Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Dog Catacombs

This article has a picture though that is rather pathetic, the article is a brief overview of catacombs containing millions(?) of dog mummies. The catacombs were mentioned in 1897 by the famous french archaeologist Jacques De Morgan who included the catacombs on a map.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Coffin of the Weaver Nakht

Nakht was a weaver in ancient Egypt's 20th Dynasty, a profession which is believed quite lowly. However Nakht was buried in an expensive coffin while his body was not mummified and shows signs to have faced malnutrition during his life. The weaver and his coffin was found during excavations by Eduoard Naville at the temple site of Mentuhotep II at Deir el-Bahri.

Nakht and his coffin can be found in Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. You can also read about the teenager and his coffin in the book "Conversations with mummies" by Dr. Rosalie David and Rick Archbold. The autopsy of the body of Nakht revealed a naturally mummified body with a badly damaged skull and his surprising mummified brain. The book also has some great pictures of Nakht's body.


Article by Owen Jarus

Photo of Nakht's coffin: Royal Ontario Museum

Dr. Hawass Calls for Protection of the Monuments

Dr. Zahi Hawass has called on field marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme council of the army to stop encroachments on Egypt's archaeological sites. After a recent tour with a delegation from UNESCO Dr. Hawass says that there have been 500 encroachments in the last two months?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Five more Objects Returned to Cairo Museum

Five more objects stolen from the Cairo museum have been recovered including a bronze scepter head and four statuettes of gods. Four of the bronzes are in good condition however a bronze of an Apis bull was returned broken though the report says it can be repaired.

There are now thirty seven artifacts missing from the museum including all of the Amarna period pieces and the treasures of Tutankhamun, Yuya and Thuyu. The curiosity that much of the lesser artifacts are being recovered while the most important of the missing artifacts remain lost is noticeable and leads one to fear that the robbery of those artifacts may have been planned long before the revolution which may just have presented the opportunity to carry out the robbery.!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Mummy Chamber

There is no news these days so I figured it was time for some fun and found myself in the Brooklyn museum's "Mummy Chamber". The chamber contains everything you would expect to find in such a place including an interactive section where you can look under the wrappings of a number of the museums mummies.

A well done and fascinating presentation and I particularly enjoyed the video of the re wrapping of one of their mummies.

Photo Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

Mummy of Thothirdes
Egypt, probably from Thebes. Late Period, Dynasty 26, circa 664–525 B.C.E. Linen, organic materials, 16 x 10 1/4 x 61 in. (40.6 x 26 x 154.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1521Ec

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Objects Stolen from Qantara Storage

The final report is out on the objects stolen from the Qantara magazine after the 29th of January and before the contents of the magazine were taken to the Cairo museum. The report states that some 800 objects are missing from many historical periods including the Pharaonic era.

Among the stolen items are many coins, pottery and a headless limestone statue with a hieroglyphic inscription. The objects taken come from archaeological sites in the Sinai and Ismailia and also the report does not include the 293 objects already recovered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Interview with Barry Kemp

Here we have an interview with Egyptologist Barry Kemp famous for his excavations at tell el Amarna.The interview is on his excavations as well as recent events.

The Night the Museum was Robbed

Here we have an interview with Mahmoud el Halwagi the deputy director of the Cairo Museum on the robbery at the end of January by those who took advantage of the revolution.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Mummy of Queen Tiye

The Kings Wife Tiye was the wife of King Amenhotep III ca 1350bc and the mother of Amenhotep IV, the heretic Akhenaten. She and Amenhotep historically were probably only children when married and if the record is accurate she probably outlived her husband as she visited her son's capital of Akhetaten.

Her mummy was found in the Valley of the Kings at the end of the 19th century by Victor Loret in a side chamber in the tomb of Amenhotep II (Kv35). Recent DNA studies have proven the long suspected identity of this mummy much to her benefit both her mother and father were also part of the study.

In the side chamber of the tomb, she was in the presence of another female mummy who the recent DNA studies have shown to probably have been her daughter and the mother of King Tutankhamun. Still, further research has found she has a flattened wart on her face.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The Starving of Saqqara", Real or Fake?

This interesting article is from Past Horizons and contains a video to help in looking at this 67cm limestone statue collected by Vincent and Olga Diniacopoulos in the first half of the twentieth century. The statue has been at Concordia University in Montreal since 1999 and studied by experts from many institutions including the Royal Ontario Museum and the British Museum.

There is doubt by some people that the statue is fake while others believe it to be real. Hard to say as it is very unusual with nothing like it known in Egyptian art.

U.S. Demands Return Ka-nefer-nefer

The United states government has now demanded that the St, Louis Art Museum hand over the nineteenth dynasty mask known as the mask of Ka-nefer-nefer so that it may be returned back to Egypt.

Battle for Ka-nefer-nefer

Stolen Objects Returned to Cairo Museum

With the help of Egyptian military forces three thieves who took advantage of the revolutionary crowd in Tahrir square to rob the Egyptian museum have been caught. Twelve objects stolen from the museum including statuettes, five of which are bronze, and collars have been recovered and are now back at the museum and will be restored back to their cases,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reisner, Smith and David in 1907

Dr. Rosalie David of Manchester University and the Natural History Museum continue the fascinating work begun a century ago by George Reisner and Grafton Elliot Smith who excavated thousands of graves in lower Nubia before the flooding of the area by the raising of the Aswan damn in 1907.

Monday, March 14, 2011

More Denials From Dr. Hawass

This article does not really say anything new but I found it amusing how Dr. Hawass seems to be pulling back from his role at the head of the antiquities service and describing himself as a mere paper pusher.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Artifacts Resurface 35 Years later

In the mid 1970's archaeologists working on behalf of Tel Aviv University at a site in the Sinai called Kuntillet Ajrud excavated a number of artifacts, artifacts which were presented to Egypt and never seen again. Recently as a result of the revolution the collection of artifacts has been found and is now in storage at the Cairo museum.

Zahi Hawass Denies Coverup

 Former minister Dr. Zahi Hawass denies recent allegations that have been filed to Egypt's attorney general that he covered up thefts from archaeological sites as well as signing an agreement that threatened the national security of Egypt.

Abdel Rahman al-Aidy, chairman of the Central Administration of Middle Egypt Antiquities, and Nour Eddin Abd al-Samad, director general of the Department of Archaeological sites have filed the documents with prosecuters.

Dr. Hawass denies these allegations.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chronicle of the Pharaohs

Peter A. Clayton
Thames and Hudson
New York
ISBN-13: 978-0-500-28628-9

The book opens with the usual background information on Pharaonic Egypt including the author's intentions of tracing Egyptian history through kingship. The introduction deals with the chronology including a rather pleasant and informative overview of the documented sources of information used to tell it.

Peter Clayton heads into the early dynastic kings starting in Dynasty 0 with King Narmer moving through the kings of Dynasty's 1 and 2 including the serekh of each one's name. The monuments and inscriptions which tell their history including the known tombs of each ruler. The author is continuously referring to the historical king's lists to tell the histories of those mentioned therein.

I have to admit I found the blue pages at the start of each chapter a little difficult to read but that's pretty minor so far the content is well presented. Next, we head into the pyramid building kings of the Old Kingdom and their achievements within their reigns.

The book is well appointed with pictures though most are standard fair there are a couple of gems like the statue of Setka son of Djedefre, in the Louvre. The author is next on to the middle kingdom and the two intermediate periods which like the earlier part are well presented and interesting, not too complex certainly suitable for a young teen to read.

In the chapter titled "Rulers of an Empire", Peter Clayton presents the reader with the histories of some of pharaonic Egypt's most powerful rulers and their weaker successors in the era of the New Kingdom including their tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

The author presents many details exploring not only the king's histories but their wives and family relations roles with particularly interesting details in this regard to Ramses III and the burial of his family in the royal valleys including a fascinating breakdown of the titles of Queen Titi in her tomb in the Valley of the Queens.

Soon we are in the late period and the 21srt dynasty with a couple of nice images of the Book of the dead of Herihor and Nodjmet and a good breakdown of the priest kings of Thebes and the ultimate burial of members of this family in the king's cache tomb DB320.

I like at the beginning of each chapter the author provides the names cartouches and the meaning of those names including the birth names and throne names of each king. The book ends with that murderous lot known as the Ptolemies and the end of Pharaonic history.

I very much enjoyed this book Peter Clayton presented a good overview of the kings of Egypt and though often brief in his description of each the author filled those descriptions with lots of interesting nuggets of information. "Chronicle of the Pharaoh's" would make a fine and reliable book to give to a young teenager, however, the adult in the house may just want to keep it for themselves.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Showmans Responsibilities

With the appearance that the head of Egypt's antiquities service Dr. Zahi Hawass is calling it quits during the greatest crises of his career the immediate question becomes, what is Dr. Hawass' responsibility for the current wave of looting and damage to the Cairo museum?

The issue of the national museum being robbed is entirely different from gangs overwhelming guards at desert archaeological sites but the cause may be exactly the same. A couple of years ago the issue with Dr. Hawass was tourists bribing guards in the valley of kings so that the tourists could take pictures.

The ability to bribe employees of the antiquities service acknowledged at that time by Dr. Hawass is still in play but is this the source of the attack on the Cairo museum. The so called "inside job" must be taken seriously especially if workers are underpaid and/or a worker is experiencing a financial crises these things happen in museums all over the world. Chances are that only the most desperate of employees would engage in such activity.

There are among reports that many more objects are missing from the Cairo museums inventory including a report of a case which contains an extremely rare middle kingdom turquoise glazed hippopotamus, apparently everything but the hippopotamus has been stolen from the case. Interesting I found an auction record for a Sotheby's auction in London in July of  1990, a hippo with excellent provenance sold for just under a million dollars(1).

If the report about the hippo in the Cairo museum is true than it may point to objects being chosen by someone for their sale value with Cairo's hippo too famous and rare to sell even without its provenance? The same may be true of the limestone statuette of Akhenaten perhaps removed from the museum by an ignorant person who only outside the museum was made aware of the fame of that statuette and quickly discarded it?

The broken objects may be the result of ignorant people looking for treasure that is not to say that all the looters were amateurs but some were probably indeed professionals. Professionals who perhaps made the call before hand that the hippo was to be left untouched while the rest of the endearing figurines in the case were to be stolen?

With the exception of the blood covered broken display case the rest of the breakage may also be a smoke screen to allow the robbers time to get away with their loot? It is now more than a month since the robbery of the Cairo museum and still a full report on the missing objects is still not out and even though Zahi Hawass has reported 18 objects in question stolen he has still not released pictures of most of those objects?

With the robbers now having a five week head start it would seem that very little can be done to retrieve what is missing especially based on information provided by Dr Hawass. We can only hope that Yuya's shabti's and the figure of Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess did not end up on the fires in Tahrir square. Too famous and too incriminating to be in possession of?

The complaint for years of the Cairo museum, which is one of the worlds most important and most visited museums, are the disintegrating artifacts without climate controlled cases. Why is this and where has the museums income gone? Now people are entering the museum through the skylights and I am pretty sure that whoever injured them self falling on a glass display case did not think they had landed in the gift shop?

So many contradictory statements by Dr. Hawass clearly shows his mind was on his reputation and perhaps the fear that the public would find out the truth about his management or mismanagement of Egypt's antiquities resources? Today is a dark day for Egypt's heritage but the day has been in works for many years and certainly Dr Zahi Hawass is indeed responsible for the robbery and mismanagement of the Cairo museum!

I am left to wonder how truthful an accounting can be of the museum when the report is to be handed over to the man who is most responsible for the condition it is in today?

(1) Minerva, Volume 1 number 7, September 1990 pg. 36, fig.9

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri

The article from Biblical Archaeological Review is on the discovery of papyri at the beginning of the last century near the Upper Egyptian village of el-Behnesa. Two Oxford scholars named Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt were searching the rubbish dumps which lay around the ancient remains of the city of Oxyrhynchus when large quantities of papyrus scraps and full documents began to come to light.

Many of the documents were receipts and known literature's but some contained unknown passages of Jesus and the scriptures. Through the course of five seasons the archaeologists would retrieve a half a million documents including lost works from the writers of the classic world such as Sappho, Homer, Plato and a lost comedy by Sophocles and more.

Generations later the Oxyrhynchus papyri collection is still being studied in Oxford and in Cairo.

Dr. Hawass on the Safety of Egypt's Monuments

This is an article from Dr. Zahi Hawass who reports on the state of the monuments including the Cairo museum. Many sites have been broken into and continue to be the target of armed thieves which the authorities seem unable to stop.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mr. Mummy at Home

This article and video are on the Egyptian collection owned by the well known Egyptologist Dr. Bob Brier who is also known as Mr. Mummy. Dr. Brier's collection includes thousands of books, and artifacts including a mummy arm which appeared to me to be Ptolemaic or perhaps Roman period.

Dr. Brier is certainly a very interesting character and the video which accompanies the article says it all!

Paul Boughton over at Egyptology News Network has posted some related videos of Dr. Brier

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Origin of Egyptian Civilization

The University of Chicago's Oriental institute has an upcoming exhibition titled Before the Pyramids: The Origins of Egyptian Civilization. The exhibition runs March 29 through December 2011.