Sunday, June 30, 2013

Museum Pieces - Wooden statue of Amenhotep III

Amenhotep III

The dynamics of permanence and change in Egyptian art are well reflected in this statuette of Amunhotep III. The form of the striding male figure dates back to as early as Dynasty 3 (circa 2675–2625 B.C.). The Blue Crown, an element of iconography, did not appear until right before Dynasty 18 (circa 1539 B.C.), more than one thousand years later. The style was completely new: unlike most Egyptian kings, Amunhotep III allowed himself to be portrayed as an aging man with a noticeable paunch and sagging jowls.

Medium: Wood, gilded
Possible Place Collected: Thebes, Egypt
Dates: ca. 1390-1352 B.C.E.
Dynasty: late XVIII Dyansty
Period: New Kingdom
Dimensions: 10 3/8 in. (26.3 cm) Base: 6 5/16 x 1 1/16 x 2 3/8 in. (16 x 2.7 x 6 cm)  (show scale)
Collections:Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Museum Location: This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
Accession Number: 48.28
Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
Caption: Amunhotep III, ca. 1390-1352 B.C.E. Wood, gilded, 10 3/8 in. (26.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 48.28. Creative Commons-BY
Image: overall, 48.28_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Egypt prepares to safeguard heritage before 30 June

Broad range of actors join call to protect Egypt heritage from looting during upcoming protests; enact tight security measures around sites

by Nevine El-Aref , Friday 28 Jun 2013

In advance of  mass protests planned for 30 June, fears of looting in Egypt's archaeological landmarks, museums, and sites are growing.

These fears have roots in the January 2011 revolution, during which looting occurred in Tahrir's Egyptian Museum as well as in archeological sites across the country. Although several objects were recovered, many others are still missing.

“I am very worried about Egypt’s archaeological sites,” said Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, deputy of the head of the Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Section at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA).

Abdel Maqsoud told Ahram Online that since the 2011 revolution, the lack of security in the country has posed many problems for the protection of antiquities.

While the 2011 revolution lootings were carried out haphazardly by thugs and vandals, Abdel Maqsoud fears that the 30 June protests will be different because antiquities thieves and traders had enough time to plan their robberies, especially of archeological sites in remote areas.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Luxor: Ancient Egyptian Capital

by Owen Jarus, LiveScience ContributorDate: 25 June 2013

Luxor is a modern-day Egyptian city that lies atop an ancient city that the Greeks named “Thebes” and the ancient Egyptians called “Waset.”

Located in the Nile River about 312 miles (500 kilometers) south of Cairo the World Gazetteer website reports that, as of the 2006 census, Luxor and its environs had a population of more than 450,000 people. The name Luxor “derives from the Arabic al-uksur, ‘the fortifications,’ which in turn was adapted from the Latin castrum,” which refers to a Roman fort built in the area, writes William Murnane in the "Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt" (Oxford University Press, 2001).

The ancient city of Luxor served at times as Egypt’s capital and became one of its largest urban centers. “On the East Bank, beneath the modern city of Luxor, lie the remains of an ancient town that from about 1500 to 1000 B.C. was one of the most spectacular in Egypt, with a population of perhaps 50,000,” write archaeologists Kent Weeks and Nigel Hetherington in their book "The Valley of the Kings Site Management Masterplan" (Theban Mapping Project, 2006).

In ancient times, the city was known as home to the god Amun, a deity who became associated with Egyptian royalty. In turn, during Egypt’s “New Kingdom” period between roughly 1550-1050 B.C., most of Egypt’s rulers chose to be buried close to the city in the nearby Valley of the Kings. Other famous sites near the city, which were built or greatly expanded during the New Kingdom period, include Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Queens and Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple at Deir al-Bahari.

“Of all the ancient cities, no other city reached the glory of Thebes in supremacy,” writes Egyptologist Rasha Soliman in her book "Old and Middle Kingdom Theban Tombs" (Golden House Publications, 2009). “Thebes is the largest and wealthiest heritage site in the world.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Excavation of 4,500-year-old boat at Giza pyramids begins

The first wooden beam of king Khufu's second boat is removed from the pit where it is buried in Giza

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 25 Jun 2013

A joint Japanese and Egyptian team began on Tuesday the work of removing a 4,500 year old pharaonic boat from the pit on the Giza pyramid plateau where it is buried.

Restorers removed a wooden beam, part of a boat built for King Khufu which was buried in approximately 2,500 BC. The boat was discovered in 1954 along with another identical boat in a separate pit; the latter was removed and restored, and is now on display in a purpose-built museum on the site.

The beam is the first of several which will be removed for restoration.

Since 2009, the boat's wooden beams inside the pit have been subjected to laboratory analysis to determine the types of fungi, insects and viruses that are affecting the boat, as well as the amount of deterioration that has taken place, so that an appropriate method can be selected to restore it and place it on display beside the other boat, known as the Khufu ship.

"The lifting of the beams is the third phase of a long restoration project carried out by an Egyptian and Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University, in collaboration with the Japanese government," said Ahmed Eissa, minister of state for antiquities. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Miniature Pyramids of Sudan

Archaeologists excavating on the banks of the Nile have uncovered a necropolis where hundreds of small pyramids once stood


Nearly two thousand years after the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu marshaled armies of workers to build his 480-foot-tall Great Pyramid of Giza, the armies of Nubia (a region that is now in Sudan) invaded and occupied Egypt. It was 730 B.C. and, by then, the Egyptian pharaohs had long since abandoned the practice of erecting massive tombs. It was expensive to do so, and it had nearly bankrupted them. But the pyramids clearly fascinated the Nubian kings. They ruled Egypt during the 25th Dynasty, until they were ejected in 656 B.C., but Egypt’s influence on their own cultural practices was long-lasting. As ongoing archaeological work shows, the inhabitants of Nubia, particularly those in the kingdom of Meroe, found a way to imitate Egypt’s monuments. At the Meroitic royal cemetery, 80 radically downsized pyramids were constructed over the tombs of kings and queens. And now, new excavations at Sedeinga, a necropolis of the same era but 450 miles from Meroe, tell us that the practice of building diminutive pyramids trickled down from royals to the wealthy elite much more extensively than previously believed. Sedeinga contains a dense field of small pyramids, one just 30 inches across. “It is a crazy site,” says Vincent Francigny, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History and codirector of the excavations at Sedeinga. “I’ve never seen a cemetery like this, with so many small monuments packed so closely together.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Polish scientists will examine how climate changed in Egypt thousands of years ago

Polish scientists want to examine how climate changed in the Nile delta over the millennia. Head of the pioneering program that will also involve researchers from Egypt and China, is Prof. Leszek Marks of the Faculty of Geology, University of Warsaw.

Group of researchers have just returned from reconnaissance expedition to the Egyptian Nile delta. During the three-year Nile Climate Change Project (NCCP) they will prepare the reconstruction of climate changes in the region over the millennia.
"We will drill a series of 40 meters deep wells near the lakes Mariut, El Brolus and El Manzija in the northern part of the Nile delta and Lake Karun (Birkat Qaroun) in the Fayum Oasis. We will obtain lake sediment core samples and subject them to lithological, palaeo-climatic, palaeo-ecological and chronostratigraphic analysis "- told PAP project coordinator, Dr. Fabian Welc from the Institute of Archaeology of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.
Scientists are interested in the changes that have occurred during the Holocene. This geological epoch began shortly after the end of the last ice age, about 11.5 thousand years ago. The project will reconstruct a scenario of climate change at the local (Egypt) and regional (north-east Africa) scale. Researchers will reconcile the results with each phase of the development of civilization of ancient Egypt, especially in the context of sudden and catastrophic climate fluctuations. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ancient Heliopolis under threat

Caesar Augustus sent the obelisks from Heliopolis to Alexandria, from where they were moved to Rome, Paris and New York. This was the beginning of the looting of the ancient site of Heliopolis, a process that has continued to this day.

By Monica Hanna

Heliopolis, the site of ancient Iunu or Biblical On, is the only Ancient Egyptian archaeological site still visible in Cairo. The site is located to the northeast of Cairo, in close vicinity to contemporary Heliopolis or Misr Al-Gadeeda. The site was the capital of the 13th nome of Lower Egypt and was famous for the temples of the gods Ra, Ra-Atum and Ra-Horakhty, which turned Heliopolis into a significant religious centre since the pre-dynastic period.

During the Ptolemaic period the sun-god Ra was referred to as helios (Greek for ‘sun’), thus the city was renamed Heliopolis or the “City of the Sun”; the modern Arabic name “Ain Shams” also is a derivation. The priesthood of the temple of the sun created the Heliopolitan cosmogony (a narration of the creation of the world) where the god Atum played the role of the creator. The site was thought to be where the benben primordial mound arose from the waters of Nu in the creation of the world. The benu (phoenix) bird and the Mneuvis bull were worshipped in the area as manifestations of Ra, and Hathor “Mistress of Hetpet” was worshipped as the female deity of the area.

The oldest cemetery found in the area dates to the period of Naqada I and II (4000-3000 BCE); the pottery recovered during the excavations can be compared to that found on sites of comparable date, like Maadi and Wadi Degla. The rest of the site has had features dating from the Third Dynasty (2649-2575 BCE) to the Late Period (712-332 BCE).

The most famous landmark currently remaining on the site is the Obelisk of Senusert I, from the Middle Kingdom (2010-1640 BCE) and other inscribed blocks and gates on the site of Arab El-Hisn dating to the Ramesside period (1307-1196 BCE).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Excavation uncovers ancient Egyptian town in northern Egypt

Remains of an ancient Egyptian town, inhabited from around 2000BC until the Graeco-Roman era, have been discovered in Qalioubiya governorate

by Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 18 Jun 2013

At the Hyksos fort at Tel El-Yahoud area in Qalioubiya governorate in northern Egypt, an Egyptian excavation mission by the Ministry of State for Antiquities has stumbled upon an ancient Egyptian town from the Middle Kingdom, which dates from approximately 2000 BC to 1700 BC.
The town includes a residential area with a collection of houses and royal palaces, as well as a four metre-tall mud brick fortress and a necropolis with a large number of rock-hewn tombs.

A collection of lamps, amulets, clay pots, scarabs and faience floor tiles that were once used to decorate the palace of the New Kingdom kings Meneptah and Ramses II were also unearthed. A collection of mud brick tombs from the Hyksos era was also found, as were remains of a temple dedicated to the god Sotekh who was worshipped during the Hyksos era was also unearthed.

Adel Hussein, head of the ancient Egyptian department at the antiquities ministry, said that excavation mission in Tel El-Yahoud area was resumed after having being stopped after the January 2011 revolution.

He pointed out that such a site is very important as it reveals the daily life of ancient Egyptians from the New Kingdom until the Graeco–Roman era.

The town was also important from a military point of view, Hussein said, saying that excavations had shown that the town was surrounded by a wall to protect it.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Museum Pieces - Statue of Antinous


From Tivoli, Hadrian's Villa, Pecile (1736 excavations)
Period of Hadrian131-138 AD
White marble
Height 241 cm.
cat. 22795.
The Vatican Museum

Statue of the divinity Antinous/Osiris in white marble, signifying Upper Egypt. The statues of the Serapeum of the Canopus demonstrate how the emperor Hadrian had deified his favourite Antinous, who drowned precisely in the canal called the Canopus which linked Alexandria to the main branch of the Nile, through his assimilation with Osiris, the god who dies and is reborn, in his turn already associated by the Ptolomies with Serapis, Alexandrian divinity of salvation.

About Antinous:

Antinous was born to a Greek family in Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is now north-west Turkey. One version is that Antinous joined the entourage of the Emperor when Hadrian passed through Bithynia in about 124, and soon became his beloved companion who accompanied him on his many journeys through the empire. Another version has it that Hadrian had the empire searched for the most beautiful youth, and chose Antinous. Although some have suggested the two might have had a romantic relationship, it is uncertain if this was true.

In October 130, according to Hadrian, cited by Dio Cassius, "Antinous was drowned in the Nilus". (D.C. 69.11) It is not known for certain whether his death was the result of accident, suicide, murder, or (voluntary) religious sacrifice, but the last is best supported by the surviving evidence.

At Antinous's death the emperor decreed his deification, and the 2nd century Christian writer Tatian mentions a belief that his likeness was placed over the face of the Moon, though this may be exaggerated due to his anti-pagan polemical style.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Egypt's city of bean counters suffered flash floods

05 June 2013 by Michael Marshall

IT'S the admin centre of the ancient world. The workers who built the pyramids of Giza and the accountants and managers who organised them achieved architectural immortality – but you wouldn't know it from where they lived. Built in a flood zone, their town was repeatedly destroyed by flash floods. Bizarrely, the Egyptians kept rebuilding in the same place despite the continual devastation.

During the reign of the pharaoh Menkaure, thought to be between 2532 and 2503 BC, Egypt was run from a city on low ground near the Giza plateau. Known as Heit el-Ghurab, this was a large administrative centre surrounded by houses, workshops and bread ovens. After decades of occupation, it was abandoned and buried under tens of metres of sand.

Karl Butzer of the University of Texas at Austin and colleagues have been excavating Heit el-Ghurab since 2001. They discovered layers of muds and sands, which they dated by identifying the relics in them, as well as radiocarbon dating.

The team found that the site was hit by three floods in 26 years during the reign of the previous pharaoh, Khafre. The first destroyed the town, while the others caused widespread damage. But under Menkaure the devastation multiplied.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ministry of Antiquities issues a statement regarding monuments’ security

by Thoraia Abou Bakr  /   June 11, 2013

Ministry of Antiquities reports that a plan is being setup to secure monuments and archeological sites

The last few weeks have seen the release of several reports citing the lack of security of monuments and archeological sites throughout the country.  In May, UNESCO threatened to declassify several Egyptian heritage sites, while the US Embassy issued a warning regarding the safety within the parameters of the Pyramids of Giza last week.

On 8 June 2013, the Ministry of Antiquities issued a statement addressing the security situation, in which Minister of Antiquities Dr Ahmed Eissa confirmed coordination between his ministry and that of the interior, specifically the tourism police and monuments security.

The statement also explained that a plan with the police and the ministry of interior is currently underway to establish a number of contingencies, and allow for changes in the future if need be.  It also reported that a programme is being planned for a reevaluation of the monuments’ security personnel, who will also be given seminars on the value of the monuments to stress the job’s importance.

The ministry spokesman confirmed that the “sites that are open to visitors are being secured by the police”. However, he explained that archeological sites are “protected by the ministry of antiquities security personnel”. He also denied that the Armed Forces have been given the task of securing any monuments or archeological sites.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looting Egypt: Abu Sir Al-Maleq

The state of looting in Abu Sir Al-Maleq in Beni Suef has reached an alarming level

By Monica Hanna and Salima Ikram

The looting of antiquities sites, both urban and rural, is continuing throughout Egypt, contributing to the dramatic loss of the country’s heritage. Unfortunately, with police and military presence at archaeological and urban sites still insufficient, there is no one to stop the looting.

The increase in looting is allied to the worsening economic situation in Egypt, coupled with the lack of security. People still think that pharaonic sites are filled with gold and treasures, just waiting to be dug up, so now, with no one to stop them, more people are looking for the nearest place where they can go dig for gold, then other artefacts that they can sell for immediate revenue.

This idea that gold is readily available is an old and mistaken one; few pharaonic era tombs had a lot of gold, and most of those had been robbed at least 200 years ago, if not longer.

Recently, sites in Beni Suef in particular have suffered acutely from looters; in fact, if one asks to rent a car to go to Beni Suef, the drivers casually ask, “Oh, you are going to buy antiquities. I know someone who can help you,” as we know from personal experience. Abu Sir Al-Maleq is now considered the best place to buy “coloured sarcophagi”.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Exploring the Fayoum Oasis

By Salwa Samir – The Egyptian Gazette
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

FAYOUM - Some 100 kilometres southwest of Africa's most populous city of Cairo, lies the oasis town of Fayoum, with about two million inhabitants, which can be reached in about 90 minutes by road, according to the traffic in the capital, but feels agreeably remote.

The Fayoum Oasis is a natural depression in Egypt's Western Desert  which enjoys unique natural characteristics and a variety of environments (rural, with its lush and varied cultivation, desert and lake).
Originally named Crocodilopolis, then Arsinoe, el-Fayoum was the main site of the cult of worship of the crocodile god, Sobek. Apparently, during ancient times, crocodiles were adorned with gold and fed with honey cakes and meat by the priests. 

The Fayoum has experienced many eras of Egyptian history, making it rich in archaeological and tourist sites. Its water comes from the River Nile via Bahr Youssef, which leaves the Ibrahimiya canal at Assiut. 

The oasis is known for its year round pleasant climate and beautiful scenery and contains many sites of interest. It is also famed for its handicrafts, including all kinds of basket-ware made from both natural and dyed palm fronds, and a diversity of traditional and innovative pottery and ceramics.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Andrew Monson, From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt - A Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2013.06.03

Andrew Monson, From the Ptolemies to the Romans: Political and Economic Change in Egypt.   Cambridge; New York:  Cambridge University Press, 2012.  Pp. xvii, 343.  ISBN 9781107014411.

Reviewed by Peter Nadig, Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut, Freie Universität Berlin

It is now widely understood that the establishment of Egypt as a Roman province radically changed many aspects of its land tenure and taxation. Monson’s thought-provoking contribution – in four parts with two chapters each – is the first structured assessment of this transition of power. It includes an examination of key issues like ecology, land tenure and ownership, taxation, administration and politics. In dealing with these matters Monson draws information from Greek and Demotic papyri and considers theoretical perspectives as well as models from social sciences. 1

Part I offers an introduction to the political economy of Egypt and its transfer to Roman rule. A major focus is on property rights and privatization, with critical assessment of sources (few if any papyri in the Nile Delta and most parts of the Nile valley as well as practically none from Alexandria) and relevant scholarship on population and property issues in Egypt. The next chapter is on geography and population. Egypt’s demography is particularly tricky since safe estimates cannot be established continuously for the whole country. Several land surveys allow some estimates for some towns and communities at certain times, but there is no sure way to give exact figures. Because of this Monson turns to recent scholarly publications of ancient land surveys and modern censuses of Egypt, as well surveys and theoretical models from outside Egypt during other periods. One focus is on the question of population density, which has always varied in Egypt depending on the region. Census figures from 1895-1910 confirm a stable estimate for a low density in most areas of the Nile delta and the Fayyum and a high density in the Nile valley; a similar contrast may have existed in ancient times. Yet judging from the ancient sources on Roman Egypt its population seems to have been lower by at least 30% (68). Monson takes a thorough look at many other data available from censuses and surveys from the 19th century as far as back as the Napoleonic expedition. He also deals with the question on how far environmental or climatic change may have affected the demography. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Mummy of Herakleides – Roman Egypt at the Getty Villa

Posted by: HeritageDaily, May 28, 2013

Written by Londyn Lamar

The Getty Villa in Malibu, California is the beautiful educational center dedicated to housing the artifacts and antiques from the ancient Etruscan, Greek, and Roman periods.

Although their busts and statues are remarkable, while I went to visit this beautiful museum on the cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway, an acquisition that combined Roman and Egyptian culture snagged my interest. The Mummy of Herakleides, which is a Romano-Egyptian mummy found in Egypt about 150 A.D, emphasizes the traditions of both the Roman art style and the Egyptian tradition of life after death and their practices of caring for the dead and protecting them in the afterlife. The Roman style of individual portraiture, with the emphasis on the upper body and expression of the face and gestures, is evident in this depiction of Herakleides.

While the upper exterior of the dead permeates with the ideals and styles of the Roman Empire’s control Egypt, the body’s exterior as a whole demonstrates the ideals and practices of the Egyptians.

Herakleides went through the mummification process, and is not placed in a sarcophagus, similar to Etruscan tombs such as the Cerveteri Sarcophagus. Also, the designs on the body of the mummy are in the Egyptian style of depicting hieroglyphics and pictorial images, similar to the innermost coffin of Tutankhamen. Herakleides’s usage of the Egyptian processes illustrates his influence and fascination with the Egyptian traditions of the dead. The Mummy of Herakleides shows that Herakleides desired to portray his exterior portrait in the Roman style to demonstrate his lineage, but also wanted to illustrate his connection to the Egyptians through their mummification process and hieroglyphical designs.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Museum Pieces - Papyrus from the Book of the Dead of Nakht

Photocredit: British Museum (EA 10471/13)

From Thebes, Egypt
Late 18th Dynasty, 1350-1300 BC
Agricultural scenes

Nakht was a royal scribe and overseer of the army (general) at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty (about 1550-1295 BC). His Book of the Dead is a beautifully illustrated example.

This papyrus shows Spell 110, a series of addresses to deities who dwell in the 'next world', specifically in the Field of Offering and the Field of Rushes. The deceased was expected to undertake agricultural work in the Field of Rushes.

The vignette evolved from a map of the Field in the earlier Coffin Texts. It shows areas of land surrounded by water. Nakht is shown with Thoth at top right, with the balance and feather of Maat (referring to the Judgement Scene). He then paddles his boat across the Lake of Offerings where two mummiform deities stand before a table of offerings. Nakht is also shown worshipping the Heron of Plenty. He is shown pulling flax, reaping, and ploughing below. The boat of Wennefer (a name for the god Osiris), shown with a head of a snake, is moored in a channel of the water at the bottom. Three deities of the ennead (group of nine gods) are shown bottom right.

R.O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Book of t, (revised ed. C. A. R. Andrews) (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)