Thursday, September 30, 2010

Who Wants to be Told to Shut Up?

When first I watched the new TV soap opera known as "Chasing Mummies" or as I like to call it Chasing the mummy, I had a friend over for dinner who asked if we could watch something less irritating, I agreed but sadly because I was writing this article I caught the repeat episode the following day.

In the great pyramid one sees Dr. Zahi Hawass taking his young fellowship students through to the farthest reaches of the pyramid a journey of many hours at points the fine doctor can be heard yelling and verbally deriding his young students. When illness strikes one of the film crew Dr. Hawass can be heard screaming like a madman in the background.

Who knows why a man who claims such success to his beloved science would want to come across with such anger harsh words and threats especially to his young students even if they do give the wrong answer or accidentally violate a pyramid or two. At Alexandria however the anger expressed by Dr Hawass on the dropping of a pylon being raised from the sea floor was well deserved.

At the shore the finally raised pylon is met by the embarrassment of Egypt's Ministry of culture, it's minister Farouk Hosni who thankfully took some time out from book burning to be seen but not enough to upstage Dr. Hawass' show.


The series is tragically ongoing and if you like to be irritated or get off on watching people being told to shut up by some ill mannered bully than this may be your cup of tea. For me however I found it most boring, insulting and a lesson in how to turn off young future Egyptologists.


Lets hope that someday when archaeologists are exploring some lost archive that "Chasing mummies" is not what they find!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Cave of Sokar

This is Dr. Hawass on the tunnel in the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of Kings which his team have recently finished excavating. Dr. Hawass explains the tunnels meaning including the Kings plan of building a tomb within the tomb but Seti's time ran out and the tunnel was never completed.

Dr. Hawass now turns his gaze to the tomb of Seti's son Ramesses II who's tomb in the Valley of Kings also has an unexcavated tunnel at the end of it except Ramesses II had plenty of time to complete his tomb.

Photo by Messuy

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hatshepsut King of Upper and Lower Egypt

This is an article on the female king Hatshepsut and her temple at Deir el Bahri which is in a long process of restoration. The author mentions the various reliefs and chapels built by Hatshepsut to honour the gods, herself and her family. The article has some nice pictures of the temple.

The author reports that the mummy of Hatshepsut may be one of a couple of unknown women found in a shaft at Deir el Bahri. Dr. Hawass may feel differently about this observation.

Building the Great Pyramid

An architect and associate professor from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology believes that a grid of seven was used to create the great pyramid. The professor Ole J. Bryn believes the pyramid is in fact a six stepped mastaba pyramid with the apex of the pyramid representing a seventh step.

The professor says that the queens chamber was built on top of the first mastaba and the kings chamber on top of the second mastaba with the grand gallery rising from the first step to the second.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Parting the Waters

As the Hebrew tribes fled Egypt the red sea parted allowing an escape route to the fleeing tribes from the troops of Pharaoh. Scientists now believe that a natural phenomenon may have caused the Red sea to part.

The report says that a strong wind blowing from the east could have pushed the waters of the sea back exposing mud flats at a bend in the sea adjoining a lagoon allowing people to cross the sea and when the wind stopped the sea would again cover the flats.

The video of the event that comes with the article is extraordinary.

In Future Egypt

Scientists are studying the effects of environmental change on ancient Egypt it's monuments and it's population and how they dealt with it. Two hundred scientists from twenty five countries will be studying everything from archaeology, geology as well as paleontology.

The efforts are to plan for the future of Egypt who's population is expected to double in the next forty years to one hundred and sixty million. The study is also on how the monuments will be effected by the future environment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

News from the Valley of Kings

Over at Kate Phizackerley's Valley of Kings site there is an interesting conversation going on over her post Amarna Royal Tombs Project in the Valley of Kings. I myself have little hope that there is anything but broken pottery left in the valley and if the showman doctor had found anything we would know about it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Replica's of Tutankhamun

This is a short video on the one thousand replica tomb furnishings in a travelling recreation of Tutankhamun's tomb coming to Manchester. The video has some nice vintage footage as well as interesting details on the creation of the individual objects.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomb of Karakhamun

Archaeologists working on behalf of the South Asasif Conservation project have been excavating the Asasif cemetery near Thebes with full knowledge that the tomb of the twenty fifth dynasty official Karakhamun was in the area.

The tomb had been documented and visited by a number of famous archaeologists in the nineteenth century including Karl Lepsius. The tomb was in crumbling condition and was last visited in the 1970's before the ceiling of the tomb collapsed.

Recent work by the project has rediscovered the painted burial chamber.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burial of a Pharaoh at Vergina?

Back in 1977 a great tumulus was excavated and found to contain an intact two chambered tomb. In the smaller chamber was found a stone sarcophagus containing a gold box which when opened revealed the cremated remains of a women wrapped in a purple shroud decorated in fine gold.

In the second chamber of the tomb was found along with a shield and a magnificent laurel crown of gold a second stone sarcophagus also containing a gold box though larger and decorated with a Macedonian star design indicating that the remains of the man buried inside was probably a Macedonian king.

No inscriptions tell who these people are but the suggestion has always been Alexander the greats father, Phillip II, or Alexanders half brother Phillip Arrhidaios who ruled briefly over Egypt after the death of Alexander and was responsible for creation of a red granite bark shrine at Karnak though Phillip Arridaios never visited Egypt.

Now scholars who have been studying the remains have found a wound on the remaining fragment of the male skull which may prove that indeed Phillip II did lose his right eye at the siege of Methone in 355-354 bc and that the remains found in the gold box back in 1977 may well belong to Alexander's father and not his half brother the pharaoh.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Temporary Installation of Kha and Meryt

This is a must see of an excellent video on a temporary installation of the tomb contents of Kha and Meryt in the Turin museum collection.

UPDATE: The temporary installation is no longer but the link still leads to the Turin Museum/ June 15, 2011

The Classical City

Upon Egypt's Mediterranean shore lay the ruins of ancient Leukaspis a town of about 15 000 that was washed away in a tsunami caused by a massive earthquake near Crete in 365 AD. The area is now home to luxury estates for Egypt's wealthy as well as an archaeological zone that the Supreme council of Antiquities is now developing in order to showcase Egypt's classical monuments.

Mother of Bread Molds

Archaeologists have followed desert paths filled with large quantities of broken pottery and signs that a settlement has been found in the Kharga oasis. A site know known as Umm Mawagir, in Arabic "mother of bread molds" for the large amounts of bread baking that has been found at the new site.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Book from Irish Bog

An eighth century manuscript turned up four years ago in an Irish bog preserved by the chemicals in the peat. The manuscript known as the Faddan More Psalter has preserved about fifteen percent of its Latin contents which was created on papyrus with an Egyptian leather cover.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Irrelevant King


This 9" tall limestone sunk relief block in Berlin's Neues museum pertains to show Smenkhkare and Merytaten or even Tutankhamun and Ankhesanamun, no real way of ever knowing who these people are except that they are Egyptian royals from the Amarna period.

The preservation of the blocks colours is remarkable as is the bottom corner of the queens gown which flows over the damage at the bottom corner of the block and the kings ribbons which end thoughtfully at the blocks boarders? The carving has clearly gone on to an already damaged block which may have had an earlier purpose.

Cyril Aldred in his 1973 book Akhenaten and Nefertiti also says of the block that the "back has been worked smooth; a channel with shallow slots at intervals has been cut along the left hand edge." Some believe the scene was meant to be inserted with mud into a home shrine, but if this were so the worked back and the channel would be unseen and pointless waste of energy.

The king portrayed has been praised by many experts for his flowing appearance while she has all the charm of a clothes store manikin. This makes me wonder if in fact there was two sculpturers involved in the execution of, with an experienced carver responsible for the king and a student for the stiff two dimensional queen. A number of elements are simply painted on and not engraved including both collars, the ribbon at the back of the queens head and a number of decorative elements in their costumes.

More than 3000 years of wear has been kind to this piece as it is one of the best preserved examples of the period. Of the paint condition it must be noted that the wear to it seems selective including under the kings chin but not including the kings chin. The loss of colour to the queens crown appears to be the result of carefull sanding which has left horizontal scratches exclusively on the blue crown but not on the area surrounding the crown.

The excellent preservation has been suggested to be because it laid in a house (R 45), and became buried in sand at Tell el Amarna where it is said to have been discovered in 1899. To my knowledge there is no proof of it's discovery just an appropriate story.

Interesting enough that there are two more identical scenes in the famous Mansoor collection( listed on their website as # 37, 38), only in raised relief and without colour. The largest of the three, number 38 in the Mansoor collection is 13" tall. The king on this image is not resting on his stick but actually falling over on to the queen who seems to be pulling back to get out of his way.

Certainly there are trust issues between these two.

The Mansoor collection is highly suspect and considered by many including myself to be soulless forgeries though their collector M. A. Mansoor was a respected Cairo antiques dealer who established his business in 1904, five years after the purported discovery of the Berlin couple. Unfortunately I have found no information on when it came to Berlin and who collected it or who sold it whether it came from Mr.Mansoor's shop after 1904 or whether the piece actually precedes the Mansoor collection either way it is clearly from my eye part of the same body of work as the questionable Mansoor sculptures and I would definitely place it in the earlier sculptures from the studio in which the Mansoor collection was created.

Finally on the Mansoor collections website is #39 a raised relief of two Amarna princess' which is a total copy of a famous fresco found at Amarna in 1891 by the great Flinders Petrie which inevitably relates that piece # 39 could not have been carved before 1891 at least not in modern times. In ancient times the fresco of the princess' was inside the royal palace and probably not visible to most of the population of Akhetaten and unlikely the surviving part of the fresco just happened to be the part carved in the Mansoor block # 39.

As it will be noticed I do not believe in the authenticity of the Mansoor collection or the piece in the Neues museum but certainly believe the Neues museum piece is instead an earlier piece from this studio sold perhaps to test the market as to the viability of selling the works of this forger dealing in expensive Amarna period royal collectibles.

A successful man such as M. A. Mansoor was more than likely a forgers studios biggest victim but unlikely to have been a knowing participant as he would have been risking his reputation as an antiques dealer and doubt in the pieces from him may account for him holding back the collection while he sold other antiques from different periods.

In the piece in the Neues museum I detected the hand of a teacher and a student, unknown if the seller is one of these two or a third representing the artists works for sale as decades later no information has come forward as to the identity of the studio which because of this to me may represent not an artists studio of unrelated participants which are more likely to talk about their operations but a family of forgers who created these works on behalf of the family to supply the wealthy collectors of the day, taking the secret of their operations with them to their graves for the better of the family?


Notes
Image courtesy of Allan T. Khol

Mansoor Collection

1. Cyril Aldred, Akhenaten and Nefertiti, pg. 188