Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alexandria the crossroads

Saudi Aramco World (Edward Lewis)

With photographs.

Visitors to Alexandria are usually surprised by two features: the extent to which the city contributed to and shaped the Mediterranean world, and the complete lack of physical evidence that demonstrates that role.

This is, after all, the city that hosted the renowned Library of Alexandria in the last three centuries bce and could boast such resident scholars as Euclid, Ptolemy and Eratosthenes, the city where the Pharos lighthouse, one of the ancient Seven Wonders, guided vessels from all over the known world to her prosperous port. Alexander the Great founded the city in 331 bce. And Mark Anthony, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and the woman mathematician Hypatia, all, for part of their lives at least, contributed to Alexandria's development into a metropolis with a backdrop of magnificent palaces, temples and public edifices decorated with luxuries from Europe, Africa and the East. Such was the Alexandria's prestige that Diodorus Siculus, in the first century bce, described her as “the first city of the civilized world.”

Alexandria was vulnerable to attack by the Byzantine fleet, so ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab relocated up the Nile and founded what would later become Cairo.Yet aside from the outline of the impressive new Bibliotheca Alexandrina, successor in 2002 to the city's great library, or the 15th-century fort that guards the harbor entrance, modern Alexandria's panorama gives no clue she was once the center of commerce and culture in Egypt, let alone the Mediterranean. Fast-paced building projects and earthquakes have made archeology only a partial, often clouded, window on the city's past. As a result, great emphasis is placed on the written record, with which, fortunately, ancient Alexandria is amply blessed. Travelers, geographers and historians documented the city's topography, her array of impressive buildings, her mixed population and her political structure, giving voice to a past city that has otherwise virtually disappeared.

New Book: Visible Language

Oriental Institute

Thanks to Rhio Barnhart for the above link.

Available as a PDF download. 12.33MB

OIMP 32.

Visible Language: Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond

Writing, the ability to make language visible and permanent, is one of humanities' greatest inventions. This book presents current perspectives on the origins and development of writing in Mesopotamia and Egypt, providing an overview of each writing system and its uses. Essays on writing in China and Mesoamerica complete coverage of the four "pristine" writing systems — inventions of writing in which there was no previous exposure to texts. The authors explore what writing is, and is not, and sections of the text are devoted to Anatolian hieroglyphs of Anatolia, and to the development of the alphabet in the Sinai Peninsula in the second millennium BC and its spread to Phoenicia where it spawned the Greek and Latin alphabets. This richly illustrated volume, issued in conjunction with an exhibit at the Oriental Institute, provides a current perspective on, and appreciation of, an invention that changed the course of history.

New meteorite impact site discovered

Science Daily

A 2008 Google Earth search led to the discovery of Kamil crater, one of the best-preserved meteorite impact sites ever found. Earlier this year, a gritty, sand-blown expedition reached the site deep in the Egyptian desert to collect iron debris and determine the crater's age and origins.

One day within the last several thousand years, a rare metallic meteorite travelling over 12 000 km/hour smashed into Earth's surface near what is today the trackless border region between Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The impact of the 1.3 m, 10-tonne chunk of iron generated a fireball and plume that would have been visible over 1000 km away, and drilled a hole 16 m deep and 45 m wide into the rocky terrain.

Since then, the crater had sat undisturbed by Earth's geologic and climatic processes, which usually render all but the very largest terrestrial impact craters invisible. It was also, as far as is recorded, unseen by humans.

Book Review: Ancient Egypt: An Introduction

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Peter C. Nadig)

Salima Ikram, Ancient Egypt: An Introduction. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

It is not easy to write an introduction to ancient Egypt, since so many details, past and present, need to be covered for this fascinating and extremely variant culture. A great deal of this fascination can be attributed to the aesthetic quality of Egyptian art which had left its mark over a period of 3000 years as well as the good preservation of many monuments and objects. Salima Ikram (American University Cairo) provides an excellent introduction – lavishly illustrated with photos and drawings. In nine chapters, the book aims at a general readership not familiar with Egypt by “setting the stage for their further study and investigation”. The focus is not only the various aspects of ancient Egypt’s history and culture, but also their reception as well as rediscovery through the ages.

The book starts with a detailed chronological chart of the periods of Egyptian history from 5000 BC till 30 BC. Kings’ names are given with their Horus and throne names as well as personal names and regnal years where possible (pp. xiii-xxiii). Chapter One (“The Black and the Red”) brings an outline of Egypt’s geography and environment. The author makes it clear that the country's wealth not only lay in the annual inundation of the Nile, but also in its natural borders. The different regions of Egypt, such as the Nile River and the Nile Valley, the Delta, the Western Desert with its oases, and the Sinai Peninsula along with the Eastern Desert and The Red Sea are explained. The second chapter ("Travellers, Thieves, and Scholars") deals with the history of Egyptology and Egyptomania. It began during the New Kingdom when Egyptians themselves began to reflect on the monuments of their past. Among these Prince Khaemwese, a son of Ramesses II stands out, whose restoration inscription can still be seen on a pyramid in Saqqara.

A separate section covers Greek and Roman visitors as well as scholars who wrote about Egypt such as Solon, Pythagoras, Herodotus, Manetho, Diodorus, Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Plutarch, Septimius Severus, and the fourth-century nun Egeria. A short section sums up the interest of Arab scholars in Egypt, some of which studied the ancient monuments or tried to decipher the hieroglyphs.

The Gold Mask of Tutankhamun and Its Significance

Art Museum Journal (Stan Parchin)

British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the Gold Mask of Tutankhamun (ca. 1332-1323 B.C.) in 1925. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Harry Burton recorded the spectacular find in crisp black-and-white photographs, each carefully taken inside the Burial Chamber of the adolescent king's four-room tomb. Developed from fragile glass negatives, Burton's pictures have since etched an indelible impression of ancient Egyptian royalty into the popular imagination. He masterfully captured the mask centuries after Tutankhamun's funeral, a ceremony that occurred more than 10 years following the religiously turbulent Amarna Period of Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 B.C.), the frail young ruler's iconoclastic father.

While Akhenaten professed singular devotion to the Aten or solar disk, the practice of age-old polytheistic rites persisted throughout the heretic's reign and thereafter.

El equipo de arqueólogos de la UJA descubre numerosas momias en Asuán


El equipo de investigadores del Proyecto Arqueológico que la Universidad de Jaén (UJA) tiene en Asuán (Egipto) ha descubierto numerosas momias, una mesa de ofrendas de gran tamaño, una estela y cerámica de uso ritual, en una de las tumbas de la necrópolis de Elefantina.

Desde hace más de tres semanas, un equipo multidisciplinar está llevando a cabo la tercera campaña en la necrópolis de los nobles de Elefantina en Asuán, según ha informado en un comunicado la propia universidad jiennense.

El profesor del Área de Historia Antigua de la UJA y director del proyecto, Alejandro Jiménez Serrano, ha anunciado que, en concreto, "en la tumba número 33, una de las más grandes del cementerio y datada en el 1850 a.C., se ha descubierto una mesa de ofrendas de gran tamaño, numerosas momias", una estela (monumento conmemorativo en forma de pedestal con relieves) y cerámica de uso ritual.

Middle Egypt Trip Report

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for sharing both the account and a terrific set of photographs from her recent trip to Middle Egypt. Here's a short extract:

Day 1
Left Luxor at 7:30, an earlier start and breakfast boxes might have been a good idea as there was a lot to see on route. We skipped Abydos and Dendera as many of the group had or could see these another time. Our first stop was Akhmim which is the home of the statue of Meritamun, daughter of Ramses II. Similar to Esna it is situated below the level of the town, there is a modest open air museum with some interesting blocks. As well as the very large statue of Meritamun there is a much later statue of Isis as Venus. There were some blocks from the Amarna period with rays of the sun terminating with hands.

Interview with Hawass


An interview in Spanish with Zahi Hawass. The only piece of information which was new to me was that Hawass is in talks with the National Geographic regarding the possibility of searching for the sarcophagus of Menkaure in Spanish waters off Cartagena (southeastern Spain). There was a story back in 2008 in The Times (also available online) which mentioned the possibility of searching for the sarcophagus.

¿Va a bucear en aguas españolas en busca del sarcófago de Micerinos?
-Se trata del sarcófago de Micerinos y a Egipto le gustaría cooperar con el Ministerio de Cultura español para intentar encontrarlo. Y les proveeremos de fondos, si es necesario para ello.

-¿Dónde se hundió el barco que trasladaba ese sarcófago?
-Estoy seguro de que está en aguas de Cartagena. Ahora mismo estamos en conversaciones con el National Geographic, y quizás el National podría proporcionar estos fondos.

Photo for Today - more from the Walters Art Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Temple Relief of Nectanebo II
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 350 BC (Late Period)
Medium: granodiorite
Measurements: 33 1/4 x 71 1/2 in. (84.5 x 181.6 cm)

Item Description:
Once decorating the lower section of an interior temple wall, this relief depicts gods carrying offering trays supporting cartouches bearing the name of King Nectanebo II, and liquid and floral offerings. The deities bring the agricultural wealth of the nome, or region, they represent in a procession. The hieroglyphic texts praise the king and the god Onuris-Shu. Unlike the sunk relief used on exterior walls, interior walls were decorated with raised relief.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More on rediscovered 25th Dynasty tomb of Karakhamun

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine el-Aref)

Pischikova said the tomb of priest Karakhamun was discovered in the 19th century in an unstable condition. It continued to deteriorate, and only parts of it were accessible to visitors in the early 1970s. Later it collapsed and was buried under the sand. In 2006 the ACP mission rediscovered the tomb and since then has been carrying out conservation work.

"Karakhamun's tomb is one of the most beautiful tombs of the 25th Dynasty because of the preservation of the colour and the unique quality of the scenes," Pischikova said. "Now," she continued, "the team is consolidating every fragment of the decoration found in the debris. The rest of the tomb must then be cleared of debris, the decorations consolidated and cleaned while the pillared are reinforced. Our final goal is to reconstruct the tomb in situ after restoring and placing all its fragments back to its original place."

Pischikova told Al-Ahram Weekly that one of the most beautiful scenes inside the tomb is found under Karakhamun's chair carved on the north section of the tomb's east wall. It features a dog skillfully carved with sharpness and precision.

Egyptian Art Academy in Rome

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Paradoxically in a country famous for its superb classical architecture, the Villa Borghese Gardens are landscaped in the naturalistic English manner. The distinguished buildings within them house a number of museums and various other attractions, among them the Egyptian Art Academy (EAA).The building stands resplendent with its new, contemporary glass and marble façade carved with hieroglyphic text.

Following a year of development and restoration the EAA has now started greeting visitors, and its new architectural style combining both ancient and modern is an attraction in itself. The eight million euro restoration project included the renovation of the plastic arts galleries, theatre, cinema, Hi-Tech library, restaurant, conference hall and hostel, as well as the studios and small ateliers for artists and students. Also included in the development programme were the building's main façade and the creation of Egypt's first-ever permanent antiquities exhibition abroad.

Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly that the idea of having a museum in Rome came about when it was realised that Rome, one of the greatest art capitals in the world, did not boast an Egyptian antiquities museum apart from a very modest collection inside the Vatican. An area of 220 square metres inside the EAA was thus allocated for the creation of a museum to display the history of the Egyptian civilisation from the days of ancient Egypt right through the Islamic era.

Pyramids - Norwegian Researcher Unlocks Construction Secrets

Heritage Key

For thousands of years, scientists from around the world have tried to understand how the Egyptians designed and built the Great Pyramid of Giza – the last remaining of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Now, an architect and researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says he has the answer to this ancient puzzle.

According to Ole Bryn, the Great Pyramid's building grid was developed based on the prime number seven – and the core of Khufu's 146.6 meters high monument is likely a step pyramid.

Khufu's Great Pyramid, located on the Giza Plateau, was constructed around 2600 BC. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, making it what is likely the most studied build in the history of mankind. Over time, many theories have been put forward – some more plausible (although still not accepted by the mainstream) than others – as to how the Egyptians constructed the 'true' pyramids.

Ole J Bryn, an architect and associate professor in NTNU’s Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art, argues that modern day scholars have been so preoccupied by the weight of the estimated 2.3 million limestone blocks – which weight roughly 7 million tons – that they tend to overlook the other major problems the pyramid builders would have faced.

In his paper, Bryn does not touch on how the ancient Egyptians would have put those enormously heavy building blocks in place – there are numerous theories about ramps and other suggestions already out there. Rather, the Norwegian scholar examined how the builders would have known where to put them.

Science Daily

Scientists from around the world have tried to understand how the Egyptians erected their giant pyramids. Now, an architect and researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says he has the answer to this ancient, unsolved puzzle.

Researchers have been so preoccupied by the weight of the stones that they tend to overlook two major problems: How did the Egyptians know exactly where to put the enormously heavy building blocks? And how was the master architect able to communicate detailed, highly precise plans to a workforce of 10,000 illiterate men?

A 7-million-ton structure

These were among the questions that confronted Ole J. Bryn, an architect and associate professor in NTNU's Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art when he began examining Khufu's Great Pyramid in Giza. Khufu's pyramid, better known as the Pyramid of Cheops, consists of 2.3 million limestone blocks weighing roughly 7 million tons. At 146.6 meters high, it held the record as the tallest structure ever built for nearly 4000 years.

What Bryn discovered was quite simple. He believes that the Egyptians invented the modern building grid, by separating the structure's measuring system from the physical building itself, thus introducing tolerance, as it is called in today's engineering and architectural professions.

Pediamenopet's Curse

Asharq Alawsat (Zahi Hawass)

Egyptian priest who built a tomb for himself in the region known as al-Asasif, west of Luxor. The tomb is known as Tomb 33 [TT33], and many myths and stories have emerged surrounding this tomb to the point that some archeologists even fear entering it. It is generally believed that Pediamenopet was one of the most important magicians in ancient Egypt, where witchcraft and magic was part of the ancient Egyptian priesthood. In fact, the skills and powers of ancient Egyptian priest's in witchcraft and magic have even been referred to in the holy Quran. Researchers and archeologists have had numerous accidents in this tomb, especially in the vertical shaft that must be traversed in order to reach Pediamenopet's burial chamber. This vertical shaft descends for approximately 7 meters in depth, and there have been a number of accidents here, with people falling down this vertical shaft and harming themselves, resulting in archeologists speculating that this vertical shaft is cursed.

The first recorded story of an accident taking place in this tomb was in 1798, when French scholars attached to the French Campaign in Egypt were recording and studying the antiquities of Upper Egypt. These French scholars worked day and night to document ancient Egyptian artifacts and antiquities, and in fact they were even able to publish an important encyclopedia called the "Description de l'Egypte" about Egypt. The story goes that one French scholar entered Pediamenopet's tomb, carrying only a candle in order to observe the engravings and hieroglyphics on the tomb's walls, however he fell down this vertical shaft to his death. Approximately two centuries later, a German archeologist was cataloguing the tomb in 1874, as part of research into a book he was writing on the importance of the engravings and hieroglyphics on the walls of the tomb, when he also fell down this vertical shaft.

Finishing up at Minufiyeh

EES Minufiyeh Survey (Jo Rowland)

With photos

Work in the field finished on Wednesday with a final burrima (drill core) at Kom el-Ahmar. Both Thursday and Friday have been spent writing the report for the end of the season as well as preparing papers ready for the 2011 seasons! There is also much packing to do – sorting out which piles of materials stay at Quesna in the store room and which will travel back to Europe. Photocopying is also being done to enable one copy of this season’s recording forms to stay in Egypt and another to stay in Europe.

Part 3 of Hawass on the tomb of Seti I

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

After 130 metres the tunnel began to reveal its purpose when we uncovered 54 steps. The pounding inside my chest was amazing as I descended the ramp for seven metres. This second ramp was cut in the rock and had the same dimensions as the first ramp. At the end of this second ramp was another staircase containing 49 steps, which is where the tunnel ended.

The tomb is 98 metres long and the tunnel is 174 metres long. I spent hours inside this long tunnel and I still cannot walk well because my knee was injured by the stone rubble. I still dream of receiving a message from my assistant, Tarek, on my mobile phone. "Great things are happening, 'ya Ganeb Al-Modier' (Mr Director)," he said. "I believe we are in front of a great discovery: a royal tomb inside a royal tomb!" The next day at 5am I flew to Luxor and began my adventure. We knew that the tunnel indeed ended completely and that there was nothing further. I wish that Sheikh Ali were alive today to see our great work and how we excavated the whole tunnel for the first time.

We knew that the great Pharaoh Seti I, father of Ramses II, planned to make the most unique tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Seti planned to make a dummy tomb to deceive everyone and decorated the entire 98 metres of it. But he made another tomb, which he could not finish because he only ruled for 12 years. It seems that his architect concentrated on the construction of the tomb and the tunnel at the same time.

Queen Hatshepsut King of Upper and Lower Egypt

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Framed by steep cliffs and poised in elegant relief is the mortuary temple of Deir Al-Bahri, known in ancient times as the "Most Holy of Holies". We now know more than ever before about the plans and ideas of the remarkable woman who built it, says Jill Kamil

Hatshepsut, as the offspring of the Great Royal Wife Ahmose, was the only lawful heir to the throne of Tuthmosis I. Custom, however, prevented her as a member of the female sex from succeeding as Pharaoh. So she took the only step open to her: she married her half-brother Tuthmosis II.

"She came to the throne at a crucial time in Egyptian history," said Zbigniew Szafranski, director of the Polish Institute in Cairo at an illustrated talk at the institute last month. "The 18th-Dynasty (1567-1320 BC) emerged from a long-awaited liberation from Hyksos rule; Nubia had become the core of an independent African kingdom; and innovative ideas came from Persia, Palestine, northern Mesopotamia and the Minoan kingdom."

For several years Hatshepsut acted as a typical co- regent, allowing the young Tuthmosis to take precedence in all activities, already there were signs that Hatshepsut was not afraid of flouting tradition. She adopted a new title, "Mistress of the Two Lands", in clear reference to a king's time-honoured title "Lord of the Two Lands"; she commissioned a pair of obelisks to stand in front of the gateway to the Karnak temple complex; and, by the time her obelisks were cut and transported from the quarries at Aswan, she had become a king. She assumed the throne name Makere, "one of many", and she was depicted in relief and statues wearing a royal skirt and ceremonial beard.

The Polish - Egyptian mission has been excavating and restoring the temple of Deir Al-Bahri for 30 years and has recently come upon remarkable evidence on which to hypothesise more about Hatshepsut's life and times. Back in 1969, the team unearthed a small temple built by Tuthmosis III to the south-east of the upper terrace of Hatshepsut's stepped structure, and a year later they found another terrace. Scattered around were hundreds of blocks and fragments of statues from the temple of Hatshepsut, along with plaster casts of blocks from the temple that were taken to the Metropolitan Museum between the years 1911-1931. This enabled enthusiasts to set about reconstructing 26 colossal Osirid statues, many bearing traces of the bright colours with which they were originally painted.

Photo for Today - More from the Walters Art Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

(Top) Relief Displaying the King Suckled by the Hathor-Cow
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 1300-1200 BC (New Kingdom)
Medium: limestone with paint
Measurements: H: 8 7/16 x W: 13 in. (21.5 x 33 cm);
Framed H: 10 1/16 x W: 14 x D: 2 3/8 in. (25.5 x 35.5 x 6 cm)
Item Description:
A youthful king suckles at the udder of the mother-goddess Hathor, depicted as a cow. His black flesh may indicate that he is deceased, this color being associated with the underworld and the god Osiris; but the color black also symbolizes fertility, renewal, and rebirth, and its use implies that the king will be restored to life.

(Bottom) Relief with Hathor and King Necho II
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 600 BC (Late Period)
Medium: limestone
Measurements: 5 11/16 x 10 11/16 x 1 3/8 in. (14.5 x 27.2 x 3.5 cm)
Item Description:
This rare relief shows King Necho II facing the cow-goddess Hathor, who wears a vulture headdress topped by a sun-disk and cow horns. The inscription above the goddess may once have read, "I grant you every country in submission."

Friday, September 24, 2010

More re face beneath the face of Nefertiti

The Independent (Andrew Johnson)

Her name is synonymous with beauty; and unlike history's other renowned women, such as Helen of Troy, we don't have to take the classical historians' word for it. Nefertiti's reputation rests on hard evidence – an exquisite bust of the ancient Egyptian queen that survived for more than 3,000 years.

Now researchers have discovered that the bust, one of the world's most famous objects, which is housed in the Neues Museum in Berlin, was given the ancient equivalent of a Photoshop airbrushing.

The television historian Bettany Hughes told The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival yesterday that last week she was part of a team that carried out a CT scan on the bust – one of ancient Egypt's best-known objects after the death mask of Tutenkhamen, who some believe to be her son.

Inside the statue they discovered a second limestone likeness of the queen, who died around 1330BC aged between 29 and 38.

"That statue is still very beautiful," she said, "but not as beautiful. It showed her nose was bent, and that she had wrinkles around her eyes. It's a real portrait of a real woman. We're now going to a tomb in the Valley of the Kings where we think Nefertiti's sister is to see if the dynasty has the same features."

Daily Mail

The ancient Egyptian facelift: 'Beautiful' Queen Nefertiti had a 'bent nose and wrinkled eyes'

An ancient Egyptian queen who was been hailed for thousands of years as the perfect example of beauty may not have been such a looker after all, researchers have claimed.

The 3,300-year-old carved bust of Queen Nerfititi with her aquiline nose and high cheek bones has won her admiring fans around the world.

But a delicately carved face in the limestone core of the famous bust suggests the royal sculptor at the time may have smoothed creases around the mouth and fixed a bumpy nose to depict the 'Beauty of the Nile' in a better light.
Queen Nefertiti

TV Historian Bettany Hughes was part of a team that made the discovery which is supported by earlier research from German scientists who studied the 20 inch bust of Nefretiti whose name means 'the beautiful one has come'.

Ms Hughes and her team carried out a CT scan of the bust and discovered a second limestone model with a bent nose and wrinkles around the eyes which may have been used as a template for the bust.

NY Daily News

A new study suggests world-renowned Egyptian beauty Queen Nefertiti, whose name means, "A beautiful woman has come," was not quite as good-looking as depicted down the years.

Researchers discovered that the 3,300-year-old painted limestone bust of Nefertiti, one of the most recognized items in Egyptian art, may be hiding wrinkles and a less-than-perfect bone structure.

Television historian Bettany Hughes, a scientist who performed a CT scan on the statue, told the Independent that a carved model inside the elegant 20-inch statue shows the queen had a bent nose and wrinkles around her eyes, the Independent reports.

Amen-Hotep, Huy: El Visir desaparecido

Tendencias21 (Francisco J. Martín Valentín)

The second season of excavations will begin on the 1st of October at the tomb of the vizier Amenhotep-Huy. The article goes on to look at the evidence for the elusive vizier.

With photo.

El próximo día 1 de octubre de 2010 se iniciará la Segunda Campaña de excavaciones en la tumba del Visir Amen-Hotep Huy (TA nº -28- en Asasif- Luxor occidental), llevada a cabo por equipos del Instituto de Estudios del Antiguo Egipto, bajo la Dirección Científica del Dr. Francisco J. Martín Valentín, y la co-Dirección de Dª Teresa Bedman. Este es un buen momento para presentar estas pequeñas notas biográficas del personaje central de nuestras investigaciones, el dueño original de la tumba de mayores dimensiones en la necrópolis tebana, entre las pertenecientes a la dinastía XVIII (Imperio Nuevo), en la cual estamos trabajando.

El Visir Amen-Hotep, llamado Huy, es un personaje poco conocido del periodo de Amen-Hotep III. Los documentos y monumentos relacionados con él son escasos en comparación con los referidos a otros personajes del mismo tiempo. El motivo principal de esta oscuridad es, sin duda, el hecho de haber sido perseguida su memoria, y destruidos sus monumentos.

Egyptian registrars graduate from training initiative


Good news to see that Egyptians are gaining qualifications to take up professions in Egyptology.

Today the Egyptian Museum, the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) celebrated the graduation of the first registrars in Egypt. This ceremony was a culmination of nearly four years of work on creating a Registrar Department in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and training a team of Egyptians to run the department.

The Egyptian Museum Registrar Training Project, funded by a USAID grant to ARCE’s Egyptian Antiquities Conservation Fund, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has been underway since 2007. This project was dedicated to helping the museum develop modern, centralized collections management procedures, and to train a group of young Egyptians to implement this system as Egypt’s first museum registrars. Through daily training by the ARCE staff, as well as quarterly training from outside experts, the staff of the museum’s new Registration, Collections Management and Documentation Department (RCMDD) have learned the policies, practices and skills needed to oversee the centralized management of the museum’s collections. As a part of the program, selected registrars have traveled abroad to take part in registrars’ conferences in the USA and Europe.

News from CCER

Centre for Computer-Adied Egyptological Research

Letter from prof.dr. Dirk van der Plas:

Dear colleagues and friends of the CCER.

The team of the Centre of Computer-aided Egyptological Research (CCER, Utrecht University) has developed pioneering and useful computing tools and international projects for Egyptological research since 1990 (among other things Manual de Codage, Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus, Glyph for Windows & Extended Library, Coffin Texts Word Index, Egyptian Treasures in Europe, Global Egyptian Museum). The CCER was the driving force of the group Informatique & Egyptologie and the Horssen Meetings. CCER inspired Egyptological scholars, students and institutions to make use of these upcoming new ICT tools and helped them to implement them.

Now 20 years after the founding of CCER it is time to accept that CCER has become part of history and that the well-known CCER site must switch to another life and a new concept. Some years ago it appeared that there was no future for CCER in the Netherlands. Besides its director retired. Therefore I have decided to stop finally also the shop of the site www.ccer.nl by the end of this year. I’ll transmit by then the site and all rights to my former assistant Hans van den Berg. He was my gifted and much appreciated “life-ware” and “soft-hand” during many years. He would like to use this site to record the history of Computing & Egyptology. He will continue and maintain some useful tools for Egyptology on this site as well.

Until the end of this year there will be a sale with reduced prices of all available products of the former CCER (Glyph for Windows, Hieroglyphica, Coffin Texts Word Index etc.).

Glyph for Windows is a 16-bit program and will not run with 64-bit (x64) operating systems. Because there will be no upgrade of the 16-bit version of Glyph and the extended library, I advise all of you to keep a PC with Windows XP, 32-bit Windows Vista or 32-bit Windows 7 to run specially Glyph for Windows in order to be able to process your hieroglyphic texts. The last version of Glyph for Windows Professional edition (including the extended library) which is compatible with aforementioned operating systems can be ordered for only Euro 100 (including Hieroglyphica).

I would like to thank all colleagues, assistants and friends for the collaboration and confidence during those pioneering years,

Dirk van der Plas

Amarna Royal Tombs Project in the Valley of the Kings

News from the Valley of the Kings (Kate Phizackerley)

Kate has posted some videos from the Valley of the Kings taken in the early 2000s by the Amarna Royal Tombs Project. Well worth a look.

La oniromancia y la astrología en el Antiguo Egipto


Publico unas pequeñas notas a propósito de la oniromancia y la astrología en Egipto. Salen de mi libro 'Los Magos del Antiguo Egipto'. Muestran como, al menos desde los siglos XV-XIII a. C. Egipto las gentes ya estaban preocupadas por los mensajes divinos recibidos en sueños y por la adivinación del porvenir

Photos of flooding at the Osirion 1998-2003

Luxor News Blog

Thanks to Jane Akshar and Richard Sellicks for a great selection of photographs of the Osirion at Abydos from 1998-2003, showing different water levels at the site.

Climate change during Dynastic Egypt?

AFP (Christophe de Roquefeuil)

As world experts grapple with ways to contain global warming, researchers gathered in Egypt are seeking answers from the country's pharaonic past to help tackle environmental problems of the present.

Blessed with incomparable archaeological wealth, Egypt is the most populous Arab nation and the number of inhabitants is expected to more than double by 2050 to 160 million, according to estimates.

The effects of climate change have long been neglected in this large North African country which largely depends on the fertile Nile Delta to feed its growing population amid concerns about land erosion.

A three-day conference opened on Sunday with experts hoping to understand how the ancient Egyptians, who were capable of erecting the famous Giza pyramids, dealt with climate change.

Online: Oriental Institute "News and Notes"

Oriental Institute

News and Notes, the quarterly publication produced for members of the OI has an archive from 1990 to 2001 which is available free of charge to non-members. There's a table of contents available for each issue. Some of the articles are quite detailed. An example is the 2001 article Hatshepsut: Wicked stepmother or Joan of Arc, by Peter F. Dorman.

Online paper: The Aswan area at the dawn of Egyptian history


The Aswan area at the dawn of Egyptian history
Maria Carmela Gatto
Egyptian Archaeology

With maps and photos.

Among recent discoveries made by the Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project those dated to the Predynastic and Early Dynastic Periods are particularly intriguing, revealing insights on the complexity of the rising Egyptian society at its southern frontier, as Maria Carmela Gatto reports.

The First Cataract is the borderland between Egypt and Nubia. As might have been expected, and contrary to what the ancient Egyptians always wanted to show, the archaeological record found in the region highlights a stable and long-term presence of Nubian people. In the Predynastic Period Egyptians and Nubians were highly integrated and might even have created a sort of mixed culture, where the Nubian element was, however, less prominent than the Egyptian one.

A rescue excavation (due to pressure from modern overbuilding) of a Predynastic settlement and associated cemetery in Nag el-Qarmila, just north of Wadi Kubbaniya, is revealing this mixed cultural evidence (see also EA 30, pp.6-9). The settlement consists of a relatively small village heavily damaged by sebakhin activities and modern structures. It is located on the northern side of a small valley, partly placed on top of the Late Pleistocene Wild Nile deposit, and partly on sand connected with a sort of bay, which was formed by the summer Nile flooding in the inner part of the valley. The archaeological deposit found in situ is dated to N(aqada)IC-IIA (c.3700 BC) while a younger phase, dated to NIIC-IIIA2 (c.3600-3200), is found on the surface. The stratigraphy consists of superimposed seasonal occupation layers with hearths, postholes, in-situ pots, and plastered pits. For the NIC-IIA phase C14 dates (3800-3700 BC) fit perfectly with the pottery chronology. At the periphery of the village, towards the bay, the burial of an infant was found on the sand. Similar evidence was a common feature at other Predynastic sites, such as Adaima.

Book Review: Cleopatra: A Biography

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Reviewed by Josiah Osgood)

Duane W. Roller, Cleopatra: A Biography. Women in Antiquity. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Cleopatra is a familiar name today for one reason above all: Shakespeare. But so memorable is the character that he created, it is hard, even for historians, to escape his influence. And to a large degree they must anyway rely on the same source that Shakespeare did, the Antony of Plutarch, whose Cleopatra is perhaps less paradoxical than Shakespeare’s, but still surprising. It was not, for instance, Cleopatra’s beauty (Plutarch writes) that was so striking, as one might have expected, but her conversation. A master manipulator, she can trick the reader almost as much as she does the simple-minded Antony. But the biggest surprise is the deep love that Cleopatra does finally feel for Antony at the end of her life. She comes to his grave and laments over it—a lament probably made up by Plutarch himself on the model of Greek tragedy. She wants to be with Antony in death.

Certainly there was a relationship between Antony and Cleopatra, as there had been earlier between Cleopatra and Caesar, and these were defining events in her life. But there were two very practical aspects to them that later accounts, including Plutarch’s, underplay or neglect altogether.

Book Review: Antony and Cleopatra

Washington Times (Review by Gary Anderson)

By Adrian Goldsworthy
Yale University Press, $35, 480 pages

Antony and Cleopatra, the names conjure up a variety of images that include Roman military might, eastern decadence and a pair of tragic star-crossed lovers.

Some of that is actually accurate, but much of it is romanticized fiction. In his latest study of the Roman world, Adrian Goldsworthy takes on the task of separating truth from fiction, and he does a good job of it.

For those not familiar with the background story, the entire book revolves around the lead-up to the assassination of Julius Caesar and the ensuing struggle for his legacy. Marc Antony was one of Caesar's most trusted lieutenants. Octavian Caesar was his nephew, adopted son and heir. Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, was Caesar's mistress and bore him a son. All three started as allies in the struggle to avenge Caesar's death and to wrest what was becoming the Roman Empire out of the hands of his killers.

Predictably, once this was accomplished, the victors fought over the spoils.

Photo for Today - Walters Art Museum

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last week - I've had technical problems. All sorted now.

I'm talking in Plymouth on October 2nd about the archaeology of the Eastern Desert. If you are a member of PADES and are attending I hope to see you there!

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks


(TOP) Relief of People in Boats
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2370-2345 BC (Old Kingdom)
Medium: limestone, red pigment
Measurements: 13 3/4 x 10 3/4 in. (34.9 x 27.3 cm);
framed: 16 1/2 x 13 x 1 3/8 in. (41.9 x 33 x 3.5 cm)

Item Description
Two partially preserved boating scenes remain on this relief block from a private tomb chapel. The lower scene shows the stern of a large rowing boat with two men each manning a large steering oar. Immediately following the first boat is the prow of a second boat. It is decorated with an animal figurehead (hedgehog). Above is another partially preserved boat showing only the heads of her crew above the railing and the feet of the pilot or look-out.

(BOTTOM) Model of a River Boat
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2050 BC (Middle Kingdom)
Medium: wood with cloth and paint
Measurements: 9 7/16 x 3 15/16 x 22 7/16 in. (24 x 10 x 57 cm)

Item Description
Twelve oarsmen, a helmsman, and a pilot, or look-out, ferry their passenger, the tomb-owner. Such models were associated with religious beliefs, as they symbolized the journey of the deceased to Abydos, the traditional burial place of Osiris, lord of the afterworld. The tomb-owner is clothed with a shroud and is shown with a blue beard. This boat was probably placed in the tomb to assist the deceased in navigating the Nile of the underworld. Typically, models of passenger ships found in Middle Kingdom tombs occur in pairs. One to travel south, equipped with a sail, as the wind in Egypt blows constantly from north to south, and the other (as this model shows) propelled by rowers aided by the Nile's current, to travel north.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saqqara fragments returning to Egypt

Egypt Daily News

Pieces of an ancient Egyptian necropolis that was pillaged in 1999 have been found in Spain by an expert in Middle Eastern antiquities who spotted them in a shop, Spanish police said Wednesday.

The eight pieces of limestone carry hieroglyphic inscriptions dating from the third century BC, police in the northeastern city of Barcelona said in a statement.

They were discovered by an expert from Barcelona University's department of Middle Eastern antiquities.

He spotted them in an antique shop and noticed they "bore inscriptions that made him suspect they came from" the Saqqara burial ground in the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, which was pillaged in 1999, the statement said.

BBC News

Pieces of an ancient Egyptian necropolis which were pillaged from Egypt in 1999 have been discovered in an antiques shop in Spain.

A Middle Eastern expert spotted the eight fragments of limestone after recognising the inscriptions, Barcelona police said.

The pieces are inscribed with hieroglyphics dating from the 3rd Century BC.

They will now be returned to the Egyptian government.

The artefacts were looted from the Saqqara burial ground in the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, south of Cairo, in 1999.

El Pais

With many thanks to Alan H. Hart for the link and the translation.

Hace unos años, el egiptólogo Josep Cervelló conoció a Imephor, que allá por el 2.200 antes de Cristo fue sumo sacerdote en Menfis, al sur de El Cairo. Cervelló lideró una prospección arqueológica en un yacimiento cercano a la necrópolis egipcia de Saqqara. Pero un violento saqueo, en 1999, frustró la excavación y el investigador tuvo que limitarse al estudio de inscripciones, que resultaron únicas.

Los caprichos del destino han propiciado el reencuentro (simbólico) de Imephor y Cervelló. Una alumna de su máster en egiptología vio ocho fragmentos de piedra calcárea a la venta en el escaparate de un anticuario de Barcelona. La chica se limitó a contar que eran "muy majas", pero el profesor sospechó que podían ser las piezas robadas en Saqqara, y que él conoce como nadie. A Cervelló no le costó "ni un segundo" saber que los fragmentos provenían del yacimiento que visitó en Egipto y donde, tras un estudio minucioso, alumbró el nombre de Imephor.

(The Egyptologist Josep Cervello has known about Imephor, who was a priest of Memphis about 2200 BC, ever since he led an archaeological dig on a site near the necropolis of Saqqara. However in 1999 the site was ransacked, frustrating the excavation and limiting the study of some unique inscriptions. By chance Imephor and Cervello have met again. A former student of Cervello saw 8 fragments of lime stone for sale in the shop window of an antique dealer in Barcelona. She limited herself to saying that they were very attractive but her professor suspected that they were the pieces robbed from the dig in Saqqara. Cervello did not need more than a second of study to know that the fragments were the missing pieces and, after a thorough study, shed light on Imephor.)

Minufiyeh - back at work after Eid

EES Minufiyeh Survey

Having spent a relaxing few days down south, we returned to Shibin el-Kom yesterday afternoon to prepare ourselves for the last two weeks of the season. Our train ride took a laborious 13 hours - but we all enjoyed the feast and felt refreshed upon our return! Today saw the start of preparations for the backfilling of the trench. As with previous seasons and other trenches, it is never a straightforward matter. Having managed to negotiate a good deal for the mashama (the cover for the trench), we also had to buy 100 empty rice sacks in order to fill with sand and place alongside standing mud-brick walls/raised areas, in order to avoid danger of them collapsing through weight from above once the sand is returned to the trench. Once the sand bags were in place, then the workers poured some sand on them, over them, and on top of some of the more fragile - if very large - bricks, again to minimise any deterioration.

Materialising the mummy

The Star (Bob Rae)

A HI-TECH South Yorkshire company has breathed new life into Egypt's best-known mummy. It all began when an exhibition of treasures from the tomb of the Egyptian boy king Tutankhamun started a word tour, scheduled to end in New York.

Organisers of the US leg of the tour were keen to add an exciting additional feature to the exhibition by displaying a replica of Tutankhamun's body in its funeral wrappings, which isn't allowed out of Egypt.

They approached Gary Staab, an expert in making models of natural history and prehistoric subjects, and that led to industry-leading prototyping and additive manufacturing specialist Materialise becoming involved.

Materialise often works with leading companies in the aerospace, automotive and medical technology industries, so it is used to fulfilling challenging contracts, but had never recreated a mummy before.

It began by importing CT scans of Tutankhamun's mummified body into advanced software running on computers at its UK operations, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, in Rotherham.

Abu Rawash


With photo.

The pyramid of Djedefre is located in Abu Rawash, about eight kilometers north of Giza. Djedefre, the son of Khufu, ascended the throne after his father’s death. We know that Djedefre was Khufu’s heir because his name was found in cartouches on the limestone blocks covering the boat of Khufu. Djedefre, the first pharaoh to bear the title ‘Son of Re’, chose this location for his tomb in order to be closer to Heliopolis, the center of the Sun Cult. It has also been suggested that Djedefre’s move from the necropolis of Giza to Abu Rawash may have taken place in order to reduce the risk of destruction. Recent excavation of the site has proved that there was no destruction of the site during the Old Kingdom.

There is evidence to suggest that the original construction of Djedefre’s pyramid was for a step pyramid that was completed during his reign. The Swiss expedition that worked on the site believed that the angle of the pyramid was 52 degrees. The pyramid was surround by a wall, and its funerary temple was built using mud brick. The workmen’s shops were built on the north end of the wall, and there was a boat pit on the south side. The pyramid had a long causeway that stretched out for about 1700m. The pyramid of Djedefre is a quarter of the size of the pyramid of Khufu, but the height of the Abu Rawash plateau is 20m higher than the Giza Plateau. The Swiss expedition discovered a pyramid of a queen, located to the southeast of the main pyramid. In addition to the many excavation projects, the SCA is developing a site management plan for Abu Rawash. (Photo: SCA)

Father or brother of Alexander the Great?

Live Science (Stephanie Pappas)

A cremated male skeleton in a lavish ancient Greek tomb is not Alexander the Great's half-witted half-brother, according to a new study.

The research reignites a 33-year-long debate over whether the burned bones found in the tomb belong to Alexander the Great's father, Philip II, a powerful figure whose years of conquest set the stage for his son's exploits, or Alexander the Great's half-brother, Philip III, a figurehead king with a less successful reign.

The researchers argue that a notch in the dead man's eye socket is consistent with a battle wound received by Philip II years before he died, when an arrow pierced his eye and left his face disfigured. They also dispute claims by other scientists that the bones show signs of having been buried, exhumed, burned and re-interred — a morbid chain of events that would fit with what is known about the murder and burial of Alexander the Great's half-brother and successor, Philip III Arrhidaios.

The study is unlikely to settle the debate over whether the body is Philip II's or Philip III's, which has raged since the treasure-filled tomb was excavated in 1977. But identifying the tombs' occupants would complete the last chapter in at least one royal couple's sordid life story.

Peter Der Manuelian

The Harvard Crimson

It was in his fourth grade history class that Peter Der Manuelian ’81—Harvard’s first Egyptology professor in over 60 years—first became enamored with the splendor of ancient Egypt.

“You know how you battle against school all your youth?” he asked, sitting in his office in the Semitic Museum.“I remember that being the first time I was actively interested in something—the scale of Egypt, the monuments, the beauty of the language, the art styles.”

Raised in the Boston area, Der Manuelian says he feels lucky to have grown up in a city with a museum whose ancient Egyptian collection is as extensive as the Museum of Fine Arts’s. When he matriculated at Harvard, he ended up concentrating in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the same department in which he currently teaches. His thesis was on Amenhotep II, an athletic New Kingdom pharaoh he describes as “the world’s first super jock.”

This fall, Der Manuelian, who had been teaching at Tufts University, is offering a new General Education course, Societies of the World 38, “Pyramid Schemes: The Archaeological History of Egypt.” So far, 165 students have enrolled in the course. Der Manuelian said he expects to teach the course, along with several other more specialized classes, for the next few years.

Photo for Today - Walters Art Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tomb of Karakhamun found by Egyptian-American team


Press Release, with photographs.

An Egyptian-American expedition has found the burial chamber of a priest named Karakhamun (TT223). The tomb dates to Dynasty 25 (c. 755BC) and was uncovered during conservation and restoration work on the west bank of Luxor.

Farouk Hosny, Minister of Culture, announced this discovery today and added that the restoration work of this tomb is part of a much larger initiative, known as the South Asasif Conservation Project (ACP). The el-Asasif area is a very important site, which contains nobles’ tombs from the New Kingdom as well as the 25-26th Dynasties.

Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said that the team found the burial chamber of Karakhamun at the bottom of an 8m deep burial shaft. The chamber is in very good condition and contains beautifully painted scenes. The entrance to the chamber is decorated with an image of Karakhamun and the ceiling is decorated with several astrological scenes, including a depiction of the sky goddess Nut.

The leader of the expedition, Dr. Elena Pischikova, said that the tomb of priest Karakhamun was discovered in the 19th century in an unstable condition. It continued to deteriorate, and only parts of it were accessible to visitors in the early 1970s. It later collapsed and was buried under the sand. Dr. Pischikova’s team rediscovered the tomb in 2006 and has been carrying out conservation work since then. She believes that the tomb of Karakhamun could be one of the most beautiful tombs from Dynasty 25 because of the preservation of the color and the unique quality of the scenes.

Photographs from Wadi Hammamat

Egyptian Monuments (Su Bayfield)

Thanks very much to Su Bayfield for the link to her latest collection of photographs, this time of engravings from the Wadi Hammamat. The Wadi Hammamat, the road link between Qift and Quesir which bisects the Eastern Desert, is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Egypt. I have been there several times and it was lovely to see Su's excellent photographs and read the accompanying descriptions.

The Wadi Hammamat was visited from Predynastic times onwards and in the Pharaonic period was used for quarrying stone and as a route from the Nile to the Red Sea. It is still dotted with Roman watch posts which sit on the hill tops that border the wadi.

Exhibition: Tutankhamun - His Tomb and his Treasures

Tutankhamun Manchester

Thanks to Bob Partridge for sending me the above link. An exhibtion of reconstructions of three of the chambers of the tomb of Tutankhamun which has travelled throughout Europe is now visiting Manchester, opening on the 22nd October 2010. If you're in the area a trip to Manchester could also include a visit to the Manchester Museum's excellent Egyptian collection as well as the collections at Bolton, Liverpool and Macclesfield. I guess that I'll be going to stay with my father in Chester at some time in the not too distant future! Runs til 27th Feb 2007.

Three of Tutankhamun's tomb chambers have been reconstructed true to the originals and their dimensions, so that visitors receive an authentic impression of the space. Over 1,000 replicas of the most important objects, fashioned by the best Egyptian craftsmen, can be admired there. The information about the culture and spiritual world of the ancient Egyptians - their funerary cult, their gods, their dynasties, their mysterious hieroglyphic script - has been prepared and presented with state-of-the-art multimedia technology. The centrepiece is of course Tutankhamun. Eighty-eight years after its discovery, the tomb of Tutankhamun is opened once more - and you can be there!

A visit to Pabasa and the Assasif Tombs

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for sharing photos from her recent visit to Pabasa and the tombs of Assasif. They look wonderful. I am out in Luxor at Christmas so I'll try and get in a visit!

Whilst buying tickets to Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el Bahri you may have noticed the sign giving ticket prices for the Assasif Tombs. Next time don’t ignore them they are well worth a visit. The Assasif is a very rich area for archaeologists and there are teams working at Petamenophis, Harwa and Puimra.

Someone is standing up to the anonymous web trolls

The Guardian, UK (Paul Harris)

There's not much Egyptology news around and I know that there are other bloggers reading this blog so I thought that the above story might be of interest to some of you. Malevolent anonymous comments are something that most bloggers have to deal with and I have a couple of really unpleasant anonymous commenters myself, whose vitriol I just delete during moderation.

It is one of the most irritating and ubiquitous annoyances of the Internet age: the anonymous commenter. Hiding behind a made-up moniker, anonymous commenters surface on virtually every blog or news website, posting bile, insults, prejudice and ignorance, often for the sheer hell of it.

In the free for all that has so far marked internet-based publishing, there seems to be no recourse for those targeted by the so-called "trolls". Certainly not of the sort they would have if such comments were published in hard copy on the letters pages of old media newspapers and magazines, where the threat of libel has kept up standards. But, perhaps, no longer.

A law suit filed last week in New York has threatened to hold some of the internet's more unpleasant denizens to account: a rare example of old media rules starting to be applied online.

Photo for Today - Walters Museum

EG-024 Walters Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Monday, September 13, 2010

Restoring history

The National (Nabil Shawkat)

Immortality is a messy business. If you don’t believe it, ask Ramadan Badry Hussein, the man keeping track of thousands of monuments in Egypt. Only five years ago, cleaning men stole three ancient statues from the basement of the Egyptian Museum. When quizzed by the police, they said that the statues were just lying around unattended. They bundled them up with some construction debris they were removing from the building and walked out. Their deception went unnoticed for days. The basement housed more than 100,000 artefacts, and hadn’t been properly catalogued for decades. The thieves were caught this time, but others may have got away with an ancient treasure or more. When mummies and furniture, statues and votive offerings are stacked in boxes and deposited in dusty corners, anything can happen.

More re discoveries at Qatna

Heritage Key (Ann Wuyts)

The ongoing dig at the ancient royal town of Qatna, Syria, has brought some exciting new discoveries to light.

Among the skeletal remains, archaeologists have found precious gold jewellery, gemstones, alabaster vases, detailed ivory artefacts, tiny figurines.

Since the start of this year's excavation mid-July, a total of 379 artefacts were recorded in the tomb.

The archaeological mission – a Syrian-German cooperation between the University of Tubingen and the Syrian governement – is further excavating the royal sepulchre that was discovered last year under the northwest wing of Qatna's royal palace.

Among the burial gifts, a number of Egyptian object are of particular interest.

Book Review: For the Living and the Dead

Al Masry Al Youm (Review by Sara Elkamel)

In For the Living and the Dead (The American University in Cairo Press, 2010) anthropologist and filmmaker Elizabeth Wickett explores Upper Egyptian funerary laments or idid, in pursuit of a deeper understanding of Egyptian folklore.

Wickett, who has spent 25 years delving into academic research and social development in the Middle East and North Africa, finds that, “lamentation is at the core of social, cultural, and religious customs performed for the dead in Upper Egypt.”

Echoed in the chants of modern-day lamenters is an elaborate history stretching back 5000 years. Through close observation of professional lamenters, Wickett deciphers chants in relation to myth, religion, and ancient Egyptian funerary texts. Evidence of ancient Egyptian lamentation is recorded on tomb walls around the country where paintings depict lamenters in conventional poses on walls, standing, kneeling, or crouched with arms poised overhead. Wickett also inspected ancient Pyramid texts for funerary spells, most of which are reflected in contemporary laments.

But Wickett’s text achieves much more than a mere depiction of surviving funerary laments and the convoluted rapport between life and death; using elaborate diction and sophisticated imagery, the writer provides a unique insight into the intricacies of Upper Egyptian life.

Arabic calligraphy collection found

MSN News

A rare collection of hidden secrets of Arabic calligraphy dating back to the 16th and 19th centuries has been found intact in its storage place after it was reported missing earlier this week.

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni received a report confirming that the prestigious collection was found in Wakalat el-Ghouri, where it had been initially discovered, said Shawki Ma''rouf of the central administration of museums.

The collection will be stored in the Gezira Art Museum to be displayed at the Alexandria museum for Arabic calligraphy after its construction Ma''rouf said.

Nelson-Atkins and others collaborate to unearth the secrets of a mummy

examiner.com (Paul Proffett Jr)

This summer, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a prominent local cardiologist, and an Egyptian anthropologist have all taken part in a unique collaboration to unearth the secrets of the Museum’s 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy.

The discoveries, the most prominent of which is a sketch of what the man underneath the wrappings actually looked like, will be revealed to the public in a special presentation today at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. in the Museum’s Atkins Auditorium. (The program is free, although tickets must be reserved through the Museum’s website.)

The findings were unveiled recently at a Museum press conference attended by ATF deputy director Kenneth Melson, as well as Nelson-Atkins curator of ancient art Robert Cohon and Mid America Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Randall Thompson. “Today, what we’re celebrating is the marriage of art and science,” new Museum director Julian Zugazagoitia said in his opening remarks, the first to the press since beginning his tenure earlier this month.

Temporary installation of the Tomb of Kha

Museo Egizio

Thanks to Tim Reid's Egyptians blog for pointing to the above page. The Museo Egizio is showing an interactive video of the temporary exhibit of the Tomb of Kha. You can navigate around the exhibit and zoom in to get a better look at individual sections.

Who Really Invented the Alphabet

Biblical Archaeological Review

In a landmark article in the March/April 2010 issue of BAR, Orly Goldwasser, professor of Egyptology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained how the very first alphabet, from which all other alphabets developed, was invented by illiterate Canaanite miners in the turquoise mines of Serabit el-Khadem in the Sinai peninsula. Inspired by Egyptian pictorial hieroglyphs and a desire to articulate their own thoughts in writing, these Canaanites created 22 alphabetic acrophonetic signs scratched into the rock that could express their entire language.

But Goldwasser did not convince everyone. Anson Rainey, emeritus professor of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Semitic Languages at Tel Aviv University, promptly responded to the article with his doubts that this watershed moment in human culture had been brought about by illiterate miners. In his letter Rainey argues that the alphabet was surely created by “highly sophisticated Northwest Semites” who inscribed countless papyrus sheets that have not survived.

Join us below to read Rainey’s critique and Goldwasser’s thorough rebuttal about who really invented the alphabet.

Pezinok collector opens Egyptian exhibit in Košice

Slovak Spectator

An exhibition called Egypt – the Gift to Nile opened in the Slovak Technological Museum (STM) in Košice in mid August, giving visitors an opportunity to become more acquainted with one of the most significant ancient civilisations. Ján Hertlík of Pezinok, a traveller and collector, is the owner and creator of the exhibit. He told the TASR newswire that he has dedicated most of his leisure time to his biggest hobby – amateur study of Egyptology.

Photo for Today - Walters Museum

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

The Walters Art Museum

(Top) Sculptor's Model: Queen with Vulture Headdress
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 145-51 BC (Greco-Roman)
Medium: limestone
Measurements: 6 5/16 x 5 7/8 x 9/16 in. (16 x 15 x 1.5 cm)
Item Description:
A queen wears the vulture headdress topped with seven protective uraeus serpents (side A). Head of a man (god?) with a curled wig (side B).

(Bottom) Sculptor's Model of a Vulture Hieroglyph
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 300-160 BC (Greco-Roman)
Medium: limestone
Measurements: 5 1/2 x 6 5/16 x 7/8 in. (14 x 16 x 2.3 cm);
framed: 7 7/8 x 9 7/16 x 3 1/8 in. (20 x 24 x 8 cm)
Item Description:
Sculptor's models were used in the workshops of craftsmen for training and demonstration purposes. This two-dimensional model, executed in raised relief, displays a vulture. The image represents the hieroglyphic script sign "aleph" (which does not exist in the English alphabet), and was a model for large-scale temple inscriptions.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Do Ancient Egyptians have a right to privacy?

New Scientist (Jo Marchant)

SHOULD we consider the privacy or reputation of the individual when analysing an Egyptian mummy? The assumption that ancient corpses are fair game for science is beginning to be challenged.

Though strict ethical guidelines apply to research on modern tissue samples, up until now there has been little discussion about work on ancient human remains. In a recent paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics (DOI: 10.1136/jme.2010.036608), anatomist Frank Rühli and ethicist Ina Kaufmann of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, argue that this is disturbing because research on mummies is invasive and reveals intimate information such as family history and medical conditions. And, of course, the subjects cannot provide consent.

"The human body, alive or dead, has a moral value," says Rühli, who is himself involved in mummy research. He says that no matter how old a body is, researchers must balance the benefits of their research against the potential rights and desires of the deceased individual.

Modern Science Reveals Secrets of 2,500-year-old Mummy

Digital Journal

A powerful image of the face of a 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has been created by special agents/forensic artists from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), as unveiled today at the Museum.

In an unusual collaboration, ATF agents worked with a Kansas City cardiologist and a Nelson-Atkins curator to scientifically analyze the physical characteristics of the mummy, named Ka-i-nefer. The mummy is part of the new Egyptian galleries that opened at the Nelson-Atkins in May.

ATF Special Agents Sharon Whitaker and Robert "Randy" Strode worked more than three months on the project, using a sophisticated computer program known as the Electronic Facial Identification Technique (EFIT) Program. The program is the most realistic and successful composite system available and specializes in facial recognition, identification and training.

"ATF's mission involves investigating many unique and interesting criminal cases around the world," said Kenneth Melson, deputy director of ATF. "Our forensic investigators have put their training and specialized skills together to solve another unique – and unprecedented – mystery to unravel the anonymity of a 2,500-year-old mummy. It's an honor for ATF to be a part of this event that benefits the community and the growth of our society in a way that will have a lasting impact on future generations."

Egypt must wake up to respect and protect its treasures

The National (Hadeel al Shalchi)

Egypt is an open-air museum. Every few months a news release pops up in newsroom inboxes announcing the discovery of an ancient tomb, statue or even complete cities.

The latest was the discovery of a Greco-Roman underwater city discovered in the elite summer playground of Marina. It’s amazing to think about the hundreds of upper- class Egyptians frolicking in their pools and pristine beaches, right on top of one of the oldest human cities.

It reminded me of the ancient Egyptian grave site I was invited to visit a year ago and discovered just an hour outside Cairo. We were led by the head archaeologist on the dig and invited to crouch down inside the graves, inches away from intricately painted sarcophaguses, with pieces of mummy linen escaping from the cracks.

Fallout from the theft of the Poppy Flowers

Egypt Daily News (Hadeel Al-Shalchi)

With the alarms out and few cameras working, the thieves took advantage of the afternoon period when security guards were busy praying during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The thieves used a box cutter to slice the 12-inch-by-12-inch (30-centimer-by-30-centimeter) canvas from its frame and left the museum undetected.

Now, officials in Egypt's culture ministry are under fire.

On Monday, the head of the ministry's fine arts department, Mohsen Shalaan, was arrested for negligence. Shalaan, who was in charge of the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, and a number of other museum heads had asked Culture Minister Farouk Hosni for nearly $7 million to upgrade their security systems, but only $88,000 was approved.

Two days later, Hosni ordered three museums closed because security cameras weren't functioning.

The independent newspaper Al-Shorouk reported the Tourism and Antiquities Police had warned Hosni of lax security at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum, and that 16 of the country's nearly 50 museums have no alarms, cameras or appropriate fire safety systems.

Each year, nearly 9 million people visit Cairo's museums and the haunting tombs of the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, and these tourists are a vital source of revenue.

Still, on a hot Tuesday afternoon at the height of the tourist season, inattentive security was easy to spot at the Egyptian Museum.

Egypt Daily News (Rania Al Malky)

It’s been a turbulent week in Egypt for ministers, dissidents, presidents and their sons.

In fact the turbulence had started last week with the shocking theft of Van Gogh's “Poppy Flowers” from Cairo’s Mahmoud Khalil Museum. But the spill over from the hassle-free heist where the thief used a simple box-cutter to remove the masterpiece from its frame, then simply walked out, has not subsided.

A war of words, accusations and counter accusations ensued between Mohsen Shaalan, deputy minister and head of the Fine Arts section who is now being held in custody pending investigation into charges of negligence, and Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, have been making headlines all week.

While Hosni alleges that he had no idea that only seven of the museum’s 43 surveillance cameras were functioning and that none of the alarms worked, Shaalan cried “conspiracy” as he claimed Hosni has known since 2007 and that he was a scapegoat.

Online: Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley


Many thanks, as usual, to Charles Ellwood Jones and his AWOL website for pointing to a special open edition of Geoarchaeology. Here's the introduction and see above for a full list of articles which are available in PDF format. Many of the articles look at the prehistory of Egypt.

Geoarchaeological Research in Egypt and the Nile Valley
Edited by Jamie Woodward

The Nile Valley and desert landscapes of Egypt and Sudan have been key areas of geoarchaeological research for many decades. Geoscientists have worked alongside archaeologists in a wide range of contexts including Palaeolithic sites in desert oases and the magnificent urban centres of Pharaonic Egypt. This interaction has yielded a very rich body of work and has led to the development of new geoarchaeological methods and important theoretical advances. Since its launch in 1986, this journal has regularly published papers on geoarchaeological research in Egypt and the Nile Valley. The 17 papers presented here (and available below as free downloads) were published in Geoarchaeology between 1988 and 2008. They exemplify a range of approaches, settings and timescales whilst highlighting the value of interdisciplinary research in the study of the human past. This special issue includes classic work by some of the most influential archaeologists and geoarchaeologists to have worked in the region. While there is some overlap in approach and themes, the papers are grouped under the following headings:

1. Palaeoclimates, human settlement, and geochronology
2. Contexts, site formation and the analysis of cultural materials
3. Long-term river channel and flood dynamics

This collection was launched to coincide with a major international symposium on Landscape Archaeology, Egypt and the Mediterranean World held in Cairo from September 19th to 21st 2010 under the auspices of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO). It will be of particular interest to all who are concerned with long-term human-environment interactions in the Nile Valley and the desert landscapes of the Eastern Sahara.

Floods in the Valley of the Kings in 1994

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Jane has posted some photographs sent to her by one of her visitors, showing flood damage in the Valley of the Kings and elsewhere. I've never seen rain in Luxor and Jane says that in the seven years that she has been living there have only been two storms but both were huge.

Photo for Today - Naqada I ceramics, MFA

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Showing a wonderful Naqada I vessel with animals modeled on the rim,
a bowl with hippopotamus decoration,
and double libation cups.

All links go to descriptions on the MFA website

The MFA has a marvellous Predynastic collection.
Go to their online collection search engine and type in "predynastic" for
a wonderful collection of ceramics, palettes, and lithics.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Nubian antibiotic beer

Wired (Jess McNally)

Chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Sudanese Nubians who lived nearly 2000 years ago shows they were ingesting the antibiotic tetracycline on a regular basis, likely from a special brew of beer. The find is the strongest yet that antibiotics were previously discovered by humans before Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

“I’m going to ask Alexander Fleming to hand back his Nobel Prize,” joked chemist Mark Nelson, who works on developing new tetracyclines at Paratek Pharmaceuticals and is lead author of the paper published June in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Nelson found large amounts of tetracycline in the bones tested from the ancient population, which lived in the Nubian kingdom (present day Sudan) between 250 A.D. and 550 A.D. and left no written record.

“The bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time,” Nelson said in a press release August 30. “I’m convinced that they had the science of fermentation under control and were purposely producing the drug.”

“This discovery will provide a whole new framework for understanding the relationship between microbes and antibiotics,” said anthropologist Dennis Van Gerven of University of Colorado at Boulder. “There might have been other populations that were also doing the same thing, anywhere that there were these microbes. This is going to drive other scientists to start this search, and that is incredibly important.”

Discovery News
(Emily Sohn)

People have been using antibiotics for nearly 2,000 years, suggests a new study, which found large doses of tetracycline embedded in the bones of ancient African mummies.

What's more, they probably got it through beer, and just about everyone appears to have drank it consistently throughout their lifetimes, beginning early in childhood.

While the modern age of antibiotics began in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, the new findings suggest that people knew how to fight infections much earlier than that -- even if they didn't actually know what bacteria were.

Some of the first people to use antibiotics, according to the research, may have lived along the shores of the Nile in Sudanese Nubia, which spans the border of modern Egypt and Sudan.

"Given the amount of tetracycline there, they had to know what they were doing," said co-author George Armelagos, a biological anthropologist at Emory University in Atlanta. "They may not have known what tetracycline was, but they certainly knew something was making them feel better."

Osirisnet needs your help!

Here's the letter from Osirisnet's Thierry and Jon about an important project to create a virtual restoration of two Theban Valley tombs and the building of a database of Theban Tomb fragments. If anyone can help, it would be very much appreciated:

Whilst working on TT38, Djeserkareseneb, and also TT181 Nebamon-Ipuky, we were shocked to see that so many scenes have been cut away, and that some walls are disfigured, that is "in a lamentable state" as remarked on by the late Arpag Mekhitarian dozens of years ago.

We have decided that the "virtual restoration" of these walls (i.e. inclusion and discussion of the stolen pieces within their original context) would now become one of our major goals on OsirisNet for each tomb we publish - whenever possible.

Our first "virtual restauration" has been made on the recently published Djeserkareseneb's TT 38 ; alas so far we have only found old b&w photographs, and the result is far from what we want.

We would also like to build an online database on fragments of Theban Tombs

Thus, we are calling through your good will to send to us colour photographs of the fragments currently in Museums or private collections, with all the relevant information, and first of all, those of TT 38 and TT 181.

Many thanks in advance for your precious help, because without you, we can achieve nothing useful.

Tombs of Egypt