Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas

Thank you to everyone who stills follows Egyptology News via Twitter.  

Particular thanks, also, to everyone who was so supportive when Egyptological was hacked. I'll keep you posted about where we are with it, during January.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Update regarding problems with "Egyptological"

Kate and Andrea are very sad to announce that Egyptological will be unavailable for the forseeable future.  It has been targeted by a professional hacking group as part of an onslaught on Egypt-related web sites during the current unrest in Egypt.

Although we have been in negotiations with the hackers, which seemed to be going well, they have now announced their intention of resuming hostilities against us.  They apparently see Egyptology sites such as ours as representing a form of political threat.

Until we have been able to assess the level of damage inflicted upon our backup solution, and have been able to devise a new strategy for the future security of Egyptological, our site will remain unavailable.  We do not expect it to be recovered until the end of January.

Please be aware, however, that we are fully committed to restoring Egyptological to its former state, together with the latest unpublished edition of the Magazine, and we are investigating the possibility of publishing a temporary archive at an earlier date.

We recommend that anyone with similar web sites should upgrade their own security arrangements, as you may now be interpreted as representing a political or religious affiliation.

Kind regards from both of us

Andrea Byrnes and Kate Phizackerley

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Autumn field school at Amarna

The latest news update from Professor Barry Kemp, from the Amarna Project.

On October 14th the current Amarna field school began to assemble, five overseas students and seven SCA inspectors (drawn mostly from the Middle Egypt region) converging on the Amarna expedition house. The theme of the field school is survey, both in the mapping and planning sense and through the appreciation of human impact on the landscape. Amarna is ideal for these purposes, offering a variety of reasonably clear examples and opportunities for instruction. This year's venue for instruction in planning and profile drawing, using a total station, basic measuring and drawing tools and aerial photography from the expedition's helium photography balloon is the Great Aten Temple, and more particularly one of the broad spreads of gypsum concrete on which are marked the outlines of large numbers of offering tables. The weekly exercises in archaeological landscape appreciation take in the South Tombs Cemetery, the area of the city around the house of Thutmose, the Stone Village and the tomb of Panehsy and surrounding territory. Evening lectures and visits to other sites complete the programme.

The field school is run in conjunction with the Institute for Field Research (IFR) of California (info@ifrglobal.org) and with the agreement of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt and in particular with the support of Dr Abd el-Rahman El-Aidi. We are grateful to Dr Hans Barnard, Gwil Owen and Miriam Bertram for volunteering their services as instructors.

The clearing of the gypsum surface of the first court of the temple has revealed a surprising fact. The area is surrounded by an embankment of dusty sand, about 1 metre high, with a thick capping composed of gypsum concrete that is the remains of the floor that originally spread across the entire temple. The sides of the embankment have slumped over the years. In the course of cleaning back the edges it has become clear that it contains fragments of fine sculpture and pieces of carved inlays in darker stone.
The fragments include pieces in indurated limestone (evidently from a large and ornate architrave), travertine, granite and quartzite. We must conclude that, before the final phase of the temple was completed, fine pieces of sculpture were no longer needed and were thoroughly broken up.

On October 22nd and 23rd the expedition was honoured by a visit by the British ambassador, James Watt, and his wife, Amal.

The field school is scheduled to run until November 15th. From October 28th, it will overlap with the start of the next season of excavation at the South Tombs Cemetery, directed by Dr Anna Stevens.

The attached picture shows the group writing landscape description above the South Tombs Cemetery.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The latest Amarna update from Anna Stevens and Barry Kemp

Amarna, Autumn 2012

Fundraising news: the Big Give Christmas Challenge

We are delighted to report that we have reached the 'Œpledge target' for the Big Give Christmas Challenge appeal in support of conservation work at the Great Aten Temple.

What does this mean? It means that donations made online in the week beginning December 6 will now be matched, partly from our pledges and partly from external funding sourced by the Big Give. In effect, online donations can be doubled during the December fundraiser.

Thank you so much to those supporters who offered pledges: it is a great start to the campaign.

You can find out more about the Christmas Challenge at:

And please do consider offering a small donation online in December. Every donation makes a real difference to the work that we can achieve on site.

Autumn season underway

The dig house at Amarna was reopened last week for the beginning of the Autumn field season. The house is currently occupied by a team of volunteers who are transferring the paper records of the artefacts excavated at Amarna since 1979 into an electronic database. After a week and a half of work, around 6000 object records have been digitised, of a total of around 24000. Most of the 6000 objects have come from the excavations in the late 70s and early 80s at the Workmen's Village, and it has been fascinating to revisit these finds. We are aiming to reach the mid-point of the records by the time we leave, at the end of next week, by which time we should be working with the object records of excavations in the Central City and at Kom el-Nana in the late 1980s. A further season of digitising will then be needed in 2013.

This is the first step in creating an integrated online archive of the artefacts, environmental and biological remains, house plans, and other records for Amarna ­ the Amarna Digital Atlas. We hope that, one day, everyone will be able to better explore and study the archaeology of Amarna online.

Thanks are due to our volunteers - Ashley Hayes, Megan Paqua, Melanie Pitkin and Reinert Skumnes -­ for all of their hard work. It is so rewarding to see the written records compiled by many object registrars over the years transferred into a form that can be far more easily searched.

Next up will be a field school in survey techniques, running from mid-October until mid-November, and an extended season of excavations at the South Tombs Cemetery, which will include illustration work and further conservation of the wooden coffins. The season will finish just before Christmas, so it is a busy time ahead.

We will keep you updated with progress of the season and you can also follow us, and view pictures of the work, at:

Anna Stevens/Barry Kemp

Thursday, September 20, 2012

EES webinar

EES webinar AUTUMN 2012
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Cultural Property and the antiquities trade in Egyptology
Saturday 29 September 2012, 1 - 4pm (including a break)

This is an online event; join the EES at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ees-events

This ‘webinar’ will be broadcast live on the web, via USTREAM, in order to allow virtual participation and discussion online (via USTREAM, Twitter, Facebook or email) and thereby engage with the widest possible audience.

The seminar will examine how academics, museums, and the legal antiquities trade interact, and can facilitate the study of objects which pass into private hands; the importance of provenance in preventing the sale of forged and looted antiquities, and the processes of diligence and compliance which reinforce this. The discussion will cover case studies of good and bad practice, successes and failures, and discuss ways in
which more productive relationships might be fostered in future.

The discussion will exclude issues of the ethics of trading antiquities and the looting of archaeological sites, and will be chaired by the Society’s Director, Dr Chris Naunton.

The panellists will include: Professor David Gill, Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk and author of influential blog Looting Matters (http://lootingmatters. blogspot.co.uk/); Madeleine Perridge, Head of the Antiquities Department at Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers; Marcel Marée, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum; Heba Abd el-Gawad, PhD Student in Egyptology, University of Durham and recipient of an EES Centenary Award in 2012.

How to Participate:
We welcome questions for the panel, comments and discussion points, all of which can also be submitted on the day or in advance to contact@ees.ac.uk. In order to participate in the discussion on the day, please go to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ees-events, and follow the links to ‘Check-In and Chat’. This will allow you to connect via your UStream account (if you have one) or via Twitter or Facebook. You can also participate by tweeting @TheEES (you will need a Twitter account), or by posting on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Egypt-Exploration-Society/124272554326913?ref=hl

All comments and questions are welcome

Monday, September 17, 2012


The 2012 Petrie book auction has just started.  If you have previously registered to receive the list you should have already received this notification and the first list from Petrie Books and you do not need to register again.  If you are a new member, or would like to register for the first time, or have changed your email address just send an email with 'subscribe' to:  petriebooks@ijnet.demon.co.uk.  Thank you for subscribing to the Petrie book auction - remember that you can 'unsubscribe' at any time.

The email auction will culminate on the evening of 12 October with a live auction. The auction is open to all and will be held at the Petrie Museum, Malet Place WC1. Viewing from 6.00, auction starts at 6.30

The complete list is sent out with starting prices on all volumes inviting bids (BID?).  As bids come in the bid is listed with the bidder's initials alongside, e.g. GBP  10 (JP).  TO BID, please either cut and paste title with your bid added, or give me the book number(s) and your bid. Please don't return the entire list
- unless you're bidding on everything!  Regular updates on the state of the bidding will be sent out. All bids should be sent to petriebooks@ijnet.demon.co.uk

Closing date for email bids will be Wednesday 10 October. All bids will be carried forward to the evening of 12 October.  No books will be sold before that date so that Friends and others not on email will have a chance to participate.

At the end of the bidding process the highest email bidders will be invited to submit a final ceiling-price which will ONLY be used - in increments -  if he/she is outbid on the evening.

We reserve the right to withdraw, cancel, or change the rules if it all gets too complicated.

If you wish to cancel your receipt of any further auction information just send an email with 'auction delete' in the header and we won't bother you again.

After the auction successful bidders will be contacted with the amount owed for their books.

All prices will be plus postage, payable in advance in GB pounds by cash, UK cheque, or overseas bankers cheque drawn on a UK bank, (or Post Office Giro-cheques from Europe are reasonably priced, or postal orders) so please bear that in mind when making your bid. Sorry, but we don't have the facilities to accept direct credit card payment although we can accept payment via PAYPAL. Books can be collected from the Museum by prior arrangement.

The complete list sent to you will include the starting prices on all volumes inviting bids (BID?).  As bids come in the bid is listed with the bidder's initials alongside, e.g. GBP 10 (JP). TO BID, please either cut and paste the title with your bid added, or give me the book number(s) and author and your bid. Please don't return the entire list - unless you're bidding on everything!

Regular updates on the state of the bidding are being sent out, inviting new rounds of bidding.

New books may be added to the auction.

Email bidding will close on the 10th October before the live auction on the 12th October. Instructions for final bids will be sent out closer to the time.

All bids should be sent to petriebooks@ijnet.demon.co.uk

from the donated libraries of Phyllis Grierson, Peggy Drower and others

The updated auction list is now out - if you have signed up you should now have received it.

Friends of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Petrie Museum Malet Place London WC1E 6BT

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Could ancient Egyptians hold the key to 3D printed ceramics?

** UWE Bristol**
Press Release

Could ancient Egyptians hold the key to 3D printed ceramics? 

A 7,000 year old technique, known as Egyptian Paste (also known as Faience), could offer a potential process and material for use in the latest 3D printing techniques of ceramics, according to researchers at UWE Bristol.

Professor Stephen Hoskins Director of UWE’s Centre for Fine Print Research  and David Huson, Research Fellow, have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to undertake a major investigation into a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic, inspired by ancient Egyptian Faience ceramic techniques.  The process they aim to develop would enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a ceramic material which can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

The researchers believe that it possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, once-fired, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience.

Faience was first used in the 5th Millennium BC and was the first glazed ceramic material invented by man. Faience was not made from clay (but instead composed of quartz and alkali fluxes) and is distinct from Italian Faience or Majolica, which is a tin, glazed earthenware. (The earliest Faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between them, and the colouring material was usually copper). It is the self-glazing properties of Faience that are of interest for this research project.

Current research in the field of 3D printing concentrates on creating functional materials to form physical models. The materials currently used in the 3D printing process, in which layers are added to build up a 3D form, are commonly: UV polymer resins, hot melted 'abs' plastic and inkjet binder or laser sintered, powder materials. These techniques have previously been known as rapid prototyping (RP). With the advent of better materials and equipment some RP of real materials is now possible. These processes are increasingly being referred to as solid 'free-form fabrication' (SFF) or additive layer manufacture. The UWE research team have focused previously on producing a functional, printable clay body.

This three-year research project will investigate three methods of glazing used by the ancient Egyptians: ‘application glazing’, similar to modern glazing methods; ‘efflorescent glazing’ which uses water-soluble salts; and ‘cementation glazing’, a technique where the object is buried in a glazing powder in a protective casing, then fired. These techniques will be used as a basis for developing contemporary printable alternatives

Professor Hoskins explains, “It is fascinating to think that some of these ancient processes, in fact the very first glazed ceramics every created by humans, could have relevance to the advanced printing technology of today.  We hope to create a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic which only requires one firing from conception to completion rather than the usual two. This would be a radical step-forward in the development of 3D printing technologies. As part of the project we will undertake case studies of craft, design and fine art practitioners to contribute to the project, so that our work reflects the knowledge and understanding of artists and reflects the way in which artists work.”  

The project includes funding for a three-year full-time PhD bursary to research a further method used by the Egyptians, investigating coloured ‘frit’, a substance used in glazing and enamels. This student will research this method, investigating the use of coloured frits and oxides to try and create as full a colour range as possible. Once developed, this body will be used to create a ceramic extrusion paste that can be printed with a low-cost 3D printer. A programme of work will be undertaken to determine the best rates of deposition, the inclusion of flocculants and methods of drying through heat whilst printing.

This project offers the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - something that is impossible with current technology.

Editor’s notes

Project title
The project: “Can Egyptian Paste Techniques (Faience) Be Used For 3D Printed, Solid Free-form Fabrication of Ceramics?” has received funding of £ 385,672 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the three year research project.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk 
Stephen Hoskins is the Hewlett Packard Professor of Fine Print and Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE Bristol. Apart from being a practising printmaker, his primary areas of research are; the potential of 3D printing and related digital technologies for the arts, plus the tactile surface of the printed artefact and its consequences for digital technology. His latest book 3D Printing for the Visual Arts (Technology That Crosses Both Art and Industry) is due to be published by Bloomsbury in early 2013. 

David Huson is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Fine Print Research leading research in the field of 3D rapid prototype printed ceramics. He has given over sixteen peer reviewed conference papers at international conferences, including three focal papers at the IS&T Digital Fabrication Conferences 2007, 2008, 2009. David will moderate the NIP28/Digital Fabrication 2012 roundtable on 3D print in Quebec in September 2012. He has an extensive industrial background, working in research and development in the ceramics industry for 20 years as a ceramic engineer, and as company director for Enoch Wedgwood Ltd, Infrared International Engineering, Phoenix Ceramics and the Moira Pottery Co. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Amarna Fund Raising - the Big Give Christmas Challenge

Thanks to your support, the JustGiving appeal to raise money for the next stage of the conservation of the Amarna Period coffins from the recent excavations has reached its target. The conservators will resume their work at Amarna in the latter part of the year.


We are delighted to announce that the Amarna Trust has been accepted into the Big Give 2012 Christmas Challenge, with a project to raise funds for the conservation of the Great Aten Temple:


The Big Give Christmas Challenge is an annual matched-funding event in which online donations from the public are matched with pledges from major Trust supporters and funding from external philanthropic bodies ('Charity Champions'). This project will be the focus of our fundraising for the rest of 2012.

The Challenge has two phases. Phase I requires us to collect pledges from our major supporters (we may contact some of you individually about this).

Phase II is a period of online donation, beginning December 6th. During this time, online donations are matched with money drawn from pledges and Charity Champion Funds, until the latter are exhausted. An online donation of £5- becomes £10-; a £50 donation becomes £100, and so on. We have set ourselves a target of £8000- in online donations.

* We write to ask: if you are thinking of offering support to the Amarna Trust in what remains of 2012, please consider making a donation during the December online donation phase. It is a chance to make your donation go further.

We will send out a reminder closer to the time!


The next issue of the Horizon newsletter (no. 11) is about to go to press.


We plan to open the expedition house in late September for the start of a three-month autumn season.

Summer greetings to you all and thanks again for your continuing support - Barry Kemp

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A million thanks

My feelings about closing the blog were distinctly ambivalent even before all the messages. I am so sorry that it has taken me a while to respond, but you all gave me a lot to think about. Thank you SO much for all those messages!  I feel very lucky to have had so many great people reading the blog for all this time, and I am very sorry that I am no longer able to carve out the time to do the job properly. It seemed (and still seems) better to admit defeat rather than trying to do the job, and doing it badly. 

As a thank you to all of you who posted and emailed, here's an offering, not a very good one, but perhaps something that's better than nothing. A lot of people have said that they have a horror of Twitter, or simply that they cannot access it. The best thing about a blog is that it doesn't require membership, and quality control is very easy - something less easy to control on Twitter and even less on Facebook. I do understand why people don't want to sign up to Twitter.  So by way of a very small gesture, I have added my Twitter feed to this page, in the right hand column. It is an exact mirror of everything that I now post on Twitter, with the link to the article at the end of each short post. It will show the most recent 30 posts.  It's not the same as the blog, but it will contain exactly the same news items that I would have posted, just without the excerpts.  I realize that the excerpts are what made it most attractive, but that was the time-consuming bit.  I spent some months on Twitter, getting a feel for it, before doing anything useful with it.  I'm still having trouble getting the message across in so few words, but I'm getting better.

Others have asked whether Egyptological will suffer the same fate.  The answer is, in the words of one of our authors, "a big fat no."  We are working to build a team for Egyptological, with people who will continue to support it in the event of any disaster (like Kate and I being run over by the same bus).  As well as editors and volunteers for various different activities, we will appoint people to look after the site as an enterprise (albeit a non-commercial one).  We have invested an enormous amount of time and energy into Egyptological, and we are committed to its ongoing maintenance.  Doing both of our blogs taught us that one-person or even two-people teams are insufficient, because you never know what life is going to chuck at you.  So we have that in hand.

I will continue to use the blog, not just for the Twitter feed, but to add email newsletters, like the excellent Amarna report, to which I will then link from Twitter.  There are also going to be occasions, as Paul Rymer observed with so much insight, that I won't be able to keep quiet about things that interest me, so there will doubtless be comments and some analysis of particular news stories - again mainly for the purposes of being able to link to them from Twitter.

Obviously, I have regrets.  And I am, of course, suffering withdrawal symptoms!  I have read through all the comments here and on Facebook many times, and can only say THANK YOU so much.  It's been great to be in touch with so many terrific people.

Hugs all round


Thursday, August 09, 2012

Closing down

After eight and a half years I rather suspect that I am closing down this blog.  I haven't found the time to update it in nearly a month.  It was always time-consuming, but recently it has become exceedingly difficult to find the time to keep it going as I would like. 

I won't delete it - the archive will still be there. I will also continue to moderate comments. 

Instead, I will start posting news items to my Twitter account, which will take much less time and can be done on a rather more ad hoc basis.  @egyptologynews, for anyone interested. 

If you still wish for a blog-based news service there are lots of them out there.  When I started Egyptology News it was the only such service, but lots of other people are now doing a similar job.  Just do a Google search and see which one you like the best.  EEF produce a weekly round-up, too.

My eternal thanks and a huge hug to Kat Newkirk, who has been copying me on news emails for years and years.  Kat, please keep me on your distribution list - I will be using it for Twitter instead.

My sincere thanks to all of you who have followed the blog over the years too - it has been fun. 


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Beni Hassan first in National Project to Document Egypt’s Heritage

Ahram Online  (Nevine El-Aref)

Eight years after giving the go-ahead for the National Project to Document Egypt’s Heritage, Beni Hassan necropolis in the Upper Egyptian town of Minya has become the first site on the list to be documented.

The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) is responsible for archaeologically documenting Egypt’s cultural and historical heritage, in an attempt to protect and preserve it, as well as providing comprehensive and detailed studies of every site and monument in Egypt for researchers and students in the field.

Mohamed Ibrahim, antiquities’s minister, told Ahram Online that Egyptologists used state-of-the-art equipment and modern technology to document the necropolis and published the findings in a booklet of 337 pages, including 268 photos and 62 drawings and charts.

Director of the ministry's registration department, Magdi El-Ghandour, described the documentation effort as one of Egypt’s major projects to preserve its heritage. He added that the project aims to establish a scientific database for every monument in Egypt, to help the work of researchers.

"It is the second documentation project to be established in Egypt; the first was carried out in 1985 during the Nubian temples salvage operation, documenting the Nubian temples whether rescued or inundated in Lake Nasser."

Rising water: a necessary evil?

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Can the new pumping system on the Giza Plateau help reduce damage to the Sphinx caused by leaking subterranean water? Nevine El-Aref looks at this, and what caused the high water level

Within the framework of the Ministry of State for Antiquities's programme to preserve its ancient Egyptian monuments, Giza Plateau inspectorate has begun operating a state-of-the-art pumping system to reduce the high rate of subterranean water that has accumulated beneath the Sphinx and the underlying bedrock.

Ali El-Asfar, director of the Giza Plateau archaeological site, says that under the new system 18 water pump machines distributed over the plateau are pumping out 26,000 cubic metres of water daily at a rate of 1,100 cubic metres of water an hour, based on studies previously carried out by reputed Egyptian-American experts in subterranean water and ground mechanic and equilibrium factors.

The LE22-million project was initiated to reduce the high level of subterranean water under the Sphinx, which had increased because of the new drainage system installed in the neighbouring village of Nazlet Al-Seman and the irrigation technique used to cultivate public gardens and green areas in the neighbouring residential area of Hadaaq Al-Ahram and the golf course at the Mena House Hotel.

"All these have led to the leakage of water into the plateau, affecting especially the Valley Temple and the Sphinx which are located on a lower level," El-Asfar said.

Egypt's Sphinx, Pyramids threatened by groundwater, hydrologists warn

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

One month ago, Giza's antiquities inspectorate installed a new system to pump subterranean water out from under Egypt's historical Sphinx monument and the underlying bedrock.

Subterranean water levels at the Giza Plateau, especially the area under the valley temples and Sphinx, have recently increased due to a new drainage system installed in the neighbouring village of Nazlet Al-Seman and the irrigation techniques used to cultivate the nearby residential area of Hadaeq Al-Ahram.

The system involves 18 state-of-the-art water pumps capable of pumping 26,000 cubic metres of water daily.

The project, which cost some LE22 million and is financed by USAID, has raised fears among some hydrologists and ecologists that it could erode the bedrock under the Sphinx and lead to the historic monument's collapse.

New antiquities project

Egyptian Gazette (Amina Abdul Salam)   

A number of archaeologists have launched a project to develop archaeology in Egypt to be carried out by the new government, according to MENA.    

The project, which was launched under the title, ‘Egyptian Antiquities’ Renaissance Project ‘ includes a plan to develop archaeology to occupy a prestigious position as one of the state’s main economic sources, said Mohamed Abdel- Maqsoud ,deputy chairman of the Egyptian antiquities sector.

The project aims at changing the technique of work in this field that should  controlled  by a specialised  state security body to protect Egypt’ monuments and archaeological heritage .

Abdel-Maqsoud noted that the antiquities sector is facing financial problems due to the reduced number of tourists visiting Egypt  during the last couple of years. The archaeologists have called for cultural tourism  to be mainly based mainly on visiting monumental sites throughout Egypt.

It is know the antiquities sector is self -financing , says Abdel -Maqsoud, adding that the annual revenues of the monuments normally reaches to LE1.2 billion  nearly($200 million) annually.

Learning more about the Middle Kingdom

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

With photos.

The discovery of a Middle Kingdom burial of a member of the family of the Deir Al-Barsha governor has given Egyptologists some unique information on the scenario in which the ancient Egyptians conducted their funerary rituals.

Belgian archaeologists cleaning the newly discovered shaft inside Ahanakht I's tomb (top); a collection of copper vases and plates used in funerary rituals

Everything began as normal at this spring's archaeological season at the Deir Al-Barsha necropolis in Minya, which lasted from March to May. As usual, teams of workmen, archaeologists and restorers were busy on all parts of the site, digging and clearing the tombs of the village nomarchs (provincial governors) and searching for artefacts or monumental remains that could tell them more about the history of this particular period of ancient Egypt.

The site of the Deir Al-Barsha necropolis in the sandy gravel desert is famous for its rock-hewn tombs dating from the Middle Kingdom. Although part of the necropolis was investigated at the beginning of the 20th century by the American archaeologist George Reisner, no plans or detailed accounts of these excavations were ever published. Time has since taken its toll of the necropolis, and it was almost totally covered by sand.

In 2002 a Belgian archaeological mission from Leuven University started a magnetic survey there in an attempt to gain some insight into the overall organisation and social stratification of the necropolis.

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

Egypt at the Manchester Museum

There have been a number of updates by Campbell Price in the last couple of weeks. Have a look at the above page to find out more about the following topics:

  • Curator’s Diary 10/7/12: Pagans, Christians and Muslims – Egypt in the First Millennium AD
  • Photographing Fragrances
  • Texts in translation #7: The shabti spell of Horudja
  • Curator’s Diary 30/6/12: CT scanning Asru … and a crocodile mummy!
  • Texts in translation #6: A stela of Peniwemiteru (Acc. No. R4571 1937)
  • Curator’s Diary 15/6/12: More than Musty Mummies…? ACCES seminar in Swansea
  • Curator’s Diary 13/6/12: Egyptian Collections and Collectors in Brussels
  • Object biography #6: The crown from a colossal statue of Ramesses II (Acc. No. 1783)

St. Catherine's monastery seeks permanence through technology

Egypt Independent (James Purtill)

St. Catherine’s Monastery is going digital. The monastery that claims to be the oldest in the world ­— not destroyed, not abandoned in 17 centuries — has begun digitizing its ancient manuscripts for the use of scholars. A new library to facilitate the process is about five years away.

The librarian, Father Justin, says the monastery’s library will grow an internet database of first-millennium manuscripts, which up until now have been kept under lock and key. Should a scholar want a manuscript, they need only email Father Justin.

“And if I don’t have book but see a reference, I can email a friend in Oxford. They can scan and send it the next day,” he says.

Still, as natural and inevitable as it sounds, that’s quite the sea change. Just 10 years ago, bad phone lines made it hard to connect a call with the monastery. One hundred years ago, it took 10 days to travel from Suez with a caravan of camels. 

Taba's Salaheddin Citadel set to open doors in July

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

After a year of extensive restoration Salaheddin Citadel on Pharaoh Island, 250 metres from Taba Beach in Sinai, opens to the public in July.

What’s new?
The restorations include repairing all eroded and corroded surfaces, restoring the fence that surrounded the citadel and replacing fallen or missing blocks with new ones that match the others.

A new lighting system makes the citadel appear like a crystal gem in the middle of the Red Sea. They’ve also installed lighting along the visitor paths.

Documentary films and photo exhibition relate the history of the citadel in the visitor centre.

To make visiting the site easier for tourists, during his latest inspection visit, Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim suggested constructing a closed tunnel to connect the citadel to the Taba beach, which boasts beautiful coral reefs.

He also calls on the Tourism and Antiquities Police to tighten security measures in the Sinai, considering some of the recent instability in the area.

A detailed document of inscriptions in Islamic Cairo

Ahram Online (Nevine el-Aref)

After 14 years of hard work, Bernard O’Kane, professor of Islamic art and architecture at the American University in Cairo (AUC), has managed to compile a detailed report of Islamic inscriptions in the historic zone of Cairo as part of the project to preserve and document inscriptions and epigraphs on Islamic monuments in the city up until the 1800s.

According to a press release distributed by the AUC press office, what drove O’Kane to undertake the project was that many of the Islamic monuments in Cairo were deteriorating and in danger of disappearing; there was no documentation of the inscriptions. “I felt I needed to do something to help with the preservation of information,” he said.

Exhibition: Communication in Ancient Egypt

University of Birmingham 

Since the very beginning of human evolution, communication has played a crucial role in social development. In our modern world, when messages are conveyed through countless routes, it is very appropriate to look back and understand how interaction influenced past societies.

‘Connections’ aims to explore the ways in which the ancient Egyptians communicated between each other and those in a wider international environment. The methods they used are not far removed from our own, using various verbal and non-verbal techniques. Contributions to this study include investigations of written communication, along with interaction through material culture, gestures and much more. ‘Connections’ hopes to provide a unique insight into the ways that the Egyptians communed with the deceased, the illiterate, the divine and sacred worlds, foreign countries and different social groups.

An online catalogue accompanies a physical exhibition taken from objects loaned to the University of Birmingham from the Eton College Joseph William Myers Collection of Egyptian antiquities. These objects are among the finest items of Egyptian art to have been collected during the late nineteenth century. Many of them are small masterpieces in their own right – but those less aesthetic objects also communicated messages, and have not been neglected in this project.

Exhibition: Djehuty Project out in the daylight

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

With 2 photos.

A NUMBER of artefacts discovered at a tomb in Draa Abul-Naga necropolis on Luxor's west bank is to go on show for the first time in the Luxor National Museum, Nevine El-Aref reports.

After almost 10 years in storage at the Luxor antiquities inspectorate, the very distinguished ancient Egyptian objects will take their place in the permanent collection of the Luxor Museum. They were found in the tomb of Djehuty, the overseer of works at Thebes during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut.

The artefacts include the very well-preserved sarcophagus of a Middle Kingdom warrior named Iker, which means "the excellent one". The sarcophagus was found in the courtyard of Djehuty's tomb in 2007, along with five arrows made of reeds, three of them still feathered. These will also be included in the new exhibited collection.

Some clay vases and bouquets of dried flowers that were thrown inside the Djehuty tomb at his funeral are to be exhibited along with a faience necklaces, gilded earrings and bracelets.

Two clusters of ceramic vases, mostly bottles, with shapes typical of those fabricated during the reign of Tuthmosis III, will also be exhibited.

"These artefacts were carefully selected from the collection unearthed at Djehuty's tomb," said Mohamed Ibrahim, minister of state for antiquities.

Djehuty's tomb was discovered in 2003 by a Spanish-Egyptian archaeological mission. Their excavations revealed many new details about an unusual time in Egypt's ancient history.

The tomb of Amenemope (TT148) on Osirisnet

Osirisnet (Thierry Benderitter)

We present to you today the tomb of Amenemope, TT148, which dates from the 20th Dynasty.
Amenemope was Third Prophet of Amon, descended from a powerful family of which many representatives are mentioned in the chapel. The monument is on the north hillside of Dra Abu el-Naga, an area of which the prestige and the direct view of the pylons of Karnak, compensated for the poor quality of the local rock, which along with the prolonged occupation, caused serious damage to the decoration. What has survived is of a great artistic quality and allows the previous splendour of this tomb-temple to be realised.

Upcoming publication: Buhen Old Kingdom Town

The EES Publishing Blog (Patricia Spencer) 

On 30 December 1961 an EES expedition led by Professor Bryan Emery returned to Buhen in the Sudan, as part of the UK contribution to the UNESCO campaign to save the monuments of Nubia. In two short seasons in the winters of 1961/2 and 1963/4, the team excavated the Old Kingdom town at this site better known for its impressive  Middle Kingdom brick fortress. Emery only published only two very short descriptions of the work – one, which was not illustrated, in the editorial foreword to JEA 48 (1962) and another, with some photographs  and a plan, in Kush XI (1963).  He also included information about the town in his book Egypt in Nubia (1965). After completing the work at Buhen, Emery moved back to Saqqara and on his death in 1971 the excavations at Buhen remained unpublished.  Professor Harry Smith, with colleagues, published the fortress in two EES volumes in 1976 and 1979, and he had, in 1972, invited David O’Connor, who had been one of the Field Supervisors, to publish the Old Kingdom Town. 

New Book: The Tombs of Beni Hassan in Minya

Ahram Online

Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities just issued a new book, 'The Tombs of Beni Hassan in Minya: The Picture and the Significance,' the first in a series in an ongoing project aimed at documenting Egypt's monuments and archaeological heritage.

The project, which began in 2004, aims to register all monuments throughout the country.

According to Minister of State for Antiquities Ahmed Ibrahim, the project will utilise the latest recording and documenting technologies.

The 377-page book includes 268 high-resolution photos of the tombs, along with 62 diagrams.

Magdy El-Ghandour, head of the Egyptian Centre for Recording Monuments, says the project's next step is to publish the scientific studies and make them available to future scholars.

Book Review: Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by Reyes Bertolín Cebrián)

Paul A. Trout, Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination.  Amherst, NY:  Prometheus Books, 2011.  Pp. 325.  ISBN 9781616145019.

Trout’s book presents an interesting hypothesis about the origins of myth and storytelling. The author conceives the development of storytelling in the very ancient past as a mechanism of early human beings to cope with the fear of predators. The purpose of the book is to “explain in detail how and why the animal predators of the Pleistocene got inside our heads and our stories” (25). Trout reminds his readers right at the beginning that, before human beings became the most efficient predators on the planet, they were the prey for about two million years, and until only about ten thousand years ago. For most of this time, humans had only stones and sticks to ward off predators.

The book is divided into ten chapters. The first introductory chapter, in which the purpose and method of the book are explained, is very short. Trout sets out to clarify why we are still so fascinated with stories about predators, real or fictitious. His purpose is also to discover the role that predators played in the evolution of storytelling itself.

The second chapter, "Bringers of Death", presents a survey of the predators which our ancestors encountered. Besides those still living and devouring humans in our own times, such as tigers, lions, wolves, bears, crocodiles, sharks, and snakes, the Pleistocene had a variety of fierce and dangerous animals to fear. Not only were those animals much larger than the current ones, but human beings were also not yet confident hunters, although not completely defenseless.

Book Review: City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish

The Periscope Post (Review by Philip Womack)

This time it’s a star turn for Peter Parson’s City of the Sharp-Nosed Fish: Greek Lives in Roman Egypt (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2007). This charming, entertaining and informative book is not only easy to read, it also delights with its clear-sighted analysis of the papyrus fragments found at the site of the Egyptian city of Oxyrhyncos. Here, in the early twentieth century, the archaeologists Grenfell and Hunt stumbled upon a classicist’s dream – mounds and mounds of intact papyroi.

“I make obeisance on your behalf every day before the Lord God Serapis. From the day you left we miss your turds, wishing to see you.”

A few of them gave up texts of Homer; there was a lost play of Euripides, Hypsipyle, (which it is thought concerns the cursing of a group of women by Aphrodite for neglecting her shrine; her curse was to give them all extreme body odour. Perhaps that’s why it was lost.) There were songs of Sappho (who features in a Ronald Firbank novel, Vainglory, in which a professor reads out, proudly, the fragment to assembled high society: “Could not (he wagged a finger) Could not, for the fury of her feet!”) and other Greek lyricists. But most were prosaic, and as such add a huge amount to our knowledge and understanding of life at the height of the Roman Empire, just before Christianity.

Exhibition: Journey Through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead in Japan

The Japan Times Online (C.B. Liddell)

All exhibitions focusing on ancient Egypt (3100-332 B.C.) smell of the tomb to some degree, simply because the best artifacts have been recovered from the graves — this is true of "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," an exhibition currently being held at the Osaka Tempozan Exhibition Gallery and which comes to the Ueno Royal Museum on Aug. 4. According to professor Jiro Kondo, a director of the Institute of Egyptology at Waseda University and the curator for the "Book of the Dead" exhibition here, such shows usually follow a set pattern.

"Every two or three years in Japan we have some sort of ancient Egyptian exhibition," Kondo says. "The focus is on golden objects and jewelry rather than a theme, leading Japanese people to think ancient Egyptian civilization is gold, mummies and jewelry. But this time, we are following the British Museum exhibition and taking a deeper look at the beliefs related to the afterlife."

The exhibition features around 80 objects sourced from a show held in autumn 2010 at the British Museum, with the centerpiece being the Greenfield Papyrus. This remarkable scroll, made for a high-ranking priestess named Nestanebtasheru in 930 B.C., contains a richly illustrated version of the Book of the Dead, an ancient Egyptian funerary text that is a rich source of information about the civilization.

Open Access Journal: Sudan notes and records

Ancient World Online (Charles Jones)

Sudan notes and records [From the University of Michigan Digital General Collection]
Sudan notes and records [From the University of Khartoum E - Journals]
Sudan notes and records LOC Record

Explore Ancient Egypt online

NOVA pbs.org  (Liesl Clark and Peter Tyson)

Want to walk around the Sphinx? Clamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza and seek out the pharaoh's burial chamber? Visit the magnificent tombs and temples of ancient Thebes? In this multi-layered, highly visual interactive, view 360° panoramas, "walkaround" photos, and other breathtaking imagery shot throughout the Giza Plateau and ancient Thebes (modern-day Luxor), often with special permission. You'll see Old and New Kingdom tombs and temples, pyramids and statues, and a 140-foot-long wooden boat that is 4,600 years old. Enjoy this unique journey through the Land of the Pharaohs.

Online: Two aspects of Middle Kingdom Funerary culture from two different Middle Egyptian Nomes

eTheses Repository 

Two aspects of Middle Kingdom Funerary culture from two different Middle Egyptian Nomes

Billson, Bjorn Marc (2012)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

PDF (1109Kb)

This thesis aims to further the understanding of the cultural and social history of the Middle Kingdom nomes. Two different approaches have been taken. The first examines coffin texts unique to individual coffins from the provincial cemetery of El Bersheh in the 15th Upper Egyptian nome. The evidence presented suggests that these texts were products of the Hermopolitan House of Life and were likely to have been created for specific individuals. It is concluded that the provincial elite were the driving force behind this innovation. In the second approach this thesis turns its attention to the pottery of Beni Hasan and the 16th Upper Egyptian nome. It is argued that the pottery corpus of Beni Hasan is reflective of the independence of the provincial administration and that the appearance of the Residence style during the mid 12th Dynasty is reflective of the social changes undertaken during the reign of Sesostris III. In the concluding section both approaches have been brought together, in doing so this thesis has been able to observe the independence and creativity of provincial culture which arose out of the unique power and authority held by the nomarchs.

Online: An Ancient Relation between Units of Length and Volume Based on a Sphere

Plos ONE 

An Ancient Relation between Units of Length and Volume Based on a Sphere

Elena Zapassky, Yuval Gadot, Israel Finkelstein, Itzhak Benenson

The modern metric system defines units of volume based on the cube. We propose that the ancient Egyptian system of measuring capacity employed a similar concept, but used the sphere instead. When considered in ancient Egyptian units, the volume of a sphere, whose circumference is one royal cubit, equals half a hekat. Using the measurements of large sets of ancient containers as a database, the article demonstrates that this formula was characteristic of Egyptian and Egyptian-related pottery vessels but not of the ceramics of Mesopotamia, which had a different system of measuring length and volume units.

Online: Le parvis du temple d'Opet à Karnak. Exploration archéologique


Via Yvonne Buskens, with thanks.

Le parvis du temple d'Opet à Karnak. Exploration archéologique (2006-2007) by Guillaume Charloux

English Abstract
The Opet temple, which rests atop the ruins of some 2000 years of Pharaonic history, was erected in thesecond century BCE by Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II. It was dedicated to the hippo goddess Opet, who was widelyregarded as a protector of mothers and children. In the sanctuary, she was incorporated into the myth of Osirisin order to facilitate the rebirth of the god Amun. The interior decorative program recounts several episodes of this myth, including the well-known representation of the resurrection of Osiris.This compact and discrete temple, located in the southwest corner of the enclosure at Karnak, lies far fromthe steady stream of tourists passing through the great temenos-wall of Amun-Re (see chapter I). In thiscontext, the monument’s position—almost touching the neighboring sanctuary of Khonsu—is surprising. The building itself rests atop the high bedrock with an architectural plan characterized by the placement of numerous crypts around a cruciform core. The Opet temple belongs to that rare category of sanctuaries thatcan be designated as “mythological temples”.A restoration program and study of the architectural, archaeological, and epigraphic material began in2005 under the direction of Emmanuel Laroze of the Centre Franco-Égyptien d’Étude des Temples de Karnak (CFEETK), a scientific collaboration of French and Egyptian missions to that site (Mansour Boraik, IbrahimSuleiman, Hamdi Ahmed Abd al-Jalil for the Supreme Council of Antiquities ; Emmanuel Laroze thenChristophe Thiers for the French National Center for Scientific Research – authors thank them all for their continuous support). The restoration and excavation projects have been supported by the private patronage of Ms. B. Guichard; additional excavation support has been provided by the Michela Schiff-Giorgini Foundation.

Online: The Organization of the Pyramid Texts (2 vol. set)

Brill Online 

Author: Harold M. Hays
Subjects: Ancient Near East & Egypt

    Chapters (17)

The ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts form the oldest body of religious texts in the world. This book weds traditional philology to linguistic anthropology to associate them with two spheres of ritual action, mortuary cult and personal preparation for the afterlife.

Online: Models and Evidence in the Study of Religion in Late Roman Egypt

History of the Ancient World   

Models and Evidence in the Study of Religion in Late Roman Egypt

Bagnall, Roger S. (New York University)

From Temple to Church: Destruction and Renewal of Local Cultic Topography in Late Antiquity, edited by Johannes Hahn, Stephen Emmel, and Ulrich Gotter, 23–41. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 163. Leiden and Boston: Brill, (2008)


The title of this paper may seem too restrictive for an opening lecture in a colloquium concerned with the entire East of the Roman Empire, in which only half of the papers concern Egypt, and yet simultaneously far too ambitious in its scope. In the course of the colloquium, however, it became clear that the methodological issues that I was trying to confront were broadly relevant across the geographical span covered by the colloquium and to some extent raised fundamental questions about the very formulation of some of the organizers’ questions to participants, questions which came back into focus in the lively concluding discussion. This in my view was to be anticipated, because part of my argument is that Egypt is not any more exceptional than anywhere else in the Roman Empire of late antiquity, and that the questions at stake there are broadly applicable, even if the answers vary.

Online: A Vineyard in the Small Oasis:What Was the Dispute About?

History of the Ancient World 

Via Maria Nilsson, with thanks.

A Vineyard in the Small Oasis:What Was the Dispute About?

Bagnall, Roger S.

The Journal of Juristic Papyrology, vol. XXXIII, pp. 17 – 25 (2003)


A document drawn up on behalf of a centurion in the garrison of the Small Oasis in A.D. 364 contains his agreement to terms, now almost entirely lost, by which a dispute with relatives of his deceased wife was settled. The papyrus, P. Mich. inv. 4008, was published by Traianos Gagos, and the late P.J. Sijpesteijn in ZPE 105 (1995), pp. 245-252 (with Tafel VI); the text reprinted as SB XXII 15768. The editors describe it as the latest in date to come from the Small Oasis”

KMT Volume 23, Number 2, Summer 2012

KMT Journal

“A New Tomb in the Valley of the Kings: KV64” by Susanne Bickel & Elina Paulin-Grothe

“The Egyptological Archives of the University of Milan” by Lucy Gordan-Rastelli

At the Metropolitan Museum: “The Dawn of Egyptian Art”

“Twilight of the Pharaohs” Exhibition in Paris

“Fashion & Beauty in Ancient Egypt” on View in Barcelona

“Giant of Egyptology: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing” by Thomas L. Gertzen

Photo for Today - Taharqa shrine, Ashmolean Museum

King Taharqa shrine
Originally from Kawa, Nubia
690-644 BC 

Brought to Oxford in 1936 in hundreds of wooden crates.
The only free-standing Pharaonic building in Britain.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Report on work recently completed at Amarna, Spring 2012

 By Barry Kemp


Figure 1 (see captions at end of article)
On the last day of March we resumed our fieldwork. The chosen place was the site of the Great Aten Temple, that lies immediately beside the modern cemetery of the village of El-Till. A large part of the temple foundations was excavated by John Pendlebury for the Egypt Exploration Society in 1932, and a report of the findings, both the architecture and the objects, was included in the volume, City of Akhenaten III, published in 1951. The reason why it has found a place on our agenda is that the village cemetery is steadily expanding and threatens to encroach upon what little is left of the ancient building.

Our aim is to make a fresh record of what survives and then to proceed to protect the remains, in part by reburial and in part by marking the principal wall lines and features in new materials, principally limestone blocks. Only in this way will the site gain sufficient respect to escape further losses. The site is a large one and the project will take several years to accomplish. The result should be, however, of great interest to visitors, who will be able to see the scale of Akhenaten’s building and its extraordinary layout, that included hundreds of offering-tables set out in rows in long open courts.

The Ministry of Antiquities was represented by inspectors Mohammed Wahaballah Abdelaziz and Shimaa Sobhy Omar. The archaeological team comprised Mary Shepperson and Marsha Hill at the stela site, and Miriam Bertram, Delphine Driaux and Anna Hodgkinson at the temple entrance.


Figure 2
The first week was spent in removing quantities of village rubbish that had come to cover the front of the temple, that lies beside the asphalt road that links the villages of El-Till and El-Hagg Qandil and is all too convenient an open space for dumping. The re-excavation began on April 7th and ended on May 17th. On the 20th, our building team took over and began the combined task of reburial and marking out the wall lines. Their last day was June 10th.

The main temple occupies only a small part of a huge enclosure that is marked by the line of a brick wall that runs back for 800 metres (Figure 1). Almost lost in the distance, and largely hidden by modern tomb enclosures, are other parts of the temple. They include the place where fragments of a purple quartzite stela bearing an extensive list of offerings have been found in the past, as well as fragments of what was probably a statue of Akhenaten. We made this place, too, an object of fresh investigation.

From Pendlebury’s plan we learn that the front of the temple included a pair of mud-brick pylons and several structures immediately inside that preceded the principal stone building. One of these he labelled the ‘Altar’. Little of this was visible when we began, being buried beneath spoil heaps and deposits of dust, sand, rubbish and animal manure that had accumulated since 1932. The removal of these deposits revealed that much of what Pendlebury saw in this part is still present and not much changed. We concentrated our work on the northern of the two pylons and the northern half of the entrance between them, and on the ‘Altar’, an impressive set of foundations made from gypsum concrete for a stone building that contained a columned hall and so is unlikely actually to have been an altar. By the end of the re-excavation the ‘Altar’ foundations lay completely exposed, as did the brick threshold between the pylons, but only a small part of the north pylon itself was visible (Figure 2). The large Pendlebury dump that lies on top had to be removed as a conventional piece of excavation, with all the spoil passed through sieves, and this was a slow process. In view of the number of pieces of broken sculpture and inlay fragments that we recovered (Figure 3), it is a justifiable procedure, but half of the spoil heap still remains to be removed.

Pendlebury had determined that this part of the temple had seen more than one major alteration in its layout, the pylon belonging to a later and grander phase. Our own re-clearance around the pylon has shed more light on this process of enlargement.

The purpose of the building remains uncertain. In three of the pictures of the House of the Aten in tombs at Amarna (two in the tomb of Meryra, one in the tomb of Panehsy), seemingly just inside the outer entrance to the temple, stands a separate building (shown duplicated in the case of one of the Meryra scenes). The details differ in each case. The Panehsy version gives prominence to a throne, whilst one of the Meryra versions includes a Window of Appearance. It looks, therefore, like a tiny palace, something needed everywhere that the king visited.


Figure 3
The last three weeks of the season were devoted to making the outline of the building permanently visible. By the time the excavation finished, the gypsum foundations of the building were exposed, covering a rectangle measuring c. 14 x 25 m. The foundations had varying depths, reflecting the downward slope of the ground towards the south. This created a common level for the tops of the foundations, except for the part north of the columned hall, that was 20 cm lower.

One possible course of action was to bury the entire construction in sand and leave it otherwise unmarked. This is likely, however, to have perpetuated the impression that the site does not deserve the respect to which it should be due and, in the longer term, to have encouraged further encroachment on the temple precinct. I therefore adopted the plan to build the foundations up to a common level and then to lay over it a single course of blocks that would reproduce the foundation plan. All intervening spaces would be filled with sand and, eventually, the front part would be likewise buried in the sand fill that is needed to recreate the ground level of the temple in its final phase.

I engaged a team of builders from El-Till who have done this kind of work for us before. Using new limestone blocks laid over a bed of sand that separates them from the ancient foundations a new foundation layer has been laid over all except the rear two strips of gypsum foundations (Figure 4). These and other exposed ancient surfaces have been protected with sand. The final step when we resume will be to lay a single course of new stones over all wall lines, and to recreate in the same course the column foundation pattern. All intervening spaces will then be filled with sand, leaving a low platform, one block in height, over which the plan of the building will be unobtrusively visible.


The stele site stands in front of the sanctuary of the Great Aten Temple, south-east of the modern cemetery.

The site was excavated in the 1930s by the Egypt Exploration Society under John Pendlebury, who found a large T-shaped depression to the north-west of the entrance to the sanctuary. The EES expedition excavated within this depression down to gypsum plaster foundations about 50cm below the surface level. It was concluded that this was the foundation for a stone platform, which held a large round-topped stele depicted in Amarna tomb reliefs.

This season, the stele depression was re-excavated so that these foundations could be recorded. In addition, the area around the edges of the depression, enclosing an area of 25m x 25m, was excavated in order to gain further evidence for the use of this area within the temple. A further aim was the recovery of fragments of the stele, which was made from a distinctive purple quartzite, in order to add to what is known of the stele from fragments already held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

Figure 4
The excavation has revealed two phases of architecture (Figure 5, Figure 6): an early phase (Phase 1), consisting of a small mud-brick platform surrounded by large posts and other ephemeral architecture, followed by the main temple phase (Phase 2), for which the architecture of Phase 1 was levelled and replaced with a stone platform sunk into a foundation pit.

Phase 1
A rectangular mud-brick foundation (6.30m x 4.50m) lies on the eastern side of the stele depression, with the remains of two brick bases on its northern side; probably marking the end of a short staircase up to the mud-brick platform. An area of hard-packed floor surface survives at what would have been the foot of these stairs. Deep, narrow pits were found forming three sides of a rectangle surrounding this mud-brick platform. Two pits flanked the end of the staircase. The dimensions of these pits, which were filled with occupation and mud-brick debris, suggest that they probably held tall wooden posts or flag poles.  On the western side of the stele depression, the eroded desert surface was found to be cut by many small features. These include a shallow N-S ditch, circular depressions to hold vessels, and a large number of small pits and post-holes. This area appears to have had a number of uses, probably concerned with the preparation and dedication of offerings, and to have been the site of small-scale wooden architecture, such as fencing, shades or screens.   On both the eastern and western sides of the stele depression, the Phase 1 architecture appears to have been levelled. The mud-brick platform was destroyed down to the last course of bricks, the deep post pits were filled up with mud-brick debris, and the small pits, ditches and emplacements seem to have been deliberately packed full of mud material: the ground was prepared for the Phase 2 architecture.

Phase 2
A large rectangular depression was dug with a narrower extension on the south side to form a T-shape. At the bottom of this, traces of gypsum-plaster foundation were found around the edges. The foundation appears to have been wider than its preserved extent, but much has been lost when the blocks were removed, and more destroyed by the EES excavations. Block impressions suggest a large platform of limestone blocks was built in the depression, with the southern extension representing a staircase leading to the top of this.   On top of the construction debris from this platform, a rectangle of mud-brick paving was laid to the north, looking towards the Northern Entrance Pavilion that straddles the temple enclosure wall. Mud plaster was used to level the area to the south and west in preparation for a gypsum plaster floor, a fragment of which survives south of the staircase foundation. Finally, a rectangular gypsum plaster foundation was built to the south-west of the main platform, probably to hold a seated statue of the king. The cut for this foundation truncated the Phase 1 features below.

Figure 5
One of the aims of this season was the collection of fragments of the stele which sat on top of the Phase 2 stone platform. All fragments of purple quartzite within the excavation area were examined and those with worked faces were retained for future study. Many small inscribed fragments were recovered; generally these had small hieroglyphs in registers, as seen on the larger fragments held by the Metropolitan Museum, but some figurative elements were also found, including a very small fragment with a carved eye, possibly of a royal princess. Small fragments of a diorite statue were also found.

Incense was a common find on site, and fragments were found in almost all the ditches, pits and post-holes of Phase 1. Some was in a raw form as lumps, but it was more commonly found in a processed form as tiny curving rods resembling red glass. In general, very few finds were recovered from the excavated material, indicating that the stele area of the temple was largely kept clear of rubbish and debris.


During the same period, the expedition house played to host to visiting scholars and to the annual anthropology field school from the University of Arkansas. Alan Clapham completed his study of the plant remains from the Stone Village excavations, now the subject of a major publication that we hope will go to press during the summer. Willeke Wendrich returned to continue her study of basketry and matting from the excavations, examining the material used to make the cheap mat-like coffins in the cemetery. Rainer Gerisch, in addition to looking at further charcoal samples, surveyed the remarkable new growth of plants in the desert wadis that had been brought to life following the heavy rains of last year. Alexandra Winkels began a study, including microscopic examination, of the gypsum that was widely used at Amarna, especially in architectural foundations. Marc Gabolde copied and transcribed a large group of hieratic dockets, many from the Central City. His colleague at Montpellier University, Jean-Pierre Patznick, began a study of small stamped clay sealings and the clay seal impressions on jar stoppers from various parts of the site. Kristin Thompson and Marsha Hill made further additions to the catalogue of sculpture fragments, concentrating on the new material from Great Aten Temple but also including revisions to the existing catalogue of material made in earlier seasons.

Figure 6
The University of Arkansas field school, led by Jerry Rose, processed a further 41 skeletal individuals. The now familiar sombre picture of life at Amarna emerged again, marked by high mortality amongst the young and frequent healed fractures and signs of metabolic problems. As an extension to the study of the human remains, Jolanda Bos made an initial assessment of what should be done with the many samples of human hair that have been recovered from the cemetery. One of her preliminary observations is that the ‘fat cones’, of which a likely example was found in 2010, might not have been uncommon in the graves.

A major task that the cemetery excavations have created is the conservation and consolidation of the remains of several decorated wooden coffins, and preparing them for possible public display in the future. Supporting this work is the subject of our current appeal via the Justgiving web site. Julie Dawson and Lucy Skinner devoted much time and patience to the task, one which is due to continue for some time yet. To aid this work, we have an appeal on the Amarna Justgiving website:

A significant development in the general way that the expedition runs is the increasing involvement of personnel from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Some are local inspectors who attend field training sessions, but we were also able to invite to the anthropology field school three Egyptian bone specialists.
For the most recent work we received generous support from the Amarna Trust and its supporters, from the Amarna Research Foundation and from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Egyptian Art Department. But we are now undertaking a considerable spread of work at Amarna, involving longer periods of time at the site.
We have an extensive programme planned for the autumn, that will see a further two months of excavation at the South Tombs Cemetery. To help us to carry it through, I greatly hope that you will continue to support us.

Barry Kemp, 20 June 2012


Figure 1, along the temple axis, viewed to the east. At the bottom is the edge of the gypsum concrete foundations for the Platform Building, Pendlebury’s ‘Altar’. The ground between here and the southwards extension of the modern cemetery is occupied by the barely visible foundations of the Long Temple, the main part of the House of the Aten and originally filled with offering tables. The site of the stela excavations lies beyond the modern tombs.

Figure 2, pylon and platform building, viewed to the north. At the left edge can be seen the partially removed Pendlebury spoil heap that lies over the remains of the mud-brick pylon. The electricity pylon stands closely beside it.

Figure 3, quartzite inlay fragment, no. S 7531, recovered from the old spoil heaps. It probably belongs to the hand at the end of an Aten ray. Photo by Gwil Owen.

Figure 4, marking the outlines of the Platform Building at the end of the season, viewed to the south. The aim is to build the foundations back up to a common level with new blocks laid over a thin bed of sand. The final step will be to lay over these a second layer that represents the original plan and then to fill the intervening spaces with sand.

Figure 5, the stela site, viewed to the south. Archaeologist Mary Shepperson cleans sand from the gypsum foundations for a rectangular pedestal, exposing at the same time ephemeral traces of an earlier phase of pits and mud structures.

Figure 6, aerial view of the stela site, north being towards the top right corner. Beside the T-shaped foundation for the stela is an earlier mud-brick base surrounded by deep post-holes, not all of them yet excavated. Photo by Gwil Owen.


The work at Amarna is supported directly by two institutions: in the UK by the Amarna Trust, and in the USA by the Amarna Research Foundation. In both cases, donations are tax deductible.

Amarna Trust:

Donations can be made directly to the treasurer:
Dr Alison L. Gascoigne
Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology
University of Southampton
Avenue Campus
SO17 1BF
+44 (0)2380 599636

or to the Trust’s bank account:

Bank: Nat West
Address: High Wycombe branch, 33 High Street, High Wycombe, Bucks,
HP11 2AJ
Account name: The Amarna Trust
Account number: 15626229
Branch sort code: 60-11-01
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The Amarna Research Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization incorporated under the laws of the State of Colorado. It has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a charitable organization, and contributions to the Foundation are tax exempt.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Seventy Egyptian artefacts found in illegal possession are authenticated

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

The archaeological committee of the central administration for confiscated antiquities, led by Youssef Khalifa, verified the authenticity of a collection of ancient Egyptian objects that were found in the possession of three people in Giza.

The Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP) was conducting its routine work to search for artefacts that were reported missing from several archaeological sites in Egypt in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

When the police caught the people with the objects, the TAP called the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) to inspect them and check on their authenticity.

Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim revealed on Monday that 70 out of the more than 110 objects found were authenticated

Talisman of Ancient Googly-Eyed God Discovered

Yahoo! News (Owen Jarus)

Originally published on the Live Science site, but there were problems with the link.

 A newly identified googly-eyed artifact may have been used by the ancient Egyptians to magically protect children and pregnant mothers from evil forces.

Made of faience, a delicate material that contains silica, the pale-green talisman of sorts dates to sometime in the first millennium B.C. It shows the dwarf god Bes with his tongue sticking out, eyes googly, wearing a crown of feathers. A hole at the top of the face was likely used to suspend it like a bell, while a second hole, used to hold the bell clapper, was apparently drilled into it in antiquity.

Carolyn Graves-Brown, a curator at the Egypt Centre, discovered the artifact in the collection of Woking College, the equivalent of a high school for juniors and seniors. The college has more than 50 little-studied Egyptian artifacts, which were recently lent to the Egypt Centre at Swansea University where they are being studied and documented. 

A glimpse at the Chantress from KV64

Archaeology Magazine  (Julian Smith)

On January 25, 2011, tens of thousands of protestors flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. As the “day of revolt” filled the streets of Cairo and other cities with tear gas and flying stones, a team of archaeologists led by Susanne Bickel of the University of Basel in Switzerland was about to make one of the most significant discoveries in the Valley of the Kings in almost a century.

The valley lies on the west bank of the Nile, opposite what was once Egypt’s spiritual center—the city of Thebes, now known as Luxor. The valley was the final resting place of the pharaohs and aristocracy beginning in the New Kingdom period (1539–1069 B.C.), when Egyptian wealth and power were at a high point. Dozens of tombs were cut into the valley’s walls, but most of them were eventually looted. It was in this place that the Basel team came across what they initially believed to be an unremarkable find.

Protected islands in Aswan threatened by encroachment

Egypt Independent (James Purtill)

Not archaeology, but relevant to the general heritage management situation in Egypt at the moment.

The two granite islands abound with 125 species of birds, 120 species of flora, and the combined area has been named an Important Bird Area of Egypt and a tentative UNESCO world heritage site. Its six species of acacia are remnants of the gallery forest that is said to have covered the Nile Valley before the introduction of farming thousands of years ago.

After the initial confrontation with the EEAA back in early 2011, the trespassers stayed. For more than 12 months, the molokhia put down roots. It was a delicate situation. The EEAA feared that if one family was successful in defying state power, others would follow with their own claims. 

Kaaba Kiswa to be handed over to Egypt's antiquities ministry

Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)

With photos.

 Three months after the theft of two pieces of a 19th-century embroidered Al-Kaaba Kiswa (the Kaaba cover) from the mausoleum of Khedive Tawfik in Cairo's eastern cemetery, the Ministry of Religious Endowments (Awkaf) decided to hand the other exhibited pieces over to the Ministry of State for Antiquities.

These pieces are embroidered with calligraphy in gold and silver thread, similar to those that were traditionally sent by the Egyptian monarchy to cover the Kaaba in Saudi Arabia. They currently hang on the walls of the mausoleum.

Antiquities State Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Ahram Online that although these pieces were not registered on Egypt’s list of antiquities, the antiquities ministry had agreed to receive them, per the request of Religious Endowments Minister Mohamed El-Qousi.