Friday, October 19, 2018

History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Volume V

Gaston Maspero
The Grolier Society
London, UK
Volume V

I have had this series of 114-year-old books for many years but never read them. The author Gaston Maspero was the head of Egypt's Egyptian Museum and in charge of giving excavation permits in the late 19th century early 20th century. Mr. Maspero was chief Egyptologist and expert archaeologist of Oriental history. It must be noted that the use of and spelling of English words from 1904 differs from today's vocabulary. It must further be noted that interpretations of Egyptian hieroglyphs particularly names have also changed over the past century.

The book opens late in the reign of Thutmosis III and the empire established by his predecessors being expanded by King Thutmosis. The king's mummy is represented in now-familiar photographs though the author believes the king's burial was at Deir el Bahri in a family vault. Gaston Maspero quickly passes through the reigns of Amenhotep II and Thutmosis IV delving in more depth with Amenhotep III and the many monuments left to the posterity of this ruler. The Amarna correspondence opens the nature of the vassal lords who write to the king greedily seeking greater and greater gifts to the point of exhaustion.

Interesting in reading an old book is, in this case, Mr. Maspero as of writing is unaware of the burial places of the kings of dynasty 18 though he is aware of the tomb of Amenhotep III in the Valley of the Kings. The author moves through the few identifiable relics of Amenhotep IV and the uncertainty of whether this Amenhotep and Akhenaton are the same king or if Amenhotep IV is a short reigning predecessor of the heretic king. We are presented with the rise of the sun disk and the destruction of the traditional Theban deity Amon.

     "After having been for nearly two centuries almost the national head of Africa, Amon was degraded by a single blow to the secondary rank and languishing existence in which he had lived before the expulsion of the Hyksos. He had surrendered his sceptre as king of heaven and earth, not to any of his rivals who in old times had enjoyed the highest rank, but to an individual of a lower order, a sort of demigod, while he himself had thus become merely a local deity confined to the corner of the Said in which he had had his origin. There was not even left to him the peaceful possessions of this restricted domain, for he was obliged to act as host to the enemy that had deposed him: the temple of Atonu was erected at the door of his own sanctuary, and without leaving their courts the priests of Amon could hear at the hours of worship the chants intoned by hundreds of heretics in the temple of the disk."

The author puts forward life at Akhetaton with a rather romantic view of this king and his court while his empire receded. Mr. Maspero is unimpressed with the king's crude tomb at the bottom of a ravine far off in the desert. As the story passes the heretic pharaoh and the royal actors including Tutankhamun become murky until the dynasty closes with the Pharaoh Horemheb.

The coronation of Ramses I founded the 19th Dynasty and brought a new family to the throne and with his son and heir Seti I order was restored to Egypt after the heresies that brought an end to the previous dynasty. Mr. Maspero puts forth King Seti's building works which contain some of the finest reliefs ever placed on the walls of an Egyptian temple and in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

The successful reign of King Seti I reestablished Egyptian foreign stability that would be completed by his successor the great King Ramesses II in a peace treaty with the Hittites. Ramesses II's very long reign was, for the most part, peaceful leaving the king to build new temples all over the country including the restoration opportunities to engrave his name everywhere he could. War rises up again and is successfully put down during the reign of the great king's elderly successor Merneptah. The short reign of Merneptah left behind a succession crisis involving a number of short reigning descendants until only two decades after the great Ramesses II his dynasty came to an end being replaced by a dynasty of kings almost all of which were named after him.

The accession of Ramesses III brought to the throne the last great emperor of ancient Egypt's New Kingdom. The king's military victories brought a peace as it had his great predecessor Ramesses II a century earlier. These conquests he had his artisans engrave on the walls of his mortuary temple at Medinat-Habu. As the pharaoh grew older a conspiracy developed in the king's harem as one of his lesser wives hoped to place her son on the throne though not the legitimate heir. Magical figures were prepared and sacred spells are spoken but the conspirators had an informant amongst their lot. A trial occurred at the end of which six women and forty men were put to death. Of the intended usurper prince Mr. Maspero says,

     "They died of themselves," and the meaning of this phrase is indicated, I believe, by the appearance of one of the mummies disinterred at Deir el Bahari. The coffin in which it was placed was very plain, painted white and without inscription; the customary removal of entrails had not been effected. but the body was covered with a thick layer of natron, which was applied even to the skin itself and secured by wrappings. It makes one's flesh creep to look at it: The hands and feet are tied by strong bands, and are curled up as if under an intolerable pain; the abdomen is drawn up, the stomach projects like a ball, the chest is contracted, the head is thrown back, the face is contorted in a hideous grimace, the retracted lips expose the teeth, and the mouth is open as if to give utterance to a last despairing cry. The conviction is borne in upon us that the man was invested while still alive with the wrappings of the dead."2

With the death of Ramesses III, his successors all named Ramesses had short reigns and produced few monuments outside their tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Mr. Maspero gives an overview of the arts of the Theban empire with high praise for the jewelry of Queen Ahhotep in relation to the masterpieces in royal jewelry from the Middle Empire.

Though published in 1904 the volume was a little out of date and likely written somewhere after the 1896 discovery by Flinders Petrie of the Merneptah Stelae and before the discovery of the tomb of Amenhotep II in March of 1898 of which the author is unaware. This book is for readers 18 and up, however, I doubt that it would have appeal to most readers even those interested in ancient Egypt. The antique charm I suspected did not come to fruition instead the out of date archaeology mixed with the out of date hieroglyphic translations of names removed all impact of the author's words.


1. page 93
2. pages 326-327

Saturday, September 29, 2018

History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume II

Gaston Maspero
The Grolier Society
London, UK
Volume 2

I have had this series of 114-year-old books for many years but never read them. The author Gaston Maspero was the head of Egypt's Egyptian Museum and in charge of giving excavation permits in the late 19th century early 20th century. Mr. Maspero was chief Egyptologist and expert archaeologist of Oriental history. It must be noted that the use of and spelling of English words from 1904 differs from today's vocabulary. It must further be noted that interpretations of Egyptian hieroglyphs particularly names have also changed over the past century.

In volume two we open with the political makeup of ancient Egypt and in particularly the Memphite dynasties and their cemeteries at Gizah and Saqqara. The author deals with the inscriptions and decorations of the tombs of the nobles to tell of their services to the king and enjoyments they hope to attain in the afterlife. Various methods are used to ensure this happy after existence with offering chapels for priests and relatives to bring food and other offerings, these chapels often contain a statue of the deceased. Unfortunately for the deceased, these funerary venerations towards the dead within a couple of generations run out either of the finances to continue or relatives who remember the deceased ancestor. The backup plan includes images of offerings carved onto the walls of the funerary monument to sustain the dead for eternity.

The king and his families roles are examined with the king providing his people with their share of Egypt's bounty. The author goes on to describe the various functions the common or princely peoples played in the running of and distribution of the products of that land. These functionaries often obtain the hereditary departments of their father though some are schooled as scribes.

Mr. Maspero delivers a rundown of each Egyptians lot in life and obligations to taxation from humble land-owners to the serfs who worked the land, digging and cleaning out canals to water the fields. The crafts created by the people to barter with others for needed or desired goods including linen and sandals rings made of copper, silver, and gold or other such luxuries.

In chapter two we are introduced to the Memphite dynasties of the Old Empire and the pinnacle of pyramid building. The technique of constructing pyramids from the 3rd Dynasty King Djoser to the 2nd King of the 4th Dynasty Khufu was a period of rapid learning with a couple of mistakes that produced hard-won lessons.

     "We rarely find at Medum finished and occupied sepulchres except that of individuals who had died shortly before or shortly after Snofrui. The mummy of Ranofir, found in one of them, shows how far the Egyptians had carried the art of embalming at this period. His body, though much shrunken, is well preserved: it had been clothed in some fine stuff, then covered over with a layer of resin, which a clever sculptor had modelled in such a manner as to present an image resembling the deceased; it was then rolled in three or four folds of thin and almost transparent gauze."1

The author describes the building of the pyramids and their apartments at Dashur by Snofrui and those at Giza by his successors. The details laid out for these constructions is largely out of date though because of the reliefs in these kings courtiers tombs surrounding the pyramids and stele from expeditions to the various quarries including granite from Aswan some semblance of the duties of the king's officials can be gleaned. Mr. Maspero puts forth the gifts the king gives his loyal courtiers including their tombs near his pyramid, a funerary stele, statues, and offering tables all cut from stone collected on behalf of the king.

The reliefs become repetitive in the tombs while the statues were cut into one of a few traditional poses with the heads left rough to receive the courtier's portrait. Of the reliefs, the author admires the skill which varied animals are represented but of the people in the reliefs Mr. Maspero says,

     "The human figure is the least perfect: everyone is acquainted with those strange figures, whose heads in profile, with the eye drawn in full face, are attached to a torso seen from the front and supported by limbs in profile. These are truly anatomical monsters, and yet the appearance they present to us is neither laughable nor grotesque. The defective limbs are so deftly connected with those which are normal, that the whole becomes natural: the correct and fictitious lines are so ingeniously blent together that they seem to rise necessarily from each other. The actors in these dramas are constructed in such a paradoxical fashion that they could not exist in this world of ours; they live notwithstanding, in spite of the ordinary laws of physiology, and to any one who will take the trouble to regard them without prejudice, their strangeness will add a charm which is lacking in works more conformable to nature."2

The book is filled with many drawings taken from photographs with explanatory details of the object or scene presented these include an 1881 picture of the author in the burial chamber of King Unas standing in front of the king's sarcophagus. By the time of Dynasty V, the peak of the Memphite empire had passed leaving the kings of dynasties V. and VI much weakened with resources to build only smaller rubble filled pyramids at Saqqara unlike the great cut stone monuments at Gizeh, Dashur, and Medum but with the reign of King Unas the interiors of these cased rubble monuments now contained the Pyramid Texts carved on their walls. With the long reign of Pepi II, the Memphite empire became divided up by provincial nomarchs who claimed the power of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt when in reality these king's bore only local authority. Under these conditions, the two lands would remain divided for more than a century until unified by the Prince of Thebes.

Mr. Maspero directs the reader to the battles which ensued during the 7th to 10th dynasties between the Heracleopolitan princes and those at Thebes. It is the unification brought about by Mentuhotep II of the 11th Dynasty, the Theban princes attained the rightful kingship of the two lands while the Theban kings of the 12lh Dynasty extended the southern boundaries with fortresses with each kings reign carrying away slaves, precious metals, turquoise, crops, and the defeated inhabitant's herds of livestock.

The kings of dynasty 12 left many beautiful monuments including the obelisk at Heliopolis now all that remains of the temple of the sun god Ra. Most of the monuments of this age have all but disappeared leaving only the odd block to remember the kings of this great dynasty. We are introduced into the literature of this period which has left us with such a tale of that of the Shipwrecked Sailor and the instructions of King Amenemhat I to his successor Usertasen I.

Certainly, volume two was much more enjoyable and easier to read than volume one was this being the case by the more tangible relics of Pharaonic history compared with the abstraction in the mythology of the first book in this set. The book is not suitable for young readers and those looking for a romantic read on ancient Egypt but for those in the need to know.


1. page 172
2. page 248

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Ghosts of Brazil's National Museum

The tragic fire of September 2, 2018, which destroyed Brazil's National Museum, as well as most of its collections, took with it one of South America's most important Egyptian collections likely including the lovely 23rd Dynasty mummy Sha-Amun-em-su and her coffin. The museum's website says this of her,

"This coffin was a present offered by the Khedive of Egypt Ismail to the Emperor of Brazil D. Pedro II when he visited Egypt in 1876. D. Pedro II kept it standing upright in his study, near a window open one day, the coffin was hit by a window-catch, breaking part of its side. Its left side was then repaired, this feature is still visible today"

Sha-Amun-em-su was not the only mummy in the collection along with 700 other ancient Egyptian artifacts. The museums display of at least 21 stone stele probably have the best chance of having survived the fire though if they have their likely in shattered pieces but some hope lingers at least to this writer. One of my favorites of these monuments is a 19th Dynasty limestone stele belonging to a man named Amenemopet.

The unfortunate fire could have been avoided had the 200-year-old palace been subject to regular upgrades over the years  So often we see museums around the world which do not seem to benefit from their millions of visitors

I would hope that the curators and trustees of the worlds ancient Egyptian collections will be able to reach into their reserve collections and donate some of their doubles to help replenish this Brazilian institution of learning so that one day Brazil's 200 million plus people and future generations will again be excited and inspired by ancient Egypt in Brazil. But first, a new museum needs to be found or rebuilt with proper funding perhaps, foreign donations to help so that any future collection in Brazil will not be relegated to another neglected building.


1. Images of the coffin of Sha-Amun-em-su and stele of Amenemopet by Luiza G. da Silva, Antonio Brancaglion  National Museum of Brazil

2. Seshat: Egyptological Laboratory of the National Museum of Brazil

3. Photo of the mummy known as "Princess Kherima" 

4. Wikipedia for more photos

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Pyramids by Ahmed Fakhry

Ahmed Fakhry
The University of Chicago Press
Library of Congress No. 61-8654

This 249 page read from the University of Chicago press contains many images and schematics to help in the explanation of the monuments including at the back of the book a listing of all the known Egyptian pyramids as of 1961 and their base measurements. The author is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and introduces interesting information that I have not heard before. Mr. Fakhry explains the pyramids in their apparent chronological order including their associated mortuary and valley temples.

     "The approach to the southern pyramid complex of King Snefru at Dashur is through a Valley Temple situated near the edge of the cultivation. At the time of writing, this is the earliest Valley Temple discovered." "... there was no temple of this type for the Step Pyramid of Zoser, nor any remains of a causeway which would suggest that such a building had never existed."1

The author explains the rise of building of these monuments culminating in the great pyramids on the Giza plateau and their accompanying causeways, temples, and boat pits, including the discovery of royal statues found during excavations. We are told about the previous excavator's discoveries to the various sites including the measurements of the monuments which at times caused me to glaze over. Mr. Fakhry gives admirable insight into the enigmatic pyramid site at Abu Rawash excavated in 1901 by E. S. Chassinat.

     "South of the Mortuary Temple on the east side is a large rock-cut boat pit. With its long axis pointing north-south, it measures 35 meters long, 3.75 meters wide at its widest part, and 9.3 deep. At the bottom of the debris filling this boat pit, Chassinat found three beautiful heads from statues of Rededef. They had been wantonly knocked off the bodies and flung there during the upheavals that followed the Old Kingdom. (Two of the heads are now in the Louvre, and one is in the Cairo Museum.)"2

When Perring and Vyse entered the third pyramid at Giza, that of Menkure in the late 1830's they found a wooden coffin and the mummified body of a man, the inscription on the late period style coffin reads.

     "Osiris, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkure, living forever. Born of the sky, conceived by Nut, heir of Geb, his beloved. Thy mother Nut spreads herself over thee in her name of 'Mystery of Heaven.' She caused thee to be a god, in thy name of 'God,' O King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkure, living forever."3

As the Old Kingdom descended into anarchy the pyramids of the fifth and sixth dynasties became smaller and built in poorer quality work. The burial practices changed and the pyramid texts appeared carved on the walls of these kings and a number of their queens. It is during the following period that most of these monuments were opened with the royal burials robbed and destroyed leaving only fragments of their once opulent contents.

The rise of the Princes of Thebes in the expulsion of the foreign overlords who ruled over the northern half of Egypt resulted in the reunification of the country with a period of great prosperity. It is in the Twelfth Dynasty that the kings returned to building pyramids but this time with complex corridors and hidden entrances to baffle looters who found the entrances of the Old Kingdom pyramids in the north face.

In Egypt, the pyramid age dwindles down to small mudbrick pyramids above simple tombs both royal and commoner. In the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty, pyramidal burials are found south of Egypt in Sudan at sites like El Kurru, Kerma, and later at Moroe. These royal constructions are much smaller and much steeper.

Mr. Fakhry's presentation of the pyramids was both of interest and knowledgeable as I had suspected he would be, and though almost sixty years later this book is well put forward and suitable for ages ten and up.

     "...they are perished also,
Those walls of Thebes which the Muses built;
But the wall that belongs to me has no fear of war;
It knows not either the ravage of war or the sobbing.
It rejoices always in feasts and banquets,
And the choruses of young people, united from all parts.
We hear the flutes, not the trumpet of war,
And the blood that waters the earth is of the sacrificial bulls,
Not from the slashed throats of men.
Our ornaments are the festive clothes, not the arms of war,
And our hands hold not the scimitar,
But the fraternal cup of the banquet;
And all night long while the sacrifices are burning
We sing hymns to Harmakhis (Hor-em-akhet),
And our heads are decorated with garlands." 4


1. page 80
2. page 129
3. page 150
4. page 165, An ancient Greek visitor to the pyramids on the Giza plateau wrote this poem on a toe of the Great Sphinx.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Tombs of the Kings

Where the mummied Kings of Egypt,wrapped in linen fold on fold,
Couched for ages in their coffins, crowned with crowns of dusky gold,

Lie in subterranean chambers, biding to the day of doom,
Counterfeit life's hollow semblance in each mazy mountain tomb,

Grisly in their gilded coffins, mocking masks of skin and bone,
Yet remain in change unchanging, balking Nature of her own;

Mured in mighty Mausoleums, walled in from the night and day,
Lo, the mortal Kings of Egypt hold immortal Death at bay.

For - so spake the Kings of Egypt - those colossal ones whose hand
Held the peoples from Pitasa to the Kheta's conquered land;

Who, with flash and clash of lances and war chariots, stormed and won
Many a town of stiff-necked Syria to high-towering Askalon:

"We have been the faithful stewards of the deathless gods on high;
We have built them starry temples underneath the starry sky.

"We have smitten rebel nations, as a child is whipped with rods:
We the living carnation of imperishable gods.

"Shall we suffer Death to trample us to nothingness? and must
We be scattered, as the whirlwind blows about the desert dust?

"No! Death shall not dare come near us, nor Corruption shall not lay
Hands upon our sacred bodies, incorruptible as day.

"Let us put a bit and bridle, and rein in Time's headlong course;
Let us ride him through the ages as a master rides his horse.

"On the changing earth unchanging let us bide till Time shall end,
Till, reborn in blest Osiris, mortal with immortal blend."

Yes, so spake the Kings of Egypt, they whose lightest word was law,
At whose nod the far-off nations cowered, stricken dumb with awe.

And Fate left the haughty rulers to work out their monstrous doom;
And, embalmed with myrrh and ointments, they were carried to the tomb;

Through the gate of Bab-el-Molouk, where the sulpher hill lie bare,
Where no green thing casts a shadow in the noon's tremendous glare;

Where the unveiled Blue of heaven in its bare intensity
Weighs upon the awe-struck spirit with the world's immensity;

Through the Vale of Desolation, where no beast or bird draws breath,
To the Coffin Hills of Tuat - the Metropolis of Death.

Down - down - down into the darkness, where, on either hand, dread fate
In the semblance of a serpent, watches by the dolorous gate;

Down - down - down into the darkness, where no gleam of sun or star
Sheds its purifying radiance from the living world afar;

Where in labyrinthine windings, darkly hidden, down and down,-
Proudly on his marble pillow, with old Egypt's double crown,

And his mien of cold commandment, grasping still his staff of state,
Rests the mightiest of the Pharaohs, whom the world surnamed the great.

Swathed in fine Sidonian linen, crossed hands folded on the breast,
There the mummied Kings of Egypt lie within each painted chest.

And upon their dusky foreheads Pleiades of flaming gems,
Glowing through the nether darkness, flash from luminous diadems.

Where is Memphis? Like a mirage, melted into empty air:
But these royal gems yet sparkle richly on their raven hair.

Where is Thebes in all her glory, with her gates of beaten gold?
Where Syene, or that marvel, Heliopolis of old?

Where is Edfu? Where Abydos? Where those pillared towns of yore
Whose auroral temples glittered by the Nile's thick-peopled shore?

Gone as evanescent cloudlands, alplike in the afterglow;
But these Kings hold fast their bodies of four thousand years ago.

Sealed up in their Mausoleums, in the bowels of the hills,
There they hide from dissolution and Deaths swiftly grinding mills.

Scattering fire, Uraeus serpents guard the Tombs' tremendous gate;
While Troth holds the trembling balance, weighs the heat and seals its fate.

And a multitude of mummies in the swaddling clothes of death,
Ferried o'er the sullen river, on and on still hasteneth.

And around them and above them, blazoned on the rocky walls,
Crowned with stars, enlaced by serpents, in divine processionals,

Ibis-headed, jackal-featured, vulture-hooded, pass on high,
Gods on gods through Time's perspectives - pilgrims of Eternity.

There, revealed by fitful flashes, in a gloom that may be felt,
Wild Chimeras flash from darkness, glittering like Orion's belt.

And on high, o'er shining waters, in their barks the gods sail by,
In the Sunboat and in the Moonboat, rowed across the rose-hued sky.

Night, that was before creation, watches sphinxlike, starred with eyes,
And the hours and days are passing, and the years and centuries.

But these mummied Kings of Egypt, pictures of a parished race,
Lie, of busy Death forgotten, face by immemorial face.

Though the glorious sun above them, burning on the naked plain,
Clothes the empty wilderness with the golden, glowing grain;

Though the balmy Moon above them, floating in the milky Blue,
Fills the empty wilderness with a silver fall of dew;

Though life comes and flies unresting, like the shadow which a dove
Casts upon the Sphinx, in passing, for a moment from above;-

Still these mummied Kings of Egypt, wrapped in linen, fold on fold,
Bide through ages in their coffins, crowned with crowns of dusky gold.

Had the sun once brushed them lightly, or a breath of air, they must
Instantaneously have crumbled into evanescent dust.

Pale and passive in their prisons, they have conquered, chained to death;
And their lineaments look living now as when they last drew breath!

Have they conquered? Oh, the pity of those Kings within their tombs,
Locked in stony isolation in those petrifying glooms!

Motionless where all is motion in a rolling Universe,
Heaven, by answering their prayer, turned it to a deadly curse.

Let them fixed where all is fluid in a world of star-winged skies;
Where, in myriad transformations, all things pass and nothing dies;

Nothing dies but what is tethered, kept when Time would set it free,
To fulfill Thought's yearning tension upward through Eternity.

Mathilde Blind

Source: The Universal Anthology, edited by Richard Garnett, The Clarke Company, limited, London, 1899, Vol. I, pgs. 116-119.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Secrets of the Pyramids

Michael Feeley
Sazmick Books
United Kingdom
ISBN: 978-0-9954554-4-3

With all the Egyptian books I have reviewed I can usually get a good sense of the content, the authors knowledge, and sense of the writers taste. It appears from the start that this book will be spiritual by nature. The book opens with a number of quotes including from Leonardo Da Vinci but more concerning is a quote from fiction writer Dan Brown author of the Da Vinci Code which left me cringing as I am no fan of contorting history to fit into a narrative no matter how entertaining.

The author is apparently a descendant of Celtic Irish kings and a former United Kingdom police detective the latter gives me some hope of a trained inquisitive mind. The author believes in paranormal and supernatural powers and on a couple of occasions has witnessed dimensional portals open up in front of him and other hallucinations. I am only at the biography of the author and trepidation is rushing over this reviewer.

In the introduction, Mr. Freeley puts forward the very popular belief that an advanced civilization has left a message to humanity encoded within the monuments. This nineteenth-century theory is usually linked exclusively to the Great Pyramid. The reader is met with a hieroglyphic alphabet of twenty-two letters which I have never seen before and are anything but Egyptian hieroglyphics. The author gives dictionary definitions of enlightenment, consciousness, and Kundalini Awakening in the concept of Dharma.

Prior to the authors trip to Egypt, he is contacted by a UK Psychic who lacks the ability to spell properly. In her note includes the sentence " You need to first look passed the tourism" in large letters. Chapter one opens with Mr. Freeley's trip to Egypt including the hope to meet the famous Dr. Zahi Hawass whose last name is misspelled. The chapter ends with another example of the misspelled word passed when the word intended was past.

In chapter two the author presents a good traditional view of Egypt with the belief that slaves built the pyramids of which there is no evidence for this. Mr. Freeley then begins with explanations of the meaning of words including the famous so-called helicopter found carved in a lintel of the temple of Seti I at Abydos. Heli meaning Helios/sun and copter with Coptics together meaning "Christian Egyptian", and including the god Horus whose name is an anagram meaning hour(s).

The book moves forward to the gods of ancient Egypt and the roots of Egyptian royalty and government. We for some reason are on to the transcript of the 1953 coronation ceremonies of England's Queen Elizabeth II which occupies more than thirty pages of a 131-page book.

The author is all over the place in this book and cannot be recommended as serious reading for Egyptologists, and Egyptology lovers. Unfortunately, the book is filled with spelling mistakes and dubious theories that are not suitable for young people to learn from nor was it particularly entertaining. In the end "The Secrets of the Pyramids" should remain a secret.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Colors of Ancient Egypt

This is a unique opportunity to help fund an upcoming exhibition at the world-famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo which will run through November 2018. The show uses technology to recolor reliefs using "image mapping" to restore the objects to how they looked in ancient Egypt.

The Colors of Ancient Egypt

Indiegogo funding page for The Colors of Ancient Egypt

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Mummies of Yuya and Thuya

     Recently I have been looking at antique stereoviews for material to add to this blog and this is an exciting find. The card is from ca.1908 and the mummies pictured were found just a couple of years earlier in their tomb in the Valley of the Kings which had not been touched in thousands of years and with the contents in a near-perfect state of preservation. The tomb today is known as KV 46 contained the two mummies presented here the parents of the great royal wife of Amenhotep III, Queen Tiye. The mummy of Queen Tiye's mother Thuya is pictured in front with the queen's father Yuya pictured behind. In the background is some familiar pieces of their burial.

The 110-year-old stereoview say's that the mummies are 3000-4000 years old when in reality they are from the middle of the 14th century BC. The description also claims that the mummies are at Gizeh when the reality is that they are displayed in the nearly brand new Cairo Egyptian Museum opened in 1902.

Back in the late 1980's author Ahmed Osman wrote the fascinating book "Stranger in the Valley of the Kings" in which the author identified Yuya with the Biblical Patriarch Joseph.


My short book review "Stranger in the Valley of the Kings"

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tutankhamun Treasures: Press Release Canada 1964-65

Here I have a press release concerning the 1964-65 tour of Canada creatively named Tutankhamun Treasures and I know if you have ever seen an exhibit of Tutankhamun treasures no doubt you have seen one of these canopic coffinettes, the air miles must be through the roof on this thing. The show appears to have had only a little less than three dozen objects and all of which are small. This tour of Canada was only one of two Tutankhamun exhibitions touring the world at the time to raise funds and donations to help fund the rescue of the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel before it descended beneath the rising waters of Lake Nassar after the building of the Aswan high dam.

The venues for the Canadian tour were:

The National Gallery of Canada
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology
The Winnipeg Art Gallery
The Vancouver Art Gallery
Le Musee du Quebec

The guide begins with a brief forward by the Director of The National Gallery of Canada, Charles F. Comfort who explains the motivation for the show as well as thanking those who helped with the exhibition. The introduction covers the same issues except for this time it is the United Arab Republic's Minister of Culture and National Guidance Abdel Kader Hatem.

A short history of the life of Tutankhamun and the times in which he lived is well presented by Rudolf Anthes from The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. This is followed by the objects in the exhibition all of which are represented by black and white photographs

List of Objects:

1. Gold Dagger and Sheath found on the mummy of the king
2. Gold Coffinette
3. Gold pectoral inlaid with glass and semi-precious stones with chain and heart counterpoise
4. Gold and blue glass flail
5. Gold and blue glass crook
6. Large scarab of Lapis Lazuli and gold
7. Armlet of gold inlaid in blue and red glass
8. Gold signet ring the bezel which bears a seated figure of Amun-Re found on the mummy.
9. Gold ring with oval bezel containing an image of a boat with two baboons worshipping the moon. Found on the left hand of the mummy.
10. Amulet of Anubis in green feldspar set in a gold frame. Found on the neck of the mummy.
11. Amulet in chased sheet gold of the cobra goddess Wadjet. Found on the neck of the mummy.
12. Amulet of chased sheet gold of vulture goddess Nekhbet. Found on the mummy.
13. Amulet of girdle-knot in sheet gold. Found upon the chest of the king's mummy.
14. An amuletic collar of chased sheet gold of a winged cobra. Found on the chest of the mummy.
15. Walking stick with standing gold figure of the king wearing the blue crown.
16. Gilded statuette of the falcon god Hor-khenty-khem with resin covered pedestal.*
17. Wooden Shawabti of Tutankhamun given to his burial by General Min-nakht.
18. Turquoise blue glass headrest
19. Spouted libation vase in dark blue faience with a white royal inscription.
20. Pear-shaped vase in dark blue faience with a royal inscription in white including the king's throne name and personal name.
21. Dark blue faience cup with Tutankhamun's personal name in white.
22. Alabaster vase with an inner shell and two outer shells carved in openwork of Uraei and lotus flower petals.
23. Tall alabaster vase with inlaid colored faience garlands of lotus petals.
24. Alabaster canopic jar lid of king's head.
25. Alabaster Shawabti.
26. Sandstone shawabti.
27. Alabaster box decorated with black and red inlaid pigments of flowers and cartouches for Tutankhamun and his queen.
28. Alabaster jug.
29. Small wooden box in shape of cartouche and decorated with the king's name in blue pigment.
30. Bronze torch in the shape of an ankh on a wooden base.
31. Pair of linen gloves.
32. Five gold toe stalls found on the mummy of Sheshonk found at Tanis in 1939.*
33. Gold sandal found on the mummy of Sheshonk at Tanis.
34. Gold bracelet inlaid with glass and semi-precious stones decorated with the eye of Horus and inscribed for Sheshonk I. Found on the mummy of Sheshonk.*

This small collection in the exhibition is certainly not on the scale of exhibits at the 1972 British Museum 50th anniversary show or any of the tours that took place in the 1970's but its purpose was of greater interest and as a result, the temple of Ramses II at Abu Simbel is today safe, and on land overlooking Lake Nassar


* Not included in the exhibition
* Similar to examples in Tutankhamun's tomb.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Way to Eternity

Fergus Fleming, Alan Lothian
Duncan Baird Publishers
Time Life
Time Warner Inc.
ISBN: 0 7054 3503 2

After the last book, I reviewed I needed something a little easier to read and this child-friendly read seems like a possibly pleasant choice though having said that it must be acknowledged that Egyptian mythology is not actually a child-friendly topic. The book should be good with Dr. Joanne Fletcher as a consultant on this project. A quick glance through this one hundred and thirty-seven-page publication reveals the book contains a number of images of objects that are new to this reader and of course many pictures of the usual brick a brack including King Tutankhamun's treasures.

The book opens with a slightly confused telling of Napoleon and his men conquering Egypt in 1798 with his soldiers at Thebes in awe of the monuments there then switches to Napoleon at Giza. A nice half page map gives a good outlay of Egypt and her ancient cities. The dawn of Egyptian civilization and the river Nile molded the Egyptian people into sustaining agriculture according to the seasons of the river. The politics of the country are directly related to the various competing theologies with the power of literacy determining a persons station in life.

A brief but nice timeline is set down for the young reader as the author takes us into the afterlife and on to the later dynasties. A two-page spread of jewelry and amulets is a lovely display with a number of pieces I have not seen elsewhere with two fish. The authors move on to the creation myths complete with the many tales of the sun god Re including the famous legend of Re sicking the lioness goddess Sekhmet to destroy humankind. The many apparitions of Re include the orb of the Aten worshipped by the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten. A section on the houses of the gods is a pretty layout with a number of images of interest.

The book is filled with sub-articles which occupy large portions of the book and of which can be a little confusing as I have lost my place a number of times. In the next chapter, we are on to astronomy and the Egyptian calendar. The pantheon of gods and goddess' now moves on the list to gods of war and others for fertility. It is hard to review the list of gods and not think of Isis who may be ancient Egypt's most successful god being revered well into Roman times and worshipped as far away as Great Britain.

The worship of animal gods led to huge quantities of animal mummies to fill sacred catacombs with offerings from ancient pilgrims to those gods. The author quotes Herotodus on a house fire:

     "Nobody takes the least trouble to put out the blaze for it is only the cats that matter. Everyone stands in a protect the cats which nevertheless slip through the line, or jump over it, and hurl themselves into the flames. This causes the Egyptians deep distress."1

After the murder of Osiris Osiris's son, Horus set out to gain his thrown from his uncle Seth who had murdered his father and stolen the throne for himself. These neverending battles eventually frustrated the gods though, in the end, Isis catches Seth into agreeing that the rightful heir to the throne was Horus. The numerous color pictures include an unusual statue of Seth and a fragment from the book of the dead of Hirweben depicting the god of chaos fighting Apophis on the sun gods journey through the underworld.

The power of earthly kings and the turmoils the pharaohs endured brought heavy burdens on the ruler who is the responsible for his peoples well being and happiness.

 "Beware of subjects who are nobodies,
Of whose plotting one is not aware.
Trust not a brother, know not a friend,
Make no intimates, it is worthless.
When you lie down, guard your heart yourself,
For no man has adherents on the day of woe.
I gave to the beggar, I raised the orphan, I gave success to the poor as to the wealthy;
But he who ate my food raised opposition, He to whom I gave my trust used it to plot"2

From here the author moves onto the varied myths attached to kingships such as the divine birth of Hatshepsut and the dream a prince named Thutmosis had in which the great Sphinx at Giza promised Thutmosis the throne if he had the sand cleared from around the Sphinx.

The religious texts of the times determined the evolving practices of burial including the art of mummification and the insertion of magical items in the tomb and mummy to help on its journey through the afterlife to reanimate in the heavenly Field of Reeds. The legend is told of a son of Rameses II who vied for a book of magic by the God Toth that was discovered in an ancient tomb.

The subject of magic cannot be mentioned without the tales of the ultimate magician the Goddess Isis and though the God Toth was its inventor nobody rivaled Isis whose worship took place before recorded time up to late Roman times long after her fellow gods had been forgotten. The book closes with a number of fascinating and well told ancient tales that have come down to our generation.

I do not think that I have reviewed a Time Life book before I guess it was because I expected that Time life stood for a quality presentation for a growing families budget making my instincts right on with The Way to Eternity.


1. Herotodus: page 67
2. The Instructions of King Amenemhat: page 85

Friday, May 4, 2018

History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Volume I

Gaston Maspero
The Grolier Society
London, UK
Volume 1

I have had this series of 114-year-old books for many years but never read them. The author Gaston Maspero was the head of Egypt's Egyptian Museum and in charge of giving excavation permits in the late 19th century early 20th century. Mr. Maspero was chief Egyptologist and expert archaeologist of Oriental history. It must be noted that the use of and spelling of English words from 1904 differs from today's vocabulary. It must further be noted that interpretations of Egyptian hieroglyphs particularly names have also changed over the past century.

The book opens with a layout of the course the opening chapter will follow in an overview of the geography of the Nile valley and the course of history that man has existed within this environs and how the early Egyptians used their environment to advantage. Early farmers learned to make use of mud-built canals and dikes to water fields during the inundation season when the Nile floods its banks. The advent of stone tools creates devices for hunting, fishing, spinning cloth and the production of pottery of which upper Egyptian potters created very fine vessels. The reader is presented with the Nile god Hapi who resided in a grotto on the island of Biggeh.

"Hail to thee, Hapi! - who appearest in the land and comest - to give life to Egypt; - thou who dost hide thy coming in darkness - in this very day whereon thy coming is sung, - wave, which spreadest over the orchards created by Ra - to give life to all them that are athirst - who refusest to give drink unto the desert - of the overflow of the waters of heaven".1

Mr. Maspero lays down the basic food crops of vegetables, grains, and fruit like figs to make various kinds of bread and beer and the domestication of various animals. The chapter ends with the various nomes, their main towns and the nomarchs who ruled them. These nomes are in possession of a given god whom the local population worships. The book is filled with drawings of 19th-century photographs and various works of art on most pages.

                                                             The Guardians of the Temple

The author gives an overview of the many gods and goddess' that were worshiped in ancient Egypt these gods are local deities attached to local fetishes or standards. There are also national gods as in Hapi the Nile god or in later times the rise of the God Amun. Invasion and conquering other nomes would result in the cannibalization of the losing tribe's deity whose powers would be absorbed by the victorious nomes god.

"It was the duty of certain genii to open gates in Hades or to keep the paths daily traversed by the sun. These genii were always at their posts, never free to leave them, and possessed no other faculty than that of punctuality fulfilling their appointed offices. Their existence, generally unperceived, was suddenly revealed at the very moment when the specific acts of their lives were on the point of accomplishment. These being completed, the divinities fell back into their state of inertia, and were, so to speak, reabsorbed by their functions until the next occasion. Scarcely visible even by glimpses." 2

Mr. Maspero moves on to the constellations;

"A world as vast as ours rested upon the other side of the iron firmament; like ours, it was distributed into seas, and continents divided by rivers and canals, but peopled by races unknown to men. Sahu traversed it during the day, surrounded by genii who presided over the lamps forming his constellation. At his appearing ' the stars prepared themselves for battle, the heavenly archers rushed forward, the bones of the gods upon the horizon trembled at the sight of him,' for it was no common game that he hunted, but the very gods themselves. One attendant secured the prey with a lasso, as bulls are caught in the pastures, while another examined each capture to decide if it were pure and good for food. This being determined, others bound the divine victim, cut its throat, disembowelled it, cut up its carcass, cast the joints into a pot, and superintended their cooking."3

The reader is presented with the art and reasons for mummification by the ancient Egyptians. The development from the earliest times in the predynastic mummies naturally dried in their desert graves and the defleshed disarticulated skeletons left from early attempts.

The author moves on to the relationships of the deities to each other including triads of a mother, father, and son though not all gods belong to such groupings. The various traditions of the Enneads are laid out in the earliest dynasties of Egypt and her god-kings.

     "Scarcely was Sibu enthroned as the successor of Shu, who, tired of reigning, had reascended into heaven in a nine days' tempest, before he began his inspection of the eastern marches, and caused the box in which was kept the uraeus of Ra to be opened. "As soon as the living viper had breathed its breath against the Majesty of Sibu there was a great disaster- great indeed, for those who were in the train of the god perished, and his Majesty himself was burned in that day."4

Mr. Maspero introduces the advent of the rule of mortal kings beginning with King Menes and the rulers of Dynasty 1 whose graves are at Abydos and were first excavated by Emile Amelineau between 1895 to 1899. Flinders Petrie's re-excavation of the same site was caused by the unprofessional and unpublished excavations and wild theories put forward by the excavator Amelineau now discredited for being little more than a plunderer today.

The book ends with an examination of the early Archaic rulers and their monuments to that of King Zosiri (Djoser) including the content of the" Famine Stela" and the step pyramid which the author puts forward the green glazed tiles in that pyramids apartments are not of IIIrd Dynasty but of Dynasty XXVI.

The book was a difficult read with the changes in the interpretations of the hieroglyphs and the outdated English which the book is written. The book is definitely not for children and those looking for a romantic read, but for those college-age students of Egyptology it is a must read. Everyone else should probably pass on this book.


1. page 51
2. pages 109-110
3. page 130
4. page 243

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pyramid of Amenemhet I Yields More Reliefs

This article is about the rescue of two limestone blocks for the antiquities authority discovered at Amenemhet I's pyramid in 2011. The blocks had been discovered by looters one of whom called the proper authority hoping for a reward.  The result was an affair of some cunning including the skill of transporting two giant blocks of enormous weight and avoiding looters.

The first lovely block above is part of the decoration for Amenemhet's funerary monument while the second appears to be an older block reused in the monument. The pyramid has produced many Old Kingdom carved reliefs from funerary monuments of Khufu, Khafra, Unas, among others and used as fill within the construction. These blocks may have been used for magical associations between Amenemhet and his predecessors and or suggest that the monuments of the Old Kingdom were in ruin by that time. Amenemhet I founded the 12th dynasty ca. 1991 - 1962 B.C., and appears to have been assassinated according to a papyrus known as the Instructions of Amenemhet where the king's ghost speaks to his son and heir Senwosret I.

1. Live Science
2. Tour Egypt
3. Instructions of Amenemhet I

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Unrolling of the Mummy of Nebset

I recently had the privilege to come across this rare book, Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 1877, that contained a piece of mummy cloth from the unrolling of the mummy of Nebset on July 15, 1875. The mummy from ancient Egypt's 22nd dynasty was reported to have been found at Sheikh Abd el-Qurna and acquired by the British Consul-General in Egypt General Stanton and gifted to the Duke of Sutherland. The mummy was unrolled at Stafford House in the presence of the Duke, Lord Dufferin, Sir H. Cole, and a select party of guests. The mummy was unrolled by British Museum Curator of the Egyptian department Samuel Birch. The corpse was contained within a cartonnage envelope in the form of a mummy with crude paintings of the regular funerary genii upon it.

Of this event Mr. Birch says:

     "The body was with some difficulty extracted from the cartonage, and found to be swathed in bandages of rather a dark colour, and by no means so full and numerous as is usual in the later class of mummies, although packed with some care. No inscription occurred on them, nor was any amulet or other object found to give a clue to the embalmed person, the only object discovered being some white leather placed about the back of the head, either a hypocephalus or else a skull cap, naams, but it was too far gone to determine its character and use. The body was very thin, the skin was brittle, the hands crossed over the pubes, giving the usual arrangement of a female also; a later examination of the skeleton has led to the conclusion that it was the mummy of an old man."1

The cartonnage was acquired by The British Museum (EA 75194) though I was unable to find a picture of it online, and the mummy was sent off to The Royal College of Surgeons. During World War II the earthly remains of Nebset along with much of the college's collection was destroyed by bombs dropped during the blitz of London.


1. Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 1877 pages 122-123
2. The British Museum

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Scanning the Pharaohs

Zahi Hawass
Sahar N. Saleem
The American University in Cairo Press
Cairo, New York
ISBN 978 977 416 673 0

I was thrilled when I opened a birthday present from a friend and found this book. Hard to believe I have not read it yet, though, I have done little reading in the last year. The book opens with a rundown of the studies involved in the Egyptian Mummy Project. The non-invasive techniques include CT scans providing detailed information about the physical conditions of the royal mummies as well as DNA results that may show familial relationships between Egypt's collection of ancient royal mummies of the period of the New Kingdom.

Dr. Hawass reviews his discoveries over the years and explains his impetus for the Egyptian Mummy Project which includes questions regarding those mummies believed to be relatives to Tutankhamun as well as the searches for Nefertiti and the female king, Hatshepsut. Looking at the identity of Unknown man "E" and a verification of the cause of death of the mummy of King Ramesses III by a conspiracy within his harem.

Chapter one with all the technical words needed to layout the sciences involved is a bit of a difficult read, though, there is an ample supply of images to guide the reader. If the rest of the book is anything like the first chapter it is likely suitable for those readers 18 and over, definitely not for the younger reader. In the second chapter, Dr. Hawass explains the discoveries of the royal mummies including the great cache of Deir al Bahri in tomb 320 and Valley of the Kings tomb 35 belonging to King Amenhotep II. We are also informed that there are only two mummies left in the Valley of the Kings including the boy in the tomb of Thutmosis IV and the boy in the tomb of Amenhotep II.

There is a mistake in picture fig. 14 as it is described as the mummy of Amenhotep II when in reality it is Amenhotep I that is pictured.

Dr. Hawass begins his search by examining the mummy labeled in the Cairo Museum as Thutmosis I, Hatshepsut's father. This mummy has long been doubted to be of that king as his arms are not crossed over his chest as well as the mummy appears to be young at the time of death when the historical record indicates Thutmosis I was probably around 50 when he died. The youth of the mummy and an arrowhead in its chest make it unlikely to be that king.

We are next on to the search for the mummy of Hatshepsut with a number of unnamed female mummies under consideration including two mummies found in the small tomb in the Valley of the Kings known as KV 60. Two more unknown females having been found in tomb DB320 along with a canopic box bearing Hatshepsut's cartouche, a liver, and a broken tooth. In the end, the discovery of the unfortunate cancerous mummy believed to be Hatshepsut may be Dr. Hawass' greatest legacy.

Chapter four examines a number of mid-to-late 18th dynasty mummies including the parents of Queen Tiye, Yuya, and Thuya. Also included the younger and elder ladies from the tomb of Amenhotep II as well as the controversial mummy from Valley of the Kings tomb KV 55. The DNA results provide Dr. Hawass and his team their second great discovery by giving the elder lady back her name, while the CT scans demonstrate that Tutankhamun's mother likely met with an early and traumatic death.

The CT scans on the mummy of King Tutankhamun confirm once again the carnage the king's mummy suffered at the hands of Howard Carter and anatomist Douglas Derry who cut apart the body to remove the accouterments of the mummy. These operations have not only damaged the king but also potentially marred any evidence of the cause of death ever being discovered. The results of the scans and DNA of late 18th dynasty royal mummies reveals that among other things that Tutankhamun's mother and father were full blooded brother and sister.

The fame and legendary beauty of Akhenaten's Great Royal Wife Nefertiti have led many people to speculate about her presence among the known royal mummies including myself, that is if she has been discovered and is not still in her sealed tomb. The DNA findings certainly show that she is not Tutankhamun's mother and probably not buried behind a wall in his tomb the truth is potentially a lot more disturbing.

The authors move on to tests on some of the Dynasty 19 mummies in the collection including Seti I father of Ramesses II. Seti's head is the masterpiece of the art of mummification though his body has been badly damaged probably by ancient tomb robbers. The mummy has been piously restored a number of times by priests according to dockets on his coffin and wrappings. Because of x-rays, it has been known for a long time that Seti has an amulet of a wadjet eye on his left shoulder, however, the CT scans revealed it is not alone among his wrappings. This section of the book is followed by forty pages of color pictures with many of the amazing CT scans and their findings from the mummies.

With chapter 10 we find the authors dealing with the mummy of King Ramesses III and the possibility that this king was murdered as it is described in contemporary court documents known today as "The Harem Conspiracy". The conspiracy involved more than three dozen people many who had associations with Ramesses III's harem and in particular, Queen Teye whose ambition was to put her son on the throne though not the legitimate heir. Dr. Hawass has believed for some time that a mummy found in the royal cache tomb DB320 known as Unknown man "E" may be Teye's son Pentaware. The papyrus tells us that more than two dozen people were found guilty and put to death and that ten of the most senior members of the plot were allowed to commit suicide. The CT scans of Unknown man "E" displayed an anomaly in the mummies neck indicating a cause of death as strangulation possible hanging this being a lot more pleasant than what probably happened to those sentenced to death.

The CT scans have greatly enriched our knowledge of the evolution of mummification among the royal courts of ancient Egypt's New Kingdom as the DNA samples have exposed family relations, particularly in this case Tutankhamun's family and ancestors of his dynasty but also the mummies of  Dynasties 19 and 20. Many readers will find the reading difficult with the large latin names of various parts of the human body that are often followed by a measurement and/or a formula for a measure.

We are next to objects found on the bodies including jewelry and funerary amulets and other articles including a pair of metallic shoes on the feet of the mummy of Thuya mother of Queen Tiye and what appears to be a metallic arrowhead in the chest of a young Thutmoside mummy formerly regarded as a king. A number of the mummies have scattered beads among their wrappings or in their chest cavity.

The book ends with a section on the reconstruction of faces of the royal mummies with an emphasis on the debateable reconstruction of Tutankhamun from a number of years ago looking a little too Anglo-Saxon for comfort.

It is true the book was hard to put down I was enthralled as I am a total mummy guy who has read many of the previous studies of the royal mummy collection, however, the detailed nature of the book will make for excellent references and if your a mummy person or a doctor you will enjoy this book but for those looking for light reading this will not be the book. Egyptologist and those interested in mummies and in the field of medicine should run and get this book it is a must-have!