Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hatshepsut - The King Herself

What motivated Hatshepsut to rule ancient Egypt as a man while her stepson stood in the shadows? Her mummy, and her true story, have come to light.

By Chip Brown

There was something strangely touching about her fingertips. Everywhere else about her person all human grace had vanished. The raveled linen around her neck looked like a fashion statement gone horribly awry. Her mouth, with the upper lip shelved over the lower, was a gruesome crimp. (She came from a famous lineage of overbites.) Her eye sockets were packed with blind black resin, her nostrils unbecomingly plugged with tight rolls of cloth. Her left ear had sunk into the flesh on the side of her skull, and her head was almost completely without hair.

I leaned toward the open display case in Cairo's Egyptian Museum and gazed at what in all likelihood is the body of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, the extraordinary woman who ruled Egypt from 1479 to 1458 B.C. and is famous today less for her reign during the golden age of Egypt's 18th dynasty than for having the audacity to portray herself as a man. There was no beguiling myrrh perfume in the air, only some sharp and sour smell that seemed minted during the many centuries she had spent in a limestone cave. It was hard to square this prostrate thing with the great ruler who lived so long ago and of whom it was written, "To look upon her was more beautiful than anything." The only human touch was in the bone shine of her nailless fingertips where the mummified flesh had shrunk back, creating the illusion of a manicure and evoking not just our primordial vanity but our tenuous intimacies, our brief and passing feel for the world.

The discovery of Hatshepsut's lost mummy made headlines two summers ago, but the full story unfolded slowly, in increments, a forensic drama more along the lines of CSI than Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indeed the search for Hatshepsut showed the extent to which the trowels and brushes of archaeology's traditional toolbox have been supplemented by CT scanners and DNA gradient thermocyclers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Napoleon Bonaparte and Egypt's lost scrolls

The recent destruction of an historic document in Cairo offers a stark warning that Egypt's art and history is under threat

Posted by Jonathan Jones

Thursday 22 December 2011
Napoleon Bonaparte was an extraordinary and contradictory man: a warlord who saw himself as a champion of civilisation. One of his most ambitious attempts to prove himself a cultural as well as military titan was to commission a team of scholars to produce the legendary Description de l'Egypte. This was the first thorough attempt to study the antiquities and geography of this ancient civilisation, a vast artistic and scientific work that was published in 10 huge folio volumes as well as supplements, and contains 3,000 illustrations, among them pictures more than a metre wide.

A handwritten manuscript of this colossal work has been destroyed in the fire that consumed the Institute of Egypt during clashes in Cairo earlier this week. This is a tragedy, as a brief account of Napoleon's daring project will reveal.

Napoleon took 167 scholars with him when he invaded Egypt in 1798. He was there to undermine British global power by establishing a French colonial presence. Being Napoleon, however, his proclamations of cultural respect for Egypt went far beyond the usual hollowness of propaganda. At the Battle of the Pyramids, he famously told his troops: "Soldiers, from the height of these pyramids, 40 centuries look down on you ..." It is a reminder that should ring in the ears of both sides – revolutionaries and the army – when they are close to Cairo's fragile treasuries of world culture.

The 167 scholars were not there as a publicity stunt. They included architects, mathematicians – who measured buildings and statues – and civil engineers, writers, artists and printers. Napoleon ordered them to discover the remains of ancient Egypt, which he called the "cradle of the science and art of all humanity".

Nelson wrecked Napoleon's military plans in Egypt, but the scholars did produce their Description. I have it before me, in a modern edition published by Taschen. What a book. Meticulous engravings depict the wonders of Egyptian archaeology: the temples of Philae, for instance, are shown in their original setting on an island in the Nile, seen from every angle in measured architectural views. Today the temples are on another nearby island after Unesco moved them to save them from flooding caused by the Aswan Dam – so the Description's precise record of their original appearance is invaluable.

It goes on like that. The French team journeyed to all the great archaeological sites of Egypt and made the first precise studies of them. This book is a monument to human curiosity and reason. Out of it came a new understanding of the legacy of one of the world's most charismatic civilisations. Yet the French also studied the modern Egypt of their time, the natural history of the Nile, the Islamic architecture of Cairo, even agricultural techniques and industries.

One of four original copies of this great work in Egypt has been lost forever. It is a warning. Whatever the political stakes, all sides must respect Egypt's art and history. The Description of Egypt was a record of what Egyptians have created over millennia. Those astounding antiquities themselves, many of the greatest of which are in the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square, are just as vulnerable. Please protect them.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff

"It has always been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life"

By Gamal Nkrumah

Stacy Schiff

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Alexandria lets you indulge in its collective allegories and epics. From one particular historical point of view the legends are intact. From another no less academic viewpoint everything is unraveling -- from Rome to Tarsus, and Saint Mark could be turning in his grave. A heroic queen can become a coward and a saucy but stern blue-blood, a seductress. The story of the city lingers long at this historical juncture as the author takes up the narration, and in her version of Alexandria, Cleopatra's first encounter with Ceasar isn't so seamless. She isn't even one of his fans. As for Mark Anthony, he is an object of devotion, even prodigious desire.

There is sometimes a 'message in a bottle' allure about political personalities that elude their proper place in history. Cleopatra was born in 69 BC, the second of three daughters was the celebrated and legendary last queen of Egypt. She is remembered to this day as an illustrious temptress of mighty Roman men of war. Cleopatra VII's sisters -- the elder Berenice and the younger Arsinoe -- were two such no less wily women who somehow eluded their proper place in history. Why this is so is left, I suppose, to the reader's conjecture. However, questions of historical relevance must be addressed.

As a pretender to the Ptolomaic throne in the absence of her father in Rome, the elder sister was executed upon Auletes' triumphal return. His fame as a fabulously wealthy Ptolomy did not however ensure a proper place for him in history. He was after all, Auletes the Piper. He was "the pharaoh who piped his way while Egypt collapsed."

Yet it was his dutiful daughter who presided over the Ptolemaic dynasty's ruin. A feat that ironically assured that she acquired a proper place in history. Cleopatra VII ingratiated herself with her father, playing the devoted daughter and winning his affections. She was the apple of Auletes' eye.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Avenue of sphinxes to open to public in March

By Nevine El-Aref , Friday 23 Dec 2011

During an inspection tour of Luxor’s archaeological sites, the Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim announced that the Avenue of Sphinxes will be partly opened to public by mid March. “We have chosen a date that coincides with the opening of the Berlin International Tourism Market on 13 March 2011,” Ibrahim told Ahram Online.

He explained that a 150 metre long section out of the 2,700 meters of the avenue will be ready for the public after restoration, promising to solve all technical and financial problems in order to resume restoration work in the rest of the avenue.
The Avenue of Sphinxes was built during the reign of Pharaoh Nectanebo I of the 30th Dynasty. It replaced another built in the 18th Dynasty by Queen Hatshepsut (1502-1482 BC), as she recorded on the walls of her red chapel in Karnak Temple.

According to this record, Hatshepsut built six chapels dedicated to the god Amun-Re on the route of the avenue during her reign, indicating that it had long been a place of religious significance.
However, over the span of history the avenue was lost, with some of its sphinxes destroyed and whole stretches buried in sand and build on.

Five years ago, in the framework of the Ministry of Culture, a programme to restore ancient Egyptian monuments with a view to developing the entire Luxor governorate into an open-air museum, a project was planned to recover lost elements of the avenue, restore the sphinxes and bring the place back to its original aspect.

During his tour with Luxor Governor Ezat Saad, Ibrahim visited American Research Centre excavation and restoration sites in Khonsu temple as well as monuments of the 18th and 19th dynasties at Karnak temple.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Volunteers race to save rare Egypt books

Cairo - Volunteers in white lab coats, surgical gloves and masks were standing on the back of a pickup truck along the banks of the Nile River in Cairo, rummaging through stacks of rare 200-year-old manuscripts that were little more than charcoal debris.

The volunteers, ranging from academic experts to appalled citizens, have spent the past two days trying to salvage what's left of some 192 000 books, journals and writings, casualties of Egypt's latest bout of violence.

Institute d'Egypte, a research centre set up by Napoleon Bonaparte during France's invasion in the late 18th century, caught fire during clashes between protesters and Egypt's military over the weekend.

It was home to a treasure trove of writings, most notably the handwritten 24-volume Description de l'Egypte, which began during the 1798 - 1801 French occupation.

The compilation, which includes 20 years of observations by more than 150 French scholars and scientists, was one of the most comprehensive descriptions of Egypt's monuments, its ancient civilisation and contemporary life at the time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Napoleon's 'Description De L'Egypt' lost to fire amid clashes

Thousands of irreplaceable manuscripts at Cairo's Institute for Scientific Research are lost to fire amid attack military attack on protesters at nearby Cabinet building

Ahram Online, Sunday 18 Dec 2011

A fire that erupted on Saturday in Egypt’s Institute for the Advancement of Scientific Research has resulted in the loss of several precious manuscripts, according to Zein Abdel-Hadi, head of Egypt’s Libraries and Archives Department, which has taken possession of many of the books rescued from the fire. The original manuscript of Napoleon’s historic “Description De L'Egypt” was reportedly among the losses.

Young revolutionaries rushed into the institute – which is located next to the Cabinet building, the site of ongoing clashes between security personnel and anti-government protesters – as soon as the fire erupted in hopes of rescuing the thousands original manuscripts housed there. Nearly 30,000 books were rescued out of a total of around 196,000 in the institute’s collection, estimated Abdel-Hadi, who went on to commend the young activists’ courage.

The “Description De L'Egypt” was initially drawn up by the team of French scientists who accompanied French empire-builder Napoleon on his invasion of Egypt (1798-1801). The 20-volume book was originally entitled “Description of Egypt, or the Collection of Notes and Research Done in Egypt during the French Campaign by Napoleon Bonaparte.”

After the scientists’ return to France, the French interior minister at the time, Jean Antoine Schpetal, organised a special committee mandated with collecting and publishing all the material, which was eventually published in ten volumes of engravings, nine volumes of research, and one atlas.

The volumes are considered among the most important historical works of the early nineteenth century.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Akhenaten and the Amarna Period

By Dr Kate Spence

The appeal of the Amarna period

Some people are drawn by interest in Akhenaten himself or his religion, others by a fascination with the unusual art which appeals strongly to the tastes of modern viewers and provides a sense of immediacy rarely felt with traditional Egyptian representation. The radical changes Akhenaten made have led to his characterisation as the 'first individual in human history' and this in turn has led to endless speculation about his background and motivation; he is cast as hero or villain according to the viewpoint of the commentator.
Akhenaten came to the throne of Egypt around 1353 BC. The reign of his father, Amenhotep III, had been long and prosperous with international diplomacy largely replacing the relentless military campaigning of his predecessors. The reign culminated in a series of magnificent jubilee pageants celebrated in Thebes (modern Luxor), the religious capital of Egypt at the time and home to the state god Amun-Re. The new king was crowned as Amenhotep IV (meaning 'Amun is content') and temple construction and decoration projects began immediately in the name of the new king. The earliest work of his reign is stylistically similar to the art of his predecessors, but within a year or two he was building temples to the Aten or divinised sun-disk at Karnak in a very different artistic style and had changed his name to Akhenaten in honour of this god.

Akhenaten's 'great king's wife' was Nefertiti and they had six daughters. There were also other wives, including the enigmatic Kiya who may have been the mother of Tutankhamun. Royal women play an unusually prominent role in the art of the period and this is particularly true of Nefertiti who is frequently depicted alongside her husband. Nefertiti disappears from the archaeological record around year 12 and some have argued that she reappears as the enigmatic co-regent Smenkhkare towards the end of Akhenaten's reign.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Girl and Her Goddess

By Marie-Astrid Calmettes, Egyptologist
Jessica Kaiser, Osteologist
and Brian V. Hunt

More than 2,500 years ago, a very ill young woman died and was buried at the already long-abandoned site of the city of the pyramid builders at Giza. Her grave goods included an amulet of an obscure goddess that suggests the woman may not have been from the Giza area.

Not only that, but she may not have been of Egyptian descent.

GPMP’s primary investigation at Giza is the 4th dynasty settlement of the pyramid builders. In one quarter of our dig site, however, we’re faced with the reality that hundreds of Late Period (747-525 BC) burials and a few Old Kingdom (2575-2134 BC) burials cover the site above the 4th dynasty levels. We cannot investigate the older levels without first carefully excavating, recording, and removing the Late Period burials.

At the end of the 4th Dynasty, the pyramid builders abandoned their city to the desert sands, as the 5th Dynasty kings moved the workers to Abusir and Saqqara. Two millennia later, the ancient Egyptians began using the site of the former Giza workmen’s village to bury their dead. The first of these were interred on a slope along the western edge of our dig site.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Karnak before the XVIIIth Dynasty.

Contribution to the study of the mud-brick remains of the first temples of Amun-Ra

by Guillaume Charloux

(DIGITAL BOOK IN FRENCH: Karnak avant la XVIIIe dynastie. Contribution à l'étude des vestiges en brique crue des premiers temples d'Amon-Rê) 2011.
Co-authored with Romain Mensan
With two articles by Michel Azim & Antoine Garric
With the participation of Shimaa Montaser Abu al-Hagag

Soleb. Collection "Études d’égyptologie" directed by Nicolas Grimal, professor at the Collège de France.

DIGITAL FORMAT. 568 pages (21 x 29,7 cm).
ISBN 978-2-9523726-9-5.

The Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak, as now visited by thousands of tourists, is the largest religious sanctuary still preserved in Egypt. Yet our knowledge of its origin and its development is still very patchy, despite two centuries of French archaeological research.

In 2002, fortuitous mud-brick remains exhumed during the study of the foundations of New Kingdom constructions has revived the debate about its origin. This was the start of a large-scale geomorphological and archaeological operation conducted by a multidisciplinary research team. Courtyards of the fourth, fifth and sixth pylons, the so-called "courtyard of the Middle Kingdom", neighboring aisles, and Thutmose III’s Akhmenou have been the focus of soundings to recover mud-brick construction and lower sedimentation levels.

The results suggest that the first religious complex at Karnak was built on a hill and it gradually developed to the west. It was also determined that the first temple certainly dates back from the eleventh dynasty (ca. 2160-1991 BC) and cannot be earlier.

The Temple of the New Kingdom, as we now see it, was present in almost identical proportions during the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period. This earlier religious complex, of which there remain only minor leveling courses of mud-brick, was most likely one of the largest sanctuaries in Egypt in the first half of the second millennium BC.

Dr. Guillaume Charloux received his Ph.D. from the University Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne). He is a research engineer in the UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée of the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research).

Roman Mensan is an associate researcher at the UMR 5608 Traces of the CNRS .

Monday, December 12, 2011

Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid's Secret Doors

By Rossella Lorenzi

Will the mystery over the Great Pyramid's secret doors be solved in 2012?

I dare say yes. After almost two decades of failed attempts, chances are now strong that researchers will reveal next year what lies behind the secret doors at the heart of Egypt's most magnificent pyramid.

New revelations on the enduring mystery were already expected this year, following a robot exploration of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

But unrest in Egypt froze the project at its most promising stage, after it produced the first ever images behind one of the Great Pyramid's mysterious doors.

Now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), once led by the controversial yet charismatic Zahi Hawass, is slowly returning to granting permits for excavations and archaeological research.

"As with other missions, we have had to resubmit our application to be allowed to continue. We are currently waiting for the various committees to formalise the approval," project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, told Discovery News.

"Once we're allowed to continue, I have no doubt that we can complete our work in 2012," he added.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Who Is King Scorpion?


The ‘Scorpion’ Mace-head is one of the most significant objects from the main deposit at Hierakonpolis. Unlike the Narmer Mace-head, it is not a complete mace-head but only part of one. Apart from the dominant figure after whom the palette is named, the surrounding scenes are partial; however excellently these have been conserved. This makes the object even more enigmatic and difficult to interpret than usual in the context of the development of Early Dynastic royal iconography.

This article re-examines the evidence and suggests an alternative identification for King Scorpion.

Read the rest of this very interesting article at:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Board Games Originated as Elite Pastime

Board games began as an exclusive pastime for the elite, with the Roman Empire spreading their popularity throughout Europe.

By Jennifer Viegas

Competitive board games -- played on the ground, on the floor, or on boards -- emerged as pastimes for the elite, with the Roman Empire spreading their popularity throughout Europe, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Antiquity, mentions that board games likely originated and disseminated from Egypt and the Fertile Crescent regions at around 3500 B.C. From there, they spread around the Mediterranean before reaching the Roman Empire and what is now Europe.

Based on the archaeological record, board games didn't even reach Britain until the very end of the 1st century B.C. from newly conquered Gaul. At the time, Gaul was a region encompassing present-day France, Belgium, most of Switzerland and other areas.

Not just anyone could play board games then either.

"Many of the first board games appear to have been diplomatic gifts to signify status," co-author Mark Hall told Discovery News. "We have early examples of quite splendid playing pieces belonging to elite, privileged people."

Hall said the world's oldest known board game could be "The Royal Game of Ur," also known as the Game of Twenty Squares. It was discovered in the Royal Tombs of Ur in Iraq. Although no one knows what the earliest rules for the game were, it's thought to have been a predecessor to today's backgammon.

Yet another early game was Senet from predynastic Egypt. Its game board, an example of which was found in King Tutankhamen's tomb, consists of a grid of 30 squares, arranged in three rows of 10. The earliest rules again are a mystery, although different versions of the game are still played today. Another early Egyptian board game, Mehen, featured lion-shaped pieces and marbles.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Menes, The First Pharaoh?

There is considerable confusion amongst scholars as to who the first Egyptian Pharaoh was, who ruled over all of Egypt from his capital at Memphis. According to the kings list made a thousand years after his time, his name was Men, Meni or Mena. The reason for using different vowels is because in Egyptian writing vowels are not written (as at times in Arabic) and these have to be guessed. The Greek historian Manetho of 200 BC who was known for developing meticulous historical records, called him Menes in Greek. That is the most popular way Mene is mentioned in modern literature. This pharaoh is the legendary king that came from the town of Tinis in Upper Egypt and took over Lower Egypt (the North) by force. He then became the first king over the whole country and founded a new capital for united Egypt - Memphis, just where the two states bordered on each other. According to archaeological dating this was around 3200 BC. For thousands of years, King Menes was thought to be the first king of Egypt. Ancient Egyptian records clearly identify him as the first king of the first dynasty.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Isis, Horus and Madonna

The following is from The Religion of Ancient Egypt by William Flinders Petrie, Edwards Professor of Egyptology, University College, London (1906): 

Isis became attached at a very early time to the Osiris worship; and appears in later myths as the sister and wife of Osiris. ... The union of Horus with the myth, and the establishment of Isis as the mother goddess, was the main mod of her importance in late times. Isis as the nursing mother is seldom shown until the twenty-sixth dynasty; then the type continually became more popular, until it outgrew all other religions of the country. In Roman times the mother Isis not only received the devotion of all Egypt, but her worship spread rapidly abroad, like that of Mithra. It became the popular devotion of Italy; and, after a change of name due to the growth of Christianity, she has continued to receive the adoration of a large part of Europe down to the present day as the Madonna.

Horus became identified with the sun-god, and hence came the winged solar disk as the emblem of Horus of Edfu ... the infant Horus with his finger to his lips was the most popular form of all, sometimes alone, sometimes on his mother’s lap. ... From the twenty-sixth dynasty down to late Roman times the infant Horus, or the young boy, was the most prominent subject on the temples, and the commonest figure in the homes of the people ...

Isis and Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the Holy Child, became the popular deities of the later age of Egypt, and their figures far outnumber those of all other gods. Horus in every form of infancy was the loved bambino of the Egyptian women. Again Horus appears carried on the arm of his mother in a form which is indistinguishable from that adopted by Christianity soon after.

We see, then, throughout the Roman world the popular worship of the Queen of Heaven, Mater Dolorosa, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, and her infant son Horus the child, the benefactor of men, who took captive all the powers of evil. And this worship spread and increased in Egypt and elsewhere until the growing power of Christianity compelled a change. The old worship continued; for the Syrian maid became transformed into an entirely different figure, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, occupying the position and attributes already belonging to the world-wide goddess; and the Divine Teacher, the Man of Sorrows, became transformed into the entirely different figure of the Potent Child. Isis and Horus still ruled the affections and worship of Europe with a change of names.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alexandria: The Ptolemaic Dynasty

Ptolemy I Soter

The achievements of the Greeks in the ancient world, by no means few, may have reached their peak in the city of Alexandria. No less a ruler than its namesake, Alexander III of Macedonia (Alexander the Great), Alexandria dominated the eastern Mediterranean world culturally, politically, and economically for more than nine hundred years, the latter three hundred of which it competed with even the eastern capital of the Byzantine Empire, the famous Constantinople. Few cities in the world can claim success of this magnitude for close to millenium, and even fewer still flourish to this day. Part of the reason for Alexandria's success was its location, both geographically as well as politically. Situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, it was the true bridge between Europe and Africa while still being a world all to itself. It was largely separate from the political upheavals of the Hellenistic kingdoms, and then later shaded by the Pax Romanum, as well as being quite far from the chaos of the barbarian invasions that contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. Freed from many of the fetters that chafed against its peers, and enriched by both maritime trade and its Greek intellectual tradition, Alexandria soon earned the title "Queen of the Mediterranean."

Part of Alexandria's power and majesty came from its status as the new capital of Egypt. In 320 BC it replaced Memphis as the seat of rulership for the Ptolemaic dynasty and it remained so throughout the Byzantine period. The rest was largely due to its monopoly on the papyrus industry for the entire Mediterranean world, as well as its hold on the manufacture and export of medicines, perfumes, jewelry, and art. Additionally, many materials and goods prized by the ancient world from the east came into Alexandria and were exported from there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Luxor Memnon restoration to go ahead

Project to restore the colossi of Memnon on Luxor’s west bank to go ahead, says Supreme Council of Antiquities

By Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 1 Dec 2011

In collaboration with the European archaeological mission, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is undertaking a comprehensive project to restore the colossi of Memnon on Luxor’s west bank.

The project aims to return the 19.5 meters tall colossi to their original appearance when the New Kingdom’s King Amenhotep III built them to decorate the façade of his mortuary temple.

SCA secretary-general Mostafa Amin told Ahram Online that the restoration would also return all the missing pieces of the colossi, collapsed during the Roman period, to their original positions.

Amin went on to say that the bodies of both colossi would be consolidated, as well as two Amenhotep III’s statues that were unearthed last year by the European archaeological mission, which has been working at the site for more than ten years.

In 27 BC, a large earthquake reportedly shattered the eastern colossus, collapsing it from the waist up and cracking the lower half. Following its rupture, the remaining lower half of the statue was then reputed to "sing" on various occasions – always within an hour or two of sunrise, usually right at dawn. The sound was most often reported in February or March, but this is probably more a reflection of the tourist season rather than any actual pattern.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Statue of Egyptian king Amenhotep III found

CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed a large statue of king Amenhotep III who ruled nearly 3,400 years ago and who was the grandfather of the famed boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities says the latest find was made at the king's funerary temple in the southern city of Luxor.
Thursday's statement says the 44 feet (13.5 meter) tall statue is made of colored quartzite. It is composed of several large pieces that once put together will depict the king as standing.
Amenhotep III ruled from 1390-1352 B.C.
The latest find comes after several other relics of the king were unearthed last year in his mortuary temple on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor.

A Coptic city uncovered in Dakhla

The remains of a 4th century city were found at Dakhla oasis

by Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 30 Nov 2011

During routine excavations at the Ain Al-Sabil area of Dakhla oasis, an Egyptian mission of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) stumbled on what it believes to be a Coptic settlement dating back to the 4th century AD.

Mostafa Amin, the Secretary General of the SCA, made the announcement, explaining that the newly discovered settlement consists of remains of residential houses and service buildings as well as a large Basilica with distinguished columns and a wooden alter adorned with foliage decoration and icons showing Jesus, the Virgin Mary, angels and saints.

“I am very happy with what the mission has found; because it is the first time this area was explored,” Amin told Ahram Online. He continued that this new discovery not only forms another another archaeological attraction but “will lead us to other settlements that can be dated to different eras as well.”

The Head of Islamic and Coptic Antiquities department, Mohsen Sayed Aly said that excavators also uncovered a number of houses, bronze coins dating to the 3rd and 4th century AD, as well as a collection of clay pots. Aly pointed out that one complete and fully furnished house was found. It consist of a large hall enclosing several small living rooms, a kitchen, an oven and a large staircase.
Excavations are now in full swing, aiming in order to uncover more of the city.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Egypt and the Birth of Egyptology

video credits:
Ohlone College Art 103A
Professor Kenney Mencher
(Art History Stone Age Technology through the Early Renaissance)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ancient Egyptian chariot trappings rediscovered

Forgotten drawers in Egyptian museum yield 'astonishing' leather find.

by Jo Marchant

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Archaeology meets politics: Spring comes to ancient Egypt

As the country struggles to refashion its government, archaeologists are looking warily towards the future.

23 November 2011

In a secluded stretch of desert about 300 kilometres south of Cairo, hundreds of bodies lie buried in the sand. Wrapped in linen and rolled up in stiff mats made of sticks, they are little more than bones. But their ornate plaited hair styles and simple personal possessions help to reveal details about the individuals in each grave. The bodies date from around 3,300 years ago, when the Pharaoh Akhenaten renounced Egypt's traditional polytheistic religion and moved his capital to remote Amarna, to worship just one god: the Sun disc Aten.

The cemetery offers a window on a unique episode in Egyptian history, a revolution that some see as the birth of monotheism. Barry Kemp, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, and director of the Amarna Project, has been working with his colleagues to excavate the skeletons, and says that they are starting to reveal “an alarming picture of a stressful life”. Many Amarnans died young, with retarded growth and signs of multiple injuries. Some young men had marks where their shoulder blades had been pierced, perhaps as part of a brutal ritual.

Kemp can't say much more about the skeletons because he had to flee the site in January, putting his team on flights out of the country and walling up his storehouses as a present-day revolution sent the country into chaos. Although the situation soon calmed — in fact, Amarna did not suffer a single episode of looting — Kemp has spent months waiting for permission to resume excavations. Other teams working in the country tell a similar story. “We've lost a year,” says Frank Rühli, a palaeopathologist from the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who was scheduled to start work in February on human remains at the pyramids of Saqqara, near Cairo, and in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor.

The block on excavations has been the latest in a series of obstacles for archaeologists working in Egypt — the home of perhaps one-third of the world's antiquities, which reveal a vanished culture in unmatched detail.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

On This Day: King Tut’s Tomb Discovered

November 26, 2011 06:00 AM

by findingDulcinea Staff

On Nov. 26, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter made a small hole in a sealed doorway and, holding up a candle, shed light onto King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, for the first time in more than 3,000 years.

Tutankhamen’s Tomb Discovered

When Carter first arrived in Egypt, in 1891, as part of a British-sponsored archaeological survey, most of the ancient tombs had been discovered and plundered; it seemed unlikely that any undisturbed burial chambers remained.

Carter, however, believed that the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy king from 14th century B.C., still laid in the Valley of the Kings, on the eastern side of the Nile River. Sponsored by Lord Carnarvon, a collector of antiquities, Carter began excavating in the area in 1914.

On Nov. 4, 1922, Carter found the first signs of what proved to be Tutankhamen's tomb. But it was not until Nov. 26, after days spent clearing a passage down a long, steep stairway, that
he and Lord Carnarvon reached a second sealed doorway
, behind which were hidden treasures of the boy king’s last resting place.

In his diary, Carter described the inside the tomb as a “
strange and wonderful medley of extraordinary and beautiful objects heaped upon one another.

“We questioned one another as to the meaning of it all,” he wrote. “Was it a tomb or merely a cache? A sealed doorway between the two sentinel statues proved there was more beyond, and with the numerous cartouches bearing the name of Tut.ankh.Amen on most of the objects before us, there was little doubt that there behind was the grave of that Pharaoh.”

On Feb. 16, 1923, after three months of removing the treasures, Carter was at last able to unseal the door of the burial chamber,
revealing King Tut’s solid gold coffin and mummified remains.

Though they might seem today to be treasures beyond imagining, the contents of King Tut's tomb were modest by Pharaonic standards. In addition to jewelry and gold, Carter discovered a chariot, statuary and weapons.

The most stunning find was a stone sarcophagus containing three coffins nested within each other. Inside the final coffin, made of solid gold, was the mummified body of Tutankhamen, preserved for 3,200 years.

Biography: Tutankhamen

Tutankhamen ruled Egypt from 1336 to 1327 B.C. His father Akhenaten left the 9-year-old heir with a country in ruins as a result of religious extremism.

The young king was originally named Tutankhaten, or "the living image of Aten," after the sun god. While he was young, the military and priesthood used him as a puppet while they pushed a return to traditional ways and religion. As a result, they renamed him Tutankhamen, after Amen, a traditional god.

Tutankhamen died suddenly at the age of 19
, and the circumstances of his death are still debated. A 1968 x-ray revealed loose bone fragments in Tut’s skull, which fueled speculation that he was murdered.

Recent scholarship has found that it is unlikely that Tut died of head trauma; the damage to the skull was more likely caused by the embalmers or by Carter’s excavators. Most scientific theories for Tut’s death
focus on disease or infection.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ashmolean museum: the critic's view

Historically important and mesmerising, the Egyptian galleries have something for everyone, writes Jonathan Glancey

"Can you see anything?" whispered Lord Carnarvon as, with the light of a candle, Howard Carter peered for the first time into the tomb of Tutankhamun. "Yes, wonderful things," came the famous reply. Those wonderful things came to light on 26 November 1922, sparking a popular and enduring fascination around the world with all things ancient, mummified and Egyptian.

The Ashmolean, Britain's oldest public museum (founded in 1683), will this Saturday open the doors of six newly refurbished galleries devoted to its collection of some 40,000 Ancient Egyptian and Nubian antiquities – a collection of outstanding quality.

Spanning the Nile's cultural history, from its prehistoric roots to the days of Egypt under Roman rule, the objects on display here are hugely important from a historical point of view. Mesmerising, too. The new galleries mark the completion of a second phase of the £66m renovation and transformation of the Ashmolean by its director, Christopher Brown and his architect, Rick Mather. The first opened to critical acclaim in 2009.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A mummy revealed in Richmond

By Teresa Annas
The Virginian-Pilot
© November 19, 2011


John Taylor has been digging into the background of a guy with a tongue-twisting name - Nesperennub.
That's nez-pair-ren-newb. Nez for short.

Taylor is an assistant keeper, or curator, in the ancient Egypt and Sudan department of London's British Museum. He has gotten to know Nez pretty well, but the curiosity is not reciprocated.

Nez has been dead for nearly 3,000 years. Still, he left a trail of clues.

Picture Taylor as a scholarly Sherlock Holmes, magnifying glass in hand, piecing together the mystery of this man's life, death and afterlife in what was the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes - now Luxor.

Taylor's findings can be examined - bring your own magnifier, if you wish - at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, where the international touring show "Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb" goes on view today.

The show, which covers 2,000 years of Egyptian history with about 100 objects, is premiering in Richmond for its only American stop. Next, it goes to Queensland, Australia.

All of the artifacts are on loan from the British Museum, which has the most comprehensive collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt. The exhibition includes everyday items, such as jewelry, and objects related to an ancient Egyptian's afterlife, including canopic jars for storing a dead person's dried organs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ancient Egypt: Predynastic Period

By Alistair Boddy-Evans

This period corresponds to the Late Neolithic (Stone Age), and covers the cultural and social changes which occurred between the late Palaeolithic period (hunter gatherers)and the early Pharaonic era (the Early Dynastic Period). During the Predynastic Period Egyptians developed a written language (centuries before writing was developed in Mesopotamia) and an institutionalised religion. They developed a settled, agricultural civilization along the fertile, dark soils (kemet or black lands) of the Nile (which involved the revolutionary use of the plough) during a period in which Northern Africa was becoming more arid and the edges of the Western (and Saharan) desert (the deshret or red lands) spread.

Although archaeologists know that writing first emerged during the Predynastic Period, very few examples still exist today. What is known about the period comes from remains of its art and architecture.

The Predynastic Period is divided into four separate phases: the Early Predynastic which ranges from the 6th to 5th millennium BCE (approximately 5500 - 4000 BCE), the Old Predynastic which ranges form 4500 to 3500 BCE (the time overlap is due to diversity along the length of the Nile), the Middle Predynastic which roughly goes form 3500 - 3200 BCE, and the Late Predynastic which takes us up to the First Dynasty at around 3100 BCE. The reducing size of the phases can be taken as an example of how social and scientific development was accelerating.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Unwrapping the ancient Egyptian animal mummy industry

By Jane O'Brien BBC News, Washington

The ancient Egyptian animal mummification industry was so large it put some species in danger of extinction. But as a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC shows, the Egyptians believed they were doing the animals a great honour.
Egypt in the 7th Century BC was not a healthy place to be if you were a cat or a dog.
Puppy farms and other animal breeding programmes were a huge industry - not to produce pets, but to provide a stock of animals to be killed and mummified.
The Egyptians believed that animals held a unique position in the afterlife. They could keep the dead company, they represented the gods, and they were well received as offerings by the gods, Egyptologists say.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ashmolean Opens The New Galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia on 26 November 2011

On Saturday 26 November 2011, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford will open six new galleries for the collections of Ancient Egypt and Nubia (present day Sudan). Building on the success of the Museum’s extension, which opened in 2009, this second phase of major redevelopment redisplays the world-renowned Egyptian collections to exhibit objects that have been in storage for decades, more than doubling the number of mummies and coffins on display. The galleries will take visitors on a chronological journey covering more than 5000 years of human occupation of the Nile Valley.

The £5 million project has received lead support from Lord Sainsbury’s Linbury Trust, along with the Selz Foundation and other trusts, foundations and individuals. Rick Mather Architects have led the redesign and redisplay of the pre-existing Egypt galleries and the extension into the restored Ruskin Gallery, previously occupied by the Museum Shop. The contractor Beard has completed the construction work in the historic building. New openings link the rooms, presenting the collections under the broad themes of Egypt at its Origins; Dynastic Egypt and Nubia; Life after Death in Ancient Egypt; The Amarna ‘Revolution’; Egypt in the Age of Empires; and Egypt meets Greece and Rome.

The Ashmolean is home to some of the finest Egyptian and Nubian collections in the country, with Predynastic and Protodynastic material which ranks amongst the most significant in the world. With new lighting, display cases and interpretation, the project completes the Ashmolean’s Ancient World Floor, comprising galleries that span the world’s great ancient civilisations – from Egypt and Nubia, Prehistoric Europe, the Ancient Near East, Classical Greece and Rome, to India, China and Japan.

“We are enormously grateful to Lord Sainsbury and the Linbury Trust for initiating this transformative project for one of the most important and popular areas of the Museum. Rick Mather’s design for the galleries now allows us to display material that, for reasons of conservation, has not been seen for up to half a century.” Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said, "These remarkable collections are among the most important outside Egypt and one of the Ashmolean’s most popular attractions. With an exciting series of new galleries, the redevelopment transforms opportunities for using the collections for teaching and research at all levels, and the way they are enjoyed, cared for and integrated within the wider Museum.”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Discoveries at Mendes and Theban Tombs Opening More Windows on Ancient Egypt

One might think that the archaeological treasures of ancient Egypt have been pretty much picked over by now. Of all the civilizations that have graced the pages of archaeological romance, ancient Egypt stands arguably on top. For thousands of years, tomb robbers have looted it, and since the 18th century, archaeologists have systematically pored over the remains. Thus it could be said that this field has already seen its heyday.

But for Professor Donald Redford and Dr. Susan Redford of Pennsylvania State University, like other scholars in their field, it offers a seemingly inexhaustible supply of new finds and surprises that continue to excite the imagination of would-be Egyptologists and archaeologists.

For the past two decades, they have directed expeditions to two separate ancient locations in Egypt, one near the west bank of the Nile in the Valley of the Nobles, part of the Theban necropolis opposite Luxor, and the other much farther to the north in the Nile Delta region. Both locations have yielded discoveries that have made archaeology news headlines and have created new questions and avenues of investigation.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Pyramid shut to avoid 11/11/11 rituals

EGYPT will close the Great Pyramid of Giza later today to avoid any rituals by a group rumoured to have plans to mark the date of 11/11/11 at the site, an official said.

The decision came "after much pressure" from Egyptian Internet users saying strange rituals were going to be held "within the walls of the pyramid on November 11, 2011", said Atef Abu Zahab, head of the Department of Pharaonic Archaeology.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities confirmed the closure of the tourist site in a statement that only referred to the need for maintenance following a busy period during Muslim holidays.

The Pyramid of Cheops is the biggest and most famous of the three Giza pyramids. It houses the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, and is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Numerologists are anxiously awaiting today, when the digital alignment of ones occurs at 11.11 am, which some believe will lead to unusual events.

Thousands of people plan to meet at the time around the world for ceremonial dances, and several pages devoted to the date have appeared on social networking website Facebook.