Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gold Coins found in Coptic Alter

A series of 29 Byzantine gold coins has been found in a Pharaonic tomb at Dra Abu el Naga. The tomb was at some time converted into a Coptic chapel and it was within a small column supporting the alter that the coins were found.

The coins bear the names of four Byzantine rulers with the latest emperor present being Justinian which may place the establishment of the alter in the chapel sometime before 565 AD or slightly after. The chapel is considered the earliest part of the monastery Deir el Bakhit who's ancient name was the monastery of St. Paulo's.

Photo: DAI Cairo

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Raising of Amenhotep III

The Egyptian antiquities service has re-erected 2 statues on their original site in the memorial temple of Amenhotep III at Luxor. Amenhotep III was known as "the magnificent" because he reigned at the epoch of the Egyptian empire in the middle of the 14th century BC.

The kings temple of millions years was the largest of the memorial temples at Luxor but became damaged by an earthquake shortly after the kings death. By the time of the Pharaoh Merenptah, at the end of the 13th century BC, the blocks and sculptures from the temple were re used in the elderly Merenptah's own temple.

This last step was fortunate as those blocks which were re used had their sculpted surfaces turned down so the original decoration was hidden away and protected from further damage. Merenptah's workmen also took a stela from the site inscribed for Amenhotep III and carved the back for Merenptah.

The stela was found by Sir Flinders Petrie in 1896 and is considered by many to be that famous archaeologists most important find, this being because the stela's inscription contains the first known mentioning in archaeology of "Israel".

AFP Photo/ Khaled Desouki

Monday, March 24, 2014

Old Kingdom Official Found

A skeleton of an official from the Vth Dynasty court of King Nefereer-Ka-Re has been located within his limestone sarcophagus at Abusir. The official named Nefer was discovered inside his roughly carved burial chamber by the Czek archaeological mission to Abusir headed by Mirislav Barta.

A number of burial shafts have also been found and no doubt will provide interesting material in the future for the excavation team.

Photo: Supreme Council of Antiquities

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Discovery of the Mummy of Ramses I

It is hard to believe that more than a dozen years has passed since the mummy below left a sideshow in Niagara Falls, Canada and made its way to the Michael C. Carlos Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, where the mummy would be revealed in a show to be the lost mummy of King Ramses I. The exhibition hall was decorated with reproduction walls of the king's simple tomb in the Valley of kings.

The museum advertised that they intended to graciously return the mummy to Egypt, which they did, and Ramses I was sent back in a jet being welcomed home in Egypt complete with red carpet. Research done on the mummy since has shown this man is about 400 years too late to be that king, and with this, the mummy was sent to the Luxor museum separated from the royal mummy collection in the national museum Cairo.

                                                              Not Ramses I ! 

The theory of the day was that the Abd Roussel family who discovered the royal mummy cache removed the mummy of Ramses I for sale to the gentleman who brought the mummy back to Niagara Falls in 1860. The fault with this theory is the Roussel family did not remove any coffins from the cache especially since the massive wood sarcophagus Of King Seti I blocked the corridor which would have made it difficult to get any mummy past that coffin.

 If the Abd Roussel's had wanted a mummy from that cache to sell to the doctor it would make much more sense to remove the mummy from the coffin of Nebseni at the entrance to the cache. Not to also forget, the mummy was in North America eleven years before the unofficial discovery of the royal tomb in question.

The mummy is certainly of high status demonstrated by his mummification but almost certainly did not come from the royal cache of DB320.

                                What became of the mummy of Ramses I?

While the Niagara falls mummy lay in his case the director of Egypt's antiquities service, Gaston Maspero in his 1889 book stated that the mummy of a naked well-built man found lying next to the broken remains of the coffin of Ramses I from the DB320 cache had raised its arm during a midday siesta frightening the workers when they returned back to work. The arm with some force was replaced back to its original position but the event left Mr. Maspero to remark that he believed that mummy to be Ramses I.

Over the years the mummy of Ramses II has been replaced as the mummy in the story because his arms are unusually high above his torso. The problem becomes that Ramses II was not found lying naked next to coffin fragments of Ramses I, in fact, Ramses II was sealed in his coffin and tied into a shroud which bore inscriptions of his Osirifications. Still somewhere around this time the mummy in question that of Ramses I disappeared.

The question had been raised in 1901 with the robbery of the tomb of Amenhotep II, and the rifling of the said king's mummy. What was the value of an authentic kings mummy on the black market? Workers at the then Boulaq Museum must first be looked to, was the temptation of those who held the keys to great to be ignored, this is unlikely.

A king like Ramses II would be immediately missed but a lesser king such as Ramses grandfather the first Ramses maybe not so soon. So sometime between 1889 and 1902 the mummy in question vanishes from the national collection kept in the Boulaq museum or its transfer to the Giza palace museum. I would assume the Cairo Museum register has no record in 1902 for the mummy of Ramses I in the incoming collection to the new museum though recent events have displayed poor inventory records.

Most likely a search of nearby medical facilities might reveal not only Ramses I but hopefully the Priest-King Pinudgem I as well. Certainly, if a royal mummy was in the possession of a foreign nation's collection it would have been noticed by now.

So we are left with an old private collection or misplaced by the antiquities service. The worst scenario of a stolen king is probably wrong and both Pinudgem and Ramses are more than likely present in some long forgotten coffins on dusty shelves in Cairo.

                                                     If not Ramses I then who?

With all the descriptions of the mummy's high standard of mummification the lavish use of resin and pleasant odor which it exudes give a strong indication of his disassociation from the cheap coffin that is associated with the mummy. This is likely not an object that has something to do with the original burial of this man. The coffin has become almost completely irrelevant in finding the answer of its last occupant's name.

The most compelling testimony are the carbon 14 readings which do not support his identity as Ramses I by several hundred years.(A) Ramses I died around 1294 BC yet with carbon 14 calibrations showing dates ranging between 1085-790 BC he is not to be the first pharaoh of Egypt's Dynasty XIX.

The c14 data further tightened with the most probable date of death of said individual being perhaps 870 BC. The individual may be 40-50 years old at time of death with a time of death of 870 BC we may suppose time of his birth to be around 920-910 BC.(1)

His high standard of mummification suggests someone of a high place in Egyptian society while his date of death falls into one of the most controversial periods in Egyptian history, where Egypt fractured into multiple city-states with many cities having pretender kings. These kings emboldened themselves with royal privileges including the king's death pose of Osiris. His well-preserved corpse places his burial in Upper Egypt perhaps around Luxor with his standard of burial he may well fit in as the high priest of Amun or a local king.

He may well be the son of Osorkon I, the High Priest of Amun, Smendes III who died in approximately 874 BC.


Photo of Ramses I statue: Keith Shengili-Roberts
Photo of Mummy:   Examining the Mystery of the Niagara Falls Mummy; Pgs. 26-34
Image of Buolaq Museum: The Amhersts of Didlington Hall
KV16 : Tomb of Rameses I
Michael C. Carlos Museum

(A) See comments

Further Reading:
KMT; Winter 2000-01 Gayle Gibson, The Unfinshed History of the Niagara Falls Mummies, Pgs. 18-29
PBS.Org: The Mummy who Would be King

Stolen Artifacts Return

Artifacts stolen after the 2011 revolution including Third intermediate coffins and Middle Kingdom models are set to return to Egypt next month. Artifacts returning also include a mask and a number of pieces of cartonage coverings from late period mummies.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries

Nicholas Reeves
Thames & Hudson Ltd, London
ISBN 0-500-05105-4

This book is by the well known Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves and I must say right from the start I like this book for its chronological order of discoveries, which I found very informative and innovative usually, the discoveries are listed by  the period as opposed to the date of discovery.

Sadly many of the great discoveries occurred early in the 19th century and as a result, their context and any objects that were not considered of value were lost or discarded, including Thutmosis III's legendary General Djehuty, who's intact gold encased mummy turned up in the winter of 1824. The author moves forward to the period of men like August Mariette who forwarded the science of archaeology and found the burial place of the Apis bulls, the Serapeum,

"the burial, made in year 55 of Ramesses II, had miraculously survived intact." "the wooden coffin within was thought to contain the remains of a man." "Appearances, however , were to be deceptive, as we now know: for despite the named jewels and an anthropoid mask, what Mariette had found was probably not human at all, but an intact (if exceptionally decayed) bull-burial - that of Apis XIV."

In the late 1850's, the burial of the XVII Dynasty King Kamose was unearthed by Mariette's men only to have this find misinterpreted and the kings mummy discarded. Decades later the inscriptions on the coffin were read, and the revelation came of who the lost occupant was.

However, more often than not, the discovery is a ransacked tomb with nothing of value left, except what remains can produce much valuable knowledge for the archaeologist, as is the case in the 1923 find of a tomb containing a group of slain soldiers.

 "...the place had been completely plundered ages ago, and had been left strewn with torn linen rags among which had been callously thrown a ghastly heap of robbed and mutilated bodies."

The excavators wanted little to do with this tomb until four years later when it became the discoverers duty to clear the tomb. This clearance revealed that the dozens of mummies were much older than realized and all of the young men, a troop of soldiers who had died in some battle nearly four thousand years ago, and honored with a burial near their king.

In the second half of the 1930's Walter Emery excavating at Saqqara, re-excavated a tomb of a high official of the First Dynasty named Hemaka. Emery discovered that Hemaka's ground level mastaba had been built with chambers within the monument, though these mastabas were usually of solid construction.

Emery went on to discover 45 intact chambers within the superstructure containing objects as they had been left 5000 years before, including in a wood box containing the world’s oldest papyrus book, as it turned out, it was a blank meant for the official to use in his afterlife.

Nicholas Reeves has created a book that is certainly suitable for ages ten and up, being equally of interest to readers of any age. The read is clear and thoroughly illustrated with photographs and vignettes of the discussed material, with many artifacts and excavation photo's not commonly seen.

This is just a handful of choices of the many great discoveries picked by the author for this publication, and I would doubt that too many other authors could do them with the justice, and interest imbued by Nicholas Reeves words in this book on  Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries .

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Four New Kingdom Tombs on Elephantine

This article is on the four New Kingdom tombs recently discovered by locals on Elephantine island and the owners of those tombs. The engraved and painted walls in the tombs are likely to fill in more on the history of the island and its governance.

Photo: Nevine El-Aref

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New Tomb of XVIII Dynasty Discovered

Here we have an article from Luxor news about a newly discovered tomb at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna. The link is to an Arabic site but Jane gives the gist, nice pictures.