Saturday, December 10, 2016

In the Year 2016



In the year 2016, the discoveries were largely that of laboratory exercises though field excavation brought some interesting finds. Perhaps the most beautiful work of art found in 2016 came in November with the discovery of the Third Intermediate Period coffin of a servant of the palace Amenrenef, and hey what would a year be without finding more statues of the goddess Sekhmet. The year also brought the opening of the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings to tourist as well as the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens, something that I do not expect to last for long.

The year began with the big story of the possibility that Nefertiti may be buried behind the north and /or west wall of Tutankhamun's tomb. Expert Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves believed this to be a possibility and as an expert on the 18th Dynasty, his words were taken with gravity. The theory had legs and the world reacted with excitement to find Nefertiti. The article "The Truth in the Search for Nefertiti" examines one of the more flawed news reports and the subject.

In January as well the Biblical Archaeology Society published an article on a study in The International Journal of Paleopathology on what is the oldest known case of scurvy. The subject being the skeletal remains of a 6000-year-old infant found at Nag el-Qarmila, Egypt. Newsweek had a very interesting article on science and the Elephantine Papyri. The January review of Ancient Egypt: Kingdom of the Pharaohs has been among the runners for this site in 2016.


In February we were presented with a nice video on "The Lost Egyptian Throne of Queen Hetepheres", Hetepheres being the mother of King Khufu builder of the great pyramid on the Giza plateau. Hetepheres' furniture was discovered in 1925 by the Harvard-Museum of Fine Arts excavation at Giza, though all the wood of her furniture had disintegrated into a cigar ash texture only the gold casings were left. Through careful excavation and restoration, most of Hetepheres' furniture has been restored in a glass cased room in the Cairo Egyptian Museum with replicas in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. All but her throne which was immensely complex and until now unable to be restored.

The Egyptian-University of Alabama Mission excavating in the Dashur necropolis at El-Lisht found the tomb of the stamp bearer of King Senosert I. Senosert was the second king of ancient Egypt's glorious 12th Dynasty. February's edition of "Tuesday's Egyptian: The Lost Mummy of King Kamose" has also been a runner over the course of the year


The month of March brought a number of discoveries such as a 4500-year-old boat found at Abusir and still more Sekhmet statues at the mortuary temple of King Amenhotep III. Most interesting however was the discovery of a 3400-year-old cemetery at Gebel el Sisila north of Aswan. The excavators found tombs which had suffered considerable damage from the annual rise of the Nile.

April brought in articles on scanning pyramids including the Bent Pyramid, Red pyramid and the pyramids of Khufu and Khafra on the Giza plateau. Blocks from a barque station for the creator god Khnum erected by Hatshepsut have been found on the island of Elephantine. In the inscriptions, it refers to Hatshepsut as a woman making the station for Khnum's boat an early building of Hatshepsut.


In May the good folks from Spain's Jaen University discovered an important late Middle Kingdom burial of a daughter of the Nomarch Sarenput II named Sattjeni. The burial is much destroyed by insects which have reduced the outer coffin to wood dust. The important lady had two sons who ruled the island of Elephantine at the end of ancient Egypt's 12th Dynasty.

 A great surprise for Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum when a micro-CT scan revealed that inside a tiny ancient Egyptian coffin, in their collection, was found the youngest known Egyptian mummy of a fetus. The fetus is even younger than the two found in Tutankhamun's tomb which respectively is 25 weeks and 37 weeks gestation


Very exciting find in June of a wood box in the basement of Cairo's Egyptian museum that contains gold sheets found in the controversial Valley of the Kings tomb KV55. As interesting as the inscribed gold sheets are equally as interesting are the two fragments of a human skull found in the box and presumably tomb KV55. The excavation of the tomb was poorly done leaving the mummy found in the coffin in doubt even though surviving inscriptions say the coffin belonged to the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten. So if the mummy in the coffin is not Akhenaten then maybe the fragments of this extra skull belong to this extraordinary pharaoh. This article was followed with another in July.

The Egyptian-Polish Mission at the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut is studying the use of the temple as a cemetery by the royal families of the 23rd and 25th Dynasties. The cemetery was created in the upper terrace of the destroyed Deir el-Bahri temple.


"The Writing Pallete of Meketaten" is a mystery as to how an exceptionally well-preserved ivory pallete belonging to one of Tutankhamun's sisters came into the collection of Lord Carnarvon around the same time as the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb which included similar ivory palletes for both Tutankhamun and another of his sisters Meritaten?

Also in August the fine people at Poland's National Museum in Warsaw received a bit of a surprise when they scanned their mummy of the priest Hor-Djehuti and found the mummy was actually that of a woman.


In September came the article "Cartouche of Akhenaten" the article is about a jewel pried from the lid of a coffin found in the Valley of the Kings in tomb KV55. A number of objects found in the tomb were stolen at some point including the gold foils that were all that was left of the decayed trough of the coffin. These stolen objects have over the years turned up in various museum collections.

The big discovery in October were two Late Period tombs found near the Aga Khan Mausoleum on the west bank at Aswan. An Egyptian-German Archaeological Mission to Matariya has found blocks belonging to a temple of Ramses II west the obelisk of Senusret I.



November brought the discovery of one of the most beautiful coffins to have been found in years. The coffin belongs to a servant of the palace named Amenrenef, who lived during Egypt's Third Intermediate Period and was buried beneath the mortuary temple of King Thutmosis III. It will look nice in the Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art.

The Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden had their impressive 3-meter long Egyptian crocodile mummy put through a CT-scanner which identified dozens of individually wrapped baby crocodiles within the beast. Throughout the year various artifacts including many items from Tutankhamun's tomb have made their way to The Grand Egyptian Museum which is set to partially open in 2017. Many of the artifacts are to undergo long overdue restoration in the new museum's state of the art laboratories.


The end of November brought an article on the mummified legs found in the tomb of Ramses II's great royal wife Nefertari. The article suggests that Ramasside chronology may be off but more likely the carbon 14 readings are off or that the legs do not belong to Nefertari.

Another fine year has flown by with many interesting discoveries though no real spectacular find. Unfortunately, the Nefertiti in Tutankhamun's tomb looks less likely and turned into a bit of a sideshow with a man allowed into the tomb whose equipment could only be read by him. Regrettably, equipment that could be read did not come up with positive results.

I would like to thank my readers and wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best to you and your loved ones for the coming year.

Thank You

Timothy


Notes:

Photo of Ramses II making offerings  Olaf Tausch
Photo: Elephantine Papyri, requesting the rebuilding of a Jewish temple on Elephantine
Photo of tomb entrance: The Gebel Sisila Project
Photo of coffin of Satjeni: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities 
Article about Sattjeni from Seeker
Photo of coffin: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Image of Pallete of Meketaten: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo of Warsaw mummy by Olek Leydo
Polish National Museum in Warsaw
Scan Pyramids 
Coffin of Amensenef: Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities 
Photo of legs courtesy of Michael Habicht

(Spelling of kings names are according to article mentioned)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Resandro Collection at Christie's


Christie's London auction house will be having an auction of the Resandro Egyptian collection this coming Tuesday. The collection contains some very impressive and large bronzes as well as shabti's of the 21ST Dynasty Priest-King Pinudgem I, and Queen Henutawy found in the famous cache of royal mummies. There is also a wood shabti of King Seti I which is on my Christmas wish list! 



Notes:

The Resandro Egyptian Collection at Christie's catalog

Christie's Online Magazine

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nefertari's Knees


This interesting picture of a display in the Turin Egyptian Museum of the supposed legs of Ramses II's great royal wife Nefertari found in her tomb QV66 in the Valley of the Queens. The article comes with some contradicting evidence that they may actually be a couple hundred years older than Nefertari, though the tomb showed no signs of intrusive burials.

One of the great mysteries in Egyptology is what happened to the missing mummies of the queen's buried in the Valley of the Queens. If the legs are Nefertari's then she would be one of the few queens if not the only one whose remains were actually found in her tomb in the queen's valley. The article presented the unlikely possibility that the legs were washed into the tomb during flooding. The presence of wild animals that entered most of the tombs could be another explanation how part of a mummy ended up in Nefertari's tomb.

The article presents the idea that the carbon dating may be right and that the chronology of the Ramasside period may be off. This is unlikely especially given that there may be some discrepancy in the chronology but certainly not 200 years.


Notes:

1. Photo of legs by Michael Habicht
2. Study of history, owners, and condition of valley and its tombs by the Getty Museum
3. Tombs in the Valley of the Queens by Anneke Bart

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rijksmuseum Infested with Crocodile Mummies


The fine folk at the Rijksmuseum received a surprise when they put their impressive 3-meter long, 3000-year old Egyptian crocodile into a CT-scanner. The team at the Rijksmuseum knew that a couple of baby crocodiles were present and wrapped individually within the larger beast. To the surprise of everyone present, the scan revealed a whole nest of baby crocodiles within the mummy.

A new interactive display on the crocodile mummy and the mummy of a priest will allow visitors to the museum to conduct a virtual autopsy.  Anyone visiting the Netherlands in the future will want to visit the museum. Just watch out for the crocodiles!

Notes:

CT Scan courtesy of  Interspectral /Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden

Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Tomb of Amenrenef


Spanish archaeologists have found a small chamber tomb within the mortuary temple of Thutmosis III at Deir el Bahari. The tomb contains a stunningly beautiful mummy untouched since the day this servant of the royal house was buried. The mummy found inside is a man named Amenrenef who died sometime in ancient Egypt's Third Intermediate Period and probably quite late in that period around the 23rd or 25th Dynasties, closer to 664 BC.

When Amenrenef lived Egypt's period of greatness had long past and a series of foreign dynasties gained control of Egypt.

Notes:
Photo: Photo: Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities



Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets Modern Science


The Northwest Museum in Spokane Washington is currently running a short exhibition "Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets Modern Science". The exhibition contains a number of mummies including one human mummy from ancient Egypt. The amazing technology of modern science on mummy studies has brought images of what the unwrapped mummy looks like and what else may lie under the wrappings without removing the bandages and destroy the mummy.

The short running exhibition is very child-friendly with interactive displays but time is running out as the show closes on January 6, 2017. So if you are in Spokane before that then bring the kids for a fascinating day and meet the mummy!

The beautiful mummy is from the Ptolemaic period, Cleopatra's dynasty.

Enjoy


Notes:

1. Northwest Museum Arts + Culture

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia



Early in the 20th century Havard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston expedition conducted excavations in Nubia under the guidance of Dr. George Reisner. Reisner and his team excavated many of the sites in Nubia including Jebel Barkal, Kerma, and the pyramids of Meroe and Nuri. The pyramids at Nuri contained royal pyramid burials, a number of which belonged to the kings and queens of ancient Egypt's 25th Dynasty.

The Museum of Fine Arts has been holding an exhibition" Gold and the Gods: Jewels of Ancient Nubia" displaying the jewelry found during Dr. Reisner's years of excavating the sites of Nubia. This long-term exhibition is coming to an end on January 8, 2017. Do not miss this opportunity to see the show if you are in Boston.

These excavations can be found on "The Giza Archive " site and are among some of the most interesting in Dr. Reisner's long career of excavating and make for fascinating reading. Also, visit the museum's website as the museum possesses one of the world's finest collections of Egyptian and Nubian art.



Notes:

1. Necklace- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
2. The Giza Archive- Dr. Reisner's excavations and museum Bulletins




Saturday, October 29, 2016

Five Museum and Exhibition Books to Run and Get



About once a year I make suggestions of what books or guides will be of interest as gifts for my reader's loved ones and friends who are interested in art and Egyptology. I am of course a giant fan of museum and exhibition guides as they usually contain objects and artifacts that are rarely if ever published elsewhere.

I have avoided repeating already published recommendations. My choices are based on the quality of publication including both the text contained as well as photographs present. A number of these publications are out of print but can be found for sale online. Prices are all for a new condition copy.


1. When it comes to ancient Egyptian art, The Walters Art Museum is not exactly the first thought that comes to mind. This is probably because the collection has rarely been published before this guide. The Walters contains the largest collection in America of objects purchased in Egypt from the great Karnak cachette which contained more than seven hundred statues and more than ten thousand bronzes.

The Walters also contains a number of unique works of ancient Egyptian art and a large collection of squatting block statues. The guide can be purchased from the Walters Museum itself for about $25 U.S.


2. When the Pyramids were Built is not technically a guide but a book meant to accompany the show by the same name. The show started at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris from April to July 1999. The exhibition moved on to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art through to January of 2000 and on to The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto to May 2000.

The book is by Dorthea Arnold with the beautiful photographs by Bruce White. The exhibition contained a remarkable collection of art from the age of the pyramid builders of ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom period.The arts of the Old Kingdom contained many austere works of stone carved vessels while the tombs of the courtiers of the pyramid age have some of ancient Egypt's finest carved reliefs. When the Pyramids were built is a must have for any art lovers collection of books. I was unable to find it for sale anymore on the Metropolitan's site so you will have to get it online for a very reasonable $10-20 U.S.


3. How can I write an article on Egyptian art without mentioning, The Illustrated Guide to the Egyptian Museum in the Cairo, the guide is easy to carry around while visiting the museum and contains very attractive photographs by Araldo De Luca.

The collection presented of Cairo's collection is a bit of the usual subjects that the Egyptian antiquity authority over markets, though there are a number of less marketed artifacts including some lovely archaic jewelry. The big let-down for me is the almost total absence of the museum's mummy collection with the exception of some of the extremely over marketed mummies of the New Kingdom rulers. The guide can be purchased online for around $100 U.S.


4. During the early years of the twentieth century Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston excavated in Egypt. The expedition was granted much of the Giza plateau which includes the great pyramid.  Through the division of finds allowed in those years the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston obtained one of the world's greatest collections of Old Kingdom Art perhaps only rivaled by the Cairo Egyptian Museum.

Excavations also brought to the museum one of the finest collections of Middle Kingdom art anywhere. Usually, museums are heavy in New Kingdom pieces and Late period art, provenance or not. This is what makes Boston's collection so important complete with most of the collection having provenance. The museum also has an important collection of Nubian artifacts also acquired through the division of finds. In this guide titled, Museum of Fine Arts Highlights: Arts of Ancient Egypt, the viewer is presented with attractive photographs and text that tell the stories of ancient Egypt. The guide can be bought from the museum for $20 U.S.


5. Mummies Life after Death in Ancient Egypt was an exhibition held at Museum Fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg January to April 1997, and on to the Roemer-und Palizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim to November 1997. Once again I am recommending not a guide but a book written in conjunction with the exhibition. The book is filled with many lovely photographs of a remarkable collection of mummies and mummy paraphernalia.

There are a number of drawings and minor artifacts from the great king's cache tomb DB 320 found in 1881, officially. Contributions are made to the text from a number of respected people including Altenmuller Hartwig. In Mummies Life and Death in the Afterlife is to be found a beautiful well-rounded presentation on the art of mummification. The book can be found online for only a little over $50 U.S.



Notes:

1. Photo of soldiers from the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut: Σταύρος
2. The Walters Art Museum: Ancient Egypt and Nubia
3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 
4.  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 
5. Roemer-und Palizaeus-Museum: Ancient Egypt
6. Museum Fur Kunst und Gewerbe

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Queens of the Nile


A new exhibition called "Queens of the Nile" will take place at the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden between November 18, 2016, to April 17, 2017. The show deals with queens of ancient Egypt's period of empire in the New Kingdom between 1500 BC to 1000 BC. Over 200 of the fine objects in this exhibition have been borrowed from Italy's Turin Egyptian Museum whose collection is renown for being second only to the Cairo Egyptian Museum collection.

A number of objects in the show were found during Ernesto Schiaparelli's excavations in Egypt's famous Valley of the Queens near Luxor at the beginning of the 20th century including finds from the spectacular tomb of Ramses II's wife Nefertari found in 1904. If you are in the Netherlands "Queens of the Nile" sounds like one of the most exciting exhibitions of the season.


Notes:

1. Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden
2. Museo Egizio di Torino 
3. Leiden University
4. Egyptian Tourism Authority
5. Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands 
6. National Geographic

Monday, October 17, 2016

Animal Mummies Revealed


Liverpool's World Museum is holding a short exhibition called Animal Mummies Revealed that runs from October 14 - February 26, 2017. The exhibitions collection of animal mummies features many different mummies from cats to snakes, crocodiles and every type of birds. Animal mummies were given as votive offerings to the various gods by pilgrims hoping to receive the god's blessings.

The exhibition is in partnership with the Manchester Museum, Glasgow Museums, and the University of Manchester. Also, check out the Liverpool World Museum site as it has lots of fine artifacts on the site and some great activities for children and their schools.

Notes:

Image of hieroglyphs: Liverpool's World Museum

Monday, October 10, 2016

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt



The Dallas Museum of Art is holding an exhibition on cats in ancient Egypt created with the help of the Brooklyn Museum, which has contributed various cat-related objects from Brooklyn's extensive collection of Egyptian art. The show starts today through to January 8, 2017, with some of the objects that have rarely been seen before.

Enjoy the exhibition !


Notes:

Divine Felines:Cats of Ancient Egypt

Image of cat- Brooklyn Museum. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.424E

New York Times with lots of pictures

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Trial of a Mummy


Just found this short film again after a number of years. The film has been created by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and brought to the viewer by the fine people at Archaeologychannel.org.

The film is an account of an 18th Dynasty court musician named Khonso-Imhep and his journey into the afterlife. Enjoy!

 http://www.archaeologychannel.org/player/player.php?v=mummytrial.mp4

Notes:

Head of Osiris: Brooklyn Museum

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cartouche of Akhenaten


In this photo, we find an image of the coffin found in Valley of the Kings tomb KV 55. Inside was believed to be the mummy of the heretic King Akhenaten. The tomb, like the king it contained, is controversial and only made worse by its poor excavation by men who were capable of doing a much more professional job. Add to the mess no photographs appeared to have been taken during the taking apart of the mummy found in this most outstanding royal coffin that had been found up to that time.

Valley of the Kings tomb KV 55 was discovered on January 6, 1907, by Edward Ayrton and his diggers though it appears that the tomb was not officially explored for three days until January 9. Its first visitors were payee of the excavation Theodor Davis, Davis' excavator Edward Ayrton, and Arthur Weigall, Chief Inspector for the antiquities service in the Valley of the Kings. After this visit work stopped for a few days while the men waited for a photographer to arrive from Cairo on the eleventh. The evidence seems to be that the tomb may have been accessible between the 6th until the morning of the 9th of January, and then a couple more days after until the morning of the 11th of January. The tomb appears to have been closed with only one rough blocking of stones at the entrance built on the rubble of the filling debris. This blocking was in front of the original sealed door of the tomb which had been broken into in ancient times and of which had not been rebuilt.


At the other end of the corridor, it appears from the excavation notes that there was no blocking to the entrance of the burial chamber, simply that the limestone chips in which the corridor was filled spilled into the middle of the chamber.

Much of the tombs chaotic appearance was the result of a crack in the ceiling which from time to time brought water in. The result being that the organic material had the consistency of cigar ash including the shrine, coffin, mummy and crushed bier on which the coffin sat. This collapse may have dislodged the rotting coffin lid and mummy inside. A stone falling from the ceiling only added to this damage.

Over the years a number of objects from this tomb have come to light in foreign museums, these artifacts having been stolen at some period before the clearance of the tomb was completed, or perhaps on the way too, or even from the Egyptian Museum itself. The violations to the burial furniture almost certainly began in ancient times when the gold decoration of the shrine and coffin were effaced for someone's interest. The evidence today is showing that though the gold inscriptions have been neatly cut out or erased, that these effaced sheets were not necessarily removed from the tomb as a number of examples were left among the debris presenting their damaged inscriptions.


The coffin despite the tearing off of the mask has besides been handled with some degree of care. In no way were the royal symbols attacked as the cobra on the coffins head attests. The beard was untouched and the crook and flail were left present though disintegrated by the time of discovery with the exception of the flails bronze dongles lying on the floor next to the coffin.

The missing cartouche inlay down the center of the lid was likely a jewel made of carnelian or glass to match the color scheme of the coffin. This inlay was not violently hacked at and likely was not destroyed during its removal. Instead, it appears to have been popped out with a sharp instrument which may have left its mark in the wood on the upper right side of the slot creating no damage to the delicate surrounding inlays.


The king's cartouche may have been taken back to the workshops for recycling or removed from the tomb and discarded within the landscape of the valley, or more convenient just left on the floor of KV 55. The jewel in ancient times likely would have been of no importance to the officials present in the tomb if it had the mummy, coffin and shrine would have been stripped of their gold. Now whether it was picked up and re-used by the workers from Deir el-Medina may be determined by the consequences that a worker might face, it may have been akin to theft.

Part of this jewels disguise may be that it is fragmentary with its pieces being in a number of collections. If the cartouche was removed from the tomb in modern times it is likely to be in good condition. That is to say that the cartouche whether fragmentary or whole may be among the materials of those previous explorers to the Valley of the Kings. From the days of the Arab explorations before Napoleon's savants arrived in 1799 right up to the expeditions in the late 20th century.

To me, it would make sense for the stone to be popped out and left on the floor where it fell like the damaged gold sheets. There is the possibility that the jewel was present at the time of the tomb's discovery in 1907 but stolen before it was recorded and may today lie unrecognized in a drawer of a museum or institute of learning


Notes:

Photo of coffin: Kenneth Garrett Photography
The Tomb of Queen Tiyi by Theodore Davis.
Photo of  blank cartouche: Tour Egypt
Theban Mapping Project

Monday, August 1, 2016

Writing Palette of Meketaten


       "It was opened in the presence of Lord Cromer, to the great embarrassment - since there had been a general expectation of a more spectacular outcome. Carter determined, in the case of any future discoveries, to make doubly certain of what he had found before making any announcement. In the case of Tutankhamun, it was a strategy which would come back to haunt him."
                                                                                                              Nicholas Reeves

This ancient ivory writing palette for princess Meketaten was among the objects bought for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1926. The palette came from the estate of Lord Carnarvon, the famous financier in the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. Meketaten was one of Tutankhamun's half sisters who had died young, apparently first among her siblings. The little princesses funeral being depicted on a chamber wall in the royal tomb at Tell el-Amarna.

Years before the great discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter were introduced by Gaston Maspero, head of Egypt's antiquities service. The two men spent a number of years excavating together, with their most famous find being a wooden writing palette with part of an inscription copying a then lost stela erected by King Kamose.

The permit was finally granted for the excavations in the Valley of the Kings and through four sparse year's it appeared that Davis had been right the valley was empty. Then came the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in November of 1922. Lord Carnarvon dying famously a few months later before the unwrapping of the boy king's mummy.

In Thomas Hoving's sensational best-selling book of 1978 "Tutankhamun The Untold Story". The author puts forward evidence that a number of artifacts were likely acquired by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter from Tutankhamun's tomb. The objects in question are all small wonderful trinkets that the two men may have pocketed for their own collections or that of others. Lord Carnarvon had after all paid for a number of years of excavation in the Valley of the Kings and likely felt was due and entitled to part of the tomb's contents.

These small objects now perhaps in the Metropolitan Museum of Art include an ivory handle in the shape of a horse and a box shaped like a grasshopper. In the past few years, the Metropolitan did return a number of small objects but not the Meketaten palette whose provenance is not helpful, only that it was in Lord Carnarvon's collection prior to his death in 1923.

In the tomb of Tutankhamun was found between the front paws of the Anubis shrine a similar ivory palette belonging to the boy king's oldest sister Meritaten. Found with it in the tomb were other ivory palettes belonging to Tutankhamun and all in excellent condition.


What are the odds that Meketaten's palette came out of Tutankhamun's tomb as a souvenir in Lord Carnarvon's pocket?

It is believed that the first exploration of the tomb was made before the arrival of the antiquities service and that the first party in the tomb consisted of Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon, and Lady Evelyn Carnarvon.

     "...in a draft for an article describing the first impressions and actions of the party, written by Lord Carnarvon but never published, his lordship stated that Howard Carter made an opening in the inner doorway large enough for the party to jump down with some difficulty into the antechamber. Evelyn wriggled in through the tiny hole. Being the smallest in the party, she was the only one who could get through at first."
                                                                                              Thomas Hoving


The idea that each person may have taken a souvenir from that night is not unreasonable, perhaps even probable, I know I would want a souvenir, and Lord Carnarvon had after all paid for the discovery.

However the Meketaten palette came into Lord Carnarvon's collection before his death in 1923 may be obvious or of fabulous coincidence. When Lord Carnarvon's collection of Egyptian antiquities was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1926 was the provenance of Meketaten's palette deliberately erased or of no convenient concern to the museum curators at the time. It is not an unreasonable suggestion that the Metropolitan actually has played a role in the denial of its possessions provenance. The gentlemanly sport of excavation in Egypt was not new or so gentlemanly in Lord Carnarvon's time. He followed a long line of aristocrats building collections for themselves and their nations.

There were provisions within his permit for some articles of disturbed burials or/and duplicates to be distributed to the excavators. Even in the discovery of the intact tomb of the royal architect Kha and his wife Merit in1905, nearly twenty years earlier, the contents of the tomb were given almost whole to the discoverer's sponsor, Turin's Egyptian Museum in Italy.

It is within this framework that there is the question of the palettes origins. That more than ninety years later it should not be an obstacle to the truth of the Meketaten palette. The quest for the truth must be of more importance than how the trivial palette ended up on display in New York. The decision to acquire the palette in 1926 may well have been on the dodgy side of market standards which today have no value in the acquisition of objects by museums.

The question being, is it more outrage's to say the palette came from Tutankhamun's tomb or to say it did not?
.

Notes:

Image of Palette: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Quote: Nicholas Reeves, Ancient Egypt: The Great Discoveries pg. 106

Image of pallets discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb: Griffith Institute, Oxford

Quote: Thomas Hoving, Tutankhamun: The Untold Story pg. 91

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fragments of Akhenaten


In the middle of June, there was an announcement from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities about a box found in the basement of Cairo's Egyptian Museum. The contents included some 500 small gold sheets which may have come from the 1907 excavation of Valley of the Kings tomb KV55. In that controversial excavation, a royal coffin was found, unlike anything before that time. The coffin had been defaced with the owners names cut out. The box to be studied may hold these missing names inscribed on the gold sheets. The inscription which runs down the center of the coffins lid contained epithets which are unique to the Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten. (1)

However, the badly decayed mummy in the coffin has always been a source of debate whether it is Akhenaten or his coregent Smenkhara. These epithets tell us that at one time Akhenaten was at least destined to occupy it. Recent DNA studies have also shown that the skeleton from the coffin is Tutankhamun's father.

In the box along with the gold sheets were two fragments of a skull which may rewrite the cast of the late Amarna royal family. When discovered in the mid-nineteenth century the tomb Akhenaten had created for himself and his family at Tell el Amarna had been ransacked with the burial chambers carved reliefs almost completely destroyed. This included Akhenaten's sarcophagus which had been violently reduced to small fragments.

The two fragments of the skull from the box may be all that remains of Pharaoh Akhenaten with the skeleton found in Akhenaten's coffin being Smenkhara, the father of Tutankhamun. This may explain why there is so little inscriptional evidence of who Tutankhamun's father was. Smenkhara's reign was short, about 3 years and he may even have died before Akhenaten. This explains the limited inscriptions due to Smenkhara's death and Tutankhamun's sudden and perhaps unexpected rise to kingship.

Notes
Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities
Article: Ahram Online
(1) Nicholas Reeves


Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Great Lopsided Pyramid of Giza



The Ancient Egypt Research Associates recently took measurements of the Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau. The pyramid was built for the tyrannical King Khufu around 2560 BC and is the only surviving wonder of the ancient world.

In a report by archaeologist Glen Dash the survey found that the west side of the pyramid was off in comparison with the east face. The search continues to discover how the great pyramid was built in such a remote period of ancient history and with only the simplest of tools.

Notes:

Arial photograph by Eduard Spelterini from a balloon November 21, 1904

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Another Skull from Valley of the Kings tomb KV55


This is a short article to announce funding for a study of hundreds of gold sheets found in this box in the storage of the Cairo Museum. The contents originally were found in Egypt's Valley of the Kings controversial tomb KV55. More remarkable are a couple of fragments of someone's skull which are attributable to that burial even though the skeleton found in that tombs coffin is not missing parts of its skull.

So who is this? Could these two fragments actually be the remains of Akhenaten instead of the mummy found in the coffin of that tomb? Or could they be all that remains of the ephemeral Pharaoh Smenkhara? The pieces could also be of a later intrusive material, whether in the tomb or while in museum storage.

This study has some real potential to add to the knowledge of the reign of the heretic king and the Amarna period king's that followed him from the 14th century BC.


Notes:

 Article by Nevine el Aref
Image: Ministry of Antiquities

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tuesday's Egyptian: The Mummy of King Merenre I



Here we have a short but interesting video on the discovery of the Old Kingdom King Merenre I, though it is slightly inaccurate. The early explorers who found their way into the pyramids of the Old Kingdom were on every occasion late comers as visitors in ancient times before had destroyed and removed the mummies and most of the funerary material of all the pyramid king's. A century ago a morbid display in Egypt's national museum was labeled "Fragments of King Unas".


As the founder of Egypt's antiquities service Auguste Mariette lay dying in his tent at Saqqara in January of 1881 his workers were excavating a pyramid at the site when they located its burial chamber. The job to inspect the contents of the pyramid and sarcophagus was left to Mariette's assistants, the Brugsh brothers, Heinrich and his younger brother Emile.


The great discoveries included the hieroglyphs covering the burial chamber walls revealing the king's name who had built the pyramid was Merenre I who reigned from approximately 2287-2278 BCE. One of the last kings of the 6th Dynasty and the Old Kingdom. As the brothers approached the open basalt sarcophagus they found the well-preserved body of a child lying next to it bearing a side lock of youth and without its mandible, but otherwise intact.1 This event has been regarded as the first time the mummy of a pyramid king had been found, if not in his own sarcophagus at least lying next to it.


From this point, the discovery turns from scientific find into vaudeville act as the brothers removed the mummy and began carrying it across the hot desert sands of Saqqara. On the way to show Mr. Mariette their discovery the mummy broke into two pieces making it much more convenient for the brothers to carry.


At the time the mummy was believed to be that of Merenre himself, however at some point, it was felt that the mummy was not of the Old Kingdom but the New Kingdom in age, thus the body could not be of that king. Today the pendulum has swung back in the light of more recent discoveries. If it is the mummy of King Merenre I, then it is the oldest known example of the nearly intact mummified remains of an Egyptian king.


Last time I checked the mummy was on display in the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara covered by a sheet leaving only the mummies feet and forehead exposed.


Notes:

1. Tour Egypt: Pyramid of Merenre at South Saqqara

Further Info:

LookLex Encyclopaedia

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pyramid of Unas Open After 20 Years


King Unas ruled from approximately 2375-2345 BCE and built the smallest pyramid of the king's of the Old Kingdom. The Pyramid is located at the necropolis of Saqqara near the Step Pyramid of Djoser and is the first burial of a king to have religious texts carved on its walls. These texts are believed to be the oldest extant religious document in the world. The texts identify the king with Re and Osiris and are meant to help Unas' soul through the netherworld.

Notes:

Tour Egypt: Unas, Last Ruler of Fifth Dynasty


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Burial of Middle Kingdom Lady Discovered


An excavation team from Spain's Jaen University has found a much-decayed burial of a 12th Dynasty noblewoman called Sattjeni. She is the daughter of a nomarch Sarenput II and mother of two important men from Elephantine who lived during the reign of Amenemhat III, the last important ruler of ancient Egypt's Middle Kingdom ca.1800-1775 BC.


The burial is in very bad condition though the inner coffin can still be made out as can part of the lady's funerary mask.

Photo: Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds


The British Museum show "Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds" is sponsored by BP, and is its first exhibition on underwater archaeology. The exhibition features Egypt's sunken coastal cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus. The show runs for six months and includes 300 artifacts on display, 200 of which are from the excavations. The excavations have been conducted by the underwater archaeological team of Frank Goddio at the mouth of the Nile near Alexandria between 1996 to 2012.


The two cities disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around the ninth century of the common era. The excavations have resulted in a wealth of impressive finds from the undisturbed cities. Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus were founded in the seventh century BC, and in their prime during the period of the Ptolemaic Dynasty when Greek rulers dominated from Alexandria the Egyptian peoples. The exhibition includes a beautifully preserved royal stela of the 30th Dynasty Pharaoh Nectanebo I, and a colossal statue of the Nile god Hapi.
The exhibition Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds runs from May 19 to November 27

Notes:

Photo: British Museum






Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Littlest Mummy

A great surprise for Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum when a micro-CT scan revealed that inside a tiny ancient Egyptian coffin, in their collection, was found the youngest known Egyptian mummy of a fetus. The fetus is even younger than the two found in Tutankhamun's tomb which are respectively 25 weeks and 37 weeks into gestation

The little coffin is on show in the Fitzwilliam's, "Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt". You are going to need to hurry as the show ends on the 22nd of May.

Notes:

Photo: The Fitzwilliam Museum

Archaeology News Network




Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Mansoor Amarna Collection


 

Above we have a famous and charming Amarna royal couple from the collection of Berlin's Neues Museum. A second look reveals all the charm belongs to the man as she appears to be experiencing rigor mortis. I myself believe the piece to be a clumsy fake .


Here we have the website of the hotly disputed collection of Amarna period sculptures collected by antique dealer M. A. Mansoor. Today some scholars consider the collection to be fake others, however, are comfortable with feeling the sculptures are genuine.


The video is interesting but it is the museum gallery of images that is for me disturbing as I find all of the trial pieces to be too similar and fresh looking yet without soul and lacking any depth of detail. Not to mention the lack of subjects within these vacant heads and how alike they are to pieces both in Cairo's and Berlin's Egyptian museums.


These heads found in the house of sculptor Thutmosis at Tell el Amarna except with faces reminiscent of the hideous colossal figures of Akhenaten from the Gem Pa Aten at Karnak. That would make most of these pieces from an early period of the kings reign while presumably the works found in the Thutmosis house possess a great spirit and are from the later part of Akhenaten's reign?


Picture #1 of a sculpture of Akhenaten has the same face as #24 and #26. Then there are the busts of the Amarna princess' with the faces being crudely worked and details left unfinished on all pieces. This could be explained by the works being found in a lesser sculptors studio at Tell el Amarna. The Nemes headdress on sculpture #1 also appears to be just the wrong shape for my tastes.



In the collection shown only one nose is missing with two more slightly damaged this is unusual for a collection of sculptures from ancient Egypt. Images #37-38 seem to be copied directly from a painted scene of the royal couple pictured above. While #39, the two seated princess' come directly from the famous mural found by Flinders Petrie at Amarna inside the remains of a palace where they would not have been seen until after Mr.Petrie's discovery in modern times.


Though I am not a believer in the authenticity of the art pieces in the M.A. Mansoor Amarna collection. I do feel that Mr. M.A. Mansoor was a well-respected antique dealer who may have held them back because he knew they were fakes?


On the home page is an article about the Amarna princess which the family gave to the Louvre. The museum a number of years ago removed the statuette from display when after a scientific review it was agreed the princess was a fake. This does not please the family and it has been requested to be returned to them, unfortunately even if it is a fake the Louvre is not obliged to display or return the statuette.


This is not new but worth another look at so you can be the judge!


Notes:

http://www.mansooramarnacollection.com/
Photo from Neues Museum
The Irrelevant King

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The First Wonder


435. The relief shows the king offering wine before Min of Coptos; behind the king are the words: "First occurrence of Sed jubilee; at the top the date: Year 2 second month of the first season (second month), day 3"

436. Then the following:
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.

437. 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.

438. 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.

Notes:

Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted 

Pages: 238-239

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Second Wonder



Eight days after the First Wonder occurred a Second Wonder was added to the king's stela recorded on the rocks of the Hammamat quarry.

450. King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nibtowere, (Mentuhotep IV) who liveth forever, born of the king's mother, Imi, second month of the first season, day 23.

451. One set to work on this day on the block of the sarcophagus. The wonder was repeated, rain was made, the forms of this god appeared, his fame was shown to men and the highland was made a lake, the water went to the margin of the stone. A well was found in the midst of the valley being 10 cubits by 10 cubits on its every side filled with fresh water to its edge, undefiled, kept pure and cleansed from gazelles, concealed from the troglodyte barbarians. Soldiers of old and kings who had lived in the aforetime went out and returned by its side, no eye had seen it, the face of man had not fallen upon it but to his majesty himself it was revealed............... Those who were in Egypt heard it, the people who were in Egypt, South to the Northland (Delta),  they bowed their heads to the ground, they praised the goodness of his majesty forever and ever.

                                                         Completion of the work

452. On the twenty-eighth of the month work was completed, and the following appendix was added to the king's stela:

453. Day 28. The lid of this sarcophagus descended, being a block of 4 cubits, by 8 cubits, by 2 cubits, on coming forth from the work. Cattle were slaughtered, goats were slain, incense put on the fire. Behold, an army of 3,000 sailors of the nomes of the Northland (Delta) followed it in safety to Egypt.

Notes:

Ancient Records of Egypt: James Breasted 

Pages 242-243

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tuesday's Egyptian: Tutankhamun's Diadem



I recently wondered how unreasonable is it to reunite King Tutankhamun with the gold diadem found on his head and removed by Howard Carter, it is after all his. Why should not Tutankhamun be reunited with his magical serpent protectors, his royal symbols of power and authority? I really don't think anything else of his jewelry needs to be on the mummy particularly because of the especially fragile different pieces that make up the mummy likely could not support any other of his jewels.


He alone has come down to us as a bedecked mummy, he alone has come down wearing his crown and should again. Tutankhamun is the world's most famous Egyptian king and probably the world's most well-known cadaver. His grandfather Amenhotep III was one of the richest men in history(1), at the height of the greatest empire of ancient Egypt. Tutankhamun took to his grave the left over fortunes of one of the richest families in history, though much had been squandered by his father Akhenaten.

 
Only Tutankhamun can wear his crown again, he stands alone among the pharaohs. Harry Burton's photo above demonstrates a problem in this seemingly fragile cap under the diadem. This bead cap which probably matched the diadem might be impossible to restore as I imagine the resins used on his mummy have probably destroyed at least parts of the cap.


Can it be recreated with modern materials, and should a replica of the gold diadem be mounted as part of any new display of Tutankhamun's mummy at the future Grand Egyptian Museum?


This mount could be built into the display which would have the added benefit of holding the king's head in place, protecting it. In this way, the real one could still be displayed with the other objects belonging to the king. The mummy of King Tutankhamun is the only pharaoh who has come down to the present wearing his protective and precious diadem. It is not unreasonable to suggest he can be reunited with this part of his regalia and be safer for having it back.


Notes:

Photo of diadem: Tour Egypt
Harry Burton's photo,(P0813), of the top of Tutankhamun's head  'Copyright; The Griffith Institute, University of Oxford'  The Griffith Institute, Anatomy of an excavation

(1) http://www.aneki.com/richest_history.html

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cairo: The City of the Caliphs


E.A. Reynolds-Ball
Dana Estes and Company
Boston
1897
    
"To him his father's deeds were displeasing, and he both opened the temples and gave liberty to the people, who were ground down to the last extremity of evil, to return to their own business and sacrifices; also he gave decision of their causes juster than those of all the other kings."


                                                                                     Herotodus on King Mycerinos


This book printed after 1901 has started out stronger than I had had hopes for, of course when one reviews an antique book all must be forgiven in dates of chronology and other areas which a more accurate knowledge exists today. The author begins with an overview of Pharaonic Egypt leading into the history of the Ptolemaic period, its fall, and the rise of the Roman occupation and provincialism, leading to the eventual abandonment to the Mohammedan conquest in the early seventh century.


Particularly of interest to me was the rule of the Caliphs with dynasties of Mameluke rulers up to the Ottoman conquest in 1517, and on to its rulers, including the financially ruinous reign of Ismail which led to the British occupation of Egypt in 1882.


The author goes on to put out the political position the occupying English forces were faced with in order to right the Egyptian economy and ensure the foreign bond holders of the return on their loans to Egypt. A very interesting chapter is on the creation of the Suez canal and its benefits for the future.


The books have quaint descriptions of the various mosques in Cairo including the tombs of the Caliphs, and the condition of which the author found them more than 110 years ago. A wonderful assortment of old black and white pictures are enhanced by the authors many interesting observations on the interactions of various cultural groups in Cairo.


The author presents a short few pages on the national museum located at this time at the Ghizeh palace. The tour of its collection was tantalizingly way too small but sensational with only a few objects described including the eighteenth dynasty mummy of king Amhose I. The king is in a gallery with the fourth dynasty wooden statue known as the Sheik El beled, and not displayed with the rest of the royal mummies. The author gives Brugsh Bey's words on finding the royal mummy cache;


     "My astonishment was so overpowering that I scarcely knew whether I was awake, or whether it was only a mocking dream. Resting on a coffin, in order to recover from my intense excitement, I mechanically cast my eyes over the coffin-lid, and distinctly saw the name of Seti I., father of Rameses II., both belonging to the nineteenth dynasty. A few steps farther on, in a simple wooden coffin, with his hands crossed on his breast, lay Rameses II., the great Sesostris himself. The farther I advanced, the greater the wealth displayed; thirty-six coffins, all belonging to kings, queens, or princes, or princesses."


Though I found in Chapter XVI, "The Pyramids of Ghizeh", a respect for the author who kept distancing himself from the quack pot theories on the great pyramid. Instead, he spent much of the chapter quoting Sir Flinders Petrie and was not subject to flights of fantasy on the subject.


The author writes on the Serapeum and the Apis bull cult quaint descriptions of not only the Apis bulls but the various Saqqara monuments complete with the author's distaste for a display in the national museum at Ghizeh titled "Fragments of King Unas".


The author gives a nice round-up of the various excursion to tombs and temples on his journey south to Tell el Amarna, Thebes and many other sites. The book closes off with the latest archaeological discoveries in Egypt by the Egypt Exploration Fund, and most satisfactory, the words of Sir Flinders Petrie. The appendix of the book is a letter written by Dana Estes M. A. from Assouan in February 1901 on the development of that area and particularly on the developments being made on the Assouan barrage.


"Cairo: The City of the Caliphs", exemplified everything I love in an antique book with its old photographs. It presents the reader with a charming but obsolete view within the telling of a much more ancient romantic tale of people from a period long gone.
                                                 
'Antiquity appears to have begun
 Long after thy primeval race was won
 Thou couldst develop, if that withered tongue
 Might tell us what those sightless orbs have seen
 How the world looked when it was fresh and young,
 And the great Deluge still had left it green;
 Or was it then so old that History's pages
 Contained no record of its early ages?'
 

Address to a Mummy - Horace Smith  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Lost Egyptian Throne of Queen Hetepheres

Tuesday's Egyptian: The Lost Mummy of King Kamose

                                          Why King Kamose was Thrown Away
  

At the time of the discovery of King Kamose's mummy in the family necropolis at Dra Abu el-Naga in 1857, the body was not recognized as the king because of the inferior coffin and the lack of a cartouche surrounding the king's name. The impression was further hampered by the presence of the coffin buried or rather dumped within a hole in a pile of rubbish.


To the discoverers, August Mariette and Heinrich Brugsh the coffin yielded a small but impressive assortment of objects including a dagger of gold and bronze attached to the king's arm, a mirror, and elements of gold jewelry which in one case an element bearing the name of Kamose's brother and successor King Ahmose in a cartouche. The excavators failed to recognize the burials importance and the jewels were sent to France as a diplomatic gift to a French prince. The coffin went into storage and the mummy was left with the pile of debris being lost forever.


Why an expert in hieroglyphics such as Heinrich Brugsh did not recognize in the coffins inscription the name of the king may have been as a matter of a hurried excavation and a coffin whose appearance did not warrant much concern for its occupant's name. The gold element of the cartouche containing the name of Ahmose found on the mummy may have been the only part of the burial the finders translated. The unassuming coffin remained forgotten in storage for another fifty years before George Derresy found and translated the coffin inscription discovering Mariette's and Brugsh's mistake.


Why was Kamose not found in tomb DB 320 with his father Sequenenre Tao II and his brother Ahmose, and his nephew Amenhotep I and their queens? From this line of the four king's transversing the end of the Theban Seventeenth Dynasty and the early Eighteenth Dynasty, only King Kamose was missing.



The Abbott Papyrus in the British Museum comes from perhaps the sixteenth year of the reign of Ramses IX, around 1110 BC and tells of an inspection of Kamose's tomb and says, "The sepulcher of the king, the sun which provides the creation, son of the sun, Kamose, examined on this day, was in good state."*


The funeral of the third priest of Amun Djedptahuifankh in the eleventh year of the reign of Sheshonq I,  (according to an inscription on his wrappings), was buried around or slightly after 933 BC. Djedptahuifankh being the last mummy buried in DB320 at which time Ramses II, Seti I and other earlier mummies were likely cached filling the entrance corridors of the tomb.


I can suggest that King Kamose in a clandestine operation was removed from his tomb and buried under the rubbish for the robbers to come back later. For whatever reason, the robbers never made it back and the king was left unceremoniously discarded with the refuse.

Notes:

Image of face on the coffin of Kamose: Kurohito
Ancient Egypt The Great Discoveries, Nicholas Reeves, Thames and Hudson, 2000, pages 47-48
Gold Elements of Ahmose I: Iry-Hor
*Tour Egypt-The Abbott Papyrus
The Theban Royal Mummies Project
The British Museum- The Abbott Papyrus