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.

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.


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.


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 king's 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 with 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.


Tomb of Seti I- Jean-Pierre Dalbera
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