Monday, April 30, 2012

Ancient Egyptian Mummy Suffered Rare and Painful Disease

Around 2,900 years ago, an ancient Egyptian man, likely in his 20s, passed away after suffering from a rare, cancerlike disease that may also have left him with a type of diabetes.
When he died he was mummified, following the procedure of the time. Theembalmers removed his brain(through the nose it appears), poured resin-like fluid into his head and pelvis, took out some of his organs and inserted four linen “packets” into his body. At some point the mummy was transferred to the 2,300 year-old sarcophagus of a woman named Kareset, an artifact that is now in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia.

The mummy transfer may have been the work of 19th-century antiquity traders keen on selling Kareset's coffin but wanting to have a mummy inside to raise the price.
Until now, scientists had assumed a female mummy was inside the Egyptian coffin. The new research reveals not only that the body does not belong to Kareset, but the male mummy inside was sick. His body showed telltale signs that he suffered from Hand-Schuller-Christian disease, an enigmatic condition in which Langerhans cells, a type of immune cell found in the skin, multiply rapidly.

"They tend to replace normal structure of the bone and all other soft tissues," Dr. Mislav Cavka, a medical doctor at the University of Zagreb who is one of the study's leaders, said in an interview with LiveScience. "We could say it is one sort of cancer."
Scientists still aren't sure what causes the disease, but it is very rare, affecting about one in 560,000 young adults, more often males. "In ancient times it was lethal, always," said Cavka, who added that today it can be treated.
Cavkaand colleagues examined the mummy using X-rays, a CT scan and a newly developed technique for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ian S. Moyer, Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism - A Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2012.04.45

Ian S. Moyer, Egypt and the Limits of Hellenism.   Cambridge; New York:  Cambridge University Press, 2011.  Pp. x, 347.  ISBN 9780521765510.  $110.00.  

Reviewed by Phiroze Vasunia, University of Reading

“O Egypt, Egypt, of your pious deeds only stories will survive, and they will be incredible to your children.” Ian Moyer’s book is a first-rate analysis of the relationship between Egypt and Hellenism; it moves significantly beyond the historical positivism, the binary framework of Greek/barbarian, and the colonialist assumptions of older scholarship. Moyer considers four sources closely—Herodotus, Manetho, the Delian Sarapis aretalogy, and Thessalus (who composed a treatise De virtutibus herbarumin the first or second century CE)—to each of which he devotes a chapter. The book is ostensibly about meetings between Greeks and Egyptian priests, the latter group typified by the figure who looks “mysterious and austere, dressed in white linen, head shaved, wise in the ways of magic and divination… known since Herodotus as a fount of ancient wisdom”. But the device is a launching-point for a series of investigations into the encounters of Egyptians and Greeks over many centuries. Moyer is a learned and skilled reader of the texts, and there is much to hail in the publication of this erudite, sophisticated, and thoughtful volume.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Philae's Hathor temple gets facelift in advance of formal inauguration

Following year of exhaustive restoration work, the Hathor temple on Egypt's island of Philae will reopen to public next month

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 26 Apr 2012

To the east of the famous Isis temple on the island of Philae in Upper Egypt, workers and archaeologists are busy at work. They are cleaning and restoring the massive stone blocks that once formed the temple of Hathor, which is being rebuilt and restored in order to be officially inaugurated next month.

Time has since taken its toll on the temple, which was built by King Ptolemy VI and extended during the reigns of Ptolemy VII and Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Many of the temple's stone blocks have deteriorated; its walls, meanwhile, are riddled with cracks.

According to antiquities ministry officials, the temple's deteriorated blocks have been replaced with new ones, while fallen blocks have been returned to their original positions. Poor restoration work undertaken previously, meanwhile, has been corrected.

The temple consists of a colonnaded kiosk bearing 14 Hathor-headed pillars, a pronaos (vestibule) and a cult terrace facing the Nile River. Among the temple's most impressive reliefs is one depicting a group of musicians performing before an assembly of ancient Egyptian deities.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cleopatra and Antony's children rediscoverd

Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi 
Cleopatra's twin babies now have a face. An Italian Egyptologist has rediscovered a sculpture of Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, the offspring of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII, at the Egyptian museum in Cairo.
Discovered in 1918 near the temple of Dendera on the west bank of the Nile, the sandstone statue was acquired by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but has remained largely overlooked.
                  Credit: Giuseppina Capriotti.
The back of the the 33-foot sculpture, catalogued as JE 46278 at the Egyptian museum, features some engraved stars -- likely indicating that the stone was originally part of a ceiling. Overall, the rest of the statue appears to be quite unusual.
"It shows two naked children, one male and one female, of identical size standing within the coils of two snakes. Each figure has an arm over the other’s shoulder,‭ ‬while the other hand grasps a serpent," Giuseppina Capriotti, an Egyptologist at the Italy's National Research Council, told Discovery News.
The researcher identified the children as Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, Antony and Cleopatra's twins, following a detailed stylistic and iconographic analysis published by the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology at the University of Warsaw.
Capriotti noticed that the boy has a sun-disc on his head,‭ ‬while the girl boast a crescent and a lunar disc. The serpents, perhaps two cobras, would also be different forms of sun and moon, she said. Both discs are decorated with the udjat-eye, also called the eye of Horus, a common symbol in Egyptian art. ‭

Friday, April 20, 2012

Last fragments from 'magical' Egyptian 'Book of the Dead' from 1420 BC found - after century-long search by archaeologists


The last missing pages from a supposedly 'magical' Book of the Dead from an Egyptian priest, Amenhotep, have been found after a century-long search - in a museum in Queensland.
British Museum Egyptologist Dr John Taylor said he was 'floored' by the discovery of the 100 fragments. 
It's the end of a worldwide search by archaeologists for the papyrus scroll - which supposedly contains spells to guide spirits into the afterlife.

Ms Bates said British Museum Curator and world renowned Egyptologist Dr John Taylor had stumbled across a section of the manuscript as part of a Queensland Museum display.
‘After spotting the piece Dr Taylor was shown the other 100 plus fragments held in the Museum’s stores and was floored by what he had uncovered,’ Ms Bates said.
‘These unsuspecting papyrus pieces form the missing part of a highly historically valuable ‘Book of the Dead’ that belonged to the Chief Builder of the temple of Amun, Amenhotep. 
‘Sections of this precious manuscript have laid scattered across the globe for a hundred years with some of the pieces held safely in the collections of British Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), New York. 

However, archaeologists had been unable to piece it together in its entirety and have long been looking for the missing sections to complete the story of this important Egyptian figure’s journey into the afterlife.’
A ‘Book of the Dead’ is an Egyptian manuscript, up to 20 metres in length, of magical spells written on papyrus that were commissioned by families upon the death of a loved one to guide them on their hazardous journey into the afterlife.

Amenhotep’s manuscript is particularly significant as it is an early example of a Book of the Dead manuscript that has several unusual features found on only four or five manuscripts ever found. 
These include borders featuring five pointed stars and sun-disks along the top and bottom, and a large inscription in one line on the back of the papyrus, all of which indicates a person of considerable rank, wealth and importance.

Ms Bates said the Queensland Museum’s sections were donated and have been meticulously kept in the stores of the Museum for almost 100 years.
‘It is so gratifying to find that it is our own Queensland Museum team that have been the guardians of this tomb secret have perfectly preserved such incredibly fragile and rare artefacts for over a century.’
Ms Bates said the Queensland Museum would support future research into the Amenhotep ‘Book of the Dead’.
‘We’re proud the Queensland Museum will help close the book on this mystery,’ Ms Bates said.

Dr John Taylor said once back in London, he would like to start trying to piece the Queensland Museum fragments into the British Museum’s manuscript electronically.
‘Reuniting manuscripts like this is incredibly important and meticulous work and we hope by piecing together the fragments we will be able to see what mysteries they reveal,’ Dr Taylor said.
‘Archaeologists don’t find manuscripts like this so often nowadays. It is finds like this and bringing the pieces together that provide the most significant discoveries.’
 ‘Queensland can make a significant contribution in helping the world to better understand one of the most fascinating and sophisticated civilisations in the ancient world,’ Ms Bates said.
‘We have seen the awe and delight Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb has brought to so many Queenslanders already and for us to be able to share some of our own Egyptian treasures with the world is truly wonderful.’


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Such Magnificent Beasts the Egyptians Made ‘The Dawn of Egyptian Art’ at the Metropolitan Museum

In many ways the art of dynastic Egypt brought nature to a standstill, freezing the figure in an elegant, quietly pulsing suspended animation. Especially in its grandest, most monumental expression — the eerie, somnolent statues of the gods and of the pharaohs who were their earthly junior-god emissaries — Egypt offers us the sleekest, longest-running style in the history of art. It is also probably as instantly recognizable and firmly imprinted on human consciousness as any we know.

This style’s consistency is, if you think about it, frightening. It bespeaks an authoritarian power that was consolidated under the first Pharaoh around 3100 B.C., and that, despite political ups and downs, maintained a firm grip on the country’s aesthetic program for nearly three millenniums. The duration of Egyptian art may dull curiosity about how it began, since it is hard imagining a time when it didn’t exist. But of course everything starts somewhere: the high Egyptian style did not spring fully formed from the forehead of Osiris, god of the afterlife.
This is demonstrated by “The Dawn of Egyptian Art,” a sublime, view-shifting exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art dominated foremost by small, startlingly personable sculptures and vessels from around 3900 to 2649 B.C. The show’s around 190 objects include animal sculptures and figures carved in wood, ivory and stone or modeled in clay; ceramic vessels painted with boats and their regal occupants. There are game boards, also of carved stone, including one in the shape of a coiled rattlesnake, and numerous wafer-thin hand-size stone palettes for mixing makeup whose minimally inflected silhouettes nonetheless intimate various animals, including fish, lions and a pair of mating turtles. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wadi Abu Subeira, Egypt: Palaeolithic rock art on the verge of destruction

In 2007 one of the most important recent archaeological discoveries in Egypt were made in Wadi (Chor) Abu Subeira near Aswan: A team led by Adel Kelany of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) found a stunning assemblage of petroglyphs dating to the Late Palaeolithic era (c. 15-20.000 years ago). Ongoing surveys have shown that the initial find was the tip of the iceberg only, which makes Subeira perhaps the richest place of “Ice-Age” art in North Africa, comparable to the site of Qurta, 50 km to the north. Unfortunately, the Subeira rock art is extremely threatened by modern mining, which lately has proven to be even more widespread than previously thought: A truly unique testimony of mankind’s early art is now on the verge of destruction.

Photo: Per Storemyr
The rock art
15-20.000 years ago the waters of the Nile were much higher than today. The broad Wadi Abu Subeira may have been a small “fjord”, reaching several kilometres into the Eastern Desert: A great habitat for wildlife in the otherwise hyperarid environment and a great place for humans to stay – to fish and hunt – and to access the interior of the desert and perhaps the Red Sea.
The rock art is comparable to the better-known occurrences at Qurta by Kom Ombo, where Dirk Huyge and his Belgian team has recently confirmed the age of this type of rock art: It is definitely belonging to the Late Palaeolithic era, and thus comparable to the great “Ice-Age” art in Europe – especially in the Late Magdalenian period. It is yet entirely unclear whether there is a relationship in terms of long-distance influence and intercultural contact, but, according to Huyge, the Egyptian occurrences clearly “introduce a new set of challenges to archaeological thought”.It seems that it was along this “fjord” that the Late Palaeolithic humans made their art. They pecked many aurochs (wild ox), hartebeest, fish, hippopotami and even a very large, beautifully executed Nubian ibex, which publication is forthcoming. Over the millennia erosion along the slopes of the wadi has probably destroyed many pictures, and most are now found on boulders and slabs. However, some are still in-situ, implying that it is possible to reconstruct site distribution.
This is why it is so important to safeguard the Wadi Abu Subeira rock art and the associated archaeological sites for the future – otherwise we will lose an important place that may help us finding out whether there was in fact contact between North Africa and Europe in the Late Palaeolithic.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A hundred years old, and beautiful as ever

As the world celebrates the centennial of its discovery, Nevine El-Aref asks who actually owns the iconic bust of Queen Nefertiti?

It seems that there is no foreseeable resolution to the long conflict between Germany and Egypt over ownership of the 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti, wife of the monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaten. Now, a century after its discovery, the dispute over ownership is stepping from one level to another, and with no concrete solution in sight it has become one of the best-known international cases of stolen antiquities that Egypt wants back.

The magnificent painted stucco and limestone bust of Nefertiti was discovered in 1912 by an archaeological team led by German Egyptologist Ludwig Borchardt and sponsored by the German Oriental Society (DOG), the treasurer of which was the German Jewish wholesale merchant James Simon. The bust was unearthed while the German team was excavating the workshop of the ancient Egyptian court sculptor Tuthmosis in Akhenaten's capital city of Al-Amarna. Along with it were other unfinished artefacts, including a polychrome bust of the queen and plaster casts representing other members of Akhenaten's family and entourage. It meant that bust, as well as the other objects, never went on display and was damaged during its creation or was used as a model and was never indented for view.

Soon after its discovery, the bust was held as one of the most iconic images of ancient Egyptian art. It depicts Queen Nefertiti, whose name means "the beautiful has arrived", with full red lips, a graceful, elongated neck decorated with the vibrant colours of a necklace, and a tall, blue flat-topped crown which contrasts with the sepia tone of her smooth skin. Although one of the bust's inlaid crystal eyes is missing ,both eyelids and brows are outlined in black.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ancient pots found in Alexandria development dig

A collection of authentic clay pots has been found in Alexandria during development work near the Greco-Roman Museum

by Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 5 Apr 2012

The Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) has called on Alexandria governorate and all relevant authorities to stop immediately digging works in the vicinity of the Greco-Roman Museum. A collection of authentic pots have been uncovered during digging linked to an Alexandria governorate development project. The area is located midway between the museum and the governorate building.

MSA Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, in an attempt to protect the area from further interference, authorised the MSA inspectorate to file a police report in Alexandria to halt all digging works. An archaeological team is to be formed to inspect the area and recover all artefacts found.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ancient Egyptian cotton unveils secrets of domesticated crop evolution

Scientists studying 1,600-year-old cotton from the banks of the Nile have found what they believe is the first evidence that punctuated evolution has occurred in a major crop group within the relatively short history of plant domestication.
The findings offer an insight into the dynamics of agriculture in the ancient world and could also help today’s domestic crops face challenges such as climate change and water scarcity.
The researchers, led by Dr Robin Allaby from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick, examined the remains of ancient cotton at Qasr Ibrim in Egypt’s Upper Nile using high throughput sequencing technologies.
This is the first time such technology has been used on ancient plants and also the first time the technique has been applied to archaeological samples in such hot countries.
The site is located about 40 km from Abu Simbel and 70 km from the modern Sudanese border on the east bank of what is now Lake Nasser.
They also studied South American samples from sites in Peru and Brazil aged between 800 and nearly 4,000 years old.
The results showed that even over the relatively short timescale of a millennia and a half, the Egyptian cotton, identified as G. herbaceum, showed evidence of significant genomic reorganisation when the ancient and the modern variety were compared.
However closely-related G.Barbadense from the sites in South America showed genomic stability between the two samples, even though these were separated by more than 2,000 miles in distance and 3,000 years in time.
This divergent picture points towards punctuated evolution - long periods of evolutionary stability interspersed by bursts of rapid change – having occurred in the cotton family.