Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Truth in the Search for Nefertiti


In a very flawed article from the Archaeology News Network, the former head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass disputes Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves theory that the tomb of Nefertiti will be found behind the painted walls of Tutankhamun's tomb, in particular, the north and west walls. Part of Dr.Hawass's concern is for the preservation of the paintings which would have to be removed.

The article suggests that behind one wall there will be found a 'mundane' storeroom. Hard to imagine anything 'mundane' about the discovery of a storeroom off the boy king's burial chamber. Cutting apart the paintings is certainly something that will not happen in the near future. With scans of the walls done the next decision may be drilling a small hole in each wall that a camera could look into any void found.

What started me writing this piece, however, was a number of inaccuracies in the article which include that King Ay was Tutankhamun's brother. Ay was an old man, and likely the power behind Tutankhamun's short reign. Ay succeeded Tutankhamun on the throne, and may, or may not have been Tutankhamun's ancestor, through the boy king's queen, Ankhesenamun, the daughter of Nefertiti.

The article moves further along with Dr. Hawass's belief that Nefertiti was likely one of two mummies found in the Valley of the Queens tomb 21. This is in error as the two female mummies in question were found in the Valley of the Kings tomb Kv 21. The mummy known as Kv 21 A, has through DNA found to likely be Tutankhamun's queen, through the fetuses found with Tutankhamun in his tomb.

The suggestion by Dr. Hawass that the torn apart remains of the mummy Kv 21 B is Nefertiti is about as awful as it gets. Mr. Reeves believes Nefertiti is intact while Dr. Hawass is suggesting of Nefertiti that she is represented by a mummy reduced to a sad pile of violated bones in the 19Th century. If DNA has proven that the mummy of Ankhesenamun, Kv 21 A, is the daughter of the Kv 21 B mummy, then it is certainly the worst possible ending to the search for Nefertiti.

Notes:
Photo of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, AFP
Photo of Kv21 B, Kenneth Garrett Photography

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Must Read Document for 2016

First occurrence of Sed jubilee

Year 2 second month of the first season, day 3

This wonder which happened to his majesty : that the beasts of the highlands came down to him; there came a gazelle great with young, going with the face of the people before her, while her eyes looked backward; she did not turn back until she arrived at this august mountain, at this block, it still being in place, for this lid of this sarcophagus. She dropped her young upon it while the army of the king was looking. Then they cut off her neck before it and brought fire. It descended in safety.

Now, it was the majesty of this august god, lord of the highlands, who gave the offering to his son, Nibtowere, Mentuhotep IV, living forever, in order that his heart might be joyful, that he might live upon his throne forever and ever, that he might celebrate millions of Sed Jubilees.

The hereditary prince, count, governor of the city and vizier, chief of all nobles of judicial office, supervisor of everything in this whole land, the vizier Amenemhet.


James Breasted: The Documentary Sources of Egyptian history

Amenemhet I relief: tutincommon

Friday, December 11, 2015

Egyptology in 2015

 
As the year 2015 comes to a close it is time to take a brief look back at the events of the past year in the world of Egyptology. It has been a busy year for researchers of her ancient culture as the past reveals itself in a myriad of excavations from Aswan to Alexandria. The year has also produced large amounts of stolen artifacts from illegal excavations over the years that have been smuggled abroad, and now are being repatriated back to Egypt.

Dr. Otto Schaden past away this year. Most people will know him best as the discoverer of Valley of the Kings tomb Kv 63, but Dr Schaden's work in the Valley of the Kings also included clearing the tomb of King Ay, WV 23, and the tomb of Amemesses, KV 10.

In January an Egyptian fortress was discovered in the Sinai at Tell Habua near the Suez canal. The fort corresponds as belonging to the Way of Horus recorded in inscriptions on the walls at Karnak. A unique carved relief was discovered at Aswan this year depicting an unknown king making offerings to the god's Toth and Amun-Re. It is believed to be the first time the two god's have been depicted together.

It was unbelievably announced that Tutankhamun's mask had been damaged some months earlier and had its beard broken off. To make matters worse it was poorly glued back on, and now will be heading back into repair to remove the glue, and put the beard on properly. Soon archaeologists were met with the discovery of the tomb at Saqqara of an unknown queen named Khent-Kawes (III). The tomb was found by the Czech mission headed by Miroslav Barta. It appears this queen might be the wife of the Fifth Dynasty King Neferirkare.

Also came the announcement from Abydos of the finding of a tomb of a little known Thirteenth Dynasty king named Woseribre Senebkay. The small tombs walls are pleasantly decorated with the burial of the king thoroughly destroyed leaving only fragments with what is thought to be Senebkay's skeleton. Analysis of the king's remains suggests he had suffered a brutal death.

In March came the discovery of a beautifully painted tomb of a New Kingdom noble named Sa-Mut and his wife Ta Khaeet opposite Luxor in a cemetery known as the Valley of the Nobles. The tomb being found by a joint American/Egyptian mission of the American Research Center in Egypt. The tomb dates to the 18th Dynasty and has damage dating to the Amarna period.


A cache of artifacts was also found at Karnak temple including statues of the baboon god Djehuty as well as statuettes of Osiris, Mut, and Bastet. The discovery was made at the temple of Ptah, originally built by Thutmosis III, (1479 B.C.-1424 B.C.). Included among the string of repatriated antiquities that came home to Egypt throughout the year, is a relief belonging to a temple of Thutmosis IV, also at Karnak.

Some scandal was aroused in the spring regarding the authenticity of the famous fresco of geese in the Cairo Museum. The geese are from the Third Dynasty mastaba of Nefermaat, a unique Old Kingdom tomb at Meidum. The theory certainly achieved the goal of getting press attention even if it received no merit.


This sites guide reviews have developed a nice audience with some of this years most popular reviews being, The Illustrated Guide to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and a rare copy of, The Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art. Articles from this site have also done well include, The Talatat Wall in the Luxor Museum, and the first edition of Tuesday's Egyptian shows promise.

Polish archaeologists have found a unique six thousand five hundred year old burial in the western desert at a place called Gebel Ramlah. In one grave containing two individuals, one of them had cuts on his femur, and in another the deceased was showered with shards of pottery and stone. This years most bizarre Egyptology note is the finding of a 2000 year old mummy at a French garbage dump. I do not get it, the woman knows she's throwing out a mummy, did she never hear of a museum?


A terrorist attack at Luxor this year did not harm the temple, or any bystanders, but is a reminder of the dangers faced by innocent Egyptians and visitors. Six tombs from Dynasty XXVI were found at Aswan beside the Aga Khan Mausoleum on Aswan's west bank. The tombs contain many artifacts though they were robbed in 2011 during the revolution.

It could be suggested that the biggest news in Egyptology this year came in late summer with well respected Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves announcement that he believed King Tutankhamun's tomb contains more chambers, and that Mr Reeves believes Nefertiti's burial is in one of them, and perhaps some of her daughters too. If Nefertiti is present I would suggest her daughter Meketaten will be with her.

The big runners for Egyptians this year include these two from the summer of 2014, "The Great Pharaoh Ramses and his time: Expo 86", and "Was King Hatshepsut the Original Owner of Theban Tomb 358?" At Giza the great pyramid has been under going a series of scans to see if there are anomalies such as hidden chambers. The scans taken at sunset and sunrise use infrared thermography to see the cooling and heating up of the pyramids blocks.


The ruins of a shrine built by the first king of the Thirtieth Dynasty, Nectanebo I, have been found under modern Cairo. The shrine is a small reminder of what was once the great city of Heliopolis that today with the exception of a Middle Kingdom obelisk of Senusert I, is completely lost to the city of Cairo

Among the prettiest artifacts returning back to Egypt is this sunk relief of the great King Seti I. The relief turned up at auction in London recently and was authenticated as genuine and stolen. Who would think that they could actually sell something as outstanding as this without firm proof of its provenance.


Well it has been one of those years where technology both new and ancient come together to leave us with more questions than answers. This is of course only a short rundown of what was a rather full year in Egyptology.

Images:

Photo of tomb of Sa-Mut-Courtesy of the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry
Skeleton of Woseribre Senebkay- (Photo: Jennifer Wegner, Penn Museum)
The Rueil-Malmaison Mummy Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images
Shrine of Nectanebo I- Courtesy of the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry
Seti I, relief-Ahram Online 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tuesday's Egyptian

                                                      Beautiful and Irritating


      "...the German scholar who was present at the division recalls that the official release documents described the limestone bust of the queen as the head of a princess in plaster, thus committing two errors of record."
                                                                                          American Egyptologist  John A. Wilson

When discovered at the site of El Amarna in the workshop of the royal sculptor Thutmose by the German Oriental Society's (DOG) excavator Ludwig Borschardt on December 6, 1912, she was an instant celebrity. As the great masterpiece among a small hoard of sculptures of the Amarna period court, the bust should have in the division of the finds later in late January 1913 gone to Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Sorting the finds of sculptures into two equal parts on behalf of Egypt's antiquities ministry fell to the inspector for Middle Egypt, Gustave Lefebvre.


The staging of the set by Mr. Borchardt's team including providing doctored pictures and poor lighting is without doubt unseemly and part of the reasons why the division of finds has stopped. However no matter what kind of deceptions were performed on behalf of the excavators to keep the bust in the German share of the finds, it is ultimately Gustave Lefebvre's responsibility for not doing his job properly on behalf of Egypt's national collection. Why Mr. Lefebve gave the piece to the German's may always remain unknown, and certainly, it is the biggest blunder by Egypt's antiquities ministry.



Perhaps Mr. Lefebve had other things on his mind that day, or just couldn't be bothered to inspect the contents of the crates, or crate. Perhaps he felt some debt of gratitude to Ludwig Borchardt, or to the German Oriental Society. Perhaps his eyes were hurting that day and he didn't feel the need of putting on his glasses, or maybe he lost his glasses, or sat on them, or went temporarily blind.


Unfortunately, in this case, the fault is with Egypt's antiquity authority of the day, and that's what makes the decision of 1913 valid. Nefertiti is where she belongs in Berlin.


Notes:

Quote; KMT, Volume 19, Number 3, Fall 2008, Why Nefertiti went to Berlin, Rolf Krauss, page 53
Lower Image Bust of Queen- Philip Pikart

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday's Egyptian: Seti I

The Eye of Re on the Mummy of Pharaoh Seti I


By the time Pharaoh Seti I, was buried in 1279 BC he had restored Egypt to the former glory lost during the Amarna period of a half century earlier. Seti left as a tribute to his reign temples such as at Abydos with some of the finest raised reliefs known in Egyptian art of the New Kingdom. Seti's fourteen-year-long reign also resulted in one of the finest tombs ever constructed in Egypt and certainly the finest in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes.


Seti's gorgeous tomb walls were prepared with all the spells he would need to find his way through the underworld in safety. As the king's body was being mummified by priests workers carefully filled the chambers of his tomb with every provision Seti was going to need for his reign in the afterlife. His tomb would have contained his favorite foods, his clothes, regalia, and furniture he used in life including his thrones and even his chariots.


Some seven hundred magical figures who would do Seti's work for him were also placed within his sepulcher, and among the few things found still in the tomb when Giovanni Belzoni discovered it in 1817. Seti's alabaster sarcophagus being the great prize still in the tomb except by then its lid had been smashed and King Seti's mummy long gone.




More than a half-century after Belzoni left Seti's tomb the great kings mummy turned up not in the Valley of the Kings but in a cliff tomb at Deir el Bahri. In the tomb with Seti was his son the great Ramses II and a who's who of the New Kingdoms greatest rulers. In this long undisturbed tomb, Seti rested in the entrance corridor in one of his original wood coffins which had had its face refashioned. Inside the kings damaged mummy and original tattered wrappings were covered with a yellow shroud. When the shroud was pulled back Seti's remarkable noble disposition presented the face from his monuments in dignity not as a dead man but as a sleeping monarch.


In the late 1960's X-rays revealed an impressive Eye of Horus amulet under the wrappings of Seti's upper left arm. The thought occurred to me that Tutankhamun's mummy contained amulets created for not only Tutankhamun but also for Akhenaten and Smenkhkare. I wondered if the amulet had ever been removed from Seti’s wrappings, something I have long been against, but now I wonder if the amulet is inscribed and if it bears Seti's name or his son Ramses II, or his father Ramses I, or even perhaps a leftover from Horemheb's burial.


With only Tutankhamun's mummy left undisturbed it cannot be judged today if this mixture of names on the amulets surrounding the body of the king was unique to Tutankhamun or common practice in the New Kingdom.


Notes:

Tomb of Seti I- Jean-Pierre Dalbera
Mummy of Seti I
The Theban Royal Mummy Project
X-Raying The Pharaohs; James E. Harris and Kent R. Weeks, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1973. SBN 684-13016-5, page 43

Monday, November 30, 2015

An Egyptian Princess


Georg Ebers
E. A. Weeks & Company
Chicago
1868?

The late Georg Ebers was a celebrated Egyptologist and author from the second half of the 19th century whose works are known to contain references of archaeological discoveries of his time. Mr. Ebers is also well known today for an important medical papyrus from Egypt's New Kingdom period he discovered at Thebes, which bears his name, during the winter of 1873-74.


This 513-page book opens with a preface to the second German edition of corrections and improvements, including more recent discoveries of his day and a clarification of character names. The pages contain references at the bottom of the pages, often encompassing most of the page, these references while fascinating are a distraction from the main plot, making the book unsuitable for a child.


The book opens as guests arrive at the noblewoman Rhodopis house at the Greek city of Naukratis for a party. The guests are a mix of Mediterranean nobles one of whom has brought the words of an oracle while an Israelite had come to Egypt to buy chariots and horses for the governor of Judah.


After talk of sport and politics the Athenian Kallias announced that the Persians were on their way to Egypt in the form of an envoy to conclude an alliance with Pharaoh Amasis, and perhaps the Persian King Cambyses wishes the hand of Amasis' daughter, though there is some doubt among the guests as to the intentions of the Persian envoy. The party ends with a drunken insult of the hostess in remembrance of her youth as a slave by one of the guests but before the insult could be completed the guest was knocked out by another guest and carried away by his slaves.


Hurt by the insult the lady of the house wanders to the bed chamber of her granddaughter Sappho of whom Rhodopis is devoted. Days later a crowd gathers at the harbor at Sais including the Crown Prince Psamtik  and priests to welcome the ships of the Persians arrival.


The reader is present at a great banquet held by their jovial self -confident King Amasis with talk of events of the classical world in which they lived. Amasis and his heir are opposites as the king trusts his friends, Psamtik only sees the court vulnerabilities of his father’s generosity with a particular dislike of the Athenian Phanies, who Psamtik seeks to kill.


King Amasis to his queen and guests,


     "There are but two days when a wife brings pleasure to her husband's life: The wedding-day, when hopes are bright, and the day he buries her out of sight.'" *


"Cease, cease," cried Ladice, stopping her ears; "that is too bad. Now, Persians, you can see what manner of man Amasis is. For the sake of a joke, he will laugh at those who hold precisely the same opinion as himself. There could not be a better husband ------"


"Nor a worse wife," laughed Amasis.

                                                                             

A friend Gyges hears plans to capture Phanes and rides a brisk two hours from Sais to Naukratis to let Phanes know that Rhodopis' house, where he is, is being surrounded by guards in an attempt to catch him by Psamtik's men. This action saves Phanes who manages to escape the house dressed as one of the Persian guests, though not his boat which had been discovered and sunk by his pursuers.


Early the following morning the handsome young Persian Prince, Bartja visits Rhodopis to inquire about the well-being of his friend Gyges, but before he could meet with Rhodopis he catches her granddaughter Sappho in the garden and falls in love with the innocent girl. Now about a quarter of my way through the book I have found a comfort zone in the style of writing of the author, the characters and the many fascinating archaeological notes that accompany the storyline.


The love story between Bartja and Sappho continues with the help of Sappho's nanny Melitta until quickly Bartja and Sappho's love finds approval of Bartja's father and Sappho's grandmother. First, however, Bartja and his father have to complete their mission to bring back King Amasis' daughter Princess Nitetis to Persia to marry King Cambyses.


After a long journey, Nitetis arrives at the Persian capital and is met outside the city walls by her prospective husband Cambyses, who is clad in magnificent clothes of gold, silver and purple cloth with yellow leather boots on top a great stallion. The young Nitetis is well liked by Cambyses his mother and younger sister, but there are those at the court that have it in for the Egyptian princess.


In her apartments among the hanging gardens, Nitetis becomes a member of the royal family learning how to be a Persian queen, and of her duties. Cambyses is at first jealous by the thought that his younger brother Bartja may hold Nitetis' heart but soon becomes relaxed in the faith of his and Nitetis' love for each other.


As Nitetis is fitting into her new life she receives a letter from home from her mother Queen Ladice, the letter is all doom and gloom particularly for Princess Tachot who has fallen gravely ill in love for Bartja, and awaits to see him again, vowing not to die before then. On the day of Cambyses birthday celebrations, the elements of evil take hold in the caretaker of the harem Boges who wishes to eliminate Nitetis by making her look unfaithful to Cambyses, who is hot-headed and easily led by Boges.


As I finish chapter XIX my antique copy heads into Chapter XXI with no chapter XX, Chapter XXI starts at page 299 to page 306, then it starts over to page 299 and moves through the complete chapter to chapter 22. I also realize that I have reread earlier parts of this book which I chalked up to losing my page, but now I am in doubt of that.



These factors have resulted in my setting this book, and review aside for the past year as I contemplated if or how I should finish and publish this review. In the end, I have decided that due to loss of context I should end the review here, but to publish just in case the entire print run was affected in this way. For those readers who have this book already, you can find what appears to be the missing chapter in a link below.

Notes:

* Taken from the translations of F.W. Richter
1. PublicBookshelf.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Six Books for Every Egyptian Collection


On this beautiful day here in Vancouver, I am reminded that winter has arrived, and that I have not put together in a while a collection of must have reads suitable as gifts for loved ones. These books included for the first time three exhibition catalogs of shows that contained extraordinary content never to be seen again.


1. The Search for Alexander; An Exhibition- From the age of small children people around the world are taught of the fame of Alexander the Great. Here we have a catalog of the early 1980's exhibition, containing objects from his time including many objects found within the intact burial of Alexander's father Philip II, King of Macedonia. The book contains beautiful pictures provided with clear explanations of artifacts built to dazzle the senses.

The Greek Ministry of Culture
New York Graphic Society of Books
1980
ISBN: 082121080


2. The Complete Valley of the Kings- In this book the reader is brought through the history of the tombs within the valley, their occupants and discovery. Author Nicholas Reeves recent theory about finding Nefertiti's burial behind frescoes painted on the walls in King Tutankhamen's tomb makes this the perfect timing for anyone interested to explore the sacred valley.

Nicholas Reeves & Richard H. Wilkinson
Thames & Hudson
1996
ISBN 978-0-500-28403-2


3. Gods and Myths of Ancient Egypt-This book is the most challenging among the books presented, and best for a little older crowd. The author Robert A. Armour lays before the reader a complex extraction of components that make up ancient Egyptian Paganism. Within these pages a greater sense of the individual character of gods, goddesses and the divine family is remarkably constructed.

Robert A. Armour
The American University in Cairo Press
1986
Cairo, Egypt
ISBN 977 424 113 4
Dar el Kutub no. 4130/85


4. Akhenaten: Pharaoh of Egypt- It is hard to write a list of books to recommend to my viewers without including something by the late Cyril Aldred. The subject of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten cannot be forgotten being a favorite subject of Egyptologists young and old. In this fertile ground Mr. Aldred produced one of the finest representations of the lives the king and royal family lived in their capital at Akhetaten.

Cyril Aldred
Thames and Hudson
First Abacus Edition
Great Britain
1972
ISBN-10: 0500276218


5. Pharaohs and Mortals: Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom- The collection of art put together in this 1988 exhibition likely will never be seen again as so many of Great Britain's finest Egyptian collections lent pieces to this show. Too often now a days exhibitions are organized around pharaonic personalities like Tutankhamun, Cleopatre or Ramses II. Here in this catalog author Janine Bourriau presents an outstanding collection of art of the Middle Kingdom to rival anything from the New Kingdom.

Janine Bourriau
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Cambridge University Press
Great Britain
1988
ISBN 0 521 35846 9


6. The Treasures of Tutankhamun- This is the book and guide to the 1972 fiftieth anniversary exhibition of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The exhibition was held at the British museum with objects from the boy king's tomb, many of which are now according to Egyptian law unable to leave Egypt again including the pharaoh's mask.

British Museum Exhibition
The Trustees of the British Museum
Thames & Hudson Ltd.
London
1972
ISBN: 0 7230 0070 0

Monday, November 9, 2015

AKHENATEN: Pharaoh of Egypt


Cyril Aldred
Thames and Hudson
First Abacus Edition
Great Britain
1972
ISBN-10: 0500276218

Egyptologists first stumbled upon his peculiar figure carved on the walls of abandoned rock tombs in Middle Egypt. Since that initial discovery, he has been the subject of much inquiry and speculation. He has been identified by one scholar as the Pharaoh of the Oppression, by another as the victim of Exodus. Freud claimed him as the mentor of Moses and the instigator of Jewish monotheism. Glanville's view of him was that as a king he deserved nothing but censure. Breasted hailed him as the first individual in history. To Gardiner, he wears a fanatical look and Pendlebury thought he was a religious maniac."


The book opens with the structure of ancient Egypt, and the role of the pharaoh as a divine entity upon which the well-being of Egypt and her peoples was dependent. The pharaoh interceded with the gods as an equal who placed offerings to the deities on behalf of his subjects. With the bringing on of empire, the Theban kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty owed their allegiances to Amun, god of Thebes, bestowing huge donations to the estates, and temples of Amun.

In reality, the kingly Dynasty formed at Thebes probably ruled from the old capital of Memphis in Lower Egypt much of the time. Cyril Aldred continues through the protocol of the royal family, particularly the concepts of brother-sister marriages, and the need for co-regency with two Horus's sitting on the throne at the same time. A series of black and white pictures depicting the king's family are a fine choice of images.

After a short reign of about nine years Thutmosis IV died young with as a result the new Horus, Amenhotep III, known as the magnificent, was still a small child of perhaps as young as a few months to six years of age. Unique to the reign of Amenhotep III are a series of large scarabs which were created within the first eleven years of his reign marking the king's marriage to Queen Tiye, a foreign princess, and the king's prowess.

The author places before the reader the known evidence for the reigns of the Amarna king's particularly the dates related in inscriptions of Akhenaten's reign. The iconography of Akhenaten is family oriented with the abandonment of the king as warrior and savior of the Egyptian population. Here now the king is represented with his wife Nefertiti and their six daughters in moments of idle luxury playing games.

     "One hymn, in particular, which appears in the tomb of the priest Ay is generally regarded as having been written be Akhenaten himself. In it, the universalism of the Egyptian empire finds full expression with the royal poet projecting a world faith to displace the nationalism that had preceded it for twenty centuries."

The author now looks more deeply into the members of the family including the in-laws, a family from Akhmim of which had been the parents of Queen Tiye. Her family held a number of the highest of posts with a possibility that Nefertiti was a member of this clan and a granddaughter of the priest and future Pharaoh Ay, has been suggested. A series of images occupy several pages mostly with family portraits, rarely seen artifacts, and inscriptions.

The question of co-regency has always bothered Egyptologist's as it represents chaos and uncertainty to both the sides for or against such an institution. Many inscriptions are free from naming the monarch, as a result, it takes corroborating texts, and the civil calendar to ferret out the truth. A number of sources such as stelae and fragmentary papyrus documents may point out the highlights, and bureaucratic functions, while wine labels can give the highest year of a king's reign.

The reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten are also blessed with the Amarna letters from rulers of subjugated states. The clay tablets written in cuneiform were found at Tell el Amarna at the end of the last century. These letters ask for protection from incursions to Egypt's northern possessions and for the pharaoh to send gold. Many of the documents covered give important dates for both king's which seem to indicate that at least a short co-regency existed between the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten.

     'May the Good God Live, who takes pleasure in Truth, Lord of all that the Sun-disk encompasses, Lord of Heaven, Lord of Earth, the Great Living Aten who illuminates the Two Lands! May the Father Live, Divine and Royal (Re-Herakhty, the Living, who rejoices on the horizon)| (in his manifestations of Light which is in the Aten) |, giving life forever and to all eternity, the Great Living Aten who is in Jubilee!'

We find ourselves back at the 1907 excavation of Valley of the Kings tomb no. 55, conducted by some of the most capable and learned archaeologists of their day. The result of which was one of the worst conducted excavations in the valley. Perhaps the group of men were mesmerized by the knowledge that they were in the presence of Akhenaten, that or Queen Tiye, and confronted by this knowledge were overwhelmed by the destroyed burial and their presences within it. A series of colored pictures that are not the usual fair now follow including the gold jewelry found outside the royal tomb at Amarna.

Akhenaten's religious reforms found within the Aten an all-encompassing universal spirit that possessed no equal, even nullifying Osiris and his cult. No longer was there need for the pantheism of gods each possessing individual aspects, Instead, the creation of all was the product of the rays of the Aten. The end of the Amarna heresy was not as abrupt as sometimes thought, certainly, the king, Tutankhamun and his court left Akhetaten early in his reign.

There is evidence of building work by Horemheb at the site, even as the temples of the Aten were being demolished, the blocks reused as fill in construction at Hermopolis. In Horemheb's usurpation of the monuments of his predecessors Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ay, he did as many pharaohs before he had done. The greater persecution of Akhenaten's memory being the deeds of the Nineteenth Dynasty king's that followed, creating lists of king's that do not include the Amarna Ruler's.

In 'Akhenaten Pharaoh of Egypt' Cyril Aldred found and presented to the reader a man ahead of his time, in whose theology may have cocooned him from the politics of his dominions and the temples of the gods the king was supposed to serve on his peoples behalf.

The flood of differing opinions about Akhenaten expressed by the author at the start of the book often invites excited imaginations to run wild. It is however within this book that the author constructs through surviving records a tale and king that are both unforgettable!


     'The burial arrangements at Thebes should have been the direct responsibility of the Southern Vizier, perhaps Ay; and under the circumstances, it is probable that small tombs were hastily cut in the various burying grounds at Thebes designed to hold more than one occupant. In one of these in the Biban el-Moluk, Tiye, Akhenaten and Smenkh-ka-Re were interred with such equipment as Tut-ankh-Amun was prepared to supply or consider appropriate. In another cache, it is tempting to believe that Nefertiti and her daughters and perhaps grand-daughters were laid to rest. At the funerary ceremonies, Tut-ankh-Amun and his Queen would, of course, have had to officiate and there was no question of any mean and dishonorable burials, though they may have been less opulent than the deceased had planned for themselves.'


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Pyramids Of Egypt


I. E. S. Edwards
Penguin Books
England
1991
ISBN-10: 0140136347

The late I. E. S. Edwards was among other important posts the Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum until his retirement in 1974. After this he worked on the UNESCO project to save the temples at Philae and was Vice-President for the Egypt Exploration Society. This is his 1947 publication on the pyramids of ancient Egypt.

The publication opens with a series of prefaces updating the reader on developments that occurred since first published. In the introduction the author puts ancient Egyptian history into its proper order up to the end of the late period before Alexander the Great's arrival in 332 B.C. A map sets down the location of its sites along the Nile from Elephantine in the south to the sites of Tanis and Buto in the northern delta.

     "However primitive and materialistic the Egyptian conception of the after-life may seem, it must be conceded that it was responsible for the production of some of the greatest artistic masterpieces in antiquity. Without the impetus provided by a practical motive, it is doubtful whether a fraction of the statues, reliefs, or inscriptions which are now so universally admired would ever have been produced."

The evolution of burial customs at the beginning of Egyptian history follow through the simple shallow pit in the desert topped by a mound of sand. Within this grave the body was in a contracted position with offerings and pots surrounding the corpse. By the time of the First Dynasty the shallow pit was replaced with the rock cut tomb topped by a rectangular mud brick mastaba with offering chapel.

The Third Dynasty King Djoser's architect Imhotep erects Egypt's first pyramid, and first stone monumental construction. The pyramid surrounded by false stone buildings, courtyards, and gateways set a new standard for Egypt's king's and a series of step pyramids followed complete with the layout of Djoser's monumental needs for the after-life. As time passed the various elements of the mortuary temple stayed from one generation to the next, and were added on to with vestibules, storerooms, and shrines.

It is King Snefru who develops the first true pyramid at Dashur but only after two previous attempts, one at Meidum and another back at Dashur.With the bent pyramid the stress of the steep angle of the pyramid caused cracks in the burial chamber requiring the architect to reduce the angle of construction of the pyramid. With the Red Pyramid the king had the first true pyramid worthy of the great king's burial.

It is Snefru's son King Khufu who moves his pyramid complex to the Giza plateau, building with monumental blocks weighing up to 200 tons, with mortuary chapel and causeway leading to the king's valley temple. On the Giza plateau next to Khufu's pyramid King Khafra built his pyramid complex, that today appears to be the largest in the cemetery though only because it is erected on higher ground.

It is within the measurements of the pyramids that often haunt books on this subject, making them clearly unsuitable for the younger readers. Fortunate for myself as Mr. Edwards presents words of interest that sets this volume apart from the many books that these measurements have killed.

The king's that followed to the end of the Old Kingdom were unable too afforded their pyramid complex's on the same scale after the epoch of pyramid building in the Fourth Dynasty. Rather these king's afforded rubble filled pyramids cased in limestone with a burial chamber under the pyramid. In the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties corridors and temples were covered in brightly painted sculpted reliefs of fine Tura limestone. At the end of the Fifth Dynasty with King Unas the pyramid texts began being carved on the walls of the burial chamber and other surfaces. The kings of the Sixth Dynasty continued this practice and the texts even appeared on the walls of at least three queen's from this dynasty.

     " In front of each sarcophagus, near the south wall, there was a rectangular pit, about 3 feet deep, in which a Canopic chest containing the king's viscera had been buried. Pepi I's Canopic chest still retained one of the packages with his viscera wrapped in bandages of fine linen, which had been stained brown with resin. Only fragments of the jar had survived."

In the middle of the book there are a large number of pages of black and white photographs, of which many fine shots of pyramid interiors, including the burial chamber of the Twelfth Dynasty King Amenmesses III. In the Twelfth Dynasty the pyramid again rises to the grand scale of the Old Kingdom. The entrances were moved from the north face to ingenious new hiding places with interior passages filled with security measures including secret passages in the ceilings of corridors. Within these pyramid enclosures were found a number of famous jewelry caches from a number of Twelfth Dynasty princesses, and in one tomb was found the disturbed burial of a Thirteenth Dynasty king named Hor.

With the passing of these great monarchs Egypt again splintered into provincialism marking once and for all the end of monumental pyramids in Egypt. While at the same time a population of people, possibly Semitic, immigrated to the northern delta taking control of Lower Egypt. The expulsion of these people known as the Hyksos was completed with Ahmosis I reuniting all of Egypt from Thebes, bringing on the country's greatest period of Empire.

With the enormous wealth which flowed into Egypt from conquered lands, its rulers could well have afforded great pyramids but chose not to. Here the theological impetus had taken a back seat for the safety of the king's mummy. Even the mortuary temples were separated from the now hidden royal tombs, instead the pyramid was now in vogue in the cemeteries of the nobles.

In this subject, particularly on the great pyramid, I wince at the thought of another pyramid book, though I do find the Twelfth Dynasty pyramids with their devices for security curiously entertaining.  I. E. S. Edwards 'The Pyramids of Egypt' is not for children but teenagers and up, being certainly thorough, especially given the books vintage. In conclusion, I couldn't put it down!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Book of the Mummy

In the center of the capital Zagreb sits a beautiful Neo-classical yellow and white stone building on Zrinski square which is the home of Croatia's National Archaeological Museum. A museum with nearly half a million objects of Prehistoric, Greek, Roman and Medieval cultures is a must visit when in Zagreb. The museum also boasts one of Europe's most impressive numismatics collections featuring more than 50,000 coins.

From the museums holdings can be found around 2,100 objects that make up its small and attractive Egyptian collection represented mostly by Late Period objects, though there are artifacts including stelea from Egypt's ancient Middle Kingdom and objects of the New Kingdom period as well as an impressive red granite head of a king, perhaps Amenhotep II?


Though the Egyptian collection is one of Eastern Europe's most impressive Egyptian collections it is relatively unimportant in its contents as most of the museums artifacts are without provenance as to find spots. This is partly due to that two thirds of the Egyptian collection came to the museum in April of 1868 as a purchase of objects from the heirs of the late Baron Franz Koller, who seems to have built his collection while living in Naples during the last decade of his life.

This collection was added to the museums small holdings of Egyptian artifacts where the museums most important piece was already present. The Egyptian collections star is a mummy of a Late Period lady well preserved and though she is a fine mummy it is her wrappings that have become one of, if not the museums greatest artifact, certainly a unique object of world cultural importance.

The lady's wrappings consist of a linen book, a singular surviving example of a linen book from classical antiquity. The bonus being that the book is heavily inscribed in Etruscan writing, a language which remains mostly undeciphered and of which this document is the longest surviving extent text in the ancient Etruscan language known in the world, a singular object in this small collection that any of the worlds far more important museums would envy to posses.


The mummy was purchased in Alexandria sometime around 1848-9 with her wrappings, an injured book of the dead, a sarcophagus, and a mummified cat head all of which enjoyed the "parlor life", the lady standing up with the aid of an iron rod within a glass case. The owner took off the mummies wrappings and displayed them nearby, though it is reported the owner did not notice the writing on the wrappings.

These artifacts were donated to the forerunner of Zagreb's Archaeological Museum sometime after the owners death in 1859 by his family. The damaged Egyptian book of the dead belonged to Nesi-Khonsu the wife of a Theban tailor.

The carbon 14 dates for the mummy, its linen wrappings and papyrus are all dating to approximately 390 BC., though there is some debate about the date of the book of the dead which contains inscriptions in both hieroglyphic and hieratic, it must be said with no corroborating evidence it is only be an assumption that the Zagreb mummy is Nesi-Khonsu.

Studies of the linen book have revealed the names of certain gods and dates suggesting it to be a liturgical calender, there can be no doubt that the book is a world treasure .In the future with translation the full intent of the document will no doubt be helped by still yet to be discovered sources.

Notes:

(KMT Journal, Summer 2010, Vol. 21, #2, Egypt at Zagreb by Lucy Gordan-Rastelli, pg. 63 says that there are "approximately 3,150 objects", in the Egyptian collection, due to this discrepancy I therefore have used the archaeological museums own website information)

Photo of Zagreb Egyptian collection: Pearls: Touch of Croatia
Photo of Etruscan Book:  SpeedyGonsales
Links: Archaeological Museum Zagreb 
Translations: Mel Copeland, The Zagreb Mummy Script

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Daughters of Nefertiti


Valley of the Kings tomb KV63 was discovered quite by accident in 2005 by a team directed by Dr. Otto Schaden working on the tomb of Amenmesse inside and around the entrance of that king's tomb, KV10. As debris was being removed from in front of the tomb ancient workman's huts were found, and below a lip carved into the bedrock was revealed. The lip turned out to be the mouth of a shaft which descended five meters revealing a stone built door in one wall.

A few stones were taken from the top of the door revealing for the first time in more than three thousand years a small room containing many large white pots and at the back of the room seven black resin covered coffins, some with yellow faces indicating that those coffins were finished for women. There was hope that the world of ancient Egypt was about to present a number of historical personages in the parched flesh.

Unfortunately, no mummies were found with the exception of a shadow of where a mummy had left its impression in the bottom of a coffin. The tomb was, in reality, a mortuary dump of likely sacred leftovers of the mummification and reburial rites of perhaps a number of people. A clay seal was also found containing 'pa-aten' what may be part of Tutankhamun's wife Queen Ankhesenamun's Atonist name, Ankhesenpaaten.

The jars contained refuse including a funerary bed taken apart and placed in one of them. Used natron and bits of human flesh along with the remains of a funerary repast that included floral collars worn by the attendants of a long forgotten funeral. The storeroom KV63 lies near KV62, with the contents of both tombs from the reign of Tutankhamun, and more closely to the end of the Amarna heresy.  If the seal is correct and does represent Tutankhamun's queen than some of the debris may have come from Ankhesenamun's mummification, and funeral, suggesting that her death may have come quite quickly after Tutankhamun, perhaps for treason. If we are to believe it was Ankhesenamun who was writing to a foreign king for one of  his sons, so she could make him king, rather than have herself married to a servant.

It is unknown what the circumstance was during the evacuation of the royal tomb at Akhetaton and the condition of the royal family's mummies by the time they were removed from the tomb. Judging by the king discovered in Valley of the Kings tomb KV55, which appeared to be disheveled yet still wrapped when found. This may be a good sign for the royal mummies theorized as hidden behind the walls of Tutankhamun's tomb.

It must be observed however that the accouterments found on the KV55 king were in no way equally as abundant as those found on Tutankhamun. This may suggest that the mummy in question might well have been found after a robbery of the royal tomb and had been re-wrapped. This leaves open the possibility that the Amarna tomb was robbed before the move to Thebes and that those members of the family that were buried there, such as King's Akhenaton and Smenkhkare, Queen's Tiye, Nefertiti and possibly Nefertiti's oldest daughter Meritaton, as well as Princess Meketaton had all been through at least one violent robbery before the transfer to Thebes.

The assortment of coffins found at the back of tomb KV63 looked humble enough, though they were finely made. Could the Amarna dead have been transported in these simple coffins as some of the royal mummies from Amarna may no longer have had coffins left by the time the robbery was discovered? The occupants moved along with Akhenaton in his badly damaged and unwanted female royal coffin converted for his burial. More importantly sending the disgraced king back to Thebes in this converted coffin of a woman may have had meaning to all those who saw the display and knew who was in the coffin.

 The idea that the coffins in KV63 came into the valley containing the unwanted mortuary material seems unreasonable. This material would likely have been part of funerary arrangements for the daughters of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, with the mummification refuse being for Ankhesenamun. Certainly, all the coffins found in KV63 could not have belonged to Ankhesenamun alone.

In particular the funerals of the two queens’ in tomb KV21, These mummies being known as KV21A who through DNA testing is the mother of the fetuses in Tutankhamun's tomb and the only known queen of the boy king. KV21B found in the same tomb as Ankhesenamun may well be the deceased Meritaton whose embalming materials may have been left buried at Akhetaton. There is no evidence of Meritaton changing her name, unlike Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun leaving open that she was already among the dead moved from Amarna.

The Newberry ring is a faience ring that contains two cartouches side by side, one is of Tutankhamun's successor the Pharaoh Ay while the other is Ankhesenamun's indicating that she did outlive her husband, but not by much as Ay's reign was short. The coffins deposited in KV63 being left in the refuse as I would imagine that the royal workshops under Tutankhamun would have been busy making replacement caskets for those members of his family who left Amarna in these substitute coffins in approximately 1334 BC. How many years after the arrival and reburial at Thebes of those royals had spanned till the death and burial of the last queen of the dynasty is unknown,

Tutankhamun came to the throne at the age of nine with the move back to Thebes occurring in year four or five of his reign. Four years later Tutankhamun is dead leaving Ankhesenamun to finish the dynasty. This may mean that KV 21 and refuse room KV63 had been employed for little more than three or four years around ca.1334 BC to 1337 BC, and likely both were finally sealed and forgotten after the burial of Ankhesenamun.


Famed Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves theory that King Tutankhamun's tomb may have other chambers containing the burial of Nefertiti presents many opportunities for imagination. Mr. Reeves theory may well be backed up by the number of coffins discarded in KV63 after the burials and reburials of Nefertiti and her daughters.


Notes:

Study of Nefertiti by Keith Schengili-Roberts
KV-10 The Tomb of Amenmesse
KV63 Excavation site
Theban Mapping Project
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KV63
Daughter of Akhanaton and Nefertiti:  fr: Photo 169 de Guillaume Blanchard (Fujifilm S6900, juillet 2004)
Daughter of Akhanaton and Nefertiti: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta
Many Thanks to Jon Bodsworth for the Nefertiti photo directly above

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Egypt Under the Pharaohs


Barbara Sewell
G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York
1968
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-25454

The book opens with the usual rundown of the environment along the Nile, and the divisions into which ancient Egyptian history is partitioned. This short book contains black and white images on most pages; unfortunately many of these are too dark, though nice color full page photographs are spaced throughout the book.

This volume is very much suitable for young readers ten and up. The read moves quickly onto death and the Egyptian afterlife with some very unusual images including one of all four stoppers from Tutankhamun's canopic chest. From here the writer moves to the Old Kingdom and the effective organization of manpower to create statues and stone buildings on a monumental scale.

After the fall of the Old Kingdom and its god-kings a period of anarchy followed where nomarchs vied with each other for power. The king's of the Middle Kingdom were once again effective rulers but they were no longer seen as god-like. This produced statuary in the Twelfth Dynasty of king's whose faces were now worn by the heavy burden that rested upon them.

A series of weak rulers followed creating the conditions for foreign king's to dominate Lower Egypt while intimidating the king's of Upper and Middle Egypt. The king's of Thebes Seventeenth Dynasty took up arms and fought to drive the foreigners from Egypt. It was finally the Theban King Ahmosis who unified the two lands establishing the New Kingdom, and her period of empire.

An interesting full color picture of the statuette of Queen Tetisheri owned by the British Museum appears on page 71, and on the museums website as a forgery. The great warrior Thutmosis III expanded Egypt's borders to their greatest extent, making the house of the Eighteenth Dynasty fabulously wealthy as well as the priests of the god of Thebes Amun. King's of both the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties contained rulers like the Nineteenth Dynasty King Ramesses II, and Ramesses III of the following dynasty who maintained order, but a series of weak kings living short reigns brought about the end of the empire.

Ms. Sewell presents the society and its domestic life with more amusing black and white photographs. Ancient Egypt was a barter economy where a worker was paid in food, clothes or any other producible measure in exchange. A society who's comforts could be acquired through work and the prosperous population in which their calendar year was dotted with great festivals among being the Opet festival.

The training of scribes brought with it the compositions of wisdom literature and admonitions of how to behave with consideration and good manners. These were to be written over and over again till the scribe could act on behalf of those in need of letters to be written, orders verified, tallying commodities and needs of law.

The author relates the discovery of the hieroglyphic writing by Champollion and others from the ancient monuments including the Rosetta stone.  Ms. Sewell proceeds forward with the sciences that from mathematics, astronomy, medicine and the calendar year, created an eternal people living eternal lives.

Today the world’s modern Egyptian collections are inevitably made up of objects needed for both life and contentment in the afterlife. These workshop/home crafts range from the simplest of objects to intricate productions worthy of royal workshops. In color plate 15 is presented a beautiful well painted scribe statue found in the Giza necropolis in 1951.

Barbara Sewell has put in print a manageable book for a young reader with solid tangibles about ancient Egypt. The book is suitable for an older reader though the light overview of famous discoveries will have most impact upon those who are just learning about ancient Egypt. Ms. Sewell has here presented a worthy gift for the young reader in Egypt Under the Pharaohs.



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Tomb of Nefertiti


Well, all is set for Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves to investigate Tutankhamun's tomb hoping to find a doorway behind one of two walls or both. Mr. Reeves believes that Nefertiti's burial chamber may be behind one of them. This theory coming from such a respected man has caused great excitement not only in archaeological circles but in the mass-media as well.

In fact, there are a number of candidates who could be behind the walls of Valley of the Kings tomb number sixty-two. First, a couple of people we are unlikely to find including Tutankhamun's mother who has through DNA been found in the famous Valley of the Kings royal cache in the tomb of Amenhotep II in 1898. 

Giovanni Belzoni discovered in the valley tomb KV 21 in 1816 two well preserved female mummies, these mummies have since been destroyed. The headless remains of one of them known as KV21 A, is also through DNA likely to be Tutankhamun's Queen Ankhesenamun, as at least one of the fetuses found in his tomb is the child of KV21 A.


In the Valley of the Kings most controversial tomb were found the remains believed by some, including myself, to be that of the heretic King Akhenaton. Again the DNA suggests that the mummy is Tutankhamun's father. So with mom, dad and wife already discovered, who are the missing.

King Smenkhkare's burial equipment occupies some of the most prestigious of objects from Tutankhamun's burial, artifacts found not only in the tomb but intermingled fragments of objects found in the fill of KV62's steps. If King Smenkhkare is behind one of those walls it might be suggested that his/her burial might be modest, that or completely ruined.

Who can say if Nefertiti in homage to the great ancestor Hatschepsut, had herself declared pharaoh ruling as Smenkhkare along-side Ankhenaton in his last years? This might have been rectified by King Aye who is painted administering the "Opening of the mouth" ceremony onTutankhamun's mummy. Aye may well have returned Nefertiti's burial to the status of queen. 

Having said that it must be remembered that the KV55 mummy did not appear to have been unwrapped when found, only its mask was removed and perhaps restyled for king Tut. I suspect that if Nefertiti is behind one of the two walls that her burial will be modest in valuables, but providing that her mummy was not robbed in the transfer of royal burials from Tell el Amarna, I suspect that she will be intact though there will be little gold outside the mummy, and major missing pieces from her burial.


In the royal tomb at Akhenaton's capital are to be found carved reliefs showing the funeral of Akhenaton and Nefertiti's daughter Meketaton. Should Nefertiti be found I would suspect so will be found the mummy of this royal child reburied with her mother. The same rules apply to the transfer to Thebes of the royal dead except the little princess's burial is more likely to be a complete ensemble.

The lost Amarna mummies include the oldest daughter of Nefertiti, Meritaton who was a powerful queen in her own right and among those presumed addressed in the Amarna letters. Princesses Neferneferure, Setepenre, Neferneferuaten Tasherit, and Ankhesepaaten-Ta-Sherit, the daughters of Nefertiti remain to be identified, though there is a chance that one of them may be represented by the remains known as KV21 B, found with the presumed remains of Ankhesenamun. 

I would go even further that KV21 B would perhaps be most appropriate if the mummy was not a princess but a queen making KV21 the tomb of two queens including Ankhesenamun's oldest sister, and only other queen of the daughters of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, Meritaton. This would be backed up by the position the arms of both mummies were in when found.

How many ladies may be found might be foreseen by the contents of Valley of the Kings tomb KV63, an Armana period cache of embalming refuse. Mr. Reeves may be on to the burial of Nefertiti but also the mummies of her lost daughters.

Notes:

Tutankhamen's tomb; Hajor, Dec.2002. Released under cc.by.sa and/or GFDL.
Statue of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun; Ad Merskens
Akhenaton, Nefertiti and daughters; Gerbil
National Geographic September 2010

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Valley Of The Kings



John Romer
Henry Holt and Company
New York
1981
ISBN: 0-8050-0993-0

 'The first half of the 19th century was the heroic age of Egyptology, when a year more or less meant whole new worlds of knowledge and discovery for the scholars in Egypt and at their desks in Europe. Letters of dazzling erudition flew back and forth from Egypt to Europe among the charmed circles who were rediscovering the historical order of the ancient kingdoms and their rulers, their arts and the true ages of the massive ruined architecture.'

The book opens with an overview of Upper and Lower Egypt including a map of the Valley of the Kings showing the locations of the sixty-two tombs known at the time of this publication. Mr. Romer puts forward the role of king as the keeper of harmony for his subjects and the development of the king's burial overtime. The conspicuous mastaba and pyramid burials of the Old and Middle Kingdoms afforded little protection from the depredations of robbers.


By the Eighteenth Dynasty, the king's mortuary temples were separated from the tombs which now began being carved off in a closed wadi, the Valley of the Kings. The effect was, however, the same as the people who created the tombs were often the thieves, especially in times of disorder. The king's of the later New Kingdom left Thebes for the cities in the delta and by about 1000 BC the tombs of the ancestor kings were opened with one after another emptied of their extraordinary content.


Through the latter half of the antique world, the Valley of Kings became a tourist attraction to both the Greeks followed by the Romans and by the early Byzantine era the tombs in the valley ceased to be tourist attractions. A thousand years would pass before the royal necropolis and the city of Thebes was again recognized by seventeenth-century travelers.


A number of travelers published details of their visits to the valley though extremely insufficient including James Bruce who famously published a misinterpreted image of harpists he found in the tomb of Ramesses III. It was Napoleon whose invasion in 1798 brought with him the best French scholars to explore the ancient monuments and scientifically record them for one of the finest publications ever put into print.


Eighteen years later a circus strongman and hydrologist entered the silent valley on a mission to collect the pink granite sarcophagus from the now famous tomb of Ramesses III. His name was Giovanni Belzoni and he would become one of the Valley of the Kings most fortunate visitors, discovering a number of tombs including the burial vaults for three kings, the Pharaoh's Aye, Ramesses I, and the finest tomb known in the valley, the magnificent tomb of King Seti I. Belzoni describes his first entrance into King Ramesses abode with visitors he was showing around Thebes.


     'Having proceeded through a passage thirty-two feet long and eight feet wide, I descended a staircase of twenty-eight feet, and reached a tolerably large and well painted room, I then made a signal from below to the travellers that they might descend, and they entered into the tomb which is seventeen feet long and twenty-one wide. We found a sarcophagus of granite, with two mummies in it, and in a corner, a statue standing erect, six feet high, and beautifully cut out of sycamore wood: it is nearly perfect except the nose. We found also a number of little images of wood, well carved, representing symbolic figures. Some had a lion's head, others a fox's, others a monkey's. One had a land-tortoise instead of a head.' *


Mr. Belzoni was followed by many other men of note including John Gardiner Wilkinson who painted numbers on the tombs in the valley and Francois Champollion who deciphered the hieroglyphs, and went on to damage Seti's tomb, removing a fresco from a doorway in the tomb. The book contains many drawings and photographs placed liberally throughout the text, often encompassing a couple of full page illustrations.


By the 1870's royal antiquities from a family of Theban high priests of Dynasty, Twenty One began appearing on the Luxor antiquities market and in European museums. These finds included books of the dead, ushabti's and mummy braces for various kings, queens, and princesses’. The robbers had found a tomb containing tens of thousands of dollars worth of antiquities.


It would turn out to be the greatest find of royal mummies ever and included a who's who of the greatest emperors of Egypt's New Kingdom. Present were the sainted mummies of Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmes Nofretari, the first three Thutmoside king's including the great warrior Thutmosis III, also the first three kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty that included not only the great king Seti I, but also his son Ramesses II, the penultimate king.


John Romer imbues his telling with such spirit that it would be difficult to find another author do better justice to the often over-told story of the discovery. The prominent kings are lined up in a salon of the then Bulaq museum, with the rest put into storage until the day they would be divested of their shrouds and bandages, mostly beginning in 1886.


As the nineteenth century comes to a close we find the head of the Egyptian Antiquities service Victor Loret searching the Valley of the Kings for more tombs, except Mr. Loret is not always present, and his workers in the valley do not always inform him when a tomb is found, or at least remove small artifacts from tombs before Mr. Loret enters. This may be true of the discovery of the first intact Eighteenth Dynasty burial of a man named Mahirpra.


Mr. Loret is aware that objects were showing up in European museums bearing the cartouches of Amenhotep II. It has the appearance that his excavators in the valley took their share first, yet just as bad Loret made insufficient notes of his excavations. These losses in the archaeological record hurt even more by the importance of the tombs found being those of king's Thutmosis III, and eventually his son Amenhotep II.


The author follows the order of the tombs discovered creating a thorough rundown of excavations, though these diggings are more of a half hazard hopping around the valley without any systematic order, or governance. In an era where wealthy European's and American's snatched up illegal antiquities and were broadly given permits to dig and keep objects unwanted by the antiquities service, Egypt was swarming with profiteers.


Theodore Davis was such a man, receiving the permit to dig in the Valley of Kings and unearthing major finds just about every year. Among these finds was the tomb of Queen Tiye's parents, Yuya and his wife Tuya. This was the finest tomb found in the valley to date, filled with well-preserved furnishings from the court of Amenhotep III.


The Amarna cache tomb 55 excavated by a number of the top men in the antiquities service, each competent on his own, yet as a group completed the excavation with few records, being an embarrassment to each of them, seriously damaging the historical record of the tomb. Davis having had such huge success in the valley now retired believing it held no more tombs.


The end of Davis's permit gave Lord Carnarvon the chance to take over and begin excavating the site with Howard Carter. This promising site, unfortunately, delivered little to justify Carnarvon's expenditure and soon Carter was asking for one more season. The famous discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb would bring a global hurricane of tourists interfering with the excavation of the tomb, challenging the nerves of Carter and of the archaeologist working for him.



The book ends with a short chapter on the designated names for parts of the royal tombs. More than thirty years have passed since publication and John Romer's must read book remains a valuable, untarnished history in great detail of the romance of the Valley of the Kings.

Notes:
 
* Belzoni, Giovanni. Narrative of the Operations and Recent Discoveries within the Pyramids, Temples, Tombs and Excavations in Egypt and Nubia. London, 1822

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Gold of Tutankhamen


Kamal El Mallakh / Arnold C. Brackman
Optimum Publishing Company Limited
Canada
1978 First English Language Edition
ISBN: 0-88890-106-2

                            "When you've seen one sarcophagus, you've seen 'em all."

                                                                             

                                                                                            William E. Simon*


This menacing size volume is not something I want to have to carry too far being both large and heavy. To Mr. Kamal El Mallakh we owe the discovery of the boat pits he found at Giza next to the great pyramid that contained the two ships belonging to King Khufu. Mr. Arnold C. Brackman was a prestigious journalist who wrote a number of books on a variety of subjects.


The preface of the book is written by eminent Yale University Egyptologist William Kelly Simpson former curator of Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Professor Simpson writes of the remaining archaeological environment containing evidence denuded by centuries of robberies, as well as the expectations the modern observer places on the contents of Tutankhamen's tomb. It is within the artifacts found with the king that must tell the story as regrettably there were not the expected documents of the king’s reign within his burial.


The book opens with a background to both Lord Carnarvon and his excavator Howard Carter including the eventual contract agreed by the two men. Too Carter as a teenage artist of talent there came an opportunity to use his craft in Egypt working for the Egypt Exploration fund. Carter developed his skills in archaeology living rough in with Flinders Petrie at Tell El Amarna, while the rich aristocratic Lord Carnarvon whiled away his days in the societal adventure without cause.


While driving his motor car in Germany Lord Carnarvon was confronted by two carts blocking the road resulting in an accident which left him with serious burns and broken bones though fortunately to his admirable relief and concern he had not killed anybody. To recover Lord Carnarvon left England to winter at Luxor where he was introduced to now professional archaeologist Howard Carter.


The text contains a fine telling with many knowledgeable anecdotes of interest, though disheartening as a number of familiar stories are co-mingled with other events and locations. The author is certainly in possession of important events in Egyptology but clearly lacks a background on the subject, being unfamiliar with the landscape. The reader is told that after Howard Carter's men dug out the sixteen steps leading to Tutankhamen's tomb the excavators found a sealed wooden door when in reality it was a plastered wall.


 A respite is taken from the text for a number of pages containing a standard content of black and white photographs. With the discovery of the tomb, the world descended upon Luxor creating a circus-like atmosphere with Howard Carter having to take time from his work to host a who's who of the international elite and press. The latter, including the Egyptian press, being denied from reporting due to an exclusive given by Lord Carnarvon to the London Times.


"Fear spread in the Valley that a rarity of rarities-a rainstorm-might erupt and send tons of cascading water crashing through the chasm and into the open tomb. European and American newspapers, not privy to the London Times' reports, played up the angle. A New York headline read: "PANIC SPREADING/ GRAVE POSSIBILITY/ PRICELESS ANTIQUITIES/ MAY BE HOPELESSLY DESTROYED BY TOMORROW."


 It does no favor to judge this book by its incompatible irregularities alone, but also it must be viewed with the nature of the book in its minutia of detail and conveyance of mood created by the international excitement of the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. The text presented that flavor of the times complete with superstitions and the rising nationalism of Egypt's populace.


Arriving in the middle of the book we come to the second half concerned with the color plates and the notes of each section of plates further on. This may require the reader to use two bookmarks to view properly. The objects of Tutankhamen chosen by Mr. El Mallakh were positioned especially for the photographs in the book, except of course those of the tomb itself.


The objects chosen begin with the king’s famous gold mask pictured on three stunning full pages from different angles. Two of the kings coffins are next complete with multiple views of both that include an image of the underside of the foot of his innermost coffin. At this point I have finally come to the part I have been craving to get to, Tutankhamen's shrines.


My first look through of the book I could see all the amazing material presented on the shrines which surrounded Tutankhamen's sarcophagus, the vignettes possessing some of the great works of Egyptian art. The large wondrous image of Tutankhamen's mummy in the Netherworld on the exterior left panel of shrine II presents him as "He who hides the hours".


     'In this image, the figure seems to be immobilized by circles around both the head and the feet by the serpent Mehen, the Enveloper. In the center of the mummy, the disk containing a ram-headed bird with human arms raised in adoration symbolizes the night sun. It is being pulled from the body with a rope held by the figures of deities at left with arms raised, an action which is believed to mark the passing of the night hours.'


On the outermost shrine, the rear interior panel contains the Divine Cow, an image I have never seen before, as is true of many of the vignettes beautifully presented in full-page color photographs. The book moves onto a section of photo's titled "The Young King", beginning with the wooden head of Tutankhamen rising from a blue lotus. This section presents the many statuettes and images of mainly Tutankhamen but also his queen Ankhesenamen found in his tomb.


One of the most amazing discoveries among the contents of the tomb includes the discovery of a complete, or near-complete funerary assemblage of a pharaoh of ancient Egypt. The enigmatic funerary couches, the kings life size ka sentinels, the Anubis shrine and the canopic emplacement all in an excellent state of preservation being either completely unique or the finest of surviving examples.


Though the king was hardly old enough at death to have been a great warrior he is represented as such on many objects in the burial. The king treads on his Asiatic and Nubian foes which are represented on his footstools and the soles of his sandals, including on a ceremonial shield. Among the kings jewelry is a rarely seen necklace composed of faience and gold beads with a ball of black resin at the back and a reversible large faience udjat eye hanging from the front of the piece.



The left Eye of Re represented the bark in which the sun traveled during the day and when worn as a right eye represented the sacred vessel of Re-Harakhti that traveled through the Underworld at night. The items of the king’s jewelry are mostly created using hieroglyphs to give the pieces symbolic messages, but in the case of a pair of the pharaoh’s earrings they possess no symbolism but are spectacular in that they are made with purple gold, created by mixing iron with the gold, this in the early days of Egypt's entrance into the Iron Age.


The early mistakes in the unusual text are unfortunate, though I would be inclined to not judge those mistakes too harshly as the reader is bound to have them corrected in the next book they read on the subject. It is for me the second part of this volume which is particularly special in its photos and which separates 'The Gold of Tutankhamen' from the huge amount of books on the king and his tomb.


Note:

* United States Secretary of the Treasury