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

Monday, January 9, 2012

Crocodile Museum to open in January

This is a short article about the opening of this museum after 3 years of construction. The museums collection includes 40 crocodile mummies from 2-5 meters as well as statuary of the crocodile god Sobek. Sounds to me to be a little to specific and a total snooze fest.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kv 63 Postponed

Dr, Schaden has postponed the 2012 season in tombs number 10 and 63 in the Valley of the Kings due to reoccurring health issues, May Dr. Schaden get well soon!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Making of Modern Egypt

Sir Auckland Colvin
K.C.S.I., K.C.M.G., C.I.E.
Thomas Nelson & Sons

This lovely small blue book opens with a picture of Lord Cromer, British Comptroller-General of Egypt in 1879 and later from 1883-1907 as British Council-General of Egypt. Sir Auckland Colvin was Comptroller-General in Egypt, 1880-1882, and a financial adviser to the Khedive. The book also has a lovely foldout map of Egypt and the Sudan.

Sir Colvin begins "In the course of the year 1882 an outbreak of anarchy in Egypt led to British occupation.". The troubles of which Sir Colvin speaks began a number of decades earlier saying "the sources of the military revolt and popular disorder may be traced in the policy and practice of the reigning dynasty of Egypt, from the days of its founder Muhammad Ali to the expulsion of Ismail Pasha.".

In 1863 at the accession of Ismail Pasha, Egypt's debt amounted to less than four million sterling, and upon his expulsion on June 25, 1879, more than one hundred million pounds sterling. This led in January of 1882 to a Joint Note of "aggressive tone", to the Egyptian government by the governments of Great Britain and France.

Sir Colvin tells us "Opportunity was taken of the incident of the Joint Note and of the six months' interval that followed to induce the mass of the population to believe that the jealousies of the two Western Powers   would prevent their co-operation and that the debts of the fellaheen would be wiped out by the Egyptian party now in power.".

"It would be presumably beside the point to ask whether in 1882 there existed in Egypt any potentiality of self-government. For in spite of all evidence to the contrary, men will still maintain that the mere gift of popular institutions brings with it the capacity for freedom."

At the expulsion of Ismail Pasha his son Tewfik Pasha became Egypt's ruler controlled by the Sultan in Constantinople. We are informed by Sir Colvin "Between June 2nd and 5th, British and French ironclads appeared at Alexandria, and on the 11th of June Alexandria responded by breaking out into riot and bloodshed, in which many European lives were sacrificed."

Sir Colvin continues "On July 11th the forts of Alexandria were bombarded by the British fleet; the French fleet under instructions from its Government, having steamed out of the port of Alexandria prior to hostile operations." These operations would not be long and as a result, the Egyptian army surrendered on the 14th of September 1882.

Lord Dufferin arrived on the 7th of November to "advise the British Government as to the state of affairs in  Egypt" and to propose how to rebuild its administration. An international Caisse was set up of representatives of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Turkey which were made responsible for collection and expenditure of Egypt's economy. All revenue goes to this Caisse, not the Egyptian government to manage the various debts of the country including as a high priority repayment of damages to the European victims of the riots in Alexandria in 1882.

All debts must be first managed as well as the infrastructure of Egypt needs to be maintained and improved, such as the countries irrigation systems. By about now you will realize that you are in a retelling of the legacy of English lords and knights of her majesties realm in her period of empire and Sir Auckland Colvin intends on telling it to the last pound sterling.

"The maximum issue of silver token money was not to exceed 40 piastres per head of population; the nickel and bronze coins being limited to a ratio of 8 piastres per head. The total to be ultimately issued was not to exceed L(E).2,720,000 in silver and L(E).544,000 in copper and bronze. Silver was made legal tender up to a maximum of 200 piastres; nickel and bronze up to a maximum of 10 piastres."

The book is an excellent account of Egypt's economy at the period however as books go this is very dry and detailed and definitely not for those looking for a story of monuments.

This is a detailed study of international economics on Egypt and the causes by which colonialism stemmed including the mechanisms employed in rebuilding the Egyptian economy at the turn of the last century. Whatever one thinks of colonialism we find here that history is written in the name of the empire in The Making of Modern Egypt.