Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Restoration of Khufu's Second Solar Boat


Luxor Times Magazine has a very informative review of the third phase of the restoration of the second solar boat found next to the great pyramid. I myself hope that the boat will be restored and placed back into its pit for future generations in case of the destruction of the first boat..

A Spinning Statue

This video is about a 10" statue of an Egyptian nobleman of Egypt's Third Intermediatte Period named Neb-Sanu which is moving on its own in the Manchester museum.

Cute!

Source

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Devices for Freedom


"While my workmen were clearing the tomb, they noticed among the rubbish which they were moving a piece of the arm of a mummy in its wrappings. It lay in a broken hole in the north wall of the tomb.", "On seeing it Mr Mace told them to bring it to our huts intact, and I received it quite undisturbed," " I then cut open the linen bandages,  and found, to our great surprise, the four bracelets of gold and jewelry. The verification of the exact order of threading occupied an hour or two, with a magnifier, my wife and Mr. Mace assisting. When recorded, the gold was put on a scale and weighed against sovereigns, before the workmen, who saw everything." (1)

Professor Petrie's previous words understood the value in paying a fair wage to his workers that this would help to secure any objects found especially if the item was historically significant as in the case of this arm. Today that lesson has become a relic of the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Egypt where you are just as likely to end up in jail for finding something and not reporting it.

We pray that in the current environment that an intact historically significant person does not come to light at the hands of those untrained Egyptian's who should be working on behalf of their country with the aid of the Supreme Council of Antiquities but as it stands today the finder will not be payed for their discovery.

Thankfully for the finder if it is gold or silver it can be quickly disguised by melting the pot or jewel down. Objects of less intrinsic value will rarely be seen by the Egyptian authorities or at least it may pass through corrupt officials who themselves need money and will gladly allow the trinket to leave Egypt for the betterment of their children.

Human nature is not a recent habit but the current antiquities authority ignores the obvious, I hate to say it but  as we stand by today a priceless and hopefully redundant history is shoveled out the back door and Egypt gets nothing not even a false sense of security though perhaps that false security is what the revolution left behind and, or tried to overthrow. The antiquities laws need to be reversed and returned to a more pragmatic era.

 Professor Petrie giving an assessment on the value of excavating at Abydos;

"after it was abandoned by Mission Amelineau that at last, on my fourth application for it. I was permitted to rescue for historical study the results that are here shown." "and worse of all for history, came the active search in the last for years for everything that could have a value in the eyes of purchasers, or to be sold for profit regardless of its source; a search in which whatever was not removed was deliberately avowedly destroyed in order to enhance the intended profits". (2)

Two gold falcons -That is about $10,000 U.S., imagine what could be done with that kind of money, how many guards or restorers or site managers, could be hired for that, or given raises, all that in just two tiny late period amulets.  Though many lesser objects in faience can be had for as little as $100.

"In July 1884, Professor Maspero secured permission from the Egyptian government to buy from the natives the property which they held on the site of the Great Temple at Luxor, " (3)

In a past article in 2011, I gave the example of The British Treasure Act where the finder receives the finds or the value of the finds, not unreasonable! That does not mean that Egypt's archaeological sites become fair game only that the Egyptian government and it's vendors could sell what is redundant to raise funds for the workers of one Egypt's most valuable resources.

All this said is without speaking about those artifacts of which are unique coming out of the ground and being lost to the national collection in Cairo to be sold to some foreign millionaire and exported by ingenious people. These are the types of finds that the common digger can point out to the antiquities authorities without need to destroy as the reward would be greater to the diggers continued income with a prestigious well handled find.

The bust of Nefertiti pictured above in 1912 is one of the leading reasons that division of finds no longer occurs in Egypt, to this day the bust sits in Berlin as a continuing thorn in the side of the issue, though it must be remembered that piece was discovered and acquired for an intellectual institution with the proper permits and not by a poor Egyptian..

The looting issue is unfix-able with current Egyptian law and saddest of all it is intellectualism backed up by foreign cash which helped create the police state of the former regime, a system which still holds strong  leading to the present chaos of looting and depriving the living residents along the Nile freedom and opportunity to live legal lives not only unburdened by Egypt's history but lives which can be actually enhanced by it!

Getting into a museum for half price is not an enhancement, it is a piece of political propaganda!

"Egypt’s economic freedom score is 54.8, making its economy the 125th freest in the 2013 Index. Its overall score is 3.1 points lower than last year, reflecting declines in seven of the 10 economic freedoms, especially investment freedom and labor freedom. Egypt is ranked 13th out of 15 countries in the Middle East/North Africa region, and its overall score is below the world and regional averages."(4)


Notes:

(1). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pgs. 369-70
(2). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pg. 358
(3). History of Egypt, Rappoport, Volume XII, The Grolier Society, London, 1904, pg. 335
(4). The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cleopatra: From History to Legend


Edith Flamarion
Thames and Hudson
New York
1997
ISBN 0-500-30073-9

This small 159 page book is filled with numerous coloured pictures of Cleopatra and her time including 8 full pages at the start of the book. I must first admit I know only a basic rundown that most people know of this Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII, and so decided this book was a good place to start, also my copy was bought at the British Museum so it couldn't be that far off.

The book opens with a breakdown of Cleopatra's immediate family including her brother/husband Ptolemy XIII and the city of Alexandria. Certainly the array of images is very nice with some amazing objects and settings to enhance the authors words. Pages 42-43 are printed with a red background which made them impossible to read without my magnifying glass, perhaps I should take that to mean the book may be suited for a younger reader than myself.

The story is put well forward and the read is enjoyable, though, a single two pages contain often more than one train of thought making the side-script somewhat confusing to the original read. With the 3rd chapter we find Cleopatra with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, the royal intrigues, the players of the game and fates which guided the course of history.

The colour pictures certainly are what this book is about and though the story of Cleopatra is well known the author has imbued it with great details, then again are those pages of coloured background and writing so small I couldn't see.

      "There is a harbour...where a bay lulls the roar of the Ionian sea.... Hither came to battle the forces of the world.... On the one side stood a fleet doomed... and Roman javelins shamefully grasped in a woman's hand."

A beautiful 2 page picture of a 17th century Italian painting of this event recounted above accompanies the incredibly small text of its author Sextus Propertius. In a moment of poor judgement Antony whack's himself because he believes Cleopatra has whacked herself, however she had not.

So brings us to the final act, the grief of Cleopatra for her lost love and empire unwilling to be marched through Rome bound in silver chains as her captive sister Arsinoe had. Octavian victorious hauls away from the Ptolemaic royal treasury huge quantities of gold and silver, subjugated the Egyptian people, but failed to display the prisoner of the hated Egyptian queen through the streets of Rome as Cleopatra was already pushing up daisies.

I am actually surprised at how much I actually know about Cleopatra but this fine read has added a lot more detail to the story. The Roman Emperor Octavian takes over and re-organizes Egypt into a Roman province.

With this the first part of the book ends, the glossy coloured pictures replaced by yellow matte paper with black and white images, a section marked as "Documents" occupying the last third of the book. This section included the opinions and sentiments of Cleopatra by an extensive list of historical chroniclers and writers including of course Shakespeare.

This section contained an impressive array of literature which I found incredibly boring and it took me...., well at this the book turned into work. I think what happened for me with this book and the reason I have been avoiding all my books on Cleopatra, the subject does not interest me.

I found no real flaw anywhere and would consider it suitable for young people but a little older for the "Documents" section and not appropriate for those who should not be straining their eyes seeing the tiniest print I ever did almost see!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Discoveries by Egyptian Mission to Hyksos fortress


New discoveries have been made by an Egyptian mission in the delta at the Hyksos fortress of Tell el Yahodia. The article contains a number of pictures of the discoveries

Sunday, June 16, 2013

New Governor Appointed to Luxor

The article says the following " The new appointment has created controversy already in the tourism industry inner circles as the new governor is a part of the Islamic group which claimed responsibility for Luxor massacre in 1997. " 

Luxor Times

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Civilization of Ancient Egypt


Paul Johnson
Seven Dials
Wellington House
London
2005
ISBN: 184188068X


This attractive book is filled with numerous coloured pictures which accompany a text of some sophistication explaining the foundations of the Egyptian culture and its desire to live in memory and in soul for eternity, that is an eternity engraved in stone. Mr Johnson deals with man in accordance to his shifting environment;

"As the savannah turned into desert, paleolithic man began to descend to the Nile terraces and then to the valley bottom. Of course the valley was initially marsh. For many millennia, the tract from the First Cataract to Thebes was a lake; and much of the delta remained marsh throughout our period."

The rise and fall of the Nile river determines the seasons in an agricultural civilization which now flourishes in the valley as hunter gatherers become farmers.  Among the beautiful pictures accompanying the text is one from the tomb of Nakht of men gathering grapes, its caption telling us that it is from the time of Thutmosis V?

The author puts forward the acknowledgement that the birth of civilization occurred much earlier in areas of Mesopotamia and the Middle east where excavations at Jericho and in Turkey at sites like Catal Huyuk have evidence going back to 8000 bc, where no evidence at this early date is known in Egypt. From the dawn of the Egyptian state come about a dozen stunning votive cosmetic palettes which deal with the unification of the peoples of Upper and Lower Egypt and the establishment of the office of the king at around 3100 bc.

The theology of these early people is beautifully explained by the author;

"it was only in the closing stages of the development in predynastic times that force seems to have been employed to group medium-sized units into two large ones, and eventually into a united country. In this process gods fought alongside men, in the sense that village and district totem-figures cannibalized subject deities and absorbed their power. These obscure struggles formed the basis of later myths and emerged in historic times to constitute the structure of Egypt's polytheology."

The battle of Osiris and Seth comes to symbolize the tale of good and evil with Horus the mythical embodiment of almost all of Egypt's mortal kings. In the death of Osiris we find the Lord of the Underworld and the one through which all souls must past to find eternity in the allusian fields.

The shaping of stone tools leads to the supernatural art of creating stone vases which were meant never to be seen or used except to be buried in a dark tomb. The power of royal authority culminates in the god-kings of Dynasty 4 and their pyramids on the Giza plateau.

Mr. Johnson presents a good read moving through developments in kingship and government from the god-kings and their families who hold the offices of government on to the decline of the centralized king to a population of provincial kings unifying ultimately in a Prince of Thebes at the start of the second millennium bc. The book is wonderfully thought provoking on elements of the Egyptian civilization which are rarely dealt with, the nuances and laws written or more often not written which governed the state of Maat are well put forward and developed.

Having said this it must be mentioned that the book is not for kids as the language and content would be more appropriate to someone with a more advanced education. I loved the consecutive pictures of the Abydos Kings Lists from the incredibly delicate raised relief of Seti I's list to the crude sunk relief of Ramesses II's list.

One of my favorite chapters was on hieroglyphs and linguistic developments not only in Egypt but among her neighbors as well while the hieroglyphs remain static and in finished development for their sacred purpose, the civil off-springs of hieretic, demotic and Coptic in turn develop the script into the Roman period and on into the Christian Era. The stelea that accompany this chapter are stunning and unusual examples as is the granite statue of Dersenedj from Giza.

A stelea of a married couple on page 172 is a masterpiece of austerity where pictograph meets inscription to produce a primitive yet modern/timeless image to please gods and ancestors.  There again appear the mistakes, a picture of the famous model of Meketre and his scribes doing the cattle count is mistakenly referred to as terracotta.

The sitting statue of Sekhema, supervise of the writers, is an amazing example achieved of sculpture and the strict conventions with which the Egyptian artist followed faithfully, in this case of Sekhema and his family, the artist has overcome a complex composition to create a state of authority and serene presence, a state of Maat.

In chapter 8 the author deals with the decline of royal authority which as usual is the result of the lack of wealth as the kings of the late Ramesside period lost the rich booty which had been the result of dominance of Egypt's neighbors by the 18th dynasty kings at the beginning of the New Kingdom.

Now at the end of the second millennium bc Egypt's economy is eventually stabilized by the liberation of precious metals and objects stored away in tombs, hence the assets of the glory days became a major force on the weak economy, From here Egypt would go through many occupations that would complete the last millennium of pharaoh's, with kings who would hold on to the bronze age and Egypt's glorious past as the rest of the world ran headlong into the Iron age.

In the final chapter Mr. Johnson bring us back to our own time with the rediscovery of the hieroglyphs bringing a renewed appreciation of the value, tradition and the function of art of the ancient Egyptian's and their desire for their destinies of eternity to which they have succeeded.

"The Civilization of Ancient Egypt" though sprinkled with many big words and small technical irregularities was a thoughtful and thought provoking read that one day I may read again!

Make holiday, have a good time without wearying. For it is not given to man to take his property with him. No one who leaves this life ever comes back.