Saturday, October 31, 2009

At Seneferu's Pyramid

Here is a very interesting black and white film of the 1929-30 Egyptian excavations by University museum Philadelphia.

Happy Halloween!

http://www.archive.org/details/upenn-f16-4021_1930_Excavation_Seneferu_Pyramid

Friday, October 30, 2009

Seti's Tunnel

I have a feeling this article is a repeat but here it is anyway. It presents some fairly recent exploration in the valley of kings.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/970/he1.htm

Mummified

An interesting video on animal mummification from Dr. Salima Ikram.

http://heritage-key.com/blogs/malcolmj/dr-salima-ikram-talks-animal-mummification-new-heritage-key-video#video

Thursday, October 29, 2009

High Priest of the Aten

A tomb found twenty years ago in the 1980's contained the burial of a vizier of Akhenaten named Aper-al who was potentially the high priest of the Aten in Memphis. This is an article by Dr. Hawass on the possible Hebrew vizier.

http://aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=7&id=18628

Coffin of Amenemhet I

There are news stories circulating including by the Egypt state service that a piece of the coffin of Amenemhet I is to be returned to Egypt thanks to the Metropolitan museum of art in New york who purchased the piece with the thought of giving it back to Egypt.

The pink granite fragment is in fact a piece of a Naos meant to hold a statue of a god or goddess and not the coffin of a king.

http://drhawass.com/blog/press-release-metropolitan-museum-return-artifact

Looking to Babylon

Austrian archaeologists have discovered a Babylonian seal in Egypt confirming that the Hyksos rulers of Egypt had contacts with the Babylonians.

http://austriantimes.at/news/Panorama/2009-10-29/17649/Austrian_archaeologists_make_Babylonian_find_in_Egypt

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dr. Hawass on Nefertiti


This is an interview with Dr. Zahi Hawass and Spiegel Online and though the interview is brief the question and answers that regard the Berlin bust of Nefertiti are of interest.

Dr. Hawass said: "Around two months ago I petitioned the Berlin museum administration to share with me the exact details of Nefertiti's "emigration" and to send all and any material that relates to the legitimacy of that process. To this day, my request has not been answered".

I am confused why Cairo needs paperwork which should be only duplicate material to that in the records of the Supreme council of antiquities? If worse came to worse the motives or intentions of the German expedition should not be of value to the question of what the representative of the Supreme council of antiquities decision was!

http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,656046,00.html

A Gift to Egypt

Here Dr. Hawass displays pictures of the naos and the fragment being returned by the Metropolitan museum of art.

http://drhawass.com/blog/press-release-metropolitan-museum-return-artifact

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Saving Amenhotep III

Here is a video by Dr. Hourig Sourouzian on the excavation and restoration of the funerary monument of Amenhotep III.

http://heritage-key.com/blogs/malcolmj/archaeovideo-saving-pharaoh-amenhotep-iiis-funerary-temple-thebes#video

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mummies Myth and Magic in Ancient Egypt

This 1989 book by author Christine El Mahdy was appointed with a number of nice images gracing its 192 pages though there was interesting details I also found a number of questionable anecdotes including the 5 days it took to empty DB320 of its mummified Kings and courtiers.

I continued on thankfully in Part II I found the author a little more into her element with historical analysis of the examining of mummies complete with excellent x-ray and CT scan images of mummies and their institutional related projects.

In part III "Myths and Magic" the author writes about the protection through amulets of both the dead and the living but in particular for the well being of the mummy. The reliefs left in their tombs complete with texts to ensure eternal sustenance with statues of the deceased and funerary models to work on behalf of.

I did enjoy the drawing of the Her-Uben papyrus in Cairo and the chapter dealing with the animal cults. The author goes on to deal with curses and more myths ending with the mummy in modern film but unfortunately as I reached the second last page there was a picture of the mummy of Ramses III but labeled as Thutmosis III.

This book is certainly suitable for young readers though it is by no means a perfect read I am sure the reader will encounter the Db320 story with a little more accuracy elsewhere and Ramses III is likely to be properly identified in the next book they read.

Yes it is true there were many tiny errors but the book was still interesting though I am sure that a thing or two may have gone over my head, I may never know!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Return of the Neues















Here we have a view of the original Egyptian court destroyed in the second world war.

The neoclassical Neues museum was designed by architect Friedrich August Stuler and opened on Berlin's museum island in 1855 having taken more than a dozen years to build. The museum was set up to surround two interior courts one of which was an Egyptian court surrounded by lotus columns.

The museum was created to house Berlin's Egyptian collection as well as its amazing papyrus collection numbering in the 10's of thousands of documents.

The German excavations of Karl Lepsius in the 1840's brought back thousands of objects which became the impedes for the museum and became the backbone of the collection. Seventy years later the Expedition of Ludwig Borchardt at tell el Amarna struck pay dirt with the discovery of the studio of the sculpture Thutmosis filled with unfinished busts of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Nefertiti plus their daughters and many unidentified courtiers.

This excavation brought to Berlin an entire Amarna collection complete with the museums natural star the now famous limestone bust of Nefertiti. The bust was extremely controversial at the time when exhibited and is still probably the museums biggest scandal today unfortunately for Cairo it is also the museums biggest draw.

A deal had been made for the return of the bust but Hitler forbade the return and was soon declaring war on Poland. The Neues museum was closed in 1939 and its finest objects removed to safety but sadly near the end of the European war on November 23 1943 the museum and its remaining contents were bombarded and destroyed.

For the last seventy years the surviving rooms of the Neues have been used as storage space for the other less damaged museums on the island.

It was big news this past week that after a nearly $400 million refurbish the museum had its Egyptian and papyrus collections returned to their former home bringing a new brighter period in its life and its great collection.

http://www.neues-museum.de/index.php

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Jubilee Scene in the Fitzwilliam 2300.1943

The Block:

http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/pharos/collection_pages/ancient_pages/E.GA.2300.1943/PIC_LRG_E.GA.2300.1943.html

This talatat block features King Akhenaten in two complete scenes including on the left side of the face a crudely carved scene of the King beneath the rays of the Aten. These rays terminate in open hands above the scene of the king before an alter making offerings while wearing the white crown with his arms raised in exaltation.

The second larger scene on the right side of the talatat face is slightly better executed and features the King in Sed festival robes beneath the rays of the Aten who terminate in hands holding alternating ankh signs and was scepters while a row of three attendants are bent over in the background adoring the King. The King strides forward holding his flail and scepter out from his body while the attendants are faced the same direction.

The scene is surrounded by cartouches and hieroglyphic inscriptions with one cartouche behind the King and two large cartouches in front with the lower half of two more beside each other to the extreme right of the block. The clumsy hieroglyphic inscription tells us the Aten titiluary and a place name "Jubilation in the horizon [or seat] of the Aten"*.

The hieroglyphs tell also that the attendant behind the king is his Chief prophet carrying his sandals. The attendant in front of the King is his Lector priest holding a papyrus roll and the third attendant is in front of the Lector priest but only the back of his leg remains of this figure. From here on the face of the block has been destroyed.

Why would the central focus of the block be complete in the manner of a lesser scenic block instead of it displays one of the most important events in Akhenaten's life?

The Sed festival was important political propaganda and worthy of notice on the walls of his monuments. For an entire Sed festival scene to appear on a single block leads me to ask what the surrounding blocks contained that the king needed to be kept small within his own monument?

Other talatats generally contain only fragments of the royal family as they are of course depicted far larger than their subjects who themselves regularly occupy two or more bricks but the Fitzwilliam piece is far different in conception.

The block is pleasing to look at with the benefit of the contents being of great importance in king Akhenaten's reign, the block being forgivingly damaged where it was probably least important. How would you mount this on a temple wall or even a shrine so as to be set out from the other blocks in the construction?

Certainly the two cartouches on the far right of which only the bottom of the cartouches is present on the block alludes to a block above as do the rays of the Aten in both scenes but that would have left the solar disk of the Aten at the bottom of those blocks.

The damage to the right side of the block make this illusion that there was a block there unknown. Nothing about the bottom of the block says that there was any connection with a block below and the same is true of the left side which appears to be independent of a block next to it.

But at the same it may well be an artists draft to be followed by the artists at the monument if so one would wonder about the misshapen crown and it would be doubtful that this artist would have been in charge of decoration for a larger expensive monument.

Though the talatat wall in the Luxor museum from the Gem Pa-Aten displays Akhenaten 2.5 talatats high with the Aten at the bottom of the above block below the floor line of that block, these blocks are far more central to an over all program of temple decoration and much more finely executed. While a talatat found recently at Sheikh 'Ibada is merely the head and neck of a kings wife from a much larger and dominate scene.*

The other thought is that the block maybe by an artist copying a larger monument on to the talatat as practice but this would seem to be in mistake too as the preciousness of a cut block of stone to be used by an amateur seems unlikely.

An important scene in a monument of which would have been hard to discern from surrounding blocks causes me problems and makes me feel the block that has no provenance may well be a forgery perhaps created from a backing cut off another talatat used to create the Fitzwilliam block?

Lets take the case of the famous forger of Egyptian art Oxan Aslanian who specialized in the art of the Amarna period. While in Egypt between 1900 and 1914 Mr. Aslanian was carving pieces in the style of the old kingdom until he moved to Germany where in the 1920's he became inspired by Amarna period art.

Unlikely the master of Berlin creating fake Amarna period pieces in Germany in the 1920's would then send them to Egypt to sell but the possibilities that an early experiment in his art while still living in Egypt may have been some Amarna pieces including the Fitzwilliam piece.

Artists rarely begin at the styles they become known for this is more often than not the result of years of experimentation and the late Mr.Aslanian would have been no different. Unfortunate that Major Gayer-Anderson did not provide anything on the Fitzwilliam's blocks provenance and though not considered to be in the regular style of Mr. Aslanian it's conception is greater than the hand that carved it, a master forger may have been at work on the block.

The idea that the block was created between 1900 and 1914 by Mr. Aslanian is a stretch I realize however master artists are very rare with only a few in each generation especially when they are in the right place.

I recently studied a number of pieces displayed in the Mansoor Collection of Amarna Art these soulless pieces are in doubt whether authentic or not, they are however not the work of a master but of a lesser artist who lacks imagination and is only copying other well known pieces. The creativity in the Fitzwilliam talatat is clearly above the talents of the Mansoor artist.

Further more there are a number of other pieces in the Fitzwilliam that have come from the Gayer-Anderson collection including E.G.A.3077.1943 a block with a mans head which appears the face was carved after the block was broken.

Lets hope further research may someday clear up the lost history of the Fitzwilliam's talatat but which ever way it goes the Jubilee Scene 2300.1943 is a wonderful piece of art.


  • *1 Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Cyril Aldred pg.97

Oxan Aslanian:




The Mansoor Amarna collection:

Twenty Sixth Dynasty Burials

This article from Dr. Hawass is on the Bahariya oasis and the 26th dynasty burials found by Dr. Hawass' team.

http://drhawass.com/blog/bahariya-oasis

Monday, October 19, 2009

Animal Mummy Cults

Here is an excellent article and interactive features on animal mummies with lots of interesting pictures.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/11/animal-mummies/williams-text

Carving Tombs

When building tombs the ancient Egyptian's used fissures to build tombs as an easy path to carve unfortunately this also lend them to being flooded.

http://www.livescience.com/history/091019-egyptian-tombs-flood.html

Saturday, October 17, 2009

More Nefertiti to Love


The transfer of the bust of Nefertiti from Berlin's Altes museum to its new home at the newly restored Neues museum on museum island has raised the old lingering question of who owns the iconic bust and what validity does the statement "to fragile to travel" actually have.

The bust has always been controversial as many believe it belongs in the Egyptian national collection and was removed from Egypt through trickery on the German side.

The leader of the German expedition of 1912 was Ludwig Borchardt a man who has been accused of everything from doctoring a photograph of the bust to make it less appealing to creating an outright forgery to present an alternative piece of equal value to the Egyptian antiquities official sent to divide up the finds of that year.

The bust went to Berlin but was not put on display for almost a decade in the early 1920's when Egyptian nationalists were rising in power against foreign archaeological institutions who were feared to be robbing Egypt of her National heritage and at a time when Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon and his estate were trying to receive compensation in objects for the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb.

Early on negotiations had promised a return for a couple of statues and a first class copy of a book of the dead from Cairo unfortunately with the rise of Hitler this agreement was discarded.

Seventy years later Nefertiti had become the Altes museums biggest star drawing a half a million visitors a year. Egypt's Secretary general of the Supreme council of antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass has become a thorn in the neck for Berlin but using threatening language which has not helped his own cause.

This past weeks move of the bust seems to have put Berlin's excuse of "to fragile to travel" into question but in all fairness objects do get broken in travel even important objects.

The people at Toronto's Royal Ontario museum can tell you about that experience from a few years ago when they opened a crate only to find the now discredited James ossuary broken on its journey from Israel.

Hopefully when Dr. Hawass' tenure ends this coming year a calmer head will prevail, perhaps Cairo and Berlin should do a 6 month exchange in which Berlin sends Nefertiti to visit Egypt and Cairo send its famous alabaster statue of Amenirdis to visit Berlin.

The answer should not be all that hard!

Tomb of Djehutynakht

I have long been fascinated by tomb 10a at el Bersha, the tombs occupant a governor was buried in what may be the finest surviving coffin of the Middle Kingdom, his wife in the tomb next to him and what might be the largest collection of funerary models ever found in Egypt.

Djehutynahkt was a governor in Egypt's Middle Kingdom with he and his unnamed wife being buried in a tomb at an area known as el Bersha. The burial was probably entered and robbed a couple of thousand years later perhaps in Roman times.

These robbers tore the ends off Djehutynakht's two coffins to get at his mummy which they tore apart to steal the jewels scattering the remains around the room in the process. The coffins that supposedly contained his wife were left as a diss-articulated pile of boards.

As the robbers left they took some mummy wrappings and set fire to them, thankfully the fire did not catch and quickly went out. The preservation of the remaining contents belongs more than likely to an earthquake shortly after which brought large portions of the honeycombed cliff face down reburying the tomb.

When the Harvard Boston expedition arrived at the site a couple thousand years later in 1915 the tombs remaining contents were in excellent shape they found wooden artifacts and the mummy fragments but perhaps most important the collection of Middle Kingdom wooden models of varying quality.

The models convey scenes of workers in daily work from brewers and bakers to the very rare brick makers found among Djehutynakht's 39 models with the finest being a procession of offering bearers. Included with the workers were 55 model boats for the tomb owners to enjoy in the afterlife. When the tombs contents were shipped to America early last century the ship carrying the outer coffin caught fire with luck only minor water damage occurring.

Today for anyone wishing to see Djehutynakht's burial it can now be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts:

http://www.mfa.org/


Giza Archives Project:

http://www.gizapyramids.org/code/emuseum.asp

Mummy Mystery:

http://www.boston.com/interactive/graphics/20091018_mummy/

Boston.com:

http://www.boston.com/ae/theater_arts/articles/2009/10/18/tomb_10a_lets_you_look_history_right_in_the_face/

Restoring Saqqara

This is a short article on restoration work being done at Saqqara particularly at the step pyramid and at the Serapeum.

http://drhawass.com/blog/restoring-saqqara

The Miami Mummy

The recent rediscovery of the mummy in the Bass museum collection has resulted in a ct scan of the mummy. The mummy will be put on display in the museum with the findings of its examination.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami_dade/northeast/story/1285498.html

The Bass Museum:

http://www.bassmuseum.org/

Friday, October 16, 2009

Returning the Trivial

Here some nice photo's of a 26th dynasty ushabti that has been returned to Egypt.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/968/he3.htm

Fragments of Tetiky's Eternal Abode

This article is on the fragments of fresco's found on display at the Louvre when they were supposed to be on the walls of the 18th dynasty tomb of Tetiky in the Theban necropolis.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/968/fr2.htm

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Limestone Lake of Tanis

Archaeologists have discovered a sacred lake belonging to a temple for the goddess Mut wife of Amen.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091015/sc_nm/us_egypt_archaeology

Mummified Leg

A leg has been mummified in traditional mummification technique from Pharaonic Egypt.

The picture says the mummy pictured is Thutmosis IV when it is actually the mummy identified as Thutmosis II even though there is a chance that he is actually Thutmosis I.

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/10/15/salt-mummification.html

Under the Sphinx

This video is on drilling beneath the sphinx to check the groundwater situation to make sure the monument is safe from deterioration.

http://drhawass.com/blog/drilling-under-sphinx

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Tomb of Tetiky

Excellent article complete with pictures of some of the fresco's stolen from the 18th dynasty tomb of Tetiky at Dra Abu l' Naga. The fragments turned up in the collection of the Louvre who will be returning them in 6 days whether this will allow the Louvre's archaeological mission to resume work at Saqqara is another matter.

http://drhawass.com/blog/battle-louvre

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Restoring the Hanging Church

Russian experts are restoring the third century Coptic church known as the hanging church outside of Cairo.

http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=6543

Alexander the Great

You sure cannot find enough statues of Alexander the great but here is yet another, though no picture.

http://www.sis.gov.eg/En/Story.aspx?sid=43676

Tragedy in Greed

Six people have died in Egypt after digging a massive hole beneath their house looking for treasure. The house collapsed into the hole suffocating the six people in the hole.

http://gulfnews.com/news/region/egypt/egypt-continues-to-suffer-treasure-hunt-fatalities-1.513873

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Royal Tombs of Egypt

Zahi Hawass
Thames & Hudson Ltd.
London
2006
ISBN-13:   978-0-500-51322-4


This very large book from 2006 is by Dr. Zahi Hawass with photography by Sandro Vannini and I must say right off the start that the huge size makes the book difficult to read for any length of time for you need to orientate yourself into comfortable positions where you are not being crushed by the sheer weight.

The books pictures are beautiful with large pullouts of the walls of the emperors tombs in the Valley of Kings including a nice pullout of the strange outer coffin of Tutankhamen and the mummy believed by some, but not me, to be the Pharaoh Ramses I.

Dr. Hawass has large pullouts which he places very helpful descriptions of the texts that of the "Amduat" and "the book of gates" as well as other sacred books which were drawn on the walls of the kings tombs from the Valley of Kings. It is at this point however that I wish Dr. Hawass spent more time in putting together a complete look at the "Amduat" and perhaps save some of the other sacred texts for another book.

Not enough can be said for the beautiful images which make the reader wish for the walls to be more complete in the pictures along with the descriptions. No one other than Dr. Hawass could put together such a document and though the book is beautiful and interesting the draw backs are as I have said mainly a desire to see more of the individual books particularly the "Amduat".

The other draw back is of course the enormous size which is only suitable to get comfortable position to read it, I found sitting on a blanket on a beach, even if I was carrying around the biggest book on the beach. The book concludes with a roundup of the works to preserve the tombs for the long run with the closing of some tombs.

The price tag, the size and the subject matter make this excellent book much more appealing to a mature reader than a younger one. I will happily now use this lovely book for years to come as solid reference material.

The Louvre's Stolen Pictures

Here is Dr. Hawass talking about the recent suspension of the Louvre archaeological missions in Egypt. The doctor also discusses actions being taken against other institutions.

http://drhawass.com/blog/press-release-egypt-suspends-archaeological-cooperation-louvre

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Louvre Suspension

Five fragments of wall paintings in the Louvre were stolen from an Egyptian tomb in 1980 in an area of the Theban necropolis known as "the tombs of the nobles". The Supreme council of antiquities informed the Louvre's director Henri Loyrette who apparently told Dr. Hawass nearly two years ago that they would be returned to Egypt.

This has not happened and today Dr. Zahi has now suspended the Louvre's archaeological missions in Egypt. This is a slippery slope for the Louvre as Dr. Hawass has called for the return of the Dendera Zodiac which was violently torn off a little temple in the early nineteenth century. The Zodiac also happens to be as one of his five most important objects that Dr. Hawass wants back.

Though the return of the five fragments should not be too big an issue, however even if the Louvre did return the fragments there is nothing to say that Egypt's Supreme council of antiquities will lift the suspension of the Louvre's archaeological missions.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/08/world/middleeast/08egypt.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Crossing the Doctor?


Saleh Ahmed manager of the Mit Rahina antiquities zone has found himself with difficulties having landed himself on the wrong side of Dr. Zahi Hawass (his boss) and head of the Supreme council of antiquities when he proposed a different approach to how to deal with certain Egyptian antiquities, particularly the mummy of King Tutankhamen, this was entirely appropriate as he is a mummification specialist but unfortunately for Saleh, who holds a Master’s degree from Manchester University in England, Dr. Hawass did not appreciate Saleh's advice and as a result Saleh feels he is a target of a smear campaign by Dr. Hawass. There are currently 42 investigations looking into Saleh.

(ANHRI) or the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information condemns the repression being perpetrated by Dr. Hawass against the researcher with the legal support unit deciding to adopt Saleh’s case and support him. As it stands now Saleh is being deprived of promotions, he cannot attend international antiquities exhibitions in addition to salary deductions.

An Administrative Court is reviewing Mr. Saleh’s case against the Supreme Council of Antiquities and its leader Dr. Hawass.

http://en.afrik.com/article16255.html

Dreaming of Cleopatra

Here is an article from Dr. Hawass on his search for the Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII and her lover Mark Antony's grave.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/966/he2.htm

The Favoured Son

The article tells of a specialist who may be experiencing blow back for having different opinions to Dr. Zahi Hawass in regard to antiquity affairs. Dr. Hawass is put forward as the poster child for the dictator Mubarak and the oppressed Egyptian people.

http://bikyamasr.com/?p=4550

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nefertiti's New Home

The famous bust of Nefertiti in the Altes museum in Berlin has now been moved to its new room in the recently restored Neues museum, the museum was badly damaged in WWII and has recently been restored at a cost of about $400 million. The bust has been at the center of controversy over the years as it is unique and some think it should belong to Egypt's national collection.

The bust was found in 1912 by a German excavation headed by Ludwig Borchardt unfortunately when it came time for the division of the finds the antiquities inspector of the day Gustave Lefebvre did not do his job well as a result he gave the bust to the German expedition as fate would have it the Egyptian Antiquities officials only found out a decade later at the same time as Lord Canarvon and Howard Carter were fighting Egyptian Nationalists for control of the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

The bust of Nefertiti has generated coveted affections over the years particularly in recent years with Egypt's Supreme council of antiquities Secretary general Dr. Zahi Hawass who has repeatedly asked for the bust to be returned to Egypt as a loan unfortunately he appears to see the queen as stolen in the first place.

More than likely the antiquities inspector Gustave Lefebvre was negligent in his duties for whatever reason though the German excavator Ludwig Borchardt was a man with a past action of creating a fake to fool others, as a result the bust of Nefertiti and another important stelae (now in Cairo) from that expedition are questioned as to their authenticity's today.

Hopefully with the passing of Dr. Hawass' Tenure cooler heads will prevail and Nefertiti will someday be on display if only for a short time in the Egyptian national collection till then the limestone bust is safe in its new display to face many more years of controversy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009