Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Hope that 2009 was not too horrible and that 2010 will be an improvement. The good thing is as you get older the years go by faster and that's good. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Artifacts from the (DOG) excavations of Tell el Amarna

The 1912-1913 excavations on behalf of the German Oriental Society (DOG) at tell el-Amarna brought to light a large collection of plaster masks and royal stone sculptures. The artist studio in which the sculpture was found was that of royal sculptor Thutmosis.

The most famous of the pieces is the limestone bust of Nefertiti in the Neues museum in Berlin, unfortunately, the bust is at the center of a battle to prove that it was removed from Egypt by an act of fraud on behalf of its excavator Ludwig Borchardt. Almost certainly the official on behalf of the Egyptian antiquities authority Gustave Lefevre did not do his job well, to say the least.

So what is the next step, which are the courts to deal with this situation? Are there world courts to resolve this matter or is this a job of UNESCO to decide the merits of this case?

The thought however must sooner or later be faced, particularly by the German officials, that if the bust of Nefertiti is found to have been obtained through fraudulent behaviour than the rest of the German acquisitions from the division of finds for 1912-13 are also acquisitions by fraud and the whole accession of that year need be returned to be re-evaluated by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The final decision may damage substantially the Neues museums Amarna collection but it is going to take more than the firm words of Dr. Zahi Hawass to do it. Since the meeting last week with Friederike Seyfried, director of the Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammiung in Berlin Dr. Hawass' case for the return of the bust has been acknowledged by the German's in charge of this matter.

I might suppose that after almost 100 years that if they found a note from Ludwig Bouchardt saying " I stole this" that it would had not much legal effect on today's situation. I would imagine for bureaucracy's sake there must be statutes of limitations in both countries.

At this point, I am unaware from a legal standpoint whether Dr. Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities really have any case for the return of Nefertiti regardless of what the old documents say.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Ten Most Important Egyptian Objects Outside Egypt

This is a list of the most important Egyptian artifacts not the property of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. Though there are certainly more contenders for the list including perhaps the gold headdress of a wife of Thutmosis III in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Norbert Schimmel talatats from that same institution.

1. Rosetta Stone (EA 24) - Discovered in the foundations of a fort at Rosetta by Napoleon's men in 1798 the stone was handed over to the British in the treaty of Alexandria in 1801. The stone was given to king George III who in turn donated it to the British Museum.

2. Calcite Sarcophagus of Seti I - Collected by Giovanni Belzoni the sarcophagus was rejected by Trustees of the British Museum, and ended up as the star attraction in the Soane Museum, London.

3. Silver cult Statue of Horus the Elder - Discovered in a Cairo antique shop by Howard Carter in April of 1922 the 36.6-pound solid silver statue was probably the very statue used in temple ceremonies, and at that a sole survivor from ancient Egypt. The statue is now in the Miho Museum Shigaraki, Japan. An Unknown case for repatriation to Egypt.

4. Limestone bust of Nefertiti - Discovered by archaeologists at Tel el Amarna in December of 1912 its acquisition for Berlin through the division of finds is perhaps the most controversial decision made by representatives of Egypt's antiquity authorities. The bust is currently in Berlin's Neues Museum. A case for repatriation to Egypt.

5. The Sarcophagus of Ramses III (Louvre D1=N337), its lid in the Fitzwilliam (E.1.1823). The box was collected by showman Giovanni Belzoni in 1816 for the collection of British Consul-General Henry Salt and was acquired for the collection of the Louvre in the early 1820's.

6. Sarcophagus of Nectanebo II (EA 10) - Discovered being used as a ritual bath in the courtyard of a mosque by Napoleon's men, it was transferred to the British in the treaty of Alexandria in 1801. The sarcophagus is at present in the British museum.

7. Walls from the hall of beauties, tomb of Seti I - Sawed from the walls of Seti's tomb in the Valley of the Kings by the Champollion and Rosellini expedition of the late 1820's. The doorjambs are respectively in the Louvre and Turin Museums.

8. The Denderah Zodiac - The zodiac is from the little temple on the roof of the temple of Hathor at Denderah. The temple was badly damaged by the zodiacs removal in 1820 and is now in the Louvre.

9. A bronze bust of Middle Kingdom pharaoh Amenemhet III - A collection of Middle Kingdom bronzes came to light some years ago with the best pieces including the bust of the king ending up in the George Ortiz collection in Switzerland as provenance unknown. A case for repatriation to Egypt.

10. The Berlin green head - Truly a great masterpiece of portrait sculpture in the round, unfortunately, Berlin's head has no notable provenance, the piece being given to the museum by benefactor James Simon. An unknown case for repatriation to Egypt.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Nefertiti in an An Act of Deceit

After this past week's meeting between Friederike Seyfried, director of the Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammiung in Berlin and Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities the negotiations for the return of the bust of Nefertiti have moved onto the next stage of transfer of the iconic bust to Cairo.

The documents director Seyfried presented to Dr. Hawass appear to show deceit on the part of the excavator Ludwig Borchardt "did act unethically with intent to deceive in order to keep the bust in the German share".

Dr. Hawass goes on "It seems that there was an agreement between Borchardt and Lefèvre that all the plaster pieces (which included an important group of plaster masks of the royal family at Amarna), would go to Berlin, and this appears to have been one way that Borchardt misled Lefèvre to ensure that the bust would go to Berlin as well,"
This is to be expected from the Egyptian point of view but time will tell if the German officials can be talked out of their biggest star!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday's

May I extend the best wishes to my viewers and their families that this holiday is a remarkable and joyous season for all.

God Bless.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Tomb of Tetiky TT15

The violation which has occurred to the tomb of Tetiky in the Theban necropolis in the last few decades has left the tomb damaged perhaps beyond repair. Though the Louvre has had to return the 5 frescoes that were hacked out of the tomb walls Dr. Hawass feels the tomb may be too badly damaged for their return.

The Louvre must be at least pleased that their expedition at Saqqara is being allowed to resume but a historic monument remains damaged. Certainly, the frescoes had a chain of ownership before they were acquired by the French museum.

Somebody damaged the monument and somebody purchased the 5 frescoes smuggling them out of Egypt. Who was the guard of that part of the necropolis at the time? How often do inspectors from the Supreme Council of Antiquities visit closed tombs in the Theban necropolis? Are they monitored electronically or just occasionally visited by a guard?

Perhaps one of the benefits of this event should be a reevaluation of the activities of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and its policies on security of its monuments in the Theban Necropolis.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nefertiti on the Table

Dr. Zahi Hawass and his German counterpart Dr. Friederike Seyfried, Director of the Aegyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung have met to discuss the legitimacy of Berlin's ownership of the famous bust of Nefertiti. The documents show that the busts excavator Ludwig Borchardt presented it to the antiquities service representative as plaster not limestone.

That being said however the Egyptian antiquities service representative Gustave Lefevre was supposed to examine all the finds from the dig which he apparently did not do.

Dr. Friederike Seyfried does not have the right to hand over the bust, he is acting as a liaison between Egyptian authorities and Dr. Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, and Dr. Bernd Neumann, Minister of State for Culture.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Restoring a Kings Monument

This is a very good article on the restoration of the mud brick monument belonging to the second dynasty king Khasekhemwy at Abydos. The most outstanding monument of this antique age.

More from Dr. Hawass

Recently Dr. Zahi Hawass' wish list of objects he wants back in Egypt has grown by one more item, that being the important statue of Ramses II in in the Museo Egizio in Turin.

In this interview with Dr. Hawass he tells his usual give us back the Rosetta stone and the other stuff too but first and foremost the stone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not a Loan

This article is on the Rosetta stone and Egypt's Secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities desire to have it back not as a loan but permanent. In recent weeks Dr. Zahi Hawass has become less diplomatic with not only the British Museum but also Berlin's Neues Museum over a bust of an Amarna queen and the MuseLouvre over frescoes now returned, though Dr. Hawass still expects the Louvre to give back to Egypt the Denderah Zodiac.

Interesting in the article was the mention that the good doctor also wants the statue of Ramses II in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy. A statue Dr. Hawass said himself he did not appreciate that was until the museum installed new lighting.

Dr. Hawass has long been known for the chip on his shoulder against Egypt's former colonial overlords, as a result, his wrath is directed at the benefactors of those powers including the Louvre and the British Museum. Berlin only comes into the game since the bust of the queen has been stolen in his mind and maybe so.

In Dr. Hawass' favour, it must be said that he has been asking for these to be loaned to Egypt for more than five years with only the loan of the statue of Hemiunu otherwise the rest of the asked institutions have basically ignored his requests.

Unfortunately, over the last five years, Dr. Hawass' intentions have become most clear particularly with Berlin's bust. Such a threatening environment created by the doctor may have left other institutions wondering how you can lend an object in good faith to someone who believes we stole it from Egypt?

Frescoes Returned

Here is a nice picture of one of the frescoes taken from the 3200-year-old tomb of Tetiky in the Theban necropolis. Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities had recently cut off the Louvre's concessions in Egypt over the frescoes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Cash Register in the Desert

"Even though we had allowed people to take pictures in the valley, people continued to bribe the guards and take cameras into the tombs and use flash."
                                                                                           Dr. Zahi Hawass

I would be curious to know what exactly does a guard make working in the Valley of the Kings? People who make a decent living will respect their jobs and be better employees. That being said the root of the problem is the infection known as tourists who bring their manners, whatever that's worth, and a pocket full of cash.

A thousand U.S. dollars to a guard in the Valley of the Kings will get me what special treatment? Is this a lot of money to a guard in the valley? Is $5000 enough for me to take pictures in the tomb of Seti I or would it be cheaper on an official level?

Three thousand dollars gets me into Nefertari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens but can I take pictures or is that extra? The problem of bribery of the guards is the history of the Valley of the Kings in a nutshell. The pharaohs knew this as did the priests of the necropolis and nothing has changed.

The best that can be expected would be for clear guidelines being handed out in a booklet to every tourist who enters Egypt, proper pay to the employees of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and tourists behaving properly.

Okay, so it's hopeless the rich will still visit the Valley of the Kings while the once in a life timers will be herded into the faux valley where there will be no point to bribe a guard and they will all wear hats that say "Disney" with cobras on the front of them!

The Courtiers of Khufu and Khafra

These 37 known Old Kingdom reserve heads as they are known appear to be funerary in nature. Nearly all are carved out of white limestone but at least one is made from Nile mud.

Many appear to be actual portraits while some are too idealized to be portraits of the tomb owners in which all the heads were found. Harvard Egyptologist Dr. George Reisner found most of the heads in tombs from the Fourth Dynasty at Giza relating to courtiers of Pharaoh's Khufu and Khafre. One was found by Jacques de Morgan in 1894 at Saqqara.

One of the heads was undisturbed since the day of burial and was found in the burial chamber next to the sarcophagus. The other heads were found scattered around the tombs and in their shafts discarded by ancient robbers.

One of the heads which came from Giza tomb G4940B and now in the Boston Museum of Fine Art's has a heavily plastered attachment to its face and holes indicating the ears were in another material. Some have suggested the heads were created as molds for funerary masks.

The heads show that the royal court of this dynasty contained members of a number of races. The practice of mummification at this period was not perfected and these heads may be an early form of Kha statue for this nearly three dozen courtiers of the Fourth Dynasty.

Where did these reserve heads come out of and why did they not integrate into the conventions of Egyptian funerary sculpture? What had been the need for limestone heads with their features in plaster? Could it have been part of the death rituals, the act of coating the limestone head and modeling its features may have evolved in the Fifth Dynasty to the coating of the human mummy with the same modeling represented in the reserve heads? That a mummy like Nefer/Watay in the Fifth Dynasty which is sculpted out of plaster could be the descendants of these heads in the Fifth Dynasty with the mummies being far rarer than the preceding reserve heads.

The heads are unlike the seradab statues of the same dynasty which feature individual Egyptians in full frontal poses from head to toe with their families. Many of these much more elaborate constructions are for people of much lower status than those represented by the reserve heads who are the prince's and princess's and their partners of the king's court.

The head of Princess Merytyetes bears a distinct dignity her head slightly upturned bearing her royal constitution while her husband's head which is better preserved does not possess her haughty disposition but rather a calming smile. Many like the royal couple just mentioned are wearing skull caps like that worn by the god Ptah while some are bald.

The heads may have led to the development of plaster mummies in the middle of the Old Kingdom with limited success and the Fouth Dynasty convention of reserve heads became obsolete.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dictator Retrieves Stolen Frescoes

During Egypt's President Mubarak's trip to France, he will collect 5 fragments of tomb frescoes stolen from a tomb in the Theban necropolis. The issue of the fragments of tomb paintings has found the Louvre's expedition in Egypt recently canceled by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2009 in Review

1. In 2009 the battle to retrieve the bust of the Amarna queen (Nefertiti?) in the Neues museum heated up and appears to be Dr. Zahi Hawass' top of his want back list.

"I really want it back," he told the Egyptian Parliament. "If Germany refuses the loan request, we will never again organize exhibitions of antiquities in Germany ... it will be a scientific war."

Though some would have you believe the bust is a fake.

2. During the course of 2009, Dr. Hawass has been digging up tombs at Saqqara and clearing the Valley of the Kings with a little success.

3. With some embarrassment, the Louvre was forced to hand back stolen fresco pieces after the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities cut off the Louvre's expeditions.

4. Berlin's Neues museum after a 70 years closure has been restored from its bomb damage in WWII with its Egyptian collection returned and the Neues reopened. While the British museum completed its restoration of the Nebamun chapel.

5. Twin brother made claims on finding Cambyses' lost army of 50 000 with very little proof and no permission to excavate and then there were those caves under the Giza plateau.

6. Perhaps the most visited tomb in the world the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings may be closed and a replica built for tourists to visit.

7. An extremely important intact 2nd dynasty burial was found earlier this year and all the talk in January was the mother of the Old Kingdom king Teti.

8. A study on heart disease concerns 20 mummies from the Cairo Egyptian Museum from various periods in a study of hereditary heart disease. The mummies are from the upper classes of ancient Egyptian society and in at least 9 cases were found to have suffered from arteriosclerosis.

9. There has been a belief in some that the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is close to being found at a temple at Taposiris Magna.

10. Last but not least are a bunch of mummies who over the year had dates with machines and a couple of times he became a she or vice versa. Images of the Oriental Institutes Meresamun are outstanding and Beautiful mummies were discovered at Illahun.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Keeping Records

An article on recording Egypt's religious literature carved on the walls of its temples from the University of Tübingen.

Mummies with Heart Disease

This article concerns 20 mummies from the Cairo Egyptian Museum from various periods in a study of hereditary heart disease. The mummies are from the upper classes of ancient Egyptian society and in at least 9 cases were found to have suffered from arteriosclerosis.

One of the worst cases was found in the beautifully preserved mummy of the lady Rai, a courtier from the court of Amenhotep I.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Search in Secret Egypt

Paul Brunton
E.P. Dutton & Co. INC
New York
ISBN-10: 0943914981

This 1936 book is one of those which has become a classic I have to say that I started to read it a few years ago however I stopped because the author Paul Brunton kept talking about Atlantis so I shied away till know.

So here I have reapproached this book in a different light and must say that I am enjoying the first few chapters. The list of characters who put on displays of mysticism or chicanery for the author is a colorful bunch who perform a series of trivial and unnecessary talents.

You never know when you will need to stick hatpins in your face to entertain guests or sacrifice the neighbor's pet with your mind, very useful indeed! The book interestingly goes on to an interview on Islam with an Egyptian cleric who gives answers to common misconceptions of the faith.

The author then goes into a comparative study of Islam, Christianity and other faiths which have taken me on a journey I did not see coming. The author's words are well placed in a story that deals with the mystical world without challenging the reader into believing anything other than toleration of different faiths including the often misunderstood deities of Pharaonic Egypt.

Mr. Brunton visits and amply describes beautiful mosques and ancient temples who's walls are covered with images of ancient Pharaohs making offerings to animal-headed gods. At the temple of Denderah the author heads to the roof to see the famous zodiac, the original now in the Louvre and in it finds tens of thousands of years in its conception. Then again are the authors "Atlantian's" who he credits for the original seed of this zodiac even claiming the starting date of the alignment of the zodiac was 90 000 years old.

Mr. Brunton visits the ruins of Karnak and appears to misinterpret a scene on its walls to fit his beliefs but his night descriptions of the complex at Karnak are challenging and fascinating.

The author visits a well-known snake charmer who is responsible for keeping the village clear of snakes particularly the deadly ones including cobras with the author himself being taught the art of the snake charmer and becoming though reluctantly a charmer himself.

The book ends with a message from an Adept (holy man) warning about the opening of ancient tombs and the wrath the spirits who are released from the tomb may have on modern society and modern man.

Mr. Brunton was an obviously colorful character who held a lot of ideas I might otherwise consider to be wacky but I finished this book with a respect for its eloquent author and his eccentric views.

I have felt that this was indeed a very interesting search in secret Egypt.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cambyses Ghost Army

This article is of particular interest on the reports that Herodotus wrote down that the Persian king Cambyses sent an army to the Siwa oasis to punish the priests who refused to legitimize his rule.

Recently with the help of Discovery twin brothers announced they had found Cambyses' 50 000 strong armies which had been buried alive in a sand storm. The article talks about Herodotus being the only historian to make this and other big claims about events in Cambyses' reign.

In the photos presented by Discovery and the brothers is a pile of bones in which I was able to identify 17 skulls just a few short of 50 000. Egypt's Dr. Zahi Hawass disputes this claim and has informed necessary security authorities.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cambyses Lost

Excellent article on the lost army of Cambyses and the twin brothers who are making the recent claims.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Mummies Heart

Here is an article and short video on mummies in particular heart disease in mummies and analysis on the mummy of a 4 year old.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Cemetery for Thutmosis and Amenhotep

My intentions in writing this article are only meant as an interpretation of the royal necropolis with a number of the tombs mentioned we will probably never know anything about. It appears the early kings of dynasty 18 used the new cemetery to keep their most important courtiers buried close to their king.

These courtier tombs may have inspired little respect from succeeding kings and their courts as the importance of the Valley of the Kings grew. Many of these earlier courtiers may have been removed from the valley and placed into tombs in the other Theban cemeteries even before the dynasty had ended.

The famous biography in the tomb of Ineni says's he was responsible for creating the tomb of Thutmosis I, "no one seeing and no one hearing". Archaeologists have long looked and speculated on the whereabouts of this tomb.

There are two tombs which bore sarcophagus's for this king, the first a small poorly cut tomb in the Valley of the King's tomb (KV 38) has been shown to be a reburial of the king during the reign of his grandson Thutmosis III.

The second a joint tomb with his daughter Hatshepsut (KV 20) seems more likely to be Ineni's work however with all the activities by Hatshepsut's workers in the tomb. Would you just push the king and his coffins aside so the workers could continue finishing the tomb for the female king,

I would doubt this but might actually place the original burial in the nearby neighboring tomb known today as KV 60. The year is 1492 BC the short reign of Thutmosis I, is over and the founder of his dynasty is perhaps placed into the tomb his architect Ineni had created in an unused wadi.

So begins the history of what would become one of the most famous royal necropolis in the world. The Valley of the Kings. The tomb carved by Ineni's workers (KV 60) would seem like a less than grand start to the new royal necropolis perhaps inspiring his daughter to create a grander monument for herself and her father.

Hatshepsut's valley tomb (KV 20) is a wonky corkscrew tomb that is hardly little more than an extremely long cave free from the mathematics of engineering but also flawed by the lowest chambers being carved in unstable shale.

The next known pharaohs tomb in the valley is that of Thutmosis III, and his family representing a renaissance for the tomb builders. The layouts of tombs KV 33,34, 38 and 42 present the viewer with ever refining geometry while the reburial of Thutmosis I, tomb KV 38 appears to be the earliest of the group.

We find in tomb 34's cartouche shaped burial chamber the first truly beautiful room in the valley with its pink decoration the Imyduat inscribed on its walls scrolled out like a giant roll of papyrus surrounding the king's quartzite sarcophagus regarded as one of the most beautiful of its kind in Egyptian history.

A deeply carved well was the first in the valley and an exclusive to future kings tombs. Tomb 42 was started for Thutmosis III's great royal wife Hatshepsut Meryet Re though not on the scale of her husband's tomb the mathematics is just that more precise. The tomb also like KV 34 and KV 38 has a cartouche shaped burial chamber, an exclusive to this kings family.

Nearby tombs numbered KV 26 and KV 37 are small unrefined cuttings which may belong to this series of tombs as do probably cuttings KV 33 by location and F by a foundation deposit.

From the crude reburial of Thutmosis I, to the more refined tombs of Thutmosis III and his queen a true renaissance had occurred bringing forth the golden age of the Necropolis.

Starting in the reign of Thutmosis's son Amenhotep II, the cartouche shaped burial chamber is abandoned and replaced with a six-pillared hall with lower crypt. The well has been retained as has the decoration of the Imyduat scroll in the burial chamber.

The geometrics of the tomb are well executed and the tombs fine preservation make this perhaps the finest surviving tomb of an 18th Dynasty king.

Near to this king's tomb is another numbered  KV 48, in this crude cutting was found the broken mummy of Amenhotep's vizier Amenimopet. Surrounding the vizier's tomb are three small tombs which when found contained animal mummies which may have been pets or sacred to Amenhotep II.

The enigmatic tomb KV 12 may have been started as a family tomb for this king. A lesser queen of Amenhotep's named Tiaa and mother of his heir Thutmosis IV, was probably buried in a modest unfinished tomb numbered KV 32.

When discovered in 1899 valley tomb number KV 36 still contained much of its 18th Dynasty burial equipment including the well-preserved mummy of its owner. Maihirpre who bore the titles" Child of the nursery and fan bearer on the right of the king" died young probably in his early twenties. A vase from the tomb stylistically loosely places the date of burial at Amenhotep II or Thutmosis IV.

Thutmosis IV"s tomb mirrors his father only on a larger scale and missing the Imyduat scroll in the burial chamber. In the nearby finely carved tomb KV 21 there are two now torn apart female mummies.

Tombs numbered KV 2 7, 28 and 45 (Userhat) all contained ceramics datable to this reign or Thutmosis' successor Amenhotep III. By location tomb, KV 44 may also belong to this series.

There are two securely dated tombs in the valley for the reign of Amenhotep III, including his beautiful tomb WV 22 in the west valley. The tombs plans follow his predecessor's tombs but much more finely painted and with the addition of two extra burial suites for two of his wives including Queen Tiye.

Sadly vandalism and salt leeching into the walls have left the decoration of the tomb in poor condition, of the 24 sides of the six pillars in the crypt, only one remains relatively undamaged.
When discovered in 1905 tomb KV 46 held the sumptuous burial of Yuya and Thuya, the parents and of Amenhotep's Great royal wife Tiye.

Their undecorated tomb unusually for the valley is entered by two staircases and a corridor as opposed to a simple shaft. The cutting today known as "A" contained goods bearing this king's name. Tomb KV 55 also contained objects for this king and his queen Tiye.

The nearby location of tomb KV 62 may also belong to this group. Tomb KV 25 may well have been started for Amenhotep IV, but his revolution left the valley for the royal tomb at Akhetaten. With the return to the Valley of the King's after the Amarna period tomb, KV 55 may have been used for the reburial of Akhenaten, Smenkare and possibly Queen Tiye.

It has been suggested that Smenkare may have been buried in the tomb across the path known today as number  KV 62. With king Tutankhamen's return to the valley for his burial tomb, KV 23 may have been started for him. With the unexpected death of Tutankhamen his tomb and much of his furnishings may not have been finished.

His elderly successor Aye may have appropriated the king's tomb and unfinished funerary furniture for his own death a couple of years later. Looking at the burial of Smenkare king Aye may have ordered it opened and the offending pharaoh removed to the unwanted storeroom (KV 55) across the path. If Akhenaten was in tomb KV 55 at this point he may have been removed and the heretics burial rifled leaving Smenkare with the rubbish.

The remodeling of Smenkare's burial for king Tut would require Smenkare's name to be removed from the various objects in the burial. When found by Howard Carter the tomb contained about half the jewelry the boxes said was originally in them.

This has long been thought of as the work of tomb robbers but might actually represent the number of pieces of jewelry who's inscriptions could not be altered and thus were removed from the new king's burial.

Whatever is going on a further cutting in the valley numbered KV 54 was filled with king Tut's mummification residue. Almost certainly the shaft tomb KV 63 was sealed by the time king Tutankhamun was buried.

Four years later the old king Aye was buried in the west valley in the tomb now known as KV 23. Tombs KV 58 and KV 24 may well belong to this group.

The location of tomb 49 suggests that it belongs to the next king Horemheb's time and may have been a storeroom while the king's tomb was being built. As the last king of Egypt's glorious 18th Dynasty his tomb KV 57 made a number of innovations including the first fully cut kings tomb on a straight axis in the valley.

Though his reign was long enough to have finished his tomb it remains for the most part only partially decorated. Horemheb's tomb is the first in the valley to possess passages from "The Book of Gates".

There are probably countless interpretations of the Valley of the Kings and in particularly to the family of kings and courtiers who were laid to rest there at the beginning of the New Kingdom.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Whats up at Egypt's Ministry of Culture?

Since 1987 the ministry of culture has been headed by an abstract painter Mr. Farouk Hosny who recently had been a candidate for the job of UNESCO director general. A job he lost most likely over remarks he made in 2008 in the Egyptian parliament where he threatened "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt".

This threat of book burning had a precedent as in 2001 the minister ordered the burning of 3 homoerotic books by 8th-century Arab poet Abu Nuwas with some 6000 books being removed from Egypt's libraries and destroyed.

However, minister Hosny blamed the UNESCO loss on "Zionist pressures" and a conspiracy of "a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections". There is a sense that Mr. Hosny's term as minister of culture may soon be over with Mr. Hosny's replacement right on his tail.

Recently Egypt's president for life, Hosni Mubarak rescued Dr. Zahi Hawass from retirement as the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities by giving Dr. Hawass the job of vice minister of culture. Dr. Hawass has a tough reputation of a man not afraid to scrap and a strong determination to the preservation of Egyptian history.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hawass also displays certain amounts of arrogance and even before he has started his new job the doctor has created a scandal. While waiting far too long at the Giza pyramids for a visiting American music star the doctor became enraged when she finally did show up and began loudly to insult his guest in Arabic.

 “She’s a stupid person and she doesn’t understand a thing and she doesn’t want to understand. She’s coming here to take pictures and that’s it”.

Dr. Hawass' anger may have been justified but his words in public were unprofessional and beneath his years of wisdom. Not a great introduction to his new position!

To conclude with his well-known reputation of his love for burning books which pasture Mr. Hosny gets pushed into remains, for now, unknown. Unfortunately over at Egypt's ministry of culture, the upper echelon of officials are appearing to be uncultured hot headed cookie cutter men.

Hopefully, in the future ministers of culture will be remembered for the more positive aspects of culture rather than an insult of a V.I.P. or for burning books.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

So Long Cambyses

Here a release from Dr. Hawass concerning reports on the finding of Cambyses lost army.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

King Tut's Tomb

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Los Angeles-based Getty Conservation Institute are set for a five year cleaning of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Tomb of Aper-el

This article is a roundup of recent writings of Dr. Hawass on the subject of the vizier and a number of Hebrew biblical personages including Moses and Joseph.

Cambyses Lost Army

The Persian King Cambyses was a colourful character with quite a temper but how much is reality and how much is mythology has long been the question. Archaeologists have long searched for his 50 000 strong army which vanished in a sandstorm in 525 bc.

Archaeologists believe they have located the remains of the lost army yielding hundreds of bones and Achaemenid weapons and jewelry.

Excellent video from discovery:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Never Ending Nefertiti

I recently purchased an old book and found inside a 50-year-old postcard from Luxor with a picture of none other than the Berlin Nefertiti and wow here I am writing yet another piece on her.

The controversy level on this bust is through the roof and doubtless, there is another more scandalous object in the world. I guess the more comment the merrier and in its new glass home. I hope the powers that be will chill out.

Berlin really markets the heck out of the bust and the controversy to the detriment of the rest of its Egyptian collection which remains lost in a whirlwind of Nefertiti.

Berlin's new Egyptian museum is impressive but one wonders what the point is in having the rest of the collection, certainly, they make something nice to look at when your on your way to and fro Nefertiti.

Berlin has many wonderful artifacts it could be better marketing which are completely overshadowed by the (stolen bust?), though I have said many times the Egyptian official did not do his job when he gave this bust to Berlin.

Still the bust because of this discrepancy should be in the Egyptian National collection with fair compensation to Berlin. Today is a turning point hopefully for the museum and the collection the new director Frederica Seyfried will start with a fresh attitude and have more to say other than Nefertiti!

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!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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.

Looking to Babylon

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

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!,1518,656046,00.html

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mummies Myth and Magic in Ancient Egypt

Christine El Mahdy
Thames & Hudson
New York
Library of Congress Catalogue No. 89-50542

This 1989 book by author Christine El Mahdy was appointed with a number of nice images gracing its 192 pages though there were 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 the 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 Neues museums 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 tens 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 sculptor Thutmosis filled with unfinished busts of the pharaoh Akhenaten and his beautiful queen, Nefertiti plus their daughters and many unidentified courtiers.

This excavation brought to Berlin an entire Amarna collection complete with the museum's 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 museum's 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 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.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Animal Mummy Cults

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

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.

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 "too 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 Nefertiti's 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 "too 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 named Djehutynakht 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 and his similarly named wife had probably been at rest for many centuries before robbers entered and ransacked their burial, 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 dis-articulated pile of boards. As the robbers left they took some mummy wrappings and set fire to them, but 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 University-Museum of Fine Arts expedition arrived at the site a couple thousand years later in 1915 the tombs remaining contents were in excellent condition. The expedition found 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 occupations from brewers and bakers to the very rare brick makers found among Djehutynakht's thirty-nine models with the finest being a procession of offering bearers. Included with the workers were fifty-five model boats for the tomb owners to enjoy in the afterlife. When the finds from the tomb were shipped to America early last century the ship carrying the outer coffin caught fire with luck only minor water damage occurred.

Today for anyone wishing to see Djehutynakht's burial it can now be found in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Make sure to check out the links including the animation of the head found in the tomb. Recent studies have shown that the head likely belongs to the Governor

Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Excavation photo: Journal of the American Institution for Conservation
Photo of the head of Djehutynakht
Giza Archives Project
Mummy Mystery

The Miami Mummy

The recent rediscovery of a 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.

The Bass Museum:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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 Carnarvon 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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tutankhamen in Denver

Here we have the Denver art museum announcing that the traveling Tutankhamen show will be visiting next summer.

Shovelling Theory

This theory certainly must come at the chagrin of Dr. Hawass, the rising of sothis is an interesting date however there is no proof of this theory.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

MFA Highlights: Arts of Ancient Egypt

Rita Freed   Lawrence M. Berman   Denise M. Doxey
Museum of Fine Arts
ISBN 0-87846-661-4
Recently my nine-year-old charge Natasha was on her way to Boston with her family so I urged her to visit the Museum of Fine Arts to find Djehutynakht's brick makers and tell me about them, unfortunately, the brick makers were not on display thankfully Natasha brought this book home which does have that picture.

I am already a fan of the museums bulletins of George Reisner's excavations at the start of the last century through which the museum acquired many of its finest pieces complete with provenances. The book opens up with the short history of the founding of Egyptology and Egyptian collections in America including the founding of Boston's collection.

The collection in the museum is one of the largest and finest in the world particularly on it's Old and Middle Kingdom collections of all periods of Egyptian art are well attested by masterpieces in this collections 60 000 pieces. The highlights chosen for the book are among the finest and most famous objects of Pharaonic Egypt including the 2nd Dynasty scepter of King Khasekhemwy which indeed does inspire awe while my friend Natasha really liked the 4th Dynasty beaded dress.

The authors add details from Dr. Reisner's expeditions in relation to an acquisition of individual objects including artifacts not represented in the Cairo museum. Highlights was an excellent read with very fine pictures but that does not surprise me considering, after all, it is the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and one of the world's great collections.

Friday, September 18, 2009

UNESCO Candidate has till Tuesday

Egypt's minister of culture has till Tuesday to win the nomination for director general of UNESCO. The troubled minister finds himself limping to the finishing line after remarks he made in regards to burning books.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Tunnels of Giza

Your publicity machine is working well when you have the good doctor Zahi Hawass commenting on your new books theory.

The Book Burners Nomination

Here is a conveniently timed article by Dr. Hawass. I say convenient because today voting for the director general job of UNESCO begins and Dr. Zahi and his friends are hoping the Egyptian candidate will get the job even though the candidate Farouk Hosny has threatened to burn Israeli books.

I noticed the parts that have not been restored or at least displayed are the parts containing the star of David.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

King Tutankhamun in New York

The travelling show "Tutankhamun and the golden age of the Pharaohs" is off to New York.

Ex-museum Director Charged in Theft

A museum director in the United states is accused of stealing Egyptian artifacts and selling them at auction.

A Rulers Zoo

Here from National Geographic a series of pictures of animals that may once have belonged to a ruler of ancient Hierankonpolis.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Mummy by Joyce Tyldesley

Joyce Tyldesley
Carlton Books Limited
ISBN: 1 85868 714 4

On my journey back to Vancouver I was browsing through this book which I had just picked up while visiting Victoria finding, to my chagrin, that a number of the photos bore incorrect captions including a picture of the female mummy found in the coffin of Ahmes Nofretari labeled as the mummy of Siptah. On page 16 the sentence says "Although the purifying bacteria.." when it should be "putrefying bacteria", makes one wonder if the editor was asleep during the production of this book. Being only 25 pages into it I have already found a half dozen mistakes, we are off to a very clumsy start!

The book is a short 125 pages long with a good selection of pictures as is the writing of Ms. Tyldesley informative which I expected from previous works by the author that I have read. The mummy is clearly intended for new readers to Egyptian history as most of the famous stories in relation to mummies are present in a format very much suited for a ten-year-old.

That is not to say nothing original was said in contrary I learned a number of interesting details but there were still more mistakes. From here the author is on to a history of fictitious books and movies all featuring our bandaged friend committing acts of brute murder.

At the end of the book, I reflected on the errors which I had found realizing these mistakes were in relation to the labelling of pictures and poor editorial production they in no way detracted from the strong presentation by the author. Having said that I have my doubts whether I would give this book to a child knowing that it possessed a fair amount of misinformation.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Things I Wished I Never Said

This very thorough article is on the potential nomination of Egypt's minister of culture Farouk Hosni to UNESCO as its director general. Minister Hosni got carried away and said damning things to his reputation about book burning.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Nile and the Egyptian Civilization by Alexandre Moret

Alexander Moret
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner Co., LTD.
Alfred A. Knopff
ISBN-10: 0486420097

This 1927 book is by the late distinguished Alexandre Moret which comes with some immediate approval well at least by the mouse that nibbled on the bottom right corner of my copy. I love the look and smell of old books with texts that almost certainly will be out of date but in many ways closer to the truth of those days.

The introduction heads into the sources and chronology followed by the decipherment of the hieroglyphs including the discovery of the Rosetta stone by  Captain Broussard of Napoleon's army while digging in the foundations of a fort at Rosetta.

As fascinating the landmarks of Champollion's decipherment are, certainly the chronology of Pharaonic dates of history in relation to the helical rising of Sothis by the priests of Heliopolis lends a date to the start of the Egyptian calendar of the rising of Sothis in 4241 bc, we are off to an interesting start!

Though I must also say that the rising of Sothis on this date and the start of the Egyptian calendar have been discredited with many experts placing that date to 2781BC or dispute the entire concept altogether.

Mr. Moret is next on the rarely covered subject of the nomes of ancient Egypt emerging from nomadic tribal standards to provincial status regardless of individual groups including the gods they represent with the chapter ending with a five-page chart of all the nomes of Upper and Lower Egypt including the nome gods and capital cities outstanding!

The succession of the dynasties of the god-kings of prehistory is well explained including the death of Osiris. The wars between Seth first king of Upper Egypt and the first king of Lower Egypt Horus the elder are well accounted with Horus defeating Seth and reigning for 300 years before the god Thoth's reign of thousands of years leaving Horus the younger, the son of Isis, to be the last of the god-kings.

The god-kings are then followed by the (Shemsu-Hor), demi-gods known as the servants of Horus. The Shemsu-Hor are the last of the gods before dynasties of mortal kings known as the descendants of Horus take hold of kingship.

The evolution of prehistoric monarchy to King Menes and the Thinite dynasties of I and II through those of the Old Kingdom are interesting and still reasonable interpretations of the surviving monuments more than eighty years later. While the pantheon of gods and goddess' merge and take the attributes of older gods while a defining of the gods roles takes place. Many take on elements of the gods Ra and Osiris while others fall from favor and are assimilated. The author gives a sound history of the Osirine play how it evolved as a royal prerogative in the Old Kingdom to a prerogative of the entire population by the Middle Kingdom.

The history of the political evolution and revolutions of the late Old Kingdom to the Middle Kingdom and up through the New Kingdom political structure is well explained, the place each official holds within the framework of administrations being reasonable though the story of the reigns of Thutmosis I through to Thutmosis III including Hatshepsut is largely now a discredited scenario as is much of the reign of Akhenaten in this book.

The second half of the book is a very detailed examination of the gods and the influence upon the evolution of Egyptian society. The book is certainly a good read with of course the expected flaws which were minor, the book was well written.

The book was a scholarly read rather than an entertaining read and I must say however that I would have preferred it to be 100 to 150 pages less as in the end it did turn into a bit of a chore to finish.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What the Governor Said

Dr. Hawass and the Supreme Council of Antiquities is unhappy these days as the governor of Giza claimed the great pyramid was started on a date which according to Dr. Hawass is false and not the place for the governor to say.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Isis or the Search for Egypt's Buried Past

Pierre Montet
Editions Ferni

This book by Pierre Montet starts with the early history of exploration of Egypt's monuments with no shortage of interesting details. The contribution of Auguste Mariette to the science of Egyptology is beautifully put forward with many details that I have rarely if ever heard before.

The book precedes with Mr. Mariette's successors in the field as well as the various other excavators that take over at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The impetuous for some of the earlier explorations was the desire of to find sites and events from the Bible.

With the death of Mariette so begins the generous era of Gaston Maspero and it is at this time the book then turns to individual sites beginning with Abu Roash and the discoveries made at them. The book is instead of being a history of Egypt is rather the most interesting history of excavations along the Nile and the objects found and questions raised by these discoveries.

The author handles the less heard of missions with great interest but also the famous finds with equal intelligence not to be repeating the same old lengthy stories of great discoveries told over and over again. Mr. Montet talks in some detail of the Legrain statue deposit at the seventh pylon at Karnak about details unknown to the present author. The third part of the book comes to a close with the resignation of Mr. Maspero in August of 1914.

Part four begins with the changes made after world war one to the division of finds with Cairo receiving all the find's unless the antiquities authorities deemed a piece unnecessary to the national collection. The head of Nefertiti in Berlin became a major part of this decision being made.

Soon Mr. Montet is onto the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in thankfully not too much detail and then the author is on to excavations outside of Egypt as well as in the desert regions.

The book was an interesting read though some of Mr. Montet's details are told differently by others but I might be the mistaken one. The famous story of the royal mummies arriving in Cairo and being taxed as salted fish is instead applied to the arrival of the mummy found in the pyramid of Merenre and delivered to Cairo in the months before the Deir el Bahari cache was discovered.

Isis was a good read certainly Pierre Montet was a fortunate excavator and a man who knew what he was talking about.

Friday, August 21, 2009

CT Scan for Iret-Net Hor-Irw

A 2500-year-old unwrapped mummy of priest from around 500 BC has had his turn under the CT scan.

Plans from the Supreme Council of Antiquities

The Supreme council of antiquities announces the results of restorations as well as future plans for development.

Saving Kings Tombs in the Valley

Certainly, the most important decorated tombs should be closed to protect the wall decorations but there must be a way of sealing off the painted burial chamber of Tutankhamen from tourists standing in the antechamber. Also, tombs who's decoration is badly damaged such as Merenptah and Siptah's tombs might be well suited as examples for tourist to tour to get an idea of scale and remaining decoration of a king's tomb.

The most important tombs should be reproduced for tourists to explore the replica tombs. The tombs of Thutmosis III, Amenhotep II, Amenhotep III, Ramses I, Seti I, Ramses IV and Ramses VI should be closed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Saving Tombs

Clearly the breath from thousands of tourists is damaging the painted walls of Egyptian tombs.

and here:

The Hyderabad Mummy

An Egyptian expert has recommended an air tight display case in an effort to preserve the deteriorating mummy in Hyderabad.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Saving Abu Simbel

The saving and reconstruction of both Ramesses the greats temples at Abu Simbel required five years and $40 million. Begun on November 16, 1963, the first of the 1,041 blocks was moved on may 21, 1965, while the first block to be laid at the new site was set on January 4 of the following year.

Three weeks later engineers installed the four gods in the inner sanctuary of the temple placing beneath them a foundation deposit including among other things copies of the Koran, newspapers and some coins. On September 14, 1966, a highlight the reunification of the face with the rest of the body of the first of the three 67 foot statues of the great king, this one being the farthest to the left.

By the following fall, the baboons on the cornice of the great temple were once again in place after an absence of two years. The Aswan dam of the 1960's created a new lake and drowned the original sites of more than two dozen ancient monuments while completely drowning the Nile's less impressive architectural monuments such as a number of mud brick Middle Kingdom forts.

The dam with its twelve generators has created massive amounts of needed electricity as well as mitigating floods and droughts since its completion in 1970. As expected however more than forty years later the dam is silting up, these silts used to flow down the river to stabilize the coast of the Nile delta. Along with the silt came the nutrients which used to attract a now dying fishery on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

It may now be time to undue damages before they get worse but I know that's just crazy talk. Perhaps moving the Abu Simbel temples again to raise the damn still further higher is only as crazy as erecting the dam in the first place.

No simple solution

Friday, August 14, 2009

Akhenaten and Nefertiti

Cyril Aldred
The Brooklyn Museum
The Viking Press
SBN 670-11139-2

This 1973 book is by the late Egyptologist Cyril Aldred for the Brooklyn museums 150 year anniversary. Though I must say the late Mr. Aldred's last book I read was his 1968 "Akhenaten Pharaoh of Egypt" and was surely one of the classics of Egyptology so this book was almost certainly good but could it live up to Akhenaten.

The very knowledgeable Mr. Aldred clearly understood the art of the Amarna period with the subtleties of the period. The book opens with a description of the Amarna revolution and a historical outline of the period leading into the building program of King Akhenaten and his Queen Nefertiti.

Mr. Aldred than very helpfully discusses the periods of art within the revolution breaking the art of the reign into an early, middle and later phases. This first half of the book ends with an overview of the iconography and character of the art of the heretics reign.

The earlier mention of the phases of Amarna art into early, middle and late periods becomes extremely useful in the second half of the book, the catalog which has its objects presented in this order beginning with the art of the early revolution with its exaggerated style which softens as the reign progress'.

The catalog is truly one of the most remarkable of Amarna art I have seen ending with a number of shawabti from the royal tomb. Particularly interesting and beautiful are the talatats from the Metropolitan Museum of Art from the collection of Norbert Schimmel.

Another fantastic book by the great Cyril Aldred keeping in mind it is one thing to read a book and another to study it. This book is worth spending serious time looking at particularly if you wish to know about the art of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Red Madder

A discovery recently made at the wonderful Metropolitan Museum of Art of red dye making is 700 years older than previously shown.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Saving Highclere Castle

There are plenty of images showing the state of portions of the castle and of course a L12 million renovation.

KV57 Reopens

The announcement that the tomb of Pharaoh Horemheb in the Valley of the Kings has been reopened.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

What Will Become of Us?

The Giza plateau is bearing reorganized and this article is on what will become of the beasts of burden shepherding tourists around the plateau.

Hyderabad's Mummy to be Restored

Efforts are being made to restore a mummy in the Hyderabad museum. The article says the mummy is Old Kingdom in date but it also says that it belonged to the period of Egypt,s sixth Pharaoh which to my knowledge there is no proof of mummification in the first two dynasties.

Chantress of Amun

So now it is Tahemaa's turn in the ct scanner. The 2500 year old mummy is that of a young women who lived at Thebes and was a chantress in the temple of Amun.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ebony Shrine of Dier el Bahari: Updated

Discovered in the temple of Deir el Bahari by E. Naville the surviving left side bares inscriptions that credit the shrines creation to Thutmosis II for Thutmosis I, however the nuances of the piece suggest it was actually created on orders of Hatshepsut, this may even be the remains of the ebony shrine created by Thutiy and mentioned in his own tomb inscriptions.

"The good god, Lord of the two lands, lord of offering, lord of diadems, who hath taken the crown of two lands, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Aakheperenre the son of Re, Thutmosis II, he made it as his monument for his father Amen Re, making for him an august shrine of ebony of the best of the highlands, that she might live and abide for him like Re, forever".

James Breasted

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The World of the Pharaoh's, A Complete Guide to Ancient Egypt

Christine Hobson
Thames & Hudson
New York
ISBN: 0-500-27560-2

The author starts out strong in its introduction with an interesting overview of Pharaonic history leading into the archaeologists who discovered the various epochs of Egypt's long reign of the Pharaoh's. The lists of Archaeologist and their contribution made the science of today from men like Walter Emery to Amelia Edwards as well as the stars of the field like Belzoni and Champollion.

Chapter three is a bright description of the history of royal tombs focusing mainly on the successive known Kings who created the pyramids of the Old Kingdom. As addicting as the text is the photos are of standard fair though there are some gems like the relief from the tomb of Ankmahor.

The author has a pleasant voice with the simplicity of words that make tough subjects like the Pantheon of gods easy to understand though I must say that there were a number of inaccuracies, Mentuhotep II was not the first king of the 12th Dynasty.

These inaccuracies did not outweigh my interest in the book and the pictures became more interesting as the book went along. The last chapter was as well written completely with a good introduction as to how to read hieroglyphs and the rescue of the Nubian monuments from the raising of the Aswan dam.

But still there were more mistakes in the archaeology and I wondered how many mistakes that had gone over my head. It is hard to criticize a book I liked but the facts go astray while the obvious talent of the author takes away only a little of the books glimmer to me.

I am glad I read this book, I think!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Buried History at the Cairo Egyptian Museum

Here is another article on the recent finds in the garden of the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

Brooklyn's Mummies

From the fine folks at Archaeology magazine comes this article on the CT scan of the Egyptian mummies of the Brooklyn museum.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not to Forget the Mask of Kanefernefer

The mask from the St. Louis Art Museum is from the Egypt's 19th Dynasty ca. 1250 BC and is its star attraction.The mask was found at Sakkara in 1952, the Cairo Egyptian Museum went looking for it and found it missing from its holdings.

Kanefernefer's mask is worth at auction from about a half a million to a million dollars today, the Egyptian authorities have presented to the directors of the SLAM their evidence including photos of the mask emerging from its burial.

The Slam's directors reject Egypt's claim on the mask. The documents have been presented by Egypt to the international court as well as the International Art Theft Registry. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities is out to get you St. Louis, now you see it now you don't.

Very good article pulling apart the various provenances and explanations of St Louis's nineteenth dynasty mask and a mask found in the early 1950's and called by its excavator Kanefernefer which is missing.