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.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt

Ruth Schumann Antelme and Stephane Rossini
Translation by Jon Graham
Inner Traditions
Rochester, Vermont
ISBN: 0-89281-863-8

Warning: The nature of the material presented in the book may not be suitable for children

The book opens with the creation myths of the ancient Egyptian city cults of Heliopolis and Hermopolis which reveal the foundation of the world and existence. its codes, laws, purposes and desire. Large black and white images fill up much of the pages with incredibly tiny side remarks off the main story which I found distracting.

Though the images are very interesting including an image of the birth of Atum from the tomb of Ramses IX in the Valley of the Kings and in this self-birth we find the beginning of the universe and the world.The main story line is quite easy to follow.

"Atum is a demiurge; he took the form of himself and created his descendants by masturbating". Here we are presented with an image of Atum on his back performing fellatio on himself,  Atum swallowed his semen and expectorated out his children, Shu and Geb

Due to the lack of mates, we find the children of these gods in full on brother sister incestuous relationships, the participants Osiris, Seth, Isis and Nephthys. In the myth of the Osirian cycle, Osiris' brother Seth tricks Osiris to climb in a box which is locked shut and thrown in the Nile eventually getting rid of Osiris to take over as the kingship.

A determined Isis retrieves Osiris' body but Seth gets hold of it again, this time Osiris is cut into 16 pieces and thrown in the Nile but Isis manages to find the pieces and tie them back together in the first mummy, except that a fish had swallowed Osiris' penis and so Isis fabricated one turned herself into a bird and mounted her brother/husband while Nephthys watched over.

This joyful union created Horus the falcon god who for the rest of Egyptian history would be represented by almost all mortal kings of Egypt. The Osirian myth is fundamental to the Egyptian belief of life after death as Osiris is reborn as the god of the underworld.

A series of nice colored pictures include a particularly interesting small ritual sarcophagus complete with ithyphallic mummy.The author from here moves on to the various attributes of the goddess' particularly Hathor and Isis, the power of these attributes and their relation to reproduction.

These include the sekhem sistrum which has a noas shaped top representing the gate through which a child is born and the sesheshet sistrum which was strung with metal discs so that when shaken it made a tinkling sound. In the next chapter, we are on to the theogamy of the king and his great royal wife but also the contracts of the common people dealing with issues of monogamy and polygamy.

The intrigues of the harem is quickly dealt, with those wives of the king who may have done anything to raise their own offspring up to a higher level in the court, or even king, and in some cases such as Pepi I and Amenemhet I leading to the assassination of the king. Fidelity, adultery, and rape are laid out in legal standards of the ancient Egyptian's.

The laws are explored which affect the transmission of inheritance, divorce, remarriage and incestuous marriages. We are on to sexuality, ritual purity and the position of prostitutes in Pharaonic Egyptian society.

By the time I hit chapter three I was hooked on this fascinating book and had learned a number of new tidbits of information and it was in this chapter on love and sexual literature that we find the advice of the ancient sages?

"When you have prospered and founded your house,

  and ardently love your wife,

  fill her belly, cover her back [with clothes],

  [give her] ointments [that] soothe her body,

  Give delight to her heart for as long as you live,

  for she is a fertile field for her master.

  Do not seek to oppose her in court,

  but give her no power, restrain her.

  Her eyes are her tempest when she gazes...

  In this way, you will keep her in your house."

In chapter four the author explores the code of love in art both royal and civil including the changes instituted in the royal art of the Amarna period. The pages are filled with black and white images of couples in allurance and sexual play.

Here we have another series of colored images of artifacts which demonstrate an attitude of sexuality, particularly feminine eroticism. We are on to the senses and their effect on the attraction of mates and the power of music and dance.

This section is filled with some of the most mysterious images of people dancing, from the Muu dancers and their unknown hand signals to musicians and dancers covered in vines. From the tomb of Niankhkhamun and Khnumhotep comes a bas relief of a flutist being directed by the gestures of his accompaniment as a chironome.

Though black and white the images taken from tomb walls, temple walls, and ostraca are unusual depictions much overlooked if not deliberately by the casual viewer to these monuments. The chapter on medicine and sexuality included fascinating sections on gynecology and obstetrics, venereal diseases and sexual mutilation, all subjects never seen before by myself in my readings.

In chapter six we are on to "Uncommon Sexual Practices" such as homosexuality in the society as tolerated behavior or in the contractual form such as that the man will not bring into his wife's home concubine or young male. Other sexual practices are quickly dealt with including animal love and the affections misplaced on a corpse.

Here we finally get to the much-anticipated chapter on the erotic papyrus in Turin. The papyrus has been in the Turin museum since before 1824 when Champollion examined it and the rest of Turin's crumbling collection of papyri.

The papyrus is in very bad condition and much of what can be gleaned from the papyrus comes from early researchers copies created when portions of the roll that are not visible today were still visible. On the verso of the papyrus is an inscription "Fan bearer to the right of the king (...), royal scribe, commander of the soldiers ", likely this person was an original owner of the document.

Of the document, Champollion wrote to his brother "Here a piece of funerary ritual,...and the remnants of paintings of a monstrous obscenity that give a very curious notion of Egyptian solemnity and wisdom." The first half of the papyrus is missing its beginning and is satirical in nature with animals in human activity's while the second half contains the pornographic content.

A number of full page color pictures are presented at this point with a picture of a fragment of the papyrus, the chapter continuing with black and white vignettes taken from the document complete with explanations of the individual vignettes. the images display different sexual acts and in all the men have enormous phallus'.

I found the sexual content of the papyrus to be rather mild in terms of obscenity especially in light of the content of the creation myths already dealt with. The books conclusion is followed by an appendix on a chronology of ancient Egypt.

The second appendix deals with short but very informative descriptions of Pharaonic Egypt's deities including the Ogdoad. In the third appendix, we are on to Egyptian place names and a fourth appendix on hieroglyphs which I found particularly interesting. The book was a relatively easy read not intended for children though as pornography goes is on the mild side.

The subject presented by the authors is well worth a read in dealing with a side of ancient Egypt that is almost never explored though I probably will not return to read again "Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt".

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Penn's Baby Boy Mummy

The fine people "In the Artifact Lab" at the Penn Museum have presented here a beautiful mummy of a boy and the studies which have taken place by them and earlier researchers. The unwrapped mummy was probably less than 2 years old when he died and likely came from a family of some means suggested by his style of mummification.

He came to the Penn Museum Christmas ca.1898 as a donation.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Complete Valley of The Kings

Nicholas Reeves & Richard H. Wilkinson
Thames &  Hudson
ISBN 978-0-500-28403-2

With the introduction, I find myself in a book heavily bestowed with pictures including a map of Egypt accompanied by the chronology of dynastic Egypt. In the first chapter, we find preparations for the royal afterlife presented with the evolution of the royal tomb from the fall of the Old Kingdom and its pyramid burials to Thebes and the Valley of Kings.

The topography and geology of the royal valley play its own part in the development and cutting of the tombs. The authors layout of the development of 18th Dynasty kingly tombs with hidden entrances and bent axis plans in typically the cliff's of the valley or at the base of the cliffs.

The end of the dynasty and the early 19th dynasty tombs still have hidden entrances but now the layout of the tombs have jogged axis off the first pillared hall and are carved in the valley floor. In the final stage, the tombs of 20th Dynasty kings have straight axis after Ramesses III with grand huge entrances at the head of rock spurs from the valley sides.

We are presented here with foundation objects from the tomb of Amenophis III which were deposited during that king's father's reign. The reader is next told of the graffiti and ostraca found around the Theban necropolis' and in the tombs of the kings in the Biban el Molouq.

The many images presented in the chapter are not the usual fair and occupying large parts of most pages.The dilettantes of Egyptology are presented for all their contribution or destruction which includes the destruction done by Champollion, Rosellini and those who pushed over a pillar in the tomb of Seti I so that they could take a piece.

This era leads to the transition of diggers of archaeology to recorders of history though with many hiccups leading up to a National museum and an antiquities service from the efforts of Auguste Mariette. Luckily many of these diggers were relatively unsuccessful in their hunt for tombs.

This meager reward eluded two of the later excavators Victor Loret who's notes are sparse and Howard Carter who's notes were worthy of his position as the discoverer of Tutankhamun's tomb. In an amazing understanding of the valley, Victor Loret and his Reis realized the value of the valley floor and uncovered a further 16 tombs many of the 18th Dynasty in just two years between 1898-1899.

The author delves into Howard Carters early career, his work with Egypt's antiquities service and working for American Financier Theodore Davis who had amazing success in his excavations in the Biban el Molouq. After Davis' many finds and belief that the valley was now exhausted it was up to Howard Carter to convince Lord Carnarvon of the valleys further exploration ending with the unprecedented discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Chapter III is titled "Tombs of the Kings" beginning with the unidentified tomb of Amenophis I and the possible candidates to be Amenophis' "mansion of eternity". The authors from here go through a chronology of the Thutmoside tombs including contents with an inclusion of Akhenaten's tomb at Amarna and back to the royal valley at Thebes with the enigmatic tomb Kv55.

"the southern side of the chamber lay a decayed wooden coffin adorned with crook and flail and carrying an uninscribed uraeus; the cartouches had been everywhere cut out, and the gold face mask brutally torn away below the eyes. Within, slightly displaced, lay a mummy "crowned" by a gold vulture pectoral".

The various images from photographs to schematics make the read easy to follow and very much suitable for ages ten and up. Each tomb presented in the book is accompanied by numerous pictures of the finds found within including a picture of one of the magic bricks found in Kv55 inscribed for Akhenaten.

Of course chronologically, the next tomb presented is that of the boy king Tutankhamun which thankfully for me is well compacted and not too painfully long and drawn out. The author puts down a good layout of the evolution of the carving of tombs and the decorative program of each succeeding tomb possessed through the three dynasties of the New Kingdom.

Interesting that the authors explain the intrusions to the sepulchers by robbers and usurpers and those find's which went astray in modern times. The book moves on to those tombs of nobles found in the valley including the undecorated tombs which have lacked much appeal by past explorers.

Here we are presented with the animal tombs Kv50-52 on the hillside leading up to the tomb of Amenophis II, KV35. These animals are while a surprising find provoked little interest as did tomb KV60 which contained a couple of mummies, mummified ducks, and rubbish.

The author's point out the various tomb commencements and pits which are more often disregarded in studies of the Valley of Kings. In Chapter IV we move to the decline of the royal necropolis beginning with the robbers and the papyri of tomb robberies that survive.

The discovery of the "kings cache" DB320 is always a fascinating story and in this case superb in the relating of who was in this tomb in regards to the material found. Many of these people such as Wepmose, (a canopic jar), are represented by objects rather than mummies unless they are one of the anonymous mummies found in the cache.

From this point, we are told about the tomb in the Valley of Kings KV35 where another stash of royal mummies was found in 1898 by Victor Loret. The mummies and the dockets found in relation are put forward including coffin and linen dockets as well as the numerous graffiti found in the necropolis.

The authors close out the book with a decipherment of these dockets and their reliability to research to the travels of the royal mummies. In the epilog we are told of the various people and projects that explored and restored the valleys monuments in the later part of the 20th century.

A very interesting last page talks about what the tourist will need in visiting the valley and what should be seen. The book presents solid information but it must be noticed the older copies of this book are already out of date due to the extensive exploration of the Valley of Kings in the last two decades since the book was first published.

When purchasing this book look for the newer updated version. For anyone who is looking for a gift, this book would be perfect for almost anyone. Nicholas Reeves and Richard H.Wilkinson have put forward a worthy and thought inducing read in "The Complete Valley of the Kings".

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mummy Confiscated at Giza

The fine folks at the Luxor Times are reporting the story of a Ptolemaic mummy discovered during illegal excavations. The mummy was confiscated at Giza by the antiquities police on behalf of the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism.

Source: Luxor Times

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Mummy of Amenhotep

Here we have the newly restored mummy of a child named Amenhotep who's mummy was damaged during the robbery of the Cairo Museum in January of 2011. The looters who entered the museum via a skylight broke the head off Amenhotep and today is being re-exhibited in the new display on the artifact now restored which were damaged during that event.

An amazing restoration job by the museums specialists who restored many of the objects now on display, of which 29 artifacts involved in the rampage includes 18 objects including Amenhotep which never left the museum but were badly damaged and 11 others that were stolen and returned.

Photo: Mahmoud Khaled

Replica of Tutankhamun's Tomb

It has been decided to set up the replica of Tutankhamun's tomb next to Howard Carter's house near Luxor where it will stay until the Grand Egyptian Museum opens at which time the replica tomb will put there where it was supposed to go.

The replica has been made so that Tutankhamun's tomb will be no longer exposed to thousands of visitors breathing and damaging its ancient frescos. I myself could care less about Tutankhamun's tomb, Howard Carter's house or the replica.