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.