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.


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.


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


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.


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!


Photo from Neues Museum
The Irrelevant King