Saturday, March 30, 2013

Newly found Sudan pyramids show 'democratization'

March 30, 2013 11:03 AM
By Ian Timberlake

KHARTOUM: People power may have come to modern-day Egypt and not Sudan, but the unearthing of ancient pyramids in Egypt's southern neighbour shows that greater social equality existed there 2,000 years ago, a French archeologist says.

Three years of digging by a French team at Sedeinga, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the Egyptian border, has unearthed 35 pyramids that emphasise the contrast between the two ancient cultures, said Claude Rilly, director of the mission.

"Pyramids were so fashionable that everybody that could afford to build one, did," said Rilly, referring to the latter part of the Meroe kingdom, around 100-200 AD.

"So we have really a kind of inflation, what I call a democratisation of the pyramid which is without equivalent anywhere, especially in Egypt."

Sudan's remote and relatively undiscovered pyramids contrast with their grander and better-known cousins to the north.

Egyptian pyramids, built far earlier than those in Sudan, held the tombs of kings, the royal family and nobles -- but never the middle class, Rilly said.

Sudanese royalty also got their pyramids, but later so did many other lesser souls, said the 53-year-old archeologist, who began studying hieroglyphics when he was only seven.

"It reached layers of the population which have never been concerned by building of pyramids in Egypt," Rilly said. "This is really something new, which we didn't expect."

That is why there is such a large number. Sometimes they were built so close together, typically in a circular pattern, that there isn't enough room to squeeze between them.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Egyptian tomb raiders persist under poor economy

by Catrina Stewart, Special for USA TODAY

Archaeologists say the elimination of Mubarak's police services left a security vacuum and an open invitation to trespass without fear of reprisal.

DAHSHUR, Egypt — An Egyptian archaeologist points to fresh motorcycle tracks on the desert sand, traces left by the gangs who dig under the cover of darkness for Pharaonic treasures.

Dozens of burial tombs untouched for millennia lie open and ransacked of their contents. Mounds of earth signal the location of other illicit excavations.

The looters "work from sunset to sunrise. It's systematic; it's open; it's in front of everyone," says Monica Hanna, 29, an archaeologist.

Tomb raiding in Egypt dates to antiquity; however, since the fall of former dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the plunder appears to have become more widespread, and more professional.

The thieves are organized in gangs; some are armed and violent. The tomb sites were guarded well for decades but after Mubarak's ouster the once-feared police services simply melted away.

The elimination of the despised police services also left a security vacuum and an open invitation to trespass without fear of reprisal, archaeologists say.

They come every night, sometimes in groups of up to 40 and armed with machine guns, say custodians at the sites. They work with sophisticated equipment to move mounds of sand that have protected the dead for thousands of years.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2,400-Year-Old Myths of Mummy-Making Busted

by Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff WriterDate: 22 March 2013

Contrary to reports by famous Greek historian Herodotus, the ancient Egyptians probably didn't remove mummy guts using cedar oil enemas, new research on the reality of mummification suggests.

The ancient embalmers also didn't always leave the mummy's heart in place, the researchers added.

The findings, published in the February issue of HOMO – Journal of Comparative Human Biology, come from analyzing 150 mummies from the ancient world.

Mummy history

In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus, the "father of history," got an inside peek at the Egyptian mummification process. Embalming was a competitive business, and the tricks of the trade were closely guarded secrets, said study co-author Andrew Wade, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario.

Herodotus described multiple levels of embalming: The elites, he said, got a slit through the belly, through which organs were removed. For the lower class, mummies had organs eaten away with an enema of cedar oil, which was thought to be similar to turpentine, Herodotus reported.

In addition, Herodotus claimed the brain was removed during embalming and other accounts suggested the heart was always left in place.

"A lot of his accounts sound more like tourist stories, so we're reticent to take everything he said at face value," Wade told LiveScience.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Encroachment continues on Egypt's archaeological sites, Al-Bordan

Egypt antiquities police and archeologists stop illegal construction at Al-Bordan archaeological site on Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway, yet damages completely destruct site

by Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 23 Mar 2013

Al-Hamam Antiquities Inspectorate has succeeded to remove encroachment on Al-Bordan archaeological site, located on Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway, in collaboration with Egypt’s tourism and antiquities police.

The site includes remains of Graeco-Roman fortresses, roads, temples and cemeteries.

The encroachment on the Al-Bordan archaeological site, located on kilometre 67 on Alexandria-Marsa Matrouh highway, started Friday when a large truck invaded the site with a construction bulldozer, which on its turn damaged a cluster of authentic structures that date back to the Graeco-Roman era, according to director of Marina Al-Alamein Antiquities Khaled Abul-Magd.

Abul-Magd accused Yasser Khalil, owner of a contractor company, and truck driver Mohamed Abdel Sattar of violating and damaging the archaeological site. The tourism and antiquities police arrested both accused, but they denied all charges. Both are in custody until the completion of investigations.

On Saturday, all encroachment has been removed, but the site is almost completely damaged.

Egypt has reportedly suffered from illegal urban and agricultural encroachment on archaeological sites.

Earlier in March, residents of neighbouring Al-Hagg Qandil village began cultivating the area around a collection of 18th-dynasty noblemen’s tombs at the ancient site of Tel Al-Amarna in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya, which was Egypt's capital during the reign of monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaton.

Minya’s archaeological inspectorate sent a report to both local police and the antiquities ministry.

The ministry ordered a halt to the encroachment and stepped up security in the area, while tourism and antiquities police were deployed nearby.

Dahshur, 30 km north of Giza plateau, was subjected to violation in January 2013. Residents of the neighbouring Dahshur village proceeded to construct a collection of modern cemeteries before the Black Pyramid of King Amenhotep II.

However, Dahshur residents halted construction of the structures after the antiquities ministry offered to provide them with land far from the archaeological site on which to build a cemetery.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Museum Pieces - Sphinx of Shepenupet II

Photocredit: Jürgen Liepe
Sphinx of Shepenupet, "God's Wife of Amun"
25th Dynasty (Kushite)
Karnak (Tempel)
46 x 25 x 83 cm
120 kg
Ident.Nr. ÄM 7972

Shepenupet II (alt. Shepenwepet II, prenomen: Henutneferumut Irietre) was an Ancient Egyptian princess of the Twenty-fifth dynasty and the Divine Adoratrice of Amun from around 700 BC to 650 BC. She was the daughter of the first Kushite pharaoh Piye, and sister of Piye's successors Taharqa and Shabaka. She was adopted by her predecessor in office, Amenirdis I, a sister of Piye. Shepenupet was God's Wife from the beginning of Taharqa's reign until Year 9 of Pharaoh Psamtik I. While in office she had to come to a power sharing arrangement with the mayor of Thebes, Montuemhet.

Her niece Amenirdis, the daughter of Taharqa, was appointed as her heiress. Shepenupet was compelled to adopt Nitocris, daughter of pharaoh Psamtik I who reunited Egypt after the Assyrian conquest. This is evidenced by the so-called Adoption Stela of Nitocris. In 656 BC, in Year 9 of the reign of Psamtik I, she received Nitocris at Thebes.

Her tomb is located in the grounds of Medinet Habu. She was succeeded by Amenirdis II who was succeeded by Nitocris I.

Sources: Ägyptisches Museum,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Maritime trade thrived in Egypt, even before Alexandria

New research into Thonis-Heracleion, a sunken port-city that served as the gateway to Egypt in the first millennium BC, is being examined at an international conference at the University of Oxford. The port city, situated 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline, was one of the biggest commercial hubs in the Mediterranean before the founding of Alexandria.

The Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford is collaborating on the project with the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) in cooperation with Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities.

This obligatory port of entry, known as ‘Thonis’ by the Egyptians and ‘Heracleion’ by the Greeks, was where seagoing ships are thought to have unloaded their cargoes to have them assessed by temple officials and taxes extracted before transferring them to Egyptian ships that went upriver. In the ports of the city, divers and researchers are currently examining 64 Egyptian ships, dating between the eighth and second centuries BC, many of which appear to have been deliberately sunk. Researchers say the ships were found beautifully preserved, l in the mud of the sea-bed. With 700 examples of different types of ancient anchor, the researchers believe this represents the largest nautical collection from the ancient world. 

‘The survey has revealed an enormous submerged landscape with the remains of at least two major ancient settlements within a part of the Nile delta that was crisscrossed with natural and artificial waterways,’ said Dr Damian Robinson, Director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Dr Robinson, who is overseeing the excavation of one of the submerged ships known as Ship 43, has discovered that the Egyptians had a unique shipbuilding style. He is also examining why the boats appear to have been deliberately sunk close to the port.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One of the world’s oldest sun dials dug up in Valley of the Kings

During archaeological excavations in the Kings’ Valley in Upper Egypt a team of researchers from the University of Basel found one of the world’s oldest ancient Egyptian sun dials.

Photo credit: University of Basel
The team of the Egyptological Seminar under the direction of Prof. Susanne Bickel made the significant discovery while clearing the entrance to one of the tombs.

During this year’s excavations the researchers found a flattened piece of limestone (so-called Ostracon) on which a semicircle in black color had been drawn. The semicircle is divided into twelve sections of about 15 degrees each. A dent in the middle of the approximately 16 centimeter long horizontal baseline served to insert a wooden or metal bolt that would cast a shadow to show the hours of the day. Small dots in the middle of each section were used for even more detailed time measuring.

The sun dial was found in an area of stone huts that were used in the 13th century BC to house the men working at the construction of the graves. The sun dial was possibly used to measure their work hours. However, the division of the sun path into hours also played a crucial role in the so-called netherworld guides that were drawn onto the walls of the royal tombs.

These guides are illustrated texts that chronologically describe the nightly progression of the sun-god through the underworld. Thus, the sun dial could also have served to further visualize this phenomenon.

During this year’s excavation in cooperation with the Egyptian authorities and with the help of students of the University of Basel over 500 mostly fragmentary objects that had been recovered in former seasons were documented and prepared for further scientific examination.

This also includes all the material of the lower strata of tomb KV 64 found in 2012. Inside the roughly 3500 year old tomb Basel researchers had discovered a sarcophagus that was holding the mummy of a woman named Nehemes-Bastet.

Contributing Source : Universität Basel


Monday, March 18, 2013

Stephen Ruzicka, Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BCE. - A Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.03.21 

Stephen Ruzicka, Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire, 525-332 BCE. Oxford studies in early empires.   Oxford; New York:  Oxford University Press, 2012.  Pp. xxv, 311.  ISBN 9780199766628.  $74.00.   

Reviewed by Anthony J. Papalas, East Carolina University 

Egypt of the Pharaohs flourished for over two thousand years. During this period, apart from two incursions, Egypt did not experience major foreign invasions. Its frontiers provided Egypt with excellent natural defensive barriers. Ruzicka’s Trouble in the West: Egypt and the Persian Empire 525-332 BCE deals with the difficulties in conquering Egypt and the problems in holding it. This work begins with Cambyses’s conquest of Egypt in 525 (all dates are BCE) to Alexander’s subjugation of it in 332. Ruzicka argues that Persia’s primary concern in the West was not Greece but Egypt and during these approximate two centuries Persian rule was never secure. His thesis is supported by many costly and often unsuccessful Persian expeditions which were usually triggered by rebellions in the western part of the Delta, a region that the Persians never secured. Ruzicka contrary to reports in Herodotus and in line with recent scholarship argues that initial Persian rule was enlightened. Cambyses did not trample on Egyptian customs nor kill the Apis bull and Darius continued a liberal policy by maintaining low taxes and respecting Egyptian culture. In view of the immenseness of the Persian Empire, some three million square miles, it was practical to win over the people and maintain the area with light garrisons. But after the revolt of 487 Xerxes established a repressive rule and thereafter measures became increasingly oppressive. The Achaemenids, however, tolerated for about a century a strong Egyptian military class, the machimoi, which provided the Persians with military service. The machimoi were among Xerxes’s best soldiers in the Greek invasion of 480 but they eventually became untrustworthy. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hyksos buildings are the latest ancient discovery in Tel Habuwa

Important new discoveries at the Tel Habuwa dig east of the Suez Canal shed light on the campaign by Ahmose I (c.1550–1525 BC) against the Hyksos invaders

by Nevine El-Aref , Saturday 16 Mar 2013

A team of Egyptian archaeologists digging at Tel Habuwa, near the town of Qantara East and three kilometres east of the Suez Canal, have made a major discovery.
The find comes as part of the search for more of the ancient forts that played a major role in protecting ancient Egypt's eastern gateway from foreign invasion.

During excavation works, archaeologists chanced upon the remains of administrative buildings dating back to the Hyksos and the New Kingdom periods in the second millennium BC, as well as a great many grain silos. 

Each administrative edifice is a two-storey structure with a number of mud brick rooms and courtyards. Inside these halls a collection of coffins, skulls and skeletons of human beings and animals were found buried in sand.

Early studies of the skeletons reveal that they bear deep scars and wounds as the result of being stabbed with arrows or spears.

"This indicates that the battles between the Hyksos and the military troops led by the ancient Egyptian king Ahmose I (c.1550–1525 BC) were violent and aggressive," said Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim said that a large number of grain silos and army storage galleries from the reign of kings Tuthmose III and Ramses II were also discovered. These silos can store more than 280 tonnes of grain, which indicates the great number of the Egyptian army forces which were at Tel Habuwa at that time.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Ancient Egyptian Cemetery Holds Proof of Hard Labor

Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten's capital was no paradise for many adults and children.

Traci Watson
for National Geographic News
Published March 13, 2013

Carvings on the walls of the ancient Egyptian city of Amarna depict a world of plenty. Oxen are fattened in a cattle yard. Storehouses bulge with grain and fish. Musicians serenade the pharaoh as he feasts on meat at a banquet.

But new research hints that life in Amarna was a combination of grinding toil and want—at least for the ordinary people who would have hauled the city's water, unloaded the boats on the Nile, and built Amarna's grand stone temples, which were erected in a rush on the orders of a ruler named Akhenaten, sometimes called the "Heretic Pharaoh."

Researchers examining skeletons in the commoners' cemetery in Amarna have discovered that many of the city's children were malnourished and stunted. Adults show signs of backbreaking work, including high levels of injuries associated with accidents.

"We have evidence of the most stressed and disease-ridden of the ancient skeletons of Egypt that have been reported to date," said University of Arkansas bioarchaeologist Jerome Rose (a National Geographic Committe for Research and Exploration grantee), one of the team of experts examining the dead. "Amarna is the capital city of the Egyptian empire. There should be plenty of food . . . Something seems to be amiss."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Even 4,000 year-old mummies had clogged arteries, study reveals

Published March 11, 2013 Associated Press

Even without modern-day temptations like fast food or cigarettes, people had clogged arteries some 4,000 years ago, according to the biggest-ever hunt for the condition in mummies.

Researchers say that suggests heart disease may be more a natural part of human aging rather than being directly tied to contemporary risk factors like smoking, eating fatty foods and not exercising.

CT scans of 137 mummies showed evidence of atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, in one third of those examined, including those from ancient people believed to have healthy lifestyles. Atherosclerosis causes heart attacks and strokes. More than half of the mummies were from Egypt while the rest were from Peru, southwest America and the Aleutian islands in Alaska. The mummies were from about 3800 B.C. to 1900 A.D.

"Heart disease has been stalking mankind for over 4,000 years all over the globe," said Dr. Randall Thompson, a cardiologist at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City and the paper's lead author.

The mummies with clogged arteries were older at the time of their death, around 43 versus 32 for those without the condition. In most cases, scientists couldn't say whether the heart disease killed them.

The study results were announced Sunday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in San Francisco and simultaneously published online in the journal Lancet.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The quest for the ancient capital Metelis

by Thoraia Abou Bakr

Egypt and Italy cooperate to document the history of a forgotten site, Kom Al-Ahmer

In Behira, a team of Italian archeologists are hard at work on reconstructing and documenting the history of a forgotten site, Kom Al-Ahmer. Little is known about the work on site, so we spoke with Dr Valentina Gasperini, co-director of the archaeological mission, along with Professor E. Papi and Dr Mohamed Kenawi.

Dr Gasperini explained the history of research on the site: “In 1935, Adriani visited the site and collected some finds, among them a head in marble, but left without excavating. In the 1940s, El-Khashab conducted the first and the only archaeological excavation on the site and discovered two great baths.

However, because El-Khashab did not find any written records mentioning the ancient name of the site, he dismissed the notion that they might be part of a town.

He suggested that there was a town close by and that the bath complex at Kom Al-Ahmer was a service area for that town. P. Wilson visited the site in 2004; M. De Vos and Mohamed Kenawi visited in February 2008. Between 2009 and 2011, the site was surveyed as part of the Western Rosetta Branch Documentation Project from the Università Degli Studi di Trento and the Università Degli Studi di Siena.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Antinoupolis archaeological site being 'destroyed systematically'

by Ahmed Zaki Osman

An Egyptian independent archaeologist has warned on Friday that Antinoupolis, one of the country’s largest archaeological sites located in Minya, is being “destroyed systematically” by residents amid a complete failure from the government to protect the site.

Monica Hanna, a researcher with the University of Humboldt in Berlin, told Egypt Independent that she received information from archaeologists who work at the site of the ancient Roman Antinoupolis, also known as Sheikh Abada, saying the site faces grave danger.

Hanna said that some of the damages occurred to the site, saying that the area near the Ramses II temple has been bulldozed and leveled. She added that the northwestern corner of the walled city has been bulldozed and for agricultural use.

The case of Antinoupolis was brought to light last December when some media outlets reported that the site was witnessing fierce excavation and demolition campaigns in an attempt to reclaim the land for agricultural use.

Some residents reportedly demolished a large area of ​​archaeological ruins and cemeteries made of mud in the Roman cemetery and prepared the area for planting after looting the site.

Hanna, however, told Egypt Independent in a phone call that the situation is getting worse, similar to what has happened to the archaeological site of Dahshur. In January, residents began digging a cemetery on a piece of land in the vicinity of the Temple Valley in Dahshur, an area that has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1994.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More Sekhmet statues unearthed at Amenhotep III's temple in Luxor

Black granite statues of the ancient Egyptian lioness goddess Sekhmet were unearthed Monday at King Amenhotep III's temple on the west bank of Luxor

by Nevine El-Aref , Monday 11 Mar 2013

Egyptian and European excavators unearthed a collection of black granite statues depicting the ancient Egyptian lioness Goddess Sekhmet during their routine excavation at King Amenhotep III funerary temple in the Kom Al-Hittan area on the west bank of Luxor.
The statues depict the goddess Sekhmet in her usual form, sitting on the throne with a human body and lioness's head.

"This is not the first time statues of the lioness goddess have been unearthed at Kom Al-Hittan," said Mohamed Ibrahim, minister of state for antiquities adding that the Egyptian-European mission led by German Egyptologist Horig Sourouzian has previously unearthed 64 statues of Sekhment of different shapes and sizes.

Ibrahim explained that such a large number highlights the important role of the goddess during the reign of the 18th dynasty king Amenhotep III, father of the monotheistic king Akhnaten and grandfather of the golden king Tutankhamun.

Sekhmet was believed to be a protective goddess as she was also the goddess of war and destruction. "Some Egyptologists," pointed out Ibrahim, "believe that king Amenhotep constructed a large number of goddess Sekhmets in an attempt to cure him of a specific disease that he suffered during his reign." Sekhmet was well known of her supposed ability to cure critical deseases.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dimensions of ancient Egypt

Karnak project a cutting-edge approach to antiquity

By Aaron Lester
Harvard Correspondent
Friday, March 8, 2013

The Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak isn’t the most famous ancient site in Egypt — that honor goes to the Pyramids at Giza — but newly developed reconstructions using 3-D virtual reality modeling make clear its architectural importance and rich history.

Elaine Sullivan, a visiting assistant professor, worked with her colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles, to digitize 100 years of analyses and excavation records to create an interactive historical document of the architectural phases of the Karnak temple.

Sullivan presented her work Wednesday in a Science Center lecture titled “The Temple of Amun-Ra at Karnak: 2000 Years of Rituals and Renovations in 3-D.”

“You can’t go back in time,” Sullivan said. “You can’t remove monuments that are still standing. But we can simulate it. We can reconstruct the objects and buildings that have been completely lost or destroyed to history.”

The Amun-Ra temple, which was active for more than 1,500 years, is a mega-temple, Sullivan said. “It was so extensive, and was added to by so many different kings, that it provides us with examples of structures not normally seen in every other temple in Egypt.”

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Museum Pieces - King Menkaura, the goddess Hathor, and the deified Hare nome

Photo credit: Museum Of Fine Arts Boston

King Menkaura, the goddess Hathor, and the deified Hare nome

  • Egyptian, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Menkaura, 2490–2472 B.C.
The sublime beauty of this triple statue masks the sophistication of its composition. The central and largest figure is Hathor, an important goddess throughout Egyptian history associated with fertility, creation, birth, and rebirth. She was the king's divine mother and protector. Here, she wears a headdress of cow's horns and a sun disk, but otherwise her appearance is that of a human female, and she is depicted with the same hairstyle and garment as her earthly counterparts. 

Hathor embraces King Menkaura, who is standing to her left. He wears a crown symbolic of Upper Egypt (the Nile Valley) and a wraparound kilt whose sharp pleats conform to the outline of his body. In his right hand he holds a mace, a weapon frequently wielded by kings in relief, but until now not reproduced in stone sculpture. Here, artists solved the problem of carving its thin and fragile shaft in the round by resting it on Hathor's throne. In Menkaura's left hand is a short implement with a concave end; it is generally interpreted as a case for documents. Size corresponds to hierarchical position in Egyptian art, and while visually Hathor and Menkaura appear to be the same height, the seated goddess is significantly larger in scale. Like Menkaura's queen in the pair statue (pp. 86-87), Hathor's embrace is one of association, not affection, and all three figures gaze impassively into a distant horizon. 

The third and smallest figure is a goddess of lesser importance, associated not with the entire country, but with a single district in Upper Egypt known as the Hare nome. It is symbolized by the rabbit standard she wears on her head. An artist has cleverly merged the ankh sign she carries in her left hand with Hathor's throne. The Hare nome goddess, like Hathor and Menkaura, exhibits a body proportioned according to the Old Kingdom ideal of beauty and is modeled with the restrained elegance that makes this period a highpoint of Egyptian art. 

The inscription on the sculpture's base clarifies the meaning of this complicated piece: "The Horus (Kakhet), King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkaura, beloved of Hathor, Mistress of the Sycamore. Recitation: I have given you all good things, all offerings, and all provisions in Upper Egypt, forever." It signifies that all the material goods produced in the Hare nome will be presented to the king to sustain him in perpetuity. One theory suggests that eight such triads, each featuring the king and Hathor with one of the other nome deities, were set up in Menkaura's Valley Temple.


Giza, Egypt
Width x height x depth x weight: 43.5 x 84.5 x 49 cm, 187.8 kg (17 1/8 x 33 1/4 x 19 5/16 in., 414.02 lb.) Mount (Steel pallet sits on wooden reinforced pedestal/4-steel clips): 10.2 x 62.5 x 64.8 cm (4 x 24 5/8 x 25 1/2 in.) Case (wooden pedestal): 100.3 x 68.6 x 71.1 cm (39 1/2 x 27 x 28 in.) Block (Plex-bonnet): 105.4 x 64.5 x 67 cm (41 1/2 x 25 3/8 x 26 3/8 in.)


From Giza, Menkaura (Mycerinus) Valley Temple. 1908: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1909: awarded to the MFA by the government of Egypt.

(Accession Date: May 17, 1909)


Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition
George D. and Margo Behrakis Gallery (Egypt Old Kingdom) - 207

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Polish archaeologists are exploring an unknown area in Sudan

Two concentrations of ancient rock engravings and rich archaeological site dating back more than five hundred thousand years are the most important discoveries of the last season of the research expedition of Poznań Prehistory and Early African Civilizations Study Team of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology PAS, operating in the mountains of the Red Sea in the north-eastern Sudan.

Polish team made new discoveries in the area of Bir Nurayet, set of sites that have been explored for three years, located next to the picturesque mountain Magardi, clearly distinctive among the surrounding hills. It is accompanied by one of the richest African rock art galleries, with thousands of images of cattle, camels, wild animals and humans. The presence of engravings was probably related to the fertility cult practiced here for several thousand years, and the cult of the mountain with a characteristic, according to the researchers, phallic shape.
"Mountains of the Red Sea and the vast areas of Eastern Desert in Sudan is a generally unexplored region in terms of archaeological significance. This covers a huge area, similar in size to the area of Poland. It extends from the area east of the Nile valley and north of Port Sudan, to the Egyptian border" - explained Dr. Przemysław Bobrowski, head of research.
In 2012, archaeologists conducted a reconnaissance along the many kilometers long valley known as Wadi Diib (Valley of the Wolves), a dry river bed, on the bank of which Bir Nurayet is located. The discovery of new sites indicate, according to the archaeologists, the great importance of the valley as a communication route leading through the mountains, from south to north. Thousands of years ago it was probably used by cattle breeders.
With the information from the local Beja tribe, archaeologists managed to discover two large, previously unknown concentration of rock art in the remote rock massifs Karaiweb and Erkabeb, located few miles from Bir Nurayet. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Malnutrition, Hunger Plagued Ancient Egyptian Upper Class

A common image of ancient Egyptian royalty depicts an opulent lifestyle of palatial comforts and daily feasts. But new research suggests that high government officials typically suffered from malnutrition and infectious diseases, and that most died before they were 30 years old.

Anthropologists from the Universities of Jaen and Granada analyzed the bones of more than 200 mummies found in a 4,000-year-old tomb near the present-day city of Aswan.

They conclude that the population in general, as well as the highest social class, lived "on the edge of survival." Infant mortality rates were extremely high. The ancient Egyptians faced chronic hunger and suffered severe gastrointestinal disorders due to drinking polluted water from the Nile River. Many of the mummies were young adults between 17 and 25 years of age.

The researchers also found evidence of interbreeding with the black peoples to the south, in what is now Sudan. Inscriptions describe several journeys one of the governors made to central Africa, and note his return from one trip with a pygmy, in what might be the oldest reference to that uniquely short-statured people.

The anthropologists call the necropolis where the tomb is located - Qubbet el-Hawa - one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Authorities foil encroachment on Egypt's Tel Al-Amarna archaeological site

Although Egypt's antiquities law prohibits encroachments on country's archaeological sites, violations appear to remain commonplace

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 5 Mar 2013

Egypt’s archaeological sites have continued to suffer from both urban and agricultural encroachment.

After Old Cairo’s Ezbet Kheiralla and Giza’s Dahshur, the turn appears to have come for the ancient site of Tel Al-Amarna in the Upper Egyptian city of Minya. The site was Egypt's capital during the reign of monotheistic pharaoh Akhenaton.

According to Mohamed El-Bialy, chairman of the antiquities ministry’s ancient Egyptian antiquities sector, residents of neighbouring village Al-Hagg Qandil recently began cultivating the area around a collection of 18th-dynasty noblemen’s tombs.

When Minya’s archaeological inspectorate learned of the activity, it sent a report to both local police and the antiquities ministry.

The ministry ordered a halt to the encroachment and stepped up security in the area, while tourism and antiquities police were deployed nearby.

Speaking to Ahram Online, El-Bialy pointed out that the Al-Hagg Qandil site had represented an important part of the capital during Akhenaton’s reign.

The site includes a collection of noblemen’s tombs, including that of Iay, one of Akhenaton’s high priests. Iay was also the godfather of the boy king Tutankhamen, after whose untimely death Iay seized the throne.

According to El-Bialy, the area also contains the tomb of Mahou, Akhenaton’s chief of police, along with remains of the Aten temple and the celebrated ‘borders relief,’ which depicts ancient Egypt’s geographical borders with neighbouring empires.

Police and the antiquities ministry appear to have succeeded in stopping the agricultural encroachment on Tel Al-Amarna at an early stage.

In Dahshur, meanwhile, in the urban Giza governorate, new concrete buildings still stand in front of the pyramid of Amenhotep II. Dahshur residents halted construction of the structures after the antiquities ministry offered to provide them with land far from the archaeological site on which to build a cemetery.

Given the current lack of financial resources, however, the removal of such buildings remains difficult.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life, love and death in land of the pharaohs

Published on Tuesday 5 March 2013 09:14

Yorkshire historian Joann Fletcher uncovers the lives of ordinary people in Ancient Egypt in a new TV documentary. She talks to Chris Bond.

We know all about the Greeks and Romans from our school days, but when it comes to the Ancient Egyptians our knowledge tends to be a little more hazy.

Yes, we can conjure up images of Cleopatra, King Tutankhamun and the pyramids, but beyond this the land of the pharaohs has remained a mystery to most people.

It’s something that Barnsley-born historian and Egyptologist Dr Joann Fletcher hopes to change with her new two-part documentary Ancient Egypt: Life & Death In The Valley Of The Kings, which goes out on BBC Two next week. The Valley of the Kings is the burial place of some of Egypt’s most famous pharaohs, but it isn’t the lives of these kings, rather the ordinary people they ruled, that she’s interested in here.

Dr Fletcher, an honorary research fellow at York University, sheds light on the real lives of two ordinary Egyptians, a husband and wife from the tomb-builder’s town of Deir el-Medina who lived to serve their royal masters. By walking in their footsteps she provides an insight into what life was like 3,500 years ago, reimagining how people lived and the colours, sounds and smells they experienced.

She focuses on the lives of chief architect Kha and his wife, Meryt, who lived around 1400 BC. “It’s a bit of a departure for me because normally I’m studying the high and mighty, but with this I’m looking at ordinary people and specifically one married couple,” she explains.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Egyptian Fortress in Jaffa

By Aaron A. Burke and Martin Peilstöcker   Sun, Mar 03, 2013

Archaeologists are rediscovering a Late Bronze Age Egyptian stronghold in the land of ancient Canaan.

In a very real sense, the ancient port city of Jaffa may offer a valuable historical and archaeological example of the age-old issues and dynamics that have beset occupying powers the world over for thousands of years. Archaeologists have been exploring and studying the ancient Egyptian fortress at this coastal city to obtain insights on what it was like for both conqueror and conquered when there are "strangers in the land"..........

Situated on the central coast of Israel, on the south side of Tel Aviv, and 60 km to the northwest of Jerusalem, Jaffa’s antiquity and importance as a Mediterranean port was well established before the resumption of excavations in 2008 by the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project. While the biblical texts have served as a primary historical referent, Jaffa’s importance in other periods is much more clearly understood in classical sources including Josephus, but also even from Egyptian New Kingdom literature and administrative documents. Following excavations during the 1950s of the archaeological remains of an Egyptian fortress in Jaffa, a fortress that existed for most of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1460 to 1130 BC), seeking to understand Jaffa’s role in the Egyptian New Kingdom imperial control of Canaan became of paramount importance.

In 2007 the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project was established by Aaron A. Burke of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles and Martin Peilstöcker of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The project’s overarching goal is to facilitate long-term research of Jaffa’s cultural heritage through the integration of research and salvage excavations, cultural and historical studies, and multidisciplinary scientific approaches to Jaffa’s history and archaeology. Central to this objective was the renewal of excavations on the mound of ancient Jaffa (Tel Yafo). As part of the initial phase of the project, the Kaplan Excavations Publication Initiative was conceived to provide an in-depth analysis of the unpublished excavations by the site’s most prolific excavator, Jacob Kaplan, who conducted excavations on behalf of the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums from 1955 to 1974. We present here the preliminary results of our synthesis of the results of the old excavations since the resumption of excavations in the same area in 2011 by the Jaffa Cultural Heritage Project.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Researchers vow to prove human remains found in Turkey ARE those of Egyptian queen Cleopatra's murdered sister


An archaeologist who claimed to have found the bones of Cleopatra's murdered half-sister says they are pinning their hopes on new forensic techniques to conclusively identify the remains.

It was claimed that the remains of Princess Arsinöe IV, who was murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of Egypt's queen Cleopatra, were the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified.

But rival experts have since said the evidence linking the bones to the princess is largely circumstantial, and even the researcher who found them admits they have been handled too many times to get a reliable DNA test result.

Nevertheless, Dr Hilke Thuer, from the Austrian Academy of Science, who made the discovery, remains convinced that they belonged to the Classical-era Egyptian royal.

Princess Arsinoe's purported remains were found in a tomb in Ephesus, a large and important ancient Greek city on the coast of Asia Minor, in what is now modern-day western Turkey.

She was Cleopatra's younger sister or half-sister. It is believed both were fathered by Ptolemy XII Auletes, but whether they shared a mother is unclear.

Still, however closely they were related by blood, there was no love lost between Arsinoe and her powerful sister.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pyramids for Rent: Egypt Mulls Desperate Measures to Save Crumbling Economy


Egypt's finance ministry has proposed renting out the country's famous pyramids to international tourism firms in an attempt to save the country's economy from collapse.

Officials believed the scheme, which would also encompass the Sphinx and the temples of Luxor, could raise nearly $200bn (£132bn; €153bn), enough to pay off Egypt's spiralling national debt.

Adel Abdel Sattar, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, confirmed that he received the proposal from the finance ministry at the end of January during an interview with Cairo-based broadcaster ONTV.

Sattar said the proposal was originally conceived by Egyptian intellectual Abdallah Mahfouz, before being sent to the finance ministry for consideration and then forwarded on to him by officials who believed it could offer a viable solution to Egypt's economic woes.

However Sattar revealed that he has rejected the proposal out of hand, after taking legal advice. He asked the interviewer: "Is it possible that we rent our monuments? ... This is our heritage, our roots."

Sattar's sentiments were echoed by a number of cultural activists and archaeologists, who dubbed the finance ministry's plan "insulting" and "humiliating."