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.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Tombs of the Kings

Where the mummied Kings of Egypt,wrapped in linen fold on fold,
Couched for ages in their coffins, crowned with crowns of dusky gold,

Lie in subterranean chambers, biding to the day of doom,
Counterfeit life's hollow semblance in each mazy mountain tomb,

Grisly in their gilded coffins, mocking masks of skin and bone,
Yet remain in change unchanging, balking Nature of her own;

Mured in mighty Mausoleums, walled in from the night and day,
Lo, the mortal Kings of Egypt hold immortal Death at bay.

For - so spake the Kings of Egypt - those colossal ones whose hand
Held the peoples from Pitasa to the Kheta's conquered land;

Who, with flash and clash of lances and war chariots, stormed and won
Many a town of stiff-necked Syria to high-towering Askalon:

"We have been the faithful stewards of the deathless gods on high;
We have built them starry temples underneath the starry sky.

"We have smitten rebel nations, as a child is whipped with rods:
We the living carnation of imperishable gods.

"Shall we suffer Death to trample us to nothingness? and must
We be scattered, as the whirlwind blows about the desert dust?

"No! Death shall not dare come near us, nor Corruption shall not lay
Hands upon our sacred bodies, incorruptible as day.

"Let us put a bit and bridle, and rein in Time's headlong course;
Let us ride him through the ages as a master rides his horse.

"On the changing earth unchanging let us bide till Time shall end,
Till, reborn in blest Osiris, mortal with immortal blend."

Yes, so spake the Kings of Egypt, they whose lightest word was law,
At whose nod the far-off nations cowered, stricken dumb with awe.

And Fate left the haughty rulers to work out their monstrous doom;
And, embalmed with myrrh and ointments, they were carried to the tomb;

Through the gate of Bab-el-Molouk, where the sulpher hill lie bare,
Where no green thing casts a shadow in the noon's tremendous glare;

Where the unveiled Blue of heaven in its bare intensity
Weighs upon the awe-struck spirit with the world's immensity;

Through the Vale of Desolation, where no beast or bird draws breath,
To the Coffin Hills of Tuat - the Metropolis of Death.

Down - down - down into the darkness, where, on either hand, dread fate
In the semblance of a serpent, watches by the dolorous gate;

Down - down - down into the darkness, where no gleam of sun or star
Sheds its purifying radiance from the living world afar;

Where in labyrinthine windings, darkly hidden, down and down,-
Proudly on his marble pillow, with old Egypt's double crown,

And his mien of cold commandment, grasping still his staff of state,
Rests the mightiest of the Pharaohs, whom the world surnamed the great.

Swathed in fine Sidonian linen, crossed hands folded on the breast,
There the mummied Kings of Egypt lie within each painted chest.

And upon their dusky foreheads Pleiades of flaming gems,
Glowing through the nether darkness, flash from luminous diadems.

Where is Memphis? Like a mirage, melted into empty air:
But these royal gems yet sparkle richly on their raven hair.

Where is Thebes in all her glory, with her gates of beaten gold?
Where Syene, or that marvel, Heliopolis of old?

Where is Edfu? Where Abydos? Where those pillared towns of yore
Whose auroral temples glittered by the Nile's thick-peopled shore?

Gone as evanescent cloudlands, alplike in the afterglow;
But these Kings hold fast their bodies of four thousand years ago.

Sealed up in their Mausoleums, in the bowels of the hills,
There they hide from dissolution and Deaths swiftly grinding mills.

Scattering fire, Uraeus serpents guard the Tombs' tremendous gate;
While Troth holds the trembling balance, weighs the heat and seals its fate.

And a multitude of mummies in the swaddling clothes of death,
Ferried o'er the sullen river, on and on still hasteneth.

And around them and above them, blazoned on the rocky walls,
Crowned with stars, enlaced by serpents, in divine processionals,

Ibis-headed, jackal-featured, vulture-hooded, pass on high,
Gods on gods through Time's perspectives - pilgrims of Eternity.

There, revealed by fitful flashes, in a gloom that may be felt,
Wild Chimeras flash from darkness, glittering like Orion's belt.

And on high, o'er shining waters, in their barks the gods sail by,
In the Sunboat and in the Moonboat, rowed across the rose-hued sky.

Night, that was before creation, watches sphinxlike, starred with eyes,
And the hours and days are passing, and the years and centuries.

But these mummied Kings of Egypt, pictures of a parished race,
Lie, of busy Death forgotten, face by immemorial face.

Though the glorious sun above them, burning on the naked plain,
Clothes the empty wilderness with the golden, glowing grain;

Though the balmy Moon above them, floating in the milky Blue,
Fills the empty wilderness with a silver fall of dew;

Though life comes and flies unresting, like the shadow which a dove
Casts upon the Sphinx, in passing, for a moment from above;-

Still these mummied Kings of Egypt, wrapped in linen, fold on fold,
Bide through ages in their coffins, crowned with crowns of dusky gold.

Had the sun once brushed them lightly, or a breath of air, they must
Instantaneously have crumbled into evanescent dust.

Pale and passive in their prisons, they have conquered, chained to death;
And their lineaments look living now as when they last drew breath!

Have they conquered? Oh, the pity of those Kings within their tombs,
Locked in stony isolation in those petrifying glooms!

Motionless where all is motion in a rolling Universe,
Heaven, by answering their prayer, turned it to a deadly curse.

Let them fixed where all is fluid in a world of star-winged skies;
Where, in myriad transformations, all things pass and nothing dies;

Nothing dies but what is tethered, kept when Time would set it free,
To fulfill Thought's yearning tension upward through Eternity.

Mathilde Blind

Source: The Universal Anthology, edited by Richard Garnett, The Clarke Company, limited, london, 1899, Vol. I, pgs. 116-119.

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.