Friday, April 29, 2011

Ancient DNA: Curse of the Pharaoh's DNA


Cameras roll as ancient-DNA experts Carsten Pusch and Albert Zink scrutinize a row of coloured peaks on their computer screen. There is a dramatic pause. "My god!" whispers Pusch, the words muffled by his surgical mask. Then the two hug and shake hands, accompanied by the laughter and applause of their Egyptian colleagues. They have every right to be pleased with themselves. After months of painstaking work, they have finally completed their analysis of 3,300-year-old DNA from the mummy of King Tutankhamun.

Featured in the Discovery Channel documentary King Tut Unwrapped last year and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)1, their analysis — of Tutankhamun and ten of his relatives — was the latest in a string of studies reporting the analysis of DNA from ancient Egyptian mummies. Apparently revealing the mummies' family relationships as well as their afflictions, such as tuberculosis and malaria, the work seems to be providing unprecedented insight into the lives and health of ancient Egyptians and is ushering in a new era of 'molecular Egyptology'. Except that half of the researchers in the field challenge every word of it.

Looted Egyptian artefact due to return this week from Mexico

Press Release.

An ancient Egyptian object, a limestone relief panel, will return to Egypt from Mexico. The relief, which depicts the head of an unidentified person, has been in the custody of Mexican customs for three years. It is currently at the Egyptian Embassy in Mexico City and will return to Egypt shortly.

Upon the object’s arrival in Cairo, it will undergo restoration, in order to be exhibited at the Egyptian Museum, stated Ahmed Mostafa, the Head of the Recovered Antiquities Department.

Ahram Online (Nevine El Aref)

After three years in custody at the customs office in Mexico pending bureaucratic paperwork and permissions, Egypt is soon to recuperate one of its genuine artefacts.

The object is a New Kingdom limestone relief depicting an unidentified face of a private individual. The relief, which was illegally smuggled out of the country, is now at the Egyptian embassy in Mexico waiting to be brought back to Cairo as a diplomatic package.

Egypt State Information Service

Egypt restored Wednesday 27/4/2011 a New Kingdom archaeological piece that was on display at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico.

The limestone slab, which depicts a human head, was seized with a Mexican citizen three years ago.

Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawwas said the Egyptian Foreign Ministry and the embassy in Mexico coordinated with the Mexican authorities in charge to restore the piece after sending a delegation to Mexico to make sure the monument was genuine.

Mexico agreed to hand over the antique to Egyptian ambassador in Mexico Ibrahim Khairi.

Egyptian musuem extends opening hours

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Due to the influx of visitors to the Egyptian museum on Friday, the ministry of state for antiquities affairs has extended Friday’s visiting hours by two hours. The museum will now be open from 9:00am to 4:00pm, instead of 2:00pm. The closing time for the rest of the week will be remain at 7:00pm.

Brooklyn Museum mummy under the scanner

NBC New York

A hospital CT scan device helped look back in time Thursday, examining a mummy more than 2,600 years old from ancient Egypt.

At North Shore University hospital in Manhasset, hospital doctors and researchers from the Brooklyn Museum used computerized topography, known as a CT scan, much in the same way it is used for a live patient.

"Normally we use this imaging to look at people's hearts, and what we did in this case, we scanned the whole mummy," said cardiologist Dr. Amgad Makaryus.

The device took more than 10,000 images of the mummy, allowing researchers to learn more about it without disturbing the delicate remains.

The mummy's name was Lady Gautseshenu, according to officials from the museum, which has had the mummy since 1934.

Oxford's Ashmolean museum improving its Egyptian galleries

Gadling (Sean McLachlan)

The famous Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, England, reopened in 2009 after a £61 million ($101 million) makeover. The redesigned space is more open and airy, with more natural light and windows between exhibitions. Floorspace was doubled in size and the exhibits were made more informative and user friendly. A museum worker explained to me that part of the plan was to make it so you can always see your way out. This is to combat museum fatigue. Personally I'm a museum junkie and I don't get museum fatigue, but it sounds like a good idea.

Despite three years of work and the high price tag, the Ashmolean's famous Egyptian galleries got left behind. There was no money to redo them at the time but after collecting another £5 million ($8.3), the galleries are now shut and going through a major overhaul. The four old Egyptian galleries were crowded and poorly lit, and will now be redesigned along the lines of the rest of the museum. They'll also expand into a fifth gallery to give the collection more room.

Egypt offers to help restore Iraqi antiquities

Al Masry Al Youm

Antiquities Minister Zahi Hawass said on Friday that Egypt is ready to help Iraq recover stolen antiquities from other foreign countries and museums.

According to news reports, Egypt over the past six months has restored about 5000 artifacts that were smuggled out of the country.

Palestine handed over to Egypt two objects thougt to be antiquties

Ahram Online (Nevine El Aref)

Today, at the premises of the Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs (MASS) in Zamalek, a Palestinian delegation from Gaza strip, led by former Palestinian minister of foreign affairs Mahmoud El-Zahar, hands over to Egypt two objects believed to be authentic ancient Egyptian artefacts.

However, an archaeological committee from the MSAA, led by Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, general supervisor of the minister office, discovered that these objects are replica statues and not genuine pieces.

Photo for Today - the last from Coptic Jeme

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Labib Habachi discovery of statue of Amenhotep III rediscovered in Luxor (Zahi Hawass)

Press Release. I'm glad that there was a good mention of Labib Habachi in this report. Labib Habachi was a remarkable man, and Egyptian archaeologist from the wrong side, at the time of his graduation, of Egyptian elitist society. He struggled for acceptance for most of his career. There's an excellent book about Habachi and his career by Jill Kamil called "Labib Habachi: The Life and Legacy of an Egyptologist."

A colossal statue of Amenhotep III was uncovered during the Ministry of State for Antiquities’ (MSA) excavation in the area of the funerary temple of King Amenhotep III on the West Bank of Luxor. The mission, led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, unearthed a statue 13 meters tall that consists of seven large quartzite blocks.

The statue is one of a pair that once flanked the northern entrance to the temple, Dr. Hawass said, which was damaged by a severe earthquake in 27 BC. The blocks are currently undergoing restoration in an attempt to re-erect the statue in its original position.

The head of this statue has not been found yet, but the mission is continuing to excavate and hopes to discover it. Dr. Hawass stated that the pair were previously discovered by Egyptian Egyptologist, Labib Habachi, and German Egyptologist, Gerhard Haeny, in the 1970’s. These Egyptologists documented both statues and left them on site, hidden in the sand.

Archaeologist, Abdel Ghaffar Wagdi, the supervisor of the excavation, stated that the new mission has also discovered two other statues, one depicting the god Thoth as a baboon and one of the lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet. The Sekhmet statue is formed of black granite, 185 cm tall and 74 cm wide. Sekhmet statues have been found in large numbers at this temple, and one theory for this is that Amenhotep III suffered from an illness near the end of his reign and made offerings to this goddess for protection against it.

Tell Basta Spring 2011: end of season report

Egypt Exploration Society

With photos.

The spring 2011 field campaign at the site of Tell Basta, the ancient city of Bubastis, commenced on 3 March. On 1 March, Daniela Rosenow and I arrived in Egypt; the other members of the team followed a few days later. The next day I went to the SCA-office, in order to sign the contract and to collect the necessary papers. Despite the unusual situation in Egypt, things went very smoothly and our Egyptian colleagues were very supportive. In the afternoon of the same day we headed to Zagazig, as one of the first missions to return to the Delta. We spent the following day, 3 March, the opening day of our campaign, on the site, checking the containers and the site itself. Fortunately, no harm had been done. We were welcomed by our Egyptian colleagues and friends at Tell Basta whom we have known for many years now. Needless to say, after the recent events, a happy reunion took place.

As planned, we undertook several tasks during this campaign. Firstly, in the entrance area in front of the temple (Area A), which is currently the focus of our archaeological investigations, a trench was excavated, to help us to answer some chronological questions.

CT scans of Egyptian mummy help solve crimes

Google/Associated Press

A childhood fascination with archaeology and a chance encounter with a 2,700-year-old Egyptian mummy are helping Vermont doctors and law enforcement officials find truth in some of the most challenging of modern-day crimes: the unexplained deaths of young children.

After spotting the mummy at the University of Vermont's Robert Hull Fleming Museum in Burlington, Dr. Jason Johnson, a radiology resident, arranged to have it put through his hospital's state-of-the-art CT scanner. He wanted to know about the life of what is believed to be the remains of an Egyptian servant girl of about 14 — and what led to her death.

What Johnson didn't expect was that some of the scientific techniques used to reveal the mummy's secrets would have other applications, including helping Vermont's medical examiner and prosecutors determine if children who die in infancy are the victims of crimes.

Harvard Egyptologist's Newsweek Essay on Protecting Egypt's Heritage Post-Revolution: What It Gets Wrong and Why the Facts Matter

The Punching Bag (Larry Rothfield)

Peter Der Manuelian, Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard, is a brilliant archaeologist as well as a very nice fellow (I met him recently at a lecture I was giving for University of Chicago alumni at his stomping grounds). But the scholarly rigor that characterizes his academic research is sadly lacking in the opinion piece he published recently in Newsweek, Protecting Egypt's Heritage Post-Revolution - Newsweek.

Traveling revolution exhibition

Al Masry Al Youm

News about Zahi Hawass -- a clothing line, an arrest, cash rewards for the safe return of antiquities -- changes daily. But before he was pinned for a shady real estate deal, Egypt’s minister of antiquities had been focusing on celebrating the revolution that has stirred up so much trouble for him by curating a 25 January exhibition.

The exhibition will feature the work of several Egyptian contemporary artists in various media in order to reflect their views on the recent revolution. The art will be accompanied by a collection of photographs showing Tahrir Square and various revolution demonstrations, and will travel the globe as Hawass’ Tutankhamen and the Pharaohs exhibition did.

Cairo Museum of Islamic Art opens after a decade

All About Egypt

With video.

The largest collection of Islamic art in the world is back on display. After nearly a decade of renovation, Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art officially opened.

The museum is the main abode for the national collection of Islamic art, with 100,000 objects.

In 2003, the Ministry of Culture launched its comprehensive restoration project for the museum.

What the Israelites left in Egypt

The Jerusalem Post (Mooli Brog)

With the passing of Pessah, now is the ideal time to look back on ancient Egypt, a nation whose history is inextricably linked to ours.

Two of the most significant events in the formation of the Hebrew nation took place in Egypt. The first was the exodus from Egypt: Wandering in the desert that served as a national rite of passage, the group disassociated itself from one territory and transferred itself to another through a tribal journey. The second was the Mount Sinai address, during which the tribe (nation) accepted a moral and theological code that defined its uniqueness as a people and its religious distinction from other peoples.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in ancient times Egypt served as a cultural, religious and economic point of reference for the Israelites. Indeed, the biblical scribe deems it fit to invoke the name “Egypt” almost as often as he did “Jerusalem,” about 600 times.

Both the Bible and Egyptian writings describe the arrival of Semitic people in Egypt; the sources provide varied reasons for this immigration.

Photo for Today - more from Coptic Jeme

Fallen columns from Coptic buildings,
gathered together at Medinet Habu.
Remains of the town of Jeme are visible in the distance

Monday, April 25, 2011

Parcels containing artefacts seized at Cairo airport

Ahram Online
Three tons of valuables belonging to escaped Egyptian tycoon Hussein Salem, charged with corruption in connection with the export of natural gas to Israel, were confiscated at Cairo Airport yesterday evening

Airport Customs stopped yesterday evening 100 parcels allegedly belonging to Egyptian tycoon Hussein Salem, which were headed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The parcels weighed three tons together and included paintings, antiques, carpets, gold plated trays, gold statues, expensive watches, clocks, clothes and items that may be subject to the Egyptian Law for the Protection of Antiquities.

Sayed Ibrahim, the head of customs, said that airport officials became suspicious when they realised how heavy the packages were and decided to check their contents. He added that the parcels belong to an export company and included papers associated with a Saudi Prince and were heading to Jeddah. The bags were being smuggled by a person holding a Palestinian passport.

Al Masry Al Youm

Late on Saturday Cairo airport customs authorities seized dozens of packages en route to Saudi Arabia that were suspected of belonging to an Egyptian businessman who has fled the country. Artifacts were found inside.

I'm afraid that that's all the article says. There is a photograph, different from the Ahram Online one, but it is impossible to make out details.

Recreating the sound of Tutankhamun's trumpets

BBC News (Christine Finn)

Tutankhamun's trumpet was one of the rare artefacts stolen from the Cairo Museum during the recent uprising. The 3,000-year-old instrument is rarely played, but a 1939 BBC radio recording captured its haunting sound.

Among the "wonderful things" Howard Carter described as he peered by candlelight into the newly discovered tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 were two trumpets, one silver and one bronze.

For more than 3,000 years they had lain, muted, in the Valley of the Kings, close to the mummy of the boy king. Found in different parts of Tutankhamun's tomb, both were decorated with depictions of Egyptian gods identified with military campaigns.

Both became exhibits at the Cairo museum, but when it was broken into during the recent uprising, the bronze instrument vanished. Luckily, the silver one was away on exhibition tour. . . .

The trumpet was recently found - reportedly with other Tutankhamun artefacts in a bag on the Cairo Metro.

Due to the fragile nature of the trumpets, their sound has only been recreated on a few occasions.

Early radio broadcasters saw the potential for an extraordinary recording, and in 1939 the Egyptian Antiquities Service was persuaded to take part in a BBC broadcast to the world from the Cairo Museum. (Joshua Rothman).

If it is true that the trumpet was played in January of this year, it begs the question why such an ancient, unique and fragile item was allowed to be handled in such a way.

When British Egyptologist Howard Carter first opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, he found two trumpets—the world’s two oldest intact musical instruments, silent for nearly 3,000 years. No one knows how well-used they were during King Tut’s reign, but they’ve had a very unquiet last century, and the BBC’s superb “Ghost Music” radio show tells their incredible story.

In modern times, the story starts on April 16, 1939, when, after three mute millennia, the trumpets were finally sounded by James Tappern, a British bandsman, during a BBC radio broadcast from the Cairo Museum (Tappern improvised a majestic-sounding tune). The broadcast was heard by millions around the world. The trumpets, which are decorated with martial symbols, are said to be able to loose the dogs of war: England entered the Second World War on Sept. 3, 1939, only a few months after the BBC broadcast. And according to the Cairo Museum’s Tutankhamun curator, one of the trumpets was blown by a member of the staff a week before the Egyptian revolution began.

Statement of Dr Maarten Raven (Field Director, Leiden mission to Saqqara)

We are pleased to hear that the situation in Egypt is becoming more or less normal again. Several excavations have already resumed their activities in the field, others (mainly in the south of the country) have never stopped working. In Saqqara, however, an assessment of the damage inflicted on the monuments during the troubles is still taking place. Objects from isolated magazines (such as those in Abusir) are being moved to the central storage facilities for better protection. So far, our colleagues of the Czech mission in Abusir are the first to be back in the field, but the conditions for work are still complicated.

Therefore, and because our team members are not easily available due to other obligations, we have decided to postpone further fieldwork until the winter of 2012, when we hope to have an ordinary season in the field. Soon we shall try to carry out a final inspection of our site to assess the minor damage incurred (mainly some modern wooden doors which have been kicked in). During the months January and February, we hope to carry out the projects originally planned for 2011, such as the exploration of the shaft of the anonymous tomb found in 2010 and a survey of the area situated to the south of the tomb of Meryneith. If the team of the Dutch-Flemish Institute will be free to join us again, further work will be undertaken to locate the proper entrance to the Archaic galleries located under the tomb of Meryneith.

In the meantime, great progress has been made with the preparations of our field reports. We expect to see the final publication of the tomb of Horemheb any day now (The Memphite Tomb of Horemheb V). Almost the whole text of The Tomb of Meryneith at Saqqara has now been edited and the illustrations have been ordered. The preliminary report on the season 2010 is in print.

The Pyramidales Interview with Jean-Pierre Houdin, Part One

Em Hotep (Shemsu Sesen)

Just hours before the premier of Kheops Renaissance (also called Khufu Reborn), Jean-Pierre Houdin granted an exclusive interview to fellow Egyptology blogger Marc Chartier, proprietor of the website Pyramidales. Timed for release immediately following the event, Marc’s interview is a perfect introduction to Episode Two and the Project Khufu material that will be forthcoming from both Pyramidales and Em Hotep.

Previously available only in French, this is the first official English language translation, made available through our partnership with Pyramidales and Dassault Systèmes. Over the next few weeks I will be publishing, in addition to Part Two of this interview, translations of additional material that is being very kindly provided by Marc, Jean-Pierre, and the Project Khufu team at Dassault Systèmes.

The unread masterpiece of Evliya Çelebi

Saudi Aramco World

A slightly tenuous link with Egypt, but Evliya Çelebi did visit Cairo on his travels, and this is mentioned in the article. I'm including it mainly, however, because it is a very good read!

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the birth of the world’s least-known great traveler, a man who visited the ends of the earth for the sheer pleasure of doing so. For Evliya Çelebi, court favorite of the Ottoman sultan and a native son of his beloved Istanbul, the ends of the earth were the western, eastern, southern and northern boundaries of the Ottoman Empire, and at the time of his death, probably in the year 1683, it can be said that he even surpassed those limits, having visited—if he can be taken at his word, which was not always reliable—Amsterdam, Persia, Ethiopia and Russia.

Evliya’s written legacy is the Seyahatname, or Book of Travels, comprising 10 volumes and thousands of pages composed in the highly recondite language of Ottoman Turkish. To date, only parts of it have been translated into English, by Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim, from whose book the quotations in this article are taken. As the translators note, their job was not easy, for Evliya’s language is prolix, exuberant and playful, full of allusions to the Qur’an, folk proverbs in Arabic and Turkish, and classics such as Firdawsi’s Shahnama and Sa'di’s Gulistan.

And, as things often went in the Ottoman Empire, it was due to the good offices of an unusual palace insider—in this case, Hajı Beşir Ağa, the Chief Black Eunuch—that Evliya’s manuscript was plucked from obscurity in a Cairo library decades after his death and brought to Istanbul in 1742, where it was copied and widely read.

In the words of Dankoff, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and a lifelong student of Evliya’s work, it is “the longest and fullest travel account in Islamic literature, perhaps in world literature.” Yet it is also both less and more than this. Dankoff has compared the Seyahatname to a mine that can be dug into deeply here and there, but is rarely tunneled through from end to end. For Evliya, he wrote, “travel was not a diversion but rather an obsession. He had to see everything, and he had to record everything he saw.”

Online Resource: The Egyptian Journal of Remote Sensing and Space Sciences


Thanks to AWOL for posting this on the above page.

Egyptian Journal of Remote Sensing and Space Sciences is a peer reviewed journal under the responsibility of the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS). It aims at publishing quality research scientific articles that will cover all aspects of remote sensing and its applications in different subject areas such as: geology, mineral exploration, hydrogeology, geomorphology, planetary geology, soil sciences, agriculture, space archeology, surveying, urban planning, environment, engineering geology, image and signal processing, coastal research and space sciences.

Photo for Today - more from Jeme / Medinet Habu

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reward for the return of looted artefacts

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

Egyptian antiquities ministry offers LE 500 - 50 thousand ($86 - $8500) for the return of missing artefacts or information that leads to their whereabouts

The ministry of state for antiquities affairs (MSAA) offers a reward to any Egyptian citizen for the return or information that leads to the discovery of any of the artefacts that were stolen in the break-ins at the Egyptian museum and other archaeological sites during the chaos of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution.

Zahi Hawass minister of state of the MSAA, said that the cash compensation will range from between LE 500 to 50 thousand ($86 - $8500).

55 objects seized in El Wadi El Gedid, but are they genuine?

Luxor Times

With photo. A committee is being sent to inspect the seized items and ensure that they are genuine.

55 antiquity objects of various sizes including 2 sarcophagi dated back to different eras were seized by a police force on a raid on a known criminal’s residence in El Wadi El Gadid. The raid on Mohamed A.A. – 37 years old, residence resulted finding the mentioned antiquities plus police uniforms which led to believe they were stolen during the recent turmoil.

Hawass meeting with the Grand Museum team (Zahi Hawass)

With 2 photos.

Today I had a meeting with Mr. Stephen Greenberg, the President of Metaphor, which is the company that is helping to plan and design the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM).

Stephen and I had a very successful meeting, he showed me models that his team has created for some of the galleries in the Museum, which show how the tourists will move through them, as well as how the displays will look and what colors they have chosen that will show the objects best. He explained their plan for the galleries to me, and how they have designed them to have enough space for many people to view the objects without causing crowding. They will also make benches and places for people to sit, so they can rest and appreciate the incredible objects.

Recent online updates from the Griffith Institute

The Griffith Institute

Thanks to Ancient World Online and Chuck Jones for the above link.

The Griffith Institute has updated its site and the above pages give details of new additions. If you're anywhere near Oxford, UK, you may be interested to know that there is a display of twenty selected photographs by Harry Burton in Art (formerly Green's) Cafe, 14 Bonn Square, Oxford.

EES Delta Survey comes to a close

EES Delta Survey

I've enjoyed following the EES Delta Survey and am sad to see them go.

Our first season at Daba has gone very well. We were able to survey the whole site and now have a much better understanding of its archaeological remains and the development of the tell’s current appearance. Next year, we hope to return and undertake targeted excavations to try to establish the dates of the brick walls and house plans that we have noted and started to investigate this year.

Egypt tourism remains in disarray

Al Masry Al Youm

From the Pyramids of Giza to the Red Sea resorts, tourist numbers have plummeted to just a trickle, dealing a devastating blow to the millions of Egyptians whose livelihoods depend on the 14 million or so visitors who once thronged to the country.

At the height of the 18-day uprising that ousted president Hosni Mubarak, embassies issued travel warnings and many tour groups canceled their trips, throwing an industry that is a major source of foreign currency into crisis.

Two months later, the chaos has largely subsided, the police who deserted their posts during protests are mostly back on the job and the travel warnings have been eased.

But the tourists have yet to return, and Egypt's tourism minister has forecast the industry's 2011 revenue will be 25 percent lower than the previous year.

From Egyptian Museum to 'torture chamber'

Al Masry Al Youm (Ali Abdel Mohsen)

This is an article about allegations that the military used the museum for interrogating and possibly torturing people they arrested in Tahrir Square during the revolution but there are also sections discussing the status of the museum in the eyes of Egyptians following these alleged events. There is also an interesting mention of multiple break-ins by looters, one/some after February 11th. Here's an excerpt:

Despite the testimonies of Sobhy and others, many refuse to believe that the armed forces are perpetuating the human rights abuses of the previous regime by imprisoning, torturing and humiliating protesters within the walls of the nation’s most prominent cultural landmark. But regardless of the extent of brutality allegedly taking place on its grounds, there is little doubt that the role of the Egyptian Museum has significantly shifted during the revolution, in a way that mirrors the complicated and at times contradictory nature of the current Egyptian situation.

“The museum is clearly very valuable, and precious, to the Egyptian people,” said Fayza Haikal, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo. This value, though, is double-edged. Immediately following the withdrawal of police forces, the museum was seen as a jackpot for looters, whose pilfering was largely prevented by a brigade of volunteer civilians forming a human shield around the building.

“The museum was looted more than once, especially after 28 January and 11 February. Luckily, most of what was stolen was retrieved, and all that remains missing is a few smaller artifacts," Haikal said.

“The fact that civilians took it upon themselves to defend the museum from looters is an indication of how valuable it is to Egyptians. Both in terms of our historic wealth, and as a cultural icon."

Haikal seems to be among a minority who do not think the museum’s status as a “symbol of the Egyptian people” will suffer in the face of allegations that the institution is currently doubling as a “torture camp.”

Photo for Today - More from Jeme / Medinet Habu

Remains of Coptic Jeme, Medinet Habu

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lahun excavation is shut down

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

Hopefully further information will emerge to clarify the situation.

Excavations at the Lahoun archaeological site in Fayoum have been halted due to negligence of the excavators

The Permanent Committee of Egyptian Antiquities decided today to stop all excavation works being carried out by the Egyptian mission at Lahoun archaeological site in Fayoum.

The committee has also approved the decision taken by the archaeological mission which was sent in early March to inspect excavation works being carried out in Lahoun and the artefacts discovered there.

The archaeological mission was sent at the request of Zahi Hawass, who was then minister of state for antiquities affairs, and found that the site was subject to deterioration.

Ancient Coptic graffiti adorns walls of 3,200 year-old Egyptian temple

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

A new research project led by Professor Jennifer Westerfeld, of the University of Louisville, is taking a look at a unique set of graffiti scribbled onto the walls of a 3,200 year old Egyptian temple.

The temple was built at Abydos by Seti I, a powerful pharaoh who pushed the borders of the Egyptian empire as far as modern day Syria. It contains two courtyards, two hypostyle halls, chapels and an enigmatic structure known as the “Osireion,” which may commemorate the Egyptian story of creation.

Today this complex is covered in a large amount of graffiti dating from ancient times up until the medieval period. Westerfeld believes that a community of nuns contributed to this defacement, writing on its walls around 1,500 years ago.

New site openings (Zahi Hawass)

According to Hawass the following sites are to open soon. There are some notes about some of the sites on the above page.

  • The Hanging Church (Coptic), Cairo
  • Suez Museum
  • Crocodile Museum, Kom Ombo
  • Visitor Centre, Amarna (Thanks to Claudia Ali for the correction)
  • Zaghloul Mosque, Cairo
  • Six Islamic-era houses, Rashid
  • Salaheddin Citadel, Taba
  • Qalawoun complexes in Al-Muizz Street, Cairo
  • The mosque of Prince Soliman, known as the Hanging Mosque, Cairo
  • The restored Serapeum, Saqqara
  • New Kingdom cemetery (including tombs of Maya and Horemheb), Saqqara
  • The restored Temple of Hibis, Kharga Oasis

Hawass faces criticisms about his job, ties to Mubarak

Washington Post (Philip Kennicott)

After two months of revolution and recrimination, which has seen him in and out of power, he is madly multitasking: Struggling to preserve ancient sites from theft and the encroachment of illegal construction, while working just as frantically to preserve his power base in a wildly shifting political landscape.

“I am not from the old regime,” Hawass says.

On March 3, with angry young archaeologists calling for his head, Hawass resigned from the top ministerial position given to him by now-deposed president Hosni Mubarak. That job not only made him powerful in Egypt, it also gave him sway over the careers of international archaeologists who work in this land of pyramids, temples, churches and mosques. But 27 days later, Hawass was put back in charge, because, he argues, no one else can do the job.

His position is far from secure. On Sunday, a criminal court convicted him for ignoring an earlier civil judgment brought against his ministry in a case involving concession contracts at the Egyptian Museum. It is likely only the first step in a protracted legal battle, and the sentence — a year in jail, loss of his post and a fine — hasn’t been enforced.

The ugly web of controversy in which he is embroiled, however, goes well beyond this latest contretemps, which Hawass describes as no more than a misunderstanding.

Hawass and the avoided prison sentence

Hawass has been figuring very prominently in the headlines at the moment, partly because of the clothing line he gave his name to (see post below) but mainly because of the prison sentence which he has now apparently escaped. A law suit had been brought against him for failure to comply with a court ruling regarding the gift shop in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The judgment and sentence were fought in a court of appeal and the the original court's ruling was overturned.

Articles and posts about avoiding the prison sentence:

Al Ahram Weekly
(summary from the point of view of the Ministry of Antiquities, but before the results of the appeal had been announced)
Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown's summary of the reasons for the original judgement, looking at the evidence) (a statement by Zahi Hawass on the reprieve)
CNN (an overview of the reasons for the lawsuit and the arguments made at the appeal)
Africa Online (short summary)

Hawass and the designer clothing line

Hawass again found himself under fire in the headlines, this time for selling his name to a clothes designer who launched a clothing line named after him, currently for sale in Harrods. Part of the furor was that seemed as though they had used the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to promote the new line, but Hawass and the team who took the photographs say that the photo shoot actually took place in the U.S. when the Tutankhamun exhibition was touring and that any of the objects handled or sat upon were replicas. The photographic team also confirms that a photograph of a model with a foot on an item was achieved with photo manipulation. He is quoted saying that all his income from the line will go to a children's cancer hospital in Cairo.

Al Ahram Weekly (a summary of the case for the defense)
New York Times (a good summary of the furor and a description of the line, together with one of photographs used to promote it)
Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues (Paul Barford wonders if the world has gone mad, over-reacting to the Hawass-branded clothing line)

Egypt’s antiquities ministry releases first official replicas

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

A state monopoly on 1:1 reproductions?

The new Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA) production unit has just fabricated its first batch of replicas. The batch includes 130 replica statues depicting the unique collection of King Tutankhamun. The replicas are to be produced for tourists and hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh, which bought them from the MSAA for LE2.3million to be paid within 18 months.

Zahi Hawass, minister of state of the MSAA, stated that the newly created production unit is an implementation of the new antiquities law and its amendments, such as article number 36 of the law, which establishes the intellectual property rights and trade mark of the MSAA production of replicas. According to the law, the MSAA is the only foundation with permission to produce exact replicas on a 1:1 scale.

Ewart Hall antiquities, Cairo

Caravan, AUC

Six unnamed suspects have been charged with the theft of 145 artifacts and 50 replicas allegedly stolen from a hidden storage area under Ewart Hall, Old Campus. An investigation has been launched by the Prosecutor’s Office after the AUC administration reported the case to the authorities in March.

Meanwhile, the administration has established its own Investigation Committee to look into the matter, according to a member of the Committee and AUC’s Legal Advisor, Karim Abdel Latif.

“We don’t know if more convicts will turn up [due to the investigation],” he said, adding that not all six defendants, who have been taken into custody, are AUC employees.

Last Tuesday, the administration sent out a press release verifying reports of “what appears to be the theft of antiquities,” yet refrained from any mention of the arrests.

Caravan, AUC

The Caravan’s investigation into the recent theft of antiquities has revealed that in a period spanning several decades AUC faculty and officials collected more than 1,600 artifacts described by Egyptology experts to be ‘of no great significance’ in value.

Ironically, the theft of some of these items brought to light the previously unknown cache stored beneath Ewart Hall.

Renowned Egyptologist and professor emeri­tus Kent R. Weeks told The Caravan that “the ob­jects in Ewart Hall were acquired by then-President Richard Pederson, who for some reason thought it would be nice to have a teaching collection of an­tiquities on campus.”

Weeks said that all the objects were legally ac­quired by the university and registered at the Su­preme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Egypt court jails officials over Van Gogh theft

Los Angeles Times

An Egyptian court Thursday jailed five officials, including a former head of the state's fine arts department, over the theft of a Van Gogh painting worth an estimated $55 million, state media said.

"Vase with Viscaria" was stolen in August from Cairo's Mahmoud Khalil museum, home to one of the Middle East's finest collections of 19th and 20th-century art.

The state MENA news agency and court officials said the five had been found guilty of "causing the theft of the painting," without giving further details.

A very ancient Egyptian Easter: Sham El-Nasim

Ahram Online

Monday 25 April marks Sham El-Nasim, in the same breath as Easter. The rituals and beliefs associated with today’s Sham El-Nasim celebrations link it directly to ancient Egyptian feasts.

Celebrated since 2700 BC by all Egyptians regardless of their religion, beliefs, and social status, the name Sham El-Nasim (Inhaling the breeze) is derived from the Coptic language that, in turn, is derived from the ancient Egyptian language. Originally pronounced Tshom Ni Sime, with tshom meaning “gardens” and ni sime meaning “meadows.”

Like most ancient Egyptian feasts, Sham El-Nasim was also affiliated with astronomy and nature. It marks the beginning of the spring festival, which is the time they believed day and night are equal, (when the sun is in the Aries zodiac) hence marking the beginning of creation. They confirm the exact date annually by sighting the sun in relation to the great pyramid. Ancient Egyptians named it The Feast of Shmo (the revival of life) and have officially celebrated it since 2700BC.

Book Review: The Last Pharaohs

Scholia Reviews (Review by John Atkinson)

As usual the page will not display in Firefox but is fine in most other browsers.

Scholia Reviews ns 20 (2011) 8.

J. G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs: Egypt under the Ptolemies, 305-30 BC. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Manning, with numerous previous publications in the field of Ptolemaic studies to his credit, here plunges straight into the issues which he proposes to address, and dispenses with the customary historical survey of the Ptolemaic period. His brief historical introduction is entitled 'Egypt in the First Millennium BC’ (pp. 19-28), and picks up the story from the end of the New Kingdom, giving more space to Persian rule than to the period of Alexander and Ptolemy. This is appropriate as he identifies with the trend in scholarship over the last three decades to lay greater stress on Egyptian culture in the Ptolemaic era, and on Persian administrative practices (p. 2).

Photo for Today - Medinet Habu

Apologies for the late post, nearly a week after my previous one. I've been running around like a headless chicken for the last few days, partly with the launch of Egyptological and partly with making preparations for coming up to Wales for a couple of weeks and meeting up with old friends over the last two days before going off somewhere else in Wales tomorrow. It has been somewhat chaotic to say the least! Things have calmed down a lot now.

A very happy Easter to all who celebrate it.

You may find the posts somewhat Hawass-laden due to the twin controversies of the court case and the clothing line, but this was unavoidable.

To complement Owen's story about Coptic graffiti I have
chosen a photograph of the some of remains of the Coptic town of Jeme today.
Jeme was built into the remains of Medinet Habu,
and fragments of it remain in mudbrick, surrounding
the temple precinct.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blog update

You will find today's news posts underneath the announcement about the launch of Egyptological, which was originally posted yesterday lunchtime (and which I wanted to keep near the top for obvious reasons!).

Egyptological launches

After several months of development Kate Phizackerley and I are very pleased to announce that we are ready to invite writers and photographers to contribute to the first issue of our free online magazine, Egytpological. There is some sample content published already, so do give it a look.

In order to appeal to a wide audience Egyptological is divided into three main sections - Journal, Magazine and Colloquy - representing academic and more popular interests. As well as articles we will publish book, conference, exhibitions and DVD reviews. Have a look at the sample articles in some of the sections to give you an idea about what sort of material we hope to attract.

We are aiming to publish issues every two to three months in the Journal and Magazine sections, but we will add brief pieces and short reviews to Colloquy as they become ready.

If you represent an Egyptology society have a look at our Events calendar and let us know if you would like us to add upcoming activities, study days or lectures. Our Photo Album section is aimed at readers who would like to share their photographs with readers for an issue.

Finally we have two projects under construction, both of which are part of the Egyptological family of websites – Hieropaedia and Egyptopaedia. Hieropaedia is currently available for use and will be developed further. It includes hieroglyph plug-ins for WordPress which will be essential if you want to use hieroglyphs on Egyptological, but can be used anywhere on WordPress and will eventually become available for other platforms. We are developing Hieropaedia as a portal for anyone learning and using hieroglyphs. Egyptopaedia will be our Encyclopaedia of Egyptology. Read more about it on the Egyptopaedia page on our website.

If you are either an experienced writer or just starting out, and would like to contribute to Egyptological we would be interested to hear from you. If you have already talked to us about contributing we will be in touch with you individually. To find out more about contributing, see our detailed guidelines in the Write For Us and Contribute Photos sections on the site.

We are looking for volunteers to help us run Egyptological and Egyptopaedia and to assist with editing and translations. If you have an interest in Egyptological and have a little time have a look at our Volunteers Wanted page.

If you want to keep an eye on our progress you can follow us on Twitter or subscribe to RSS via our Follow or Subscribe page.

To see more about Egyptological see our About section. To find out more about Andrea Byrnes and Kate Phizackerley see our Founders section.

Egypt's Antiquities Caught in the Revolution

The Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2011, pp. 73-78 (Alexander H. Joffe)

The initial spasm of images from the Cairo Museum shocked observers. As tens of thousands of demonstrators confronted the security forces in what quickly evolved into the first popular revolution in Egypt's history, the museum was ransacked in a scene reminiscent of the looted tombs of ancient Egyptian kings. A statue of Tutankhamun astride a panther was ripped from its base but then cast to the floor when thieves discovered it was gilded and not solid gold. A boat model from a tomb was smashed, the figures huddled in the boathouse pulverized but the navigator at the bow still pointing sadly forward. Two mummies were beheaded, mouths agape; it was rumored that they were Tut's grandparents.

At the Cairo Museum, a statue of Tutankhamun astride a panther was ripped from its base but then cast to the floor when thieves discovered it was gilded and not solid gold.

The extent of the chaos was unknown but ominous. Egypt's antiquities were suddenly caught up in a revolution. But those antiquities have always been both a tool to create Egypt and Egyptians in the present as well as a telling map of Egyptian society.
Conflicting Narratives

A second narrative quickly appeared. In this one, the police, military, and most importantly "everyday Egyptians," joined together to protect museums and sites. Farid Saad, a 40-year-old engineer, was quoted as saying, "I'm standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure."[1] The nation was united in protection of its past.

More work by the EES Delta Survey

EES Delta Survey

With photos.

Thursday again and the last working day of the week. We’ve continued investigating some of the high mud-brick walls, though some of the chunks of what look like mud-brick are deceptive. In some cases what has survived is a wall with fill beside it which contains some fallen or displaced bricks, but isn’t actually part of an articulated wall itself. It is just what was left when people stopped work, digging away the mud bricks to use as fertiliser on the fields.

Although the site has many low mounds which (on the surface at least) appear to contain mainly burned bricks, there are no extant red brick walls standing on the site, though there are a few chunks of burned brickwork on the surface.

New research shows 3,500 year old tomb contained infants who suffered from disease, Valley of the Kings

Unreported Heritage News (Owen Jarus)

It certainly wasn’t a tomb for a pharaoh.

New research presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) shows that a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV 44, contained the remains of infants who were suffering from disease. The skeletons of adult women were also found but no men.

The tomb was first discovered in 1901 by Howard Carter who found it to be looted and containing “rubbish.” Its design is remarkably simple, consisting of a shaft entryway and chamber with no apparent decoration on the walls.

It was constructed at some point during Egypt’s New Kingdom period (3,500 to 3,100 years ago), a time of great prosperity that saw the valley become populated with the tombs of pharaohs. During the 22nd dynasty (around 2,900 years ago) it was re-used, housing a woman named Tentkerer.

In the 1990’s a team led by Professor Donald Ryan, of Pacific Lutheran University, excavated the tomb and found skeletal remains. Recently another team led by Dr. Jerome Cybulski, of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, examined the skeletons and made some surprising finds.

Returned Shabti Wrongly Identified

Talking Pyramids (Vincent Brown)

The four stolen museum pieces that were recently recovered have already caused quite a stir in the couple of days since their mysterious return. News reports have mocked the official story which stated that they were “accidentally” found in an unidentified black bag at the subway by an employee of the Ministry of State of Antiquities Affairs (MSAA). Bloggers and Egyptologists have also been scratching their heads over this astounding account of recovering these four items.

British archaeologist Paul Barford took issue at the report’s claim that the shabti was returned “undamaged” when there is clearly a long crack down it’s front. Paul noticed this crack is not apparent in images of the shabti taken prior to it’s theft and seems to has appeared since then.

Egyptians continue protecting their ancient heritage

The Art of Counting

There is no doubt that many Egyptian sites have suffered terribly in the last months, and there is really no way of knowing what we have actually lost. Information unrecorded and objects not photographed are truly lost when destroyed. However, it seems that control is being regained. Dr. Hawass has already petitioned the Egyptian authorities to remove all illegal constructions that have been erected during this unsettled time, foreign archaeological expeditions have returned (such as those at Saqqara and Abusir) to assess their sites or never stopped working in the first place, and tourists are again visiting Egypt’s museums and monuments. More data will continue to emerge from archaeological expeditions and antiquities authorities; much of it will surely be devastating to hear, but it is a relief to have verified information after weeks of rumors. No matter what, we must be grateful for what has survived the millennia and all the events that separate their context from ours.

Egypt’s Chief Archaeologist Defends His Rights (and Wrongs)

Biblical Archaeological Review (Hershel Shanks)

On Sunday, January 16, I interviewed Zahi Hawass in his office in Zamalek, the elegant Cairene island in the Nile and home of the Gezira Sports Club, from which Hawass commanded an army of 32,000 employees as secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. The following Thursday, I left Egypt. And five days later the mass protests erupted that would topple the government of Hosni Mubarak. As part of an effort to save his thoroughly despised regime, Mubarak appointed Hawass Minister for Antiquities. One blogger described Hawass’s appointment this way: “Zahi Hawass, the bombastic, clownish pseudo-archaeologist who has tyrannized, bullied, and manipulated Egyptologists and Egyptian Villagers alike for years now, today officially accepted President Hosni Mubarak’s appointment as Minister of State for Antiquities.” On March 3, Hawass resigned but was reappointed in March (see sidebar).

But my interview with Hawass was before all this. True, Hawass was widely vilified—but also widely admired. The New Yorker called him the “international star of Egyptology … at the intersection of archaeology, show business and national politics.”

The New York Times, on the other hand, had characterized him as “obnoxious.” He threw “tantrums,” the Times said, at his subordinates. I was also aware, as the Times put it in another article, “He has been taken to task for his critical statements about Jews.”

I found him confident, overbearing, domineering, brash and loud. But he was also sometimes reasonable and often even charming.

Rumors About a Tunnel Between the Cairo Museum and AUC (Zahi Hawass)

Over the last few months I have heard many rumors that no one ever mentioned before. Lately I have heard a story that there is a tunnel that runs from the Cairo Museum to the campus of the American University in Cairo in Tahrir Square. People are saying that this imaginary tunnel is used to take antiquities from the Museum to the University to be stored at the University. I used to laugh when I heard this rumor, because it is not true and I do not know where people come up with these stories.

I think I have found a possible basis for where this story came from.

Video: Nicholas Reeves - Behind the Mask of Tutankhamun

You Tube

See the video on the above page. Here's the caption:

Nicholas Reeves, Sylvan C. Coleman and Pamela Coleman Memorial Fellow, Department of Egyptian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The magnificent gold headpiece from Tutankhamun's tomb is the best-known Egyptian artwork in the world today. Hear Nicholas Reeves discuss recent scholarship on this exquisite mask, as he reveals the astonishing secret of this object's original intent.

Online Resource: Baked Clay Figurines and Votive Beds from Medinet Habu

The Oriental Institute

Baked Clay Figurines and Votive Beds from Medinet Habu
Emily Teeter

This catalog presents the entire corpus of 272 baked clay figurines and votive beds excavated at Medinet Habu in Western Thebes by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago during its 1926-1933 campaign. The figurines represent women, women with children, men, deities, and animals. They date from the sixteenth century B.C. to the ninth century A.D., illustrating permanence and change in themes of clay figurines as well as stylistic development within each type. The group of votive beds and the small stelae made from votive bed molds are among the largest and most diverse collections of such material. Each object is fully described and illustrated and is accompanied by commentary on construction, symbolism, and function.

Hawass meets employees

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

During his meeting today with representatives of the employees of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA), Zahi Hawass as minister discussed the current issues facing the organisation. The meeting discussed how to improve the ministry, to raise salaries, and secure better health insurance and other benefits.

“We are also planning to enforce stricter rules concerning bonuses, which will be granted only to hard workers,” Hawass told employees, adding that the ministry will also equalise its pay scale, so each position earns a fair salary according to effort. A finance committee has also been created to investigate how to raise salaries.

Hawass announced during the meeting that the ministry will give scholarships to employees based on qualifications, also taking into consideration those with special needs or health issues.

Photos of scans looking for mummy disease

National Geographic


An unidentified Egyptian mummy dated back to between 688 and 332 B.C. slides into a CT scanner as part of a recent study of ancient disease.

The mummy was among 52 from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo subjected to medical scanning by a joint U.S.-Egyptian team. The tests revealed that almost half of the dead have clogged arteries associated with a condition called atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

One of the mummies, a princess who died about 3,500 years ago, is now the oldest known case of the arterial disease, the researchers say.

"If the princess was in a time machine and I was to see her now, I would tell her to lay off the fat, take plenty of exercise, then schedule her for heart surgery," said study co-leader Gregory Thomas, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Irvine. "She would require a double bypass."

Egyptology News goes audio!

You can now listen to Egyptology News. I am very interested in making online content available for the visually impaired so I have added an Odiogo feed to Egyptology News. Thanks to Kate Phizackerley for pointing me at Odiogo.

Just click on the "Listen Now" icon at the head of each post to listen to it.

The voice used is male and American whereas I am female and English, but that scarcely seems to matter! This seems like an excellent solution and I hope that people find it useful. The only serious downside is that I only post experts from articles so if you want to gain access to the entire article you will still need to click the link to go to the source, which is very unlikely to have an audio option. Still, rather better than nothing!

So far Odiogo seems to be doing a great job of dealing with Egyptian and other difficult names. I was worried about how it would handle block quotes but it picks them up, announcing opening and closing quotes to let you know which material is quoted and which isn't. For anyone planning to use the audio alternative instead of reading the text it will be helpful to have a good grasp of how I format the content on the blog in order to listen out for the title, the source website, any comments and the block quote etc.

I hope that we will be able to add something for Egyptological eventually.

If you try it, or pass it on to someone visually impaired to try, please can you let me know how you or they get on with it? I would be most grateful for any feedback. andie [at] oddthing . co. uk.

Aerial view of the pyramids of Abusir

A wonderful photo of the pyramids of Absuir from the SCA Archives, on the above page.

Video re recovery of the four items found in subway

The Telegraph, UK

This video and various photographs show officials handling objects without protective object-handling gloves. On the video there is not a glove in sight when handling the gold Tutankhamun statuette.

Disappearing desert at the Sinai borders

Discovery News (Emily Sohn)

This focuses on the environment but the area is also rich in prehistoric archaeology.

On the Egyptian side of the Israel border near the Gaza Strip, armed soldiers pace along barbed wire fences, which stand three layers thick in some places, while Israeli soldiers look out from their own towers on the other side.

The goal of this high-security border is to keep out intruders. But the barriers have begun an unintentional experiment on the ability of ancient deserts to survive tough political times. And so far, things are not looking good for the desert and its creatures.

Thanks to an arbitrary line drawn in the sand, Israel's dunes are starting to crust over with green algae that make the sand hard and crunchy. Egypt's dunes, on the other hand, remain soft, yellow and rippled -- mainly because nomadic Bedouins are still allowed to graze their sheep and goats there.

The contrast is so stark that, in satellite images, the sharp yellow-green line is the most visible border in the world from above, said Yaron Ziv, a landscape ecologist at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Photo for Today - Sekhmet at Medinet Habu

Sekhmet, positioned opposite yesterday's statue
Fractionally less battered Kat? :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Four items returned to the Egyptian Museum

Luxor Times

With photos showing the state of the objects on their return.

Four objects missing from the Egyptian Museum since the January Revolution have been returned, announced Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities.

The objects returned include the gilded wooden statue of Tutankhamun standing in a boat throwing a harpoon (JE 60710.1). The statue suffered slight damage; a small part of the crown is missing as well as pieces of the legs. The boat is still in the Museum, and the figure of the king will be reunited with it and restored.

SCA Press Release

Four objects missing from the Egyptian Museum since the January Revolution have been returned, announced Dr. Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities.

The objects returned include the gilded wooden statue ofTutankhamun standing in a boat throwing a harpoon (JE 60710.1). The statue suffered slight damage; a small part of the crown is
missing as well as pieces of the legs. The boat is still in the Museum, and the figure of the king will be reunited with it and restored.

The second returned object is one of the 10 missing shabtis of Yuya and Tjuya (JE 68984). It is still in very good condition; it does not require restoration and will be placed on display again immediately, stated Dr. Tarek El-Awady, Director of the Egyptian Museum.

The third object is the gilded bronze and wooden trumpet of Tutankhamun (JE 62008). It was also received in excellent condition and will be put on display immediately. Also returned was a part of Tutankhamun’s fan. One face is in good condition while the other has been broken into 11 pieces. Part of the royal fan JE 62006 still missing.

Ahram Online
(Nevine El-Aref)

Salah Abdel Salam, a public relation personal at the MSAA, came upon these objects during his daily trip to work on the Metro. He related that he accidently found an unidentified black bag placed on a chair in the Shubra Metro station. Doubtful that the bag was concealing an explosive, Salah opened it and found the Tutankhamun statue gazing up at him. He took the bag and handed it over to the MSAA.

Hawass told reporters that he is calling on all Egyptians to return any objects that they have found. He emphasised that the MSAA will not file any law suit against them but instead will compensate them.

“If anyone is afraid of handing over such objects they can put it at the MSAA entrance gate or the Egyptian Museum’s door and we will take care of them,” announced Hawass.

Military arrests 6 men for illegally excavating artifacts

Al Masry Al Youm

Armed Forces personnel arrested two students and four workers on Sunday for excavating artifacts west of Cairo in 6th of October City, according to security sources.

Preliminary investigations showed the suspects formed a group for excavating monuments during a lack of security presence in the country.

On Sunday morning, the suspects went to an ancient cemetary in a village called Beni Suef, part of 6th of October City, where soldiers noticed them digging. They were immediately arrested and referred to prosecutors, who sent them to jail while investigations are carried out.

The tomb of Senemiah (TT127) now on OsirisNet


Happy Birthday to OsirisNet, which has now been going for 10 years, from April 2001 to April 2011. To celebrate the event, they have updated OsirisNet with an unpublished tomb, that of

The tomb TT127 is, at first sight, only a little inviting, blackened by human occupation. However, it includes decoration in relief of a remarkable level. Created by Senemiah, at the time of Hatshepsut-Thutmosis III, it would be reused (but non usurped) during the Ramesside period by Piay and Pairy, who completed and added decor without altering what had already been produced.

Even though the photographic coverage is far from being complete, this tomb is a good example of the help which OsirisNet can bring, even when nothing or nearly nothing exists for a monument. We do this in the hope, on the one hand, to provide an attractive visit, on the other hand to attract to it the attention of the professionals, and finally to modestly contribute to its preservation.

Roland Tefnin (in the publication "La peinture égyptienne, un monde de signes à préserver") estimated (in 1994), that about only 3% of the Theban tombs had made the object of true scientific publication, the others having to be content with old monographs or quotes, and that 1/3 were completely unpublished. It is very probable that these numbers have not changed much since that time, and it is obvious that the traditional system of publication of the tombs showed its limits, while the deterioration of the monuments, themselves, doesn't slow down.

The solution exists nevertheless, which is simple and less expensive: to photograph correctly all these monuments and to put the images (free) on the Internet, so that the scientists use them for study, and everyone can admire them.

Investigating a monumental wall

EES Delta Survey

We spent most of our time on site today investigating the large chunk of mud brickwork which first aroused our interest in the site when we visited it in 1990. It is shown in the photograph of Jeff with Sabri Abdel Aziz in the first update for this season, and has clearly articulated mud bricks on its eastern exposed side, though this is not the original face of the wall, but is within its original core.

New Book: Qasr Ibrim: The Textiles from the Cathedral Cemetery

Egypt Exploration Society

The Egypt Exploration Society’s new title, Qasr Ibrim: The Textiles from the Cathedral Cemetery by Elisabeth Grace Crowfoot is now available to order.

Elisabeth Grace Crowfoot is an expert on ancient textiles and in 1976 she was invited to join the Egyptian Exploration Society’s expedition to Qasr Ibrim, after having worked in Cambridge on textiles from the Ibrim seasons in the 1960’s. She worked with the expedition until 1984, analyzing, sorting, washing and cataloguing textiles as they were excavated, assisted in the field by Nettie Adams. Miss Crowfoot had completed this text before her death in 2005 and it has been edited for publication by Nettie Adams.

The dry height of the site of Qasr Ibrim above the Nile river has resulted in superb preservation of organic material. The textile collections from the excavations have already become one of the largest from any site in the middle Nile valley. They are unique as an unmatched sequence, dating from the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty to the Late Ottoman Period and ranging from the domestic remains of town life and tiny exotic imports of the site’s great years to the cast off garments and furnishings, pitifully mended and re-mended, from ages of disaster and decline.

Sad News - Lewis Binford

I was very sad to read on Tony Cagle's Archaeoblog that Lewis Binford has passed away. Not familiar name in Egyptology he was, however, a landmark in his own right in Anglo-American archaeology. His influence on how modern archaeology evolved was remarkable, partly due to the discussion and controversy he inspired. See Tony's blog for links to obituaries.

A shameless plug for the a Bloomsbury Study Day on the Hyksos (London, UK)

Bloomsbury are reinstating their annual study days. This year's will take place in London on Saturday May 14th: The Hyksos Legacy: Technology, Arts and Culture in the Age of the Chariot with Dr Stephen Harvey as the principal lecturer.

This study day will examine the legacy of the Hyksos and other foreign influences on Egypt in the developing empire of the New Kingdom. Once seen as mysterious invaders from the East, the Hyksos may now be regarded as important catalysts for technological and cultural change in Egypt. The Hyksos Period in Egypt represents about a century of foreign rule by settlers and occupiers from the Levant (ca. 1650-1525 BCE). Perhaps best known for their apparent introduction of the horse and chariot to Egypt, the Hyksos rulers seem to have been responsible for introducing a wide series of technological innovations, including glass making, metallurgical technologies, and the use of the compound bow, while the Canaanite religion of these people was in part adopted within the Egyptian pantheon. Following the defeat of the Hyksos, Egypt expanded the borders of her empire, and engaged in vigorous international diplomacy, warfare, trade and exchange of ideas, building on the innovations developed in response to Hyksos influence.

For further details:

Photo for Today - Sekhmet at Medinet Habu

Statue of Sekhment
Medinet Habu, West Bank, Luxor

Monday, April 11, 2011

Around 1000 items stolen during uprising

Google / AFP

Thieves stole around 1,000 relics from museums and archeological sites across Egypt since protests against the government broke out in January, Egypt's minister for antiquities Zahi Hawass said Sunday in a newspaper interview.

"We are investigating all the incidents to find the items. Up until now we have identified many culprits, criminals who were looking for gold or mummies and who lacked knowledge of the value of the items they stole," he told Spanish daily El Mundo.

"They were not organised, they lived near the archeological sites where the objects were kept. They would take advantage of the night to enter the archeological sites and pillage," he added.

"About 1,000 objects were stolen, none of them major items. There is an inventory of everything and it will be difficult for the items to leave the country."

Events at Giza (Zahi Hawass)

There is an area in the desert, about 2 or 3 kilometers away from the pyramids at Giza, which was used as a camp by soldiers during the 2nd World War, and they left behind the remains of ammunition and other things. When it rained heavily in Cairo last week, the rain began to wash away the sand and these remains began to appear on the surface. A group of people who are horse and camel drivers from the pyramids area found some of unused ammunition and brought it back to the Giza area.

We know that during the troubled times of the Revolution, some of these people who own horses and camels near the pyramids began to move into the Giza area, and they even began to use the ancient tombs as stables for their horses and camels! The police were not there to stop them, so they were able to do whatever they like. Three of them brought the ammunition they had found in the desert and near Giza it detonated and injured the three men.

New Egyptian era, new complaints section

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

A new department has been established at the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs (MSAA) to receive complaints against ministry employees.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities affairs, said that the administration will look into and review all complaints and suggestions to develop the MSAA. Archaeologist, Magdi El-Ghandour, director of the archaeological documentation centre, will lead these efforts.

Minufiyeh survey comes to a close

EES Minufiyeh Survey (Joanne Rowlands)

The season drew to a close on 7 April and, as always, the last few days of work were hectic, and included report writing, and packing up things in the flat in Shibin and returning everything to the storage facility. On 5 April, we spent the day with Ashraf Senussi, looking at the ceramics from this season and then making photographs of all of the diagnostic sherds that have been drawn. Ashraf chooses one of each type of vessel to describe in detail, analyse and draw and then he will list the number of other occurrences of the same type.

Of pyramids and protesters

Newsweek (Peter Der Manuelian)

“There’s the Great Pyramid. Since you are new here, please go over to the entrance and try to bribe the guard to let you spend the night in the King’s Chamber.” This was my first encounter as a student Egyptologist with Zahi Hawass, 34 years ago. He wanted to test the loyalty of the pyramid police (fortunately, they showed not the slightest interest in my “offer”). Even back then, as a young antiquities inspector at Giza, Hawass had a concern for protecting Egypt’s monuments, a concern that only grew in the past decade with his meteoric rise as the most famous (some would say infamous) face of Egyptian archeology. What a whirlwind these last few months have been, as he, like many of us, was caught off guard by the Egyptian revolution. Hawass’s status and that of the ancient sites and monuments have swayed somewhat precariously since January; both could be metaphors for the tumultuous and uncertain birth of a new and, it’s hoped, democratic era for all Egyptians. If the culture of despair, fear, and inequality can truly be lifted, then the world might witness the vast potential of the Egyptian people.

Tourists return to Egyptian Museum

Al Masry Al Youm

Four tourist groups visited the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square following its re-opening on Sunday morning. The Museum was secured from both the inside and out following the government's decision to re-open the museum to international and local tourism.

The Egyptian authorities had closed the Egyptian Museum on Saturday after bloody clashes erupted between the armed forces and demonstrators. The latter were staging a sit-in at the square to demand that deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak be brought to justice.

In a statement on Sunday, Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Zahi Hawass said the Egyptian Museum is completely secure.

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

Today the Egyptian museum in Tahrir re-opened its door for visitors after closing for a day after violence erupted in Tahrir Square and the military allegedly attacked protesters.

The media rumoured that the museum would close until further notice, however, Zahi Hawass, minister of state for antiquities affairs, confirmed that today at 9:00am five tourist groups from different nationalities visited the museum and toured freely around its halls.

Coptic and Islamic Museums closed

Thanks to Luxor Times for the information that the Coptic and Islamic Museums in Cairo have been closed on a temporary basis, apparently because they considered to be less secure than the Egyptian Museum.

Photo for Today - Medinet Habu, Temple of Ramesses III

Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habi,
West Bank, Luxor.

First Pylon, showing Ramesses III engaged in
smiting enemies before deities
(Ra-Horakhty and Amen-Ra)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Egyptian Museum closed following clashes

Al Masry Al Youm

Authorities closed the Egyptian Museum on Saturday after at least two demonstrators were killed when the military dispersed a peaceful sit-in in Tahrir Square. The demonstrators were demanding the prosecution of ousted president Hosni Mubarak and other figures from the toppled regime.

Egyptian Minister for Antiquities Zahi Hawass said in a statement that the museum, located in Tahrir, was closed due to “the events that have been taking place in Tahrir Square and the area surrounding the museum, as a precaution to secure the museum and visitors."

The statement quoted Tariq Al-Awadi, director of the museum, as saying its re-opening will be coordinated with the Armed Forces, adding that the building has not been affected.

On Saturday, demonstrators hurled stones at troops stationed near the museum, which is widely believed to contain chambers for the military police.