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.