Monday, October 31, 2011

Royal Statuary through Old and Middle Kingdom Egypt

This article covers the trends through Egyptian royal statuary through the Old and Middle Kingdoms. It shows how the changes in society, in attitude and structure, drove these artistic trends.

by Lorna Phillips

Many changes occurred in the Old and Middle Kingdoms in Egypt, especially in relation to the attitude of the people towards the king. The trends in royal statuary during this time reflect these fluctuations in society, both physically and in their purpose. One of the main physical changes in royal statues was the development of portraiture. The sculptors had to try and accomplish a sense of naturalism yet still show the magnificence of the king.

Throughout Egyptian history, the statuary of royals has had a firm funerary grounding. This is definitely true for the Old Kingdom, as it was still strongly believed that the statue could hold divine power and was a place for the king’s ka (spirit) whilst he was in the afterlife. As they were sacred items, most were hidden away, often in a serdab, and were the focus for the cults of the dead kings as a link between the living and the dead. Although they could not see the statue, it gave them something solid upon which to focus their worship. According to Cyril Aldred, the statues were purely practical, not aiming to be emotional for the viewer, as the viewer was not for whom the statue was made. The statuary of this time was focussed only on the deceased and their needs.

Even though the statues continued to be associated with the king after his death, during the Middle Kingdom they also began to represent the king while he was still alive. The kings of the Middle Kingdom had not emerged from the unrest of the First Intermediate Period with full support. Statues were therefore placed in temples around Egypt as monuments, aiming to remind the people of the king’s dominance. Through this worship, the bonds between the king and the local communities strengthened.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stolen ancient Egyptian artefacts recovered

An anthropoid sarcophagus and other ancient Egyptian artefacts are recovered by the Tourism and Antiquities Police

By Nevine El-Aref , Friday 28 Oct 2011

Following comprehensive investigations carried out by the Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP), a collection of missing ancient Egyptian artefacts were recovered buried by antiquity smugglers in the desert south of Saqqara necropolis.

According to a release submitted by TAP, the restituted collection includes of an anthropoid painted wood sarcophagus, two wooden statues depicting the god Ptah and seven pieces of inscribed limestone which were parts of a false door. The objects were stolen from Saqqara necropolis and taken out of the archaeological space in order to be sold.

An archaeological committee approved the authenticity of the items which, after their release from the TAP, will be subjected to restoration and study before being returned.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mummy Has Oldest Case of Prostate Cancer in Ancient Egypt

on 26 October 2011
Some 2250 years ago in Egypt, a man known today only as M1 struggled with a long, painful, progressive illness. A dull pain throbbed in his lower back, then spread to other parts of his body, making most movements a misery. When M1 finally succumbed to the mysterious ailment between the ages of 51 and 60, his family paid for him to be mummified so that he could be reborn and relish the pleasures of the afterworld.
Now an international research team has diagnosed what ailed M1: the oldest known case of prostate cancer in ancient Egypt and the second oldest case in the world. (The earliest diagnosis of prostate cancer came from the 2700-year-old skeleton of a Scythian king in Russia.) Moreover, the new study now in press in the International Journal of Paleopathology, suggests that earlier investigators may have underestimated the prevalence of cancer in ancient populations because high-resolution computerized tomography (CT) scanners capable of finding tumors measuring just 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter only became available in 2005. "I think earlier researchers probably missed a lot without this technology," says team leader Carlos Prates, a radiologist in private practice at Imagens Médicas Integradas in Lisbon.
Prostate cancer begins in the walnut-sized prostate gland, an integral part of the male reproductive system. The gland produces a milky fluid that is part of semen and it sits underneath a man's bladder. In aggressive cases of the disease, prostate cancer cells can metastasize, or spread, entering the bloodstream and invading the bones. After performing high-resolution scans on three Egyptian mummies in the collection of the National Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, Prates and colleagues detected many small, round, dense tumors in M1's pelvis and lumbar spine, as well as in his upper arm and leg bones. These are the areas most commonly affected by metastatic prostate cancer. "We could not find any evidence to challenge this diagnosis," Prates says.
"I would agree that it's a case of metastatic prostate cancer," says Andreas Nerlich, a pathologist at the Academic Hospital Munich-Bogenhausen in Germany, who was not involved in the research project. "This is a very well-done study."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Egyptian mummy portraits go on display at Ashmolean museum

£5m Egypt project is allowing Oxford's Ashmolean museum to display stunning objects kept in storage for years
by Mark Brown for Wednesday 19 October 2011

Three beautifully restored mummy portraits of well-off young people who were, 2,000 years ago, probably members of a mysterious group called "the 6475" are to go on display at the new home for one of the most important Egyptian collections in the world.

The three faces - an enigmatic, beguiling young woman and two handsome men - will go on permanent display at Oxford's Ashmolean museum next month as part of the second phase of its redevelopment.

The £5m Egypt project is allowing the museum to display stunning objects which have been in storage for years with twice as many mummies and coffins being shown.

The oldest, on linen, is of a young woman dating from 55-70AD, excavated by Flinders Petrie - the founding father of Egyptology in the UK - at the Roman cemeteries of Hawara in Fayum, south-west of Cairo, in 1911.

Petrie had to do some immediate field conservation which involved him heating up paraffin wax in a double boiler and pouring it over the portraits he found.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

About Egyptology and this blog

As a response to the article "Egyptology", that I published some days ago, I want to tell you a little about my own fascination with this subject and why I started this blog. The word Egyptology for example, sounds like a new religion without any do's and don'ts. It sounds exotic and mysterious like the world of the ancient Egyptians.

It all started when I was a young boy and my teacher started talking about history. And when one starts talking about history it is matter of time when the subject of Egypt comes along. Now must I tell you that when my teacher started talking about history, he had the capability to bring this hidden world back to life before your own eyes. His way of teaching you history, was like bringing you back in time, like stepping through a time machine. Mesmerizing. At least, that is how I felt about it. I can't speak for my other classmates off course. You like history, or you don't. Maybe only 5% of the class was under the history spell, the other classmates were allready counting the minutes to the next break, I guess.

But when my teacher started talking about Egypt I felt like I was hearing something I had never heard before. I remember seeing some pictures of Egyptian gods and hieroglyphics and thought "how odd". Something so strange and unfamiliar. "Wait, you mean that they used symbols for words, how odd! And the men and women were always portraited sideways? Odd again! And Gods with animal heads? Yikes!"
Seriously, I always have had a special interest for the unknown. Like I always wanted to know what is behind the stars, the question, "what was up with these Egyptians", is somewhat easier to answer.

Just like the annually flooding of the river Nile in earlier times, ancient Egypt is like a source that never dries. Thanks to the never ending archaeological finds and the ongoing talk about one of Egypts biggest wonders the Pyramids, or the mummies, the temples, the life size statues of pharaohs. I have heard one Egyptologist say, that with all the existing mysteries of ancient Egypt, one archaeological find can enlarge the mystery. And you can guess that there are hundreds of finds throughout an archaeological year! There is so much history burried in this one land, so many kings and queens who ruled as gods, so many temples, carvings and statues. There is so much to learn about this ancient civilization, a civilization so advanced, so very different from the other civilizations that once flourished! A civilization that existed for over three thousand years, that started at the banks of the Nile. In all these thousands of years little had changed. Pharaohs had come and gone, but the culture remained. Religion didn't change much, except when the farao Akhenaten started a revolution with his monotheistic religion. But this revolution only lasted for some decades. The ancient Egyptian civilization was doomed after Cleopatra died. In this wide range of more than three thousand years there is so much history, so much information one can write a whole library of books about this matter.

I am not an Egyptologist, I wish I were, but I am not. I can only quench my thirst for knowledge by exploring the world of the ancient Egyptians. And when I found out, I want to find out more. It is my hunger for information, my interest for the unknown. That is why I love history and Egyptology, it is a wonderful waste of time. I humbly bow down for my teacher who has sown the seed, who was the first one to tell me about the Egyptians. So thank you! Thanks to him I traveled through Egypt about ten years ago and saw the splendour of this ancient culture with my own eyes. I saw the pyramids, Karnak temple, Luxor temple, The Valley Of The Kings, the Cairo museum with the royal mummies. I remember staring at the mummy of Ramesses the Great and the other mummies. Such an amazing experience! I had a wonderful time. Now I am going to tell you a little secret, when I was in the Egyptian museum at Cairo there was the statue of Chefren. Maybe you have seen it before, it is a black, lifesize statue of the pharaoh with the falcon god Horus behind his head. When nobody was watching I touched the statue and felt the coolness of the stone. Now this is off course forbidden, one is not allowed to touch anything in the museum, but I couldn't resist. I had to do it. I have a painting of the same statue now as a reminder of this great journey. And what a journey it was.  I can only say that if you have the time, go and see it for yourself!

Ever since, ancient Egypt is like a virus that doesn't go away! So now you understand why I started this blog. I hope you will share my fascination for Egyptology and enjoy the articles I will bring to you. And when you want something to tell me, you can by leaving a comment. I would really appreciate it!

Dennis a.k.a. Amun-Ra

p.s.: Thanks Tommy for your help!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Two reliefs stolen from Egypt's Hetepka tomb found

Two ancient limestone Egyptian reliefs stolen from Hetepka tomb in Saqqara were recovered today

By Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 15 Oct 2011

The Egyptian Tourism and Antiquities Police have succeeded in recovering two well-preserved limestone reliefs stolen in 1986 by an international antiquities smuggling gang from Saqqara archaeological storehouses.

The objects belong to the Fifth Dynasty tomb of the king's royal hairdresser Hetepka, discovered by British archaeologists Geoffrey Martin in the late 1960’s at the Old Kingdom cemetery at Saqqara necropolis.

Although several members of the gang were caught in 2002 and sent to prison, among them the gang’s mastermind, Jonathan Tokeley-Parry and his partner, British antiquities trader Frederick Schultz, the four objects they stole had not been recovered.

Two of the objects have been found.

Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) Mostafa Amine said that both recovered items are limestone reliefs engraved with ancient Egyptian decorations and hieroglyphic texts. The first one, he continued, is a rectangular shaped relief of 100 centimetres in height and 60 centimetres in width. It depicts four geese and is decorated with hieroglyphic text.

The second relief, Amine pointed out, is engraved with three lines of hieroglyphic text written vertically as well as the cartouches of two of the Fifth Dynasty kings Sahure and Neferirkare.

Atef Abul Dahab, head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Department at the SCA explained that following the trial of Tokeley-Parry and Schultz, Egypt reported the missing objects to Interpol, who is still looking for the other two reliefs that depict scenes of Egypt’s wildlife along with hieroglyphic text.

Abul Dahab told Ahram Online that the two newly recovered objects are now in storage awaiting restoration.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

26th Dynasty tomb discovered by workers digging residential house foundations in Ain Shams

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 4 Oct 2011

Coincidence has always played a major role in discovering important archaeological sites. Among such finds are King Tutankhamen’s tomb on Luxor’s west bank and the golden funerary treasure of King Khufu’s mother Queen Hetepheres on the Giza plateau. Today, coincidence led to the discovery of an unidentified 26th Dynasty tomb in the Ain Shams area.

According to Atef Abul Dahab, head of Ancient Egyptian Antiquities, the tomb was found during routine digging work in Mansheyet Al-Tahrir Street in Ain Shams to lay the foundations of a residential house.

Workers stumbled upon what is believed to be a stony wall engraved with hieroglyphic text.

An archaeological committee from the Supreme Council of Antiquities embarked on an inspection tour and found that the wall is a part of a 26th Dynasty tomb.

Early investigations, said Abul Dahab, reveal that the tomb is empty of any treasured artefacts and inscriptions, which indicate that it had been robbed in antiquity.

Excavation work will continue to inspect the whole area and be sure that it is an empty plot free of any artefacts. The committee will then remove the tomb and hand over the land to its owner.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


September 10, 2011 By Alfred Jones

Once I was asked, “Why is it referred to as Egyptology, indicating that it is to be studies along with scientific subjects?” To answer this question, we must go back to the year l798 when Napoleon attempted to invade Egypt. His expedition, ill advised as it was from the military standpoint, had the long range effect of politically awaking Egypt and setting in motion a scientific examination of its antiquities that continued to this day. He had taken one hundred and seventy five scholars to study and record every aspect of Egypt that could be brought under the microscope of those who wanted to know more about it in as great a depth as possible.

Not only did he bring some of France’s greatest authorities on such subjects as astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, hierology, history, various technicians, painters, poets and a copy of every book he could find in France that contained information about the Nile Valley. He brought crates of scientific apparatus and measuring instruments.

Long after Napoleon gave up his military interest in Egypt and returned to France, the army of scholars remained in Egypt and continued to study, to measure and to record their findings. He was able to create a world wide interest in Egypt and after the other Europeans became interested in Egypt, there was a host of adventurers as well as scholars who descended upon Egypt and remain there to this day.

Coffin reveals secret past of mummified 'royal boy'

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A 2,500-year-old mummified boy, who is a star draw at Devon's oldest museum, has unexpectedly been put in the shade – by the very coffin in which he lies.

Ever since he went on show as part of a major revamp at Torquay Museum in 2007, Psamtek – the only human mummy on public display in the county – has captured the imagination of thousands of curious visitors.

But now his own mummy-shaped coffin has stolen the limelight, after museum officials were told the ornate near-4ft-long object (1.2m) is nearly 1,000 years older than the body it contains.

Further investigation reveals the coffin may have been made for a junior member of royalty more than a century before the time of the famous boy king Tutankhamun.

Museum curator Barry Chandler said: "It's an extraordinary discovery and means that the coffin is now the most spectacular exhibit in our entire collection.

"It's extremely rare – even the British Museum doesn't have one quite like it."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Final section, completing rare ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, on view at the Brooklyn Museum

BROOKLYN, N.Y.- Following a three-year-long conservation project, the final section of the rare, thirty-five-centuries-old Egyptian Book of the Dead of the Goldworker of Amun, Sobekmose will go on long-term view on September 28. One of the most important funerary texts of the New Kingdom, in part because it is an early version of the Book of the Dead and casts light on the development of all later manuscripts, the papyrus is about twentyfive feet long. In an unusual feature, it is inscribed on both sides.

The Book of the Dead is a present-day name for ancient Egyptian texts containing a number of magic spells intended to assist the deceased in the afterlife, and which were placed in the coffin or burial chamber. The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, created during the Eighteenth Dynasty, probably during the reign of Thutmose III or Amunhotep II (circa 1479–1400 b. c.e.), contains nearly one hundred “chapters,” almost half of the total known group of Book of the Dead texts. Several of the chapters are close in content to those found in the Coffin Texts, the collection of funeral texts used in the previous historical period.

The texts on the front are written in approximately 530 columns of hieroglyphs reading down and from right to left. English translations are provided in the gallery for certain key passages. Although portions of these funeral texts have been translated, understanding them is often challenging even to Egyptologists, who do not yet know the meaning of certain phrases and sentences.

The final third of the Book of the Dead of Sobekmose will join the previously completed sections, which have been on view in the Mummy Chamber installation in the Egyptian galleries since May 2010. That installation marked the first time the object had been on view in the Brooklyn Museum. It entered the collection in 1937 as a part of a purchase from the New-York Historical Society but had never previously been displayed because it was in poor condition.

The conservation project, supported by the Leon Levy Foundation, has made it possible for this exceptionally rare object to be put on public view.