting scrambling men gutting an enormous fish. It towers above them while, from the vast and gaping cut, a gigantic stream of smaller fish pours across the beach. Grand theories," he goes on, "as impressive as Bruegel's fish are proposed about early culture and kingship in Egypt, but are based on heterogeneous and random archaeological data, akin to Bruegel's variegated little fish. So far, these data are an inadequate foundation for the complex speculations built upon them, for the evidence... has substantial ambiguities and gaps. Yet the challenge of tracing the origins of one of the world's most brilliant civilisations continues to fascinate us, and Abydos is increasingly important to this endeavour."

New Book: The Hidden Life of Ancient Egypt

Thanks to Sara Hunt for sending me the above link. You can click on the image of the book on the site to see sample pages - it looks as though there are some lovely photos in it.

The Hidden Life of Ancient Egypt
Author: Clare Gibson.

Illustrations: Fifty featured plates and many additional artefacts. Cased with jacket
"Compelling... lively, clear and persuasive" "Breathtaking grace and splendour" (The Scotsman)

Clare Gibson's new title in the acclaimed and highly popular 'Hidden Life' series, featuring favourites like the wonders of King Tut's tomb to the beautiful, newly restored wall paintings from the painted tomb-chapel of Nebamun.

SPECIAL PRICE on this site ONLY! until 2nd Feb £10.00 (plus p&p) (UK postal addresses only) - to celebrate new discoveries of King Tut's life as a warrior and recent find of tombs at Giza. E-mail us at hermes@saraband.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for shipping rates for overseas orders

New Book: The Last Pharaohs

Princeton University Press

Thanks to Chloe Foster for letting me know about the publication of this book.

The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC
J. G. Manning

The history of Ptolemaic Egypt has usually been doubly isolated--separated both from the history of other Hellenistic states and from the history of ancient Egypt. The Last Pharaohs, the first detailed history of Ptolemaic Egypt as a state, departs radically from previous studies by putting the Ptolemaic state firmly in the context of both Hellenistic and Egyptian history. More broadly still, J. G. Manning examines the Ptolemaic dynasty in the context of the study of authoritarian and premodern states, shifting the focus of study away from modern European nation-states and toward ancient Asian ones. By analyzing Ptolemaic reforms of Egyptian economic and legal structures, The Last Pharaohs gauges the impact of Ptolemaic rule on Egypt and the relationships that the Ptolemaic kings formed with Egyptian society. Manning argues that the Ptolemies sought to rule through--rather than over--Egyptian society. He tells how the Ptolemies, adopting a pharaonic model of governance, shaped Egyptian society and in turn were shaped by it. Neither fully Greek nor wholly Egyptian, the Ptolemaic state within its core Egyptian territory was a hybrid that departed from but did not break with Egyptian history. Integrating the latest research on archaeology, papyrology, theories of the state, and legal history, as well as Hellenistic and Egyptian history, The Last Pharaohs draws a dramatically new picture of Egypt's last ancient state.

J. G. Manning is professor of classics and history at Yale University, and a senior research scholar at Yale Law School. He is the author of Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt and the coeditor of The Ancient Economy: Evidence and Models.

See the above page for the Table of Contents

Exhibition: Abu Simbel


The goal of the exhibition 'Abu Simbel: the preserving of the Temples, man and technology' is to tell the story of the several stages in the extraordinary salvaging of the Egyptian Abu Simbel Temples. More than 2000 men - architects, engineers and workers - succeeded in the operation thanks to their hard work, technology, skill and genius. The exhibition will be hosted by the Mawlawi Dervish monumental complex in Cairo, restored by Professor Giuseppe Fanfoni and his group of the Italian-Egyptian Centre for Restoration and Archeology, after the first exhibition at the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce in Rome, in May 2009.

Travel: Following in the footsteps of Harding-King

The National (Jack Shenker)

One hundred years ago, the British explorer WJ Harding King tried and failed to cross Egypt’s forbidding Western Desert. Jack Shenker follows his footsteps into a once-isolated world on the cusp of transformation.

There is a tree in the middle of Dakhla oasis that is said by some locals to possess a soul. They call it the tree of Sheikh Adam, and it has stood for centuries at the heart of one million square miles of vast, almost waterless isolation, a space once considered to be among the most inhospitable places on the planet. It lies hundreds of miles from Egypt’s Nile Valley to the east, and hundreds of miles from the Libyan border to the west. If you climb the small hill on which the tree is perched and peer out in either direction there’s nothing to see but sand dunes, some up to 150 metres high, marching unceasingly across the void. A British explorer who reached this spot in 1910 declared the tree to be a symbol of everything magical about the desert, “a land where afrits, ghuls, genii and all the other creatures of native superstitions are matters of everyday occurrence; where lost oases and enchanted cities lie in the desert sands.”

Museum: Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo

Heritage Key (Malcolm Jack)

Finished in 2560 BC, the Great Pyramid of Giza took 20 years to build. 3,000 years on, it doesn’t look like major Egyptian construction projects have hurried up any.

It was recently announced that the opening date for the Grand Egyptian Museum – the massive centerpiece attraction of the epic new vision for the Giza plateau, two and a half kilometres from the pyramids – has been pushed back to 2013, after the latest in a long-running series of delays for the building. The project was officially commenced in 1992, which means that even if the GEM does open on schedule now, it will itself have taken at least a full 20 years to finally come to fruition. History never lacks a sense of irony, does it?

To be fair, the GEM is no small undertaking.

Lecture notes: The Lost tomb of Amenhotep – Dr Laurent Bavay

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

The Lost tomb of Amenhotep – Dr Laurent Bavay

This is his website which he told me does not have details of the subject of the lecture on it yet but obviously will be updated in future. It does have details of their past seasons and in English as well as French

The discovery of this tomb was announced by Dr Zahi Hawass in March 2009. The team have been working for 12 seasons since 1999 at Gurna in the southern part of the necropolis above the famous tomb of Sennefer TT96. They have been working on the chapel TT96a and the next door tomb TT29. They have been doing conservation in TT96A and archaeology in TT29. TT29 Amenemope was a cousin of Sennefer and a Vizier under Amenhotep II. Percy Newbury noted it contained the duties of a vizier but it has never been excavated. During their excavation they found evidence of a Coptic occupation. There were many hermitages and monasteries on the Theban hillside. This particular hermitage belonged to monk called Frange and they found lots of ostraca detail his life. He showed us one piece O.29401, which was so personal and said he had come to see someone and would be ‘back soon’. Altogether they found 1,200 pieces and have been able to recreate his daily life.

Report: Fourth annual Festival of Archaeologists, Cairo (Zahi Hawass)

Recently we celebrated the fourth annual Festival of Archaeologists at the Cairo Opera House. I began the idea four years ago of having a day to celebrate the achievements of Egyptian archaeologists, and making a place for them to meet together and with their foreign colleagues.

I chose the date of January 14th to hold this celebration because it is the anniversary of the date in 1953 that Mostafa Amer became the first Egyptian to be named the head of Egyptian antiquities. This marks an important moment in Egyptians gaining authority over their own heritage, so I decided it would be the best date, and we hold the celebration at the Opera House in Cairo, which is a very beautiful space.

Now we meet on this day every year, beginning at 7 pm, with a 15-minute film talking about all the projects that Egyptian archaeologists are running. These include museums and site management programs for pharaonic, Coptic, Jewish, and Islamic sites and monuments, as well as training programs that we are implementing.

Feature: Ozymandias

The Guardian, UK (Carol Rumens)

The Shelleys' circle enjoyed setting each other themed writing contests: the most famous work to have emerged from such a pastime is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

It's less well-known that Shelley's most famous short poem, Ozymandias, was the result of a competition between himself and his friend Horace Smith, a financier, verse-parodist and author of historical novels. Smith's rival sonnet is called, less memorably, In Egypt's Sandy Silence and disadvantages itself early on by the gauche reference to "a gigantic leg". Somehow, Shelley's "two vast and trunkless legs" are more impressive. But both poems, first Shelley's and then Smith's, were published by Leigh Hunt early in 1818 in consecutive issues of his monthly journal The Examiner.

Shelley's interest in Egyptology was already established, as revealed by some of the imagery of an earlier poem, Alastor, but perhaps it had been rekindled in part by the news of the excavation of the colossal head of Rameses II.

Feature: Lifestyles of the rich and famous

The Independent (Paula Veiga)

The rich and famous people of ancient Egypt lived a decadent lifestyle with fine wine, sex, high fashion, and plenty of partying. How do they compare with their equivalents today - the modern western celebrity set?

The main differences might be regarding who were the richest people then, and who are the richest people now. In ancient Egypt the pharaoh was at the top of the ‘pyramid’ and his family, noble people who owned land, and the priests came after. Scribes, architects and doctors were well off, and skilled craftsmen also had many privileges.

Peasants and unskilled workers were low down the scale of Egyptian society, but it was the servants and slaves that skirted the bottom of the class pyramid. Those working in mines and quarries were really asking for trouble, as diseases, physical strain and dangers lurked in every turned stone in the desert. Slaves working in rich domestic environments were the lucky ones as they were assured security, housing and food. Many of these endured hard physical work and usually died young as we can see from the osteological remains found at Amarna site analyzed by Dr. Jerome Rose which proved that people building those megalomaniac buildings for Akhenaton died young with severe bone lesions.

Feature: Egyptian temples

Art History

Egyptian temples existed from the middle of the fourth millennium bce at the latest. According to tradition, the earliest were in the shape of reed huts. The last Egyptian temple built was a complex of buildings on Philae which ceased to be used in the mid-sixth century ce. After this, the existing structures were used as residences, vandalized or destroyed as pagan reminders, or exploited as quarries. However, the razing of temples for the last reason was already common in pharaonic times—to make room for a new building, to remodel a temple facility, or merely to reuse the materials on another site. Thus, out of the thousands of temples that once existed, only a fraction have been preserved for us.

Most of these in exist today outline; the rest are almost all ruins, and only a few are intact to some extent. The extant temples are predominantly from the last millennium of Egyptian history, the Greco-Roman period (fourth century bce to sixth century ce).

Egyptian temples are first and foremost objects of study for architectural and art history. They are also useful in efforts to reconstruct Egyptian religion and the history of the Egyptian state.

Egyptian temples were mostly erected by the state, at the head of which stood the pharaoh. Thus, the temples had a political function, which was expressed in both images and texts. In the foreground, because it was directly visible in the decoration, was the function of communication with the gods. Therefore, the temples are places of religious practice, though strongly influenced by political considerations. Just as the temples were state institutions, Egyptian religion was a state religion. The state is closely connected with two nonreligious aspects: first, temples had to be administered, a well-researched topic; and second, they required an economic base, which is apparent in many details, particularly lists of donors for its furnishing. The temple economy and administration as sectors belonging to the state had a life of their own, because they supported the regime in a purely practical sense (except in periods of unrest), and also because of the prominence of temples as a proportion of the overall economy. However, the primary function of the temples was worship directed to deities.

Antiquities law: Hosni and Hawass oppose new Egyptian law

AlMasryAlYoum (Emad Fouad)

At a parliamentary session Tuesday, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni and Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), urged opposition and independent MPs to vote down a bill permitting the buying and selling of antiquities inside Egypt.

Both men warned of the dangers of unlicensed excavations if the bill is passed, recommending that the law be applied to fixed antiquities only--such as ancient buildings or walls--rather than transportable ones.

Hawass went on to refer to Article 8 of the existing antiquities law, which stipulates that all archaeological discoveries be reported to the SCA within a two-year period. He went on to request that this period be reduced to six months only.

Antiquities market: Celtic Armadillos, Nilotic Fish, and a Bright Blue Shabti

Maine Antique Digest (Ian McKay)

The market in antiquities is one that continues to hold up strongly in the face of what remain difficult economic times for some markets, not to mention stricter export laws and regulations on what can and cannot be sold. Sotheby's no longer holds antiquities sale in London, but Bonhams and Christies are doubtless happy to take full advantage of that, and as was the case last April, their October 2009 auctions saw healthy sales by lot as well as some strong prices. Sound, or at least old Western provenance was again a key selling point. . . .

The real surprise in the Bonhams sale, however, was to be found among the Egyptian pieces—a bright blue-glazed composition royal shabti of the 19th Dynasty, circa 1279 B.C. It was one of a number of shabtis, or funerary figures, in a property sent to auction by an American couple who began buying antiquities in the 1970's from British and U.S. salesrooms and dealers. They clearly had a particular passion for Egyptian pieces and this 5½" high figure, its back inscribed with six bands of hieroglyphs for King Menmaatre, or Seti I, an Egyptian pharaoh whose tomb in the Valley of the Kings was found in 1817 by the great Giovanni Battista Belzoni, a circus strongman and showman turned engineer, explorer, and amateur archaeologist.

Like the canine cameo, this was valued at $10,000 or thereabouts, but that possible Belzoni provenance and its association with one of the better-known pharaohs seems to have worked a potent spell.

Feature: Sandro Vannini's photos of entrance to tomb of Tutankhamun

Heritage Key

When the entrance to the Tomb of King Tutankhamun (KV62) was discovered by the great explorer Howard Carter and his financier Lord Carnarvon, they could never have dreamed of the treasures which awaited them inside. These two men worked together to track down King Tut's burial place, as explained in a Heritage Key video with Lord Carnarvon's modern day ancestors the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon (Watch the Video).

Egyptology photographer Sandro Vannini has spent much of the past decade photographing the fascinating artefacts discovered inside KV62, as well as capturing the tomb itself on film. But an angle that isn't seen very often is that of the tomb's entrance - the path walked down numerous times by Carter and his team as they excavated arguably the greatest find in archaeology.

Photo for Today by Anthony Marson

Djedefre pyramid base, Abu Rawash

Copyright Anthony Marson

With my thanks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Museum: Lego museum in Cairo to encourage chidlren

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

To encourage children to explore the mysterious world of their ancient ancestors, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has opened Egypt's first-ever children's Lego museum. Nevine El-Aref recaptures her childhood

A touring exhibition that has been travelling to museums and science centres across the globe has landed a permanent home at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

In "Secrets of the Pharaohs", Egypt's ancient monuments have been rebuilt in the basement exhibition area of the museum -- entirely in Lego.

Scale models of some of the nation's best-loved ancient buildings have been refashioned in large, colourful Lego bricks and are on display at the cool-lit basement gallery. Here is the Great Sphinx sitting in front of the three Giza Pyramids; here a team of ancient builders construct a temple while artisans decorate its walls and a scribe squats with a sheaf of papers to record the scene. Here is the mask of the boy king Tutankhamun, as well as some of his funerary collection.

The exhibition combines the fun of the famous Lego building blocks that everyone played with as children and the colourful and amazing history of ancient Egypt.

Feature: 19th Century Travel in Egypt

Heritage Key (Ann Wuyts)

With photos.

Gustave Flaubert - the author of 'Madame Bovary' - travelled through Egypt from October 1849 to July 1850. Together with his friend and photographer Maxime Du Camp he journeyed from Alexandria in the North to Sudan in the South and back. This journey is the focus of the exhibition 'Het Egypte van Gustave Flaubert' (Gustave Flaubert's Egypt), which runs at the RMO in Holland until April 4th 2010. The expo follows the famous French writer on his journey through Egypt and takes its visitors from the amazing pyramids at Giza and the sanctuaries at Luxor to the gigantic pharaonic statues at Abu Simbel in the deep south. Through fragments from Flaubert's letters and diary, unique photographs by Du Camp and about a hundred ancient Egyptian artefacts the exhibition recreates a typical view of Egypt at that time, as seen through the eyes of a European traveller.

Gustave Flaubert's travel diary - published as 'Flaubert in Egypt' - gives a detailed account of his journey through Egypt. His travelling companion Du Camp took many exquisite photographs of the monuments and excavations they visited together, at that time not yet crowded with tourists and still partly hidden under the sand.

Feature: Servants in the Place of Truth

Heritage Key (Malcolm Jack)

For almost 500 years – from the 16th to 11th century BC – tombs, many of the elaborate and ornate, were constructed in the Valley of the Kings for the rulers and powerful nobles of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Needless to say, the civilization’s top dogs didn’t roll up their sleeves and do the work themselves. So who did?

Like the pyramids, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings were built by skilled labourers and artisans, who came to the site in the Theban Mountains every day from Deir el-Medina, a specially-built village that lay just south of the valley within easy walking distance. Founded at the earliest during the reign of Thutmosis I (c. 1506-1493 BC) Deir el-Medina’s ancient name was Set Maat which translates as “The Place of Truth”. The workmen themselves were known as “Servants in the Place of Truth”.

They were a mixture of Egyptians, Nubians and Asiatics from across the kingdom, each free citizens. The artisans were middle-class and among the most skilled stone-cutters, plasterers, architects and alike in Egypt. Supporting them was a team of manual workers – water-carriers and cooks – as well as their wives and families, and those involved in the administration and decoration of the tombs and temples. The artisans would be organised into two groups: gangs on left and right, who worked almost like a ship’s crew simultaneously on opposite sides of the tomb, while being overseen by a foreman.

Research: Amarna funding from Bloomsbury SS

Bloomsbury Summer School

Thanks to Lucia Gahlin for letting me know that the last Bloomsbury Summer School in Egypt with Barry Kemp at Amarna raised nearly £6000.00 for the Amarna Trust - excellent news. Wish I could have been there!

It is good to see the latest Bloomsbury programme up on the website (held in London, UK). For those of you studying hieroglyphs on your own you may be interested to know that Jose Perez-Accino is taking a next-steps hieroglyph class this year. There are lots of other week-long courses too.

Lucia has kindly sent me some Amarna photos which will be featured in future Photo for Today slots.

Tourism: VOK Tomb openings

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for the information that KV2 (Ramesses IV) is closed and KV34 (Thutmosis III) is open.

Book Review: Mummies in 19th-Century America

Fortrean Times (Christine Quigley)

Mummies in 19th-Century America
Author: SJ Wolfe, with Robert Singerman
Publisher: McFarland, 2009

A intriguing study of a commodity used as display, currency and medicine - and faked using swaddled dead tramps...

What is almost as good as seeing an ancient Egyptian mummy in an American museum? This book. The ransacking of ancient Egypt­ians – and their antiquities – was shameful, but it makes for great reading.

SJ Wolfe, of the American Antiquarian Society, does a remarkable job of cataloguing and describing the importation of the coffins and their contents from the arrival of the first one in 1823.

Mummies captivate us, and they were no less captivating to those in the 19th century who were seeing them for the first time. Then, the venue was not a museum and the exhibit was not appropriately contextualised. Instead, it was the front window of a candy or clothing store in a bid for more business, and the customers it drew were sometimes allowed to touch the mummy.

Mummies were brought over from Egypt to preside over a charity event or to reside in a library. They dramatised the exotic in dime museums, confirmed the pseudo-scientific in phrenology circles, and were the centre of attention at public lectures and private “unrollings”. They were sought by a president (Grover Cleveland) and by the father of a presidential assassin (Junius Brutus Booth).

Wolfe has ferreted out handfuls of period ads, illustrations, and quotes from contemporary magazines and newspapers to show the ways these travellers from the Old World were made to serve in the New World.

Architecture: Cultural landmarks of the next 10 years

The National

Resembling a giant glass and stone arrowhead resting in the desert sand, the Grand Egyptian Museum will sit two kilometres from the pyramids at Giza. Due to be completed in 2013, and expected to cost about Dh2.2 billion, it will house more than 50,000 of the country’s most prized artefacts, including the Tutankhamen collection. Commissioned by the Egyptian ministry of culture and part-funded by President Mubarak and his wife, the museum is expected to attract 4.8 million visitors every year. Its design, by the Dublin-based Heneghan Peng, is intended to reflect both modern and ancient elements, including thousands of triangular pyramid-like pieces.

Travel writing: Freedom, Madness and the Deserts of Egypt

The American University in Cairo (Richard Byford)

The Rhet Herring, Issue 6 Fall 2009

One of the greatest privileges enjoyed by an academic must be that of taking a sabbatical, and I thank all of you who made that possible for me. Sabbaticals conjure up images of freedom, on full pay, where one can keep the hours one pleases; and on the merest of whims one can arise from the keyboard and step outside free to roam the streets or stop off in the bars to re-inspire that temporarily jaded muse. It’s not really like that -- although I along with one or two of my colleagues did joke about me in my garret, far from the madding crowds, alone with my muse. The muses in my case, it must be stated, were two very young kittens whom I had the good fortune to watch grow up when I was not huddled over my keyboard; and with a pot of coffee percolating away every morning and a good selection of classical music playing away in the background I was comfortable enough.

A sabbatical however, is hard work strangely enough, for all of you full of envy -- it is not without its pitfalls. For a start, if you're not careful, one can become assailed by those demons that lurk in the back of the mind. I discovered that when alone for long periods of time, many of the slights, insults, grudges, hurts and evils that I have experienced in my lifetime came bubbling up to the surface and I would spend anxious moments, hours even trying to work out the why and the who of many of the problems that I have suffered, trying to make some kind of narrative sense out of it all. This is dangerous as one becomes mentally paralyzed wandering through the house perhaps with coffee in hand sometimes actually talking to one self, and multiple identities begin to emerge, the interrogator, the detective, the bemused puzzled victim etc. This is a threat that one has to guard against; but maybe it is precisely this sewage which emerges from the depths of the psyche that is actually the raw material and the motive force of writing, providing one can discipline oneself. Herein then is the key. Does one actually have the psychological strength and the self-discipline to function on one’s own? Surprisingly, the answer was yes especially when it was a case of becoming engrossed in the reading of the texts of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, particularly when I was in a position to apply my knowledge of hieroglyphs that I had been studying over the last few years. It is though the writing itself, the writing process which helps one out, indeed keeps one out of the hells to which one can consign oneself. Once I started writing I usually couldn’t stop; sentences would appear in front of me in bewildering rapidity; and after I had revised the grammar and developed my ideas further, it was exciting to see in front of me the kind of text that I am more used to seeing when I am reading.

I have not told you yet, but I was writing a series of travel essays about the desert. Each essay was to be concerned with a period of the desert’s history, and part of the research involved visiting the places, many of which I was already familiar, that I was going to write about. Such places included the oases of the Western Desert, the wadis of the Eastern, the religious and pharaonic centres of the Sinai, and most particularly the massif and mountain fastness respectively of the Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uweinat situated across the sand dunes far to Egypt’s south-western frontier.

Photo: Tomb of Djed-Amun-ef-ankh

The burial chamber of Zed-Amun-efankh, a man of status in the Valley of the Golden Mummies, Bahariya Oasis.

A lovely photograph of a lovely place.

Photo for Today by Anthony Marson

A couple of people have emailed to ask if the site is open to the public at the moment, and there was a comment from John Cole after I posted one of Tony's previous photos asking the same question. Does anyone have up to date information on the subject? Thanks. Andie.

Mortuary Temple foundations, Abu Rawash

Copyright Anthony Marson

With my thanks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

In the field: KV-63 update

KV-63 (Otto Schaden)

19 January 2010

“Dig” Diary may not be the most suitable term for this season’s reports, for “Dig-less” is more fitting, as we are in “study season” mode --- there is no further “digging” necessary for KV-63 as of last season, even all of the storage jars have been cleared and examined.

On January 6-7, we had a small work crew led by Reis Nubi clean the floors and other things in KV-10, for the north wind brings much dust into the tomb all year long. Every season begins with a cleaning and a general inspection. The inspection checks for any breaks, rock falls or changes in some of the crack monitors we still have in place in KV-10. For many years now, the KV-10 structure has been quite stable.

On January 8th, botanist Dr. Ahmed Fahmy (Helwan University) and Heather Alexander arrived. We had a trunk of botanical items set aside for Dr. Fahmy and so he was able to get started immediately. Heather photographed all the materials.

The SCA Inspector assigned to us for the next couple months is Ayman Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil. Two SCA conservators joined us January 10th. Ahmed Baghdady (worked with us in 2006) and Mohammed Mahmoud arrived and began work on Coffin B. Zaref Basili, who worked with us in 2009, came out yesterday. Cracks in Coffin B’s facemask have been repaired and will be placed back into position on the lid of the coffin. Two large pieces of the lid have been cleaned of resin but there is no trace of paint or incised decoration, thus the intended owner of Coffin B will remain anonymous. It is very likely, the coffin was never finished.

See the above page for more.

In the field: More re temple of the cat goddess

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

During routine excavations near the Roman theatre at Kom El-Dikka in Alexandria, an archaeological mission from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) has discovered the remains of a temple built by Queen Berenike, wife of Ptolemy III (246-222 BC), along with a cachette of 600 Ptolemaic statues. The temple is believed to measure 60 metres by 15 metres and extends underneath the present Ismail Fahmi Street.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, says the temple was much destroyed in later centuries when it was used as a source of worked stone, which led to the disappearance of many of its components.

Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the antiquities of Lower Egypt, said the team, which comprises 18 skilled excavators and restorers, unearthed a large collection of statues depicting the cat goddess Bastet, the goddess of protection and motherhood, which indicates that the temple was dedicated to this popular Delta goddess.

National Geographic (photos)

Thanks to Andrew Bossone for forwarding the above link which has six good photos of finds from the site. Here's the accompanyint text:

This limestone feline is among some 600 cat statues from a newfound temple dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet. The ancient temple was recently discovered under the streets of modern-day Alexandria, Egypt.

Egyptian archaeologists who found the temple say it was built by Queen Berenike II, wife of Greek King Ptolemy III, who ruled Egypt from 246 to 221 B.C.

Cats were important house pets in ancient Egypt and were often depicted in private tombs. In some cases, cats were mummified in the same way as humans and buried at temples.

"This is one of the most important discoveries in Alexandria in the last hundred years," said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of antiquities of Lower Egypt for the Supreme Council of Antiquities and lead archaeologist for the find.

In the field: Evidence for Relations with Egypt’s First Dynasty at Tel Bet Yerah

Archaeology Excavation Blog

A fragment of a carved stone plaque bearing archaic Egyptian signs was the highlight of the second season of excavations at Tel Bet Yerah (Khirbet el-Kerak). The site lies in northern Israel, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, along an ancient highway which connected Egypt to the wider world of the ancient Near East. Work was completed there last week by a joint team from Tel Aviv University and University College London.

Excavation director Raphael Greenberg of Tel Aviv and David Wengrow, who headed the UCL contingent, noted that the four cm long fragment was the first artifact of its type ever found in an archaeological context outside Egypt. It depicts an arm and hand grasping a scepter and an early form of the ‘ankh sign, and can be attributed to the period of Egypt’s First Dynasty, at around 3000 BCE or shortly after.

In the Lab: Inorganic Pigments and Plaster Layers from Excavations at Saqqara Area

e-conservation magazine (Hussein Hassan M.H. Mahmoud)

The entire article is available at the above page.

Examination of Some Inorganic Pigments and Plaster Layers from Excavations at Saqqara Area, Egypt. Optical microscopy and SEM-EDS microanalysis.

By Hussein Hassan M.H. Mahmoud


This work aims to establish an analytical database of some painted plasters dating back to the 19th dynasty (1314-1304 BC) and recently discovered during the excavations of Cairo University at Saqqara area in Egypt. Appropriate representative samples were carefully chosen and collected from areas that had no aesthetic value or that were seriously damaged. In order to identify the stratigraphy, pigment particle size and texture of the paint layers, polished cross-sections of samples were analyzed by optical microscopy (OM). Scanning electron microscopy equipped with energy dispersive X-ray analysis system (SEM-EDS) showed the elemental microanalysis of the various materials used in construction of these paintings. The obtained results revealed the characterization of some inorganic pigments and plaster layers used in this period of the Egyptian history.

Conservation: Gammaliya

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

A FEW steps away from Al-Muizz Street, which is now preserved as an open-air museum of Islamic monuments, stands the area of Gammaliya which now awaits its turn to be revamped and returned to its glorious heyday once the dust of centuries has been brushed away, and the monumental and historical edifices and accumulated debris removed from the streets, says Nevine El-Aref. The alleyways will be properly lit and the district will become an architectural showcase.

On 7 January, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, accompanied by senior government officials and journalists, embarked on a tour of inspection of Gammaliya to reassure residents and assess the current situation of the area and its buildings.

Time has taken a heavy toll on these historic edifices. Encroachment and misuse by residents have in some cases caused irreparable harm, while environmental pollution has undermined foundations and the 1992 earthquake left visible marks on the threatened historical zone.

Development: Avenue of the Sphinxes, Luxor


With two good photos.

Luxor is set to become one of the world's largest open-air museums when a multimillion dollar project to restore the "Sphinx Alley" is complete in March, the governor of Luxor, Samir Farag, said Sunday.

The project to restore the two-mile (three-kilometer) alley that links the grand temples of Luxor and Karnak on the east bank of the River Nile in Luxor has cost $45 million.

Sphinx Alley was originally built with 1,200 statues, with one side lined up with ram-headed sphinxes and the other with regular sphinxes with human heads.

The alley was built by Amenhotep III in the 12th century B.C.

Over the years, the alley was buried under sand.

Feature: OsirisNet updated with tomb of Sennefer, TT96


Thanks to the OsirisNet newsletter for the following information.

Dear friends,

We are pleased to present to you the tomb of Sennefer, TT96, in its entirety.

You will find not only the underground complex (TT96B), the famous "Tomb of the Vines", but also the description of the surface chapel (TT96A) which is currently under restoration (for which the MANT mission of the Free University Brussels has kindly provided advice).

Finally, a 3D virtual reality tour of the underground part of the complex completes this presentation.


Monuments of Egypt

Online Resources: Alphabetical list of Open Access Journals in Ancient Studies

Ancient World Online / AWOL (Chuck Jones)

Thanks so much to Chuck Jones, as usual, for all his hard work assembling this valuable resource of 576 links on the above page. Here's what he says.

I first assembled here an alphabetical list of all open access journals in Ancient Studies (with some hot pursuit forays into related disciplines) cited here in AWOL since its beginning in January 2009 in observance of Open Access Week (October 19-23, 2009). At that time the list included more than two hundred titles - a surprisingly large number I thought at the time. In a effort to make the List canonical and comprehensive, I began adding additional journals in groups of twenty. All of these have been accessible via Abzu for varying lengths of time. This process offered me the opportunity to verify all the links and repair the broken ones.

I trust that users of the list will offer suggestions for correction of errors and addition of new titles in the comment field available at the bottom of the posting.

Book Review: Reading Ancient Egyptian Poetry

Bryn Mawr Classical Reviw (review by L. R. Siddall)

R. B. Parkinson, Reading Ancient Egyptian Poetry: Among other Histories. Chichester/Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.


"This book has been written for fun, and it is in a sense a love letter to these three poems and the places that produced them," so R. B. Parkinson describes Reading Ancient Egyptian Poetry. This "love letter" investigates how three of Egypt's best known ancient poems, the Tale of Sinuhe, the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant and the Dialogue of a Man and his Soul, were written, read, performed and received from the Middle Kingdom period to the modern age. The book is organized in three parts and each focuses on the poems' surviving manuscripts, the process of composition, reception and meaning in the respective historical periods with an emphasis on the poems' social, archaeological and historical contexts. With 69 excellent black and white photographs and illustrations, chronological tables and translations of the 12th Dynasty papyri, this book is a significant contribution to the study of ancient Egyptian literature.

Reading Ancient Egyptian Poetry is Parkinson's third monograph on ancient Egyptian literature. His previous studies have established him as one of the leading scholars in the field. For Parkinson, this book completes the triad on Egyptian literature, but it is the most divergent.

Exhibition: Nefrina's World

The Pottstown Mercury (Jan Feighner)

With photos.

Eerie heads line Dr. Jonathan Elias' office. Like a scene from a bad B science fiction flick, skulls and sculptures watch the Egyptologist's every move.

As director of the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium (AMSC), Elias analyzes, scans, and records data to advance knowledge and understanding of ancient Egyptian mummies, particularly from the Akmim region 300 miles south of Cairo on the Nile River's eastern bank.

One of his most recent projects, the forensic facial reconstruction of a 2000-year-old female Akhmimic mummy named Nefrina, is currently on display at her home in the Reading Public Museum in an exhibition entitled "Nefrina's World," in the Ancient Civilizations Gallery through 2011.

Photo for Today by Anthony Marson

Djedefre's Pyramid - tomb ramp

Copyright Anthony Marson

With my thanks

Friday, January 22, 2010

In the field: Saqqara dig diary

With photos.

Week 1 (3-8 January)

In order to make this season a little longer, we begin a bit earlier than usual. It will be quite a bit different season not only in length but also in logistics and operations, as you will see in forthcoming weeks. It's partly because of these differences that Maarten and I made it longer, and partly because of our planned scope of activities, which we think are quite ambitious.

On 3 January the team's advance party of 4 linked-up in Cairo: myself, Annelies (our new main surveyor), and Nicky and Irene (our two field assistants). The next day I signed the contract at the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) and promised to return to Cairo for a meeting with Dr. Zahi Hawass, for whom the expedition hopes to find the bones of Queen Mutnodjmet. I also found out that the team's old friend Osama Es-Shimy had just been promoted to the position of General Director of Giza and Saqqara, and a new colleague, Ali Asfar, had been promoted to Osama's former place, Director of Saqqara.

'Beit Raven' is situated down hillThe next day the team departed to Saqqara and our new home, a ‘brand new' resthouse built at the foot of the desert escarpment. This is one of the major logistical differences. No longer do we stay in ‘Beit Emery'. Actually we are grateful to the SCA for requiring us to move - despite some tinges of nostalgia - since living at the old facility often seemed like camping in the outback.

In the field: Diario Djehuty 2010

Diario Djehuty

The dig diary about the excavations at the tomb of Djehuty in the Theban necropolis are online for the news season at the above address. Even if you don't speak Spanish the photographs are always well worth a visit.

Un año más, el noveno, nos reencontramos con Djehuty en la ladera de la colina que se yergue en medio de la necrópolis de la antigua Tebas. Una vez más las maletas viajan llenas de ilusiones, nervios, esperanzas e incertidumbres. Los amigos a menudo nos preguntan, “¿y este año que vais a descubrir?”, una pregunta comprensible, pero difícil de responder, pues nunca sabemos de antemano lo que vamos a encontrar. Antes de la campaña, en las reuniones de preparación del trabajo, se ponen sobre la mesa distintas posibilidades, hipótesis con más o menos fundamento, pero luego la realidad se encarga de corregirte, introduciendo el factor sorpresa y subrayando el aspecto imprevisible de la conducta humana. Sabemos dónde vamos a trabajar y lo que en teoría, estudiando casos similares y contemporáneos, cabría esperar encontrar, pero luego, donde crees que tienes posibilidades de hallar algo de importancia te llevas una decepción, y la excavación que crees que será infructuosa te sorprende con un hallazgo espectacular.

Very rough translation:
In our ninth year we are reunited with Djehuty on the hillside amongst the tombs of the necropolis of ancient Thebes. Again, we travel with suitcases full of hopes, nerves, hopes and uncertainties. Friends often ask us, "and this year are going to discover?". It is an understandable question, but one that is difficult to answer because we never know beforehand what we will find. Before the campaign, at prepatory meetings, we discuss several possibilities and hypotheses, but then reality will correct you, introducing an element of surprise. We know where we will work and what in theory, by studying similar and contemporary cases, one would expect to find. But then, where you think you have the chance of finding something of importance you are disappointed, and where you expect the excavation to be unfruitful the site will surpirse you with a spectacular find.

Restoration: St Antony's Monastery, Eastern Desert

Egypt State Information Service

Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawas inaugurated on 21/1 / 2010 the restoration works and development of the monastery of St. Anthony at Red Sea.

It is considered the first monastery in the world and its name is attributed to St. Anthony who was considered the first Egyptian Coptic monk in the world and father of all monks.

The monastery was located on a mountainside tribal desert on an area of 18 acres, and was established in the fourth century.

Its library comprises 1,438 manuscripts that date back to the 13 the century AD.

The oldest form of the Coptic language was found in the monastery. It was about a collection of writings that was founded under the Church of the Apostles.

The establishment of the monastery in Egypt underscores the depth of national unity and cohesion of the fabric of the nation, Hawas said.

He added that the completion of the maintenance of the monastery came after the restoration that lasted for about five years, which included the architectural elements of archaeological work and the monastery wall paintings.

Repatriation: Antiquities protection draft law continues to ignite debates (Safaa Abdoun)

Protection of Egypt's antiquities was the subject of heated debate at the People's Assembly as steel mogul and senior National Democratic Party MP Ahmed Ezz and Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni argued over private ownership of antiquities.

The point of contention was Article 8, which bans the trade, or any other form of disposal, of antiquities unless there is a written consent from the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA). It also states that the council has the right to take the antiquity from the owner and offer a reasonable compensation.

Ezz argued that the majority of Egyptians don't know the characteristics of an antiquity and some people inherit an antiquity unknowingly, and so penalizing them would be unfair.

However, Hosni, who cancelled a trip to Luxor to attend the draft law's discussion at the PA, said there are set criteria for identifying antiquities and such owners should report these inherited pieces to the SCA.

Minster of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils, Mofid Shehab, proposed to add a clause to the articles which states that anyone in possession of an antiquity has to notify the council within a year of the law coming into force.

Parliament Speaker Ahmed Fathi Sorour said that the crime of owning an antiquity is only punishable if the owner knows that it is an antiquity and doesn't report it, and he postponed the discussion of this article until the entire law is discussed.

Independent MP Alaa Abdel Meniem says that the law needs more work especially in defining what constitutes an antiquity.

Al-Masry Al-Youm (Nehal Mostafa)

A controversy erupted in parliament this week when MP Ahmed Ezz, who is also a leading member of the ruling National Democratic Party, suggested an amendment that would legalize trade in antiquities. Ezz's suggestion was promptly shot down by other members of parliament and Zahi Hawass, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Al-Masry Al-Youm hit the streets to find out what the average Egyptian thinks of legalizing the sale of ancient artifacts.

Yasser Adel, 40, programmer: “If it is good source for money, I’ll totally agree. But I don’t think it will be a good idea if there was money and no one benefited from it. So I’d only agree if there was a direct benefit like paying debts or solving problems.”

Conference: Experiment and Experience - Ancient Egypt in the Present

Swansea University Conference Page

Conference announcement

Please see for the full announcement, programme and booking form.

We have discounted rates for students and early bird booking (before 15 February), and daily rates as well!

Are you interested in ancient Egypt ? Are you interested in ancient technology or crafts?

This is a conference where academics, craftspeople and the general public, in fact all those interested in ancient Egypt or in technology, can meet and share their common enthusiasm. All ages and abilities are welcome. We have an exciting array of demonstrations and talks lined up for you, from flint knapping to flower arranging, from textiles to ship building, not to mention woodworking, stoneworking, manufacturing ritual clay artefacts, shipbuilding, antler bow manufacture, glassworking, an oral performance, and of course mummification!

Experimental archaeology applies the scientific method, and has the potential to be a powerful research tool while being interdisciplinary. Along with experiential approaches, it is a perfect medium for education and widening participation. This conference aims to integrate the arts, humanities and sciences. Through a series of lectures, workshops and practical demonstrations we will explore the value of a hands-on approach to understanding the past, in particular, Ancient Egypt.

Hosted by CEMA, Egypt Centre and the Department of History and Classics, Swansea University
9am Monday 10th through Wednesday 12th May 2010
Faraday A , Swansea University


Salima Ikram (keynote speaker):
From the Meadow to the Em-baa-lming Table: Experimental Archaeology and Mummification

Ashley Cooke
The Experimental Work of F.C.J. Spurrell: Faience, Glass and Beads

Pearce Paul Creasman
Exposing Ancient Shipbuilders Secrets through Experimental Reconstruction

Andrzej Ćwiek
Limestone Speaking: Experience and Experiments in the Field

Carolyn Graves-Brown
Experimental Work on Egyptian Lithics: From Spurrell to Lund

Sonia Focke
The Horn Bow - Egyptology's Problem Child

Rosalind Janssen
Ancient Egyptian Pleating

Janet Johnstone
Practical Dressmaking for Ancient Egyptians: Ancient Sewing Techniques
and Replica Clothing Construction

Geoffrey Killen
Ancient Egyptian Woodworking

Marquardt Lund
Flintknapping Scenes from the Beni-Hasan Tombs Viewed and Interpreted
by a Contemporary Flintknapper

Sally McAleely
Experimental Recreation of a an Ancient Egyptian Funerary Garland
Found on the Mummy of Ramesses II.

John Merkel
New Kingdom Copper Smelting, Refining and Casting Experiments

Paul Nicholson
Could the Egyptians Make Glass? An Integrated Approach to Experimental

Pauline Norris
Keeping the Horse in Front of the Chariot: Experiments and
Observations on Harnessing and Handling Horses in Ancient Egypt

Richard Parkinson and Barbara Ewing
Experimental Philology: Performing Ancient Egyptian Poetry

Ann Richards
Could Ancient Egyptian Textiles Have Pleated Themselves?

Donald Ryan
Reed boats and the Experimental Archaeology of Thor Heyerdahl

Denys Stocks
Some Experiments in Ancient Egyptian Stone Technology

Kasia Szpakowska
Making and Breaking Ritual Figurines

Willeke Wendrich
Apprenticeship as a Research Method

For further information, please contact us
Kasia Szpakowska
Carolyn Graves-Brown
or visit our websites:

Online Journal: BMSAES 14

British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 14

I've posted about BMSAES 14 in dribs and drabs but here's the entire volume, all available free of charge online from the above address.

The final issue of 2009 features two articles based on British Museum fieldwork in the Edfu area, and another on epigraphic work at Tombos in Sudan, with publication of related material in museums in Cairo and Khartoum.

More details on British Museum fieldwork in the Nile Valley and research projects on the collection

The two papers by Veldmeijer continue a series on ancient Egyptian footwear, and include detailed discussion and photography of several sandals and shoes held in the British Museum.

Finally, the Hawkins paper presents a new interpretation of two Amarna letters, with fantastic photography of the tablets kindly provided by colleagues in the Egyptian Museum (Cairo) and the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Berlin).

The final tranche of records have been uploaded to the Collection database online, which now holds records for 1,838,067 objects in the British Museum, of which 477,018 have associated photographs. New photography is being added to the database on a regular basis. High-resolution photographs are available free of charge, for non-commercial uses, which includes academic publications.

Finally, the subject-related web resources pages of the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan have been updated, including new links, allowing access to a range of online resources relating to the cultures of the Nile Valley, past and present.

Neal Spencer

Kom el-Farahy: a New Kingdom Island in an evolving Edfu floodplain
Judith M. Bunbury, Angus Graham and Kristian D. Strutt

The British Museum epigraphic survey at Tombos: the stela of Usersatet and Hekaemsasen
W. Vivian Davies

The British Museum expedition to Elkab and Hagr Edfu, 2009
W. Vivian Davies and Elisabeth R. O’Connell

The Arzawa letters in recent perspective
J. David Hawkins

Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear. Technological Aspects. Part VII. Coiled Sewn Sandals
André J. Veldmeijer

Studies of ancient Egyptian footwear. Technological aspects. Part XII. Fibre shoes
André J. Veldmeijer

Exhibition: To Live Forever

Arts Museum Journal (Stan Parchin)

Ancient Egyptian funerary practices and religious beliefs about death and the afterlife are vividly described by 107 pieces of jewelry, sarcophagi (coffins), statuary and vessels in To Live Forever: Art and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt at the Brooklyn Museum (February 12-May 2, 2010).

Selected from more than 1,200 prized objects in the museum's world-class collection of Egyptian antiquities, the works on display range in date from 3600 B.C. to 400 A.D. From predynastic times through the Roman period, they document how the ancient Egyptians sought to conquer death and survive throughout eternity.

Society News: Egypt Society of Bristol January 2010

ESB News 25

Thanks to the Egypt Society of Bristol for sharing their newsletter online. As usual there are some news items and lecture summaries that may be of interest. See the above page for the news items. The lecture summaries are as follows:

  • 24 March 2009 Egypt's Earliest Writing, Dr Kathryn Piquette, Trinity College, Dublin
  • 19 May 2009 Warriors, Priests and King's, Men: Egyptian Biographies of the Middle Kingdom, Dr Renata Landgráfová, Charles University,
    Prague/Freie Universität Berlin
  • 13 October 2009 Crocodile Mundi: Egyptian Water Spells Joanna Kyffin, University of Liverpool

Photo for Today by Anthony Marson

Boat pit, Abu Rawash

Copyright Antony Marson

With my thanks

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feature: Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx (Evan Hadingham)

Five page article about investigations into the Sphinx. Here's an extract:

Recognized today as one of the world’s leading Egyptologists and Sphinx authorities, Lehner has conducted field research at Giza during most of the 37 years since his first visit. (Hawass, his friend and frequent collaborator, is the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and controls access to the Sphinx, the pyramids and other government-owned sites and artifacts.) Applying his archaeological sleuthing to the surrounding two-square-mile Giza plateau with its pyramids, temples, quarries and thousands of tombs, Lehner helped confirm what others had speculated—that some parts of the Giza complex, the Sphinx included, make up a vast sacred machine designed to harness the power of the sun to sustain the earthly and divine order. And while he long ago gave up on the fabled library of Atlantis, it’s curious, in light of his early wanderings, that he finally did discover a Lost City.

The Sphinx was not assembled piece by piece but was carved from a single mass of limestone exposed when workers dug a horseshoe-shaped quarry in the Giza plateau. Approximately 66 feet tall and 240 feet long, it is one of the largest and oldest monolithic statues in the world. None of the photos or sketches I’d seen prepared me for the scale. It was a humbling sensation to stand between the creature’s paws, each twice my height and longer than a city bus. I gained sudden empathy for what a mouse must feel like when cornered by a cat.

Nobody knows its original name. Sphinx is the human-headed lion in ancient Greek mythology; the term likely came into use some 2,000 years after the statue was built. There are hundreds of tombs at Giza with hieroglyphic inscriptions dating back some 4,500 years, but not one mentions the statue.

In the field: Update re Giza from Hawass

Press Release. Here's an extract. There are more details and photos on the above page.

The most important tomb is the one belonging to Idu. It is rectangular in structure with a mud brick outside casing covered with plaster. It has several burial shafts cased with white limestone, as well as niches in front of each shaft.

Adel Okasha, supervisor of the excavation, said that the upper part of Idu’s tomb had a vaulted shape, symbolizing the eternal hill from which the human creation began, according to the Memphis religious tradition. This shape, said Okasha, is strong evidence that this tomb dates to the early 4th Dynasty. This shape is also similar to those of tombs located beside Snefru’s pyramid in Dahshur.

On the western side of Idu’s tomb, the mission uncovered another collection of workmen’s tombs as well as the remains of coffins, while on its southern side another large tomb has been found. It is a rectangular shaped tomb built of mud brick with several burial shafts, each one containing a bent skeleton along with sherds of clay.

Evidence uncovered also revealed that the families in the Delta and Upper Egypt sent 21 cattle and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed the workers. Hawass pointed out that the families who sent these were not paying their taxes to the Egyptian government, but rather they were sharing in one of Egypt’s national projects. The number of workers did not exceeded 10,000, said Hawass, contradictory to Herodotus, who recorded that the number of workers reached 100,000.

Development: Luxor heritage management

Egypt State Information Service

President Hosni Mubarak will inaugurate a project to refurbish the ram road in the ancient Upper Egyptian archaeological city of Luxor in March, a project that should turn the city into an open outdoor museum.

Luxor Governor Samir Farag made the statements during a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

Farag posted Prime Minister on a plan to install surveillance cameras across Luxor to help protect the city. It will be the first electronically-secured city in Egypt, Farag said, noting that the project will be completed within a year.

The governor also reviewed a blueprint to turn Luxor into an environment-friendly city, replacing petrol and diesel oil with natural gas. This also includes a programme to turn to solar energy in the city.

Farag said that Luxor will attract more tourists as an environment-friendly city, especially amid growing international awareness of the ecosystem.

Projects to upgrade the Luxor walkway, the Luxor Temple, the Karnak Temple and the Rams Road were also probed.

Slowly but surely, Luxor is gaining a position on the map of international sports and cultural events.

TV: Riddles of the Sphinx


Video prologue of the NOVA show (1.58 minutes) and an interactive feature which lets you look at Giza and the Sphinx in panoramic view. The latter crashed Firefox the first time, but worked when I retried it.

Feature: Sandro Vannini's Ritual Figures of Tutankhamun

Heritage Key

With slideshow.

Discovered inside the Tomb of King Tutankhamun, inside black resin-covered wooden shrines which were accessible via double doors, were 34 ritual figures. Of significant importance during the ritual ceremony, these statuettes are believed to assist the King Tut's passage to the afterlife. Upon discovering the shrines in KV62, the great explorer Howard Carter found only one of the boxes had been raided by tomb robbers, with the rest laying undisturbed since antiquity. The ritual figures are now housed inside Cairo's Egyptian Museum and have been captured on film by Sandro Vannini, who has photographed Egypt's greatest treasures including the famous Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun.

The greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, the inspiring tale of how Carter and his financier Lord Carnarvon uncovered the treasures of King Tutankhamun by working together is told by their modern day descendants the Earl and Countess in a video interview with Heritage Key (Watch this video).

Feature: the Top 10 Best King Tut Videos on the Web

Heritage Key (Malcolm Jack)

Thanks to the discovery of his practically immaculately preserved tomb by Howard Carter in 1922, Tutankhamun has become ancient Egypt’s biggest A-lister – the superstar celebrity of the glittering age of the pharaohs, a young ruler possessing of unimaginable riches in an age when excess knew no boundary.

Interest in Tut – fuelled by the various mysteries surrounding him, including his untimely death, and the curse that supposedly afflicts all who tamper with his tomb – continues to run high, as proven by the abundance of videos dedicated to the boy king on the web. They range from lengthy investigations into his early demise, to examinations of some of the incredible treasures and ritual objects found in his tomb, plus one performance of a memorable comedy song and dance routine.

Here we count give a rundown of ten of the best King Tut videos on the web. If you want to find out more about Tutankhamun – and the ancient world at large – check out our videos page, where you’ll find loads more fantastic clips.

Book Review: Early Christian Books in Egypt (review by Larry W. Hurtado)

Thanks to the What's New in Papyrology blog for pointing to this link.

Bagnall, Roger S.
Early Christian Books in Egypt
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Originating in a set of lectures delivered at the École Patrique des Hautes Études (Paris), the four chapters of this slim volume offer a vigorous discussion of some key matters about the forms and uses of books characteristic of early Egyptian Christians. Bagnall’s main concern in these studies is what he regards as an misguided tendency by some scholars to push the limits on the possible early dating of the fragments of early Christian books. This tendency toward early dating of Christian manuscripts he attributes to an understandable desire to find direct evidence about the distribution and nature of Egyptian Christianity in the second century C.E. Specifically, Bagnall questions the evidence for a spread of Christianity widely beyond Alexandria in the small towns and villages of the Egyptian chora in the second century and the use of papyri (both biblical/literary texts and documentary texts) dated (in his view dubiously) early to support the view that Christianity was widely developed in Egypt at that point. In the course of making his case, Bagnall also offers stimulating discussion of several specific topics that will be of interest to anyone concerned with early Christianity.

This book joins several others of recent vintage that all emphasize the importance of early Christian papyri for wider historical questions about early Christianity, and Bagnall engages most of these publications as well as the primary evidence.

Photos: Ancient Egypt in photos

Fox News

Fox News has put up 28 photos illustrating a number of different stories from Egypt including the mummy Pa Ib and images of excavations at Giza and Saqqara.