Monday, March 29, 2010

The Pyramid of Userkare

Archaeologists are searching at south Saqqara for the pyramid tomb of the ephemeral second king of the sixth dynasty Userkare.

Words from the Governor

The governor of Luxor Samir Farag defends the demolition taking place to build the avenue of rams. Governor Farag said at the Lions club symposium, "No one can scare me. No one is more important than the government, and I will not be threatened by the media or the press."

Perhaps the governor forgot the president for life when he made that statement but the point is well-taken none the less. Also apparent the governor feels he is being threatened by media, perhaps it's fear of the truth that's the threat.

The governor goes on to say that the government "will remove anything that stands in the face of development," Governor Farag mentions that people being evicted from the site are receiving compensation, whether that compensation is fair or not is an issue not addressed in his threatening presentation.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Slapping Zionists

Zionism appears to be all the talk over at Egypt's cultural ministry with Dr. Zahi Hawass in a recent interview saying that he gave the Zionist enemy a real slap in the face. Dr. Hawass feels his recent cancellation of an inauguration ceremony for a recently restored Cairo synagogue made his point.

Dr. Hawass confirmed that Israel is the Zionist enemy, and not those annoying western Zionists that Dr. Hawass' boss blamed for his UNESCO loss last year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taking lessons from Mussolini

The avenue of rams is on the fast track to completion in three years though UNESCO wanted a twenty-year restoration. Here we have an article on the rough eviction of an Anglican pastor his wife and small child to demolish their home and the churches property to make way for the avenue.

That's what Mussolini did in his efforts to get down to the imperial remains of Rome as fast as possible leaving everything in the path destroyed simply to achieve his twisted vision of history. The brutal tactics and nineteenth-century style excavation but with bulldozers does not even live up to the Supreme Council of Antiquities own standards at least those set for everyone else.

Not archaeology but more likely a wasteful regrettable moment that will not enhance the reputation of a certain Egyptian "archaeologist".

Monday, March 22, 2010

When the Pyramids were Built

Dorthea Arnold
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rizzoli International Publications, INC.
New York

This lovely book was in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name.

Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris from April 6 to July 12, 1999; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York from September 16, 1999, to January 9, 2000; The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto from February 13 to May 22, 2000.

The photographs by Bruce White are wonderful images of so many Old Kingdom objects I have never seen before and a few old favorites as well. I confess from the start that the art of this period really does it for me especially by when the book lets the large often full page images do the talking.

The book is nicely divided into individual dynasties of the Old Kingdom starting with the 3rd Dynasty with perhaps most remarkable is the doorjamb of King Djoser, Egyptian museum (JE 98951a,b). Though the faience tiles from Djoser's funerary apartments have a great simplicity in their beauty.

The crossing of the dynasties into the 4th Dynasty the reader is presented with so many brilliant pieces including the paste filled relief from the tomb of Itet at Meidum. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen (AEIN 1133 A). The rare slab stela of Prince Wep-em-nefret from the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley (6-19825) is one of the great masterpieces of the about fifteen examples known to exist.

A beautiful juxtaposition of photographs in the book has the famous head of King Djedefre from the Louvre, Paris (E 12626) facing on the opposite page the small head of a king from the collection of Nanette B. Kelekian, New York complete with its heavily corroded eye inlays.

The art of the 5th Dynasty presented in the exhibition included the famous colossal head of King Userkaf, Egyptian museum, Cairo (JE 52501) but also noteworthy is the exquisite statue of Kai seated found by Auguste Mariette in 1850 and now in the Louvre, Paris (N117 [=E 3024=A 106]).

I have always loved the limestone family statuettes of the Old Kingdom with plenty of examples included showing the wide variety of poses that occur within the convention. The book closes with a number of pieces of the 6th Dynasty ending the art of the Old Kingdom with two pieces which employ the formula but fall short on execution.

This well-written book is a visual joy and though I would have preferred a little more background on the works of art picked for the exhibition the pieces chosen made truly an extraordinary collection that will leave me looking through this book for years to come.


Here is a Charlie Rose interview with Dorothea Arnold and Philippe de Montebello on the exhibition October 29, 1999.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Forgotten Boy

In the recent two-year study of Eighteenth Dynasty royal mummies, it seems that this boy from a side chamber in the Valley of the Kings tomb KV 35 was not included.

There are artifacts from the tomb KV 35 which belong to a son of Amenhotep II named Webensenu as a result of the mummies found in the tomb there are four candidates to be that prince including this boy or another mummy found attached to a funerary boat belonging to Amenhotep II or either of two skeletons.

Some have speculated that the mummy on the boat was the founder of the twentieth dynasty Sethnakht because of a reused coffin once manufactured for that king was present in the tomb at the time of discovery. Unfortunately, the mummy was destroyed more than a hundred years ago when the boat was stolen.

Reports on that badly damaged mummy say that it was glued to the boat by resin used in the mummy's mummification that would mean that the mummy was fairly fresh when unwrapped and thrown on Amenhotep's boat in ancient times.

The founder of the Twentieth Dynasty the pharaoh Sethnakht has been suggested as a candidate dying in approximately 1186 BC would have lain in his tomb or at least a tomb for one hundred years before the recycling of the valley of kings by Herihor and Pinudgem I and others. Is this enough time for the resins on Sethnakht's mummy to have set?

Tutankhamen's mummy was covered in buckets of resin if the same had been true for Sethnakht would a century be enough time to set? I suspect in the dry climate of the valley of kings that this may well be enough time.

Whatever happened the mummy was still gooey enough that when torn open in the tomb of Amenhotep II the mummy stuck to the boat. This seems unlikely scenario to me and I would prefer this mummy to be another person perhaps Prince Webensenu already buried in Amenhotep II's tomb before the reburial committee of the twenty-first dynasty priests arrived.

However, that to me would mean that Kv 35 had probably been robbed by the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty perhaps during the Amarna period with the princes badly damaged mummy thrown on the boat then.

This may remove Sethnakht from ever having been in Kv 35 but he may be represented by one of the unidentified skeletons though I would expect that if Sethnakht was in the tomb that his mummy would have been found in the side chamber with the other New Kingdom pharaohs.

So who's the boy found lying between two Amarna period mummies now identified as queen Tiye and the other woman being Tutankhamen's mother? The naked boy may have done some moving around in Kv 35 as one of his toes was found in another side chamber of the tomb.

The thing that comes to mind is the most important Amarna mummies including Queen Tiye, Tut's mother and the boy may have been moved directly into the tomb of Amenhotep II at the return from Amarna to the valley of kings minus their burial goods.

The unwanted storeroom Kv 55 used to hold Amenhotep III and queen Tiye's burial equipment during the building of Wv 22 and now basically empty was used to dispose of the unwanted mummy of Akhenaten(?) and queen Tiye's offending shrine. Queen Tiye, the younger women and the boy being placed reverently in the tomb of their great ancestor during the reign of Tutankhamen and robbed shortly after perhaps at the same time the mummy was thrown on the boat.

If the mummy on the boat is Webensenu than the priests who opened the tomb at the beginning of the Twenty-First Dynasty probably found a tomb already plundered and merely gathered up the three naked mummies placing them next to each other in the side chamber and adding the kingly mummies.

In the tomb of Tutankhamen, we find a number of objects made for some other king and potentially reinscribed for Tutankhamen with the titles on the canopic coffins hinting that the king may have been the ephemeral Smenkhara.

I am tempted to wonder if the boy found in the tomb of Amenhotep II laid to rest with Tutankhamen's mother and grandmother could be Tutankhamen's older brother, the pharaoh Smenkhara?

Is there anything to support this idea? In G. Elliot Smith's sensational 1912 book "The Royal Mummies" Sir Smith says the following of the mummy "is a small boy (1 m. 242 mill.) Whose general appearance is suggestive of an age of about nine or ten years: but as permanent canine teeth are present and fully grown he cannot be less than eleven years of age".

This would mean that if the boy was Smenkhara he probably ascended the throne at about the same age as his successor Tutankhamen suggesting the idea that there were back to back boy kings after Akhenaten.

Ironically Sir Smith goes on to say "This boy presents an extraordinary likeness to a beautiful statue of the God Khonsu found at Karnak". A statue believed to represent Tutankhamen as the moon god but which may have been created for the boy in KV 35.

Certainly, the next question must be the position of the boy's arms not being crossed over his chest as might be expected of a king's mummy at this period. The reports on the investigation (in the tomb) of the KV 55 mummy are vague sadly but do indicate that the mummy found there had at least one of its arms at its side.

J. Lindon Smith and Edward Aryton described the position of the KV 55 mummies arms as the right arm fully extended along side of the body with the left arm bent and the hand resting on the chest, however, Theodore Davis saw the hands as clasped.*

The traditional Osirine pose appears to have been abandoned for the Kv 55 mummy if it is actually a king in favor of a more feminine pose which would perhaps be appropriate for Akhenaten but not for the boy in KV 35 who may have been simply denied the burial pose of a king at the embalmers around or slightly after the death of Akhenaten himself.

With all these scenarios the truth is science in the future will more than likely be able to show the familial relations of the boy to the other royal mummies but doubtful that a name can ever be attached to this boy much less the name Smenkhara.

*The Theban Royal Mummy Project:

Antiquities Committee

The Supreme Council of Antiquities is forming a committee to inspect artifacts owned by Egyptians in respect to the recently passed Egyptian law on Egyptian ownership of antiquities which requires Egyptians to submit their antiquities (anything over 100 years old) for inspection within six months.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Akhenaten's New Home

Here an article on the planned museum of the Amarna period at Minya including in the plans for the museum is the return of the supposed remains of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, his mother Tiye's mummy and the mummy KV 35 younger lady who is now thanks to the recent two-year study been shown to be the sister of the supposed Akhenaten remains and also mom to Tutankhamen.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Return of the Sarcophagus

Here we see the repatriation ceremony including Dr. Zahi Hawass for that twenty first dynasty coffin seized in Miami last year. The coffin may not be much to look at but the video is interesting.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Repatriated Artifacts

Egypt's minister of culture today announced the University of London has handed back to Egyptian authorities some 25 000 artifacts including a 200 000-year-old ax. The collection will be displayed in the new Ahmed Fakhri museum in Dakhla.

This represents the largest haul of repatriated objects to date for the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Those Tests?

With the recent release of a Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) publication on the tests recently conducted on king Tutankhamen and a number of eighteenth dynasty mummies believed to be relations, many questions have been raised.

I have found that Kate over at "The Valley of the Kings" is raising some questions on the findings which I think are very interesting thoughtful and well worth reading.