Sunday, June 29, 2014

Nefertari's Tomb. ANCIENT EGYPT

It has been a number of years since I last posted this video and wanted to make sure my readers who wished to see it would find it here.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ten Books +1 for Summer or Winter Days

As usual I find myself in the middle of a hot summer with little energy to do much except read and would suggest these eleven books are likely to not only pass time but to inspire the thoughts of the reader back into days of drifting sand and elegance on the Nile.

10. Egypt by H.H. Powers
      This 1924 guide book is written by a gentleman with all the graciousness a cynic could muster, a cynic however with a good sense of Egyptian art. The travel to Cairo and down the Nile is met with a lingering disdain of mankind and a slightly quirky way at viewing the sites. I would have put this book higher on this list except it may be difficult for readers to find.

9. Pyramids and Progress
    With this c1900 book the author takes the reader on an elegant journey around Egypt including the meeting of some of the eras great Egyptologists especially Sir Flinders Petrie who's good graces opened the door to worthy events and places of the day for the author. This book would also be higher on the list except it will be hard to find.

8. Jewels of the Pharaohs
    This is the late Cyril Aldred's 1978 view into the Pharaonic tradition of royal jewels created for the king and elite. Here the author has created a short book with half the volume devoted to coloured pictures of the best of ancient Egyptian jewelry. 

7. Ancient Lives by John Romer
   Ancient Lives will not be an easy book to enter as it took me a few chapters in before I was hooked by one of the finest telling of ancient lives of a privileged class of artisans from the ancient village of the royal tomb builders. The book is composed with the thousands of documents found at that site and displaying all the ancient villagers talents, trials, and responsibilities they possessed to the living and the dead.

6. The Life and Times of Akhnaton
    This classic publication by the late Arthur Weigall whom excavated a famous tomb, and was present in the Valley of kings during important discoveries at the beginning of the last century and is a must read for anyone interested in the these discoveries. Especially impressive is the authors descriptions of the activities which took place in Valley of kings tomb 55 in ancient times.

5. X-raying the Pharaohs
   This short book is based on a project in the 1970's to X-ray all the royal mummies and virtually every other mummy in the Cairo Museum. The book is filled with many of the finds produced by the X-rays including the position of King Amenhotep I's arms and a bead girdle around the kings waist.

4. Akhenaten and Nefertiti
    This is the second book on this list for the late Cyril Aldred who writes here about the heretic and his beautiful queen Nefertiti. This is not a story as much as it is an examination of 175 surviving works of art of the Amarna period in various museums.

3. Archaic Egypt
    The late Egyptologist Walter Emery had the experience of some of the great finds of Egypt's shadowy Archaic period at the beginning of dynastic history. The volume is filled with exceptional black and white pictures that clearly demonstrate the authors words and remarkable discoveries.

2. Unwrapping a Mummy
    This marvelous short book is on the discovery of the remains of a notable priest who's mummy was discovered a century ago at Deir el Bahri. Unfortunately the priests mummy deteriorated so much so that it was decided to unwrap him, this represents one of the last times in modern history that an Egyptian mummy was unwrapped.

1. Ancient Egypt The Great Discoveries
    I loved the format of the book which present the great archaeological finds from ancient Egypt according to their date of discovery. The book is uncomplicated and filled with lots of coloured pictures including some finds which may be new to the reader.

Tutankhamen: The Untold Story
     This is the late Thomas Hoving's 1978 best seller of an unbeleivable tale of Tutankhamun's treasures and the covetous nature of the excavation of the boy kings tomb. The artifacts from Tutankhamun's tomb were kept together for Egypt's national collection in Cairo but did a number of them end up outside Egypt?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Great Pharaoh Ramses and His Time: EXPO 86

An Exhibition of Antiquities from the Egyptian Museum, Cairo
At the Great Hall of Ramses II
Expo 86
Vancouver British Columbia, Canada
May 2-October 13, 1986

French text: Christiane Desroches Noblecourt
Translation: Elly Mialon
ISBN: 2-9800416-0-2

This is a catalog of a traveling exhibition which made a North American tour between 1985 and 1987 with this stop in Vancouver for the International Exposition of 1986. The catalog opens with the life and legacy of the great pharaoh, especially by the documents left by Ramses II himself in the 67 years worth of monuments he built.

The late eminent Egyptologist Christiane Desroches Noblecourt's opening summary makes the timeline of events which led to Ramses deification of himself in his monuments, particularly at Abu Simbel. The author tells us that Ramses celebrated his first jubilee in year 30 of his reign and that the following year after a royal visit an earthquake struck the monument causing one of the four colossi on the outside of the temple to fall to the ground.

The reader is presented in this short biography with the military deeds, his many wives and more than hundred children, of which his first twelve sons died before Ramses. The passing of Ramses sent his mummy on its tour from tombs in the Valley of kings to his final resting place in the tomb of Queen Inhapy at Deir el Bahri.

The catalog opens with a colossus of Ramses as a votary of Montu and Rat-tawy found at the temple of Armant. The statue is in nice condition which attributes much of its value. The king's face is rounded to represent a solar orb according to the author, but by no means is it anything more than a piece of propaganda.

One of the great unknown finds of Egyptology was the discovery of the sun sanctuary and most if not all of its elements collapsed and buried under centuries of sand near Ramses temple at Abu Simbel. This remarkable and unique surviving sanctuary and its elements are rarely seen except for those fortunate enough to see the Cairo museum or those who saw the exhibition or view elements of it within this guide.

Three column blocks found on Elephantine Island inscribed for Thutmosis IV were reused by Ramses who respected the cartouches of his predecessor while having himself added to them. The color which remains on the column is one of its finest features.

Ms. Desroches Noblecourt keeps referring to Ramses in terms of miracles performed which a skeptic like me might consider propaganda from the ancient king's scribes. Present in the exhibition is the famous statue of the child Ramses in front of the falcon Horus which symbolically spells out the king's name, the statue being one of the great sculptures of the king.

In the next part, the reader is presented with Ramses family on the monuments and represented in the exhibition including the exceptional canopic stopper of the image of the king's mother Tuya , found in her tomb in the Valley of queens in 1972. The Karnak clepsydra (a water clock), of Amenhotep III found in pieces in the water-logged cachet near the seventh pylon at that complex, is a rare instrument to keep the time at night and a copy of an older clock produced during the opening of the 18th Dynasty some 300 years earlier.

A relief of a parade of bowing officials presents a sophisticated theme from the Theban tomb of a 19th Dynasty nobleman at Asasif. The quality of the fragmentary relief possesses great dignity and a demonstration of orderly ranks of officials bowing to the king. A satirical papyrus of cats serving mice is a delight though not an entirely unique document as a number of these satirical documents is well known.

A series of decorative tiles follow, though not hugely impressive they possess great fluidity of line and color, which when installed in the original rooms of the king's palace must have left the viewer very much impressed by their sumptuous presentation.

In 1906 during the building of a railroad at ancient Bubastis (Zigzag), excavators discovered two caches of treasure created during the time of Ramses and his heirs. This treasure included beautiful bracelets, gold and silver vessels and precious ornaments with perhaps the lapis lazuli and gold bracelets of Ramses being among the best known or the silver jug with a goat handle both among the pieces presented in the exhibition.

The objects which follow include earrings of gold shaped as poppy flowers and inscribed for the grandson of Ramses, Seti II. These earrings came from Valley of kings tomb 56 and included matching necklace, not included in the catalog.

The famous gold ewer of Ahmose was among the objects present in the exhibition and found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Psusennes I at Tanis by Pierre Montet. The early 18th Dynasty ewer was likely part of a temple deposit acquired by Psusennes for his burial.

More pieces of gold are presented including a thin gold cup decorated with the cartouches of the descendent of Ramses, Tewosret, who ruled herself as the last king of Ramses II's dynasty. I was surprised to see the stunning statue of the "white queen" included in the exhibition, found in a sanctuary northwest of the Ramesseum in 1896 its white painted surface, lapis blue wig and yellow gold highlights are amazingly preserved.
The color pictures in the catalog are gorgeous and of so many of the Cairo museums most important pieces related to the life of the great king, all that is really missing is the mummy itself. Having said this, I had a hard time finding pictures for many of the artifacts from this show that I wanted to my readers to see.

It is quite the sight that so many gold and silver objects from the tomb of Psusennes I was present in the exhibition and its catalog. We pass by a number of precious vessels from  Psusennes tomb till I come to the magnificent cumbersome necklace of that king weighing a little over 23 pounds troy, which the author suggests might have come from one of the figureheads of a sacred bark.

We are presented with two color pictures of a couple of the most important pieces in the show including the lid to the coffin that contained the mummy of Ramses II. Ms. Desroches Noblecourt takes us next to the craftsmen of the royal burials in the Valley of kings with objects found in their tombs at Deir el Medina.

The tomb of Sennudjem from that cemetery was found intact and had not been disturbed since the time the last member of the family was buried. The tomb contained much beautiful material in wonderfully preserved condition and to the readers delight, there are 13 pieces from that tomb represented in the show's catalog.

For me and perhaps the most important find in the tomb was the burial chambers door represented as number 45 in the catalog. This is the only surviving painted burial chamber door in the Theban Necropolis.

The door is painted on the outside facing the visitor with scenes of the family worshiping Osiris and Ptah-Sokar-Osiris on a white background. The side facing the burial has Sennudjem playing a game of senet while his wife holds his arm on a yellow background. Both are seated in front of a table of offerings while below this scene are 11 lines from the book of the dead.

     "Beginning of transfigurations and illuminations of the exit and of the return in the necropolis. Be a Luminous one in the beautiful west, so as to go out in the day and do all the transformations one desires (having) played senet, seated under the (papyrus) shelter, (then) go out as a living-soul, by Osiris, the servant of the place of truth, Sennudjem, the justified, and his wife, the mistress of the house, Iyneferty, the justified."

The reader is next onto an example made from bone and ebony wood with pieces made of glazed terracotta. A beautiful limestone canopic box of Sennudjem is styled as a miniature coffin and meant to hold one of Sennudjem's internal organs.

The magnificent sarcophagus of the son of Sennudjem, Khons is a unique surviving example and the best preserved found to date. Yet even more antiquities from the tomb of Sennudjem are presented including a false vase, a shawabti chest and a shawabti of the tomb owner.

Ms. Desroches Noblecourt is next onto toiletries including a bronze mirror discovered at Saqqara in 1860 and a razor from Deir el Medina, a comb, a miniature chest, spoons for cosmetics and a schist fish shaped pallet, as well as khol tubes and pots, complete the ensemble.

The catalog ends with a section on Ramses destiny including two statues of Ramses worshiping gods complete with one of Ramses as a sphinx with an offering vessel of Amun between his hands. Perhaps the exhibitions most important object is the lid to the coffin that contained the mummy of Ramses II.

The exhibition ended with an overview of the battle of Qadesh and a black granite bust of the great pharaoh found at Tanis. Ms. Christiane Desroches Noblecourt produced a clear presentation of the life of Ramses II simplified by objects of his time and status.

The many objects from the intact tombs of King Psusennes I and the craftsmen of Ramses tomb in the Valley of kings, Sennudjem were an additional bonus to this extraordinary exhibition on the life and times of the great Ramses II.


1).Photo of Ramses II from Armant: The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University
2). Photo of rebus statue of Ramses: Jon Bodsworth
3). Photo of clepsydra: Eternal Egypt
4). Bracelets of Ramses II: Tour Egypt
5). Necklace of Psusennes I: 321
6). Ramses coffin lid: The Theban Royal Mummy Project
7). Statue of Meryetamun: Antikforever
8). Coffin of Ramses II: Louis Mazzatenta/Getty Images/National Geographic Creative
9). Bust of Ramses II: Professor Jean-Francois Bradu

Monday, June 2, 2014

Was King Hatschepsut the Original Owner of Theban Tomb 358?

When found by archaeologists working for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's excavations in February of 1929 the tomb contained the burial of an 18th Dynasty Queen, Meryetamun. The queen remains a bit of an enigma in that her burial clearly states that she was an important member of the early 18th Dynasty royal family who ruled Egypt from ancient Thebes.

Unfortunately the name Meryetamun was possessed by way too many queens of the family and as a result has left her as somewhat anonymous, though she bears a likeness to the mummy of Thutmosis III. The find was remarkable that in the crypt beyond the well the queen and her coffins were in orderly condition, except the gold had been neatly stripped from her coffins and mummy which then had been beautifully restored, offerings were placed, with this the ancient restoration party left Meryetamun to her long sleep never visited again until discovered by the Metropolitan's excavation more than 3000 years later.

The controversy comes in which came first the tomb or Hatschepsut's memorial temple, or were both created at the same time? For myself, I think the question is overrated and perhaps irrelevant for certainly by the time the temple builders made it to the eastern end of the northern colonnade they were aware the tomb was there and a planned room was not created in order to avoid the tombs staircase.

While the tomb builders broke through to the foundations of the temple in one of the tombs corridors and deliberately went lower to avoid the temple above and eventually stopped work on a corridor to avoid undermining the temple's foundations. This to me says that both operations are occurring simultaneously, that is the tomb should also be dated to the reign of Hatschepsut.

I am left to wonder if this ultimate screw up may have led to the downfall of the architect and favorite Senenmut, leaving both the tomb and the mortuary temple badly compromised.  Senenmut's figures hidden behind the doors of the temple, where they cannot be seen when the doors are open, perhaps an act of foresight on his part.

Two other tombs have been found prepared for Hatschepsut both containing stone sarcophagi inscribed for her, including one created for her before her rise to kingly status and Valley of the Kings tomb, KV20 which contained two quartzite sarcophagi, both originally made for Hatschepsut, except that when found one of the boxes had been re-cut for her father Thutmosis I.

This heavy stone sarcophagus lay on its side, probably an accident of descent into that tomb but could it originally have been destined for Hatschepsut's burial behind her temple in Theban Tomb 358?

This leads me to the significance's of the well in the tomb an unusual feature in the tomb of an 18th Dynasty queen of which I know of no other queens tomb to possess a well usually reserved for the tombs of kings in the 18th Dynasty beginning with Hatschepsut's predecessor Amenhotep I whose potential tomb found at Dra Abu el-Naga was the first Theban royal tomb to have a well. In reality, TT 358, maybe the second royal tomb to have a well and intended for Hatschepsut to be buried under her mortuary temple as was tradition a king.

 It cannot be viewed as a coincidence that the crypt is directly behind the central shrine of the temple and the well says Hatschepsut probably never intended to be buried in the Valley of the Kings, her final decision probably offered her little time to start again. The architectural problems which had exposed the foundations to the temple in the tomb and the obviously unfinished extra room of the temple that if the room was ever excavated would have revealed the tombs staircase, these were together a huge screw-up!

These architectural flaws became really good reasons to abandon the project and send the sarcophagus to be buried with her father in the Valley of the Kings, leaving her to hack out the apartment below KV 20. The decorated blocks meant to cover the walls had only been started when King Hatschepsut died and was buried within the rude sepulcher of KV 20 laying next to her sarcophagus re-cut for her father lying empty and on its side.

A good reason for Thutmosis III to create a new burial for his grandfather and a great place to bury Queen Meryetamun!

      "The silence, the dark, and the realization at the ages that [this last] coffin had laid there...all combined in creating an eerie effect; and whatever one may expect, that does not happen so very often in digging".
                                                                                                                   Herbert E. Winlock


 The Met around the World
1. Photograph by Harry Burton, 1929. Archives of the Egyptian Expedition, Department of Egyptian Art.
 2. Merytamun's burial in her tomb (TT 65, M10C 107). Photograph by Harry Burton, 1929. Archives of the Egyptian Expedition, Department of Egyptian Art.
3. Herbert Winlock quote: Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries, Nicholas Reeves, Thames and Hudson, 2000, ISBN: 0-500-05105-4, pg. 176
4. The tomb of Queen Meryetamun (TT358): Brian Yare 2007
5. Sarcophagus of Thutmosis I from The Boston Museum of Fine Arts:  Keith Schengili-Roberts
6. Valley of the Kings, John Romer, Henry Holt and Company, NY, 1981, pages 238-9
7.. The Theban Mapping Project