Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year of Destiny and History

I started this year with The Egyptian Book of the Dead in my mind finding in it a document of incredible abstraction and a sense of accomplishment. In the middle of January reports that KV64 had been found in the Valley of Kings was met with mild interest even though the 21rst dynasty mummy was intact it did not measure up to the discovery of KV63. Perhaps it was the very nature of the discovery which was apparent at once while KV63 was a slow striptease as the debris was removed?

Around the same time I published, Three Old Kingdom Statuettes in the Brooklyn Museum which funny enough was better received than my "Popular Posts" widget says?I guess I added it late to the widget as the article should be in my top ten January ended at the crocodile museum at Kom Ombo which was inaugurated on the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. The end of February brought this sites biggest runner of the year in, Khufu's Ships Burn".

It is also within February that a British couple attempted to smuggle cheap trinkets and got caught in Luxor Airport, though there was some debate they were actually trying to smuggle the objects? Towards the end of March, we find thieves stealing two Kiswa (embroidered tapestry), from the Khedive Tawfiq mausoleum.

At the end of April readers of Egyptians showed enthusiasm for the review of the 1924 book "Egypt by H.H. Powers". Mr. Powers was quite a character.  The Carter Carnarvon Connection was also one of this year's biggest runners.

In the summer came theological silliness in the 1932 book "Great Pyramid Proof of God", the amusing book screamed failure right from the title though I was reading a 1960, twelfth printing of the book. Later in July the remains of a boat of the first dynasty King Den was discovered at Abu Rawash.

Most exciting from this past summer came the notes of excavator of Valley of Kings tomb KV35, the tomb of Amenhotep II which were found in Milan's Egyptology archives. Victor Loret found the tomb in 1898 and much to the delight of the Egyptology world an unknown photo of the mummy found on a boat in that tomb was discovered which potentially solved this long destroyed mummies identity, The Mummy on the Boat.

In November Dr. Miroslav Barta and the Czech Institute of Egyptology discovered at Abu Sir the tombs of officials of the Old Kingdom and oddly a fifth dynasty princess named Shert Nebty. November ended with the announcement that Valley of kings tomb KV8, the tomb of King Merenptah, was now open to the public and that the largest sarcophagus in the valley has been reconstructed from its pieces found in the tomb.

From the beginning of December the publication of  Animal tombs in the Valley of Kings has been well received and the last runner of the year for this site. The year ends off with the discovery that Pharaoh Ramesses III was probably murdered as a result of a conspiracy in his harem, long known about from surviving judicial documents of the time.

What can I say except thank you all., as the year ends Egyptians is breaking all of its records and having its best year to date!

Amenhotep's Toe

A dramatic event has taken place among the royal mummies when workers entered the royal mummy room of Cairo's museum and found that the big toe on Amenhotep II's  right foot had fallen off. No it is not a bad case of leprosy and sure maybe it is not that dramatic but it is a reality that the mummies of the pharaohs are disintegrating and we the observer will watch as time passes as heads, hands and faces collapse and fall off.

It is a reality that no one knows better than those who are responsible for organic exhibits that they cannot last forever. In the case of the mummies of the pharaohs the viewers will watch as over time each one is slowly vested with its linen wrappings back.

"On this day the high priest of Amon Re king of gods Pinudjem son of the high priest of Amon Piank commanded the overseeer of the great treasury Payneferher to repeat the burial of King Aaenre"

Docket found on mummy of Thutmosis II: Theban Royal Mummy Project

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jewels of the Pharaohs

Cyril Aldred
Ballantine Books
New York
ISBN 0-345-27819-4

How have I had this book in my collection for so many years by the late great Cyril Aldred, and yet never read it? This nicely sized book is only 128 pages including many black and white pictures but most special because of its 128 pages there are 64 full pages of colored pictures of pharaonic jewelry depicted.

Mr. Aldred opens his book with a rundown of the great caches of pharaonic jewels discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the jewels of the 17th dynasty Kings Wife Aahotep, jewels that founded Cairo's jewelry collection. From here the author is on to the materials used in ancient Egyptian jewelry, where various metals, stones, and minerals were found and the technologies employed in their use.

We are on to the goldsmiths, designers and various lapidaries and glass makers working the raw materials into shape. Mr. Aldred describes various important tombs of gold workers at Thebes, Memphis and Amarna and what their owner's positions would have entailed.

In chapter 5 Mr. Aldred delves deeper into the artisan's techniques including the effect of foreign influences upon the Egyptian craftsmen. We are being directed by Mr. Aldred to the colored pictures at the back to simplistically and effectively demonstrate his points.

For ease, I recommend two bookmarks as the colored pictures are vital to this book and you are going to want to flip to them often. Mr. Aldred's words into the forms Egyptian jewelry has taken over the ages with the excellent colored images is enlightening on the subject of ancient pharaonic royal adornments.

We are next on to the bio's of each jewel with it's known findspot, the discoverers, and even items which were stolen during excavation or before. Mr. Aldred starts off with the 1rst dynasty bracelets found on the arm recovered from the tomb of King Djer at Abydos by Flinders Petrie.

Unusual items include a gold fillet and necklace from a 4th dynasty princess at Giza and the apron of the early 12th dynasty Lady Senebtisi from Lisht. Certainly, the crowns kept in Cairo of Princess Khnumet cannot be overlooked on such a subject especially since one appears to have been made when the princess became queen.

My absolute favorite Egyptian jewel is the late 12th dynasty gold necklace of Queen Mereret found at Dashur near the pyramid of Sesosteris III. The goldsmiths of the royal court of this dynasty created in its jewels an epoch of quality workmanship to which very few pieces outside this period can measure up.

Queen Aahotep's jewels are a perfect example of this as the 17th dynasty queens ornaments are course and rude in comparison though there is one piece in her jewels that artistically rises above the rest. It is a gold scarab inlaid with lapis lazuli on a very attractive chain which was found on the queens now destroyed mummy employed as a heart scarab.

A century later the jewels of three wives of King Thutmosis III are a better lot in quality though they do not measure up to the work of the 12th dynasty goldsmiths. Still, they do poses charm with some notable pieces being the gold head cover of one of the queens as well as the only known belt for a woman surviving from ancient Egypt.

The treasure of these queens left Egypt in pieces and separated into a number of lots which were then combined with fakes. The jewels were skilfully restored by the Metropolitan Museum of New York where they are displayed today.

I am at this point struck by how the poorly preserved broad collar of King Smenkhkare found on the breast of the king's mummy in Valley of the Kings tomb KV 55 as well as many of Tutankhamun's gold pieces have tarnished and are made with low-quality gold. I cannot help but wonder if the goldsmiths were pinching the Amarna king's gold replacing some of it with lesser metals which would not have been apparent until long after burial?

The images of Tutankhamun's jewels show some very impressive works of art including plate 72 we find the rarely seen stole of the king a beauty, also within this same image is a most exquisite inlaid gold vulture on a rope. The king's earrings and studs pictured in plate 84 are also rarely published.

Mr. Aldred closes off his book with royal jewels up to Egypt's 22nd dynasty with one later exception. The book is something to be examined/savored for the comparisons of various era's workmanship is simply put forward.

Cyril Aldred has produced a book which is suitable for all ages as it is they will love the pictures but ages ten and up will feel the full effect of this fine book. Definitely "Jewels of the Pharaohs" is one of the best books I have read this year and a book I will revisit for reference in the years to come.


Pectoral of Senusret II: John Campana

Stag Circlet: Art History Spot

Queen Mereret's Jewels: Tour Egypt

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Murder of Ramesses III: Revision

Recent CT scans on the mummy of ancient Egypt's last great Pharaoh Rameses III has found evidence that the king was murdered by having his throat slit. The murder of Ramesses was long suspected from a 3000 year old document known as the harem conspiracy papyrus.

The papyrus is a court record which tells of a plot within Ramesses harem in order to put a son on the throne who was not in line to be king. These events took place as Egypt's great period of Empire was in decline with the 20th dynasty King Ramesses III being the last significant king of the New kingdom.

The papyrus tells us that one of Ramesses wives wanted her son Pentaware to take the throne over Ramesses namesake and rightful heir. She enlisted a number of officials and the aid of black magic to these ends including the making of wax figures.

The conspiracy was found out and all were put to death with the guilty royal family members involved being allowed to commit suicide. The fate of Ramesses has never been fully understood until the CT scans of the pharaohs throat recently revealed a deep cut across the neck below the larynx, a cut that almost certainly would have caused the kings immediate death.

Also present and never seen before the scientists found a eye of Horus amulet embedded in the wound. After more than 3000 years it appears that the conspiracy was successful. As a side note to the story tests have shown that a screaming mummy found with Ramesses III in 1881 and today known as unknown man "E" is in fact a son of Ramesses III and possibly the disgraced prince allowed to commit suicide Pentaware.

There are conflicting articles on this subject so I present the article from Al Ahram which appears to show a picture of the back of the mummies neck though I think it may be a CT scan of the pharaohs throat. I would think if it was on the back of the neck it would have been noticed by now?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs

Barbara Mertz
ISBN 978 0 06 125276 1

This is the second revised edition of this 1964 book by the well-respected author Barbara Mertz. This book starts out with the traditional format of the earliest cultures of Upper and Lower Egypt up to the earliest dynasties.

The author's story is well put forward with the basic highlights of the history of Egyptology, the great discoveries that today make up the science as we accept it, with of course personal variation. Into the earliest dynasties, the author confronts the mystery of why two tombs for the kings of the First Dynasty?

A question which would come up again in discoveries related to later dynasties. I found very interesting the observation of sealed Old Kingdom royal sarcophagi which when opened were empty including the sarcophagus of King Khufu's mother Hetepheres as well as the sarcophagus found by Zacharia Gnomein in the burial chamber of King Sekhemket at Saqqara.

The author retells the story of the tales told by King Khufu's three sons including the magician who folds the royal lake so that a bauble of one of kindly King Sneferu's court ladies may be retrieved. These tales also introduce the first three kings of Dynasty 5 as the sons of the sun God Re.

The author tells her tale through well-known discoveries leading up to the fall of the Old Kingdom and on into the First Intermediate Period to the kings of the Middle Kingdom. You may have noticed I have said nothing about the pictures as there is a section of colored pictures though nothing particularly unusual.

The author tells the story of the Hyksos kings and the last 17Th Dynasty princes of Thebes who rebelled against the overlords eventually saving the day for King Ahmosis I to found the 18Th Dynasty and ancient Egypt's period of empire. At this point, I have to wonder about the original version of this book.

The standard fair in front of me may have been neutralized by the revisions of the authors original work. Often the mistakes in an old book are part of its charm, the reader realizes there have been a few new discoveries since it's first publication.

In chapter 5 we find a more lively presentation on the reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III. Ms. Mertz deals well with the questions which surround the female King Hatshepsut including succession and erasure of her memory by her stepson Thutmosis III.

Ms. Mertz continues with a rundown of the kings of the 18Th Dynasty which is a good layout though again quite unremarkable in content. The author moves quickly through King's Amenhotep II, Thutmosis IV and Amenhotep III on into the heresy of Amenhotep IV.

The author tells the story of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten including the erasure of the god Amen to the solar worship of the Aten by the king. The extraordinary art of the reign and it's development from the characteristic style portraiture of the kings early years and the more naturalistic style of the later years.

Ms. Mertz lays down the end of the 18Th Dynasty with the apparent disappearance of the daughters of Akhenaten by the reign of Horamheb who is believed to have married a sister of Nefertiti, though Nefertiti and her sister were not of royal blood, they were not rightful heiress' to the throne, unlike Akhenaten's daughters. We are mercifully walked through the early 19Th Dynasty including the reign of Ramesses II with all his propaganda and the acknowledgment that even before the end of his reign Egypt was in a period of decline and at the end of its empire.

The author tells us about the end of the 20Th Dynasty and the tale of Wenamon which demonstrates the loss of respect from Egypt's former conquered states of its lost empire. Certainly what may be considered one of ancient Egypt's most interesting periods must include this period of decline with the rise of the 21rst dynasty kings both with their intact tombs found by Pierre Montet at Tanis in 1939 and the pious works being done in the city of the dead by the ancient Priests of Amen, particularly it's priest-kings at Thebes.

Ms. Mertz tells a good recounting of the available knowledge of the late period and the decline of its greatness into the hands of foreign conquerors. This tale is told with the fine accuracy Ms. Mertz possesses on her subject. Unfortunately for me, I read this book a decade too late as I would have enjoyed it more as a novice on Egyptology.

I would definitely recommend this fine book for young readers or those new to the subject of ancient Egypt. Ms. Mertz strong and reliable words make "Temples, Tombs & Hieroglyphs" a solid standard on the subject!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Animal Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

In 1906 archaeologist Edward Ayrton discovered and excavated three tombs in Egypt's "Valley of the Kings". When he entered tomb KV 50 he found a hot low ceiling shaft tomb with one chamber and two occupants facing off with each other, a mummified yellow dog and a mummified monkey. (1) The position of the two animals appeared to be an ancient joke?

The discovery of tomb 50 was quickly followed by another nearby tomb known as KV 51. After descending the shaft Ayrton found the tombs one chamber closed from the shaft with a door made up of stones and part of a coffin lid.

Within the chamber were a number of ducks, an ibis, three monkeys, and a baboon, one of which was wearing a blue faience bead necklace. The tomb also contained a canopic mask from among the debris.

In the same year, Ayrton found near tombs KV 50 & KV 51, tomb KV 52 with its lone occupant a mummified monkey but more interesting an empty canopic chest was also present.

The three tombs if notable for their occupants were decidedly unremarkable in importance in a valley where ancient pharaohs were buried. The occupants believed to have probably been pets from the time of Amenhotep II who's tomb KV 35 was near, if not Amenhotep's own pets.

The three tombs have since been regarded as animal tombs. The question must be asked if they at one time also contained human mummies.

The empty canopic chest in KV 52 speaks that the canopic jars or packages have been removed. This leaves a real possibility that a human mummy and its internal organs were removed from this tomb with the chest and the offering,(the monkey) left behind.

Monkeys, ducks and ibis' do not make good pets! You can feed ducks and admire them but at some point, they must be recognized as part of the food chain unlike the rest of the animals found in these three tombs.

An Ibis is not a pet you can only keep it by clipping its wings or a cage. A baboon, on the other hand, is a large very strong animal and like monkeys generally become highly aggressive to control their environment as they get older and provide a threat to their owners, as pets they are duds!

These mummies are not pets! The dog found in KV 50 on the other hand, is almost certainly a member of the royal family or of one its nobles.

What is our evidence that tombs 50, 51 and 52 are animal tombs and not the remnants of human burials? The importance of location to this king is to me suggestive that human mummies probably did occupy at least one of these tombs and that the burial was found intact and removed whole minus the canopic box left in 52.

The menagerie of occupants of tomb KV 51 on hand is sacred burials including the ibis and the baboon. The ducks may be offerings to either of them or both as may be the monkey's to the baboon while the canopic mask may actually have been for one of the apes in the tomb.

The coffin lid fragment introduced at the time of the tombs robbery/recycling? If there were occupants of tombs 50 or 52 then where did their mummies go?

When found the tomb of Amenhotep II contained a number of mummies introduced into that king's tomb during the reorganization of the Valley of the Kings during the 21rst dynasty but beside Prince Webensenu most of the remaining mummies are kings and have come from such tombs. The lady found in the side room with the kings off the burial chamber may also have come out of one of those kings tombs.

I suggest that tombs KV 50 and KV 52 may sadly be the reburial tombs of members of the Amarna royal family after the return to Thebes, the three members of that family found in chamber JC off the burial chamber of tomb KV 35. This, however, I find improbable for the mummy of Tiye as the evidence points elsewhere whether in tomb KV 55 that contained the mummy of Akhenaten/ Smenkhara and artifacts belonging to Tiye or the tomb in the western valley of Tiye's husband Amenhotep III KV 22 where there were also artifacts for Tiye.

Could the boy found next to the mummy of Tiye in Amenhotep's tomb be the occupant of KV 50 or KV 52? When discovered at the end of the nineteenth century one of the boy's toes was found in another chamber in the tomb leaving the possibility that the boy has nothing to do with the ladies found lying on either side of his mummy? Could the dog and the monkey belong to this boy or is he the missing occupant of KV 52?

Could the other mummy in the same chamber known as the younger lady and now through DNA linked as being Tutankhamun's mother be the occupant of the other tomb. What power would the boy Tutankhamun have in his mother's reburial at Thebes especially if his mother had been one of the main proponents of the heresy?

In the tomb of Amenhotep II, (KV 35) there remains only the king's mummy and the two skeletons found in the well who are likely the remains of intruders into the tomb who fell into the well and were unable to escape.

The assumption that if mummies were removed from KV 50 and KV 52 they would have ended up in the cache of mummies found in tomb KV 35? I find that tomb KV 50 contained two pets of the family of Amenhotep II, the dog, and the monkey.

Because of the canopic box, I would believe that a member of the court, possibly the boy found in Amenhotep II's tomb was buried in tomb KV52 which was a simple burial that was later removed whole minus the chest and the monkey/offering? The shallow tomb would have made it easy to remove coffin and mummy from it?

A thousand possibilities exist for the purpose and history of these three tombs and their prestigious location among kings though they are unlikely to ever be anything other than animal burials during the reign of Amenhotep II.


Image of dog and monkey courtesy: Namiac

Photo of Dog: Secret of Animal Mummies in Cairo Museum

Photo: Theban Royal Mummy Project

Photo Valley of the Kings: About Facts Net

The Theban Mapping Project

Tour Egypt

(1) The complete Valley of the Kings, Nicholas Reeves & Richard H. Wilkinson, Thames & Hudson 2008, ISBN 978-0-500-28403-2, Pg. 185

Friday, November 30, 2012

Valley of Kings Tomb KV8 Open

The tomb of Ramses II's thirteenth son King Merenptah is now open to visitors to the Valley of Kings. The tomb is one of the longest and biggest in the valley and has been closed for restorations for a number of years.

Most interesting is the restoration of one of the broken sarcophagus boxes which is now the largest in the valley. The well preserved mummy of the king was found in 1898 in the tomb of Amenhotep II.

Photo: Hajor, Dec 2002

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Return of Old Kingdom Blocks

Two sandstone blocks have been returned to Egypt and are currently under restoration at the national museum. The two blocks said to be off old kingdom monuments.

The smaller block has a representation of the lioness Goddess Sekhmet while the other larger block is part of a title for the king of Upper and Lower Egypt. The block were in possession of a New Zealand photographer who passed away last year.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tomb of Princess Shert Nebty

Archaeologists working at Abu Sir have discovered the tomb of a 5th dynasty princess named Shert Nebty. The 4500 year old tomb discovered by the Czek Institute of Egyptology headed by Dr. Miroslav Barta has a number of statues in it's courtyard.

The archaeologists also found four huge limestone sarcophagus' and many statues of officials.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Lost Chapel of Nebamun

Nebamun was an 18th dynasty Egyptian nobel who lived somewhere around the reign of the opulent King Amenhotep III or his successor Amenhotep IV. Nebamun is known today most famously for eleven fragments of frescoes from his tomb chapel housed since 1823 in the British Museum. The museum acquired them in the purchase of the first collection of British Council General to Egypt Henry Salt.

A number of other fragments are in other museums including Cairo and Lyon. The fragments are some of if not the finest surviving frescoes from the Theban necropolis.

The fragments in the British Museum were found by Giovanni d'Athanasi probably at the north end of the Dra Abul Naga settlement in 1820. This information is known because a fragment of men catching quails in Berlin was seen during the excavations of the Marquis of Northampton in 1898-99.

Recently there are reports that Nebamun's tomb chapel has been found though the gist of the article I read did not say it had been found but that rather with the tearing down of the houses in the area they "may" find the tomb.

Image: British Museum

The British Museum: Masterpieces of Ancient Egypt, ISBN-10: 0-7141-1972-5, pg's 170-177

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Objects from the Kharga Oasis

Here we have the exhibition from The Metropolitan Museum of Art on their excavations in the Kharga Oasis early in the last century. The images of the intact tomb LXVI, discovered by the excavation in 1930-31 are fascinating!

Objects from the Kharga Oasis runs until August 4 2013.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Revisiting the Mansoor Amarna Collection

Here we have the website of the hotly disputed collection of Amarna period sculptures collected by antiques dealer M. A. Mansoor with some scholars considering the collection to be fakes while others are comfortable as feeling the sculptures are genuine.

The video is interesting but it is the museum gallery of images that is for me disturbing as I find all of the trial pieces to be too similar and fresh looking yet without soul and lacking any depth of detail. Not to mention the lack of subjects within these vacant heads and how alike they are to pieces both in Cairo and Berlin found in the house of Thutmosis at Tell el Amarna except with faces reminiscent of the hideous colossal figures of Akhenaten from the Gem Pa Aten at Karnak. That would make most of these pieces from an early period of the kings reign while presumably the works found in the sculpture Thutmosis house which possess great spirit are from the later part of Akhenaten's reign?

Picture 1 of a sculpture of Akhenaten has the same face as #24 and #26, busts of the Amarna princess' with the faces being crudely worked with details left unfinished on all pieces. This could be explained by the works being found in a lesser sculptures studio at Tell el Amarna. The nemes headdress on the sculpture (1) also appears to be just the wrong shape for my tastes.

In the collection shown only one nose is missing with two more slightly damaged this is unusual for a collection of sculptures from ancient Egypt. Images # 37-39 seem to be copied directly from a painted scene of Smenkara while the two seated princess' come directly from the famous mural found by Flinders Petrie at Amarna and now in England.

This is not new but worth another look at so you can be the judge!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

18Th Dynasty Stelae Found

Recent construction work at Matariya in northen Cairo has turned up a fragment of an 18th dynasty stelae found in the rubble by a security guard looking at the debris. The area was in ancient times known as Heliopolis.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Great Pyramid

This is the Australian 11th battalion on the great pyramid

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rebel in the Soul

Bika Reed
Inner Traditions International
Rochester, Vermont
ISBN 0-89281-615-5
Berlin Papyrus 3024

Egyptologist Richard Lepsius bought the papyrus in 1843 from the Athanasi collection bringing it to Berlin. The document preserved on the papyrus is the only known copy and is missing it's beginning.

The papyrus is a philosophical tale to initiate priests into the inner temple. The content of the papyrus is suicidal in nature as a man argues with his soul. This short book is not an easy read and definitely, will not be enjoyed by a child.

The book opens with the history of Berlin papyrus 3024 and of its various expert's translations. We are next on to the authors translation:

"I spoke to my soul

I replied to what it had said:

O! Now

this I cannot bear

My soul replies not

Indeed, worse than anger is this indifference."

On the facing page a full page picture in black and white in which the whole book has been printed and cleverly printed also in faded shades of gray. The 155 lines of script in Berlin 3024 pass quickly and we are on to a breakdown of the characters beginning with the rebel.

The author talks about the Egyptian book of the dead and its terms in relation to papyrus 3024. The soul is next and finishing the section with "An Offering to the Temples".

In this interesting section, the author compares the translation of Berlin 3024 by Egyptologists R.O. Faulkner next to the translation used in this book as well as dictionary meanings of the hieroglyphs. The difference is quite shocking though at some points it is a matter of replacing words that are no longer in the lexicon such as thy, thou and wilt.

In the "Commentary" section Ms. Reed breaks down papyrus 3024 into a modern interpretation though not written in stone still a very pleasant interpretation at that. The author finishes her book with a hieroglyphic transcript of the papyrus.

The content of "Rebel in the Soul" is one of the most fascinating and spiritual papyrus' to come down to us and though very complex in it's surviving condition Bika Reed has created from it a good read with lots of food for thought.

Boat of King Den?

There are reports online reporting that a 5000 year old funerary boat supposedly belonging to the First dynasty King Den has been found at Abu Rawash. The article does not tell why it is thought to be Den's, perhaps there is a serekh of this king in relation on the boat itself or on pottery left with the ship during burial.

Photo: AFP/Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities

Friday, July 27, 2012

CLASSIC: Intact Old Kingdom Tomb

I posted this article originally on Dec. 1, 2008, it is a site not seen in 50 years an intact tomb of an Old Kingdom official is rare for most have been plundered by generations of robbers and archaeologists.

Another coup for Czech archaeologists.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Mummies A Voyage Through Eternity

Francoise Dunand and Roger Lichtenberg
Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
ISBN 0-8109-2886-8

This small colourful book opens with full page head shots of nine mummies from the necropolis at Duch excavated by the Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale in Cairo. Both authors have been involved with these excavations Francoise Dunand has directed these excavations since 1983 while Roger Lichtenberg has been in charge of X-raying, anthropological and palaeopathological studies on the mummies of the Duch necropolis.

It is hard not to like a book that illustrates the text as the pages are pretty equally shared between images and a basic rundown on the history of mummification. It is not until page 75 that I hit the first mistake but this is an error in text and not author content.

The book is easily appropriate for a young person and can be read in only a few hours. Particularly interesting are three images of a ram mummy from Elephantine being unwrapped and the image of the mummy of the "Embroideress of Antinoe".

Pages 84-85 are two pictures of Rameses II they are interesting images if not slightly strange views of the mummy. The authors finished the book off well with the available techniques we have today to study mummies without destroying them.

Images from the excavation at the Duch necropolis were some of the books highlights. The book closes with "Documents", a round-up of some of the more interesting ancient documents as well as by 19th-century investigators.

It is fitting that the book closes with a report on the work being done by Francoise Dunand and Roger Lichtenberg at the necropolis at Duch. Mummies A Voyage Through Eternity" was short, colorful and informative a good read all round.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Great Pyramid Proof of God

George R. Riffert
Destiny Publishers
Merrimac, Mass.
ISBN-13: 978-0766192232

Once again I find myself reading another book on the great pyramid of Gizeh being a bible in stone. This theory was very popular in the 19th century and including my copy of this book being the 1960 12th impression.

Many scholarly men have put forth this view as the pyramids measurements and astronomical alignments are reported to support a Christian God that has left a message within its stones.

Mr. Riffert sets the reader out with an overview of the battle between science and faith, measurements and miracles. But it is within the continuous stream of measurements that can be made difficult to grasp and follow. The author describes the great sphinx on the Gizeh plateau nearby

     "Gigantic in size, grotesque in appearance, a composite creation representing the body of a lion, the wings of an angel,and the head of a woman."1

Mr. Riffert goes on to put forward in the pyramids construction "we know that they operated bronze saws having hardened teeth set with sapphires." The author goes further "In other instances, the cutting edges must have been set with diamonds."2

The authors passion is felt if his preceding facts about the sphinx and the construction of the great pyramid were not so laughable though I have spent many hours contemplating his thoughts because the message has an underlying truth particularly if his words are viewed as parables. The pyramid is known to have been created during the reign of Cheops, the author talks about dates for its construction with some suggestion that the pyramid was built 300 years before the biblical flood and that it survived this event without damage.

The reader is informed of the opening of the pyramid in A.D. 820 by Al Mamoun who found it empty with no sign of a burial backing up Mr. Riffert's belief that unlike all other Egyptian pyramids Cheops pyramid was not built to house the corpse of Cheops but that rather the pyramid is a message.

Mr. Riffert believed it was beyond doubt that the Egyptian people could not have built it. We are told of Shepherd kings who invaded Egypt during the kings reign caused Cheops to surrender and become a vassal to the Shepherd king?

To the author this mysterious king is the architect of the great pyramid and he believes that this is the biblical patriarch Enoch and that Enoch lived the exact length of a solar cycle being 365 years. Mr. Riffert talks allot of the Egyptian book of the dead including that in it the pyramid is called the pillar of Enoch?

Interesting as he gives a quote from Reverend Seiss who wrote his book on the subject 50 years earlier.

     "Lepsius tells us that the whole land was full of temples, filled with statues of kings and gods,their walls within and without covered with colourful reliefs and hieroglyphs," "all uniformly loaded down with these idolatrous emblems and inscriptions, and in all it's long avenues, grand gallery, and exquisite chambers, in any department or place whatever, there has never been found one ancient inscription or slightest sign of Egypt's idolatry! In the center of the intensest impurity, the great pyramid stands without spot, blemish or remotest taint of the surrounding flood of abominations - like the incarnate Son of God, sinless in a world of sinners."3

In chapter VI we find Mr. Riffert challenging Professor Einstein's theory of relativity,


     "The Einstein theory of "relativity" is apt to become quite a meddlesome affair because of the manner in which it may muddle things for science."4 From here we venture back into the numbers or I should say measurements as the authors individual points become lost in fractions and numerology?

Darwin's theory of evolution is the author's next point in that he does not doubt the fossil record but that the record according to Darwin and his believers damages mankind's access to gods miraculous revelations that have been given to the people and the author is without the ability to see biology as evolutionary and that in fact his evolutionary example is far too simple, when the animal goes from worm to fish to amphibian to lizard to ape to human as preposterous.

The author perceives that evolution is not always the property of the strong but often it is the perceived weaker evolutionary step that survives? The author heads into the famous 1924 trial of Leopold and Loeb, a pair of teenage thrill killers from affluent homes.

The boys lawyer Darrow removed their responsibility for the crime based on the theory of a violent ancestor who passed this character down to the boys, and that in fact because of this meant that the boys parents were more responsible for their crime than they were.

What this has to do with the great pyramid and proof of god is beyond me though mildly entertaining. Mr. Riffert has left his pyramid argument to delve into the realm of morals and sin in an effort to rebuke Atheism which appears to be the authors underlying battle.

As we approach the end of the book it appears that the authors argument for the proof of god is that the atheist must first acknowledge god in order not to support the idea of god? Mr. Riffert goes on with his numerology.

The author quotes a plethora of people that did not add to his argument as true too to the many references to the Egyptian book of the dead which the nature of that document Mr. Riffert appears unfamiliar with.

Off the start, the books title set the bar impossibly high for me though the author's telling of the theory had its highlights and to the authors credit his telling has omitted the earlier offensive belief in the "Jew's chamber".

Certainly, for me, Mr. Riffert's beliefs were more involved in miracles and the reputing of atheism. The author lacked the graces of his forerunner Reverend Siess and by no means did I find in the "Great Pyramid Proof of God".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Mystery of Neferhotep

I recently came across this series of videos on the Theban tomb of Neferhotep. The videos cover a large amount of restoration and discoveries in the tomb and is a good view. Fascinating!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Mummy on the Boat

In the summer 2012 issue of KMT magazine, we find on pages 34 and 35 images recently found in Milan's Egyptology archives. One photograph of the mummy on the boat found in the tomb of Amenhotep II in the Valley of the Kings, KV35 displays the position of its left arm.

The mummy was stuck to the boat it was laying on and in 1901 during a robbery of the tomb the mummy was destroyed and the boat was stolen.

In the full page photograph from Victor Loret's excavation of the tomb, we find the mummy's right hand resting on his right thigh. If this is true that will eliminate this mummy from potentially being a king of the New Kingdom.

However when the mummy of the Priest-King Pinugem I, was found the mummy's hands were resting on his thighs, though this mummy appears to have become lost since it's 19th-century photograph.

The mummy may be lying in an appropriate position if he is the Priest-King Herihor whose burial would still have been fresh at the time of the recycling of the Valley of the Kings, though it was his son Pinudgem I that would have been responsible for Herihor's burial and KV35 seems an unlikely place and besides I do not know of any objects bearing Herihor in KV35.

The most obvious choice for this man is Amenhotep II's son Prince Webensenu for which a number of artifacts were found in this tomb but there is another possible contender for this prince. In the side chamber of the tomb were found three mummies two women, one now identified as Queen Tiye and the other King Tutankhamun's mother.

This to me would make this mummy part of those two ladies family even though one of his toes was found in another side chamber in the tomb. That would leave the mummy on the boat as most likely Prince Webensenu?

Theban Mapping Project

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pyramids and Progress

John Ward F.S.A.
Eyre and Spottiswoode
ISBN: 978-1169318656

Yes, I know I am writing a review of a 111-year-old book but hey I am a live one unlike the participants in this book whom all have long past into the fossil record. The book opens with a plate of 30 scarabs in the authors collection as well as a corresponding page identifying the rulers they represent. The collection is admirable with examples ranging from Khafra of the IVth Dynasty to examples of the Middle Kingdom kings and representing all of the Thutmoside kings except Thutmosis IV with scarabs well into the XXVth Dynasty including Tihirkah.

The author was also in possession of a cylinder seal of the Vth Dynasty King Nefer-Ar-Ka-Ra. Mr Ward was given the good graces of Dr. Flinders Petrie and the Egypt Exploration Fund with the introduction to the book from the Reverend Professor Sayce. The introduction by Professor Sayce is a lovely but short view of the modern restoration of this most ancient of landscapes of which Professor Sayce says,

 "Nowhere else in the world can we find the past and the present ranged as it were so closely side by side or so incongruously mingled together."

Professor Sayce gives background experience of Mr. Ward and his impressive collection of scarabs with this Professor Sayce finishes out his introduction with some off colored nineteenth century ideals of justice and morality.

Chapter one "The Doorways of Egypt" opens with a picture of a bust of Alexander the great. The author enters Egypt from port Said on the Suez canal talking about the city of Pelusium 20 miles to the east. The Pelusiac branch of the Nile having become silted up in ancient times rendered the city uninhabitable. The site having become a swamp with immense mounds covering the remains of the ancient city.

The author tells us about the history of the delta and it's cities including the men who explored this land like M. Mariette who found in the far off mounds the city of Tanis. We are confronted by a number of lovely old photos of statuary including a triad in Ismalia park.

At the railway station of Tel-El-Kebir Mr. Ward tells us that the place was where British soldiers had crushed an Arabi rebellion in 1882. The author views the graveyard and says 

     "The little graveyard, beautifully tended and walled round, contains the bones of many of our soldiers who fell on that day."

In Alexandria, the author recommends the Greco-Roman museum looked after by Dr.Botti who found that cities ancient Serapeum. Of Pompey's pillar, the author says,

      "Pompey's pillar is a noble shaft of Assouan granite". He continues "Dr.Mahaffy has proved that it was made undoubtedly from an Egyptian Obelisk."

So many wonderful old pictures of Cairo including one of the processions of a tent containing the holy carpet on its journey through the streets on it's way to Mecca. Mr. Ward says of the procession,

      "Everyone pretends to be going on the journey with it, but only a few hundreds actually make the journey."

In chapter 3 we find ourselves on the pyramid platform of Gezah, Mr. Ward tells us about the ownership of King Khufu's pyramid as identified by others in red paint on the pyramids internal blocks. Mr. Ward adds,

      "Subsequently, Dr. Petrie found a plummet with Khufu's name, in the debris, which had possibly been buried with him."

Soon it is sunrise and the elegant Mr.Ward is in the rose granite temple of Khafra on the Gizeh plateau sipping coffee made for him by the tall handsome guardian of the temple. On his journeys, the author all the while is collecting small scarabs and other small antiquities including a lovely little green basalt sphinx.

He also makes the acquaintances at Sakkarah of Morgan who takes Mr. Ward down the shaft to show him the catacombs of the Princess' where M. de Morgan found two caches of fabulous jewels belonging to the Middle Kingdom Princess'. The in situ photo of King Usertesen,s boat is one of my favorites.

The author has a good sense of humor and is soon riding a skeleton of a tiny donkey many miles to the pyramid of Medum, bareback! The pyramid having been long ago stripped by Rameses II of its casing and yet still the most impressive of ruins.

We find two facing photo's one of which is the obelisk of Heliopolis among the trees. The other is a depiction of a frieze discovered by Dr. Petrie which shows King Usertesen I dancing before the God Min, a little sign saying so has been placed over Min's penis.

The author visits the temples of Seti I and Ramses II at Abydos including their king's lists but the jewel of this chapter is the small black and white photograph of a painted wall from Seti's temple.

The fine Mr. Ward tells the reader of the Ptolemies leading to Cleopatra VII. Among the pictures of this chapter is a photo of the half buried temple of Denderah with it's many defaced reliefs.

Some of the best images are of Queen Hatasu's famous temple at Deir El Bahari including a full page image of the fluted columns of the Anubis shrine. The picture of the temple from afar reveals the unrestored monument in all its survival.

The final image of Hatasu's temple shows a colonnade littered with rubble from the cliffs above. Mr.Ward and his party visit the temples at Luxor by moonlight and has to go down several dozen steps in order to visit the interior of the partial dugout temple at Esnah in which a mosque sits on the roof.

The image of the interior and exterior facades of the temple of Kalabsheh with rubble is very impressive in the visual decay of that temple at the end of the 19th century. While the temple of Dendur stands where it stood for thousands of years and now one of the stars in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As interesting as the book is it is the last chapter and its pictures of the creation of reservoirs at Assouan and Assiout and the repair of the old barrage near Cairo in the last years on the nineteenth century that is particularly fascinating. All in all the journey is of fine class in a land before tourist amounted in the millions and when a visitor could explore Egypt as a man and not as livestock.

Pyramids and Progress

Friday, May 11, 2012

Las Tumbas Egipcias

Many thanks To Dr. Ahmed Budran who pointed this out on Facebook. Excellent video on a couple of royal tombs, Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Restoration of Hathor Temple at Philea

Restoration work on the small temple to Hathor on the Island of Philae is done in time for it's official inauguration. The temple is the creation of Ptolemy's VI and VII with extensions in the Roman period.

The restoration has included cleaning and replacement of damaged blocks as well as replacing loose blocks back to their places on the temple and like so many historic monuments undoing the damage from previous restorations.

Temple of Hathor

Image: Jeff Dahl

Monday, April 30, 2012

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 former head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities 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 photos 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,  in a wine box the commission discovered a small wooden head of the boy king emerging from a blue lotus seaming 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 Tutankhamun's tomb including gold and silver coffin nails and rosettes from the pall 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 whip stock shaped as a running horse.

In Brooklyn we find still more wonderful objects but for me it is the excellent preserved writing palette of princess Meketaten in the Met which is complete with it's 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 Canarvon 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 tomb (WV22),  which Howard Carter also excavated, or KV 20 the tomb of Hatschepsut, or KV43 tomb of Thutmosis IV which he also cleared? If he practiced the activity of pocket collecting in Tutankhamun's tomb than 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 20th 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 associates records including Lord Carnarvon and his associates.

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

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

Brooklyn Museum

Friday, April 20, 2012

3400 Year Old Book of the Dead

The British Museum's curator Dr John Taylor has located pieces of a New Kingdom book of the dead that once belonged to a high priest of Amun in around 1420 bc. The fragments are kept in the Queensland Museum but there are other pieces in various collections around the world.

The ancient Egyptian book of the dead is a continuation of the even older pyramid texts of the Old Kingdom as well as the coffin texts of Egypt's Middle Kingdom. Each book of the dead is different in the spells from the Theban recession they contain to help the dead through the underworld.

When new the book would have been very costly and placed either in the tomb or frequently within the coffin or even wrapped in with the mummy. When found King Tutankhamun was not in possession of a book of the dead

The book came to light in the nineteenth century and apparently taken apart at that time. The museum staff are delighted to have the significant document in their collection and that now the document can be published in it's entirety.

Photo Courtesy: 612 ABC Brisbane

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The First Wonder

First occurrence of Sed jubilee

Year 2 second month of the first season, day 3

This wonder which happened to his majesty : that the beasts of the highlands came down to him; there came a gazelle great with young, going with the face of the people before her, while her eyes looked backward; she did not turn back until she arrived at this august mountain, at this block, it still being in place, for this lid of this sarcophagus. She dropped her young upon it while the army of the king was looking. Then they cut off her neck before it and brought fire. It descended in safety.

Now, it was the majesty of this august god, lord of the highlands, who gave the offering to his son, Nibtowere, Mentuhotep IV, living forever, in order that his heart might be joyful, that he might live upon his throne forever and ever, that he might celebrate millions of Sed Jubilees.

The hereditary prince, count, governor of the city and vizier, chief of all nobles of judicial office, supervisor of everything in this whole land, the vizier Amenemhet.

James Breasted: The Documentary Sources of Egyptian history

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thieves Strike the Khedive Tawfiq Mausoleum

This is another sad article on a theft in Egypt. This time it is Khedive Tawfiq Mausoleum which has been the victim of theft of two elaborately embroidered pieces of cloth that were hanging in the mausoleum. The Kiswa as they are known were behind thick glass which the robbers smashed.

In the past a Saudi Arabian princess tried to bribe the elderly guard to take them with her to no avail. The Kiswa may well have been stolen for an interested party? It appears that once again the theft was made easier by the incompetence of Egyptian politicians and bureaucrats.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Louis Armstrong: Go Down Moses

Love this by the great Louis Armstrong.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Superman: The Mummy Strikes

Here is a 1943 episode of Superman "The Mummy Strikes".

An ancient inscription is translated at the Egyptian museum, the inscription is a warning about the tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Tush. As Clark Kent and party descends into the catacombs of Egypt's 18th and 20th dynasties they find evil.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

We Want Our Mummy

Here we have the 1939 Three Stooges short "We want our Mummy".

The Three Stooges are detectives hired to find the mummy of the Egyptian king Rootintootin III for $5000. During their investigation they find the mummy of king Rootintootin's queen Hottytauty which unfortunately they destroy.

Absolutely nothing in the Egyptian room of the history museum looks Egyptian!

Good for a laugh.

Tomb of the Unknown Mummy

I found this cute kids game from the fine folks at National Geographic while looking around today. Very Entertaining!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

17th Dynasty King Discovered?

The article from a couple of days ago is a misinterpretation of the story for the newly discovered king is in fact not newly discovered as he is mentioned at least twice and is known to be the grandfather of Seqenenre Tao II whose mummy is in the Cairo museum.

The name of this king is known but thought by archaeologists to be imaginary. This is just the first time that a monument inscribed for king Sen Nakht N Re has been found proving that he was a real king.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raising Amenhotep

The northern of two colossal statues which stood in front of the mortuary temple of the 18th dynasty king Amenhotep III who died in the middle of the 14th century bc has been stood up. It is a beastly piece of rubble with the exception that the great king's wife Tiye is nearly perfectly preserved near Amenhotep's right leg.

There are plans to put the head and other pieces back on to the statue as well there are also plans to return the recently found southern colossus.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

British Couple Smuggles Pile of Junk

Luxor times is running a demand for an apology to the British couple who were caught taking a pile of cheap trinkets through Luxor airport. Luxor Times has come to the defense of the couple who have been probably already convicted in the public eye.

The couple has been released from custody and an investigation has begun. Even I could tell by the picture that many of the objects pictured were clearly tacky souvenirs. No doubt the investigation will cost a fortune and people visiting Egypt may want to avoid buying souvenirs that they can buy just as easily back at home.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Khufu's Ships Burn!

The big news in Egyptology today is the excavation and restoration of King Khufu's second boat which was found in a pit next to that king's famous pyramid at Giza. The boat may well have been left protected where it lay for more than forty-five centuries to be left in reserve in the case and for when the already assembled boat is destroyed.

I cannot help but remember the two barges created for the Roman Emperor Caligula-like the one recreated above, these ships were floated on the sacred lake Nemi. The Nemi ships were built in the first century AD and are believed to have been floating palaces for the Emperor including marble floors and technological advances.
Fishermen long knew that the barges were at the bottom of the lake but it was in 1927 that Benito Mussolini ordered the ships recovered, this was made successful by draining the lake. The ships were set up in a museum built to house them but both were burned and destroyed in the Second World War.

A troubled and economically fragile country like Egypt is playing with fire by excavating and putting on display the second of King Khufu's boats. It is a perfect example of misguided intellectualism looking for a paycheck off a fragile and perishable antiquity and completely in keeping with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and its inability to properly manage Egypt's cultural heritage.

In the last year and a half an important library set up by Napoleon was burned and the Cairo museum was robbed with dozens of pieces of which many are still missing including wooden shabti belonging to the nobleman Yuya which themselves may have met the fires in Tahrir square when common sense came too and those who stole may have realized that possession of them would more than likely result in dozens of years in prison.(1)

These short-sighted people who are glorifying their work on the ship do not have any vision of what the next 20 years and beyond will hold in the tumultuous Middle East including Egypt. The project to excavate the ship is held up as science and this so called science will inevitably result in the loss of the subject.

Now that the pit is open perhaps a better plan will be to restore the ships elements, repack and reseal the pit to protect it for those Egyptian's who will live in a distant time in the future and only be seen again at the appropriate time when it's counterpart has been destroyed.

Too bad Italy's former dictator Mussolini and Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities have this archaeology in common and have both been unable to see the wisdom of leaving one of their ships where it had been safe for thousands of years.

Reconstruction of the Nemi ship: Gelo4
Photo of Khufu's ship: Berthold Werner
(1). Valley of Golden Mummies by Zahi Hawass pg. 13

Update on damage created to the second boat during excavation in August 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discovering King Tut

Here is an article on the discovery of Tutankhamun in the Valley of Kings in 1922 and in particular the opening of the boy kings burial chamber on this day 89 years ago. The article is a familiar story involving a most famous cast of Egyptologists.

The article goes on to mention the return in recent years from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 19 pieces from the tomb.

Photo: Dalbera

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Animal Mummies and a Mysterious Statue

This past summer a team of archaeologists led by professor Mary-Ann Pouls Wegner of the University of Toronto found the tomb of a priest at Abydos and temple storerooms including the discovery of 85 animal mummies. The mummies appear to be mostly dogs though there were also cats and other animals which were sacrificed and packed tightly in the small chamber. At some point a robbery occurred in which the mummies were disturbed and fell apart.

Also nearby in the next door chamber was the half rotted statue of a king. After cleaning encrusted mud and termite droppings off the statue it was found to have a narrow waist which some wish to believe that it represents the female ruler Hatshepsut. If so it would be the only known wooden statue of Hatshepsut though will be hard to prove.

The tomb is that of a priest with a name which involves the goddess Isis. The tomb contained shabti's and human remains.

Photo: North Abydos Votive Zone Project

Monday, January 30, 2012

Egyptian Art at the British Museum

Here we have a 40 minute video that Mr. Michael Harding has taken of the Egyptian collection in the British museum. Mr. Harding is a stickler for details and this video displays this talent with some remarkable up close shots of inscriptions and details.

This video will present objects rarely seen in publications and especially if the viewer has not been to the museum. Very interesting as he approaches the famous barque of Mutemwia from behind and to it's left the falcon on the barque comes into view beautifully and he quickly passes by the rarely seen head of Queen Mutemwia from the statue.

The famous burial equipment of the 19th dynasty lady of the house Henutmeyhet is seen but most interesting is the remains of her mummy stuck to the bottom of her inner coffin. The video also shows one of the less marketed mummies in the museums collection.

Michael Harding: Westcoast Adventures

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rediscovering a lost Temple

Czech archaeologists have uncovered a temple in the Sudan that was last seen in the 19th century then was buried by the desert and forgotten. The temple is dated to the Meroe period from the 4th century bc to the 4th century ad and is located 130 km north of Khartoum.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Chantress of Amun

This is a very interesting post that Andie Byrnes has created which includes a report in English on the newly discovered tomb in the Valley of Kings from the University of Basel.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Picture of the Singer of Amun from Kv 64

Here is a short article with a picture of the coffin as found in the tomb in the Valley of Kings. The singer in the coffins name is Nehmes Bastet. Her name is associated with the cat god Bastet.

Note the small stela next to the feet of the coffin.

The King and the Body guard

Found this picture and just thought it was interesting. Note the size of the hidden mummy of Thutmosis II next to the huge uncovered mummy of the bodyguard Nebseni.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

KV 64 Found?

The web is abuzz over the possibility that a tomb has been found in the Valley of Kings on the path leading to the tomb of Tuthmosis III. The reports are as yet unconfirmed though this article claims a Swiss mission lead by Dr. Gross is saying it is true.

I found this article at Jane Akshar's Luxor News and though the original article is in Arabic with typically poor translation but it can be read through the lines.

Photo by Hajor

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Three Old Kingdom Statuettes in the Brooklyn Museum

This lovely alabaster statuette from the Brooklyn Museum is just over 39 cm tall and is of Queen Ankhnes-meryre II with her son King Pepy II seated on her lap,(39.119). Pepy II is the second last king of Egypt's Sixth Dynasty and the Old Kingdom with dates for his reign being approximately 2278-2184bc. (1)

The statuette which is without provenance is composed with the larger queen seated on a throne facing forward while King Pepy II is seated on her lap facing right with a base supporting his feet. There is a parallel of the statuette in limestone in Cairo (JE 44866) coincidentally almost the same size though the throne is handled different in that Amarna example.

In the Brooklyn Museum's statuette of Ankhnes-meryre the queens head is disproportionately large for her body and a ureaus of another material appears to have been removed from her forehead while King Pepy is displayed as a small child with the features of an adult in correct proportions. Ankhnes-meryre places her left hand on Pepy's back and with her awkward stiff looking right arm places her right hand on Pepy's knees, the king resting his left hand on his mothers.

The whole composition of the piece is one of royal dignity and affection between a mother and son yet there is an element of detachment between the two where Pepy appears to be falling away from his mother, no tender embrace here.

I could not help but notice that in both Brooklyn's statuette and Cairo's that the child's feet in both compositions is closer to the adult subjects of the sculptures with the child's body leaning outward from the adults but that in Cairo's piece is successfully rendered by the child's head turning to kiss her father, Whereas in Brooklyn the tenderness of the composition is lost by impracticality of the size of Ankhnes-meryre's head and King Pepy stares straight ahead looking more like a doll than an actual person.

To my knowledge there are only two known images of King Pepy II both of which depict him as a child making Brooklyn's statuette the most impressive identified image of this long ruling king. Where in Egyptian history this image of Ankhnes-meryre and Pepy II was created may come with further evidence in the form of a smaller alabaster statuette also in the Brooklyn Museum.

The alabaster statuette of King Pepy I (39.120), Pepy I sits on his throne with the falcon Horus resting on the back of the throne facing the king's left.

Again the statuette is without a find spot and yes the beauty of the stone is warm much like the Ankhnes-meryre statuette aforementioned and again in very pristine condition with minor damage to King Pepy's crown. Like Ankhnes-meryre, Pepy I's head is too large for the body, the girth of his head being only slightly smaller than the king's waist.

Certainly King Pepi I will win no prizes for his weak shivering legs which appear to be too small for the rest of the figure while the white crown has a wonky appearance and perhaps even the height of the crown appears exaggerated. I am not looking at a great work of art even though it has its charms.

I feel safe in the familiarity that each of the two statuettes have in common that they both come from the same source and perhaps even the same hand though the little questionable details for me make them unlikely to have belonged to the production of the royal workshop. 

What type of situation were they created for a temple, a gift from the king to someone at court perhaps for their tomb? If I am right and they were created at the same time that would make them no earlier than Pepy II. I am again reminded of the unfinished limestone piece in Cairo (JE 44866) with its similarity of size and subject though the actors are very different.

Could Brooklyn's Statuettes belong to the Amarna period and have been a program finished or unfinished of a hall of ancestors at Tell el Amarna where the Cairo example was found unfinished?

This is quite a stretch and I am sure that equally good arguments could probably be made for many periods hundred years after the reign of Pepy II? There is still for me that statuette in Cairo (JE 44866) found at Tell el Amarna in that controversial year of 1912. Could that statuette be the model used as a subject for the carving of Brooklyn's Ankhnes-meryre in modern times after 1912?

Further evidence must be found in the cost of the raw block of stone which I would imagine was expensive for such vulgar carving of Ankhness-meryre's head which should have been corrected as there is enough stone in the volume of the head to be reworked to create a more naturalistic appearance but apparently this was not important?
Let's look at a third royal statuette of the Old Kingdom in the Brooklyn Museum, we come to (39.121) a statuette of King Pepi I which bears a grotesque spacey smile. The hands and toes of the king are exaggerated and the right side of the lips goes up while the left side goes down? In statuary of the Old Kingdom the king is usually expressionless, he is not happy, he is not sad but firm.

This king has been perhaps thoughtfully damaged as the base is broken in such a way that it did not cause greater damage to the arms where the breakage to the right arm is a very clean separation with no appearance of shattering that I might expect, perhaps this is a repair and very clean at that? The back of the base is poorly carved and we can see that the king's collar bones are very amateurish.

Three statuettes of Old Kingdom kings all with technical issues leaves me with more questions than answers. I am by no means an expert but I started writing an article on one statuette and now am dealing with three statuettes consecutively numbered in the museum register.

As for the stones the statuettes are carved from the greywhack is most likely from the wadi Hammamat and is perfectly in vogue during the fifth and sixth dynasties as a number of kings from these dynasties had their sarcophagus' carved from it.(2) Alabaster or Travertine is found in a couple of places in Egypt and was also fashionable in the Old Kingdom perhaps most famously represented in the smashed colossal statue of King Menkaure,(09.204) in Boston, found by George Riesner in the kings mortuary temple next to his pyramid at Giza (3).

 So the stones for our statuettes are in compliance with royal statuary of the Old Kingdom but based on the flaws in carving I would place them no earlier than the First Intermediate period. It is in the Eighth Dynasty we find rulers at Memphis identifying themselves with the kings of the Sixth Dynasty (4).

Believed to be the last pyramid built at Saqqara the small pyramid is inscribed as belonging to the Eighth Dynasty King Qakare Ibi. The Seventh and Eighth Dynasties make up less than sixty years ruling from ca. 2181-2125 B.C.(5) a date for the sculptures creation somewhere within perhaps even for King Ibi's propaganda scheme at his pyramid though the Turin Canon only attributes two years of rule to the king(6).

The Memphite King Ibi may not have had access to the finest sculptors and on a severely scaled down tax revenues these three sculptures may represent the best he could get. The fine preservation of the Brooklyn statuettes may be the result that the conquering Eleventh Dynasty stripped and buried Ibi's statues to remove his status as a king leaving the delicate statuettes buried and out of harm's way for the last 4000 years.

The true answers to these three statuettes may someday be found in photographs whether in situ or in a modern craftsman's personal catalogue. I have to admit with all this said I am still only fifty fifty whether they are ancient or modern but believe I have located where in ancient Egyptian art history I would consider they are from.

Statuette of Ankhnes-Meryre
Medium: Egyptian alabaster
Possible Place Collected: Upper Egypt, Egypt
Dates: ca. 2288-2224 or 2194 B.C.E.
Dynasty: VI Dynasty
Period: Old Kingdom
Dimensions: 15 7/16 x 9 13/16in. (39.2 x 24.9cm)
Collections: Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
Museum Location:  This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Accession Number: 39.119
  • Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
  • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Caption: Statuette of Queen Ankhnes-meryre II and her Son, Pepy II, ca. 2288-2224 or 2194 B.C.E. Egyptian alabaster, 15 7/16 x 9 13/16in. (39.2 x 24.9cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 39.119. Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Image: front, 39.119_front_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
  • Record Completeness: Best (92%)
Statuette of Pepy II
Medium: Egyptian alabaster
Possible Place Collected: Southern Egypt, Egypt
Dates: ca. 2338-2298 B.C.E.
Statuette of Pepy I
  • Medium: Greywacke, alabaster, obsidian, copper
  • Possible Place Collected: Upper Egypt, Egypt
  • Dates: ca. 2338-2298 B.C.E.
  • Dynasty: VI Dynasty
  • Period: Old Kingdom
  • Dimensions: 6 x 1 13/16 x 3 9/16 in. (15.2 x 4.6 x 9 cm)
  • Collections: Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
  • Museum Location:  This item is not on view
  • Accession Number: 39.121
  • Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
  • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Caption: Kneeling Statuette of Pepy I, ca. 2338-2298 B.C.E. Greywacke, alabaster, obsidian, copper, 6 x 1 13/16 x 3 9/16 in. (15.2 x 4.6 x 9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 39.121. Creative Commons-BY-NC
  • Image: front, 39.121_front_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
  • Catalogue Description: Small green slate kneeling figure of Mr-read more...
  • Record Completeness: Best (92%)
1. Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum pg.260
2. Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, pg.57
3. MFA Highlites: Arts of Ancient Egypt, pg. 80-81
4. James H. Breasted: A History of the Ancient Egyptians, 133-134 
5. Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum pg.260
6.. J. von Beckerath, The Date of the End of the Old Kingdom, JNES 21 (1962), p. 143