Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Year 2013 in Egyptology

           Dedicated to Sameh Ahmed Abdel Hafiz who this year
              lost his life in the storming of the Malawi Museum

January brought finds in the mortuary complex of Amenhotep II which were found late period burials. This news was better than the end of last year which saw the kings mummy in the Cairo museum have one of his toes fall off, don't you just hate when that happens!

Through out the spring discoveries were coming in at the excavations in the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, but it was in early February that colossal statues of the king were rediscovered with a view to re-erect them.

March started off with a sewage pipe bursting in the boat museum next to the great pyramid at Giza, no damage occurred to the boat but the message was clear that the boat would not last forever and that perhaps a reason for the second boat currently being restored to be resealed back in its pit for a distant future.

By the middle of April a port was discovered bearing stones with the IV Dynasty King Khufu's cartouches as well as a rare discovery of dozens of Old Kingdom papyrus' in nearby caves.

May brought an unfortunate act of graffiti at Luxor temple when a teenage tourist scratched his name into a relief much to the regret of his nation.

From July archaeologists working in northern Israel found the paws of a statue of a sphinx of the IV Dynasty Egyptian King Mycerinus. The sphinx, the only one known of for this king from the 27th century BC was probably brought to Israel a thousand years after its creation perhaps as plunder or diplomatic gift, the excavators are hoping the rest of the statue is nearby!

By July Egypt's elected President Morsi had granted himself unlimited powers to legislate above judicial review, with this a military council which included the defense minister, opposition leader and the new Coptic pope came to decision with the end result on July 3 President Morsi was arrested and removed from office.

The beginning of August brought continuing chaos and six stone fragments of ancient sculpture including a red granite fragment of a statue of a kings throne came to light. The artifacts were declared stolen when they were brought to Christie's auction house to be sold.

 The years great tragedy comes from the middle of August when the Malawi Museum was stormed by protesters who killed the ticket taker and stole just about everything in the museum including  a statuette of a daughter of Akhenaten the heretic Pharaoh. The statuette was recovered by police along with about 800 of the 1050 artifacts stolen are now back?

September contained perhaps this years biggest mystery when beautiful props of a fully prepared Egyptian mummy and its coffin were found in a German attic by a 10 year old boy. X-rays showed that the mummy has a skull and skeleton which appeared to be bedecked in a full set of jewels beneath its modern machine woven wrappings. Further investigation showed the skull was real while the skeleton was a plastic anatomy specimen.

As September ended The Search for Alexander was very well received but more exciting are the experts at the Cairo museum who announced that objects which had been damaged in the attack on the museum in 2011 were ready to be put back on display including this very wonderful statue which I can imagine crumbling in the robbers hand and which is an amazing triumph of the art of restoration. A great highlight for the year!

This years list contains the discovery of yet more repulsive statues of Ramses II, will it ever end? And if you were to judge the power of an ancient Egyptian god on the number of statues, Sekhmet would right up there and this year even more were discovered both in excavations and on the international art market.

Of the years posts must be mentioned last Decembers contributions  "Animal Tombs in the Valley of Kings" and "Jewels of the Pharaohs" have been the big runners of the year by more than two to one for every other article this year. More recent, the reviews "Eternal Egypt" and "Mummies: Life after Death in Ancient Egypt" are the runners.

I wish to thank my readers for their support in 2013 and look forward to the next exciting year in Egyptology,  particularly I wish 2014 to bring peace, prosperity for all, and for the tourists to come home to Egypt.



1) Al Ahram
2) Boat Museum photo: Berthold Werner
3) Old Kingdom Papyrus: Luxor times 
4) Fake Mummy Lutz-Wolfgang Kettler
5)  Tutankhamun statuette Luxor Times
6) Ramses II statue Al Ahram

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Coming Home from America

This has certainly been a year of international co-operation in the preservation of Egypt's heritage, though causes of the industry remain at odds with the intellectual desire to preserve everything in a museum drawer or others acquiring beautiful ancient objects for personal collections.

This is an article on a number of artifacts including coffins confiscated at New York city customs in 2011 and on their way back to Egypt in the coming year. The objects have probably come from illegal digs and also include Middle Kingdom artifacts.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Egypt to the End of the Old Kingdom

Cyril Aldred
McGraw-Hill Company
New York
ISBN: 9780070009950

This short book is particularly for the young as it is easy to read and understand with good reliable information. Part of what makes this book accessible to all ages is a good assortment of images which directly explain what the author is talking about.

As a person who has read many excavation reports and books on Egyptology and archaeology it is always a delight to find new information I have not heard before and images of artifacts that I have not seen before and this book has them both.

Too often Egyptian art is represented by the famous pieces, this tends to limit the imagination of the reader, but the pictures in, Egypt to the end of the Old Kingdom, are of many equally great objects though lesser known, making the book an interesting and thought worthy view of the subjects presented.

To the credit of the late Cyril Aldred belongs another fine book that will be the basis to a solid foundation of a young person's knowledge of ancient Egypt to the end of the Old Kingdom.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Crypt Full of Mummies

This is an article on a medieval crypt recently discovered in Northern Sudan which may contain the remains of a powerful archbishop. The whitewashed walls of the tomb have been heavily inscribed with Christian writings in Greek and Coptic meant to protect the occupants.

The crypt contained the remains of seven men older than 40 years and lightly dressed in linen though much of the material has disintegrated.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Minbar to be Restored

Some unfortunate soul stole parts of the minbar from the mosque of Ghanim Al Balwan back in 2008 which have now turned up in Denmark. A Danish court has ordered the pieces be returned to Egypt. where they will be restored to the minbar.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Egypt by H. H. Powers

Harry H. Powers
The University Travel Series
The Macmillan Company

Right from the start of this pocket-sized book by Harry Powers the author appears to be a bit of a pessimist as his journey takes him to Egypt from Madeira the author says " the thoughtful traveler will view Madeira with mingled feelings. The shadows in the picture are due less to depravity (largely imported) than to sheer backwardness." Our guide goes on to say of Monte Carlo "It used to hide its depravity under a certain tone and elegance."

Having, at last, arrived in Egypt our friend Harry begins describing the things to see including Pompey's pillar of which he says "a huge and meaningless shaft of uncertain origin concerning which little is known except that it had nothing to do with Pompey."

After a "monotonous" but interesting journey to Cairo our friend tours various mosques and provides some very interesting descriptions of a few of the most important but also points out the shoddy construction and dilapidated conditions of the buildings.

The author is clearly a learned man with great insight on the subject of the arts of the individual periods taking the reader to less viewed displays in the Cairo museum and though the authors chronology is off he is not off by that much. As our guide makes his way around Egypt in chronological order he describes which sites to see and those that hold little interest.

In the pyramid fields Powers describes the pyramids and tombs from the poorly constructed step pyramid of king Djoser to the "false Pyramid of Meidum" but being suitably impressed by the pyramid of Khufu the author goes on to give Herodotus' account of it's building. The book has many nice but small images including one unfortunately labeled "Sarcophagus of King Khufu, Cairo museum".

The mastabas of Ti and Ptah-hotep at Sakkara very much impressed and are a recommended visit for their beautiful reliefs of the everyday life of the ancient Egyptians also at Sakkara the author visits the Serapeum remarking on the poor engraving on the massive sarcophagus' and a review of that cult.

Our friend Powers recommends the middle kingdom tombs at Beni Hassan not for their colorful but inferior images but for their architecture including the introduction of the Doric column and the development of the Egyptian column thereafter. Assiout's badly damaged middle kingdom tombs stand as great square caves with little left of interest except of course the magnificent view of the Nile valley from them.

We find ourselves at Thebes because the author wishes us to walk the temple of Mentuhotep II at Deir el Bahri talking about the architectural concept of the building. The author then goes on to Luxor and the period of the empire with an excellent overview of the decline of the second intermediate period with the rise of the eighteenth dynasty kings.

Our guide Powers gives an out of date explanation of the order of the Thutmoside rulers with the order given going: Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III,-Hatshepsut,-Thutmosis III,-Thutmosis II, not all that uncommon interpretation for the early 1920's. The black and white picture of Hatshepsut's obelisk is a gem.

The author goes on with the evolution of Karnak from the missing middle kingdom temple to the ever grander elements added by the Thutmoside and Ramaside kings. Powers, in the end sees the overview of the chaotic construction of the temple lacking in overall vision for the complex.

With some excellent old photographs, our friend makes his way through the Valley of Kings and recommends the viewer see a hand full of tombs including those of Thutmosis III, Amenhotep II, Seti I and Rameses VI.

We find Powers stopping in front of the well in the tomb of Amenhotep II pondering the human skeletons found at the bottom of it and wondering "Were these the builders of the tomb murdered that its secret might die with them? Or were they grave robbers who fell in here and were unable to escape?"

Our guide ends this journey in the valley with a visit to the tomb of Merenptah descending to its burial chamber to view the figure on the lid of the sarcophagus left there. Interesting though the author acknowledges the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun he says nothing else about.

As we make our way upstream the author breaks from his chronology to talk about the remarkable Ptolemaic temples of Kom Ombo, Edfu, Esna, and Dendera. At Esna, we find the beautifully preserved temple still buried deep in the mud and hidden from view surrounded by houses. While on his return journey the author can see the temple of Dendera from his boat, with our friend Powers disembarking the boat to cross fields of beautiful opium poppies to reach the temple.

Our guide takes us past the partly flooded island of Philae and on to Abu Simbel past the cataracts and the back down the Nile finishing off at Abydos and the reliefs on the temple of Seti I. The author from here discusses the history of art from the early reliefs at Sakkara to the reliefs found in this temple.

I can say after having read this book that it was well worth my time though one must be warned the author has a habit of looking down on those less than English types. Egypt by Harry Powers is an interesting place to see with the authors old fashion views forgivable to his knowledge of the history of Egyptian art.

The Ancient Nobles of Armant

Archaeologists working at the temple of Montu at Armant have had good pickings recently with the discovery of five heads with crowns, said to be of Middle Kingdom period and now two statues of nobles though without their heads.

The first is of an 18th Dynasty royal scribe and physician named Nebamon who is seated with a naos on his lap containing the God Montu. The second statue is from the 19th Dynasty, reign of King Ramses II of a high priest of Montu, called Ramose.

Ramose is already known through another statue and a representation in the Theban tomb of Khonsu.

Photo: J. Maucor

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Ambassadors of Ancient Egyptian Art

This is a list of some of the most important Egyptian artifacts not the property of Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities including the silver cult statue of Horus the Elder from the Miho Museum. This 36+ pound silver statue was once covered in thick gold sheeting and may well be the only surviving cult statue taken care of in its temple by its priests.

1. Rosetta stone (EA 24)- Discovered in the foundations of a fort at Rosseta by Napoleon's men in 1798 the stone was handed over to the British in the treaty of Alexandria in 1801. The stone was given to King George III who in turn donated it to the British Museum.

It is in fact the Rosseta stones modern history that gives its importance in the learning to read the Egyptian hieroglyphs, otherwise the stone would be of limited importance to ancient Egyptian history.

2. Calcite sarcophagus of "Seti the Great"-The sarcophagus of the Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I collected by Giovanni Belzoni. The sarcophagus rested in the British Museum for a time before it was rejected  in 1824 by trustees of the British Museum and was snapped up by Sir John Soane as the star attraction in his Soane Museum, London.

This has almost always been seen as a mistake by the trustees but it must be remembered that the museum had just spent a wad of cash on acquiring the Parthenon marbles. An amazing moment when not one but two amazing finds comes on to the market at the same time, and I myself would take the marbles also.

3. Limestone bust of Nefertiti - Discovered by archaeologists at Tel el Amarna in December of 1912, its acquisition for Berlin through division of finds is perhaps the most controversial decision made by representatives of Egypt's antiquity authorities. The bust is currently in Berlin's Neues Museum. The bust may well be the piece that the Egyptian antiquities authority most misses not having, that or the Rosseta stone?

4. The Sarcophagus of Ramses III (Louvre D1=N337), its lid in the Fitzwilliam (E.1.1823) - The box was collected by showman Giovanni Belzoni in 1816 for the collection of British Consul-General Henry Salt and was acquired for the collection of the Louvre in the early 1820's. since Mr. Belzoni was only asked to collect the sarcophagus box for Consul-General Salt, Mr. Belzoni claimed the sarcophagus' lid for himself thus the lid ended up in the Fitzwilliam Museum separate from its box, unfortunately.

5. Sarcophagus of Nectanebo II (EA 10) - Discovered being used as a ritual bath in the courtyard of a mosque by Napoleon's men, it was transferred to the British in the treaty of Alexandria in 1801. The sarcophagus is at present in the British museum.


6. Doorjambs from the hall of beauties in the tomb of Seti I - In an act of vile arrogance two scenes were sawed from the walls of Seti's tomb (Kv17) in the Valley of Kings by the Champollion and Rosselini expedition of the late 1820's. The doorjambs were collected for the Louvre and Turin Museums.

7. The Denderah Zodiac - In another disgraceful colonial act the zodiac was taken from the little temple on the roof of the temple of Hathor at Denderah. The temple was badly damaged by the zodiacs removal in 1820, the ceiling is now in the Louvre.

8. The Berlin green head - Truly a masterpiece of portrait sculpture in the round unfortunately the Berlin head has no notable provenance the piece being given to the museum by benefactor James Simon who also owned the bust of Nefertiti represented in this article. The head has the quality of the royal work shops and may well represent a high official of the late to Ptolemaic periods.

9. The Norbert Schimmel Talatats-  These Amarna period architectural blocks from the middle of the 14th century B.C. are a fortunate survival as the result of the Pharaoh Akhenaten becoming an immediate enemy to the state and his unusual monuments were dismantled being used as fill in his successors monuments, thus the fine preservation. This particular block displays another feature of the Amarna royal monuments in that the kings wives iconography's are often usurped by their successors as this talatat may be re-carved from a former kings wife to a daughter of the king, the result of two women of the kings court being represented.

10. Statue of Ramses II in the Turin Museum- For a king that ruled more than six decades creating  countless statues of himself this is certainly the finest, entering the Turin Museum in a number of pieces, its quality obvious. The statue was acquired in the early 19th century by Consul-General Drovetti and bought with a large collection including a number of very fine statues.

11. Bronze bust of Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Amenemhet III - A collection of Middle Kingdom bronzes came to light some years ago with the best pieces including the bust of the king ending up in the George Ortiz collection in Switzerland as provenance unknown. The collection also includes statuettes of a queen and named viziers each in themselves important.

12. Gold Crown of a Wife of Thutmosis III- Locals found the tomb of three wives of Thutmosis III in 1916 breaking the assemblage of jewels into a number of different lots which were acquired and reassembled by the conservators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

A very prestigious list of ancient Egyptian art of the first rank, objects that are only a few among many gracing some of the best collections in the world. These pieces are in themselves some of Egypt's most important ambassadors protected well in some of the finest museums and collections that can preserve ancient Egypt from all corners of the world.

Header: Vulture Ceiling, Global Egyptian Museum
1. Rosseta Stone by Hans Hillewaert
2.  Sarcophagus of Seti I by Martin Churchill
3. Bust of Nefertiti by Federico Cinquepalmi
5. Nectanebo II sarcophagus by Michael Harding
8. Berlin Green head by Keith Schengili-Roberts
9. "Relief of Queen Kiya [Egyptian]" (1985.328.8) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History . New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)
11. George Ortiz collection, Photo: Al Ahram 
12. Gold Crown AnnekeBart

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gift of the Nile

Timothy R. Roberts
Metro Books
Friedman/Fairfax Publishers
ISBN: 1-56799-585-3

I guess this book has been on the shelf for a few yeas because it is large and slightly cumbersome and I had not been familiar with the authors work. The book opens with a nice map of Egypt and a layout that would be appropriate to a young person, though the size is bound to be a challenge.

The two-page timeline presents interesting tidbits to represent periods and dynasties. Chapter one starts with a two-page photo of a beautiful double pot from the Pre-Dynastic period known to archaeologists as Naqada period, from the site of discoveries.

The author takes the reader to the earliest Egyptian's who left behind mass quantities of crude stone axes to the Aterian culture and a graveyard numbered 117 which possesses evidence of early practices in agriculture. Within just four pages we are presented with four objects rarely published and remarkable in content. Mr. Roberts moves on to the Bardarian and Merimdan cultures taking us from the prehistoric to the edge of the dynastic period.

"People such as the notorious French art dealer Jacques de Morgan ransacked sites for large and spectacular pieces of art to sell in Paris. The worst of the lot, however, was Emile Amelineau, who not only shared de Morgan's lust for the flashy, salable pieces but also smashed less spectacular examples of art to drive up the value of those he chose to keep."

These are two examples of archaeology of the first hundred years in Egypt, which was that of treasure hunting until Sir Flinders Petrie, with the author laying down the work of the man known as the grandfather of archaeology, in this case particularly the work Sir Petrie did at the site of Naqada in the years of 1894-95.

Mr. Roberts is onto the origins of the Egyptian state leading up to 3100 B.C. using examples of the mace head of Scorpion and the Narmer palette as the leading documents of the period to describe the rise of kings of the two lands at that date.

We are onto ancient Egypt's Archaic period and Old Kingdom beginning with the Archaic Dynasties I, II, which are explored with the power of the kings and the tombs at Saqqara and Abydos. This takes the reader into the age of the pyramids and its leading architect Imhotep erecting his King, Djoser's funerary monument.

The usual evolution of the pyramids from Djoser to Khufu and on is dealt with including the burials of other nobles of the pyramid age particularly Khufu's mother Hetepheres and Khufu's successors Khafra and Menkaura. Some of the ancient Egyptian histories best-carved reliefs also come from this age with beautifully sculpted walls displaying everyday activity.

The author explores the literature of the Old Kingdom leading with the pyramid texts but also including medical texts and manuals of behavior. In contrasting images, we have on one page a luxurious servant statue making beer completely painted while on the opposite page the viewer sees the "famine relief" from King Unas' causeway.

Mr. Roberts moves on to the First Intermediate period as well as the Middle Kingdom period in the following chapter starting with the breakdown of central authority and the rise of numerous petty kings who ascend the throne only to be overthrown in an age of chaos. The ninety years of the First intermediate period comes to an end and the ancient Egyptian's now found themselves under the rule of two dominant powers at Thebes and Herakleopolis with the rulers of Thebes uniting Lower and Upper Egypt establishing the XI Dynasty.

We are presented with the democratization of the afterlife and the rise in the use of shabti figure to do the owners bidding in the afterlife. The author talks about the rise of the cult of Isis and Osiris in which with the right spells anyone could now become an Osiris and rise again in the underworld to live.

As the XI Dynasty ends we find the Kings Vizier Amenemhet rising to the position of king founding the XII Dynasty and ancient Egypt's "Classical Period". The kings of the XII Dynasty set out a program to engineer the Fayum oasis while taking control of the nomarchs that might test the kings strength resulting in the epoch of the Middle kingdom in the reigns of Senwosret III and his son Amenemhet III.

For all the glory of the period, the monuments of these kings have not survived including sadly Amenemhet III's famous labyrinth where the king's mummy was interred in one of fifteen hundred rooms under the labyrinth surrounded by mummified crocodiles. The literature of the period included the development of the coffin texts to the Egyptian book of the dead.

There is a mistake on pg. 71 which depicts a lovely winged scarab jewel described by the author as "A typical scarab from the Middle Kingdom Period..", yes, I didn't think, Period, needed to be capitalized though a little more concerning that the image of the winged scarab jewel described spells out "Nebkheperure", Tutankhamun's throne name!

The science and medicine of the Middle Kingdom is fascinating particularly the medical texts of the time with among the cures a successful remedy for contraception. The Middle Kingdom town of Kahun was lived in during the building of Senwosret II's pyramid complex at Lahun and its preserved remains have left evidence of the homes and daily life in the town, a town that had only one way in and one way out.

The death of Amenemhet IV finds the royal household without a male heir so Queen Sobekneferu reigns until 1783 BC. The breakdown of central authority is not the collapse of the Old Kingdom but a period of bureaucratic realignment in the XIIIth Dynasty with its first ruler Wegaf the first of seventy kings of this dynasty.

The fragmentation of power leads to foreign kings occupying the delta under Dynasties XV &XVI with Dynasty XVII at Thebes. The limited power of many of these kings have left few monuments and many of the kings of the era are represented by nothing more than their names from an ancient list.

The conquest of the Hyksos by the Theban King Ahmosis unites Egypt and founds the XVIII Dynasty, the New Kingdom and the start of the empire. Again we find another remarkable photo, this time, it is an image of the mummy of King Rameses II showing that his genitalia has been torn off.

It disheartens myself that with this well-told story I find the mistakes though to a degree I wonder how much was unseen in the proofread book and/or whether the editor was unfamiliar with ancient Egypt. The mistakes include a number of misidentified beings, while Amun's wife is not Khons and their son is not Mut or that now Khnum, the potter is accorded as a goddess, these are incorrect!

The line of XVIIIth Dynasty kings is laid down in an easy to read format suitable for ages ten and up, with the remarkable building projects by kings that had the time and concern and as usual, Akhenaten dominates his predecessors with sheer audacity. The final collapse of the dynasty followed being replaced by new kings from the delta including the exploits of Seti I and his long-lived son King Rameses II.

Still yet more mistakes, I mean lots of mistakes including the author claiming that four lovely blue faience stipula vases are Rameses II's canopic jars while the author talks about Rameses tomb in the Valley of Kings yet he appears to be describing the tomb of Seti I.

The beautiful pictures are still present though the mistakes keep coming to as the author describes a three chamber shabti box surrounded by three shabti, as an unusual three chambered canopic box. The military role in the New Kingdom is examined as is the literature and medicine of the period.

Clearly the photos are what's special about this book the authors promise however was eroded by a continuous stream of mistakes and though the book is child friendly I would not give the book as a gift concluding, I will likely go through it again looking for certain images I have only seen in this questionable "Gift of the Nile".

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Amarna Princess Recovered

The Egyptian police have recovered the Amarna princess statuette stolen during the sacking of the Malawi museum this past summer. The statuette is one of the most important pieces stolen from that museum and one of about 800 artifacts recovered out of 1050 objects stolen.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ushabti Stolen During Revolution Returns

A well known ushabti from Egypt's XXVI Dynasty was among the stolen pieces taken from the Cairo Museum during the January revolution of 2011 and the robbery of the museum. The ushabti was broken during its theft and its lower half was left in the museum while the torso was stolen but has now turned up in Belgium.

The ushabti was found in the Memphis necropolis in 1858 and is set to be returned to Cairo soon. Equally fascinating is that the ushabti did not appear on the list of objects stolen?

Dog Burials at Abydos

During excavations in 2009 by the North Abydos Project from New York University, at the huge funerary enclosure of the IInd Dynasty King Khasekhemwy, (c.2750 B.C),  a number of pots containing dogs turned up in the soft sandy fill inside the enclosure. Professor of Egyptology Salima Ikram of The American University of Cairo is an expert in animal mummies and has examined the dogs which cannot be removed from their pots without risking the integrity of the animals.

The article is particularly concentrated on two of five dogs found including a large dog that has been affectionately named Houdini and a second not as well preserved named Chewie. Neither pot contained fabric though Chewie was accompanied by the shards of another pot.

Photo: [Credit: NYU-IFA mission to Abydos/Discovery News]

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Mystery of the Cocaine Mummy

 This is an interesting show which was controversial and still is, Whether the mummy really took cocaine or was handled by some person in past who ingested cocaine. The program features Dr. Rosalie David from Manchester Museum Mummy project.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back to the Valley of the Kings

There are new ground penetrating radar studies going on in the world famous necropolis Biban el Malouk, Valley of the Kings. The team consists of Egyptians working on behalf of the Ministry of State for Antiquities and the Glen Dash Foundation for Archaeological Research.

This is not the first time that ground penetrating radar has been used in the valley but the technology has now become much better and their hoping for the best preferably to find Kings Thutmosis II and/or Ramses VIII intact! That would be nice, they are also being realistic from experience from last time when digging proved that many of the anomalies from previous radar readings were natural fractures and old lighting equipment.

France Returns Internet Loot

Five objects found for sale on the internet in France, allegedly stolen from Egypt during the 2011 revolution have been returned to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry. The five pieces are from the Ptolemaic period, this coffin lid is an example of an artifact recently returned which has been cut in half to fit in a suitcase.

A number of pieces of a glass statue of a man have also been returned and after restoration will be deposited into a local museum.

Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Cairo Museum

I started this article in 2010 though it was forgotten in those days by the coming of the revolution. The article featured the plight of the museums staff who among other things I was wondering if they were happy in their jobs, paid well, and if differentiating opinion from the workers to the boss might be enough for them to loose their jobs.

The end of January 2011 brought the robbery of this national museum and the flaws in the museums security, presenting an image that the great museum for being more than 100 years old seems to have benefited little from its international standard. The revolution has been slower than anyone probably wanted with the result that the tourists have left, the traveling exhibitions have come home and the Cairo museum workers remain unpaid.

It sounds like the Cleopatra exhibition came home to Egypt from United states early because of a dispute of law which may have felt some of the pieces in that exhibition were too precious to leave Egypt in the first place. Hopefully the officials in partnership with international museums can put together another traveling exhibition that can be used to fund the Cairo museum,s staff, to pay their wages and provide the museum with all of its needs to function properly and secure.

Instead of filling a room, that few people visit, with stolen antiquities recovered from international schemes, perhaps the museum would be better served if that gallery's recovered material be sent on tour with life size images of stolen objects still missing. This in practicality would raise funds for the running of the museum while making familiar to millions of exhibition goers what the missing objects look like?

Hopefully the people of Egypt have turned a corner and are closer to the brighter future they have sacrificed for.

Photo: AP

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Bob Brier
Palgrave Macmillan
Macmillan Publishers Limited
ISBN: 978-1-137-27860-9

Here we have Dr. Bob Brier's latest work "Egypt-Omania" of which I expect a good read from his past works, also it is a good sign when the eminent Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass gives the introduction. Dr. Brier bears the moniker Mr. Mummy because of his specialty being, examination of mummy's, and of the last time I saw these two men working together Dr. Hawass had given Dr. Brier an opportunity to examine the royal mummy, Unknown man E, in the Cairo royal mummy collection.

The introduction by Dr. Hawass is a rundown of his career with some insight of the colorful people that he has met that had clearly caught Egyptomania fever, from paper pyramid hats to people who believe just about anything said of old mystical Egypt. The doctor says on the technologies of CT scans and DNA,

"We made a number of important discoveries through this new technology. Among other things, we identified what is most likely the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut and discovered that Ramesses III was murdered in a harem conspiracy."

As the book begins we find Dr. Brier and his wife Pat are driven by their desire to collect just about everything Egyptian with a love for ephemera such as old magazine covers, ads and even candy mummies for the kids on Halloween. We are told of some exceptional finds in the doctor and his wife's collection including a once in a lifetime acquisition of a tragic noble woman's archives which include letters received from the leading archaeologists of her day.

The author takes the reader to the birth of Egyptomania with the Greek's and the Roman's, from the last of the Ptolemaic Kings, Cleopatra VII's story of seduction, suicide, and the former world power is reduced to provincialism under Rome. Certainly, the Goddess Isis was the last sentinel of Pharaonic Egypt before the long silence that followed.

Dr. Brier is next on the Roman Emperor Hadrian's tour up the Nile where his lover Antonius drowned and Hadrian founded the city of Antinopolis in his name, which unfortunately its ruins were burnt in the early 19th century for lime plaster. The sixteen hundred-year-old silence comes to an end by one the biggest egos of the late 18th, early 19th century, Napoleon.

Though the victories were short-lived, it is the efforts of his scholars, brought along, in many scientific fields that produced the magnificent volumes known as "La Description d' l Egypte". The author presents the reader with the political power of Egyptian obelisks as diplomatic gifts with a plan to bring not one obelisk to France but three.

We are presented with eight pages of colored pictures which are a lot of Egyptian inspired designs in objects and advertisements particularly of cigarettes of the last two centuries. France was eventually given one obelisk, one of two that stood at Luxor and transported to Paris in the early 1830's to be placed on a new pedestal in the Place de la Concorde.

With this great engineering feat accomplished and standing, there were now calls for England to have its own obelisk which was laying on the ground at Alexandria. The obelisk having been given to England long before but never picked up, this being partly owing to a famous English Egyptologist living in Luxor at the time the French took away their obelisk.

"from the mutilated state and the obliteration of many of the hieroglyphs by exposure to the sea air, it is unworthy [of ] the expense of removal."

                                                                             Sir John Gardner Wilkinson

Fortunately, when the sand was cleared from the obelisk it was found to be in better condition than assumed bringing on another amazing engineering task getting the stone to the Thames which in the end cost the lives a six brave men.

The publicity caused by the raising of the Egyptian obelisks in Paris and London set off a fascination with ancient Egypt, and ancient Egypt a dream for marketers. The previous colored pages of advertising and design objects are defined by their inspiration even when the viewer is presented with images anything but Egyptian.

Dr. Brier now takes on New York's obelisk with more brilliant works of engineering and a find beneath this obelisks pedestal of objects of purported Masonic origins. This discovery takes on extreme significance with New York's Freemason's who gather in grand numbers for the delivery and re-erection of the obelisk and its pedestal in Central park.

Again we have another small section of colored pages including more smoking memorabilia, amulets and song sheets, all with Egyptian themes. The reader is next on to the public fascination with mummies and the find of the mummies of Egypt's greatest pharaohs.

Dr. Brier recalls the story of the discovery of tomb DB320 where a cache of kings, queens, and nobles lay hidden for 3000 years, bringing everyone the ability to look upon the faces of some of the greatest pharaohs from the period of empire. Yet an even bigger event influenced the marketing of products and fashion, the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in November 1922.

The author brings in a number of contemporary song sheets bearing Egyptian themes including "Old King Tut was a wise old nut" presented before Tutankhamun's mummy revealed a teenage boy. From old song sheets, the author moves on to ancient Egypt's influence in books and movies with a fascinating detail, that at one time the mummy of Imhotep was originally modeled after the questionable mummy of King Seti II.

The author presents solid information in this publication with the book certainly being suitable for 10 years old and up. Dr. Brier's examination of ancient Egypt is brought to the readers through the contemporary cultural influence it has on the modern world, especially as the next great discovery or Hollywood sensation is likely to start the flame of passion in future generations and cast them under the spell of Egypt-Omania.

"This film first introduced tanna leaves, a fictional plant, to audiences. The high priest uses three of them to keep the mummy's heart beating and "nine to give him life."The distinction between a heart beating and life is beyond me."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stolen Samples from Great Pyramid

Two amateur Egyptologist's entered the great pyramid of Khufu on the Giza plateau climbed to the chamber above the kings burial chamber and stole samples of paint from a cartouche painted in that chamber of King Khufu's name. The amateurs then took their samples out of Egypt against international law to Dresden University.

The German Ambassador is distancing the German Archaeological Institute and any German archaeological mission in Egypt from the two men. The men are being placed on an airport watch list and charges are being looked at.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mummifying Dinner

This is an article on studies done on meat found preserved in ancient Egyptian upper class burials including the beef ribs above found in the tomb of Yuya and his wife Thuya in the Valley of Kings, tomb KV46.The study deals with a resin call pistacia being used to preserve the meat and add flavor.

Photo: PNAS

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Discoveries at the Mortuary Temple of Thutmosis III

There has been recent discoveries by those excavating the mortuary temple of Thutmosis III including Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities jointly with the Academy of Fine Arts, Seville. The discoveries include a fragment of a statue of Thutmosis III and some colourful reliefs.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Island of Isis: Philae, Temple of the Nile

William MacQuitty
Charles Scribner's Sons
New York
ISBN: 0-684-14649-5

This light attractive book is filled with beautiful pictures taken by the author of many of the temples built along the Nile. The book's forward is written by the late Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum T. G. H. James.

Mr. James presents the current situation of the Philae temples as of 1976 when the Aswan high dam had submerged the temples and structures on the island for much of the year. The traveling exhibition of "The Treasures of  Tutankhamun" raised funds to help pay for the preservation, removal and to rebuild the structures on a nearby island on higher ground.

In chapter one, the author describes the geology of the North African landscape in prehistoric times, the retreat of the inland sea which covered Egypt with the eventual carving of the Nile valley. The sources of the river are explored including the descent into the valley by the ancient peoples and the effect these people and their legends would have on ancient Egypt.

A two-page map gives a very informative list of locations to the authors words. Mr. MacQuitty is next onto the building of the monuments, particularly of sandstone in Upper Egypt and a description of temples built on the Nile surviving mostly in Ptolemaic building works.

We are next onto the ancient religious beliefs which include the Osirian myth where Isis twice recovers her husband/brother Osiris' body. With this legend, the reputation of Isis builds over the centuries to being among the last of the ancient Egyptian gods to be worshiped in the Greco-Roman period.

The practice of mummification is presented in its evolution so that everyone can become an Osiris. The mastaba tomb is eventually overtaken by the building of pyramids which in time fail their purpose leading to burial in the Valley of kings opposite on the west bank of Thebes.

A fantastic image of mummified crocodiles in the temple of Sobek at Kom Ombo is presented though in black and white. The book is an easy read that an hour and a half later I am already halfway through, certainly, the book is suitable for ages 10 and up.  

The relations with the gods and goddess' the Ptolemaic kings and queens emulated were reinforced in the building and decorating of temples, clearly, the Ptolemy's took propaganda very seriously. Propaganda which this book is filled with to the authors credit and this readers delight.

We next turn to perhaps histories most murderous dynasty beginning with Ptolemy IV who murdered his mother and perhaps his father too. Cleopatra's II & III also met with the same fate as did the mother of Ptolemy IX who murdered her on his return to the throne after the expulsion of Ptolemy X.

The elderly Berenice was murdered by Ptolemy XI who in turn was dragged through the streets and himself murdered followed in succession by Cleopatra's V, VI , Berenice IV, Arsinoe IV and Kings Ptolemy XIII & XIV all of whom met unnatural deaths. Giving new meaning to the phrases "Honey I'm home" and "how fast can I climb out the bathroom window".

In chapter four Mr. Macquitty presents the island of Philae complete with two maps showing the island and the temple of Isis. The wonderful pictures are of the islands half submerged monuments and one of the islands monuments after the water had been pumped out before the dismantling and removal to their new home.

Our guide describes the various scenes on the monuments and the various Ptolemaic kings and queens worshiping and presenting offerings to various gods including Isis in the decoration of the monuments including Roman emperors as well. Most notably perhaps in the kiosk of Trajan, "the Pharaoh's bed", often considered the most beautiful monument on the sacred island.

Chapter five presents us with the project in the late 1960's and early 70's to save not only Philae which by this time had spent many years flooded 9 months of the year but also the removal of the temples of Ramses II from the rise of the water at Abu Simbel. Amazingly the temples on Philae benefited from the water as the waters removed the salt from the sandstone blocks beside washing away much color unfortunately.

The pictures at this point are of operations during the dismantling of the temple of Ramses II and preparations being made on the island of Agilkia to redesign the islands atmosphere to resemble the sacred surroundings of the sunken island of Philae. A sheet-piled coffer dam was built around Philae to pump out the water and reveal this sacred land for the last time.

Perhaps a unique image I have found in the book is a black and white full page image of the Meroitic cemetery at Gebel Adda in its last moment before the surrounding lake drowned it, though the books images contain many unusual examples. The author next turns to the obelisk retrieved from Philae and now in England and its importance in the reading of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The book closes off with a short on the completion of the Abu Simbel-Project which in turn is followed by a chronological table and a listing of various ancient Egyptian gods. This is the second book I have read by William MacQuitty the other complementary edition being 'Abu Simbel".

Again as in the author's other work on the saving the temples from the flood waters of Lake Nassar, a journey has been taken to view and marvel at sacred environments of thousands of years, William MacQuitty grants the reader the last look at the Island of Isis.

"I; I listen; I promise myself that I will remember it all in years to come - all these solemn hills, these silent colonnades, these deep, quiet spaces of shadow, the sleeping palms. Lingering till it is all but dark, I at last bid them farewell, fearing lest I may behold them no more."

                                                                                               Amelia Edwards

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Burnt Tutankhamun

There is a show coming out about the mummy of Tutankhamun and scientists who present their findings on the kings mummy and have asserted that Tutankhamun combusted shortly after burial because of the ointments used on the mummy.

The show perports that the mummy looks burned because of the actions of the chemicals used to preserve the boy king. I must admit that I consider this finding as improbable if not impossible considering that combustion requires oxygen of which there would have been very little inside his sealed gold coffin which was sealed inside two more coffins and a stone sarcophagus.

It must also be considered that Tut's mask appears to be unaffected by this fire which also left the various objects on his mummy unaffected. Most likely the charring which has occurred to the wrappings was caused by corrosion of the chemicals in question and certainly not by a fire inside the kings gold coffin.

If the mummy burnt it would more than likely to have happened after Howard Carter opened the kings gold coffin though I know of no reports of fire or heat coming from the mummy at that time. Sounds like a ridiculous premise to base credible research on, but hey as long as it gets you on TV.

Photo Credit: AFP/Ben Curtis

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mummy Gets Her Name

Here we have the Perth Museums mummy acquired by the museum in 1936 and believed to come from ancient Egypt's 25th-26th dynasties. The lady named on the lid has the name of Takherheb and is in very nice condition.

The mummy and coffin are being studied by researchers from the University of Manchester with the hope of learning more about the lady possibly from Akhmim as the coffin has been determined to likely be from.

The kind people at Perth sent this wonderful link.

Photo Credit: BBC

Gaurding the temple of Wadi Al-Sebua

Armed guards have been deployed to protect the remote temple built by Ramses II at the Wadi Al-Sebua near Aswan. The lovely temple was among the buildings moved during the raising of the high dam in the 1960's.

The Minister of state for antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim says that the only damage to the temple is the theft of cables and the lights used to light up the temple.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Erosion on the Giza Plateau

This image shows a block of stone, reportedly 3 tons in weight, that has fallen off a mastaba near the great pyramid on the Giza plateau. The fallen limestone block rests near Khufu's boat museum and its collapse is the result of natural erosion.

The boulder will be restored back to its original position starting this week.

Source: Luxor Times

Thursday, October 31, 2013


The ancient Greek city of Naukratis was established somewhere in the mid to late 7th century B.C. in the Egyptian western delta. The city became a prominent trading port during the Greco-Roman period before eventually being replaced by Alexandria after the conquest of Alexander the great.

This is an article on the city, its founding, its history, purpose and excavation, first by the father of archaeology, Flinders Petrie in the 1880's. It has been many years since I have read Professor Petrie's report on his excavations there, but remember it well worth a read.

This is a link to Digital Egypt on the finds from those excavations.

Photo Credit: British Museum

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mummies: Life after Death in Ancient Egypt

 Renate Germer

With Contributions by
Hartwig Altenmuller
Karl Heinz Hohne
Hannelore Kischkewitz
Jens Klock

Prestel Books
ISBN 3-7913-1804-7

This book was created in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name held at the Museum Fur Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg (January 24- April 20, 1997) and at the Roemer-und-Pilazaeus-Museum, Hildesheim, (June 22-November 30, 1997).

There is no doubt the book is very pretty being large though not heavy and filled with lots of pictures including 6 pages at the beginning of the book of old familiar engravings of 19th-century Egyptian sites. I have, to be honest this is my third attempt at this book as about a year ago I found a bookmark indicating I had forgotten I was reading, a subsequent reading also got only a little way in.

The book begins with a chapter on mummification with the various elements required for the procedure with lovely colored photos of the various instruments to do the job. At this point, the author presents amulets for the protection of the mummy through the underworld to ensure resurrected in the afterlife as an Osiris.

The pictures of the amulets are beautiful, yes beautiful amulets, but also the presentation of the amulets as well as the pictures taken of the artifacts are special. The drawing of the fully wrapped mummy of a 21rst Dynasty member of the Theban royal family found in the "Kings Cache" is interesting as is also on the opposite page, an image of the mummies removed garland from its unwrapping.

The author is on to the rituals that along with the mummified body and the amulets were required to complete the mummies journey. The final ritual in front of the tomb where "the opening of the mouth" ceremony took place is to revive the propped up mummy's ability to eat and breath in the beyond.

The magnificent. 900 B.C., 21rst-22nd Dynasty cartonnage case of Pabasa is an excellent example of the spells which in past periods decorated the walls of the tomb but here cover the case from head to toe with a dark green background, stunning! We are on to shabti's including an image of the shabti of Ipy, in which Ipy holds his ba bird but for the most part the shabti pictured are the first rate and are pretty standard for the elite of society.

Artifacts are presented from tombs which were included in the graves to acts as a connective nature of assimilating the tombs occupant with Osiris. The purpose of the canopic jars is brought out especially with pictures that demonstrate an excellent range of jars and one which bore an error inscription.

The late period painted terracotta is a very interesting and unusual example but for me, the elegance of the 30th Dynasty wood shrine for the viscera of Hornedjitef was a most dignified enclosure. We turn to animal mummies bedecked with their cults complete with veneration and forgery.

The image of the gilded wood Ibis head with atef crown from the Ptolemaic period is timeless in its fragmentary beauty. The dog mummy is an interesting intact example, though slightly crude, containing the remains of three dogs within.

At this time we are presented with the Middle Kingdom burial which included some standard first class burial models, these of which are both unique with their presentation like many other objects enhanced by the amazing photo's used to represent the exhibition.

However in this chapter, it must be the images of the mummy of Inemaakhet which I admired most as the rarest of objects on the subject of Middle Kingdom mummies complete with his mask. The three coffins of Peniu of the Third Intermediate period, c. 800 B.C. are explored with a usual outer coffin in mummiform style bearing no decoration other than its carved face and plain wig while Peniu's middle coffin is also of wood with polychrome decoration.

The decoration on the lid include both inscriptions and images of gods in a most delicate and refined nature, quite unusual. It in the innermost coffin we find the mummy of Peniu wrapped in a cartonnage case created from a mold typical of the 22nd Dynasty.

The case is painted yellow with decoration picked out in white and details of various colors it is yet a standard case for the dynasty, which is almost always very beautiful though in Peniu's case it differs from many others by his black hair and skin. The book moves through to the Roman period with a number of outstanding coffin ensembles and masks but the subject of the dearly departed is really only met with the 2nd-century A.D.coffin of a child with his head raised as he is reborn in the afterlife.

The portraits from the Roman period often referred to as "Fayum portraits" is put forward in the late development of burial practices along with x-rays which have accompanied many of the mummies the authors have chosen to exemplify.The chapter closes with the extraordinary mummy case of a boy named Paynakht from the end of ancient Egyptian history though sadly the mummy of the boy is lost.

The second part of the book is the ancient Egyptian mummy in Europe from cheery party games to obverse medical remedies beginning with the Lubeck apothecary mummy which may be Germany's first Egyptian mummy with a restoration of the mummy being recorded in 1651 A.D. By 1812 the mummy's coffin and mask had disintegrated and a new coffin was built and painted including a painted shroud for over the fragments of linen still covering it, which to this day still remain with the mummy.

The mummy again became of note when x-rays showed that the Lubeck mummy was covered with dozens of amulets representing one of the largest assemblages of amulets still in situ on an ancient Egyptian mummy in Europe. As curiosities mummies continued to fascinate though I have to wonder what Empress Josephine felt when she received the female head depicted in the Description de l' Egypt?

We are on to the sideshows of the 19th century and the finding of tombs full of ancient pharaohs including the remarkable discovery of the well-preserved body of the great Pharaoh Rameses II. In the third part of the book, we are on to the modern science of mummies.

I really dislike the reconstruction of how a mummy looked based solely on its skull the information obtained is highly suspect when the skull cannot display skin color, the form of ears, nose, hairstyle, scars or whether said individuals habits such as a raised eyebrows, sneer, or a crooked smile. Any number of these variants may drastically alter the misleading reconstruction.

A web address in the book very nicely 16 years later still works, on a virtual mummy which was for this exhibition meant to be interactive with the audience giving a simulation of the mummy being unwrapped. As the book comes to a close the reader finds themselves being introduced to two more Greco-Roman period mummies each with their own story to tell.

The Appendix is on the restoration of a cartonnage case in a very delicate condition, sadly no color picture is given for the mask. The book closes with a map and a chronology complete with interesting snippets of text on each period.

It is funny that a book I had such a difficult time getting into was so good, I guess timing is everything? The pictures were first-rate but the collection of mummies chosen for the exhibition is probably one of the most beautiful collections of mummies ever put together.

A book that I will be in no hurry to put back in the bookcase rather I will leave it out on a table so my guests can look through what I found to be a quality publication in "Mummies: Life after Death in Ancient Egypt".


1). Virtual Mummy

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tomb of Nefertiti's Sculptor

 From the Harvard Gazette comes this article on a tomb at Saqqara discovered in 1996 by Egyptologists Alain Zivie who believes it to be the tomb of the sculptor of the famous and much quarreled over bust of Nefertiti (?), in Berlin's Neues Museum.I put the question mark because the bust does not contain the name of which Amarna lady is present, it is presumed that it is Nefertiti because in some images of the queen she is seen wearing the headdress presented on the famous bust.

Photo Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Old Kingdom Physicians Tomb Found

At Abusir a team of archaeologists has discovered the tomb of a 5th Dynasty Physician Shepseskaf-Ankh and his family. A large false door gives the names and titles of Shepseskaf including Priest of the God Khnum and priest of the sun temples which kings of Dynasty 5 were renowned for.

Director of the Czech archaeological mission, Miroslav Barta said that the workers of the kings of this dynasty had their tombs built around the pyramids of those kings.