Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New early date for Christianity in Egypt

Utah News (Brian Maffly)

The Bible says Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt for a time with the baby Jesus to escape Herod’s henchmen. About 50 years later, St. Mark supposedly established a church in Alexandria. But Christianity didn’t take root in the Land of the Pyramids for another three centuries.

Or so scholars have said.

But now, on the edge of the Fayum oasis south of Cairo, in a spot called Fag el-Gamous, or Way of the Water Buffalo, Brigham Young University researchers have unearthed evidence that plants Christianity in Egypt two centuries earlier than many scholars believe.

There, BYU diggers have found a necropolis in which the dead were buried in layerings of graves, leaving a record of how burial practices changed between 350 B.C. and A.D. 500.

Ongoing work in the Faiyum - week 2

Faiyum Dig Diaries

We are currently continuing an intensive surface survey we began last year to understand the nature of the distribution of the archaeological record along the ancient lake edge. The landscape has undergone a lot of erosion since artefacts were originally discarded during the mid-Holocene, which means almost all of our archaeological record sits on the surface. This means we don’t need to excavate. While some may see this as a negative feature and unusual for archaeology, we believe this presents us with a tremendous advantage. Excavation is extremely time-consuming to gain a good understanding of large-scale horizontal distribution. Because we don’t have vertical depth we can cover hundreds of square meters very quickly, so rather than excavating a few 5x5m or 10×10 meter trenches, our survey area is 3km across! We can’t look at every single artefact or feature on the surface (however much we’d like to!), but our intention is to gain series of very high resolution ‘pictures’ across as much of the surface as we can.

Another pyramid building with concrete theory


A Wellington scientist has come up with an explanation that may help solve the question of how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids.

It has been widely thought massive blocks of stone cut from quarries were dragged to the building sites.

But Professor Ken MacKenzie from Victoria University had his doubts, so he tested a small sample of a block from the famous Bent Pyramid, built more than 4500 years ago, at his Lower Hutt lab.

He ground it to powder, put in a spectrometer containing a powerful magnet and spun it at a staggering 12,000 revolutions per second.

From that, he was able to get a sub-atomic analysis of the pyramid block. It showed that rather being solid stone, it was a mixture of several materials, a sort of ancient concrete.

Online: The Sailing Ship in Ancient Egypt

Antiquity (James Harnell)

The Sailing Ship in Ancient Egypt
James Harnell
MANY attempts have been made to elucidate the problems created by a critical examination of the obscure constructional methods employed by the Ancient Egyptians when building sailing craft for use on the Nile and, alternatively, at sea. None has proved entirely satisfactory. Two reasons are chiefly responsible; the first is lack of adequate knowledge on the part of most writers of the mechanical principles governing ship designing at the present day ; the other is a similar lack of any wide and intimate acquaintance with the designs followed and methods employed by peoples who retain primitive features in the construction of their sailing craft, particularly on the Nile in its upper reaches beyond the confines of Egypt. That it has been my good fortune to have had opportunities to study at first-hand the construction of sailing craft in every important quarter of the world, and, in especial, that of those in use on all sections of the Nile from its mouths to its source in Uganda, is my excuse for the present attempt to explain away some of the difficulties that have troubled or misled so many previous writers on this subject.

Review: Schiff's Cleopatra

Voice of America (David Byrd)

A new biography by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff tackles the life, death and legacy of Cleopatra. Schiff's work challenges some of the assumptions long held about Egypt's last queen.

It has been said that history is written by the victors. Nowhere is that sentiment more clearly illustrated than when exploring the reign of Cleopatra. Most of what we know of her was written by her enemies - the Roman historians Plutarch, Dio and Appian. Cicero didn't even mention her name when he said I despise the queen. But now Schiff is attempting to separate fact from propaganda in her new book Cleopatra: A Life.

Schiff said the popular image of Cleopatra is far from the truth. In fact, the last queen of Egypt was a highly-educated, multilingual, shrewd ruler who was the equal of any monarch of her time.

"She would have had precisely the education that someone like Caesar or Cicero had," said Schiff

Travel: Western Desert

Al Masry Al Youm

“The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun,” wrote Jon Krakauer in his nonfiction bestseller Into the Wild, a chronicle of Christopher McCandless’s post-graduation two-year travel experience throughout North America.

McCandless's decision to depart on the journey--which ended with his death in Alaska--aimed to rediscover his identity by living in symbiosis with nature. The young American’s “fight” against society became a “fight versus himself” first, and against nature later on. But, as Krakauer’s book portrays, nature is both wonderful and harsh, and you must know its rules to be part of it.

Without a similar tragic ending, the Egyptian Western Desert safari camping experience echoes the themes of Into the Wild. Feelings fluctuate between astonishment over what only nature can create, relaxation, forgetting the stress caused by a restless society, inner peace thanks to the silence that compels you to reflect, and harmony with others.

St Maurice of Thebes at the V&A

I was at the V&A yesterday. After a particularly good latte in the staggeringly elaborate 19th Century Arts and Crafts cafe (designed by Morris, Marshall and Faulkner Ltd for the Museum's 19th Century launch) I went to have a look at a wooden statue at the end of the room.

It was in a slightly romanticized figure in a suit of armour and was an early 16th century depiction of St Maurice. I am hopeless at saints, so it was no surprise that I had never heard of him, and although many of you may know of him others, like me, may not. I thought that he might be of interest to those interested in the Roman period of Egypt. The photograph on this post comes from the V&A's website.

The label said that he was the leader of the Theban Legion in Egypt, and that the Roman Emperor Maximian had ordered the entire legion to be killed because they refused to kill innocent Christians.

I had never heard of a Theban Legion, so I had a potter around Google when I got home after a very long and cold day. The story of St Maurice was preserved by St Eucherius, Bishop of Lyon (c. 380-449) and sure enough "Theban" refers to Thebes, as in Luxor. St Maurice (Mauritius) was one of a number men who led the army on its march to Gaul to defeat rebels in Burgundy, during which campaign they were ordered to intimidate/kill a group of local Christians. The legend says that the legion refused to harm the Christians and as a result they were martyred in stages, being completely eliminated by AD 286. Many of those martyred are saints although St Maurice is the most widely venerated. In the Coptic version he is a black Christian who came from Thebes, depictions of him often show him as black and the V&A label says that the face was probably painted in accordance with this convention.

You live and learn.

This is a very crude summary and there's a much better description on the copticchurch.net website.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

From the inside wall of the Hypostyle Hall. A relief shows Seti II in the Persea Tree.
He wears the Blue Hemet and holds a Hek sceptre.

Text and photo copyright Jon Bosworth, with my thanks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Did Queen Arsinoe rule as Pharaoh?

Science Daily

With photo.
A unique queen's crown with ancient symbols combined with a new method of studying status in Egyptian reliefs forms the basis for a re-interpretation of historical developments in Egypt in the period following the death of Alexander the Great. A thesis from the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) argues that Queen Arsinoë II ruled ancient Egypt as a female pharaoh, predating Cleopatra by 200 years.

Researchers are largely agreed on Queen Arsinoë II's importance from the day that she was deified. She was put on a level with the ancient goddesses Isis and Hathor, and was still respected and honoured 200 years after her death when her better-known descendant Cleopatra wore the same crown. But the reasons behind Arsinoë's huge influence have been interpreted in many different ways.

Maria Nilsson has studied her historical importance by interpreting her personal crown and its ancient symbols.

Pigments and inks typically used on papyrus

Brooklyn Museum (Rachel Danzig)

A really fascinating blog post, which I missed back in September, about the materials which were used to write on and illustrate papyri, using the example of the New Kingdom papyrus, the Book of the Dead of the Goldworker Amun, Sobekmose.

With photos.

The ink is made by burning organic materials such as wood or oil, and then pulverizing the material before mixing it with water. To keep the particles from clumping together, the black is mixed with a binder, probably a plant gum from the Acacia tree family. As a valuable source of timber in Egypt, its branches may have also been used as the source for the charcoal. As well as keeping the carbon particles suspended in the water solution, the gum binder helps to keep the ink adhered to the papyrus surface. This ink is very stable, does not fade, and does not deteriorate the papyrus below as some metallic inks can do.

AERA 2009 Annual Report from Giza

AERA Ancient Egypt Research Associates

I could have sworn that I had posted this before, but I cannot find it on the blog, so above is the link and apologies if this is a repeat posting. The following is part of the introduction by Mark Lehner. It is a PDF of 40 pages, with lots of photographs, maps and diagrams.

AERA’s 2008–2009 fiscal year saw our 18th season of archaeology at Giza.

AERA, Inc., has grown into a viable research organization, with twelve full-time staff members, offices in Boston, and, now, AERA’s own Giza Archaeological Center and Field School. It was a year of doing what AERA does best—executing one of the largest archaeological missions in Egypt and teaching state-of-the-art archaeology in a field school that sets the standard for members of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

AERA’s major discovery of the year: an entire new architectural layout east of the Khentkawes Town, what may indeed be the valley complex of this enigmatic queen who ruled as king.

AERA’s major leap forward this year: securing our own property, one block from the entrance to the Giza Plateau, at the bottom of the road leading to the very foot of the Great Pyramid. Here we will build our own facilities for the AERA Archaeological Center and Field School. Already in the month and a half at the end of our busy field season, we refurbished the old villa with a view to the pyramids. In the long term, this will prove the most important of AERA’s achievements during our year 2008–2009.

Let me list all of AERA’s achievements during the past year, which were possible thanks to your interest and generous support, combined with a skilled team of archaeologists who take on AERA’s mission with dedication, skill, and passion.

Change in London visa collection procedures

Just a quick note to let anyone who is planning to drop off your passport for a visa for Egypt, the system has changed since I was last there. In the past you could drop off your passport in the Lowndes St basement office in the morning and collect it, complete with visa, in the afternoon of the same day. Now you drop it off in the morning of one day and pick it up in the afternoon two days later. So I dropped my passport off this morning and will return to collect it on Wednesday afternoon. It says all this on the Egyptian Consulate's visa pages, but I thought it worth highlighting. At the time of writing the cost is still £15.00 for a single entry visa.

On a completely off-topic note, we went down to the V&A to see the costume collection, which I love, but it has been closed for restoration work to be carried out in that section of the museum and will not be open again for at least a year.

There was also a tube strike which meant that the Piccadilly line was closed, the buses were heaving, there wasn't a black cab in sight and we ended up walking miles in the freezing cold. Ho hum.

The moral of all three stories is - check on the web before you go!

Lessing Photo Archive

Lessing Photo Archive

A really good photographic resource - you can download a watermarked version (like the one on this post - see details of picture at the end of this post), purchase rights to an image or buy a print. Kat, do have a look at the Late Period cat with kitten!

Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archive is an extensive image library featuring over 40.000 high resolution images from over 500 museums and many other collections. Founded and mostly photographed by Erich Lessing, the collection covers a wide range of subjects: Fine Arts, Religion, History, Music, Archaeology, Mythology, Architecture, Landscapes, Historical Portraits and Reportage.

Click to see the results from some of my searches:

Ancient Egypt
Predynastic Egypt
Louvre Egypt

The photo above is listed as an ivory boar, 4000-3800 BCE Predynastic, Nagada I. Measurements L: 10,5 cm H: 4,5 cm, from a private collection in France. It is almost certainly unprovenanced but it was so endearing that I had to post it!

Fire in the Nubian sky

Saudi-Aramco World (Ann Chandler)

Sudan rather than Egypt, and not archaeology - but it's a slow news day today.

Jarred awake by a thunderous explosion, Abdel Moneim Magzoub sat bolt upright in his sleeping cot on the porch of Station 6, the railway stop in northern Sudan where he worked as an attendant. It was just before dawn on October 7, 2008. His heart pounding, he woke in time to see a fireball careening through the sky and explode a second time, leaving a glowing cloud. He had no idea what he had just seen.

Astronomer Richard Kowalski, monitoring the night skies from the summit of Mount Lemmon, near Tucson, Arizona, less than 24 hours before, knew exactly what Magzoub saw. Kowalski tracks asteroids. He had monitored the white blip that crossed his screen at 6:39 that morning and forwarded its coordinates to the Minor Planet Center (mpc) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

Looking back towards the Great Court from the Temple of Ramesses III.
Each side of the Courtyard has a covered passage with eight square pillars fronted by Osiris figures.

Photograph and text copyright Jon Bosworth, with my thanks.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

400 impoverished burials found at Giza

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

Owen Jarus has reported on findings announced at the Atlanta conference, which he attended. Great story Owen!

At a scholarly conference in Atlanta archaeologists announced that the burials of 400 people – dating between 2,700 and 2,000 years ago – have been excavated on the Giza plateau in Egypt.

The discovery was made by researchers with AERA (Ancient Egypt Research Associates), a group led by Mark Lehner that conducts work at Giza.

Research shows that these individuals were malnourished and lacked grave goods. The pyramids at Giza were built about 4,500 years ago, so these people would have been buried long after it was constructed.

The burials were found beside a 200 meter long ancient wall called the “Wall of the Crow.” The wall was first constructed in the time of the pyramids and is located just south of the Sphinx.

Faiyum protectorate not protected

Al Masry Al Youm

Thanks very much to Ben's Egypt Then and Now website for pointing to the above article, which I had missed. It is very topical given the new fieldwork taking place in the Faiyum Depression, but this has been an ongoing problem for several years now.

Fayoum's Lake Qarun protectorate is one of Egypt’s richest and most treasured natural landmarks. It is also on the brink of destruction.

Lake Qarun received its protectorate status, not only because of its obvious beauty and importance for birds and people, but also for its unparalleled historical, natural and scientific importance.

The northern side of Lake Qarun, around Gebal Qatrani, hosts one of the world’s most complete fossil records of terrestrial primates and marshland mammals, critical to our understanding of human evolution. Discoveries continue to be made and studied by scientists.

UNESCO is currently considering this area as a World Heritage site. Until now only three percent of the area has been excavated. Last year the excavations uncovered a complete fossil of a prehistoric whale species. This has not been found elsewhere in the world.

Radar images reveal lost lake


The original article can be found in the December 2010 edition of the journal Geology but be warned that it costs $25.00 for a day's access to the article.

Geologists have found that a huge lake waxed and waned deep in the sandy heart of the Egyptian Sahara.

Tushka region of Egypt is covered by a huge sand sheet today, but years ago, it was home to a lake as big as one of the Great Lakes, said T. Maxwell, a geologist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Radar images taken from the space shuttle have confirmed that a lake broader than Lake Erie once sprawled a few hundred kilometers west of the Nile, reports Science News.

Knowing where and when such oases existed could help archaeologists understand the environment Homo sapiens travelled while migrating out of Africa for the first time, said team leader Maxwell.

Here's the Abstract from Geology


Space Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data have revealed new details on the extent and geomorphic relations of paleodrainage in southern Egypt. Following a period of late Tertiary drainage from the Red Sea Hills south through Wadi Qena and west across the Tushka region, the Nile River as we now know it established its connections with Central Africa and the Mediterranean in the middle Pleistocene (oxygen isotope stage, OIS 7 to OIS 5). SRTM topography reveals a lake level at ∼247 m that is coincident with the elevation of middle Pleistocene fish fossils 400 km west of the Nile, and with the termination of shallow runoff channels in northern Sudan that were active during the middle Pleistocene and Holocene pluvial periods. An additional lake level at ∼190 m is based on the current elevation at Wadi Tushka, and is consistent with Paleolithic sites at Bir Kiseiba followed by Neolithic sites at lower topographic levels. Overflow of the Nile through Wadi Tushka during the wetter north African climate of the middle Pleistocene, coupled with limited local rainfall, was the likely source of water for these lakes.

Online - The Tell Edfu Project

Oriental Institute

See the above page for the links.

The remains of what once had been the provincial capital of the 2nd Upper Egyptian nome can be found at Tell Edfu, which is one of the best well-preserved ancient towns in Egypt. The continuous occupation over several millennia led to the constant build up of settlement layers which created an artificial mound or a tell of considerable height. Tell Edfu is one of the rare examples where almost three thousand years of ancient Egyptian history are still preserved in the stratigraphy of a single site and therefore provides an enormous potential for increasing our understanding of ancient urbanism in Egypt, a topic that is still poorly understood since it relies almost entirely on archaeological data. There are only very few ancient Egyptian settlement sites currently accessible and even fewer have been excavated and published. The past excavation seasons (2005-2010) at Tell Edfu have focused along the eastern part of the tell which yielded evidence for the early administrative center of the town. So far we excavated a small part of this area and the first results already proved to be spectacular such as the large grain silos that are so far unique in the archaeological record in Egypt. For the first time it has been possible to discover archaeological settlement remains that complement the abundant textual sources dealing with the complex system of administration. Not surprisingly it seems that texts and archaeology do not always tell the same story! At Tell Edfu we have the chance to gather completely new archaeological data for the study of an important urban center in southern Egypt and its development during the whole pharaonic period. Urbanism and settlement studies dealing with ancient Egypt are very rare and this stands in sharp contrast to other regions in the Near East where the exploration of tell sites is a common phenomenon. Thus, the Tell Edfu Project has a significant impact on our knowledge of Egyptian urbanism in general.

Photos - Hatshepsuts cliff-top tomb

Luxor News Blog

Jane Akshar has yet again teamed up with Richard Sellicks to show off his great collection of photographs from Luxor. This time they are featuring Richard's photographs of the earliest proposed site for the tomb of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, in a very remote corner of the Theban hills. Thanks to Richard for sharing and to Jane for posting.

West Bank lighting system completed

Luxor Times

With photos.

The SCA had finished the lighting system project of west bank, Luxor with a budget of 56 million Egyptian pounds. The project was done in co-operation with Egypt sound and light company and Architecture Lumiere (French company).

Dr.Zahi Hawass said that the point of the project is to protect the tombs of the west bank as the huge number of visitors will be distributed on longer hours of the day from 7am till 8pm which will decrease the humidity that affects the tombs badly.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

Looking through the Hypostyle Hall at right angles to the central axis.

Text and photograph copyright
Jon Bosworth
with my thanks

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Work commences on prehistoric sites in the Faiyum

Fayum Dig Diaries

Excellent news! With photos. One to watch.

Today we officially began work on the north shore. At the moment our team is split into three different groups. One group will excavate at Kom W, one group will excavate hearths and the NZ team will continue survey from last year. We began with two transects south of Kom W, one of which was unfortunately on a sand dune. Because the dunes have formed since the mid-Holocene, they obscure the Neolithic remains and we usually don’t sample on them because visibility is compromised. One of our tasks this season will be to map these in detail and make sure they correlate with our satellite images. Fortunately our second transect was fine. This transect is almost due south of Kom W and on the edge of Z basin, very close to Gertrude Caton-Thompson’s Camp II basin, where she stayed while excavating Kom W in the 1920s. This transect has a lot of artefacts – stone artefacts, pottery, some fish and animal bone. We recorded 700 artefacts today and will hopefully complete this tomorrow. The beginning is always a little slow until everyone gets used to the work.

We had a slight mishap with our differential GPS cable breaking in the early afternoon. The DGPS is very important as we use it to locate our transects (the coordinates of which we generate in GIS maps the night before), and set our total station. Simon and I attempted to repair it with Leathermans, but weren’t very successful. Fortunately now we are back at the dig house our camp manager Hamam was able to fix it, although we’ll have to treat it with extreme care!

Sixth season of the Epigraphic Survey

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

"Preserving Egypt's ancient records for present and future generations is what we strive to do," says Ray Johnson, director of Chicago House, the iconic home of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute archaeological team in Luxor. Johnson says that the documentation techniques pioneered by founder James Henry Breasted, while now augmented with new digital tools, have never been surpassed. "When a photograph or a scan is not clear enough, or the wall surface is terribly damaged, we use non-invasive photographic and digital images as the basis for precise line drawings that continue to set the standard for epigraphic recording everywhere," he says. "This technique has become known simply as the Chicago House method, and it still sets the disciplined and meticulous course of the work of our documentation teams.

Unreported Heritage News

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

Owen Jarus, whose name many readers will remember from Heritage Key articles, has started up a new website called Unreported Heritage News. The aim of the site, as you will have guessed, is to report on stories which have not been covered widely (or at all) by the media. This is a great idea and I wish him all the very best of luck with it. He's also on Twitter.

Why was an ancient Egyptian boy dressed as a girl?

Daily Mail

With photos

A 1,700-year-old Egyptian mummy has been revealed as a boy dressed in girl's clothing thanks to these incredible hospital scans.

The child, who lived around 350AD, underwent scans as experts hoped to determine its sex and discover how it suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage.

The mummy, housed at Saffron Walden Museum in Essex, was shrouded in mystery after it was discovered in a private collection in 1878.

Studies last year discovered it was wrapped in clothing adorned in feminine symbols, wearing girl's breast cones and a female bracelet.

Ground-breaking CT scans carried out at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, have finally solved the mystery revealing the mummy is a boy dressed in girl's clothing.

These stunning images also show that the boy, aged four to five, mysteriously suffered a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage and a broken collarbone before dying.

More re Avenue of Sphinxes discoveries

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El Aref)

TWELVE sphinx statues from the reign of the 30th- Dynasty Pharaoh Nectanebo I were unearthed last week in Luxor, reports Nevine El-Aref. Archaeologists have unearthed a set of 12 limestone sphinx statues near the road known as the Avenue of the Sphinxes. The discovery was made during routine excavations within the framework of the Ministry of Culture's plan to develop and revitalise the ancient religious path that once connected the temples of Luxor and Karnak.

Unlike other sphinxes found in the area, these latest statues were not located on the Avenue of the Sphinxes but at the end of a newly-discovered road built in the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I (380-362 BC). This road also stretched from the Karnak temples to Luxor Temple, ending at the temple dedicated to the goddess Mut.

More re bank returning artefacts to Egypt

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El Aref)

With photos.
Nevine El-Aref reveals how 200 genuine objects from the ancient Egyptian era to modern times held in a bank vault for decades were handed over to the Supreme Council of Antiquities

Early this week, in a scene which could have been taken from The Da Vinci Code, the Ahly National Bank of Egypt (ANBE) handed over to the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) 200 artefacts that had been deposited there since early in the 20th century.

This collection includes pieces from the ancient Egyptian, Graeco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. Among them are limestone statuary heads of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman deities such as Horus, Hathor and Ptah, as well as Roman terracotta figurines and 20 Islamic and modern coins, including gold coins.

Hussein Bassir, head of the legal and technical committee that checked the authenticity of the objects, says the most significant item in the collection was the diary of an Armenian man called Oying Alexanian which contained the names and telephone numbers of antiquities dealers of the time, as well as the number of antiquities sale contracts. "These two things gave us a vision of how the antiquities trade in Egypt was rum at the time, especially that antiquities trading was legal," Abdel-Bassir said.

The story of how these artefacts came to light began several years ago when an Armenian antiquities dealer and a British collector, who both lived in Cairo during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rented two vaults at the ANBE to store some of their antiquities collection.

The Gayer Anderson Museum

Al Masry Al Youm

With photos.

Cairo’s Gayer Anderson Museum may be a little difficult to find, but the importunate visitor is sure to be rewarded with a beautiful and artistic experience.

Also known as Bayt al-Kritliyya (“The house of the Cretan woman”), the three-story palace is home to a collection of eastern furniture and architecture. The rooms of the museum, based on the traditional layout of the bedrooms and living rooms found in Middle and Far Eastern homes of the 18th and 19th centuries, bring the ghosts of these bygone cultures to life and allow visitors to walk through them.

Walking towards the museum in the old streets of Sayida Zeinab, visitors will notice the mosques and the beautiful but timeworn walls of Old Cairo. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the area’s main attraction, has not suffered the same fate, as various restoration efforts are being carried out to keep the mosque in good condition.

But the Gayer Anderson museum itself, unfortunately, is not slated for restoration.

“I had a plan to renovate the museum,” says Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), the minute I walked into his office. “I wanted to restore it and work on the displays. I’ve also been planning to host cultural events such as performances, music concerts and parties on the roof,” adds Hawas. These plans, however, were put off due to budget constraints.

More Zahi Hawass on saving Giza

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

The following is a quote taken from the beginning of the petition by the Friends of the Giza Geomatrix Team: "I am a Friend of the Giza Geomatrix Team. I recognise and fully support the following Petition. Respectfully I call for you to give it your positive consideration, and thereby, the involvement of The Geomatrix Team to assist you in this matter."

I have mentioned this in my last two articles for Al-Ahram Weekly and, as I explained before, the area around the Sphinx is solid rock and none of the claims of this team is true because we have already drilled here and proved that there is nothing underneath it. These people are also dishonest, because they claim to have used ground-penetrating radar on the Giza plateau without having sought the permission of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). The nearby village of Nazlet Al-Samman has also already been excavated and we discovered the causeway and valley temple of Khufu, as well as the possible remains of a palace and evidence of a settlement.

New Book: Isis on the Nile


Isis on the Nile. Egyptian Gods in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt
Proceedings of the IVth International Conference of Isis Studies, Liège, November 27-29 2008
Edited by Laurent Bricault and Miguel John Versluys

Series: Religions in the Graeco-Roman World, 171
ISBN-13 (i)The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) has been changed from 10 to 13 digits on 1 January 2007: 978 90 04 18882 2
ISBN-10: 90 04 18882 7

Contributors include: Pascale Ballet, Laurent Coulon, Françoise Dunand, Geneviève Galliano , Angelo Geissen, Olaf Kaper, Pierre Koemoth, Michel Malaise, Frederick Naerebout, Klaus Parlasca, Kyriakos Savvopoulos, Marjorie Venit, Miguel John Versluys, Youri Volokhine

Laurent Bricault holds a PhD in Egyptology from the Sorbonne and is Professor of Roman history at Universite de Toulouse Le Mirail. Miguel John Versluys holds a PhD from Leiden University and is associate Professor at its Faculty of Archaeology. They are both well known for their many publications in the domain of Isis studies and Egyptian influences on the Roman world. Their previous book, Nile into Tiber. Egypt in the Roman world (RGRW 159) from 2007, was characterised by The Classical Review (2009) as “(-) an admirably thorough examination of the complexities of religious acculturation, and an impressive survey of the different approaches that may be taken to the study of this problem”. The present volume hopes to achieve the same with regard to Egyptian gods in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt.

The diffusion of the cults of Isis is recently again intensively studied. Research on this fascinating phenomenon has traditionally been characterised by its focus on L'Égypte hors d'Égypte, while developments in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt itself were often seen as belonging to a different domain. This volume tries to overcome that unhealthy dichotomy by studying the cults of Isis in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt itself in relation to developments in the Mediterranean at large. The book not only presents an overview of the most important deities, often based on new or unpublished material, but also pays ample attention to the cultural processes behind Isis on Nile, like relations between style and identity, religious choice, social- and cultural memory and Egypt’s view of its own past.

Book Review: Egyptian Dawn

Al Ahram Weekly (Gamal Nkrumah)

Egyptian Dawn: Exposing the Real Truth Behind Ancient Egypt by Robert Temple (2010). Century, Random House, London

I have to say that even though I haven't seen, never mind read this book, the title sets my teeth on edge instantly - the "real truth"??

Professor Robert Temple has written a persuasive scientific paean to the antiquity of pyramids in ancient Egypt for the uninitiated amateurish Egyptologist. This book, however, will horrify professional Egyptologists. Like Thucydides or Tacitus, Temple combines perspicacity and an eye for telling detail with an ear for ringing.

Re-dating key monuments is a topic that tires Egyptologists, though. They have heard it all before and are not in the least convinced of its relevance to their labours. Yet these aspects are precisely part of Temple's saga's compelling readability for the gullible and ingenious unprofessional Egyptologist. The monarchs given most attention are the confusing kings Khasekhem (alias Hedjefa) and Khasekhemui (alias Bebti) as well as the equally confounding Khufus -- Khufu conventionally known as Cheops of the Great Pyramid, and the lesser known and rather mysterious Khnumu-Khufu, also associated with the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Such mystification is a vital part of Temple's narrative.

Exhibition: The Mummy Chamber


This installation of more than 170 objects from the Brooklyn Museum’s world-famous holdings of ancient Egyptian material explores the complex rituals related to the practice of mummification and the Egyptian belief that the body must be preserved in order to ensure eternal life. On view are the mummy of the priest Thothirdes; the mummy of Hor, encased in an elaborately painted cartonnage; and a nearly twenty-five-foot-long Book of the Dead scroll.

New conference - Change and solidification of an ethnie

The Predynastic of Egypt

Oh well, I guess I'll have to cave and admit that Facebook is useful for something, although it causes me an almost physical pain to link to it. Gavin Radis has a Facebook presence (The Predynastic of Egypt) dedicated to the Egyptian Predynastic ("This forum is for those interested and involved in the dissemination of knowledge about the formative millennia that were the antecedent for dynastic Egypt").

Gavin has been talking for some time about setting up a UK-based Predynastic conference. Last week he announced event details, posted below. Contact Gavin at his Facebook page if you're interested. For those of you who, like me, look at the word "ethnie" and reach for your dictionaries, Gavin has been posting various links which might be of use.

Subject: Abstracts
Dear all,

I am now asking for abstracts of 200-300 words. The central subject for each abstract should be how we identify and interpret the concept of 'ethnie'. The perspective from which this can be approached is open but the focus must fall on the terms 'ethnie' or 'ethnos' not the generalised concept of an 'ethnic group' or a concept of the social group. An ethnie is not always concerned with hunamity. The overall emphasis is on change and solidification of 'ethnie' in whatever terms you wish to characterise them.

I have not set a due date as yet but I would preferably prefer any intention to be registered as soon as possible or before the end of January at the earliest.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

The outer walls of the Hypostyle Hall are covered with reliefs by Seti I and his son Ramesses II. This section on the North facade shows Seti I returning with captives and leading chariot attacks on the Libyans.

Copyright Jon Bosworth

Requiescat in pace

What is our life? A play of passion,
Our mirth the music of division;
Our mothers' wombs the tiring-houses be
Where we are dressed for this short comedy;
Heaven the judicious, sharp spectator is
That sits and marks still who doth act amiss;
Our graves that hide us from the searching sun
Are like drawn curtains when the play is done:
Thus march we, playing, to our latest rest,
Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ancient temple submerged in sewage

Al Masry Al Youm

An ancient Egyptian temple to the god Ptah in the village of Meet Rahina near Memphis, just south of Cairo, now sits submerged in sewage.

The temple, which was built during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II (1279 BC - 1213 BC) and was once a major tourist attraction, now serves as a home for stray dogs.

According to local residents, sanitation authorities never removed the piles of garbage dumped around the temple by villagers. They also complain that many of their homes have likewise been flooded with sewage and underground water, which they have been forced to remove with the use of buckets.

“Villagers destroyed sewage pipes and built homes in their place,” said local resident Ashraf Beshir. “Meanwhile, they disposed of their washing water around the temple, creating a small lake in the area.”

Mummy baby injuries assessed - was it a fall or foul play?

cambridge-news (Jack Grove)

Staff at Addenbrooke’s Hospital may have uncovered a 1,700-year-old murder during tests on an ancient Egyptian child mummy.

Radiographers at the Cambridge hospital made the macabre discovery after they conducted X-ray scans on the mummy from Saffron Walden Museum.

Archaeologists had been keen to find out whether the preserved corpse – which was living in about 350AD – was a boy or a girl after new evidence cast doubt on assumptions the mummy was male.

But the examination on Saturday has possibly revealed a darker mystery from beyond the grave.

Medical experts found the child had suffered a fractured skull and broken collarbone, which is likely to have caused his or her death.

Mail Online

With photos.

Historians are probing a 1,700-year-old mystery after scans revealed that an ancient Egyptian mummy could have been murdered.

The mummified Egyptian child, who lived around 350AD, underwent scans on Saturday as experts tried to determine its sex.

The mummy, housed at Saffron Walden Museum in Essex, was previously believed to be a boy but new evidence suggests it may have been female.

However, X-rays carried out at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, revealed a darker secret - that the youngster had met a violent death.

They showed that the child - whose sex is still undetermined - had suffered a fractured skull and a broken collarbone before dying.

Neuro-radiographer Halina Szutowicz, who conducted the scans, said that the child could have been murdered.

Return to Amara West

British Museum (Neal Spencer)

With photos. Posted 17th November 2010.

Amidst the chaos, heat and dust of our building work at the dig house, we finally managed a short visit to the archaeological site of Amara West itself earlier this week, to see whether much change is evident from the end of our excavation season in late February.

During the season our daily commute consists of a 10-minute journey downstream in a small launch with outboard motor – the return journey takes 20 minutes as the boat contends with the Nile current.

Motor-launch for the commute to Amara West.

The boat is usually laden with workmen, equipment and of course ancient pottery and artefacts being brought back to the expedition house for study and storage.

The site is much as we left it in February, though windblown sand has started to cover up the buildings we excavated.

View over Amara West, with stone architecture from the Governor’s Residence on the surface

Amara West is buffeted by strong northerly winds most of the year, sometimes so strong we have to stop work for the day. This wind, and the sand it brings, is largely responsible for the good preservation of the New Kingdom houses and other buildings.

Shadia Abdu Rabo, antiquities inspector, with Neal Spencer, in 20th dynasty house (about 1100 BC).

We also know the sand was a problem in ancient times, as the inhabitants took measures to keep it out of houses as the outside ground level rose.

20th dynasty villa, excavated in 2009, now almost covered with windblown sand.

We’re now at an advanced stage of planning next season’s excavation priorities for the town – to continue in the group of mid-sized houses near the governor’s residence, and to start work in the smaller houses at the southern end of the town.

Excavations will begin in eight weeks time.

BMSAES Issue 15, November 2010

British Museum Studies of Ancient Egypt and Sudan 15

Issue 15: November 2010

See the above page for links to PDFs of all the articles below, free of charge.


This issue contains 13 papers from the colloquium, The Book of the Dead - Recent research and new perspectives, held at the British Museum on 21–22 July 2009. The meeting brought together leading scholars working on aspects of the Book of the Dead. Several of their contributions have been influential in the development of the exhibition Journey through the afterlife: ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (4 November 2010 – 6 March 2011).

The papers presented here represent the majority of those that will eventually appear in a hard copy publication, though with more extensive use of colour than will be possible in that volume. Neal Spencer, Elisabeth O'Connell and Liam McNamara edited the papers, with the assistance of John Taylor.

Neal Spencer

Three funerary papyri from Thebes: New evidence on scribal and funerary practice in the Late Period
Burkhard Backes

The Book of the Dead as canon
John Gee

Creating borders: New insights into making the Papyrus of Ani
Bridget Leach and Richard B. Parkinson

The two funerary papyri of Queen Nedjmet(P. BM EA 10490 and P. BM EA 10541 + Louvre E. 6258)
Giuseppina Lenzo

The guardian-demons of the Book of the Dead
Rita Lucarelli

In the footsteps of Edouard Naville (1844–1926)
Barbara Lüscher

An intriguing Theban Book of the Dead tradition in the Late Period
Malcom Mosher, Jr.

Memphis–Thebes: Local traditions in the Late Period
Marcus Müller-Roth

The Book of the Dead Project: Past, present and future
Marcus Müller-Roth

Evidence of a master copy transferred from Thebes to the Memphis area in Dynasty 26
Irmtraut Munro

The Book of the Dead of Ankhesenaset (P. BNF Egyptien 62-88). Traces of workshop production or scribal experiments?
Chloe Ragazzoli

Book of the Dead documents from the New Kingdom necropolis at Saqqara
Maarten J. Raven

When a Book of the Dead text does not match archaeology: The case of the protective magical bricks
(BD 151)
Isabelle Régen

An opening, closures and a theft on the West Bank, Luxor

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks to Jane for the information that TT290 (Irynefer) has closed and that TT1 (Senedjem) has now re-opened.

Also, very sadly, the storeroom and the gorgeous little museum at the Temple of Merenptah have been closed due to the theft of an item from the museum.

Travel: Siwa

Al Masry Al Youm (Ahmed Ramadan)

Wilfred Jennings-Bramly, who journeyed to Siwa in 1896, wrote that the oasis “cannot be said to have fallen from its high estate...only it has stood still while the world went on,” which might be the most honest description of the quiet, sleepy place that lies in the heart of the great Egyptian Sand Sea.

This oasis can easily be considered a center of Egypt’s backwaters, as it still holds the features of a small and anachronistic village. With its traditions and costumes still intact, visitors feel a little as if they are taking a trip back in history to an era they would never have dreamed of witnessing first hand.

While Jennings-Bramly and his entourage traveled to the oasis by horseback on a journey that might have for weeks--starting from Farfra, an oasis closer to Cairo--my friends and I took the West Delta bus that passes through the desert via a relatively newly-opened road (operating only since the 1980s) and allows for easier transportation to the famous spot.


Photos from the Eastern Salt Lake at Siwa.

Plans for the future of Luxor


Yesterday I made brief mention of a website called Luxor Egypt (which I should probably have addressed as the Luxor Portal, actually). Since then I have been through my RSS feed and see that Jane Akshar has made mention of a particular page on the site which details plans for Luxor's future, which seem seriously ambitious, including provision for an annual intake of 4 million visitors. Have a look at the above page if you're interested.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

Against the back wall of the 1st Pylon are the remains of a brick ramp
used to erect the structure.

Text and photo copyright Jon Bosworth, with my thanks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Al Ahly Bank returns 200 Egyptian objects


With two photographs.

Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny, announced that the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) received 200 artifacts from Al-Ahly National Bank yesterday and have stored them in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo for restoration and documentation.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, said that the recovered collection was stored in the treasury of the bank since the early 20th century and that it included objects from the ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras. Among the objects are limestone statuary heads of ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman deities such as Horus, Hathor and Ptah, as well as Roman terracotta statues and twenty coins from the Islamic and Modern period. Hawass added that two archaeological and legal committees inspected the collection and confirmed the objects’ authenticity.

Chairman of the Al-Ahly Bank, Dr. Tarek Amer, stated that these objects were in the possession of foreigners who lived in Egypt during the late 19th and 20th centuries. The foreigners were obviously antiquities collectors and had stored their collection inside two treasuries of the bank. Since the early 20th century nobody had asked about the objects and they remained under the banks care until the executive board of the bank decided to offer the pieces to the SCA.

Arquéologos mexicanos culminan estudios en tumba (TT39)


Thanks to Amigos de la Egiptologia for the above link. See a link to Jane's blog, below, for photographs of TT39. The photos on the TeleSur site, above, are general photographs of Luxor monuments and tombs.

Here's a rough summary. A team of Mexican archaeologists led by Gabriela Arrache have finished the sixth phase of work at TT39, but will be returning for a seventh season in 2011. Excavation and conservation work started in 2004 at the 3450 year old tomb of a priest of the cult of the god Amun who served during the reign of Hatshepsut. 800 tons of earth were removed from the front of the tomb, in which various objects were found, including pieces of the facade, bits of color which had been part of the murals, wood and shabtis characteristic of the XVIII dynasty. So far, the Mexican team has collected 12 boxes with pieces of the tomb to be studied in Mexio. The restoration project is currently running a year ahead of schedule.

Un equipo de arqueólogos mexicanos terminó este lunes la sexta etapa de los trabajos de reconstrucción en una tumba de la época faraónica en Luxor, ciudad turística del sur de Egipto, esfuerzos en los que se descubrieron piezas de arte que datan de hace más de 3000 años.
El equipo, conformado por expertos en arqueología y conservación, trabaja desde 2004 en la Tumba Tebana 39 (TT39), una excavación de 3.450 años de antigüedad que perteneció a un sacerdote egipcio del culto al dios de los vientos Amón, durante el gobierno de la única mujer faraón, la reina Hatshepsut.

"En esta temporada se removieron unas 800 toneladas de tierra que estaba al frente de la tumba y en el proceso se encontraron muchos objetos", declaró el fotógrafo del equipo Félix Valdésa a una agencia internacional de noticias.

Entre las piezas destacan pedazos de la fachada, trozos de color que fueron parte de los murales, maderas e incluso estatuillas muy completas de la época de la dinastía XVIII, conocidas como "ushebtis", que se colocaban en la tumba de los difuntos para ser sirvientes en la otra vida.

Hasta ahora, el equipo mexicano ha reunido 12 cajas con pedazos de la tumba que serán digitalizados en México para trabajar posteriormente en su reconstrucción.

Bid for an exclusive Book of the Dead experience

Egypt Exploration Society

As part of our current campaign to raise funds for the 2010-11 Amelia Edwards Projects, why not get involved with our first ever online auction?

As part of the Big Give Christmas Challenge, we have put together an amazing lot, which would make a fabulous Christmas present for a loved-one, or a festive treat for yourself...!

The prize is an exclusive Egyptological experience on Monday 10 January 2011 starting in the late afternoon with a private 'behind the scenes' tour of the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan at the British Museum with the Deputy Keeper, Dr Jeffrey Spencer, during which you will be able to see many of objects excavated by the EES in Egypt. In the evening you and your guest will attend the EES’ private view of the amazing 'Book of the Dead' exhibition at the British Museum, followed by dinner with Dr David Jeffreys of University College London, an eminent EES field director with many years of experience working in Egypt and many fascinating stories to tell.

To be in with a chance of bidding for this unique experience, please visit the following link: http://www.thebiggive.org.uk/auction

The auction will run from 25 November and finish on 5 December so please spread the word as widely as you can about this wonderful 'money-cannot-buy' opportunity. We want to raise lots of funds for our fieldwork in Spring 2011!

KV 38 and KV39

Luxor News Blog (Jane Akshar)

Thanks again to Richard Sellicks for some excellent photographs and to Jane for posting them at the above address. As photography is no longer permitted at these sites it is particularly good to have access to some great photos of them.

Exhibition: Horemheb at the Metropolitan

Art Daily

One of the most fascinating pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Haremhab (reigned ca. 1316–1302 B. C.) was a strong leader in a time of political and religious transition. As commander-in-chief of Tutankhamun's army, he oversaw important military campaigns at the border with Nubia and in the Levant; later, as the last king of Dynasty 18, Haremhab instituted laws that secured the rights of civilians and curbed abuses perpetrated by powerful groups, including the army. A statue that was created before he became king shows the general as a scribe and thus an administrator and wise man. This statue—the most famous three-dimensional image of Haremhab—is the focus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition Haremhab, The General Who Became King, opening November 16. The display will feature some 70 additional objects in various media—wall reliefs, works on papyrus, statuettes, and garment fragments—from the holdings of the Metropolitan, with the addition of a pivotal loan from the Louvre and another from a New York private collection. Haremhab, The General Who Became King is the inaugural presentation in a series of exhibitions that will spotlight masterpieces from the Museum's collection of Egyptian art.

Sea People and Libyans at Medinet Habu

Luxor News (Jane Akshar)

With lots of photos.

Jane has a look at what Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III can tell the visitor about the Egyptian relationship with Libyans and the Sea Peoples.

This year on my course we are studying a period of history I have never been very keen on starting with late New Kingdom. I am changing my mind. My first essay is on the Sea Peoples and Libyans and their interaction with Egypt. Now Medinet Habu is the best place to get information, OK it is Egypt's version, so more propaganda than history but compared to the rest of the world at the time it is the best documentation we have. So I decided to get some photos

First of all compare the site to other mortuary temples, note the defensive walls. So thick in places, houses could be built in the thickness in later times. This gives a good indication of the times. Temples needed protection.

Travel: A history of Nile cruises

Al Ahram Weekly (Jenny Jobbins)

Poets from Shakespeare to Shelley have sung the praises of the river that made Egypt. Many people think of it as their dream trip, the holiday of a lifetime. Jenny Jobbins looks at the story of the Nile Cruise and its enduring popularity

It is a bright, sunny day. You are lounging on the sun deck of your dahabiya (houseboat), lazily sipping iced mint lemonade from a tall glass. The intense blue of the sky overhead is mirrored in the surface of the water around you. There is a ripple of a breeze. You glide past groves of date palms and fields of lush green wheat; behind the palms loom tall sand-coloured rocks marking the edge of the desert plateau. In the foreground, grazing cattle are surrounded by egrets, standing stiffly like elderly, round-shouldered retainers waiting in attendance.

The scenery is timeless, and indeed has barely changed over millennia. Only you have changed. Once you might have been sailing in a royal barge, like Queen Hatshepsut, who sailed with her stepson and co-ruler Pharaoh Tuthmosis III to inspect their building work; or Cleopatra, who took her lover Julius Caesar to visit the splendid edifices of her realm. Or you could have been a 19th Century adventurer -- a Giovanni Belzoni or Mungo Park or Richard Burton, perhaps trying to make your way into Africa. You might have been one of the leisured classes for whom a trip on the Nile in a rented dahabiya was de rigueur as part of the Grand Tour. You could have sailed on one of these very same boats in the 1930s, among the haughty or louche characters of an Agatha Christie novel.

Photo for Today - more from Karnak

On the left hand side just inside the Great Court stands a shrine built by Seti II. It has three chambers dedicated to Mut, Amun and Khonsu.

Photo and text copyright Jon Bosworth, with my thanks

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Old Kingdom mummy to go on view at Carlos Museum

Access Atlanta (Howard Pousner)

With photo.

A rarely displayed Egyptian mummy, the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, will be the focus of an exhibit next year at Emory University, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

The mummy, which dates to 2300 B.C. and was purchased by Emory theology professor William A. Shelton during an excavation at the sacred site of Abydos in 1920, will be featured in "Life and Death in the Pyramid Age: The Emory Old Kingdom Mummy." The exhibit will open Sept. 10 at the Michael Carlos Museum.

One of only a half-dozen mummies known to exist from the Old Kingdom (roughly between 2600 B.C. and 2100 B.C.), one of the earliest periods of Egyptian mummification practices, the male mummy is currently undergoing conservation.

The announcement follows recent news that the Metropolitan Museum of Art's will return ancient objects to Egypt attributed to King Tut's tomb.

While mummies have fascinated museum-goers for decades, little is known about the evolution of the process of mummification due to the rarity of early examples. The conservation team is being led by Carlos Museum conservator Renee Stein. Mummification experts including Salima Ikram of American University in Cairo and Bob Brier of New York's Long Island University, along with Emory anthropologist George Armelagos, are examining the mummy for insights into techniques as well as what the remains reveal about the individual. Various labs will study the mummy's linen wrappings, the body's salts and resins, tissue samples and wood from the coffin.

Debating the Ancient Egyptian cancer question


In direct contradiction to the recent Manchester University article in Nature stating cancer is 'man made' Paula Veiga strongly argues the case for the existence of cancer in Ancient Egyptians. Citing both her own research during her time at Manchester and Professor Zimmerman she questions Prof Davids conclusions. "It seems Dr. Zimmerman’s work from 1995, my own research in 2007-08 and reputed scientists’ work (Strouhal, Zink, Nerlich, Capasso and others) were not enough to convince Prof. Rosalie David."

The controversy among researchers, scientists and egyptologists sprouted like a cabbage planted in the middle of the media field after an article titled ‘Scientists suggest that cancer is purely man-made’ was published in Nature Reviews Cancer last October 2010.

Desert RATS 2nd Edition


Thanks very much to Mike Morrow for letting me know that the second edition of Desert RATS will be available for purchase soon. It consists of both a book and DVDs, which is great news. It is always good to see DVDs being used to supply a far larger number of images than can be incorporated affordably into a text.

If you are interested in Eastern Desert rock art you will need no introduction to this invaluable piece of work.

Should you want a copy of the new edition it might be best to contact them directly.

Don't forget that if you are interested in the Eastern Desert there are two other BAR (Archaeopress) books that might be of interest: BAR S2008 2009: Rock Art of the Eastern Desert of Egypt Content, comparisons, dating and significance by Tony Judd and BAR S1824 2008: Eastern Desert Ware: Traces of the Inhabitants of the Eastern Deserts in Egypt and Sudan During the 4th- 6th Centuries CE by Hans Barnard.

Amarna fake to go on display

Manchester Evening News (Paul Britton)

An infamous forged statue of an Egyptian princess will go on display at the same museum that paid £440,000 for it.

Bolton council believed the 20-inch statue, the Amarna Princess, was more than 3,300 years old after it was authenticated by experts in Egyptology at Christie’s auction house and at the British Musuem.

It was said to be a figurine of the grandaughter of King Tutankhamun and held up as a rare example of Egyptian craftwork.

But it later emerged the piece was ‘knocked up’ in the shed of a council house in Bromley Cross, Bolton.

In a case that attracted worldwide media coverage, master forger Shaun Greenhalgh admitted it took him just three weeks to create.

The self-taught artist was revealed to have created numerous fakes, including statues said to have been made by artists Barbara Hepworth, Constantin Brancusi, Henry Moore and Man Ray.

Greenhalgh’s elderly parents, George and Olive, admitted helping to sell their son’s works.

Greenhalgh was jailed for four years and his parents received suspended prison sentences after a scam police believe netted them £850,000 over 17 years.

The Amarna Princess has been securely held by the Metropolitan Police arts and antiques unit since the court case.

But museum bosses in Bolton have revealed that the piece will go on show again in the town as part of a touring exhibition.

Ancient relics at modern prices

New York Observer (Rhea Mahbubani)

Dusty relics of ancient Egypt still seem to hold their power. Last week, after negotiations, the Metropolitan Museum of Art surrendered title on 19 objects from King Tutankhamun's tomb to the Egyptian government. On Dec. 9, Christie's puts antiquities dating as far back as 6000 B.C. on the block at suggested bids of up to $5 million.

A handful of objects in the sale, though, can be bought for far, far less. What does a few thousand dollars get you in the antiquities market?

Educational tourism in the Arab world

Asharq Alawsat (Zahi Hawass)

I have almost lost my voice considering the number of meetings I have held with university directors and school principals, either in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, about the need to promote education and tourism. In every Arab country I visited, I met with officials in charge of education and culture and I urged them to promote pan-Arab educational tourism. This policy would provide considerable benefits. Most notably, our children would understand the meaning of history and civilization, instead of sitting inside classrooms where a history teacher talks about the ancient Egyptian civilization, the Mesopotamian civilization, or Islamic civilization, without any aides or props to illustrate the facts he is explaining to his students.

What does it actually mean, for example, when a teacher says that Islamic civilization contributed greatly to the development of all fields in the arts and sciences, and that it served as a key factor in the Western renaissance?

Luxor information website

Luxor Egypt

Still harping on about Luxor, I stumbled across this website which is vaguely familiar but which I don't remember actually using before. For anyone planning a visit, it is stuffed full of useful information for visitors to Luxor, and has some great photos.

New Technology Gives on-Site Assessments

Science Daily

This is about applied archaeology in general, not Egypt in particular, but I thought that it would be of interest to some visitors.

The ability to tell the difference between crystals that formed naturally and those formed by human activity can be important to archaeologists in the field. This can be a crucial bit of information in determining the ancient activities that took place at a site, yet archaeologists often wait for months for the results of laboratory tests.

Now, however, an international team of physicists, archaeologists and materials scientists has developed a process that can tell in a matter of minutes the origin of samples thousands of years old. The new device is easily portable and works by "lifting off" the spectral fingerprint of a material with infrared light.

The first material tested was the mineral calcite, commonly found in rocks such as limestone, which forms over millions years in sediments. These rocks can also contain the mineralized shells of sea creatures. Archaeological sites may also feature calcite that was a part of ash, plaster, or other building materials.

In the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials, online November 17, Stefano Curtarolo, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials sciences and physics at Duke University, and Kristin Poduska, associate professor of physics at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and their colleagues at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, describe the new approach, which has already been successfully tested in archeological sites in Israel.

Photo for Today - Karnak

I'm afraid that I'm in Gloucester at the moment and as I don't keep photos on my laptop there is nothing from Rick's collection of photos from the Walters Art Museum. I am running out of those, by the way, but he has also sent me a collection from another great museum so there will be many more to come in the future. Instead, I thought that I would show a set of lovely photographs of Karnak from Jon Bodsworth's Egypt Archive, with my thanks to Jon, kicking off with a great photograph of the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes and the First Pylong.

As I have probably said far too often before, I am off to Luxor for Christmas this year, so Jon's photos fill me with happy anticipation!

An avenue of Sphinxes from the time of Ramesses II lead up to the 1st Pylon which was actually the last to be built and was never completed. It dates from the Nubian Period. The small obelisk on the right was erected by Seti II.


The above link takes you to the photograph on Jon's website, but please note that he says that he will probably not renew the domain when it comes up for renewal next year, so the link may become inactive.

Photograph and text copyright Jon Bosworth, with my thanks

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ancient road uncovered in Luxor


Press Release, with photos

Mr. Farouk Hosny, Minister of Culture, announces that the expedition of the Supreme Council of Antiquities at the Avenue of the Sphinxes found today twelve new sphinx statues from the reign of Nectanebo I (380-362 BC). These sphinx statues were found in the last sector of the Avenue of the Sphinxes.

Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, said the discovery is not located within the known road of the Avenue of the Sphinxes between Karnak and Luxor Temples, but instead at the end of the newly discovered road of Nectanebo I. The Avenue runs from Luxor to Karnak, where it connects to the temple of the goddess Mut.

Mansour Boraik, Supervisor of Luxor Antiquities, indicated that this is the first time a new road that runs from east to west, toward the Nile, has been found. The most interesting

part of this new discovery is that the 20 meters thus excavated is built from sandstone from the quarries at Gebel Silsila, north of Aswan. The total length of this road to the Nile is about 600 meters. Dr. Hawass mentioned, too, that along this way the sacred boat of Amun, king of the gods, traveled on the god’s annual trip to visit his wife, Mut, at Luxor temple, and the king used it as well for religious processions. This discovery marks the first time that archaeology has revealed this route, which is mentioned in many ancient texts. Besides the sphinx statues, which are inscribed with the name of Nectanebo I, the excavation team also recovered Roman period objects, including an oil press and pottery. Excavations remain ongoing.

Ancient Egyptians in Arabia

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

The discovery of a hieroglyphic engraving in Saudi Arabia suggests that the ancient Egyptian empire extended further than previously recognised, reports Nevine El-Aref

Archaeologists from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) have discovered what is believed to be the first ever ancient Egyptian royal artefact to be unearthed in Saudi Arabia.

The object, a rock engraving endorsed with a dual cartouche of Pharaoh Ramses III, was found at the northern town of Tabuk in Taima Oasis, 400km north of Medina. A Pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty, Ramses III ruled from 1185 to 1153 BC.

The discovery was made during routine excavations carried out within the framework of an SCTA archaeological survey being conducted on several sites in the kingdom to establish relationships with other civilisations in different historical periods.

Taima is the largest archaeological site in the kingdom and the Arabian peninsula. The remains of ancient walls reveal that habitation of the oasis can be dated to as far back as the Bronze Age. Taima is mentioned in ancient texts dating from the eighth century BC, and excavators recently found the royal complex of the last king of Babylon, Nabonidus (556-539), who spent 10 years in Taima. Last year they also discovered a fragment of a cuneiform text mentioning Nabonidus.

Another mummy under the scanner - Tasherytpamenekh

Anniston Star

With an excellent 16-photograph slideshow.

For years, we’ve known her name, spelled out in hieroglyphs on the painted paper covering her body: “Tasherytpamenekh, justified of voice forever and ever.”

It’s pronounced Ta-SHER-eet-pa-MEN-eck, and it means “daughter of Pamenekh.”

Now we know even more about the Anniston Museum of Natural History’s mummy, thanks to images released this week from a high-tech CT scan at Regional Medical Center.

The scans, according to Dr. Robert Garner of RMC, revealed a remarkably well-preserved skeleton for a 2,300-year-old woman.

She had strong bones and good teeth, signs that she ate well, and was probably in her 20s. She might have been wealthy; her joints show none of the stress that would have marked her as a laborer.

She has no lungs, or stomach, or liver. Her organs were taken out during the mummification process. (Her brain was removed by sticking a long hook up her nose.) Even if her organs remained, Garner said they would be unrecognizable now.

There was no jewelry on her body. There might never have been, or it might have been stolen by grave robbers.

The big mystery, though, remains: What killed her?

Carter's souvenirs to come home

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb formerly in the private collections of Howard Carter and Lord Caernarvon have returned to Egypt after nearly nine decades, reports Nevine El-Aref

It seems that the spell of the Golden King Tutankhamun will last forever. While the Americans are admiring some of his treasured collection in two touring exhibitions now in Denver and New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art (MET) has offered Egypt 19 objects attributed to Tutankhamun's tomb.

These small-scale objects are divided into two groups. Fifteen of them have the status of bits or samples, while the remaining four are of more significant art-historical interest and include a small bronze dog and a small sphinx bracelet-element. The pieces were acquired by Howard Carter's niece after they had been probated with his estate and were later recognised to have been noted in the tomb records, although they do not appear in any excavation photographs. Two other pieces include a part of a handle and a broad collar accompanied by additional beads, which entered the collection because they were found in 1939 among the contents of Carter's house in Luxor. All of the contents of that house were bequeathed by Carter to the Metropolitan Museum.

The story of these artefacts started as early as 1922 when Howard Carter and his sponsor, Lord Caernarvon, discovered Tutankhamun's tomb with all its distinguished and priceless funerary collection in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's west bank. At that time, according to laws applied in Egypt, the Egyptian government generally allowed archaeologists to keep a substantial portion of the finds from excavations that they had undertaken and financed. However in 1922 when Carter and his team uncovered Tutankhamun's tomb it became increasingly clear that no such partition of finds would take place in this particular case.

New website dedicated to all SCA activities launches


See the above page for the links. The website has been kicking around for some time but it does seem to have been udpated. Hawass's Monthly Column (under Breaking News) which hadn't been updated since March 2010 has now been updated this month with a summary of some of the more recent news stories.

The SCA website details all activities of the SCA and maintains a list of cultural property institutions under its purview. In addition, it serves as the gateway for foreign missions seeking to establish concessions at prehistoric and historic sites in Egypt.

Of particular note is the Breaking News section, which features current and archived columns by Dr. Hawass and provides a link to the SCA Press Office archives. The Press Office’s page, housed under Media Resources includes current and archived press releases of discoveries, initiatives, and conferences in which the SCA has been involved. For a more personal take on happenings in the Egyptian antiquities field, one can read Dr. Hawass’ Monthly Column about highlights in his recent work. Media professionals may also benefit from PDFs outlining filming and photography regulations under Download Forms in Media Resources.

In Foreign Mission Resources, one can find the titles of current and recent projects undertaken by foreign excavators or heritage professionals, with the members of each project listed below the project title. This is to facilitate access to permit information for prospective foreign missions; another important resource for such parties is the Download Forms page, where SCA regulations, the application, the security form, and ASAE publication guidelines are posted. Contact information for the Department of Foreign Missions is also listed here in case of further inquiries.

The home page of the SCA links to a general history of the organization, from the Antiquities Service’s inception in 1858 to the leadership of current Secretary-General, Zahi Hawass. A page outlining the organizational structure of the SCA divisions is also included on this page. Under this section is a list of special projects overseen by the Project Sector, a consulting and administrative body that interlopes among many different SCA offices and coordinates them with outside partners.

On the rest of the site, there exist lists of sites, museums, and exhibitions overseen by the SCA, all accompanied by their respective rules and permissions. A page for the SCA Store names all the publications and artifact replicas available for sale at the SCA headquarters in Zamalek, Cairo. The SCA also sponsors a series of Monday-night lectures, information for which can be found in Lectures and Events. Future events will be posted on the “SCA Events” page as they are scheduled.

Finally, Recovering Stolen Treasures outlines one of the most concerted initiatives of the SCA in recent years, arguably the paramount purpose of an antiquities organization in the post-imperial era—reintroducing into Egypt’s possession the thousands of artifacts taken illegally out of the country in the past. Though many objects have been successfully repatriated, many more remain unlawfully held by individuals and institutions overseas, and Stolen Treasures is a sampling of Egypt’s “wish list” for these stolen artifacts.

Check the SCA Website frequently as new updates are continually being posted and several of the pages are still under construction.

On Hawass and repatriation

The Wall Street Journal

Dr. Hawass is something of a global media icon, following a series of heavily hyped TV specials and a carefully cultivated public persona. His recent History Channel series, "Chasing Mummies," depicted him as a sort of burly denim-clad Indiana Jones in a trademark leather Stetson hat. The archaeologist earned his Ph.D. in Egyptology in 1987 from the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Egypt the same year. He was appointed director of the Giza Plateau, which includes overseeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx. He was named head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in 2002.

Imperious and relentlessly self-promoting, Dr. Hawass also has become a polarizing figure in the insular ranks of international archaeology, and may soon become more so. Some critics accuse him of hogging credit for other people's work and placing good television over sound science.

"I think Egyptologists kind of laugh and shrug their shoulders at Zahi," said one British archaeologist, who has worked with Dr. Hawass.

But few seem to doubt the sincerity of his antiquity-repatriation effort, which has become a personal mission for the 63-year-old.

Egypt abroad - London’s Petrie Museum

Al Masry Al Youm (Nadine el-Hadi)

The British Museum’s most controversial Egyptian object is the Rosetta Stone, who’s bilingual inscriptions provided the key to understanding hieroglyphics. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has recently been campaigning to bring the prized possession home.

A very short walk down the road from the British Museum is its humble counterpart – the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, located on the University College London (UCL) campus. Hidden away, the modest two room museum is overshadowed by the British Museum, but its collections should not be underestimated.

The Petrie Museum is the legacy of Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942) who was the first Professor of Egyptian Archaeology at UCL. Many of the objects displayed were either excavated or acquired Petrie when he worked in Egypt between 1880 and 1924, and the museum boasts 80,000 pieces. The relics - only 10 percent of which are on display - are mainly from Egypt but also from Sudan. The cluttered cupboards and shelves are packed with pots of all shapes and sizes, jewelery, clothes, statues, inscribed and decorated stone slabs, and a couple of mummy coffins.

Exhibition: Cleopatra at the Franklin Institute

Washington Times (Jacquie Kubin)

With photos. Still no news about where the next venues are going to be.

mposing in their size and power are the two 16-foot tall figures of a Ptolemic King and Queen from the Temple of Amon at Heracleion, an ancient city near modern day Alexandria.

Making a search extending back 2,000 years in history even more difficult is that Egypt’s Roman conquerors attempted to rewrite history by destroying all evidence of her existence and her romances with both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, assignations that were as much about romance as they were about aligning Egypt with political power.

Your visit starts with a brief movie, which introduces two men, Dr. Zahi Hawass, archaeologist and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Franck Goddio, underwater archaeologist and director of IEASM. These explorers are looking beneath the sea and into the warm sands of Egypt seeking the final resting place of the elusive queen.

Stepping beyond what is believed to be a statute of Cleopatra’s body (the head is sadly missing) visitors walk into the ruins of ancient Alexandria and are able to see, quite closely, the very artifacts that once populated the Queens castle and court.

The presentation is as interesting and impactful as any I have seen. It is also reverently quiet as people listen to the personalized audio tour where the “voice” of Cleopatra narrates your journey centuries back in time.