Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Temple of Soknopaios

The articles concerns discoveries in the courtyard of a temple founded by Ptolemy II, Philadelphus in about 250 bc. The finds include a series of around 150 pot shards many inscribed with names of the priests of the temple around the time of the Roman period.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Suicide of Cleopatre

Here we have "The Suicide of Cleopatra" by Albrecht Durer recently recovered by Italian police in the home of a Roman designer and art collector. The painting was stolen from a collection in May of 1972 and recovered along with fifteen other stolen works.

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to my readers and all the best in the new year!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ten Events Concerning Egyptology

1. The most interesting news of the year must be the DNA results on the mummies believed related to king Tutankhamun and the mummies of Yuya and Thuya. Not surprisingly the human remains from Valley of the Kings tomb 55 still just as mysterious even if the foils inside said mummies coffin do give a name for the body found there in.

2. South of the worker's cemetery at Giza a new tomb was found which may be the discovery of a new necropolis of the royal court.

3. An international convention was held with more than a dozen countries in attendance in an effort to discuss ways of repatriating cultural property in foreign collections though the countries in possession of many of the most important of these objects did not attend.

4. Then must come the issue of the value of repatriating objects to historically vulnerable countries like Egypt or Greece and whether in the long run such objects could be better cared for by their current international institutions than by those countries who's culture they represent.

5. Luxor is all abuzz over the ongoing unprofessional digging up of the avenue of rams to help create an outdoor museum/theme park.

6. After decades of an unspoken scandal, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is set to return 19 different objects that have come to that institution through Howard Carter and believed to have come from king Tutankhamun's tomb.

7. A painting by Vincent Van Gogh titled "Poppy flowers" was easily stolen from the Mahmoud Khalil museum in Cairo. The museum's alarms and cameras were not working.

 8. The year also solved the mystery of whether a pharaoh of Egypt had been buried at Vergina in northern Greece?

 9. We find at Mit Rahina a temple to the god Ptah built by Ramesses the great (1279-1212bce)and now littered with garbage and sewage.

10. Certainly, 2010 dispelled a centuries old curiosity with the final exploration of the tunnel in the tomb of the Pharaoh Seti I (KV17) in the Valley of the Kings by Dr. Zahi Hawass and alas some funerary trinkets were found but the long suspected burial chamber was not there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coptic Art Revisited

This article is on a display of Coptic art at the Mameluke era palace Al-Amir Taz. The exhibition of 205 works of Coptic art is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Coptic museum founded in 1910. The article contains 15 pictures of the recently renovated museum and the exhibition.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oriental Institutes Tell Edfu Excavations

The arrival of my E-Tablet this month from the Oriental institute I find there are pictures of excavations currently going on at Tell Edfu. The excavation is on an Old Kingdom site including a cult pyramid of the third dynasty.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Queen Arsinoe's Wild Crown

At Science daily, I found an image of the crown in question, A very weird looking thing indeed.

Photo Credit: Maria Nilsson

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Arsinoe II King of Lower Egypt

There is a new study of Ptolemaic queen Arsinoe II the daughter of the founder of Egypt.s Ptolemaic Dynasty Ptolemy Soter and sister wife of king Ptolemy II. The author of the study Maria Nilson of Gothenburg University has found that the special crown worn in representations of Arsinoe may well represent Arsinoe as a king of lower Egypt.

Queen Arsinoe II was deified in her lifetime and for 200 years throughout the dynasty by the kings and queens that followed. Among Arsinoe's many accomplishments is her participation in the Olympic games in which she won three events in horse harnessing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


"Not by the justice that my father spurned,
Not for the thousands whom my father slew,
Alters unfed and temples overturned,
Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks are due;
Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie,
Stern sentenced of the Powers of Destiny.

"I will unfold my sentence and my crime.
My crime, - that, wrapt in reverential awe,
I sate obedient, in the tiery prime
Of youth, self-governed, at the feet of Law;
Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings,
By contemplation of diviner things.

" My father loved injustice, and lived long;
Crowned with gray hairs he died, and full of sway,
I loved the good he scorned, and hated wrong -
The gods declare my recom pense to-day.
I looked for life more lasting, rule more high;
And when six years are measured, lo, I die!

"Yet surely, O my people, did I deem
Man's justice from the all-just gods was given;
A light that from some upper fount did beam,
Some better architype, whose seat was heaven;
A light that, shining from the blest abodes,
Did shadow somewhat of the life of gods.

"Mere phantoms of man's self-tormenting heart,
Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed!
Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then depart,
When the duped soul, self-mastered, claims its meed:
When, on the strenuous just man, Heaven bestows,
Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close!

"Seems it so light a thing, then, austere powers,
To spurn man's common lure, life's pleasant things?
Seems there no joy in dances crowned with flowers,
Love free to range, and regal banquetings?
Bend ye on these indeed an unmoved eye,
Not gods, but ghosts, in frozen apathy?

"Or is it that some force, too stern, too strong,
Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile,
Bears earth and heaven and men and gods along,
Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile?
And the great powers we serve, themselves may be
Slaves of a tyrannous necessity?

"Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden ears,
Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight,
And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars,
Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night?
Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzling sheen,
Drinking deep drafts of joy, ye dwell serene?

"Oh, wherefor cheat our youth, if thus it be,
Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream?
Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see,
Blind divination of a will supreme;
Lost labor! when the circumambient gloom
But hides, if gods, gods careless of our doom?

"The rest I give to joy. Even while I speak,
My sand runs short; and as yon star-shot ray,
Hemmed by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak,
Now, as the barrier closes, dies away, -
Even so do past and future intertwine,
Blotting this six years' space, which yet is mine.

"Six years, - six little years, - six drops of time!
Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane,
And old men die, and young men pass their prime,
And languid pleasure fade and flower again,
And the dull gods behold, ere these are flown,
Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.

"Into the silence of the groves and woods
I will go forth; though something would I say, -
Something, - yet what, I know not: for the gods
The doom they pass revoke not nor delay;
And prayers and gifts and tears are fruitless all,
And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.

"Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king!
I go, and I return not. But the will
Of the great gods is plain; and ye must bring
Ill deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfill
Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise, -
The praise of gods, rich boon! and length of days."

-So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn;
And one loud cry of grief and of amaze
Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake,
And turning, left them there: and with brief pause.
Girt with a throng of revelers, bent his way
To the cool region of the groves he loved....

  So six long years he reveled, night and day.
And when the mirth waxed loudest, with dull sound
Sometimes from the groves center echoes came,
To tell his wondering people of their king;
In the still night, across the steaming flats,
Mixed with the murmur of the moving Nile.

Matthew Arnold
Professor of poetry at Oxford, 1857-1867

Source: The Universal Anthology, Richard Garnett, Clark and Company, Limited, London, 1899, pg's 158-160

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lepsius Denkmaler Online

Many thanks to Charles Ellwood Jones and his Ancient World Online for pointing this excellent resource out.

Lepsius Denkmaler

Friday, November 19, 2010

Return of the Mummy

This is a video on the remains of a mummy taken apart many years ago and now at the Royal Ontario Museum. Very interesting!

Rare Old Kingdom Mummy

A rarely seen Egyptian mummy from the Old Kingdom is set to go on display at the Michael Carlos Museum. The mummy is the oldest in the western hemisphere and one of less than ten known to exist.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Carter/Carnarvon Connection

At the heart of the golden age of Egyptology stands archaeologist Howard Carter a talented artist with a keen eye for beautiful objects and the good fortune to excavate the tombs of a number of kings in the Valley of the Kings including the semi-intact tomb of Tutankhamun with it's beautifully preserved objects.

The head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass has praised Howard Carter for his work on the tomb though a series of great men took part in the excavation including the Metropolitan Museum of Art expedition photographer Harry Burton who's photo's of the excavation are now famous.

The problems really started in the early 1920's during a dispute between Howard Carter and the head of the Egyptian antiquities service Pierre Lacau who suspected that Carter and his financier Lord Carnarvon were smuggling out objects from Tutankhamun's tomb believing that the contents of the tomb belonged to them and not Egypt's antiquities service.

During the dispute an Egyptian inventory commission was sent to the Valley of the Kings to inspect the site and found in the excavations dining hall, there in a wine box the commission discovered a small wooden head of the boy king emerging from a blue lotus seeming to confirm the suspicion of the Egyptian authorities that all was not on the up with the excavation and the head was taken immediately to the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

The 1978 bestseller "Tutankhamun The Untold Story" by the late director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Thomas Hoving brought forward the knowledge that within the Metropolitan museum as well as the Brooklyn museum were objects from that tomb including gold and silver coffin nails and rosettes from the pall from over the second shrine which was destroyed during the excavation.

The matter of "pocket objects" being smuggled from the tomb is likely though both Carter and Carnarvon may have felt the objects belonged to them. When one looks around at the artifacts pointed out by Mr. Hoving one sees well-preserved works of art belonging in quality to the royal workshops and being listed as in the Carnarvon collection before 1923 not a huge detraction to the obvious question including a small ivory gazelle and an ivory whipstock shaped as a running horse.

In Brooklyn, we find still more wonderful objects but for me, it is the excellent
served writing palette of princess Meketaten in the Metropolitan which is complete with its brushes and perhaps most exemplifies the issue of objects that potentially have had their provenances washed away for personal ownership?

Curious is the idea that Howard Carter found a similar ivory palette but made for princess Merytaten in Tutankhamun's tomb interesting that Meketaten's palette is listed as in the Carnarvon collection prior 1923 and Howard Carter found Merytaten's palette in Tut's tomb. What are the odds that two well-preserved palettes for two of Tutankhamun's sisters would come in contact with the Carter/Carnarvon connection at approximately the same time as the excavation of the tomb is taking place?

 So if Carter/Carnarvon were pocketing objects from Tutankhamun's tomb (KV62) then what is to say the aforementioned ivory gazelle is not actually from the rubble of Amenhotep III's (WV22) tomb which Howard Carter also excavated or KV 20 the tomb of Hatshepsut or KV43 tomb of Thutmosis IV which he also cleared? If he practiced the activity of pocket collecting in Tutankhamun's tomb then it seems a given that this was probably already a practice he used in past excavations? 

Curious to know if the missing parts of the ivory gazelle are in any of these tombs rubbish material whether left at the scene or collected, perhaps the gazelle was a cherished childhood possession of Hatshepsut?

 Howard Carter was a man of great fortune who played a large part in the early days of modern Egyptology. His excavations of the early twentieth century would be the envy of any Egyptologist today however his corpus of objects found and excavation reports of any of his excavations need re-examining in the future to winnow out any lost provenances that can potentially be recovered from Carter's records and his associate's records including Lord Carnarvon and his associates.

An examination of the career of Howard Carter may yet reveal an ugly and well-known practice by him which will more than likely have altered a number of his discoveries for worse. 

On the tenth of November 2010, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it would be restoring nineteen small objects to the Egyptian government that is believed to have come from Tutankhamun's tomb via the Carter/Carnarvon connection.


Thomas Hoving, Tutankhamun The Untold Story, ISBN 0-671-24305-5
I.E.S. Edwards, The Treasures of Tutankhamun, catalog #19, Penguin Books, 1977, ISBN 0 14 00.4287 3
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Brooklyn Museum

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tutankhamun: The Untold Story

Thomas Hoving
Simon and Schuster
ISBN 0-671-24305-5

The late Thomas Hoving is a former director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with this book being his 1978 bestseller. Mr. Hoving opens his book with an introduction into the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun and a list of documents used by the author to pull the truth from the romantic story of the boy kings discovery.

From here the author tells us the scanty known biography of Tutankhamun before the discovery of his tomb in November of 1922. We are then introduced to the experienced archaeologist Howard Carter, his foibles and his introduction to Lord Carnarvon, an opulent aristocrat without aim.

A cast of characters of some of the most notable Egyptologists and specialist of the day include Herbert Winlock and Harry Burton of the Metropolitan's excavation team in Egypt. The concession is formed and the scene is set for the history of the Valley of Kings, it's burials and the history of its plunder and exploration.

A break in the search for Tutankhamun's tomb goes almost unnoticed when a pit found contained dozens of pottery jars containing refuse from the boy king's burial which a quick thinking Herbert Winlock secured from its finder for Mr. Winlock's institution the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Only years later would Herbert Winlock open the jars and provide the Carter/Carnarvon expedition with the evidence that the boy king was buried in the valley.

The author goes on to explore the early years of the Carter/Carnarvon concession in the valley with little results that mark the years from 1917-1921 while the criticism from colleagues who believe the valley is empty continues growing until Lord Carnarvon has tired of the fruitless expenditure. There comes a day in November of 1922 where Howard Carter reverted back to the ancient workers huts in the valley that he had uncovered earlier in the expedition but had covered back up and moved on to other spots.

Upon removing the first of these huts came the discovery of a step that would lead to the tomb of the boy king, "The tomb of the golden bird".With the arrival of Lord Carnarvon and his daughter the Carter/Carnarvon team is set to explore a night within the tomb violating the concession agreement by being without an inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities service and entering the antechamber, the treasury and king Tutankhamun's burial chamber all the while Howard Carter is pocketing objects including a gold rosette and an exquisite gold inlaid perfume box and before leaving taking with him the boy kings "wishing cup".

As Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter begin the search for experts to assist in the extremely delicate operation of the excavation of the tomb they find some of the finest Egyptologist's including linguist James Henry Breasted and the strong co-operation from the Metropolitan Museum of Art whom Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter have previous cordial relations with and soon the excavator's are swamped by the press with a fateful decision to give the London Times an exclusive which leaves all other media getting their news on the tomb from the Times.

This is unacceptable to the press but even more offensive for the Egyptian populace and press to have to find out from London what is taking place in their country to their ancient king and his house of eternity. With this, the already strong nationalist feeling is confirmed with the suspicion that these Englishmen are potentially looting the tomb of Egypt's ancient boy king.

These feelings appear to be of no or little concern to the Cater/Carnarvon expedition even if they do recognize the issue which is not apparent, all the while managing their new found fame.

Thomas Hoving than goes to showing the building of the relationship between Lord Carnarvon, Howard Carter and The Metropolitan Museum of Art with the acquisition of the treasure of the three princesses' including the deceptive tactics used in its removal from the grasp of the Egyptian Antiquities Service.

The Nationalists begin seeing the gate on the tomb as a symbol of British colonialism keeping the Egyptians out and an old acquaintance Arthur Weigall working on behalf of the Daily Mail pays a visit to the tomb but is refused entrance by Howard Carter who dislikes Weigall. In a series of communication between the two men, Weigall gives Carter good advice as to handling the politics of the find but Carter hostile to Weigall ignores the advice and derides Weigall behind the scenes and in print.

As dignitaries, colleagues and tourists flock to the tomb the excavators find themselves overwhelmed not only by the crowd at the mouth of the tomb but also by the pile of congratulatory letters and requests to be given a tour or by those who would like a sample or souvenir.

Clearing the antechamber counter clockwise the team consolidates strengthens and restores each object as they come to them. Much to the delight of the crowd at the mouth of the tomb are those points where Howard Carter decides an object can leave with each artifact being surrounded by guards while gawkers run along side trying to catch a view.

In the southeast corner of the tomb were a jumble of chariots, the leather having deteriorated causing the mass of chariot parts to become stuck together. Howard Carter and his men decide that the chariots must be removed before the lion and typhon couches can be dealt with, the removal of the couches being a highlight to those waiting in the heat at the mouth of the excavation.

With the antechamber cleared the next decision is on how to open the sealed door on the north wall for the opening of the door a small stage is built against the north wall and a list of who's who is drawn up headed by Elizabeth queen of the Belgian's who realizing that there will be dozens of guests in a hot room 26ft. x 12ft declines the offer preferring to wait for a personal tour.

The queen's visit would be a highlight for the excavators as the politics and press became more complicated with the death of Lord Carnarvon but it is the rise of nationalism that most challenges Howard Carter and endangers the well-being of the boy king's treasure and his concessions share of the Tutankhamun's belongings.

As the disputes grow between Howard Carter and the antiquities service we find the interruptions of antiquities service visitors to the tomb becoming more and more intolerable until a request to let the excavator's wives into view the tomb is denied which enrages the excavators and Howard Carter who locks the tomb and the laboratory calling a strike.

Unfortunately, for Carter and his men, the Egyptian authorities gladly took charge of the tomb forbidding entrance to the excavation team and leaving Carter and his men to stew in their own juices. As Egyptian authorities took over the tomb they found that Carter had left the kings broken granite sarcophagus lid hanging precariously over the sarcophagus and the mummy of Tutankhamun, the lid was carefully lowered and a new lock was placed on the tomb.

With successive changes in the Egyptian government, Howard Carter and his excavation team were eventually allowed back into the tomb but not before Carter and the Carnarvon estate relinquished the right to any objects from the tomb with a side agreement that some duplicates would be made available for the Carter/Carnarvon expedition though this never happened.

As the book comes to a close we find the author giving a rundown of a couple dozen objects in various American museums that may well or are believed to have been smuggled out of the tomb and Egypt with the exception of a number of small objects that ended up in the possession of the Egyptian king who donated them to the Cairo museum shortly before he was exiled, receiving public scorn for being in possession of the artifacts. The book ends with Carter's return to the tomb includes the unwrapping of the king's mummy and completion of the excavation in 1932.

The late Thomas Hoving created in his bestseller a venue for both the reader and the scholar to review a "pocket collection" of  18th Dynasty first class objects picked up somewhere by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon sometime before 1923?

The temperamental Howard Carter was no diplomat in times where diplomacy was needed and in his vision of ownership may have removed provenances and degraded his science and his own discovery only to be exposed years later in the sensational "Tutankhamun: The Untold Story".

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friends of the Giza Geomatrix Team

This is another article from Dr. Zahi Hawass' "Dig Days" series this time the doctor is back on the pyromidiots, in particular, those with the "Friends of the Giza Geomatrix Team" who according to Dr. Hawass are making claims of having done ground penetrating radar in the village of Nazlet Al-Samman. This was not approved by the Supreme Council of Antiquities and as a result, if this did happen it was done illegally.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Egyptian Book of the Dead

This is a nice video in the British Museum on the book of the dead with lots of images of various objects in relation too. Here is another article.

Visible Language: Inventions of Writing In The Ancient Middle East

Just received my E-Tablet from The Oriental Institute and noticed this fascinating exhibition currently going on at The Oriental Institute Museum this fall to March 2011.

Wall around the Sphinx

Egyptian archaeologists have found the remains of a mud brick wall built to protect the Sphinx on the Giza plataeu. The 132 meter long wall has been dated to the restoration of the sphinx under the authority of Thutmosis IV.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More on Minnesota's Mummy

This article comes with an interesting x-ray of the mummy and more information on the mummy's health in life and style of embalming. The data points to a mummy of middle age perhaps 30-35 years old.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Minnesota's Mummy

 A mummy acquired in 1925 by the Science Museum of Minnesota is on it's way to Children's hospital for it's date with a CT scanner. The mummy is known to have been properly mummified with the internal organs removed, except the heart and is believed to be eighteenth dynasty.

 Photo: Courtesy of the Science Museum of Minnesota

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The New Luxor

This article concerns the rapid development of Luxor including the loss of the village of Qurna and worse the development of the Avenue of Sphinx's which has resulted in the use of bulldozers to do archaeological work and the removal of  the people and buisness' in the area the government wants turned into an open air museum.

The people doing the bulldozer archaeology are not interested in the history of Egypt in the area of Luxor after the fall of Pharaonic Egypt and are no doubt even damaging the archaeology that they want preserved with such clumsy techniques as using a bulldozer. Sadly for all the damage being done along the avenue of Sphinx's the finds are paltry and fragmentary with most of the statuary that once stood on the site being destroyed and carried away for building materials in ancient times.

The Egyptian authorities responsible for this legacy are President Hosni Mubarak, Minister of culture Farouk Hosni, Deputy minister of culture Dr. Zahi Hawass and Luxor's governor Samir Farag.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Former Director of Long Island Museum Theft Sentenced

The Former director of Long Island University's Hillwood museum has been sentenced to a year and a day and $5000 fine for stealing Egyptian antiquities from the institutions collection. Barry Stern admitted he had stolen nine objects including a statuette of the Apis bull and sold eight of them as coming from his personal collection at Christie's auction netting him over $50 000.

Mr. Stern said his motivation was revenge as he felt the institution treated him unfairly.

A New Necropolis

A tomb has been found at Giza south of the worker's cemetery a decorated tomb of an official named Rudj Ka and dated to the 5th Dynasty. This is the first tomb found in this area and may actually represent the first find in an unknown necropolis.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cancer in Mummies

A study on cancer in mummies at Manchester's KNH center for Biomedical Egyptology has found only one case of cancer in hundreds of mummies. Professor Rosalie David at the faculty of life sciences says that cancer in ancient mummies is very rare.

Very interesting as Dr. Zahi Hawass in his search for the mummy of Hatshepsut found that his candidate for the female king has a tumor in her pelvic region. Though a tumor is not necessarily cancer it would be interesting to know if it was cancerous?

The implication is that cancer is the result of man-made activities, such as pollution? Today cancer in the industrialized world is one of the leading causes of death.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Base for Statuette of Sekhemka

In the Brooklyn Museum is the statuette of Sekhemka, the diorite statue of Sekhemka sits on this base made of limestone and painted to resemble the statuette. The statuette was repaired in ancient times as is seen by an ancient drill hole on the broken surface.

Originally the statuette was probably a royal sculpture of the Old Kingdom perhaps late dynasty 5 that was broken and reused by Sekhemka as his mortuary statue.

There are a number of views of the statuette and its base including the Brooklyn Museum's study of the object.

Photo: Seated Statuette of Sekhemka, ca. 2400-2345 B.C.E. Diorite and painted limestone, 15 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 16 1/4 in. (38.7 x 20 x 41.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.23E. Creative Commons-BY-NCImage: front, 37.23E_front_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Metropolitan's Mummy of Prince Amenemhat

In the excavation season of 1918-1919, the Metropolitan's excavations south of Deir El Bahri revealed a small coffin containing the well-wrapped mummy of a prince of the early eighteenth dynasty named Amenemhat. A pectoral on the mummies chest shows Amenhotep I smiting the king's enemies, this suggests Amenhotep I may have been the young child's father.

The mummy and his burial much of which is dated to the twenty-first dynasty were given through division of finds to the Metropolitan Museum of Art here are a few of the finds.

1. Photo: Ambrose Lansing, February 1919, courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Period: New Kingdom
Dynasty: Dynasty 18, early
Date: ca. 1550–1479 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, Southern Asasif, Cliff Tomb (MMA 1021), inside coffin 19.3.207a, b, MMA 1918–1919
Medium: Human remains
Dimensions: h. 74.5 cm (29 5/16 in) h. without head 0.60m h. head 14.5 cm
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1919
Accession Number: 19.3.208a–e

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reading for a Rainy Day

Here I find myself  on a rainy day with something interesting to re-read the 1890 classic of Egyptian archaeology by the legendary man himself Flinders Petrie, Kahun, Gurob and Hawara.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mummy of Merenre I?

Found this photograph of the mummy of the Old Kingdom King Merenre I. The last time I checked it was in the Imhotep Museum though that was a few years ago? The mummy was found beside the sarcophagus of that kings pyramid at Saqqara. Upon the Brugsh brothers removing the mummy from the pyramid it broke into two pieces making it easier to carry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Parting the Waters

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

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

News from the Valley of the Kings

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomb of Karakhamun

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

The tomb had been documented and visited by a number of famous archaeologists in the nineteenth century including Karl Lepsius. The tomb was in crumbling condition and was last visited in the 1970's before the ceiling of the tomb collapsed. Recent work by the project has rediscovered the painted burial chamber.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burial of a Pharaoh at Vergina?

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mother of Bread Molds

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

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ancient Egyptian Book from Irish Bog

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

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Irrelevant King

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

The preservation of the blocks colors is remarkable as is the bottom corner of the queen's gown which flows over the damage at the bottom corner of the block, and the king's ribbons which end thoughtfully at the blocks borders? The carving has clearly gone on to an already damaged block which may have had an earlier purpose.

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

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

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

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

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

Certainly, there are trust issues between these two.

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Allan T. Khol

Mansoor Collection

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Poppy Flowers by Van Gogh

Here is an article with a nice picture of the painting stolen last Saturday from the Mahmoud Khalil museum in Cairo.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

Thanks to my readers with an apology as this summer has been extremely busy for me I will get back to my blogs as soon as fall releases me from this schedule.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ptolemaic Coin

A gold coin weighing one ounce and minted in Ptolemaic Egypt has recently been found in Israel at Tel Kedesh near the Lebanon border. This is only the second Egyptian gold coin found in Israel and the biggest.

The image on the coin may represent Cleopatra I, wife of the Ptolemaic King Ptolemy V.

AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Illustrations de Voyage de Egypt et de Nubie

Here are illustrations of Frederik Ludvig Norden in of Egypt and Nubia in 1757.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Takabuti in Ulster

Here is a look at the Egyptian collection in the Ulster museum including it's mummy the lady Takabuti. There is a nice video of the mummy in her coffin as well as showing a number of objects in the museums Egyptian collection.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The End of an Era?

This article is from "The Economist" on the state of Egypt's affairs leading up to the elections in September 2011, for a new leader to replace the President for the last 29 years Hosni Mubarak. The article says that there is no apparent successor, not something Gamal Mubarak wants to hear.

The term election is used in the as light as possible, as the opposition party is not allowed to put up a representative for the job, only the ruling party and President Mubarak need concern themselves with this decision. The article judges the mood of the Egyptian population and services provided to them including education and health.

The promises of the coup of 1952, when the King was thrown out have never materialized though the secret police have. Today Egypt's dictator Mubarak rules as a King and it may appear to some Egyptians that the fortunes and discontent of 1952 are being repeated.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brief History of Pharaonic Egypt

Zaky Iskander
Ghareeb Printing House

This small book has only 160 pages and can easily be read in a few hours to a day or two. Zaky Iskander deals with Egyptian civilization in chronological order but beginning with the king's lists known as well as the classical sources. The author begins with the stone age and the paleolithic period followed by the neolithic, periods of tool development and agricultural development.

The Predynastic period is represented by the author with the introduction of the Egyptian calendar at 4228 B.C. and clear signs of foreign trade in lapis lazuli and coniferous wood. The author talks about the pottery with wavy handled vessels and others with decorations of boats, humans, and plants.

The book is set with interesting and suitable images and maps though the book is not well printed, it is of tourist handling value. The author is next on to a list of the dynastic period and on to the Archaic period where the author begins with the kings in known order and accomplishments including their known tombs.

Some of the most interesting information the author puts forward are the tombs of these kings and their contents both at Abydos and Saqqara. Though the author is unaware of any known tomb for the 2nd Dynasty King Kha-Sekhem he does recall Manetho said of Sesochris, who is identified as Kha-Sekhem that he was 5 cubits and 3 palms tall, that's 284 cm or about 8.5 feet tall. From here we are taken through the burial customs, writing, and government of the Archaic period.

We are next on to "The Pyramid Period" including the story of Imhotep and the remarkable excavations of Walter Emery looking for Imhotep's tomb but instead found galleries filled with mummified animals, particularly Ibis'. A nice picture of one of these mummies is present though the quality of the printing of the book does not compliment it.

The kings of the 3rd Dynasty are dealt with as is the discovery made in 1954 by Zakaria Goneim of the pyramid of Sekhemkhet and it's empty garlanded alabaster sarcophagus which is pictured. The kings of the 4th Dynasty are listed in order with pyramid building activities and discoveries made by excavators including Khufu's boat.

With the end of this dynasty, Queen Khentkawes marries the high priest of Re at Heliopolis and the title of "Son of Re" is added to the titulary of these rulers. The known history and order of these monarchs are presented as is a description of the great Ennead and the Osirian legend as well as the 1966 discovery of the tomb of the "Controller of Singers", Nefer and the wonderfully preserved mummy left at rest in it.

The kings of the 6th Dynasty are presented with their pyramids in their order with the decline of the old Kingdom and on into the chaos of the First Intermediate Period. The author presents a quick overview of dynasties 7-10 as well as the first half of the 11th Dynasty including the literature of the period.

With the start of the Middle Kingdom, we are next on to the reign of Mentuhotep II and the king's funerary monument at Deir el Bahari including the discovery of the tombs of his queens beneath. Little is said of the kings who follow in this dynasty.

Zaky Iskander moves on to the impressive rulers of the 12th Dynasty and the accomplishments including the building of pyramids and temples and the transfer of the capital to Ithet-tawy. The military expeditions are told as are expeditions to recover materials for building.

The impressive finds of jewels from the tombs of princess' of this dynasty by various excavators are presented. In only a few paragraphs the author brushes past dynasties 13 and 14 of the Second Intermediate Period and on to the Hyksos and the rise of the 17th Dynasty leading to the New Kingdom.

We are here presented with the army and administration of the empire as well as very short biographies of the Kings that follow, you know it is brief when Thutmosis III occupies 5 short pages. Of Amenhotep II the author talks about a stela discovered at Memphis in recent years, of this king with the earliest mention of the Hebrews upon it.

The author says of Akhenaten and Nefertiti "At first she went with him to Akhetaten but later they seemed to have quarreled. They separated, Akhenaten and Smenkhkare' his elder and favorite son-in-law, living in one-quarter of the capital, while Nefertiti and Tutankhaten, another son in law, lived in another. This quarrel could probably have led to the return of Akhenaten to the worship of the god Amun by the end of his reign while Nefertiti did not.".

The kings that follow are labeled as being part of the heretic period and are thus erased by Horemheb who is placed by the author as the founder of the 19th Dynasty. We are told of the accomplishments of the next three kings including the beautiful temples built by Seti I and his son Ramesses II but with little more said of this dynasty. The photograph here of the mummy of Ramesses II is one I have not seen before and probably the best in the book.

Of note in the next dynasty are the reign of Ramesses III and the collapse of society at the end of the New Kingdom with the robberies of the royal tombs in the period of Ramesses IX. From here we are on to the "Decadence period" in which we are presented with some interesting information on the genealogy of the 21st Dynasty families.

The dynasties leading up to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the great are briefly covered in a few pages. "Brief History of Pharaonic Egypt By Zaky Iskander" was exactly that though I found that it was a good short summary with a couple of interesting and unusual details.

Ramesses in Upper Egypt

Excavations being carried out at Beni-Sueif have uncovered a temple built by the 19th dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II, 1279-1213 bc. The excavators also have uncovered a collection of terra cotta statues of Isis, Horus and others .

The remains of mud brick buildings from later periods were also uncovered.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Oldest Writing

During an excavation in Jerusalem just south of the walls of the old city a clay chip from a 3400-year-old clay tablet covered with the cuneiform script has shown the importance of that city in the late Bronze age. Researchers from Hebrew University said the chip was found in the debris beneath a 10th-century bc tower and was possibly from the royal archives.

The researchers believe it is a royal missive sent by the Canaanite ruler of Jerusalem to the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and dates precisely to the same period as the tablets found at Tell elAmarna. The clay chip is the oldest example of writing found in Jerusalem and predates the next example by 600 years.

Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Dr. Zahi Hawass's Orders

Dr. Zahi Hawass is putting forward yet again Egyptians doing archaeology in Egypt and being responsible for the protection of the monuments. The doctor explains about past history in excavations without scientific merit and the damage done to her ruins as a result.

Dr. Hawass says of his critics "many of these critics are just hungry for fame for themselves." and then goes on to make a cryptic statement "One, in particular, believes that I do not know him, but I am aware of everything he says.".

The fine doctor drifts on about "holes" and an anonymous person who has criticized his excavations, Dr. Hawass says "I know who this person is and he should go see our excavations in the Valley of the Kings or Saqqara to see the difference between our work and his, which people actually do refer to as holes."

This point mystified me as I was under the impression archaeology was all about holes, I know there were insults there but I was unable to figure out whether it was the men or the science that was insulted?

Dr. Hawass then talks about the shifting of archaeological excavations into the delta and surrounding deserts as well as some changes in the laws of excavation, and again he restates that he does not take credit for the work of others. True though you will have to look past him to see who did the work, a very nineteenth-century approach!

Dr. Hawass brings up proper protocol and how the author of that excellent book "The Search for Nefertiti" broke it! He talks about having his discoveries published and verified as in the case of the recent DNA results of the royal mummies and lastly the standards of those employed under the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Father and Son

Recent excavations at Saqqara have turned up the tombs of a father and son administrators of the Old Kingdom King Pepi II. The tombs which are in fact a tomb within a tomb, are those of Shendwa and his son Khonsu.

The tombs are described as intact though the coffin of Khonsu is not present and that of Shendwa has rotted away. Beautiful limestone vessels were found including jars and duck shaped boxes complete with the offerings bones still inside.

Both tombs have false doors with images of the owners looking like they were painted yesterday. There are also magical instruments including a Pesesh-kef tool for the opening of the mouth and dummy vessels.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Linchpin

When this Bronze medallion was found in 1997 in an excavation of a house at El Ahwat the nature of the piece was much in doubt. The site being excavated was believed to be 12th or 13th-century bc and perhaps the site of a biblical battle between the Egyptian army and the Israelites.

Now thirteen years later scientist Oren Cohen of Haifa University believes he has solved the mystery in an Egyptian relief of Pharaoh riding his chariot. The relief shows a human faced linchpin in the center of the wheel and may show that the biblical battle took place on the site and that at least one Egyptian nobles chariot became damaged.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mummy of Ta-Hathor

Experts in Manchester examining a wrapped Egyptian mummy have found bones which along with linen have been stuffed inside the mummies skull. The lady in question is from the late period and well mummified, a package on her thighs is believed to be her internal organs.

When the examinations are done the lady will be placed on display in Ipswich museums new Egyptian gallery.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Showman and the Archaeologist

The recent presentation by Caroline Simpson of the state of archaeology in Egypt has taken back a number of people though many realized the fate of the Qurna village was sealed a number of years ago but there was, however, a true belief that at least a few of the most historic buildings would stay, not to be and in came the bulldozers.

Some are pleased by the loss as the village did represent itself as a den of thieves that has supplied museums around the world with huge quantities of antiquities though larger than this all villages contain the good the bad and the ugly. Over the decades Egyptian laws have changed making the traditional work of the Qurnawi searching for artifacts to sell harder.

As laws played their part the number of quality artifacts coming from the tombs of the nobles diminished, though some gold jewelry was found in recent years. This is the exception no longer the rule and the life's work of the Qurnawi had to change now that the resource has dwindled and the opportunity to sell antiquities forbidden.

The village may have in some minds been a leftover remnant of Egypt's colonial period and this may have been ultimately what sealed Qurna's fate.

The avenue of sphinxes would be a joke if it was not so historically tragic and again the bulldozers these being the archaeological practices of Dr. Zahi Hawass and his Minister Farouk Hosni. The rubble that represents the remains of the avenue is perhaps a fitting find for Egypt's Ministry of Culture and its Supreme Council of Antiquities who are trying to recreate the ancient history of the site.

In the end the concern that a decade or so from know when Minister Hosni and Dr. Hawass have finished their duties to the Egyptian state that many archaeological sites including the avenue may be irretrievably ruined by their actions. Certainly, that decade has passed for Qurna!

Caroline Simpson's presentation

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smenkhkare or Not?

In the summer issue of KMT, volume 21 Number 2 Summer 2010, the Editorial Director Dennis C. Forbes published an article, "So, What's become of the golden cartouche?" The short article is based on the gold foil coming from the interior lid and basin of the coffin found in Valley of the Kings tomb Kv 55 and whether there is an intact cartouche on the foil of the basin.

Egyptologist Georges Daressy working on behalf of the Cairo museum examined the foils when they came to the museum in 1907 and made some sketches. The foils reportedly have a line of inscription running down the center of the foil from top to bottom of the coffins basin and lid. Unlike the lid inscription the cartouche on the basin inscription is reported to be present and that the cartouche is of Smenkhkare.

Unfortunately, the recent DNA examinations of the royal mummies related to king Tutankhamen have left many people believing that the mummy found in the coffin is that of Akhenaten, particularly at the head of Egypt's Supreme council of antiquities.

With so much of Smenkhkare's burial equipment in Tutankhamen's tomb just across the path from Kv 55 and the ownership of the Kv 55 coffin being same it should not be a surprise that the mummy of Smenkhkare should be present also!

Having said that in ancient time the short-lived Pharaoh Smenkhkare had been robbed of much of his burial equipment for Tutankhamen's burial and the Kv55 coffin may just be another example of that robbery only the recipient being a different person?

The summer issue of Kmt is particularly interesting and a must get.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Return to TT39

Mexican archaeologists are set to return to Theban tomb 39 for a sixth season with the hopes of it being open to the public in the next few years. The focus in September is for the archaeological team to remove six tons of debris that had filled the tomb from hill runoff.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Egypt Under the Pharaohs

Heinrich Brugsh-Bey
John Murray, London, 1902
Reprint by Bracken Books, 1996
Random House UK Ltd.
ISBN 0 09 185049 5

This reprint of the 1902 book by Heinrich Brugsh-Bey opens with a basic map of Egypt and a less than an adequate list of illustrations which are mostly infrequent small photographs and sketches. This is followed by a table of the principal kings names surrounded by cartouches which I found particularly interesting by the presence of cartouches around the Thinite kings names.

I realized from the start that a copy of a one hundred and an eight-year-old book was going to have many inaccuracies but this was the work of the very famous nineteenth-century Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsh-Bey. Many of the names of the kings and place names will certainly confuse the average reader as Mr. Brugsh-Bey's rendering of hieroglyphs has become reinterpreted by scholars who have followed and who's readings are accepted today .

One of the things I loved about this book was the table of the pedigree of the chief architects and the genealogical tables that follow. Mr. Brugsh-Bey tells that at the end of the VIth Dynasty c.3060 bc a queen named Nitocris altered the pyramid of Men-kau-Ra, the author says "altered it, left the body of Men-kau-Ra in the lower chamber, and placed her own in the blue basalt sarcophagus contained in the upper one."

I did like that the author presents each ruler's names at the start of their biographies and the list of kings of the thirteenth dynasty according to the Turin papyrus is outstanding. Egypt under the Pharaohs so far is not likely appropriate for the young or those who have a passing interest in the subject but due to the authors importance I persist.

The Second Intermediate Period as expected is particularly confusing with the domination of the Hyksos kings and the rise of the VXIIth Dynasty. To the courts of the Hyksos the author believes belongs the biblical figure of Joseph, not an unreasonable though unproved deduction.

Mr. Brugsh-Bey was clearly a man at the center of nineteenth-century Egyptology and as such approaches his study with a scientific view of the monuments. I really love all the cartouches that head the chapters including their phonetic values.

By chapter seven the author has taken us out of the Second Intermediate Period and into the New Kingdom. By now the amazing discoveries that have come since the writing of this book have really come to light as the author lays out his study.

Mr. Brugsh-Bey now follows the monuments and their inscriptions including the numerous than known monuments of the "Warrior Pharaoh" Tehuti-mes III or at least those inscriptions which are relevant to the authors point. The author discusses the inscription from one of the few surviving blocks from the beautiful little temple on the island of Elephantine which Napoleon's savants had drawn so carefully but that sadly the Governor of Aswan had the temple destroyed in 1822.

The author discusses the Karnak Kings list which has Tehuti-mes III claiming his descent back to King Sneferu including the Middle Kingdom rulers and thirty kings of the XIII Dynasty. As the author traces the monuments he comes to the heretic Pharaoh Khu-n-aten of whom the author is aware of the tombs in the cliffs of Tell-el-Amarna but only a couple of the boundary stones beside this much of what the author says is hopelessly out of date.

The author provides a single sentence to describe Khu-n-aten's successor Saa-Nekht while the reigns of Tut-ankh-Amen and Ai make up a short five pages of this four hundred and sixty-nine page book. Once again the next dynasty, the XIX Dynasty starts with a wonderful genealogical table.

The author who believes that Seti I was first buried in his temple at Abydos and later moved to Thebes says of Rameses II "The feeling also of gratitude towards his parents seems to have gradually faded away, as years increased upon him, to such a degree that he did not even deem it wrong to chisel out the names and memorials of his father in many places of the temple walls, and substitute his own."

The author goes on to say of the Ramesseum "Here stood also the largest statues of the king, which, according to tradition, Cambyses threw down when he visited Thebes." With a translation of an inscription of Ra-messu XIII so ends the New Kingdom.

I was thrilled at this point to realize that the next section was on the royal mummies of Deir-el-Bahari especially since I had noticed all mention absent from the earlier biographies of the New Kingdom pharaohs. Thrill soon turned to disappointment as the author breezed through the descriptive in a couple of pages with a footnote on the 1891 discovery of the priests of Amen cache of which the author says.

"Some of the sarcophagi bore the date of the XI Dynasty, and it was hoped for a few hours fondly hoped that the explorers might have come upon an unbroken sequence of high-priests from that period onwards." From here Mr. Brugsh-Bey turns to Her-hor and the XXI Dynasty of Thebes and the kings of Zoan-Tanis.

As the Third Intermediate Period advances the monuments become more and more silent and the role of the king more provincial. The book ends with some supplementary notes by M. Broderick on the last dynasties and their kings.

To close the book a series of interesting tables follow including on Egyptian nomes, calendar and a list of values. "Egypt under the Pharaohs" was perhaps a must read for the really serious Egyptologists but a book that will be too difficult and not recommended for the average reader.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cleopatra in Philadelphia

The exhibition of Cleopatra at the Franklin institute museum begins today and this is a nice article with a number of fine pictures of objects many recently found.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Search for Mount Sinai

Archaeologists Professor Emmanuel Anati believes he has discovered the true mount where Moses received the ten commandments from God. Mount Sinai in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula has long been thought of as the place but Professor Anati through his excavations believes the correct mount is in Israel's Negev desert at a mount known as Har Karkom.

Professor Anati has had meetings with members of the Vatican and believes that they are in agreement with him and set to arrange pilgrimages to the site. Anati discovered at Har Karkom more than a thousand finds including sanctuaries, rock paintings, altars and a tablet that resembled the ten commandments.

Anati also believes the date of the biblical Exodus from Egypt should be a thousand years earlier around 2200 and 2000 bc than what is currently thought.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kom Firin I: The Ramesside Temple and the Site Survey

This monograph from the British museums fieldwork at Kom Firin in the Nile delta is based on a site created around the time of Ramses II.

Funeral of Tutankhamun

I am probably the last person to catch this article from Archaeology magazine on "The Funeral of Tutankhamun". The article has lots of nice pictures of beautiful artifacts connected to the boy kings funeral.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Look at Dr. Hawass

This article on Dr. Zahi Hawass displays the doctor as an angry egotistical narcissist who fakes discoveries and claims credit for the discoveries of others. The fine Dr. Hawass may well be Egypt's most famous son and is responsible for the return of thousands of stolen artifacts but charm is sometimes lacking.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cave of the Beasts

Amateur explorers have stumbled upon a cave filled with paintings which may be at least 8000 years old. The cave known as "Cave of the beasts" is located within a few miles of the famous "Cave of the swimmers" in the south west desert that borders Egypt with Lybia and Sudan.

German archaeologist Rudolph Kuper said of the paintings that they were more than likely created by hunter gatherers. Kuper's team has scanned the paintings with a laser to get high definition images of the work.

Mummy Find

I must say I am suspicious that this is an old story making its rounds again but I have been wrong before.

Archaeologists working in the Fayum have found a cemetery dating to the 2nd Dynasty as well as many tombs which contained intact mummies and funerary equipment from many different eras including the New Kingdom.

The archaeologists were expecting to find tombs particularly dated to the Middle Kingdom to the reign of Senwosret II. The picture shown is of a mummy of the late period perhaps twenty-second dynasty.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Buried at the Temple

This is a roundup of the recent excavations going on at the temple of Taposiris Magna by an Egyptian-Dominican team including the discovery of a headless statue of a king with the cartouche of Ptolemy IV. The article also speculates about the burial of Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the temple. Mummies have been found in a cemetery outside the temple which is facing it perhaps indicating the presence of a royal burial within the temple.

An inscription found in a foundation deposit dates the construction of this temple to Ptolemy IV. This may mean that if the temple received a royal burial it may be more likely that of Ptolemy IV or members of his immediate family and not Cleopatra VII who ruled nearly two hundred years after Ptolemy IV.

Dig leader Kathleen Martinez however, believes it could contain Cleopatra's tomb as the temple would have been a much venerated to the later members of the late Ptolemaic dynasty.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nefertiti Going Nowhere

Germany's Minister of Culture Bern Nuemann said today that the bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin will stay in Berlin. The minister was responding to the Egyptian Minister of Culture Dr. Zahi Hawass who keeps threatening to make an official request while never doing it.

The bust was collected at the site of Tell el-Amarna in 1912 by excavator Ludwig Borchardt for that digs patron James Simon who kept it for about a decade before gifting it to the Berlin museum. Tell el-Amarna was the former capital of Egypt's heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten and his principle wife Nefertiti.

The beautiful bust of an unidentified kings wife is believed to be Nefertiti but may represent any of the royal women from that king's court. The bust has been a contentious issue between the Egyptian authorities and the German authorities.

Dr. Hawass has called for the return of the bust for many years without actually making a formal complaint to the German's. At first Dr. Hawass asked for the bust to be loaned but in a speech made in Paris to UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the return of cultural heritage a number of years ago Dr. Hawass left many wondering what his idea of a loan was and if they did loan their artifact to the Egyptians would those objects ever come back?

Dr. Hawass now referring to the bust as stolen makes the loan of the Neues Museums biggest draw more than likely unwise.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making Faience at Home

Interesting study being done by Dr. Mark Eccleston and his Australian team to see if women and children were making extra income for their families by making faience objects around the stove in the family courtyard. Dr. Eccleston is particularly interested in Tell el Amarna and excavated faience from the homes at that site.

A number of tests are being done including the use of a synchrotron beam to find out composition of excavated material and to see if it can be shown how widely known the recipe for making faience was known and the possible distribution of the needed materials.

Dr. Eccleston and his team have proved that the average home bread oven can reach the desired temperatures needed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Cool Head!

This is a slideshow of objects and archaeological sites though not all pictures are Egyptian the one of the newly discovered Nilometer I have not seen before.

Repatriation Story

This is an excellent article on Africa trying to reclaim its cultural heritage from western museums with the author talking about the recent gathering of representatives in Cairo. The Cairo conference was led by the Egyptian Vice Minister of culture Dr. Zahi Hawass who has a reputation as a passionate fighter for the return of antiquities stolen after laws were in place as well as artifacts acquired by western museums during the colonial age.

The effects the conference had is yet to be seen especially as representative from the nations who's museums are in possession of the disputed artifacts were not at the Cairo meeting. The author talks of recent repatriations of objects and the national pride that is often invested in an artifact.

What Becomes of the Coptic Church?

Archaeologists working on the avenue of sphinx's have discovered a fifth century Coptic church on the avenue as well as a Nilometer. The article does not say whether the remains of the church are to be preserved?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pharaohs and Mortals: Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom

Janine Bourriau
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
April 19 to June 26, 1988
July 18 to September 4, 1988
Cambridge University Press
ISBN 0 521 35846 9

This catalog was put together by Janine Bourriau the former Keeper of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge for the exhibition "Pharaohs and Mortals" running through April to September in 1988. The forward tells us that the objects in the exhibition came from almost every Egyptian collection in the United Kingdom.

Those lenders include the Bolton Museum and Art gallery; the Bristol Art Gallery and Museum; the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge; the Oriental Museum, University of Durham; the Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh; the Meyers Museum, Eton College; the Burrell Collection, Glasgow; the Liverpool Museum and Department of Egyptology, the University of Liverpool; the British Museum: the Petrie Collection, University College, London; the Manchester Museum; Norwich Castle Museum; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; a private collection from East Anglia.

In the introduction to the catalog, Janine Bourriau explains the impetus for the show and thanks a remarkable who's who in Egyptological studies for the contributions made to the author and the catalog. An interesting short chronology of the Middle Kingdom including a comparison of revised dates for the reigns of some of the kings is included as is a concordance of museum and catalog numbers.

The objects in the catalog are a rare collection most of which I have never seen before starting out with the reliefs from the Dendera mastaba tomb of Sennedjsui, dynasty IX c. 2134-2040 BC. The beautiful relief head of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep given by R. G. Gayer-Anderson to the Fitzwilliam EGA. 3143.1943. is a fine surviving piece from some monument of the king.

The stunning fragment catalog number 4 of King Nebhepetre Montuhotep and Kemsit before reunification has the king wearing a crown unique to his reign. The piece was published by Naville and may well have come from the shrine of Kemsit in the mortuary temple of the king at Deir el-Bahari, a gift to the British Museum EA. 1450 from the Egypt Exploration Fund.

Not to say I didn't get any laughs I did have a chuckle when I noticed the next relief of the king was published upside down. If there is criticism to make it would be that almost all the pictures in the catalog are in black and white though four pages are in color.

Flinders Petrie discovered the wonderful "Jubilee relief of Senusret I" face down in the foundations of a Ptolemaic temple to Min at Koptos and it was then passed on to University College 14786 by the Egypt Exploration Fund. The author informs us that the king wearing the red crown of Lower Egypt is running before the God Min.

I really liked catalog number 24, the olive wood (?) staff of Mesehti of Asyut of which it's modern provenance is impressive being purchased by the Reverend William Macgregor and sold with his collection at Sotheby's in 1922. The staff was purchased at that sale by Percy Newberry who had cataloged the collection for the auction. Newberry gave the staff to Eton College, Meyers Museum to accompany their statue said to come from the same tomb that was discovered by robbers in 1893.

The many stelae presented offer an excellent view of the fashions of such funerary inscriptions as well as the fortunate survival of genealogical lines offering bread, beer, oxen, and clothing. The stela varies in quality including one of the late XII Dynasty with its inscription painted on to the limestone but perhaps most interesting is the stelae of a late XIII Dynasty king named Wepwawetemsaf, British Museum EA. 969. The crudely cut limestone slab is from Abydos and is the only known monument of the king it depicts in front of the God Wepwawet.

The catalog next turns to writing and Literature with a series of papyrus documents who's creation in the Middle Kingdom expresses the values held by their authors. In the section on funerary art, the development of styles of burial and the equipment needed for a good time in the afterlife are dealt with. Included are of course the famous wooden models that occupy the first half of the Middle Kingdom and then vanish from the fashion sometime around the reign of Senusret II, to be replaced by the simple all purpose shabti.

The coffins of the period in the catalog include of course the classic rectangular shape with a palace design and eyes for the mummy to look through and most innovative the rise of the anthropoid coffin. The wonderful XIII Dynasty model coffin of Nemtyemweskhet (Liverpool Museum 55.82.114.) was found at Abydos by John Garstang in 1907 inside a model stone sarcophagus, the coffin is said by Garstang to have contained a gilt ushabti.

Among my favorites though must be the mask of the XI Dynasty Steward Thay from tomb 275 at Beni Hasan, Fitzwilliam E.198.1903. also the two XII Dynasty wooden canopic jar lids Fitzwilliam E.26-7.1954. display great character.

From the models of offerings to the funerary servant figurines must be mentioned catalog number 90 the servant girl found in the tomb of Hepikem at Meir, I Eton College, Meyers Museum and dated to the late Old Kingdom. The charming girl carries on her head a box held on by her left hand with a duck in her right while she follows a lovely little gazelle(?). Most of the paint remains giving her much liveliness while her eyes are sympathetic.

A collection of mysterious objects occupies a section on "Art and Magic" including catalog number 100, the magician's wand in the shape of a bronze cobra found entangled in a mass of hair in a tomb under the Ramesseum, Fitzwilliam E.63.1896. The little faience animals of the period have great appeal as the author conveys because of this they rarely have excavation provenances but thankfully here most of the collection presented do even though that is often through maddeningly vague excavation reports coming from an era concerned more with the objects than the context in which they were found.

Another classic of the period are the female figurines found in graves, often clay but in other materials too certainly the ivory figure catalog number 117 from Hu, Fitzwilliam E.16.1899. is a remarkable survival complete with her silver jewelry.

The catalog ends with a section on the decorative arts including pottery, stone vessels, and jewelry. The elegance of the anhydrite duck vase catalog number 143 (Oriental Museum, University of Durham H.2259.) is immediately apparent even in the black and white with as usual the excellent presentation of excavated examples by the author. An index of private names and titles is a useful addition.

Janine Bourriau has created in this catalog and exhibition a monument to the study of the Middle Kingdom objects in the United Kingdom and their relevance to the collection with archaeological studies and comparable specimens in museums around the world used to place them in date. Whether a student in Egyptology or art history this catalog is an excellent read and a must have.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


This is an article on the opening of a exhibition titled "Cleopatra the search for the last Queen of Egypt" complete with photo's from Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation and are from the excavations in the harbor of Alexandria. The exhibition is set to go on display June 6 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

A Statue of Ptolemaic Ruler

Here is a nice article on the discovery of a statue of a Ptolemaic King at the temple of Taposiris magna.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fishing in a CT Scan

This article from National Geographic has a number of excellent pictures of crocodile mummies as well as ct scan images.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dr. Hawass is Not a Terrorist

Here is another of Dr. Zahi Hawass' "Dig Days" though the dig here appears to be about english bureaucracy mistreating the fine doctor. Hey to Dr. Hawass bureaucracy sucks just ask the people of Qurna or those former residents in the way of the avenue of rams.

Dr. Hawass says "I think this means they treat all of us like suspected terrorists." There is that chip on his shoulders again and no doubt Dr. Hawass went into this embassy carrying it along with his exalted status as Egypt's vice minister of culture.

Disturbing is the use of a phrase like "all of us" coming from a man who fashions himself to be an ambassador for Egypt and its heritage. Certainly, Dr. Hawass should have acted better and shown more respect for the English Embassy and his position as a representative of Egypt.

Mummies in Miami

The Bass Museum of Art will unveil today two mummies today that will be exhibited in the museum. One of the mummies has long been in the museums basement while the other has been donated for the show.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Travelling Tut

Here is a quick interview with Dr. Zahi Hawass and expert Dr. David Silverman on the myth of the boy king.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Dr. Zahi Hawass
National Geographic Society
ISBN 978 -1-4262-0264-3

This fairly large volume was written as an accompanying text to the travelling show "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the great Pharaoh's" the volume has photographs from Sandro Vannini accompanying the text by several authors including a foreword by H. E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak and an introduction with a pretty standard outline of Egyptian history by Dr. Zahi Hawass. I did like the inclusion of the image of the possibly fake statue of Thutmosis III.

Various authors then basically repeat what Dr. Hawass explained except in more detail with David O'Connor writing about the Predynastic through the First Intermediate Period. The chronology of the period based on government, architecture, religion and society.

The book moves forward in chapter three with David Silverman's account of the Middle Kingdom and the Second Intermediate Period which includes the changes in burial styles and the evolution of the role of kingship and of his portraiture. In chapter four "The golden age" author Betsy M. Bryan takes on the subject of the New Kingdom including the continued rise of militarism through the three dynasties and the role of women particularly royal women in the foundation of the XVIIIth dynasty.

The role of the increasingly wealthier courtiers and the middle class is examined as is statuary of the New Kingdom and its function. The author then goes on to the development of tombs including those in the Valley of kings, Saqqara and Deir el Medina.

In chapter five Dr. Hawass is back on the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb with some interesting tidbits but of course, it is a story repeated too much. In chapter six Donald Redford explains the Third Intermediate Period and the rise of the Late Period.

From the division of power between Thebes and Tanis in the Twenty-First Dynasty to the revival of old artistic styles by foreign admiring conquerors of dynasties of the late period. It is at this point we are presented with the first great picture in the book a two-page photograph in the tomb of Mentuemhat in the Assasif necropolis.

Soon the book turns to the objects in the exhibition starting in Gallery one representing pharaohs of the old and Middle Kingdoms, though the choice of the word "Pharaoh" is an inappropriate title for those kings. The Fourth Dynasty calcite statue of King Khafre is not terribly beautiful but an interesting and unusual choice.

Same can be said for the seated statue of the thirteenth dynasty King Sobekhotep it's unusual in its disunity of the composition. Gallery Two contains objects related to the pharaohs of the New Kingdom and later with the remarkable among this gallery of objects is the relief of Horemheb.

In Gallery III the examination is of pharaoh's family with a number of excellent objects including the inner coffin of Kings Wife Meritamun, wife of Amenhotep I. Also interesting is the statue of Nofret opposite Meritamun's coffin, of course the introduction of one of the canopic jars from KV 55 is up to debate on who is represented.

A nice pick is the statue of Benermerut and Princess Meritamun as being unusual and in the style of the famous Senenmut and Princess Neferure statues. So many of the effective choices in this exhibition are from the Karnak cachette and rarely seen.

In Gallery IV "The Pharaoh's Court" The block statue of Hetep is a winner but I must say that I love those block statues. The stelae of Any is a jewel that I cannot say I have seen before it's grim looking figures exalted in Any's glory.

The pharaoh's religion is the basis of gallery V with a stelae of Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmose- Nefertari. I also very much liked the front half a sphinx presenting an offering while the statue of Osiris in the gallery is very fine and stirs a certain sympathy and admiration from the viewer.

The gold of the pharaohs is presented in gallery VI with much of the material chosen for this gallery being very famous choices though the snake-headed amulet of Psusennes I is a little-seen piece. The description presented by Betsy Bryan of the Ahmose I funerary ewer presents a thoughtful direction for the ewer ending up in the burial of Psusennes I. I really liked the bits of jewelry of the kings wife Ahhotep particularly the odd elements of the surviving pieces.

In gallery VII we revisit Tutankhamun with objects from his tomb including a nice ivory senet board and a bunch of amulets and jewelry also very nice is the rather plain cartouche-shaped box and a lovely two-page photo of various shabti's from the boy king's tomb.

The book closes up with a nice roundup by Dr. Hawass of recent discoveries around the various archaeological sites in Egypt with some notes on the exhibition. Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs is solid reading material the objects chosen tell a terrific story as do Sandro Vannini's photographs.